Eye On The Experts: Andy Townsend

Considers Alan Partridge circa 1992 a style icon and enjoys over-vaunting the England team, English players or English teams in Europe. It's Andy Townsend...

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John Nicholson and Alan Tyers look at some of football's pundits and commentators and try to pin down what makes them good, what makes them bad, and what makes them ugly. This week its ITV's main co-commentary dude, Andy "For Me, Clive" Townsend...

Style
Favours the smart, sports-casual, style-free and slightly too tight trousers that are de rigueur for ex-pros. When he's just doing the summarising, and thus not seen on camera, we like to think that he's wearing an outlandish, Bowie-in-Berlin get-up. In truth, he's probably wearing smart, sports-casual, style-free and slightly too tight trousers. Haircut is more in the interests of taming than styling. Probably considers Alan Partridge circa 1992 a style icon.


Special Interest
None discernible. Does not, for instance, use his own playing experience to offer any particular insight into the role of the defensive midfielder, or what it's like to captain your country. Or indeed, someone else's country. If he does have a specialist subject, it has been the over-vaunting of the England team, English players or English teams in the Champions League.


Strengths and Weaknesses
Good at being the man in the boozer who knows the names of some players. Seems to enjoy his work, never going down the Lawro route of bemoaning a bad or dull game like he's suffering the worst imposition in the world having to sit through it. Half of this column met him once and he was a really, really nice bloke. Not sure if that counts for anything or not. Major weakness? Analysis of football.


Tactical genius or tactics truck?
The man for whom this section is named, Andy's Tactics Truck has become the stuff of legend. In a strong field, it was the worst thing about ITV's brief residency as broadcaster of terrestrial top flight highlights, and given that their first 68-minute programme had only 28 minutes of football, that's saying something. It's not Andy's fault that ITV gave him the Tactics Truck gig, but they did, and few who saw it have ever fully recovered from the experience. Anyhow, we think it's fair to say that not even Andy's biggest fans would point to his tactical dissections as his strongest asset. Indeed, many have said he doesn't really seem to know what is happening. You won't hear him pointing out how withdrawn the full backs are, nor how a five man midfield in a 4-5-1 with two holding players might operate against a high pressing 3-5-2.


Leg squeezer geezer?
We suspect Andy has a prosthetic leg at home which he squeezes in the few moments that he is not alongside an ex-pro with whom he can josh about the good old days. Just to keep his hand in, like.


Bantersaurus Rex?
We suspect Andy can banter for Britain (specialisms: you were a slower runner when you played football; you are now older than you used to be; your hair is somewhat thinner than when you were a younger man; gaudy ties) but the co-comms gig is a pretty banter-free zone, unless a foreigner has dived or feigned injury, of course.


Cliché counter
This is where the man really excels. Many of the expressions we take as football clichés originated or have at least have been popularised by Andy. So, you know, there's that. He'll prefix any comment with the entirely superfluous "For me, Clive..." or alternatively use it as a suffix "... not for me, Clive." It has got to the point where adding those words to the front or end of any sentence makes it funny.

"Psychedelic drugs, free love and acid rock? Not for me, Clive."

Or

"For me Clive, panties and a bra on a man are unacceptable."

He's also managed to turn the words "that's better" into a mini-cliché of its own, using it time and again but only ever for England or an English side. We counted at least seven "that's better" in this week's Manchester United game. He's always quick to use what some might call clichés but which many simply think of as football language. "Difficult to break down", "glide across the pitch", "take a touch", "to be fair" are all stock-in-trade expressions for him to use while describing what we can already plainly see for ourselves.


Why does he get gigs?
We acknowledge this is a mystery to many Football365 readers, as Andy doesn't show any great aptitude for the job, but we are always reluctant to slag a person off just for the sake of it and, like was said above, he seems like a decent man. So there has to be a good reason why he has become a fixture for ITV. Doesn't there? If anyone has an answer, we'd love to hear it. The best answer we have been able to come up with is that he is an everyman. He is the man in the pub who is shouting at the screen. There's no side to him: he likes football and he wants the English teams to do well. (Apart from that odd moment with Marseille when he muttered "Get in!" as a Marseille shot threatened the Arsenal goal. What was that about?)

What you see is what you get with Andy. He uses regulation football language in a simple way and while this doesn't satisfy the part of the audience that would like something better expressed and more intellectual, that's irrelevant to Andy. He's there to be like the majority of the audience and not some sort of elitist football aesthete. Indeed, Andy wouldn't know an aesthete if they squeezed his leg and said "no offence". Talking in a fancy way about football for the benefit of middle-class ponces? Not for me, Clive.

John Nicholson and Alan Tyers

See extracts from Alan's new book 'Tutenkhamen's Tracksuit: The History of Sport in 100ish Objects' here.

Check out John's new series of crime novels about a football fan, set in Middlesbrough, are here.

You can also follow Alan and Johnny on Twitter.

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