Sport on TV: Tyldesley's silence proves he can live with the best

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The Independent Online
TALK ABOUT trebles. It's three minutes and 33 seconds from when the fourth official holds up the placard with that blessed and unexpected "3", to when Baldy blows his whistle and Clive Tyldesley declares: "History is made. Manchester United are European champions again - and nobody will ever win a European Cup final more dramatically than this." That's all the video of Wednesday night's proceedings need consist of really, though you could throw in the 12 minutes of celebration to flesh it out? As well as including more than the paltry nine seconds ITV lavished on them lifting the trophy before breaking to the ads.

Yesterday morning I played the short version for a football-phobic friend who thought he was probably watching Red Dwarf as it was all happening, just so he could tell his proverbial grandchildren he'd seen it. It was about the 1,500th time I'd played it, I told him. "Football porn," he muttered.

There were some misgivings beforehand at the fact that Tyldesley was in the chair. Brian Moore may have been flawed, but he had the requisite sense of drama. He was very funny commentating in the wonderfully observed comedy Bostock's Cup (ITV, Tuesday) - about which I would write much more, all of it good, in any other week.

Tyldesley, though, gave a performance to match United's. After a decidedly shaky start, getting his Germans-on-holiday jokes in early, he dug in, got through, then rose to the occasion when the unbelievable exploded in his face.

There has been half a minute of injury-time. "Can United score? They always score," Tyldesley says with admirable, if reckless, confidence as Beckham shapes up to take the corner and the camera homes in on Teddy Sheringham. "It's come to Dwight Yorke - cleared - Giggs with a shot - SHERINGHAM!" - the last word a throaty roar, his voice a wave breaking on the rocks.

And then - a marvellous touch that others might do well to steal - 10 seconds of silence while the depictions of ecstasy and shock speak for themselves. His first phrase back in has an edge of even greater certainty: "Name - on - the - trophy." You can't argue with a confident man.

Certain images stand out in hard-edged relief - the haunted face of Lothar Matthaus. Peter Schmeichel deadly serious as he walks back to his own goal. The flares high up in the United end. "As things stand we will go into extra time with a golden goal hanging like a massive shadow over this final," says Tyldesley, as Denis Irwin lofts the ball upfield.

"Unless" - a pause as he contemplates the astonishing possibility - "Ole Solskjaer can conjure up another." A young face-painted fan clutching a furled flag which shakes with his tension is breathless with anxiety. He is panting, desperate and pleading as he watches Beckham run over to the corner flag. Never has he lived life so intensely, you guess.

Then Tyldesley: "Is this the moment? Beckham - into Sheringham - AND SOLSKJAER HAS DONE IT!" Even writing it makes my spine tingle.

Another 10 seconds of silence - Schmeichel's extravagant flip; a close- up of a Bayern defender, hands on knees - the pain, the pain.

"Manchester United have reached the promised land," says Tyldesley.

Another close-up of the defeated German warhorse: "And what must Matthaus be thinking? With the greatest of respect, who cares?"

Later, as he goes up to get his loser's medal, which he keeps on for precisely three seconds, he looks like Charlton Heston. He's a Roman general about to fall on his sword. There's a fantastically expressive shot from behind as he walks away, looking up into the crowd towards the Bayern fans, their eyes either filled with bitter tears or blank with post-traumatic stress.

As Schmeichel and his team prepare to mount the piece of cast-off Blake's Seven scenery Uefa use for presentations, Tyldesley intones the names of previous British captains who have lifted the European Cup: "Billy McNeill... Bobby Charlton... Emlyn Hughes... John McGovern... Phil Thompson... Dennis Mortimer... Graeme Souness."

Kenneth Wolstenholme, John Motson, Lord Barry Davies, Brian Moore. Clive Tyldesley may not be an institution just yet, but he has proved he can live with the best. Which is fortunate, because his words will remain intertwined with the memory of the most intense three minutes and 33 seconds most armchair football fans will ever know.

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