Farewell Clive Tyldesley, ITV’s effortless and criminally underrated poet

Harry De Cosemo
Clive Tyldesley and Ally McCoist

When the heavens opened and lightning struck in Dortmund, with around 10 minutes to go before half time in Germany’s last-16 win over Denmark, it was hard not to feel as though it was a moment dramatic enough to mark the final time Clive Tyldesley would commentate on an ITV game, alongside Ally McCoist, his perfect foil, too. After 28 years, his time with the broadcaster is ending.

Yet, it was Tyldesley’s effortless yet poetic description of a miss by Rasmus Hojlund after the match had restarted which really showed ITV what they are wilfully and inexplicably letting go of. The 21-year-old Manchester United striker is raw; his talent is obvious and that is reflected by the general good will and recognition that he is not one of the many issues at Old Trafford, despite costing them £72m from Atalanta last summer. But after robbing Nico Schlotterbeck just yards from his own goal, he opened up his body to finish, but lashed it wide.

Tyldesley didn’t just describe what happened, but he gave context to the whole Hojlund story: “Manchester United wanted a hitman last summer; they got a hit and miss man, a hit and miss boy.”

It won’t go viral; it probably won’t even be remembered beyond tonight. But that is what makes him so good; Tyldesley is as melodic in his words as he is informative and effective, every time he speaks.

Over recent years, he has used social media to sell copies of the commentary charts he made for famous matches as keepsakes, explaining his process along the way. The attention to detail and depth of research is remarkable.

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Niclas Fulkrug came onto the pitch just past the hour and Tyldesley rattled off the sort of fact that wouldn’t just appear on Wikipedia. The Borussia Dortmund striker has scored four goals in six tournament matches as a substitute, never playing more than 35 minutes in any of them.

Tyldesley never sounds like he is trying to gain attention, but his style invokes emotion and paints a greater picture than anyone else. Sit him next to McCoist, a man whose sheer joy at the privilege of being paid to witness live football is seldom not clear in his voice, and it isn’t hard to understand how and why, every recent tournament, they’ve captivated a nation.

When Jamal Musiala scored Germany’s second, clinching goal, 15 minutes after Kai Havertz’s penalty, his reaction was quintessential: “HOW cool was he?!” before waxing lyrical with a mix of authority and disbelief about why the Bayern Munich man is among football’s most precocious talents.

There is some beautiful symmetry with Toni Kroos who, like him, is set to exit the stage he’s owned for years far too soon. Tylesley was again on hand to beautifully sum up why he has been so special: “When everyone is on fast-forward, Toni Kroos is on play.” It is commentary in an artform.

Everyone has a favourite Tyldesley moment from his time as ITVs main commentator until he was replaced by Sam Matterface as main commentator four years ago. With no disrespect to anyone, it never made sense; ending their relationship all-together, while British viewers of the Euros continue to marvel at his ability with the spoken word, is nothing short of criminal.

At least he bowed out as he was: effortless, joyous and above all, educational.

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