From Nottingham to the Nou Camp: An Interview with Clive Tyldesley

It’s quite a journey from Nottingham to the Nou Camp, home of European champions Barcelona, but that path has been undertaken extremely successfully by a certain well-known alumnus of the University, Clive Tyldesley. He is the voice of ITV’s football coverage, a commentator widely recognised as a consummate professional and someone who fondly remembers his time at the University of Nottingham.

Since succeeding the late Brian Moore in 1998 as ITV’s first choice commentator, Tyldesley has covered a succession of FA Cup, Champions League and World Cup finals, and is one of the most respected figures in the game. Having reported on countless important matches and broadcasted to millions of people, it would be easy to forget his roots, but Tyldesley was happy to reminisce to me about his time at University, from 1972 to 1975, visits to the Savoy Cinema and the route he took from Lenton Boulevard to the Bernabeu.  He was born in Bury and admits that the relatively close proximity of Nottingham was one factor in persuading him to choose this University.

“My dad was a salesman, and it was him who really pushed me into it. He felt that a more vocational degree would give me a better chance of getting a job in industry. So my course was Industrial Economics, a more vocational, practical form of an Economics degree. So it was that, along with the distance from home, which is always a consideration. Nottingham was only about an hour and half drive from Manchester.”

Despite not enjoying his course at all, Tyldesley, who was already entertaining ambitions to work in the media, spoke about his time at University with affection, and clearly had fond memories of certain aspects of student life.

“First year, I lived in X19 Hugh Stewart and then I lived in 10 Church Avenue, a little cul-de-sac just off Lenton Boulevard. I used to go to the Savoy Cinema quite often, and to Dunkirk Chippy far too often!
I took every opportunity to get involved with the media. I wrote a column for the newspaper, supposedly a witty one! I used to write very edgy pieces about the Vice-Chancellor. I was also involved heavily with Dram Soc, mainly with the reviews, and was Social Secretary in my last year. Through these reviews, I managed to get some contacts at BBC Radio Nottingham, who incidentally had the honour of being the first media outlet to refuse to employ me! So although I was doing an Industrial Economics degree, I was really edging my way towards a career in radio or television.”

For a sports lover, the city of Nottingham is a dream. With two strong, well supported football teams in Nottingham Forest and Notts County, plus Trent Bridge (the home of Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club) within walking distance, I wondered if football-loving Tyldesley ever managed to watch these clubs in action.

“Occasionally yes, although I was a big Manchester United fan and most weekends I would try to go and see them play. United were in the second division in 74-75, and I managed to see most games, both home and away, that season.

When I started to work, I covered Derby for a while and even saw United beat them in the FA Cup semi final at Hillsborough in 1976. I became the full-time Nottingham Forest correspondent at the start of the 1976-77 season, so I covered every Forest game that season up until April, when I left Radio Trent and went to work for Radio City in Liverpool. But in that year, I’d built up a very close association with Forest, and Martin O’Neill became my best pal really.”

In years to come, just as Tyldesley did here, we will all look back on our time at University and reminisce about the moments that stick in the memory, whether for reasons good or bad. But whatever we remember, Tyldesley offered an honest opinion on his time in Nottingham.

“I’m afraid you only remember the bands and the girls! Seeing Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band in Freshers’ Week was an incredible experience.
In my first term at the Uni, there was an occupation of the Trent Building which I was involved in, although part of that was only because there was a girl I fancied who also took part and I thought it would be a good idea to join her. It didn’t get me anywhere!”

Despite that setback, Tyldesley has fond memories of Nottingham, and being from Greater Manchester, it would be interesting to hear what he made of Carlos Tévez’s comments that he would never return to the area once he finishes playing for Manchester City. Should there be a sense of loyalty to a place that has served you well for a number of years? In his case, Tyldesley has returned to see the University of Nottingham and made it clear that there had been a change or two since he left.

“I managed to visit the University campus several weeks ago and the Lakeside Pavilion had been knocked down and rebuilt. That used to be an old dance hall, where all the social events used to be. We had discos and bands there. I remember the Lakeside as the place where most of the best nights of my University life took place.”

Away from the better times, exams are a stressful time for a student. Whether it’s late night revision or early morning trips to Hallward, there is nothing quite as worrying as end of year exams, especially for final year students fearful of stepping out into the real world. However, Tyldesley approached his last year with an enthusiasm and an eagerness to free himself from his studies.

“In my final year at University, Radio Trent, which is no longer around, came on air, and I used to go down to the studios when they were being built and make a nuisance of myself to the programme controller, whose name was Bob Snyder.

“About three weeks before I sat my finals, I was sitting in my house just off Lenton Boulevard, and received a telephone call from him, and he said ‘how would you like to come and work for us?’ and my first question was ‘what degree do I need?!’. So after being reassured I didn’t need one, I began to work there the day after my finals, involved with doing voiceovers and running a late night rock show.

“But I was always getting involved with the football. There was only one full time member of the sports staff though, and they realised after a few months that they needed a second, so I got moved to the sports department. I’d done a deal with my dear old dad that I’d give this a go for a year and see how it went. If it didn’t work out, I’d become an accountant, but he soon saw how much I was enjoying my new job.”

And for a man who has commentated on so many important matches, can there be anything left for him to achieve?

“Well, I enjoy my job and my life immensely, so I’m quite happy to carry on doing that. I succeeded the late, great Brian Moore at ITV in 1998 when he retired and he was very good and very inspirational to me, as was Reg Gutteridge, the boxing commentator.Both of those guys engendered a great warmth and trust in their audience, so I think that whether I’m a good or bad commentator, and that’s always going to be a matter of opinion, to actually delight by engendering that warmth and trust in an audience, that can only be done over a period of years and I suppose I’ve become more and more aware of that. It’s just an honesty thing. Instead of trying hard to find the right words – and I know myself that my biggest failing is being a smartarse at times – just be yourself, be honest and be passionate about your job. And I hope that when I eventually retire, that warmth and trust that has been established would be my greatest epitaph.”

Steven Allweis

SportThis Issue

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