Footy people on TV: Martin Tyler

Date published: Friday 30th September 2016 1:51

Johnny has been listening to Martin Tyler since the brown bri-nylon underpants days of 1974 and he’s not changed in those 42 years…


Fashion police
Not a hostage to the shifting sands of fashion. A solid wearer of undemonstrative, plain, well-ironed, mid-priced menswear.

Comes across as the smiley sort of granddad we all wish we’d had instead of, in my case, a man who kept a barrel of pig blood in the garden which he used as a primitive sort of fertiliser, even though it upset small sensitive young boys to see him pouring it on his roses.

Old photos of Martin show a man who must have inspired a young Alan Partridge in the sports casual department.


Lingo Bingo
A Chester lad, there is no trace of any accent to his voice these days. Presumably at some point he spoke with that sort of flat, toneless drone of another Chesteronian, Michael Owen, but he did the right thing and stopped.

In a way, his voice is so familiar, after over 40 years behind the mic, he is a definition of what a commentator sounds like. That thing they all do, extending the player’s name as he shoots at goal, that’s pretty much his thing. Everyone does it today, but he was doing it in 1974 when the world was in black and white, except for the brown bri-nylon underpants.

Has turned ‘And it’s Live” into a catchphrase of sorts, though it always strikes me that it’d be odd to say anything else. “And it’s recorded” , “And it’s a hologram”?

Often flatters the co-comm ex-player outrageously.


Hits and misses
To still be in work into your 70s and having done your job for over 40 years, you’ve got to be doing something right with the mic and you have to just be able to turn up. Turning up is a much underrated way to be successful.

In the 60s he was the ghost-writer for Jimmy Hill’s Times column. Worked behind the scenes on The Big Match from 1968. The Big Match really was Big. Impossible to overstate how big, in these days of multi-channel TV. And for us out in the regions, it just felt so London.

I remember Martin in the mid 70s on Yorkshire television, back in an era where local ITV stations all had their own commentators and the emphasis was on individuality and not homogeneity. On a Sunday afternoon, each region would show a local team and then another two games, usually from another region. So on Teesside we’d get the Boro, or occasionally the Hartlepool game and then Leeds, or maybe Sheffield United’s game and then Orient or West Ham. It all felt very exotic.

Martin moved through the ITV gears in the 80s, still being second comms to the legendary Brian Moore, finally jumping ship to ‘Squarial’ British Satellite Broadcasting, which was a loser from the get-go. But then Sky bought that and Martin became their main man from the start of the Premier League, 24 years ago, by which time Marty had certainly paid his dues. Has sat in many a stand alongside Andy Gray which must have taken some patience.

Because he’s never really done any presenting, to many, he’s still a quite anonymous figure.

Has done well to ride out the vinegary Andy and Richard era without being tainted by it, which suggests a good moral compass. Seems to have struck up a regular working relationship with the always lugubriously, lovely and loquacious, Alan Smith. For the last 25 years, for one outlet or another, he’s covered every major tournament, as well as doing computer game work. Without doubt, Martin is Britain’s primo senior football commentator, and when you do commentating for a living, that must feel amazing. Well done, Martin. Excellent work, sir.

There are lots of examples of his art but the Aguero goal will probably be top of his CV when he eventually retires. You can actually hear his uvula vibrating.


Big club bias
Chester is a weird place. It’s where loads of Scousers with money live. Isn’t everyone from there a Liverpool fan? Some say he’s mad for Manchester United. Personally, I really dislike that sort of sniping from fans of teams who seem to think the commentator is against them. Even if they are, suck it up and stop being be a wuss.

He is currently the first team coach at Isthmian League club, Hampton & Richmond Borough. I love the word Isthmian. An Isthmus is a narrow strip of land with sea on either side, forming a link between two larger areas of land whereas the Isthmian League is a regional men’s football league covering London, East and South East England, so not like that at all.


Loved or loathed?
Commentators have a hard gig. Half the biased audience thinks they’re great, half the biased audience thinks they’re an idiot. Me? I loathe the hatred of commentators. It must be such a difficult gig. It’s live. Live. Imagine doing that without saying something off-colour, especially when Andy Gray has sat beside you for years. Almost impossible. But Martin has never dropped an f-bomb, a c-bomb or any other sort of bomb. And when you’re from the post-war generation, a generation which grew up with a set of assumptions and a lexicon of expressions that are fundamentally unacceptable in 2016, that is almost incredible. It speaks to the idea of a man who has flourished with the changing times.

Social media comments, outside of the club bias silliness, were very positive:

“My dad is convinced he mentions Manchester United at every possible opportunity, which is clearly nonsense.”

“Voice of a generation. Calm, measured, always well prepared. Can occasionally drift into more waffle than Birds Eye territory.”

“One of the few who managed to elevate what you see on screen. Almost all of my fave football moments are via him, no coincidence.”

“I wouldn’t recognise him if he walked past him but the voice is unmistakable. So ITV.”

“Tyler just grates on me now. Too many obvious cliches”

“Too keen on a pun now. Eg pirlo is peerLESS. Far too much of that and seems to talk more than before”

“In a heated Ks v Hampton derby on Boxing Day two years ago he went mental at the ref, which is very funny in Tyler’s voice.”

“Great commentator, but always seems to have an elongated goalscorer name in the chamber e.g. Pobgaaaaa!! Roooooney!!”

“Think there’s something of the night about him. Reckon he owns a spooky b&b at the end of a foggy causeway.” (He does look like a fairground owner in an episode of Scooby Doo)

“Always has the right words at dramatic moments, and none of the pomp of Mowbray et al.”

“As a twentysomething born after 1992 he is THE voice of football. Very calm and brings his co-comms in for longer comment well.”


Proper Football Man
What do you mean, what’s this? It’s a pint of white wine, innit, Martin? I know, I know, white is for the ladies, but Reidy’s drank all the red. I mean literally all of it. There’s no red wine left on earth. He’s had the lot. So get it drunk. Help yourself to the trough of baked beans garnished with a couple of dead dogs. Oh Deano has passed out in them. Pull him out of there Macca.

You’re not working undercover for a national newspaper are you, Martin? Have you got a hidden camera in your tie? How did they hide a camera in a tie? Cameras are massive – like them ones that used to be at the start of Grandstand. Just don’t understand that, me. Can’t trust anyone these days. What a carve up. In my day you could start a civil war on Far-Eastern tour after some classic banter with the boys involving Agent Orange and a helicopter gunship and the FA would turn a blind eye as long as you slipped them a few quid. Happy days. That was back when men where men, and so were the women.

But these days everyone is out to get us. I blame my agent, whoever he is, what is an agent? I don’t have an agent, I don’t know what one is, or who that man with the big paper bag of cash in the service station was. I was just trying to help out an old friend, I said what I said and it was wrong but it was a pony and trapment, Jeff.

They’re just trying to make us do bad things and then when we do, they bloody well tell everyone. No-one can help being wrong. It could happen to any of us, at any time. In fact, we’re paid loads to be wrong on the telly, so it’s a way of life for us. Anyway, getting paid loads for doing almost nothing is dead clever. They should be praising us for that sort of scam. Err, no, not a scam. I meant pram…err…no…I meant Sam…no…err…sham…no…err…sandwich. Yeah, that’s it, sandwich. We’re paid in sandwiches, so that’s why we’ve got to earn a few extra quid. Man cannot live on sandwiches alone, you’ve got to sell a few sandwiches as well – not that I’ve done that. I never sold nuthin’. I don’t even know what money is and anyway I’ve been quoted out of context, I never said them things. Am I going to jail, Jeff? This is like a bereavement, it really is.

Oh are you still here Martin? How come you’ve not even touched your pint? You sat alongside Andy for years, so how are you still in work? Being good at your job, you say? Nah, that’s overrated. No point in that when you can just pick up money for just saying words out loud, even if they make no sense. I played football and that means I can say anything about football even when I know almost nothing and make wild statements that I’ve not thought through, even for a minute. Glenn Hoddle should be the next England manager. See? Told you.

The really smart people know that knowing nothing is really smart. Knowing stuff is for losers. You just say you’re great and that means you are. Them people what’s got educated, where are they now? Are they in Benidorm with a pint of wine and a plate of fried eggs? No. They’re all just running stuff and not ‘avin’ any banter at all. Bet they don’t even put Skittles in vodka, them lot.

You’ve always been alright, you Martin. All that shouting names thing is brilliant. I could do that, if only I could pronounce foreign names and long words. I’ve spent my career shouting lad’s names before the foreigns came and ruined it. Come on, let’s go and find Miss Fiscal Greed and Lavish Bung Body of 1988 at Snouty McTrough-Hoover’s House of Ill Repute. Everything is served under the table and that’s the way I like it.
Beyond the lighted stage
One always imagines commentators commentating on their own lives as they unfold, so when the missus brings his dinner in, he’s talking into his spoon, documenting the fact, drawing out the name of the food. ‘And it’s potatooooooooos!”

Likes a charity kickabout and then there’s the non-league management business too – presumably he does commentary in the dug out. Has also done promo for voluntary work organisation Vinspired.


John Nicholson

More Related Articles