Football people on TV: Guy Mowbray

Date published: Friday 15th July 2016 8:39

After wearing sexy fancy continental pants at the Euros, Johnny is back to the chewy gristle and connective tissue of Footy on the Telly (and radio) and turns his bleary-eyed attention to the BBC’s top comm. A man with a name that sounds like it should belong to a musketeer, Guy de Mowbray.


Fashion police
When John Motson stood in a blizzard of snow, in a coat fashioned out of the skins of a whole moorland of sheep, it was an image that so burned into the cultural retinas, it is still hard to imagine any football commentator wearing anything else.

One fondly imagines, as you walk in through the doors of the BBC to be a commentator, they hand you your sheepskin coat in some sort of pagan ceremony, a ceremony commentated on by Barry Davies, you’d hope, saying, “look at his face, just look at his face,” as you pull it on.

Back in the day, commentators such as Motty, Barry and the much-missed Brian Moore were stars in their own right. Impressionists imitated them. Moore was a household name, a familiar friendly uncle who smiled out of the TV screen at us, then went to commentate on a brutal game between Luton Town and Orient.

But these days, Jon Culshaw isn’t doing your Guys and while the long-serving men (women still not allowed, due to not sounding like men) such as your Clives, Clive, are familiar, they’re not stars they once were.

So I bet you didn’t know what Guy looks like, did you? Well, that’s him at the top of the page.

Not even wearing an animal skin. Very disappointing. Nice highlights, though. Looks the sort of chap for whom the primary purpose of clothes is to soak up gravy and prevent nudity. Also has the classic square-jawed, fight-you-on-the-cobbles after 10 pints look innate to all Yorkshiremen.


Lingo bingo
Although from York, he doesn’t have the classic York accent (think Steve McClaren). Somewhat flat vowels but hardly registers on the Boycott scale of Bloody Yorkshire. Can imagine him lapsing into, what my dad used to call, thee-in and tha-in after a few pints of Sam Smiths. But, as with all Yorkshire folk (ie all of my family), his is an accent that is better suited to cynicism than it is to happiness. This can lead to professional miserablism. Put him with Lawro and you can get something as arsey and passive-aggressive as this.

However, there’s much to be said for not being too happy-clappy, I reckon. It’s also worth bearing in mind that familiarity can easily breed contempt. Quirky habits that initially entertain can quickly become a stone in the listener’s psychic shoe. So there’s some sense in the commentator being 6.6 on the pH strip of verbal performance.

Like many modern-day commentators, you do sometimes feel that he’s got half his mind on saying something which can be cut and pasted into an arty montage, or used in a trailer, but that’s just a symptom of the times we live in.

Listening to samples of his work, he can definitely do crazed shouting, his work on the ‘ghost goal’ Frank Lampard scored against Germany in 2012 World Cup being a good example.

Looking at most commentator’s social media, you notice how much of a kicking they get for not pronouncing names perfectly all the time. This does seem very harsh. One “Ham-sick” instead of a “Ham-shik” and people are all over you like stink. It must make you feel rather defensive. I feel sorry for them. Not being fluent in foreign 100% of the time and when under the pressure of live TV is surely not a great crime. It’s not like he’s doing a Merse, Jeff, and is just making random noises like a wounded animal what’s been forced to listen to Glenn Hoddle parsing a sentence.


Hits and misses
Aged 26, he did the 1998 World Cup final for Eurosport; the youngest ever to do so. That’s a very colourful peacock feather to have in your commentator’s balaclava.

Has done all the big gigs for years now, along with cup and Premier League work. Got the recent Euro 2016 final. Guy is as high as you’re going to get in this business. There are no more rungs on his career ladder, and that’s got to be very professionally satisfying. He’s been working for the BBC since 2004 and seems to be their go-to mic man for the big games.

However, for all of this, I’d wager that to most of us, he’s quite anonymous and without anything especially distinctive to his style which bookmarks him in our brains. Whether that’s a hit or a miss depends on what you want from a commentator. Are they there to merely to describe the action, or are they a personality that is part of the entertainment? That’s a subjective call. He himself says: “A good commentator is like a good referee. They shouldn’t distract you from the football, but you’d notice them if they weren’t there.” Which doesn’t quite make sense, as you can’t notice someone who isn’t there, but you can notice the fact they’re not there, but you get the gist.

He’s worked in the business since the mid 90s, so he’s obviously impresses the management and given the amount of co-comms he’s worked with, you must have to be a clubbable sort – what Henry Winter would call ‘a good tourist’, even though it’s an leaden anachronism so heavy that if you grasped it, it would drag you down to the bottom of a very deep lake. Those who have worked with him report him as a hard grafter, well-armed with research.

Has come a long way from cutting his teeth at Metro radio commentating on Sunderland matches in the mid 90s, alongside Eric Gates, something which is guaranteed to put hairs on your chest both literally and metaphorically. Although only in his mid 40s, he’s incredibly experienced now – an absolute veteran of a thousand campaigns. Dude’s got this gig down, even though no-one really remembers having heard him, immediately after he stops talking.


Big club bias
Anyone who supports York City can have no airs and graces. Also being from Yorkshire means you look up to no-one, whilst simultanously looking down on everyone else who isn’t from Yorkshire and, uniquely, also most of those who are.


Loved or loathed
The lad himself says, “I’m far too sensitive. I think that’s my biggest fault. Most people are probably more thick-skinned than I am, but it only takes one comment on Twitter or a newspaper column to slaughter me, and I’ll doubt myself for a while.” This may well be to his credit, but how does he get through any day without weeping? Guy, man. Stop your sobbing. It’s just the arse biscuit culture asserting its delusion of primacy. Be strong, brother.

Social media research has one common theme. ‘Who? Oh, him.’

In other words, he’s made little impression on most, despite his long-serving high-profile work.

Other words used were ‘vanilla’, ‘reliable’, ‘safe’, ‘anodyne’, ‘beige’ and, most remarkably ‘not exactly sex on legs, but perhaps decent foreplay on knees’.

It’s odd for a relatively long-serving commentator to be quite this anonymous. Others got him mixed up with Steve Wilson (not the Porcupine Tree, prog rock fella, though would love to hear him commentating on football, preferably in an obscure time signature).

There was also a lot saying ‘they all sound the same these days’, which might be a bit old man-ish, but does feel true.

Some find him a little too downbeat and when put with Danny Murphy on Sunday, it sounded like Waldorf and Statler at a funeral.

Apparently, on a Match of the Day 50th anniversary, because he was commentating on the 2012 Aguero goal, he talked about seeing it as his Big Moment. Some have pointed out this will forever be Martin Tyler’s golden moment, because he was doing it on live TV. Still, such arguments seem unimportant to me.

There was a lot of criticism of his attitude to Cristiano Ronaldo’s injury in the final. I’d been listening on 5live where Alan Green and Danny Mills were more full of acid than Timothy Leary in 1967. So I watched the whole section back and by comparison, Guy’s work was quite milky and not nearly as cynical as I’d expected. Not even a single “get up, you big girl’s blouse, I’ll bloody well give you summat to cry about, you bloody nancy boy”. But his comment that a lot of people would be enjoying seeing Ronaldo go off was perhaps clunky. We don’t need commentators to point out that there are some absolute rotters out there who enjoy others’ misfortune.

That being said, it amazes me that any commentator doesn’t occasionally drop an F-bomb in a moment of high emotion or stress, so getting the tone, or a word or three, a bit off-centre is surely to be expected now and again. Then again, he is Numero Uno so perhaps I’m being too generous and should expect higher standards. Then again, I pay Sky £70 a month to witness Merse’s random word jumbles and for its female presenters to wear Spanx.


Proper Football Man
With Big Sam poised to be the leader of England’s football nation, the Proper Football Man’s stock is rising and rising fast. The tabloid nation, in an act of astonishing psychic self-harm, is calling clever, dumb and dumb, clever and as a result, Sam is rising to lead his nation with all the aesthetic grace of an explosion at a corned beef factory.

The PFM’s work is done. Now they must turn to friends in the media to support their man. No wet liberal hand-wringing nancy boy is going to join their blind-ocracy. They only want people who will toe their party line about how great he is with vibrating plates, Powerpoint, slide rules and log tables and won’t mention his breasts.

So let’s have a look at this lad Mowbray’s application form. Well he’s from Yorkshire for a start, that’s good. They’re never happier than when miserable and complaining that now is worse than then, which it is, like. See? Told you.

Aye, well the trouble is Guy, you’re called Guy, for a start. Far too middle-class. And Mowbray can’t be turned into a nickname. Mowbrayie, nah, Mowbrayoh, rubbish. You’ll have to be Mowbs. But it’s still rubbish. This isn’t good.

And you work for the BBC, which is run by lesbocommufeminists, no offence luv, I like a red bra meself, but apparently I’m a sexist idiot. And how old are you, darlin’? Really? Pull my finger.

Now if you’d only worked for an oppressive Middle Eastern dictator and his wealthy relations, we could do business, preferably in a 13-star hotel built by slave labour.

Mind you look solidly built, full of chip fat and Fishermans Friends and I’m sure you’d be capable of a decent drinking session with Reidy and the boys. Deano give him a shot of that new smoothie.

What’s that? It’s not a smoothie, it’s a defoliant? Sweet Jesus. Give me a shot of that…oh God, me eyebrows have fallen out. What is in that? Vim, vodka and Agent Orange? Nice to have a bit of fruit in there for my five a day. Actually that’s very refreshing, even though I have shed all of my body hair almost instantly. Still, they’re all shaved in the pornos these days, so it all goes to prove how up to date and fashionable I am and not in any way a dinosaur.

So what else is on your CV, Mowbs…no, still hate that. Sounds like moobs. Never say moobs to Big Sam, by the way. He’ll kill you and wear your face as a muffler.

Hmm, you’re not exactly exuding lothario tendencies, Guyie, so a night out with Miss Gobstopper and Barley Sugar Twist body of 1988 doesn’t seem on the cards, and she’s a sticky lass, her, by the way, but some drunken frugging at Slashes ‘n’ Gashes with the boys, not entirely out of the question, especially as having to spend a lot of time near to Alan Green during England games gives anyone a raging thirst for booze.

I’ll be honest, Mowzy, I suspect you might be critical of Big Sam at some point, so unless you want us to send Kevin Davies around to assault you with his buttocks, until you’ve gone through Kevin Nolan’s vibrating plate-based, mind wipe hypnosis course, your membership application is being burnt, along with your best suit. In a car park.


Beyond the lighted stage
Plays cricket and supports York City. Has the lad not suffered enough sitting next to Lawro? When 21 took a job in London as a banker and hated it, returned home and began talking into a microphone for living. Fair play to him for that.


John Nicholson

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