A Football365 love letter to… (for me) Clive Tyldesley

Date published: Friday 9th February 2018 12:14

Why the love?
Clive is simply one of the most distinctive commentators working in the English game. He has caressed our ears with his voice for these last 43 years.

Massively well-respected by us and in the industry, he won the highly prestigious Royal Television Society Sports Commentator of the Year award in 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2005, and was voted the Sony Radio Awards’ Sports Broadcaster of the Year way back in 1983.

He’s been working in the industry since 1975 when he started at Radio Trent in Nottingham. For two years, he was their Forest reporter. After moving to Radio City in Liverpool, he worked there for 12 years as commentator and reporter. He was even at Heysel, and though not at Hillsborough, did a lot of subsequent reporting. As a result, he said these very wise words:

“Because I worked on Merseyside during the time of those dreadful events in Sheffield and Brussels, certain words took on a clearer meaning to me. I never use ‘disaster’ or ‘tragedy’ in a football context during commentary.”

In August 1989 he did his first commentary for Granada. He popped up on Saint and Greavsie and as Granada’s games were shown across the whole ITV network, Clive’s stock continued to rise.

He’s always been an ITV man, except for four years in the mid-90s. From 1992-96 he was part of the MOTD commentary team. He did the USA World Cup in 1994 and Euros in 1996. He even did the Atlanta Olympics as well.

When ITV offered him a gig doing more live games than the BBC, he jumped at the chance and hasn’t looked back since. Even though ITV don’t have a lot of high-profile football outside of internationals, he is still very much their Numero Uno and their voice of the sport.

Perhaps we most fondly think of Clive in the context of Champions League nights with Big Ron beside him, and then Andy Townsend who made “not for me, Clive” into such a perfect, highly usable phrase. Who amongst us, when asked a question by a pal, has not responded “not for me, Clive”? In that way Clive lives in our everyday lives like no other commentator. He has also provided commentary on EA Sports computer games since 2006, so there’s no escaping our man.


Superhero skills
Clive is a bit of a brainbox. He’s got an honours degree in Industrial Economics from Nottingham University. I wonder what distinguishes industrial economics from any other of form of economics? I have an A level in Economics, found it quite easy but boring, and so admire anyone who can stay awake while someone is trying to educate you about it.

He originates from Radcliffe, which Wikipedia tells me is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Bury. Bury is a bit of a broadcaster hotspot being the birthplace not just of Clive but also Ellie Oldroyd, Neville’s G & P and Victoria Derbyshire. Danny Boyle is also from Radcliffe and Victoria Wood used to live there.

Not that you’d know his Lancastrian origins from his voice as there’s not a trace of what was once called “eckythump” about it. Hard to express exactly the sonic nature of the Tyldsley tones but it is best characterised by the old grunge maxim, quietLOUDquiet, or the ability to go from low key informality to a tonsil rattling yell in an instant.

Clive only ever wanted to be on the microphone. As he once said: “My parents have always said that my only identifiable ambition from a relatively early age was to be a television football commentator.” So it seems a shame that we don’t hear more of him these days, as ITV has been rather pushed to the margins, especially when it comes to live football. His old long-serving ITV mucker, Peter Drury, can now be heard on 5 Live reporting and how wonderful it would be if they could employ Clive as well, even if it was just as a guest. He’d be great for the Commentators’ Summit programme that I shall keep nagging 5 Live about until they make it. He has seen so many huge games and had to research and comment on them. Why are we letting all that experience and observation go unused?


Style guru?
Neither you, nor me, nor anyone except perhaps Mrs Clive, has any idea what Clive might don upon his body to get through a day. Actually, that’s not quite true. He has ordered t-shirts from my company www.djtees.com and I am pleased to report they showed a love of late 60s and early 70s blues rock. As a result, I will not have a word said against this veritable saint of a man.

Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if some younger readers don’t actually know what Clive looks like. Here he is.

A pleasingly squirrel-ish chap. Hard to believe he is 63, isn’t it? He could easily pass for mid 40s.

I think it is worth pausing to think about how commentators like Clive not only entertain or educate us, but become part of the definition of such huge moments. Easily his biggest moment in football is this, alongside Big Ron. Hard to believe it will be 19 years ago now. Can you imagine having to sum up such a dramatic and thrilling thing on the spur of the moment and do it in such a brilliant way in the full knowledge that it will go down in sporting history? We take commentators for granted too much. How must it feel to be the person that, even 19 years later, brings tears to the eyes. It would be so easy to mess the whole thing up in the drama of the moment, but he doesn’t. He gets it all just right.

Clive’s words still resonate with United fans. He defined possibly the most incredible moment we will ever see in English football for them, as United win the treble, and it is his words that still prickle the hairs on the back of the neck, that still bring a glaze to the eye. It will be one of his many honored legacies and a moment of absolute class. Let’s enjoy it once again


What the people say
Because he’s been such a long-term presence in our lives, we can all conjure Clive’s voice in our head. When you hear him, it is a comforting and familiar experience, like a well-loved family member who you’ve not seen for a while. So it’s no surprise that there was a lot of love for the man on Twitter. What I love about these comments is that they illustrate just how he fits into our lives and how he, quite literally, speaks to us.

‘He came to my old workplace to do a Euros preview a few years ago. He was really good and said about his FIFA game commentary that he was sitting in a room saying the same thing over again. “It was like my first marriage except I got paid instead of losing half.”‘

‘It’s not the same listening to him without Andy Townsend, Clive.’

‘Seemed to commentate on every Blackburn Rovers game in our promotion season of 1991/92. ‘Speedie hat-trick hunting, Speedie hat-trick getting’ in the match against Newcastle is still one of my favourite pieces of commentary ever.’

‘We met him at a football writing awards ceremony in 2010 when we were very drunk. Not only did he tolerate our drunkenness very admirably, but he signed a cartoon my friend had done for 200% that was *very* rude about ITV’s World Cup coverage with “to my two remaining viewers.’

‘Greatest line in commentary ever: “Scholes is getting back to his feet now, very gingerly”.’

‘He gave us a great line when commentating on the Brazil v Morocco 1998 World Cup group stage match: “Brazil lost to African opposition in the 1996 Olympics in Athens, Georgia. Hometown of REM. Everybody hurts sometimes.”‘

‘Tries to make every match box-office and can never fault him for that. Especially with knockout games in the Euro’s, World Cups and Champions League. Tuesday nights aren’t the same these days without him commenting on ITV.’

‘What I have heard from several sources is that he is a really good bloke – which is far more important.’

‘That first couple of seasons after Brian Moore had retired (a few years too late sadly), Tyldsley was absolutely peerless. His 99 Champs League commentary is perfection in commentary. So much so, many United fans savour almost every word of the last 5 minutes like a beloved poem. Even SAF had it printed out for display in his office apparently.’

‘Name. On. The. Trophy Still gives me goosebumps. Calls the big matches so well and memorably.’

‘Istanbul, Champions League Final ’05, Gerrard scores the first… ‘Hello…. hello….’ Simple, but classic.’

‘Very well known for giving up his time, for free, to help journalism students. Advice, tips, appearing on student radio, podcasts etc.’

‘The Ernie Wise to Townsend’s Eric Morecambe.’

‘He makes England matches bearable.’


Future days
He has been a patron of the Bobby Moore Bowel Cancer Fund since 2008, and has been involved with Sir Bobby Robson’s Refugio charity in Portugal since 2004. He is also an active supporter of the Kick It Out organization and is apparently also a member of the Labour Party – though its hard to trust Wiki on these things.

England games are all well and good but for Clive to once again become the voice of Champions League, he needs to move. I hope he does. We have missed his glorious intonations for too long. We need him to be in tandem with Andy Townsend too. We all took their instinctive rapport for granted. ITV doesn’t look set to be a major player in football on the telly ever again, so as the most underused big beasts of the microphone, let’s hope for a big money transfer. Working on ITV football for much longer? Not for you, Clive.

John Nicholson


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