Football commentators are, for most fans of the sport, at worst a necessary evil, and at best purveyors of inimitable improvised poetry. Though they may share responsibility for the vast majority of tired, footballing cliches that permeate every corner of the sport, like a good film soundtrack, the best soccer announcers can help heighten the drama for the viewer at home (or in some horrible soccer bar). Here are five leading football announcers, ranked.
Tyldesley, ITV’s senior football announcer, is mostly known for his role in defining two of the most bonkers minutes in all football, when Man United came from a goal down against a very stubborn Bayern Munich to win the 1999 European Cup 2-1 in injury time. Unfortunately, this is roughly where the love affair ends. His nasally voice doesn’t exactly pull at the heartstrings, and he is also known for a teeny tiny bias toward the red team in Greater Manchester.
Peter Drury has the basics down pat and has the chops to stand out as a relatively ‘senior’ announcer compared to the dime-a-dozen slingers who fill in for those godawful lower table Premier League fixtures. Yet as this demo reel for Pro Evolution Soccer reveals, the man loves to yell. Player names, team names, countries—if something happens of note and there is a noun involved, Drury will be the man to scream it, sometimes with hilarious consequences.
When Ian Darke and Steve McManananananaman cozy up in the announcer booth, bad things can and often do happen. Darke is among the more opinionated commentators in football, and together with Steve, his musings often hit the target with Fabio Borini-like accuracy. Yet he will forever be near and dear to American fans of the sport—in part for producing, on occasion, decent work for ESPN, but mostly for this call in 2010 when Landon Donovan put USA into the knockout round of the World Cup against Algeria.
Jon Champion once said of his line of work, “If I get noticed too much then I’m not doing my job — which is to caption the picture and not dominate the proceedings.” Unfortunately, this is Champion’s one major fault—he is so good at getting out of the way that the viewer will often forget he’s even there. Yet the aptly named announcer is still very good at his work, content whenever possible to let the on-field actions speak for themselves. Though he slipped up once and courted controversy for labelling Luis Suarez a “cheat,” he tends to one of football’s less chatty Kathys.
Being a football commentator is an impossibly difficult job to truly do well. The reason why announcers will either sit back and spew cliche after cliche or scream at the top of their lungs every thirty seconds is that it’s hard to call action for a full 90 minutes and not run out of ideas. Martin Tyler however rarely if ever resorts to filler. Though his call for Man City’s title-winning last minute winner against QPR will go down as one of the greatest sporting calls of all time, Tyler’s wit and ingenuity often shines brightest in football’s duller moments, which, to be fair, there are many. A talent like Tyler’s comes around once in a generation, and he will be hard to replace.