Mark Bright: Football Co-Commentator & All-Round Sage

26 By Mark  |   The Ball  |   December 22, 2009  |     17

Mark Murphy got a bee in his bonnet whilst watching the Sunday afternoon match between Newcastle United & Middlesbrough, and it came in the form of co-commentator Mark Bright. In the best interest of his sanity, we thought it that it would be for the best to let off steam on the subject here.

I had to check. Was it BBC pundit and former Crystal Palace legend Mark Bright who scored 1281 goals in 1353 career games, including 77 goals in 91 international appearances? No, it wasn’t. As I’d suspected, those figures belonged to Pele, a Brazilian of whom you may have heard (and been as surprised about how few international caps he had?). Having listened to Mark Bright’s analyses of various matches over what seems like decades, however – the most recent being Newcastle’s weekend win over Middlesbrough – I just assumed I’d got my players, continents and decades confused. For if Mark Bright had converted every chance he thinks a modern-day striker “has to score”, he’d have surpassed Pele long ago and we may never have heard of Ian Wright (if only…).

Unlike my dislike of Alan Green, which is as natural as breathing out, there is something irrational about Bright’s irritability. Unlike Alan Green, Bright does what he is paid for, applying his knowledge of the game to inform his audience. When he describes what a striker should have done in certain situations, it comes from his considerable experience and can be genuinely informative. He was a fine player for a long time, one I hugely admired, in fact (and, it must be said, he has done considerable charity work since giving up the game, for which he is rightly lauded). But he was neither fine enough nor admirable enough to carry off such a persistently admonishing tone in the commentary box. As soon as I hear the words, “For me…” from Bright, I know that he’s not only going to tell us what the striker did wrong but also make it clear that he would have done the right thing in that situation, that he always did the right thing in that situation and that anyone who didn’t do the right thing in that situation was an idiot.

Unlike Alan Green, whose cynicism is just a cack-handed attempt at being clever, Bright seems to genuinely believe that every game should have at least a dozen goals in it. With every header from a corner or a set-piece the striker “has to hit the target from there”, “has to make the keeper work”, “has got to keep it down… show more composure… attack the defender… show him inside, beat him on the outside… find a cure for cancer… facilitate world peace…”, like he always did. The afore-mentioned Newcastle game was a case in point. He established early on that the pitch conditions were “perfect for football”, even as full-backs and wingers were sliding around like new-born deer, and he wasn’t letting go of that view. As Boro’s Jonathan Franks slipped while trying to cross and landed the ball in Row F behind the goal, Brighty was ready: “For me, he’s got to stay on his feet there; I don’t know what he’s doing going to ground.” If he’d had his way, Jose Enrique, Shola Ameobi and Dave Kitson would have all been booked in the first seven minutes. Yet when Rhys Williams clattered into a Newcastle player and did get the referee scribbling, Bright had no comment to make…although as Alan Smith was the victim…

Boro’s Leroy Lita was, admittedly, a bit too keen on going for the spectacular. But when he headed wide from an early corner, it was largely because the cross was behind him and came very quickly to him – a good chance, yes, but missable. “He has to hit the target from there,” declared Pele… er… Bright, “if he does, he scores.” Never mind the two defenders on the line and goalkeeper Brad Jones…well, the two defenders anyway. Away from his area of expertise, Bright is no more or less clueless than any of them, unfortunately. “I think they’re appealing for offside,” he claimed, over pictures of an obviously onside Ameobi obviously pushing David Wheater in the back before setting up Marlon Harewood’s opener. “That’s not his call, it’s his assistants’” he added, to accompany pictures of…the referee’s assistant, after commentator Guy Mowbray had carefully explained that…it wasn’t the referee’s call. And when Mowbray let a few facts slip late in the game, Bright poured derision on him for his research, as if it wasn’t a vital part of the job that, you had to remind yourself, Bright was being very well paid to do.

I get a horrible feeling of deja-vu when drafting articles like this. And I except that many of you share that view when reading them. It’s easy to pick on pundits. When I criticise Alan Green for being critical of others, I have an acute sense of my own hypocrisy. And when I lambast Bright for poor/no research, I think, maybe it wasn’t Jonathan Franks who slipped over. But Bright is a rising star in the BBC punditry firmament and top dog on BBC London – one step away from master of the punditry universe (Jonathan Pearce’s route to world domination started on London commercial radio). So he’s going to be with us for some time yet, unless he makes considerable progress in his budding coaching career, he’s currently on Palace’s staff. I just hope that experience teaches him that there are many, many times when, for me, he has to accept that strikers do not always have to score from there.

  • December 22, 2009 at 11:39 pm


    You have articulated into a wonderful article exactly what I was thinking watching that game on Saturday.

    He is one of a long line of co-commentators (Trevor Francis, Trevor Brooking, David Pleat) who simply describe what they’re seeing, instead of offering any real insight into a particular set-piece or whatever.

    Unfortunately, as you say, Bright’s star is too high for the beeb to dump him now. he is going to Angola in January for the ACN and, inevitably, South Africa next June.


  • December 23, 2009 at 12:55 am


    Lita missing the header towards Brad Jones? If that was the case, probably best he missed since he’s the middlesbrough keeper…very enjoyable piece though

  • December 23, 2009 at 12:58 am


    I have to agree completely with your observations on both Alan Green and “Brighty”. Both appear at separate ends of the spectrum but have the same cumulative effect on an audience which tends to be incredulity.
    Anyone Who happens to be listening to Radio 5 live when a commentary “Switchover” occurs between, say Colin Murray and Green, will almost certainly feel like a different game has suddenly been substituted mistakenly by the producer (and their heart sink at the same time)as anything you have been lead to believe to that point gets crushed under the weight of a deep and depressive cloud that is Greens’ Northern Irish brogue.
    “Brighty” certainly sounds more cheerful on the face of it but, as your excellent piece indicates, his comments are full of wishful fantasies and self delusions which tend to render his comments as sour grapes rather than the fruits of his wisdom.
    I am sure both are “great guys” but I find myself either irritated or down right depressed by listening to either.
    Thank you for articulating my (and I am sure many other peoples) feelings on these particular commentators though I do use that term loosely.

  • December 23, 2009 at 1:34 am


    For me, he has to keep his mouth shut, for atleast some of the game. If he does, he doesn’t ruin the game for the viewing public.
    Perhaps the powers that be at the BBC might also concider the fact that, although the man with the oxymoron for a surname, can string a lot of sentences together, he very rarely makes sense or is in the least way contributing to the enjoyment of the viewer. Just the reverse in fact.
    Also,did I imagine it or did he actually refer to one player getting ‘TWATTED’ ? You do know what that means Mr Bright, dont you?

  • December 23, 2009 at 4:35 am

    Tim Vickerman

    I guess, “Well, in ideal conditions he should score from there but the pitch is a little slippery, the bounce wasn’t perfect, he’s under some pressure from the defender and his left foot is his weaker foot so we shouldn’t be too surprised he’s shanked it’ is less economical…

    As for genuine insight, are there any co-commentators who do provide real insight?

  • December 23, 2009 at 6:31 am


    Lennie Lawrence – “I fancy Liam O’Brien over the wall”

  • December 23, 2009 at 8:42 am


    Quite honestly Hanson, Lawrencenson, Crooks and Bright are all the same as far as I’m concerned.

  • December 23, 2009 at 9:19 am


    If you’d got your arse to the game you wouldn’t have had to put up with him.

  • December 23, 2009 at 9:19 am


    Guy Mowbray was biased all game (ex-Local Radio commentator for the Unwashed up the Road). Don’t get me started on Mark Bright. The Bloke was an utter garbage Player who missed sitters left right and centre every time I saw the Bloke play. Footy expert my Backside. Get rid of him off the BBC. Or should I say ”For me–He should never be on the Telly”
    You mentioned Jonathon Pearce now for me Top commentator who knows his stuff.

  • December 23, 2009 at 9:26 am

    Mark Murphy


    “And when I lambaste Bright for poor/no research…”

    Serves me right for going for the cheap laugh at Jones’ expense. I meant Shay Given, of course…er…

  • December 23, 2009 at 10:04 am


    Chill out everyone, what’s the point of summarisors and pundits if not to wind us all up?

    As it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end.

  • December 23, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Michael Wood

    As a good game down the pub or – at this time of year – around the Christmas tree sit down with a few football watching people and get everyone who agrees that the coverage is awful (and it is) to start trying to reinvent the way that football is covered on TV.

    We did this and came up with some interesting things especially when one considers the new age of narrowcasting we are racing into.

    In the game an option to have the commentators turned off and a FIFA style line at the bottom with the name of the player in possession on it. An option to have not a commentator but a describer (as a blind person would have saying what is occurring, not giving opinion). The ability to watch games from a single fixed view somewhere in the stadium (which works much better in high-def widescreen than it did when Sky did it back in the mid 90s).

    In the studio dispense with Gary and the pundits and have some fans at the stadium interviewed (which I think would be awful, but others like). An interesting one was the idea of having no analysis of the game at all at half time (because club’s don’t provide pundits over the tannoy at games) and just having music so instead of Gary and Alan you get Lady Gaga and Girls Aloud videos. Another is to have a football magazine programme highlighting news stories around the game (what price a piece on the problems at Stockport during the Man U vs Chelsea game?)

    All interesting suggestions and a good way to kill and hour or so as the turkey cooks.

    Merry Christmas all

  • December 23, 2009 at 1:06 pm


    Still not as bad as Chris Waddle, with his grayt gowl and powst and gayme, not to mention ‘blatant pelanty’……

  • December 23, 2009 at 1:39 pm


    You all want to try watching football on the telly in Spain, where apart from the general habit of screaming ¡golgolgolgolgolgol! when the ball bobbles into the net off a deflection (which is at least amusing when the goal is subsequently disallowed) we have to put up with this utter tool and his mates. The phrase “makes Jonathan Pearce sound like Kenneth Wolstenholme” is about as much as I can manage by way of explanation without excessive recourse to expletives. I usually prefer to watch the same match on a Catalan channel, Catalan being a language which I do not understand.

  • December 23, 2009 at 2:56 pm


    I only managed to watch a few minutes of Sunday’s game, but I did see the Lita header, and I commented (to myself) at the time that the ball was a bit behind him, so Bright was being harsh.

    I like Chris Waddle because of his accent and his pelanties, and for the same reason I also like Jim Beglin. But most of them do detract from the spectacle. Having been to a couple of tournaments abroad, I have come to the conclusion that one of the benefits of going to the tournament is that you can’t understand the commentators for those games that you watch on TV, so they can’t annoy you in the same way.

    Similarly, one of my most enjoyable experiences of going to a match was (now I sound like I’m showing off) watching a Milan game at the San Siro, in large part because I couldn’t understand a word of what anyone around me was saying. One of the little-mentioned rules of going to a game is that you usually end up near a loud, opinionated, annoying twerp. If you don’t understand them, all they are is loud, and easier to ignore. This is also a drawback of all-seater stadia, in that when you’re standing on a terrace you’re free to move your position to try to find a twerp-free spot.

  • December 23, 2009 at 3:53 pm


    MArk Bright is a Franchise sympathiser, and, therefore a complete and utter c*ck

  • December 23, 2009 at 5:14 pm


    Good piece Mark.
    Brighty certainly took a bit of a pounding on Twitter during that game

  • December 24, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Lanterne Rouge

    Someone I met once who knew a researcher at the BBC said that “Brighty” has a basic lack of knowledge, doesn’t really do his homework, leaves it all to the researcher and yet gets in a huff if they get even the slightest detail wrong. Of course, I have no idea if this is true – the same person said Lawrenson was a good bloke.

  • December 26, 2009 at 9:58 am


    Well, he was the one time I met him. But you can probably say that of anybody, it doesn’t mean anything.

  • December 28, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Rob C

    Some of my most enjoyable recent “football on TV” experiences have been watching “The Big Match Revisited”, where they show, unedited, their programme from 30 years ago.

    Many modern football producers would have fits if they saw the coverage. Just a few cameras at the ground to provide the briefest variation in view, scarce use of the replay facility, and – joy of joys! – commentators who briefly and succinctly describe what is happening, rather than telling us their own personal opinion about it.

    And then, afterwards, back to Brian Moore in the studio, a brief, “Well done to Norwich, whose win lifts them to xth place in the table”, and then on to the next game.

    They trust the viewer to be able to make their own judgement, they save valuable air time to show more football, and my blood pressure is considerably eased.

    If only a modern TV producers would be brave enough to scrap the so-called experts and return to that era where the viewer was trusted to be able to decide for themselves.

  • January 4, 2010 at 3:14 am


    Bright’s (presumably cheap) column in the Evening (sub)Standard (or is it the diabolical Metro?) is even worse.

    Whichever of the so-called “big four” has played well or won the day before are now his tip for the title…

  • January 4, 2010 at 3:17 am


    Being on Palace’s staff could be interesting for him over the next few months too…

    On the plus side, he’ll have more time to do his intensive pre-match research.

  • January 4, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Ted Blair

    Oh thank you – I’ve been saying all this for what seems like years. He is just so irritating – much like Andy Townsend and Robbie Earle and a whole lot more who sponge off the game way after they ceased to be useful to the game.

    Why can’t they go off and run a pub/newsagent/paint shop like the good old pros of yesteryear…

  • January 13, 2010 at 10:14 pm


    The thing I always seem to hear Bright saying is “…and that’s a great example for any kids watching”. Whereas conversely he is a terrible example for any kids listening.

  • May 16, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Dr Longshanks

    My problem is lack of understanding he has for the job of the co-commentator. Others can be annoying but at least they don’t analyse every single move. HE DOESNT STOP TALKING and it is genuinely impossible for me to watch a game in which he is involved in.

  • June 21, 2010 at 7:23 pm


    this is so funny. watching the Chile game today and text my mate, did this guy even get a cap, you’d think he was Pele. Googled, on Wiki, never one a cap or indeed anything – player of the year for palace – once, and we’ve to listen to him judging world class players – might as well have the fat bird from the pub – at least she wont claim to do better in every situation than the likes of Ronaldo.

    I agree, he just keep whining in that stupid tone – gimme the vuvuzela any day!!!!

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