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.

More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Litigation NQ+

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...


Highly Attractive Pakage: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - A highly attractive oppor...

Senior Marketing Manager - Central London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (Campaigns, Offlin...

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?