Martin Tyler has narrated big televised football matches for nearly half a century. It naturally follows therefore that for most of us, he has been an intrinsic part of our football watching journey for our entire lives.

In broadcasting terms he is unquestionably a legend in his field, while even critics of his commentating style - and his perceived bias toward certain clubs – would have to cede he is a national institution. 

Think of a memorable game you have experienced either from the sofa or down the pub, and invariably it will have been accompanied by this doyen of the microphone, expertly painting pictures with words; framing the significance of the moment and preserving it for posterity. 

Indeed, because of the sheer accumulation of years he has been the voice of football for Sky, and before them ITV, Tyler will be greatly missed whenever he decides to hang up the mic and take a well-earned rest. 

Like their begrudging admission of his iconic status, his critics would cede to this too, even if missing his phrasing and intonation solely amounts to an entrenched familiarity, and Tyler does have his detractors for sure, a surprising number in fact for someone who is clearly without malice. 

Part of the reason for his unpopularity takes us back to the opening line in the opening sentence, for it is not Tyler’s job to narrate a game of football. He is no storyteller.

But sadly, in a way, he believes he is. 

It all began when Sky first secured the broadcasting rights to the newly formed Premier League, at a cost so exorbitant it had them feeling entitled enough to do what they liked with it. 

This sense of ownership did not begin and end with rearranged kick-off times and introducing gimmicks.

They wanted to direct the narrative, they wanted Hollywood plots and in their opening season they got one when Manchester United won their first league title for a generation. They’ve been chasing that high ever since. 

This extends to Tyler and then some, because it often seems like he has a pre-conceived script on how he wants the game to play out. Who the ‘good guys’ are. Who are the villains. 

When his script is adhered to, he is ecstatic. When it’s not, he is oddly despondent in his commentary. Almost angry. 

This we saw in evidence when Anthony Martial made his debut for the Reds back in 2015 against Liverpool, a game that Liverpudlians often highlight as proof that Tyler dislikes the Merseyside giants. That feels unlikely. Tyler is an ardent Gillingham supporter. 

But despite Liverpool being longer priced in the football betting that afternoon, Tyler knew the bigger story was for Martial to make an impact, which he duly did by opening the scoring.

Tyler’s response was excitable to put it mildly. His voice went up several octaves. He screamed into the mic that the winger had already paid off his hefty transfer fee. 

Yet when Christian Benteke equalised soon after, in spectacular fashion, you could hear a pin drop. The esteemed commentator described it like a man detailing the sandwich he’d eaten for lunch.  

There are numerous other examples similar to this, too many to mention in fact, but frankly, it is not Martin Tyler’s job to tell us how to be excited.

It is not his job to tell us what the story is, but to simply cover it. We pay enough in subscriptions to make those decisions for ourselves. 

When the 77-year-old calls it a day – and that day may be soon – you would get generous betting odds on Sky finding anyone better. As a commentator he is highly informed, ridiculously experienced, and superb at his job. 

But his insistence on being a self-appointed – and entirely uninvited - marionette to our emotions means he will retire to mixed sentiments. A Marmite of a legend.

*Credit for all of the photos in this article belongs to AP Photo*


FIRST PUBLISHED: 3rd February 2023

Stephen Tudor is a freelance football writer and sports enthusiast who only knows slightly less about the beautiful game than you do.

A contributor to FourFourTwo and Forbes, he is a Manchester City fan who was taken to Maine Road as a child because his grandad predicted they would one day be good.