Graham Poll, Louis van Gaal and Zinedine Zidane are among the characters to have provided BBC viewers with memorable TV moments over the years
Since joining the Match of the Day team in 2004 I’ve commentated on 1,042 football matches for BBC television.
I only know that because a number was told to me when I was in the 900s so I thought I might as well keep count!
There have been hundreds of others before and since then too, so as I’ve been doing a lot of “Rewinding” during lockdown, here are a few more commentary reminiscences.
Best game I’ve commentated on
This is something that changes all the time, and to be honest I’m not the best at remembering games once they’ve passed.
It’s not an uncommon occurrence for me to look up a game online in the course of match research then be surprised to hear myself commentating on it.
In recent times the FA Cup semi-final between Watford and Wolves last season was a cracker, and the best game I saw at the 2018 World Cup was undoubtedly France beating Argentina 4-3 in the last 16.
Highlights: Watford 3-2 Wolves (aet)
Highlights: France 4-3 Argentina
In the women’s game, the 2012 Olympic semi-final between the United States and Canada at Old Trafford had absolutely everything.
Overall though, I think I’d go back over 20 years and give the honours to Sunderland v Charlton in the 1998 Division One play-off final – a thriller that had a huge impact personally and professionally.
Best goal I’ve seen live
Son Heung-min picked up the ball on the edge of his area before sprinting the length of the pitch – leaving a trail of Burnley players in his wake – and slotting in for one of the goals of the season
Son Heung-min’s solo effort for Tottenham against Burnley in December is certainly the best for quite a while, and worth mentioning because it’s the sort of goal that we don’t see as often as we used to.
They’re the goals I like. The ones that make you stop for a moment and check yourself to avoid swearing.
I wasn’t particularly happy with my commentary on Andros Townsend’s banger for Crystal Palace at Manchester City the season before last, because I was trying to find the words without the profanity that was almost the first reaction. It doesn’t happen often, but it DOES happen!
Best player I’ve seen live
As a player Zinedine Zidane won the World Cup, the European Championship and the Champions League, as well as a host of other domestic and European trophies
I’ve seen all the greats from the 1990s onwards many times, but he was the first player I would stop everything to watch.
He had a balletic grace that belied his size, and did things on the ball that you only otherwise saw on games consoles.
The documentary film “Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait” is well worth watching if you can find it. It should be in the Arts section rather than Sport.
Most unusual thing I’ve seen live
When Darren Bent’s shot went in off a beach ball for the only goal of Sunderland’s 1-0 win over Liverpool in 2009, I must confess to not having had much of a clue what had happened at first.
As replays were watched the picture developed, but it wasn’t until after the game when I learned that an “outside agent” on the field didn’t have to be a person.
Another weird one was Graham Poll failing to send off Croatia’s Josip Simunic until showing him a THIRD yellow card against Australia at the 2006 World Cup.
As he showed the second without a red to follow, I knew something was amiss, but desperate looks for agreement from those around me drew only shrugged shoulders.
The heart rate tends to rise quite sharply in those situations!
Most awkward post-match interview
Every one, every week.
It’s the hardest part of any match day.
You’ve just done a full commentary (alone if it’s for a regular Match of the Day), then rudely and stressfully barged through the crowds before hurtling around the touchline to get to the interview area (often a “cupboard”).
You’re then faced with a head coach whose own adrenaline and emotions are high, and must quickly process what you’ve just watched and somehow form coherent and relevant questions about it.
I’m not naming names.
OK then, Louis van Gaal (who I actually really liked)…
Van Gaal gives prickly post-match interview
Guy Mowbray is presenting FA Cup and World Cup Rewind programmes every weekend, looking at great moments from the competitions’ histories.