|'And here's the team news from Anfield...'|
Ignore the phone-ins and the blather that surrounds the matches, it's the commentary that stands Five out on its own, in a way the horrendous talkSPORT (even their logo has shouting in it) could never grasp. Five commentary is Marks and Sparks extra fancy sarnies and trifle to TalkShite's ham-cob-for-a-nicker from the Esso.
Five have made listening to a match that doesn't involve your own team enjoyable. In fact it's probably better when it isn't your team, such is the conversational manner. There are fairly long periods when they don't mention what's happening on the pitch in any great detail, which can be annoying if you're curious as to how your lot are actually playing.
It's like having people just chatting away in your house - it seems effortless and they've been doing it for years. Top of the lot for me is John Murray - you can hear him smile while he's talking. He has the sort of voice you'd believe if it was telling you everything would be cool even though the oxygen masks have dropped and both wings are on fire.
I'd say one of their worst commentators is actually the chief football correspondent Mike Ingham, who is a great reporter but goes to pieces whenever the ball goes in the box. He starts spluttering in confusion like a minor royal who's been brought the fish when he specifically asked for the chicken and yes Marjorie that's all very well but they shouldn't be working in this country if they can't understand simple instructions. But generally they're all good and the two commentators, one pundit system works really well (wonder if that'll be recession crunched?) And they've got some cracking pundits at the moment. Steve Claridge might occasionally seem like an over excited dog whose owners have left him at home alone all day, but he offers real insight into the game. And he watches the action closely.
Similarly Robbie Savage isn't everyone's cuppa as a player but he really does call it straight. And I like the way when he criticises a player from, say Manchester United or Liverpool, he prefaces it with: 'I was never good enough to play for this cub but...' and then gives them absolute pelters.
Of course there are always exceptions, such as the loathsome Alan Green - seriously chuckles, if you don't like it get another job, your people skills would doubtless be cherished by any number of major companies. And if Five are thinking of binning him off then they could do worse than get Phil Parry from BBC London, who is surely not long for local radio.
Then of course there's what I call the peerless Jimmy Armfield, who adds insight and enthusiasm in a wonderful cup-of-tea-and-a-couple-of-Hobnobs voice. Listening to Armfield is a treat, although my favourite story of his media career didn't come on air. It's the '43 actually' one which, according to an inrterview Armfield gave with FourFourTwo magazine, came during a Ron Atkinson Manchester United press conference, not a spat with then-Sunlan' manager Howard Wilkinson as is usually reported.
'Ron was miffed about something and said to the press pack: "What do you know about the game, what have you all done?"
'I said: "Between us we've won 43 caps, made over 600 appearances and played in two World Cups."
He just smiled and said: "Touche".'
Three radio commentating greats (football):
Clive Tyldesley (Radio City, late 70s to mid 80s - he was brilliant)