Football: Radio's head of steam

Andrew Baker meets Alan Green, a man with a natural flow of strong views

True to form, it didn't take long for Alan Green to express his frustration. "This is silly," he pronounced, with the Ulster vehemence that has become such a trademark on Radio 5, "this is daft." David Elleray waving a yellow card? Eric Cantona remonstrating with an opponent? Alex Ferguson making a controversial substitution? None of these - although all three have felt the edge of Green's tongue in the past. He simply could not find anywhere to park his red Peugeot outside the Mottram Hall Hotel. "Oh, this is stupid."

Friday was Alan Green's day off, after the European hurly-burly of midweek and before the routine of Saturday afternoon and the relative novelty of Saturday evening, when he fills in for David Mellor as presenter of the football phone-in 6.06 while the toothy one is campaigning in Putney.

So there is time for Green to climb outside a three-course lunch in the corporate swank of Mottram Hall, not far from his home in Macclesfield, and reflect on his increasing fame and concomitant frustration.

Don't get him wrong: Green appreciates his good fortune as "a punter with a microphone", adores football and commentary and the chance to air his views. He is proud of his 22 years with the BBC, fond of the corporation if not of all that is occurring within it, and a keen supporter of what Radio 5 has achieved in its news and sports coverage. But "I would like to have something that is my own" is a phrase that kept cropping up.

Green is the most recognisable voice of football on radio in Britain, a fact confirmed by the demand for his services from the makers of football computer games. He is quick to share out the credit, pointing out that Mike Ingham is Radio 5's football correspondent as well as a fine commentator, but Green's gravelly rasp is one of the station's trademarks.

"I love commentating," he declared. "I would never want to give it up. When I go to a game for fun, like the Liverpool match on Thursday night, I am always commentating in my head. At Anfield I said to this bloke sitting next to me 'They're confused, Liverpool, aren't they? They're not used to playing this way.' He must have thought 'What a bore', but he turned to me and said 'You're right'. That is what I'd always said about commentary: it's about being a punter with knowledge."

Green gained his early knowledge of journalism as a BBC News Trainee, a traditional source of future stars for the corporation: Jeremy Paxman completed the course a year before Green, Nicholas Whichell followed a year behind. News was Green's first love, and retains a firm hold on his imagination and ambitions.

"What I wanted to do," he explained, "and what I still, deep down, want to do, is to run the Nine O'Clock News. I didn't want to front it. I didn't want to appear in it. I wanted to run it." He still pays closer critical attention to Newsnight than he does to Match of the Day, still considers himself a journalist first and a commentator second.

This unassuaged ambition is undoubtedly what is behind Green's opinionated style of commentary, his determination to go out on a limb more often than the average tree surgeon. "Sometimes I make a fool of myself," he admitted, "but I don't mind that, because I'm just being me. It's a mixture of self- confidence and arrogance. It's me saying 'I make mistakes but I'm quite happy with who I am.' I can live with myself."

It is reassuring that Green gets on well with himself, because he is not pally with everyone in football. "I upset people," he admitted. "I know I upset them. But I never said anything about Alex Ferguson that I know I didn't feel."

The mention - unprompted - of the Manchester United manager indicates the depth of ill-feeling between the two. Ferguson has in the past refused to speak to Green on the basis that he is a Liverpool supporter. The commentator does not exactly shrug this off. "There was a time when I might have worried about upsetting the manager of the most important club in the country," he said. "But not any more."

Ferguson is by no means the only target. Green is scathing about the Premiership ("defensively it is appalling"), has little time for Uefa ("it's not the Champions' League, it's a knock-out competition") and refuses point-blank to call linesmen referee's assistants ("I just won't do it. I won't do it").

Whatever further outlet Radio 5 can find for him, it had better be a long show. He has filled in for Michael Parkinson on the Friday night sports chat show. "It's an hour long at the moment," he said. "I think it works better at two." Better make it three, if the guests want to get a word in.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Recruitment and Sales People wanted f...

Recruitment Genius: Multi Skilled Engineer - Electrical / Mechanical / Maintenance

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A multi-skilled engineer with a...

Recruitment Genius: Electronic Service Engineer - Television & HI-FI

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Engineers for field & bench ser...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer - Award Winning Agency

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity for a t...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada