Clive Tyldesley: Passing The Mantle, Whether He Likes It Or Not

by | Jul 20, 2020

The decision of ITV to demote Clive Tyldesley as their main football commentator was met with some dismay on social media, but Chris Oakley begs to differ. 

For those people that have grown understandably weary of recent world news events, the search for something uplifting amid the headlines can often be fruitless. Last week was no exception. Buried under a heap of pandemic prose and political posturing came the murmurings of a privileged man who has just had the word ‘competition’ explained to him and didn’t like what he heard.

Clive Tyldesley is ITV’s senior football commentator, a role that carries much importance, if only to Clive Tyldesley himself. Some of us are old enough to remember him as a reporter and commentator on Match of the Day in the early Nineties, and back then he was merely a competent name on the roster. Now, after decades of constant yakking over a remarkably variable range of football action, he finds himself as ITV’s modern-day Brian Moore.

If that reference seems jarringly antiquated, don’t be surprised. He’s been ITVs number one man behind the microphone for 22 years. When Tyldesley assumed Moore’s throne, Mohamed Salah was only six years old. He’s commentated on World Cup Finals, Champions League Finals, European Championships and the Premier League, and is perhaps the best known describer of football on British television.

The trouble is, Clive Tyldesley has become rather too attached to that title. When ITV recently informed him they were giving his Senior Commentator job to Sam Matterface, Tyldesley was, for once, lost for words… but only briefly. Sat in front of Britain’s least inspiring garden, he took to video to explain that this was not his decision, oh no. This was the work of those heartless ITV suits that had forced him to travel around the world and pay him while he watched football. The swines.

Tyldesley, in his defence, suggested his demotion was nothing compared to so many Covid-related job losses of late, but the overriding narrative appeared to be ‘Don’t they know who I am?’. A selfish attitude, one would think, given that he wasn’t losing his own job – merely being asked to commentate on fewer high-profile football matches in future.

It’s at this point that Lancashire-born Tyldesley would be well reminded to think of his colleagues, particularly the up-and-coming names like Sam Matterface who deserve their moment in the spotlight too. Twenty-two years ago, Tyldesley was given a golden opportunity of his own and he took it. Now, one can surmise, he’s of the opinion that no-one else deserves such luck.

No doubt he’s frustrated at the lack of a reasonable explanation from his employers as to why he’s dropped down the pecking order, and perhaps that’s justified. Whatever the explanation, though, he should remember that he’s an employee – an employee with a contract, and a contract that explains his terms of employment. If it doesn’t contain the line ‘expected to work in whatever capacity is deemed appropriate’ or words to that effect, I’d be very surprised. Most of my recent contracts have, and that’s how it generally works for those people lucky enough to still have a job.

As a 65-year-old, Clive Tyldesley has surely acquired an enviable amount of experience and knowledge of the sort that many young broadcasters would dearly love to have, and he’s used it to his advantage. Yet now, at a point in his career when he can reflect on so many memories with grace and dignity, he opts for outrage – outrage that he will no longer be the king of the ITV castle. What a shame, then, that he’s failed to remember the number one rule of commentary adopted by many of his predecessors; that sometimes silence can be worth a thousand words.