Euro 2004 on TV: Dangers of a Clive broadcast - cock-ups, calamities and clichés

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The Independent Online

From Richmond to Riga they've been cursing Clive Tyldesley. ITV's main commentator is having a bad tournament, and not least for his unerring ability to, well, fluff his timing.

From Richmond to Riga they've been cursing Clive Tyldesley. ITV's main commentator is having a bad tournament, and not least for his unerring ability to, well, fluff his timing.

Clairvoyant Clive was declaring how "England fans will be talking about their 1-0 win for years" as Zinedine Zidane was taking that free-kick. Two days later Calamitous Clive was predicting of Latvia "they're not going to crack, you know" just as the Czech Republic's comeback began.

The occasion has got to him. There was the bizarre "another substitution for Arsenal" as Sven made a change, and a reference to Jacques Santini's "big eyes". Tyldesley tries too hard for the bon mot. He is too rehearsed and too jingoistic. It's Cliché Clive as well, although "50-odd million pairs of fingers are crossed at home" was perhaps a little over-optimistic even if the viewing figures have been good. He steadied himself for the Swiss game, steering clear of "Swiss roll" (copyright J Motson). But the damage was done.

Maybe it's the loss of his co-commentator, Ron Atkinson, who has been replaced by Sir Bobby Robson. It appeared a sound decision. A little Roblish to replace the Ronglish? But added to his capacity to mangle the language - Gary Neville was "recitent" and England fielded someone called "Lesley King" against France - he has been off the pace. By the second match he was reduced to counting passes: "One, two, three... that's good." Indeed, the nearest phrase of Ron-like resonance has come from his former player Andy Townsend who, refreshingly, appears - like Robbie Earle - willing to speak his mind, even if he seems a mini-me version of Terry Venables. Still, Townsend invented his own verb, saying the Czechs refused "to towel it" (as in throw the towel in) against Latvia.

Which is a pity for ITV, although there's no excuse for including Adrian Mutu in their opening credits. Did no one notice Romania didn't qualify? ITV had the chance to score after gaining the rights to England's first two games. The tactics of the tournament are crucial. Forget Sven's diamond or flat four, what has been most intriguing is the BBC's decision to allow their rival to step up to the plate first. The Beeb gambled that tomorrow's match against Croatia would be all-important. They also now have first pick of the quarter-finals. The danger was that either the Croatia match would be meaningless or, less probably, that ITV would steal a march.

The truth is that ITV will never win. The BBC have an inherent appeal to all football fans - no commercial breaks. At times that has led to complacency (Gary Lineker, anyone?), and did they need to follow ITV in employing so many footballers as panellists? The coverage of both sides cries out for variety. And so there are Ian Wright and Jamie Redknapp refusing to blame anything on anyone they know/used to play with/still play with. Somehow Redknapp absolved Steven Gerrard completely for his horrendous back-pass. Apparently it was all Ashley Cole's fault. Presumably because he plays for Arsenal and not Liverpool. Even worse was the indignant condemnation of the spitting Francesco Totti by Wright, who was twice himself done for gobbing.

The biggest failure has undoubtedly been Peter Schmeichel, closely run by Peter Reid, which is a shame, as the former goalkeeper is the only panellist actually to have won the tournament. In the commentators' box, Motson - like Sir Bob - is showing his age. Did he really refer to "Teutonic thoroughness" during Germany's game? It was, however, wise to take Mark Lawrenson out of the studio and into the gantry. He's far better as co-commentator although, beside him, Barry Davies was even more the curmudgeon.

The biggest star has, unsurprisingly perhaps, been Gordon Strachan, even if he got off to a dodgy start in dismissing Michael Ballack before the German went on to be man of the match. Though not quite in the same league as the sadly absent Martin O'Neill, Strachan retains his own quirkiness - admitting that he didn't see any of the Czech Republic's opening game as he was stuck in a taxi behind "40,000 sweaty Dutchmen". He summarily wrote off the Croat nation for being "timid" (timid? Croatia?), before launching into the admittedly dishevelled defender Igor Tudor, calling him a "coward" guilty of the crime of not shaving. Strachan then extolled the "art" of a (stubbly) Zidane. "Some say art is an unmade bed," said Strachan. Maybe the one that Tudor had just stepped out of.

Still, the best line has come from a surprising source - the perennially grumpy Mick McCarthy who, gripped by the ghost of Big Ron, said that Spanish winger Joaquin had scuffed a shot "with his chocolate leg".

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