The night football's big guns fell silent in the rain

Cricket commentators are used to longeurs, but these football-watching types couldn't handle an evening of boredom in Warsaw

Share
Related Topics

Way back in the 1960s, when live coverage of football on television was very much in its infancy, the BBC thought they had something of a coup when the England manager of the day, Alf Ramsey, was persuaded to do a stint as an analyst for an evening cup tie.

Alf was a man of very few words, the like of which we see very rarely in public life these days. He was born in Dagenham and was reportedly embarrassed by his accent so that, when he was appointed manager of the national team, he had elocution lessons. Not the best person, you may think, to give the sharp, illuminating, sometimes humorous, perspective that we take for granted from football co-commentators these days.

As luck would have it, the match in question was delayed by a floodlight failure, and, against the backdrop of a stadium in darkness, the commentator (I believe it was Kenneth Wolstenholme) and the taciturn Alf were forced to fill the air time.

"So, Alf," said Wolstenholme hopefully, "how long do you think it will be before the lights come on again." Alf, applying all the strictures of his elocution class, thought for a minute before offering a deadpan reply: "Hi am not an helectrissian".

Almost 50 years on, things have not got that much better, judging by the way the plucky Adrian Chiles, together with three practised veterans of the analysis game, attempted fill in the dead air time while waiting in vain for the rain to stop in Warsaw the other night. You knew things had taken a turn for the worse when Chiles, well used to packing unforgiving minutes with diverting nonsense from his days on The One Show, plaintively asked a contributor to speculate on the workings of the stadium roof "... and take your time about it," he added. One of the team said: "How I wish we had Stuart Hall and Eddie Waring with us tonight," and the loquacious Hall, who often sounds like the nightmare offspring of Stanley Unwin and Will Self, could certainly have livened up the seemingly endless chat. He would have been more use than Roy Keane, not the man you would choose for some light-hearted banter to keep everyone's spirits up.

Chiles struggled on for 80 minutes, but he was fighting a losing battle. At one point, there was even a discussion about whether the panellists had enough clean underwear to survive the postponement of the match.

The fact is that football is a game where the action comes thick and fast, and commentators are not versed in talking through the longeurs. Cricket, on the other hand, is a game that seems to consist entirely of pauses interrupted by a bit of action. That's why cricket coverage has bred the sort of character who is as comfortable in the Garrick Club as in the Oval commentary box.

But we could be grateful for one thing as the rain pelted down in Warsaw. No one could locate Cliff Richard.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

 

General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk