While back in the USA on a project for a couple of weeks, I missed the news that the BBC had ditched Alan Green.
The abrasive and forthright BBC football commentator for Radio 5Live has been effectively pushed out after 45 years as one of the most recognizable, and for some, the most despised voice behind the matchday microphone.
The Beeb have decided not to renew his Radio 5 Live contract this summer, a decision which displeased the 67-year old greatly.
Green lamented an interview with Henry Winter in The Times, “They have shown me very little respect in how that is ending. I feel a mixture of disappointment and anger. I don't think it's justified. I was basically told, 'You don't fit our profile.' I got a fair idea of what they meant by just listening to the output over the last year or so. There isn’t an ageist, sexist, racist bone in my body.
"I only care about ‘Can somebody do the job?’ There are new people in favour. They match the requirements in terms of ‘bants’ — banter with presenters.”
Green also criticised the BBC's decision to drop Mark Pougatch as well as its flagship sports news show, Sportsweek, last year, describing the latter as "a much-respected programme that was discarded”.
“It’s not the organisation I loved for so many years,” Green added.
“I hear about [the departure of] Mark Pougatch, an absolutely outstanding presenter, and I’m really pleased that he is valued by so many other people [like BT Sport] that he probably doesn’t notice not doing 5 Live any more. Certain people have been discarded wrongly in pursuit of change. That’s OK if it is thought through and it works but I’m not sure it is working.”
Many Evertonians hated having to listen to him purely because of his obvious and perennial bias toward Liverpool FC, who could do no wrong. But, as a commentator on the live game, his skill and dexterity in capturing and conveying the atmosphere and tension of the match was certainly a gift that he honed to unique perfection over
those many years behind the microphone.
He 'graduated' to Match of the Day in 2014 but didn't feel it was going anywhere and gave that up three years ago.
Green commented on his departure from MotD: “It’s not a big deal. I was doing, at most, 10 commentaries a season.
“There’s nothing sinister there. It’s just that I’d get a game and often be fifth or sixth in the running order, so it wasn’t really going anywhere.
“The team on Match of the Day were really good to work with and it’s been good to do television commentary, so I suppose the scratch has been itched, yes.”
Much of this was made public via an interview with Henry Winter in The Times, which continues:
The BBC defends its position, as a senior source says: “Yes, the BBC is having to look at its strategy for young audiences otherwise we will become quickly irrelevant, but that does not come at the expense of authority, knowledge and experience.”
What seems strange about the BBC not wanting to keep Green is that, in many ways, he is the ideal commentator for many in this era who want spiky opinion. “Being honest is the only way I know how to do it,” he says. It’s brought him some run-ins, most notably with Sir Alex Ferguson and Sam Allardyce.
“I had immense respect for Alex in what he did as the manager of Manchester United. It is a matter of great sadness to me that we haven’t spoken for 28 years,” Green adds.
“It was all about one incident when he misled the Friday press conference about team news [about Mark Hughes’s availability]. I was doing the commentary on the Saturday at Old Trafford and I said,
‘I’ve learned not to listen to any propaganda that might be coming out of the manager’s afternoon office on a Friday. I will try to recognise the United players when they come out on to the pitch!’
It was done as much for humour but, by God, somebody obviously told him, and he confronted me, and he said, ‘You don’t fucking pick my team’.
I said, ‘Don’t tell me fucking lies, tell me nothing.’ 28 years of silence since.
“With Allardyce, I just didn’t like the style of football his teams tended to play. I do remember going up to him at the end of one season, 2004, when Sam was out working [at the European Championship in Portugal], and I was staying at same hotel. I said, ‘I can’t speak highly enough of how well you have done this season [when Bolton finished eighth].’ I put my hand out, and he turned away.
“I am perfectly happy for people to disagree with me as long as they accepted it was honest and heartfelt. Other people [in broadcasting] say something stupid to provoke a reaction on social media. Definitely! It’s not my style. I get threats on trains, and threats outside certain grounds. You just have to take it and walk on.
“After the 1999 Champions League final, early the following season, I was at Old Trafford, and this guy came up to me, and I thought, ‘Oh, God, what’s he going to say? Is it going to be hostile?’ He said, ‘I’ve got to get you to listen to this.’ And he played his ringtone which was my commentary on the Solskjaer goal! Fantastic!”
Green’s thoughts scrolled back to Manchester United’s semi-final that year against Juventus.
“I always had this gritty admiration for Roy Keane,” he says.
“I thought Roy was immense in terms of his character and drive. I remember vividly the night of the Turin game when Roy was booked and would miss the final. We journalists always got on the plane after the players were already sitting there. Roy was sitting on his own, window seat. I just leant over to him, and said, ‘I’m so, so sorry, you don’t deserve to miss the final, you were key tonight’. He just looked right through me! But I meant every word. Keane, for me, was immense, the way Steven Gerrard was for Liverpool, the way [Jordan] Henderson is now.”
Administrators did not always take kindly to Green’s occasionally withering verdicts.
“One of the difficulties I had with [the former Premier League chief executive Richard] Scudamore was [that] I was strong on my opinions on the Premier League. We are the most-watched league in the world, for good reasons, we are a great watch but it doesn’t make the football always the best. Scudamore made it known to me that he didn’t like that. He thought I should be more involved in ‘selling’ the Premier League. The Premier League is outstanding but that doesn’t mean it’s faultless. That’s my commentary style: if something’s wrong, I’ll call it’s ‘wrong’ but when it’s good I’ll make sure I’m screaming to the skies that it is bloody good.”
He thinks, too, of those he has worked with like the late Peter Jones, “so helpful” and Jimmy Armfield, whose “death hit me hard. He was like a broadcasting father to me and Mike.”
The Mike to whom he refers is Mike Ingham, who he worked with for years, sharing commentaries. Ingham has now retired to the West Country and has written a book.
“A couple of months back, the Daily Mail ran a story about Mike’s forthcoming book, and made the point that he didn’t mention me once in the book, and what’s the story behind that? The truth is I don’t know. Yes, it did hurt me.”
In essence, Ingham was urbane, Green occasionally prickly, yet they blended into a magnificent broadcasting double act.
“I swear hand on heart, I’ve never done anything against Mike,” Green adds. “It’s very sad. We were so close. Think of all the times we shared. The only Alan Green mentioned in the book is the former Coventry player! I can’t imagine it was deliberate. Mike surely wasn’t like that. I hope not. Mike was a constant theme throughout my book.
“Mike retired at the World Cup final in Rio (in 2014) and there was a blaze of publicity for that, and Mike deserved it. I remember during the commentary when I handed over to him, and saying not only how much I had appreciated his friendship and being a work colleague, I said he’s been like my brother for all these years. I can’t say anything more to show how much I appreciate Mike. I am not in touch with him. It’s a delicate subject.”
Reader Comments (42)
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1 Posted 24/03/2020 at 21:41:27
2 Posted 24/03/2020 at 21:46:41
3 Posted 24/03/2020 at 21:55:10
4 Posted 24/03/2020 at 21:55:15
5 Posted 24/03/2020 at 22:22:31
He made some very negative comments about Duncan Ferguson, I recall, and also was highly critical of us as a club when we transported Big Dunc back from Scotland and subsequently supported him after his stint in jail.
More generally, he thinks he is lot brighter and more insightful than was ever the case. Unlike some of the football folk he references during his interview, he was always guilty of over-estimating his own importance. His "bleeding stump routine" during the interview elicits very little sympathy from me.
6 Posted 24/03/2020 at 22:42:19
7 Posted 25/03/2020 at 12:39:13
"Scudamore made it known to me that he didn't like that. He thought I should be more involved in ‘selling' the Premier League."
That's the issue that many fans have with the Premier League and the footballing authorities in general, they have turned a game into a product and, for me, it has taken away most of what used to be good about the game. Younger fans probably don't care as much as some of us older fans about this difference as they have grown up with the 'product'.
Watching the re-runs of the FA Cup matches last weekend highlighted how the game has altered in the last 20 odd years. Oh for a return to that type of excitement and passion from players and fans alike.
8 Posted 25/03/2020 at 13:13:29
9 Posted 25/03/2020 at 13:19:28
If football is about inspiration, then I was inspired by Roy Keane that night, when he showed that his team was more important than himself. (What a contradiction, some Irish fans will undoubtedly say.)
10 Posted 25/03/2020 at 14:01:58
One of the best imo was Barry 'look at his face' Davies. He said a lot without saying too much but was to the point.
11 Posted 25/03/2020 at 14:04:35
12 Posted 25/03/2020 at 21:50:50
The Match of the Day team knew that, I mean he made his debut when he was about 60 didn't he? That's before we get on to his Liverpool love in.
At the end of the day, football commentators, any I suppose, boxing, rugby, cricket need a likeable charisma to go with the technical side, not a whiny arse voice like nails down a blackboard.
13 Posted 25/03/2020 at 21:58:30
Total knob when Everton were playing as he just obviously loved Man Utd. But if it wasn't Everton the commentary was great.
14 Posted 25/03/2020 at 22:15:18
So how long is it now since you haven't spoken to your brother Alan, 20 years?
15 Posted 25/03/2020 at 22:16:35
I watched our 1985 cup tie against Ipswich on Saturday and was pleasantly surprised to hear the commentator (Barry Davies) talk about our football in such glowing terms.
Was it because commentators back then didn't recognise the bleating of the fashionable elite - or was it because we ourselves were (decidedly unfashionable) elite ourselves?
1000-word essays tackling this conundrum on my desk for 5pm tomorrow please.
16 Posted 25/03/2020 at 22:34:50
I seem to remember that, even in the '80s, the media did not give us the recognition we deserved because by then the rs brigade had moved into media and were like poison ivy.
17 Posted 26/03/2020 at 00:06:04
18 Posted 26/03/2020 at 01:19:37
19 Posted 26/03/2020 at 06:16:42
Moore was once asked what his greatest cock-up was and answered that he was giving out the team line ups and got to one player and said; "He's just pissed a late fatness test"!
20 Posted 26/03/2020 at 09:42:41
He never missed the opportunity to have a real kick at Everton, when he could (and that's not me being over sensitive), whilst his love for our neighbours was almost gushing at times.
I won't miss him.
21 Posted 26/03/2020 at 14:37:35
His comment about MotD that “I'd get a game and often be fifth or sixth in the running order, so it wasn't really going anywhere” says it all really.
Football fans get annoyed when there team is down the MotD running order, whereas he thinks the order should be determined by his subjective opinion about the quality of the commentary!
22 Posted 26/03/2020 at 15:02:30
23 Posted 26/03/2020 at 15:39:09
Back in the day great radio commentators used to stick to describing the action. Thus we heard more about the action and less about their opinions. Peter Jones was one of the best.
24 Posted 27/03/2020 at 12:23:38
25 Posted 27/03/2020 at 12:51:29
He also asked if anyone had any 'paint' as he would rather watch it dry, whilst commentating at Goodison.
He's an areshole and a dinosaur; won't be missed.
26 Posted 27/03/2020 at 13:33:41
When I first started my Blue life, footy was an addiction. I'd listen to the 5 Live podcast every Sunday night, usually hosted by Alan Green.
I absolutely loved the guy. Brutally, brutally honest, intelligent, engaging, abrasive and opinionated but for me generally fair. I couldn't wait to listen to 5 Live with Green. He was superb. I knew of his rs leanings through reading, but I honestly didn't care. I'd just take anything he said about Liverpool with a grain of salt and enjoy the rest of it.
From my recollection, he'd rip Everton when they deserved it, and he'd praise them when they deserved it. But 90% of his comments and tone matched that of TW! Can't win the big game, until ownership changes can't make the leap up the table, plucky little Everton type of stuff.
I've adopted many things Blue, foremost my disdain for "them". But when it comes to Alan Green, I have to say I disagree. I enjoyed him.
27 Posted 28/03/2020 at 19:26:43
Actually, at the last ToffeeWeb get together, I realized by the end of the evening, that the magnificent Keith Berry and his son, top lad, both Londoners, had not understood a word I said. Probably for the best.
28 Posted 29/03/2020 at 00:47:25
Just about the only radio commentator who could keep the commentary at a level where you worried the other team were about to score for almost the whole match. In that respect, he had few peers.
On the downside, he said a lot of negative stuff about Everton when on air. Now, to be honest, some of the comments about our football being awful were bang on if we are honest with ourselves. We just didn't want to hear it.
And that I think is the problem for him. A bit too honest and could have done without commenting about his opinions. People don't always like hearing negative stuff, especially when it's a partisan game and our bit of entertainment for the week.
The occasion when he fell out with Alex Ferguson says a lot. Instead of trying to smooth things over when confronted, he replied to Whiskey Nose's four-letter blast with a four-letter blast of his own. Sometimes, a bit of diplomacy is worth it.
29 Posted 29/03/2020 at 14:25:51
This, however, is part of the bigger BBC picture. My 18-year-old son has an encyclopaedic knowledge of European football. He would make a great footy journalist and reporter. But he'd never be able to work for the BBC. He doesn't tick any boxes. White, educated, heterosexual male. Who needs knowledge and a love of the game? A black jewish lesbian in a wheelchair would get through the interview every time.
The female 'experts' trotted out after their stellar careers playing on park pitches are a collective joke.
Don't get me wrong. I love the fact that more girls are playing sport. But being told that it is as good as male sport when it clearly is not is like telling me that a Big Mac is the same as a prime steak. It is as I said. Just a sign of the times.
30 Posted 29/03/2020 at 17:07:04
It struck me that he was one of those people who rack up ill-feeling, then cry foul when challenged and play the innocent victim. Of course, he loved the filth. Loathsome man of negative talent. I would rather listen to anyone else irrespective of their background than ever hear his rancid utterances again.
31 Posted 29/03/2020 at 17:14:16
I didn't like his open obsession with Liverpool though.
32 Posted 30/03/2020 at 17:38:23
He is being pushed out in favour of diversity. Colour, gender and age (young) are the criteria for the broadcasting media today. The same bland pundits working across the channels.
Give me Alan Green any day of the week rather than the dull utterances of the current crop.
33 Posted 30/03/2020 at 17:58:54
34 Posted 30/03/2020 at 19:13:05
35 Posted 31/03/2020 at 00:29:08
36 Posted 31/03/2020 at 09:49:36
It is notable that there isn't a chorus of people adding other Radio 5 commentators, because they are fair and objective: John Murray, Mike Ingham and Ian Dennis for instance. Alan Green would overstate things, and one could hear the relish with which he would enjoy talking a team down (not just Everton) and it was sickening.
I have to say the Connor Macnamara is Green's heir apparent though – I am told he really enjoyed our defeat at Stamford Bridge and it's always sackcloth and ashes when we score during his commentaries.
37 Posted 01/04/2020 at 14:09:44
Barry Davies always loved Kevin Sheedy, bit of Welsh bias perhaps, and Sheedy was particularly instrumental in that game against Ipswich.
I recall when Stallone came to visit Green was speculating whether his car would have lost its tyres by the time he had left the ground. How we all laughed.
38 Posted 10/04/2020 at 18:03:28
Fucking hated him!
39 Posted 13/04/2020 at 18:28:50
He cant complain he had a good run.
40 Posted 18/04/2020 at 11:08:16
41 Posted 20/04/2020 at 05:31:39
42 Posted 22/04/2020 at 08:00:30
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