Talent Will Out

Last updated : 03 June 2002 By Ed_ScottishFitba

The use of words to describe a given situation is a skill that we all possess; it enables us to provide our view of a particular time and place. It gives us a chance to influence opinions and gather support, and in the case of getting home late from the pub, can save us from being put in the dog house ("Honestly dear, the door was locked and they could not find the key and we had to do something until the fire brigade arrived."). We all know somebody that can tell a good story. The best use the language to it full potential and can use an expression that makes everything clear. Comedians can describe everyday events that we have all observed but using a fresh or obscure perspective they manage to make us laugh.

The skill that some people have in using words that can move you and bring a sporting event to life has been bestowed on a few. The cream can write or talk about any sport and you feel that tingle of excitement that you get when you realise that you have witnessed something special.

Ian Wooldridge and Hugh MacAlvanie are two that come to mind immediately but I am sure that we all have in the back of our minds somebody that has on occasion reached that tingle spot at the nape of the neck. Specialists abound that focus on their area of interest, Ritchie Benaud, Peter Alliss and Peter O'Sullivan have all had their skills tried and tested on long live broadcasts and still managed to come up with the goods.

Doesn't that outfit make your neck crawl? (allsports)

The aforementioned commentators have all spent the majority of the broadcast careers with the BBC but ITV have had their fair share. The fact that I cannot think of any is an indication of the type of household I was brought up in and not any slight on those that take the ITV shilling. This knack for finding the appropriate phrase or memory does not come
easy (I can vouch for that as these attempts at articles take a long long time with several drafts being ditched along the way).

Scottish sport and football in particular has had the good fortune to have had not one but two masters of the microphone who enhanced the sporting scene with their wit and turn of phrase. I speak of course of the wearer of the loudest jackets in television history, Arthur Montford and the be-rugged one, Archie MacPherson. These 2 Colossus bestrode the twin organisations that brought football highlights from all 4 corners of Glasgow. Each had there own style that attracted followers and annoyed the living daylights of the majority of football fans.

Arthur, when interviewing, had the more laid-back style that betrayed the fact that the questions were so dull the interviewee was in danger of falling asleep before the question was asked. When it came to commentating on a game, however, things were different. Arthur could stimulate excitement when the captains met for the toss-up. There appeared to be "
A stramash in the goalmouth" every ten minutes during a game and when a goal was scored it was always described as "A sensation!!!". I recall him reporting on the 1971-72 League Cup final when Partick Thistle, with Alan Rough in goal, beat Celtic in front of just under 63,000 fans. He was beside himself as "sensation!!!" followed "sensation!!!".

I am sure his reaction was more in line with the fact that Celtic were getting beaten by a Glasgow team other than Rangers than the fact that they were stuffed 4-1. Of course nowadays Celtic getting stuffed would not make an impression on the Sensation Scale. Arthur has never been known to swear (I don't think you can trust anybody who doesn't swear), as his jackets were offensive enough on their own.

Archie MacPherson, on the other hand, always gave you the impression that when has had a couple of pints he could swear with the best of them. He moved from TV into the nether world of radio for time but has returned to his true home of TV but this time for the independent channels. His commentaries on the radio were also for commercial stations but his golden era was when with the BBC. His obvious bias towards the teams from Glasgow and especially Rangers never interfered with his ability to commentate for the Beeb as an 'unbiased' reporter. (I have always suspected that the BBC in Scotland stood for Beasden's Better than Cowcaddens.)

The pinnacle of Archie's career to date is the appearance of Rod Stewart's voice on his record released after the Wales-Scotland World Cup game at Anfield prior to the (
now lets be diplomatic and choose our adjectives carefully) adventure in Argentina. His recording career never really took off after that and his tour around the Highlands supported by Calum Kennedy and Moira Anderson was postponed.

Clue no 2: Well known Scotsman, born in London. Can sing a bit (sns)

Both Arthur and Archie must have a different opinion of how they were viewed by the average punter than reality records. At a match at Easter Road, I think Rangers were the visitors as I recall the home supporters asking for an orange band to leave the running track as quickly as they could, both sets of cameras were in attendance. This was in the days before cameras appeared at every venue to provide some footage of all the goals scored each Saturday. The gantry for the cameras was to be found opposite the main stand and the only way to get to the commentary position was by moving through the crowd below.

Thirty minutes before kick-off Arthur and Archie left the tunnel in the main stand and headed around the running track to their commentary positions for the traditional pre-match build up insert into the main broadcast. No doubt they had been honing their words of wisdom overnight and picking up snippets from both teams before the game. The adrenalin must have been pumping and nerves jangling as the walked those last few yards of darkness in the tunnel. Then, slowly, just one or two fans spot them, then the news that they are on view spreads like wildfire and soon the noise reaches a crescendo.

I have never heard such inventive use of the English language directed at 2 middle-aged men before or since. I understood from the reception that they were far from popular but you would never know from the reaction from the Double A Team, as they waved and smiled round and through the crowd. That is talent and no denying it.

A number of commentators have been tried since those golden years but none can be compared with the real thing, although Rob McLean for the BBC and the screaming banshee on Sky whose name escapes for the moment seem to have created a niche for themselves over the last few years.

The reminder of Archie MacPherson’s recording career makes me wonder where all the real lyricists have gone since those halcyon days of 1978. Football songs have always been a strange phenomenon. In years gone by football teams have released records that, thankfully, have sunk without trace only to be revived at the annual supporters club party after a few too many beers. Even fairly respectable supporters have been known to sing along, as they tend to be relaxed to say the least by the time the DJ can be persuaded to put the record on. (Here’s a tip for those social drinkers who never know when it is polite to go home. If you find yourself standing in a circle of strangers, each with a scarf over their head and you manage to sing the team song without reference to a lyric sheet - go home - you've surely had enough.)

World Cup squads from practically every country have been persuaded to record songs to boost the pool of commercially raised cash they will distribute among the squad after their exit from the competition. Scotland players have always been lucky in that the cash is divvied up early.

In 1970, England issued "Back Home" which somehow got to number 1. I have been told that on the morning after their defeat by West Germany 3-2 (after extra time) the Daily Record's headline was just 2 words, "Back Home". Not like the Record to get it just right.

Scotland then had a golden period of qualifying for the next few Finals. In 1974 the competition was held in Germany and Scotland released "
Easy Easy" with memorable lines like "Yab a dab a do, we support the boys in blue, Ring a ding a ling, we have Robbo on the wing". Poetry, sheer poetry. Can you believe that a record with lines like that reached no 20? In the black year of 1978, 2 records were released to coincide with the national team's qualification for Argentina. I have tried (who hasn't?) to forget Andy Cameron's "Ally's Tartan Army" but failed as he has made a career on the notoriety of this song (?).

The aforementioned Archie and Rod duet was called "Ole Ola" and was to a samba beat. This too had dodgy lyrics, for example "Ole Ola, were gonna show them over thar". This reached no 4 thanks to Archie doing the rounds of radio stations and plugging it like crazy. 1982 brought us the talents of John Gordon Sinclair reciting forgettable words in front of the squad going to Spain.

BA Robertson wrote "
We have a dream" and he should be ashamed of himself even if the record did reach no 5. Mexico was revisited in 1986 and I cannot recall, nor can like-minded friends, Scotland releasing a single but somebody will no doubt put me right. I think out of respect for Mr Stein who died during the final qualifying game, the squad decided to decline any offers.

Mr Stein (sns)

For the Italian job in 1990, Scotland released "
Say it with pride". I think it was lucky to reach no 45 in the chart, as I cannot remember a thing about it. England, however, finished the decade on a high note, once again reaching no 1 with New Order's single "World in Motion", with John Barnes doing a raas this was pre his Celtic adventure, John was doing rather than taking the rap) and the actor Keith Allen making a complete fool of himself in the video. In retrospect Scotland's efforts have not been too bad (I am being generous here) and my final thought on the matter for the moment is that I am only glad that Chas and Dave and Ant and Dec are not Scottish.

Sorry, I appear to have been sidetracked. Excuse me while I try to remember what I started off writing about. Worms, no. Work, no. Words, that's it! (
It's my age, I've not been well, or any other excuse you can think of) Whoever takes on the role of interpretation of events for viewers or listeners have to be careful that they are well versed in the English language. Several
words have been devalued by their inappropriate use and link to sporting events. Results of football matches have been described as disasters that refer to events that do not reflect the true meaning of the word disaster. I have always associated the word disaster with the ultimate personal loss at the very least but not the fact that "It was a disaster, they stuffed us rotten!".

There is hope that the next television spokesman (or more likely spokeswoman) can be found from outwith the boundaries of Glasgow. The search has been long and arduous but I am convinced that the search nears its end. If the author of words found in Edinburgh could be identified we could be in the presence of greatness and we will be proud to say we were part of his, or indeed, her inspiration. The following was found and recorded word for word in that temple to literature, the gents toilets at the Gorgie Road end at Tynecastle.

HMFC homeland (allsport)

In fact the development of the ground was held up for a number of months as experts flew in from all over the world to view and consider the significance of the unexpected find. The techniques developed when examining the Turin shroud were used in an attempt to carbon date the most significant archaeological find in Europe (or possibly the World. It manages to convey in a few words the culmination of years of consultation and discussion between the crème de la crème of the Maroon clad thinkers (while this appears to be a contradiction in terms, wearing maroon and being able to think, we should not let us get into that debate). Nobody can top this as a piece of work that says it all for an elite band of people.

The Egyptian hieroglyphics have been held as the most significant wall writings after the cave paintings left by prehistoric man. The following, which was found in the centre of Edinburgh (the Athens of the North and home of the world famous cultural extravaganza, the International Festival), has surpassed both of these.

These are the sacred word enshrined forever - "Na na na, na na na, na na na, na na na, na na na, na na na, We are the Hi-bees haters". It brings together all of the thinking of the clan HMFC and stands as a testament to their past and future. I hope the search for the author of these words will come to a successful conclusion and we can gaze on the inspirational writer and proudly bow down and say, "We are truly in the presence of genius. By the way, do you think you could do the commentary on Saturday’s OVD Junior Cup Final?".

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