Why We Deserve Better Than Alan Green

Why We Deserve Better Than Alan Green

By on Sep 14, 2009 in Latest, Opinion | 64 comments

The BBC’s veteran radio commentator Alan Green has been at it again, this time insisting on Graham Taylor’s removal as co-commentator for the recent England vs Croatia match. Mark Murphy wonders aloud whether it is time to put Green out to pasture.

BBC Radio Five Live’s Alan Green has been at it again, having a spat with a fellow co-commentator and demanding his removal. While the BBC has been at it again, acceding to Green’s every wish. Why? This piece is unlikely to win any awards for originality. Articles about Alan Green’s favourite football commentator appear tend to turn up with the regularity of London buses. His supporters praise his ‘special’ talents, one of which is his ability to start an argument in an otherwise empty room, another of which is is to have more words written about him than he says himself, some achievement for a man who makes a living talking for chunks of twenty two & a half minutes plus stoppage time in one go, but amongst all the verbiage he inspires, only rarely does the telling phrase appear: “Alan Green is not a very good radio football commentator” .

His latest spat came during the otherwise non-event of a Slovenia friendly. He said something along the lines of participants in the Mexican wave “should be shot” – a bit extreme and, for a national radio commentator, a bit of a stupid thing to say. Colleague Graham Taylor said, in a jocular fashion (and possibly inadvertently echoing the thoughts of a good proportion of his listeners), “You do say some stupid things sometimes, Alan”. It was reported that Green warned Taylor, off-air (something along the lines of “Don’t call me, stupid.”) and, for the altogether more important match against Croatia, listeners ended up with Chris Waddle as the co-commentator.

But why demote Taylor? Why, every time Alan Green says “jump” does the BBC ask “how high”? This is far from the first time Green has been indulged by his nominal bosses. In 2004, Green was censured by the media watchdog Ofcom for a crude racial stereotyping of Manchester United’s Eric Djemba-Djemba which the BBC labelled “irreverent banter” while highlighting Green as a “campaigning anti-racist”. This comment may have surprised those who heard Green utter the immortal words: “Number 17 – that’ll be the Chicken Chow Mein, then” in reference to Chinese defender Sun Jihai” only a few months previously.

It was crude regional stereotyping next up, when he pondered aloud if film star Sylvester Stallone would have bricks instead of wheels on the limousine he had parked outside Goodison Park while he watched Everton play Reading a couple of seasons ago. At a stretch – and we’re possibly being kinder to Green than he deserves here – we could put criticism of these comments down to over-sensitivity or a manifestation of some anti-Green agenda. After all, the bricks instead of wheels gag appeared on “Have I Got News For You” soon afterwards without attracting anything like such opprobrium.

The match between Everton and Reading contained a prime example of Green’s downright unprofessionalism. After a lifeless first quarter to the game, Green took the microphone and said: “Got any paint?” before taking nearly two minutes to set up the obvious “I’d rather watch it dry” gag. In itself, little more than irritating, except that Reading went one-up in the meantime, and we had to rely on the summariser to describe Joleon Lescott’s inadvertent contribution to Reading’s cause. Similar scenarios seem to play out quite a lot when Green is at the microphone. “What happened there?” could easily be his catchphrase – and not in a rhetorical, Fred Trueman “I don’t understand what’s going off out there” sense, which relatively endeared him to cricket followers.

So bad, is Green, the joke goes, that he has to ask Graham Taylor what’s going on, although it is a line that relies on the misleading “Do I not like that” and “can we not knock it?” image of Taylor from his unhappy days as England manager – Taylor is an accomplished pundit who knows exactly what is going on. The same is also said to apply to Jimmy Armfield, who is frequently called upon to explain to the listener what has just passed Green by. Even Mark Lawrenson, otherwise apparently employed solely to laugh at Green’s jokes, has to fill in the blanks from time-to-time.

Green was in full “what happened there?” mode when Manchester United tried a trick corner move against Chelsea at Old Trafford last season. At first, he was joined by most everyone else; not least Chelsea’s back four. But even as he returned to commentary for his second-half stint, he continued to profess ignorance, despite his co-commentator’s patient explanation of this new ‘trick.’ It almost felt as if he’d been so wrapped up in himself that he didn’t care to listen to anyone else.

More serious misdemeanours have also gone unsanctioned. While other journalists covering England’s Wembley encounter with Kazakhstan last year were there to cover Friday’s pre-match preparations, Green was allowed to travel to the game on the Saturday, not feeling the need for such trivialities as research. As a result of being exempt from what was a requirement for other BBC personnel, Green missed the first half, because his plane had been held up in fog, but went unpunished for this apparent unprofessionalism. It is, ultimately, not acceptable for someone that is at the top of their profession (and handsomely rewarded for being so) to be forty-five minutes late for work.

Why, then, does he continue to be indulged? Apparently, it is because he is so controversial and outspoken. A refreshing, unpredictable voice among the bland leading the bland. He is “not afraid to tell it like it is”, and he provokes debate. Much of that was once true, but little of it remains so. Accusing referees of trying to be the centre of attention is less controversial than ironic given much of Green’s schtick, and the same old “isn’t this dreadful?” comments ceased to be “refreshing” and “unpredictable” some years ago. While he may provoke the debate, he ultimately provokes as many people to turn the BBC off as tune in especially, and the “bland” who lead the “bland”, one suspects, wouldn’t be given the leeway that Green frequently seems to be given.

As I said at the start of this piece, there’s nothing original about criticising Green, but that’s no reason to shy away from the task. Alan Green is very well paid to do his job, and in a highly competitive media environment, an environment which is currently subject to stultifying budgetary limitations, the continued employment of someone as self-centred and incompetent as he feels less and less tenable. This needs reiterating in as many different fora as possible, and as often as possible.

So 5Live’s Alan Green has been at it again, having a spat with a fellow co-commentator and demanding his removal. While the BBC has been at it again, acceding to Green’s every wish. Why?

I know I’m not up for any originality awards. Articles about Alan Green’s favourite football commentator appear every now and again…and again and again.

One of his ‘special’ talents is his ability to start an argument in an otherwise empty room when even he’s not in it (the radio has to be on and tuned into 5Live – for the hard of lateral thinking).

And another is to have more words written about him than he says himself, some achievement for a man who makes a living talking for chunks of twenty two & a half minutes plus stoppage time at one hit.

Yet amongst all the verbiage he inspires, only rarely does the telling phrase appear: “Alan Green is not a very good radio football commentator.”

His latest spat came during the otherwise non-event of a Slovenia friendly. He said something along the lines of participants in the Mexican wave “should be shot” – a bit extreme and, for a national radio commentator, a bit of a stupid thing to say.

Colleague Graham Taylor said, in a jocular fashion: “You do say some stupid things sometimes, Alan” (inadvertently echoing the thoughts of half the nation). And Alan later warned Taylor, off-air, something along the lines of “Don’t call me, stupid.”

The spat made it impossible for the two to work together comfortably at the Croatia game. So 5Live listeners got Chris Waddle instead. Thanks, Alan.

But why demote Taylor? Why, every time Alan Green says “jump” does the BBC ask “how high?” This is far from the first time Green has been indulged by his nominal bosses.

In 2004, Green was censured by the media watchdog Ofcom for a crude racial stereotyping of Manchester United’s Eric Djemba-Djemba which the BBC labelled “irreverent banter” while highlighting Green as a “campaigning anti-racist.”

The latter would have surprised those who heard Green utter the mortal words: “Number 17 – that’ll be the Chicken Chow Mein, then” in reference to Chinese defender Sun Jihai” only a few months previously.

It was crude regional stereotyping next up, when he pondered aloud if film star Sylvester Stallone would have bricks instead of wheels on the limousine he had parked outside Goodison Park while he watched Everton play Reading a couple of seasons ago.

But let’s, for the sake of argument, dismiss the furore these incidents caused as “political correctness gone mad” or a manifestation of some anti-Green agenda. After all, the bricks instead of wheels gag appeared on “Have I Got News For You” soon afterwards without attracting anything like such opprobrium.

Everton v. Reading contained a prime example of Green’s downright unprofessionalism. After a lifeless first quarter to the game, Green took the microphone and said: “Got any paint?” before taking nearly two minutes to set up the obvious “I’d rather watch it dry” gag.

In itself, little more than irritating, except that Reading went one-up in the meantime, and we had to rely on the summariser to describe Joleon Lescott’s inadvertent contribution to the Royals’ ‘goals for’ column.

Similar scenario play out quite a lot when Green is on the mike. “What happened there?” could easily be his catchphrase – and not in a rhetorical, Fred Trueman “I don’t understand what’s going off out there” sense, which relatively endeared him to cricket followers.

So bad, is Green, the joke goes, that he has to ask Graham Taylor what’s going on, although it is a line that relies on the misleading “Do I not like that” and “can we not knock it?” image of Taylor from his unhappy days as England manager – Taylor is an accomplished pundit who knows exactly what is going on.

So too Jimmy Armfield, who is frequently called upon to explain to the listener what has just passed Green by. And even Mark Lawrenson, otherwise employed solely to laugh at Green’s jokes, has to fill in the blanks from time-to-time.

Green was in full “what happened there?” mode when Manchester United tried a trick corner move against Chelsea at Old Trafford last season. At first, to be fair to him, he was joined by most everyone else; not least Chelsea’s back four. But even as he returned to commentary for his second-half stint, he was professing ignorance, despite his co-commentator’s (Mike Ingham’s?) patient explanation of the ‘trick.’ Almost as if he’d been so wrapped up in himself that he didn’t care to listen to anyone else.

More serious misdemeanours have also gone unsanctioned. While other journalists covering England’s Wembley encounter with Kazakhstan last year were there to cover Friday’s pre-match preparations, Green was allowed to travel to the game on the Saturday, not feeling the need for such trivialities as research.

As a result of being exempt from what was a requirement for other BBC personnel, Green…MISSED…THE…FIRST…HALF, because his plane had been held up in fog. His punishment for this downright unprofessionalism? Answers on a blank sheet of paper.

So why is he indulged? Apparently, it is because he is so controversial and outspoken. A refreshing, unpredictable voice among the bland leading the bland. He is “not afraid” to “tell it like it is.” And he provokes debate.

Much of that was true. Little of it remains so. Accusing referees of trying to be the centre of attention is less controversial, more a potential dictionary definition of ‘irony.’ And it’s the same “isn’t this dreadful?” shtick every game. So that’s “refreshing” and “unpredictable” out of the window.

And while he may provoke the debate, that ultimately provokes as many people to turn the BBC off as tune in specially, making his net effect zero, in which case he may as well be one of the “bland” who lead the “bland.”

And none of them can regularly miss goals, dabble in casual racism, turn up 45 minutes late for World Cup games and dictate commentary policy, like Green can.

Like I say, there’s nothing original about criticising Green. But that’s no reason to shy away from the task. Green is very well paid to do his job. And in a highly competitive media environment, subject to crucifying budgetary limitations, the continued employment of what many see as a self-centred, incompetent, borderline racist such as Green is plainly unacceptable. This needs reiterating in as many different fora as possible, as often as possible.

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    64 Comments

  1. Further to robbo’s comments of February 11, 2010, where does one sign up to kick Mr Green in the head/groin? Am more than prepared to queue.

    Mick

    September 8, 2010

  2. I had the misfortune of hearing him yesterday evening, just after Liechtenstein had taken the lead against Scotland and I was trying to see if commentary was available on the internet. First time I’d heard his voice in years. Last time, too.

    ejh

    September 8, 2010

  3. No mention of another infuriating “Greenism” viz “it’s a nonsense” – which he will regularly employ to support often totally contradictory points of view. Well done Alan!

    Sid

    September 11, 2010

  4. Alan Green is ignorant, dreadful to listen to and unprofessionally biased against certain teams.

    When Spurs beat Man City to snatch the 4th champions league spot last season, Green completely lost it with joy. He ended up sounding like that mad Viking commentator who flipped his lid when Norway beat England. Someone forgot to tell him he’s supposed to be objective.
    Every time Man City are mentioned he starts frothing at the mouth as though they have no right to have money, good players and win games. The man is a cretin.

    paul.langan

    October 20, 2010

  5. Alan Green?

    Ruins my enjoyment of radio football.

    Sometimes only the ‘c’ word will do.

    N.

    Nick

    November 7, 2010

  6. Having decided long ago to get rid of my TV, I am dependent on radio for my football updates. And have recently caught myself thinking: Why should blind football-lovers have to put up with the egotistical Green? Recently I had the misfortune of hearing him comment that he had never heard of a Welsh supporter of the English national team before. So why is an Ulsterman given such freedom? Wouldn’t this man be better employed in his own neck of the woods? Or is he afraid to live amongst his fellow countrymen in Ulster?

    Andy from Scotland

    November 18, 2010

  7. hi just read your comments, which I agree with very much ,when I first heard Alan Green on the radio,I thought he was a breath of fresh air,he was telling it as it was from the fans viewpoint eg the referee’s not upto it(as polite as I can say)but over time he turned out to be just a ref basher (there is only so much bashing you can do and still retain the interest of the listener), i stopped listening to him but I would make an exception when I found a match that I was interested in listening to and he was commentating on,you could feel the pressure the co-commentator was under not to disagree with alans outlandish comments that didnt have anything to do with the match and football, all in all graham taylor and most co-commentators comments are more worthwhile and have more sense than Alans contribution

    celestica

    November 28, 2010

  8. Could not agree more. Greens bias and bitternes has spoilt radio 5. I really don’t know how professionals such as jimmy armfield put up with him.

    Rich

    January 5, 2011

  9. His comments regarding Saturday’s fiasco at Old Trafford were scandalous- he should be barred from ever commentating at OT again.
    One thing I would side with him on- Graham Taylor is a humourless individual whose grasp of modern football is tenuous at best. I share Green’s view on the Mexican Wave- it’s really a case of ‘the biased leading the bland’ when those two get together.

    Steve, Manchester.

    February 13, 2012

  10. Alan Green? He just deserves a bloody good smacking, and then his P45. The BBC used to employ intelligent, informed, analytical football commentators who we could respect for their even-handed impartiality. It seems the order of the day now is pompous, puffed-up, partisan prats. There’s only one thing to do when Alan Green is on – and that’s switch off. What a complete idiot he is.

    David

    May 13, 2012

  11. Well really. I understand perfectly well the criticism of AG. Just as I understand the criticism of Catholicism. Or agnosticism. AG is an agnostic. Although allegedly a Liverpool supporter, he does indeed say it like it is and never have I heard him guilty of bias. And like any agnostic he will upset anyone of creed. Eventually he’ll say something that crosses a creed barrier. That’s a shame. But the alternative is blandness. I grew up with Maurice Edelston. Bryon Butler and Peter Jones. Every week I wanted to strangle them. The platitudes. And the snobbery. I followed Leeds as a lad (and my home town Brighton). The supercilious snidey comments about Leeds, a team 20 years ahead of their time (plus a bit of thuggery) was absurd. Leeds were criticised for possession football, not the thuggery. Now, at Brighton, we love the possession style. Sorry, AG would have had the smarts to recognise effective clever play and it has been his unbiased yet passionate commentary that drew me back to the radio after years of snooze sent me off cycling on a Saturday afternoon. Hat’s off to Greeny and bollocks to the rest of you :-)

    Mike C

    May 28, 2012

  12. I enjoy Alan Green’s commentaries. So what if he occasionally expresses bias? Isn’t that what all football fans do, especially when impassioned. As for his non-PC quips, so bloody what? Some of us can remember when true freedom of speech existed in Britain and wimps didn’t start crying about what they deem to be an ‘offensive’ comment. Bet you bunch of bed-wetters listen to Coldplay. Of course, these days, if anyone in the media dares to express anything other than strong left-wing bias, they are immediately considered a bigot and are attacked by internet cowards; the type of people who probably let their wives boss them around. And enjoy it. What the lefty wimps want is to silence anyone who doesn’t concur with their controlling agenda. Which is a pretty good description of fascism.
    Greeny, carry on calling it how you see it. Flawed honesty is always better then anodyne establishment banality.

    Jonny

    September 27, 2012

  13. I just googled Alan Green to see the face of the man who has been spoiling football for me for years now. Finding this forum has allowed me to know I’m not alone. He’s a woman in a man’s body with his constant whinging and whining. I really do not like listening to him one iota.

    christian

    October 28, 2012

  14. There was a time when i thought mr green was a breath of fresh air, but no more i’m sick of him criticizing fans for leaving early and booing players. Today he lost the plot by saying that arsenal were not playing well because the fans were still in the bar when the second half started. Here is a man who does not pay to go to games, who is paid by us telling us what we can do.Time he retired.

    john

    November 17, 2012

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