Pass the Mic: Life with local radio commentary
In the current financial climate, with hundreds of thousands under the threat of losing their jobs and millions more contemplating the effects of the coalition’s economic approach, many more match-going supporters may turn to the wireless in order to get their Football League fix – particularly when their team is playing away from home. So what awaits them on the airwaves?
“The ball goes into the penalty area and it’s just wide! Just wide from Naylor. No, wait, Collins. Becchio! It was Becchio! Just wide from Luciano Becchio… I think”
Perhaps the most memorable quote (specific player names aside) of a surprisingly pleasant evening listening to Yorkshire Radio’s commentary of my beloved Leicester City’s trip to face Leeds United on Tuesday night.
In fact, this is an extremely unfair reflection on Thom Kirwin’s efforts at the microphone. Alongside the Leeds legend Eddie Gray, Kirwin presided over a difficult night for the Elland Road club.
On the ball
Leeds fans may have reason to quibble with my verdict, particularly as Kirwin purred endlessly over the visitors’ ability to retain possession, but his commentary was engaging and involving. And, nine times out of ten, he knew who had the ball, even if it wasn’t a player he watches each week for the home side. This is a good start for football commentators on local radio stations.
Not every supporter is so lucky. BBC Radio Northampton’s commentators, one can only assume, do not enjoy the luxury of time during midweek to read up on opposition players. Maybe I’ve just caught them on an off-day or seven but their broadcasts are a throwback to computer games of old.
“That was a good tackle by… Reading…. and… Reading… move upfield with the ball. Here’s a chance! Oh, just over the bar from… Reading.”
It would make a good drinking game. Every time a local radio football commentator replaces a player’s name with merely the name of his club, you drink. If you’re a Northampton fan, it could provide a welcome distraction from the Cobblers’ current league position towards the foot of the Football League.
Pride and passion
Leicester took the lead at Elland Road halfway through the second half. Not that you would have noticed immediately had you been listening to Yorkshire Radio. Kirwin greeted Kyle Naughton’s opener with a sombre tone more befitting of death, taxes or the Comprehensive Spending Review. It said everything about his passion for Leeds United and I can only assume that a late Leeds equaliser would have sparked unbridled exuberance.
Local radio football commentators will always provoke fury from sections of their club’s support, especially if they do not support the team whose fortunes they relay to thousands of devoted followers. It’s a tricky business. The many twists and turns of life at Leicester City are verbally chronicled by Ian Stringer, whose support for the club is not in question. Each on-air goal celebration speaks for itself.
It is also worth noting that BBC Radio Leicester’s expert summariser Alan Young, a former Leicester player, has a superb voice for radio and, more importantly, it seems almost impossible to disagree with a word of what he says. There must be something about Scotsmen. Eddie Gray was equally impressive on Leeds duty.
A tricky assignment
Fans want to have their cake and eat it. Many demand a supporter who cares passionately about the club and that this translates positively wherever possible, but is equally willing to hop onboard with the inevitable scapegoating associated with the performances of every football team. It must be a very difficult balance to maintain.
Gray condemned the Leeds performance in a fashion that mirrored the numerous excellent blogs that followed in the next few hours from frustrated supporters. That must surely be the best measure of any local radio football commentator or pundit? Anyone can tell it how they see it, but it takes real skill to reflect the feelings of thousands of supporters in addition.
Personally, I rarely hear local radio commentary because I am usually at the game. It is, nevertheless, an interesting aspect of football that rarely receives any written attention.
For the benefit of my fellow Leicester supporters, either in attendance at Elland Road on Tuesday or similarly otherwise engaged but not listening to Yorkshire Radio, here is a Thom Kirwin quote to end on. Apologies in advance to fans of all other clubs, but it made me chuckle.
“Leeds can’t get the ball here. It’s like playing against Arsenal. Or Spain.”
So who commentates on your team’s games? Are they on Twitter? And do you love them, loathe them or regard them with a withering indifference that is not entirely conducive to commenting any further? Erm…