The lost art of the football commentator

One of the first things that struck me when I looked at this season’s fixtures was the distance of some of the away games. Exeter, Carlisle, Colchester and Newport, for example, are going to stretch the budgets of Latics fans a little.

For those who can’t manage to scrape together the King’s ransom to get the train to these far-flung places or brave the motorway network, there’s always the commentary of the game provided by the club.

It’s not the same as being at the game of course and despite modern technology, there are ‘outages’ which cause panic and frustration in equal measures but at least you can keep up with the action.

This is a massive improvement to what I was expected to put up with as a child. If we were on holiday, I had to rely on BBC’s Grandstand and the famous vidiprinter.

Nowadays, the Oldham match commentary is provided by Latics stalwart Roy Butterworth among others, whose attempts at staying neutral are sorely tested on a regular basis.

This, of course, is exactly what supporters want. Whoever thought that introducing American-style stats into football commentary was a good idea needs to listen to Roy. I’d rather hear him shout “GET IN!” when we score than a detailed breakdown of what percentage of passes were accurate in the first half.

For many years, the only way you could hear a commentary on a Latics home game was courtesy of the NHS. Legendary hospital commentator James Barrett didn’t know the meaning of neutrality and would describe any opposition high tackles in a manner which suggested that the visitors had arrived with murder as their intent rather than three points.

It wouldn’t be fair to finish this article without mentioning Piccadilly Radio’s Stuart Pyke whose commentary on Latics final game of the 1990/91 season against Sheffield Wednesday is the stuff of legend. Even 27 years later, I still get goosebumps hearing it. I even knew somebody who had this played at his funeral.

Give it a listen.