×

How MOTD's Guy Mowbray Went From Bummed-Out Banker To Football Commentator

I’ve loved statistics since I was a boy. I had the Encyclopedia of British Football and used to read the appendix, including every league table from all four divisions since the game started, like a book.

All I wanted as a kid was to be a professional footballer. I grew up in York and our house backed onto a playing field. I spent every waking hour on that pitch playing football. Only trouble was, I wasn’t very good.

When I was 21 I took a job in London as a banker. I thought it would be a glamorous lifestyle but I hated every second of it. It was both the best and worst move I ever made; without it, I’d never have become a commentator.

I thank my dad for what I do now. He was a PE teacher and got tired of me kicking around the house after I came back from London. One day he said, “Look, Guy, we’ve established you’ll never make any money playing football. Why don’t you get paid to watch it?” That triggered something in my head and I put all my energy into making it happen.

The first game I ever covered was York City v Brentford when I was 21. It involved leaving 30-second reports on a phone service that people could ring up and listen to in real time. I turned the job offer down at first because I had tickets to go and watch Man City v Liverpool. But my dad told me not to be so stupid and ring them back. I did and it was the best decision I ever made – even though York lost 2-0.

My best piece of life advice? Don’t turn anything down. Ever. Be available for everything, because as soon as you miss one chance, someone will come along and take your place. And if they do a better job than you, you won’t get back in.

Commentating on football is not something you can teach. I hate to sound arrogant, but it is something you can either do or you can’t. There’s no such thing as the perfect commentary. I don’t think it’s ever been done. The most I’ve made it into a game without making some kind of mistake is 20 minutes.

Even the thought of calling a goal wrong sends shivers down my spine. Luckily I’ve not said the wrong name yet but with the producers’ voices in your ear, trying to listen to your co-commentator, watching the match, the monitors and your notes – there’s a lot going on to confuse you. It happens.

A good commentator is like a good referee. They shouldn’t distract you from the football, but you’d notice them if they weren’t there.

I’m far too sensitive. I think that’s my biggest fault. Most people are probably more thick-skinned than I am, but it only takes one comment on Twitter or a newspaper column to slaughter me, and I’ll doubt myself for a while.

I’ve got a work of abstract art by [ex-England cricket captain] Michael Vaughan hanging in my house. I bought it at a charity auction in December when nobody else was bidding for it. It’s basically a cardboard Ashes urn stuck on a background and he’s thrown cricket balls dipped in ink at it. I messaged him after I bought it and he replied, “Good God, were you pissed?” But I think it’s rather effective.

I haven’t got the patience in life to watch films. All I seem to watch is live sport, but whenever people ask what my favourite film is, my first thought is Escape to Victory. Sylvester Stallone always reminded me of Brad Guzan in goal. Or was it the other way round?

I was best man for my mate , and the bride’s younger brother (who was about 21) described me as the most immature grown up he’d ever met. I was rather touched.

My wife has banned me from sending jokes by text. I’ve got quite an edgy sense of humour and she says to me, “Guy, you might not find that offensive but others most probably will. Give me the phone!” But she is right… I do like a dirty joke.

My greatest fear? Dying. Life is just too good and I don’t ever want it to end.

_ Catch Guy’s commentary of the FA Cup final live on BBC One, kick off 3pm on Saturday 30 May _

_ Words: Matt Blake _