Who are the best and worst football commentators?

Football commentators. The people armchair viewers love to hate.

There are plenty of atrocious and infuriating callers of the beautiful game out there, and also a handful of brilliant ones, but who makes my top 10 best and worst?

And before anyone pipes up about Andy Townsend, I’ve included co-commentators in the list too!

Let’s start with the good first:

10. Mike Ingham, BBC 5Live

Ingham is an entertaining commentator for those of you who are avid 5live listeners. Hardly ever culpable of making a mistake, he blends an enthusiastic commentary style with a thorough knowledge of the game. More importantly, he puts his 5live colleagues to shame.

9. Simon Brotherton, BBC

Brotherton is without doubt one of the BBC’s most underrated commentators. Experienced and articulate, he calls some of the biggest games on the Premier League calendar for Match of the Day with great success. Like Ingham, he hardly makes a mistake and is definitely worthy of a place on this countdown.

8. Clive Tyldesley, ITV

I’ve been known to call Tyldesley ‘Alive Clive’ due to his excitable style (he often sounds like a Dalek too), but generally he is a very capable commentator. His greatest work for ITV is probably the 1999 Champions League final, but can be prone to some occasional errors too. He gets bonus points for sitting next to Andy Townsend for two hours.

7. Rob Hawthorne, Sky Sports

Hawthorne is part of Sky’s respected commentary line-up, and has often called some high-profile matches. Not least the memorable Manchester derby where United’s Michael Owen snatched a 96th-minute winner in a 4-3 win. Looking back at Hawthorne’s commentary for that match on YouTube, it’s safe to say he did a fantastic job.

6. Jon Champion, ESPN

Perhaps the most respected commentator in the media, Champion is vastly experienced having worked for the BBC, ITV and most recently ESPN. His commentary of Owen’s wondergoal against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup will forever live in the memory of England fans.

5. Peter Drury, ITV & Fox Soccer

Often unfairly dubbed ‘Peter Dreary’, Drury is a well-spoken and entertaining commentator. He has a remarkable knowledge of the game and thrives in the big moments during the biggest games. Arguably his most thrilling work was during last season’s Manchester City 3-2 QPR match for Fox Soccer, where Sergio Aguero scored a late title-clinching winner for City.

4. Steve Wilson, BBC

Wilson has often been overlooked for the biggest games on Match of the Day in favour of the much-maligned Guy Mowbray, but his commentary style is perhaps the clearest of them all. He has the ability to keep up with play using quick, engaging and efficient language, and rarely makes mistakes.

3. Martin Tyler, Sky Sports

Head honcho of Sky’s commentary team, Tyler’s career has spanned across numerous eras of football. Usually understated and reserving his enthusiasm for the biggest Premier League and European games, Tyler’s most famous piece of commentary came in Manchester United’s 3-2 win over Aston Villa in 2009, where 17-year-old Federico “Machedaaaaaa!” scored a last-gasp winner.

2. John Motson, BBC

“Motty” is the godfather of commentary. Having retired from calling the action at international tournaments, Motson typically covers games in London for Match of the Day. He is nudged down from the top spot due to what many critics have correctly said about his increasingly frail and error-laden commentary – but that should not detract from the 67-year-old’s marvellous career.

1. Jonathan Pearce, BBC

Pearce beats his famed BBC colleague to top spot by virtue of some memorable and flawless commentary. Without doubt the BBC’s finest live commentator, some of the most enjoyable work in his career came in 2001 during England’s 5-1 ‘Müllering’ of Germany in Munich, where he worked for Capital Gold Sport. The line “England have gone naff in Germany!” was just one of many gems that night.

And now, the bad (and in Mark Lawrenson’s case, the ugly):

10. Guy Mowbray, BBC

It is baffling to many armchair and pub viewers alike why Guy Mowbray continues to be awarded the biggest gigs in football commentary. He cannot bring himself to make a definitive judgement on many controversial incidents and he is usually off the pace with his languid and dull style. He should be afforded some respite from his many critics for his famous “Agueroooooooo” line in the climax to the 2011-12 Premier League season.

9. Chris Waddle, ESPN

Waddle is not shy of making criticisms of current players, but when you are responsible for one of the most painful moments in English football history, you can hardly hide. Alongside Champion at ESPN, he has a tendency to state the obvious and offers tired, useless analysis of live matches.

8. Alan Green, BBC 5Live

Green is another opinionated commentator who has drawn criticism from far and wide. His style is actually listenable and articulate, but he lets himself down by hovering over his criticisms of players for too long – often to the detriment of his output.

7. Robbie Savage, BBC 5Live

Savage has cultivated a punditry career seemingly out of thin air. He certainly uses up a lot of air too, with his frenzied commentary style for 5Live, and offers little or no original analysis. He has also become the voice of 5Live’s 606, which is the perfect place for his dim comments to be hidden amongst others.

6. Craig Burley, ESPN

One of the more enjoyable co-commentators on the list, Burley gets onto the bad side due to his unprofessional nature. He is often guilty of bullying Champion during live matches and, given Champion’s well-respected and insightful commentary, his obvious misplaced dislike for his colleague makes him appear in a bad light.

5. Steve Bower, BBC

Currently being groomed by the BBC for a commentary place in football’s biggest arenas, Bower is unworthy of such a privilege. He rarely gets enthused by big moments in matches and has a distinctly monotone style which feels out of place on Match of the Day.

4. Martin Keown, BBC

Making the grade for the BBC’s Euro 2012 coverage, Keown should count himself lucky that the Beeb ignore the hundreds of tweets about his commentary every time he picks up a co-commentators mic. Littering his calls with errors, mispronunciation and recycled clichés, Keown’s commentary is every bit as cringeworthy as his punditry.

3. Andy Townsend, ITV

There are few plastic Irishmen in this world, and if they are all like Andy Townsend, I hope none of them get a commentary job in their lives. Constantly stating the obvious, Townsend’s only redeeming feature is that he is not afraid to say if a player is offside, rather than the usual “it’s marginal” sitting-on-the-fence attitude.

2. Mark Lawrenson, BBC

“Lawro”, or rather, ‘LOL-o’ is prone to making awful puns and jokes during live commentary for the BBC. A fond wearer of revolting shirts and a model of the balding mullet, a tirade of abuse was directed his way during the Euro 2012 final for what the Twittersphere correctly perceived to be an abhorrent lesson in commentary. That he was partnered with Mowbray for the same match caused many viewers to switch over to ITV or Flog It on BBC2.

1. Mark Bright, BBC

I have no doubt that ‘Brighty’ is a nice enough bloke, but his commentary is useless. He deflates rather than inspires, confuses rather than enlightens and, more importantly, bores rather than delights. It is perhaps testament to the dearth of co-commentating depth-in-strength possessed by the BBC that Bright continues to journey to World Cups and European Championships. Bright is the strongest reason to ditch ex-player co-commentators, but if we didn’t have them, over half of this list would be null and void and I would not be blogging. So thanks Mark, it appears you do have a use after all.


21 thoughts on “Who are the best and worst football commentators?

    • The worst are those who have no idea on the rules of football.All those who keep saying he could have had a hat’trick and the like.When a goal is scored the game is restarted from the centre line thereby changing the whole complex of the game

      • They probably refer to a player who could have had a hat-trick because he wasted 3 chances during the game, or scored twice and then missed a good opportunity for a treble…

  1. no no no tyler is awful all he does is say the players name whoever has the ball, every game he does he is always making mistakes and never says anything interesting or when players are making of the ball runs, pearce, tyldesley and hawthorne are rubbish as well they all do the same as tyler….

  2. martyn tyler might be rated at no3 but he is the only one that I have to turn off , which I hate doing, you have commentary, but he ruins it, telling us what happen such and such last year etc: and as Nial Quinn stating the obvious really did well or he did ever so well !!! did nt any one tell Tyler that you don’t have to speak all the time. listen to andy townsend or brian moore

    • I think it’s fair to say Tyler tells us stuff like that when there is not much going on in the game – as all good commentators do. Niall Quinn is bad too, and so is Andy Townsend, so we’ll have to agree to disagree!

  3. Your observations in this blog suggest that you will remain a ‘trainee’ for some time to come. Your lists would be more accurate if reversed.

  4. Martin tyler is awfu…always muttering on about some obscure connection between players or clubs…tyler ruins a lot of games….the best football commentator was barry davies from the bbc….I disagree about lawrenseon I think he is 1 of the best pundits out there

  5. Interesting comments Anthony, because Tyler has been one of the best commentators in recent years. He is getting older so perhaps can’t afford to be as excitable as he has been – he’s like John Motson in that respect. Lawro is a dreadful commentator and his punditry is not much better. He’s so biased towards Liverpool it’s just laughable and he offers very little original insight. See how he ranked in another blog of mine: https://neilwalton089.wordpress.com/2013/02/18/who-are-the-best-and-worst-football-pundits/

    • If you bother to read this blog properly, they are co-commentators! They are also referred to as co-commentators by the presenters on TV. A summariser has never existed in the broadcasting of football matches…

  6. english commentators are clearly the worst. so medieval. All you hear is coaches screaming away and commentators saying put you foot through it. Have they learnt nothing from their technically superior continental cousins. Its embarrasing.

    • Which commentators have you been listening to? I never hear them just say that. Methinks you just hear what your prejudices want you to hear. Pretentious,much?

  7. With you on most of your pet hates, especially Mark Lawrenson, but couldn’t differ more on your top two. Whatever Motty’s past glories, he long ago settled on doing an impersonation of himself. It doesn’t help that generally we hear him doing “after the event” commentaries on Match of the Day, where his need to start every thing with “Oooh! and…” has me very quickly reaching for the mute button. As for Pearce, he’s a curate’s egg imho: he’s amusing sometimes, but has a horrible tendency to ham things up – his into blurb to the Sweden v Ireland game with it’s references to the Emerald City and Yellow Brick Road was utter over-the-top contrived tripe. For me his worst moment was a couple of seasons ago when someone (might have been a Sunderland player) shot from his own half over a too far out keeper – Pearce was literally sceaming “Will it go in, will it go in…” over and over again; bearing in mind that this was an “after the event” commentary, I found myself screaming back “No it won’t; you know that, I know that, everyone watching knows that – please shut the fuck up!”

    I’d go with Martin Tyler as the best – apart from anything else he commentates more like a fan than a journalist, which is the main problem with most of our commentators – too busy trying to sound clever instead of just reacting to what we’re watching.

    • It’s all very well and good picking up on their weaknesses but Pearce is one of the best around. His MOTD commentary is especially good. However, I agree that he has been over-the-top for the Euros and I think that’s a trait going back to his Robot Wars days – perhaps the big occasion gets to him. For his best work just listen to his commentary for Capital Gold when he called the Germany 1-5 England match in 2001. Sublime stuff.

  8. Tyldsley, Tyler, Pearce and Champion??? Surely they are on the wrong list. Condescending and patronising with perceived superior knowledge they just don’t have. Possibly with the exception of Pearce who does know his stuff. However, I’ve met him and he’s a supremely smug, arrogant git so marked down in my opinion. Ian Darke is by far the best football commentator

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