Book of the week: Interesting, very interesting: The Autobiography, By Barry Davies

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The Independent Online

Blimey; we nearly missed out on 35 years of beautifully crafted commentaries on an array of sports, from football finals to the Boat Race to the World Staring Championships on the Big Train comedy series. In 1972, Barry Davies was delayed for three hours at Brussels airport. The plane that should have taken him home crashed near Heathrow, killing everyone on board.

I must declare an interest, as someone who appears on page 311, accused in jest by Davies' BBC colleagues of being a family friend, such are the encomiums I've delivered in my TV column over the years (or should that be encomia? Davies would know). So, as a fan, I feared picking up the book in case the written word failed to match the broadcast word. Thankfully, and unsurprisingly, there was no cause for concern in this beautifully written memoir.

He doesn't include my favourite line, the one that began my love affair from afar, when he referred to the Soviet Union coach, Konstantin Beskov, during a game in the 1982 World Cup as "avuncular, like a character from Chekhov". You wouldn't catch John Motson coming out with a line like that, I thought at the time. And to my knowledge, for all his qualities, he never has.

A lesser man might have had a bit of a rant about the seniority accorded to Motson , but that's not Davies' style, and the absurdity of the BBC giving him two FA Cup finals and one World Cup final barely gets a mention.

He was never afraid to take a moral stand in his commentaries, however, and it should come as no surprise that, although he comes across as one of the nicest men on the planet, he does make his feelings known, albeit with seemly reticence. So we get tiny barbs such as this, from the 1994 World Cup: "I can't say I much enjoyed working with John Fashanu on the first match."

And that's it. No dirt is dished. I don't think he's capable of it. Sven Goran Eriksson gets a ticking-off, though, for excessive loyalty to David Beckham, and Davies bitterly chastises the Football Association for taking away the FA Cup and England games from the Beeb after this season.

He's too modest to say it himself, but his absence from Match of the Day points up the decline in BBC football commentary. Once Motty goes, who will enhance the games, rather than simply report what's happening? In my entirely objective opinion, they should beg Davies to come back until he agrees.

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