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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 it's the everyman's everyman, Adrian Chiles.
Like a well-loved family dog who has seen better days. Not a handsome man, we think it is fair to say. Dresses unfashionably. Adrian manages to emit a rubber-faced ordinariness so unthreatening and 'one-of-us'-ish that you wonder if he actually has to work very hard indeed at it with the help of a highly-paid team of experts and consultants.
The England football team, performance and failures thereof (1967 until present day).
Strengths and Weaknesses
Has the common touch, in spades. Is better than any other big name presenter at conveying the hopes and disappointments (and, let's face it, they're generally disappointments) of the England football fan.
Main tactic for dealing with studio ex-pros is an unthreatening "I'm just an ordinary bloke, explain to me how..." This has been a successful method of getting his guests to talk, and plays well to their egos.
The sense sometimes is that Adrian is over-egging that pudding, adopting a tone of awed wonder at the arcane knowledge with which these former footballers are furnishing him, out of all proportion to the actual worth of their platitudes. When pairing this "of course, I'm just a layman" schtick with Yer Ian Wrights shouting "he's well smacked that one Adrian", the effect is such as to make it seem that Adrian is taking the mick, which we are sure he is not.
Also suffers from a case of Lynam's Disease, in which a football broadcaster who made his name with the BBC's leisurely, extended segments of chat finds himself constrained by ITV's "breathless yak for a couple of minutes, go to commercial" framework. In the case of Dishy Des, it proved fatal.
Tactical genius or tactics truck?
Self-effacing, arguably to a fault as mentioned above, in this regard. Not his job.
Leg squeezer geezer?
Treats his coterie of ex-pros with respect bordering on supplication. Handles Roy Keane, especially, with wary, beguiled affection, like a child meeting a leopard at a petting zoo. Interestingly, Adrian is unusual for a civilian football presenter in that he is a Much Bigger Deal than almost all his guests. His gig on the One Show, and a tabloid presence, has made him a far more famous, better paid and powerful media figure than, say, Lee Dixon.
Half of this column saw Adrian in a boozer before a WBA game a few years ago, and he was seriously mobbed. We acknowledge that WBA fans can't be too picky about their celeb fans, but this was a real life look at the Fame Monster. People queuing up to shake his hand, photo ops, the odd arsehole giving him verbals, that type of thing. Handled it, we might point out, with flawless good humour and generosity. Nice, funny, and quick-witted without being snarky.
Not a stock-phraser. Perhaps this is a result of being, you know, an actual communicator with broadcasting training and talent at using all words and everyfing, rather than some be-booted muddy sporto hauled off the pitch within seconds of retirement and unfairly expected to be a gifted speaker.
Why does he get gigs?
He's bright, but not bookish. He's blokey but not oafish. He's a decent person to work with, by all accounts. We can appreciate that some find his Midlands hangdog bit a little grating. But, especially where England are concerned, we find it to work rather well.
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.