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

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

Shine Night Walk 2014 - 'On the night' volunteer roles

Unpaid Voluntary Work : Cancer Research UK: We need motivational volunteers to...

Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable & Accounts Receivable)

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable...

Senior IT Trainer - Buckinghamshire - £250 - £350 p/d

£200 - £300 per day: Ashdown Group: IT Trainer - Marlow, Buckinghamshire - £25...

Education Recruitment Consultant- Learning Support

£18000 - £30000 per annum + Generous commission scheme: AER Teachers: Thames T...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Why black cats make amazing pets, and take good selfies too

Felicity Morse
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star