When the late great John Motson finally hung up the vocal cords at the BBC in 2018, his decision was driven by sharp antennae for what might have become a slow and steady decline in quality output.
“I wanted to go out while I was still commentating as well – or as badly – as I have for all those years,” said Motson. “I didn’t want to carry on and then people say ‘Oh dear me, we’ll have to get rid of him’.”
Nobody is suggesting that Martin Tyler has been given the push at Sky but he is 77 and has announced his departure after 33 years in the role at the broadcaster. Motty’s direct opposition for the majority of the last 20 or so years of that Beeb association was Clive Tyldesley, allegedly shunted off ITV via a Zoom call for the more youthful celebrity chunter of Sam Matterface in 2020. Tyler carefully took on some of Motty’s advice in the 70s: “’Talk little but say a lot.’
Aguero Goal is Tyler’s Greatest Moment on the Mic
Tyler’s greatest moment on the mic followed that directive. His voice and delivery will be forever attached to that “Aguerooooo” moment in 2012 as Manchester City won their first Premier League title. Nine seconds of silence seemed like tumbleweed before the perfect follow-up: “I swear you’ll never see anything like this ever again.” It was just pitch-perfect and driven by an instinct that the Argentinian would score when he received the ball.Embed from Getty Images
Tyler’s path to prominence came with the launch of the Premier League in 1992 which powered football’s electric positivity from satellite dishes into the homes of millions after the heady days of Italia ‘90. As time passes, criticism often gets more airspace. There has been constant bickering from keyboard warriors that time is ticking on his career and a few missteps recently, such as the awkward comments on Hillsborough when reflecting on the footballing landscape. Tyler said to Radio Four: “You have got to remember football was in a bit of crisis at that time. We weren’t that long after Hillsborough and other hooligan-related issues as well.” The backlash was harsh and the apology was swift.
Allegations of Bias and lack of Enthusiasm Against Martin Tyler
It’s a common theme now for the taste police to judge Tyler’s overall state of professionalism through the prism of his age as well as the apparent indifference to their side. There is nothing new in the oft-repeated accusation that Sky’s former main man does not radiate excitement when certain teams score and therefore must have an agenda against them. Even Martin Keown started raging against the veteran for being “anti-Arsenal” when the Gunners’ title challenge went off the rails. Keown called for Tyler to be stripped of commentating on Arsenal games. It sounded like sour grapes after the 3-0 defeat by Brighton.Embed from Getty Images
What didn’t sit so well with some is that Tyler’s reactions to goals were more reminiscent of a quiet passage of play in the cricket rather than the adrenaline-fuelled roar of football. Witness his low-key reading of Hugo Lloris’s error against Arsenal. Do we still believe the passion in Tyler’s proclamation “and it’s live……”? Age will not weary them. Well, it does a bit. If players can stop listening to managers then viewers might choose to demand a fresher voice in their front room on match day. Peter Drury is about to step into some big shoes though.
Tyler once said: “I never get bored. The litmus test for me is when the ball is on the centre spot and you feel that tingle you felt when you first went to football as a kid. I still get that tonight and I’ll get that tomorrow night. And if I don’t you’ll be talking to somebody else.” That time has come. Drury has been admired for his body of work and delivery. Now is the time to step into the hottest of seats. The connection with Gary Neville will be an interesting one to observe in a time of big change at Sky where Graeme Souness has also moved on.
Martin Tyler has not retired but it feels like the end of an era. He should be respected and missed for decades of service in a fickle industry.