Brian Moore: Our Quintessential Commentator

“After a goalless first half, the half time score is 0-0.” – A look at one famous voice behind our national game

by Richard D J J Bowdery
BrianMoore_306x423Had he lived, the 28 February would have been Brian Moore’s 82nd birthday. For many he was our quintessential commentator, a gentleman behind the microphone.

Who can forget his dignified remonstrations with Brian Clough prior to the England versus Poland World Cup qualifier in 1973? You will recall Clough called the Polish keeper a clown much to Moore’s chagrin.

Brian Moore was unflappable, at least that is how he came over to me. His unruffled manner and calm yet authorative voice made his presentation seem effortless and knowledgeable.

Early Career

Brian started his journalistic career working for the newspapers, latterly with The Times before moving to BBC Radio as a football commentator and presenter.

While at the Beeb he covered the FA Cup Final from 1964 to ’67; the European Cup Winners Cup Final in 1963, won by Tottenham Hotspur and 1965 when West Ham United were the winners; and the 1966 World Cup. He also covered Celtic’s triumph in 1967 when the Lions of Lisbon lifted the trophy.

His successes behind the microphone got him noticed by a new boy on the footballing block.

The Big Match

Moore was enticed from the BBC to London Weekend Television (LWT) by Jimmy Hill, their Head of Sport, to anchor a new hour-long football programme called The Big Match which was launched in August 1968.

Aired weekly on Sunday afternoons during the football season it was LWT’s answer to the BBC’s Match of the Day.

Like Match of the Day it was a highlights show and it superseded Associated Television’s Star Soccer which had been broadcasting to viewers in the London area.

The first programme was to feature Spurs versus Arsenal and be transmitted on Sunday 10 August. But because of industrial action it never aired.

The same thing happened the following week, when the selected match, Chelsea versus West Bromwich Albion also failed to make the small screen: again because of industrial action.

But at the third time of trying, on the 24 August, Brian Moore presented and commentated on Queens Park Rangers versus Manchester City. It ended 1-1 with Bridges netting for Rangers and Doyle for City.

Jimmy Hill and Brian Clough

Jimmy Hill was not only LWT’s Head of Sport – until he left in 1973 to front Match of the Day – he was also appeared alongside Moore as the match analyst; a forerunner of the pundits that are obligatory for all football coverage today.

To replace him the London TV broadcaster turned to Derby County manager Brian Clough – not a man short of opinions. His outspoken comments led to County’s chairman asking Clough to cease all his newspaper and TV work. Instead Brian Clough resigned his position as manager. His next job was at Brighton and Hove Albion, two divisions below Derby.

ITV make-up artist Linda King powders the face of Brian Clough in preparation for his debut appearance as an analyst on ITV's On The Ball programme, as Brian Moore looks on. Photograph: PA
ITV make-up artist Linda King powders the face of Brian Clough in preparation for his debut appearance as an analyst on ITV’s On The Ball programme, as Brian Moore looks on. Photograph: PA

Moore also hosted a Saturday lunchtime football preview programme ‘On The Ball’ as well as commentating on international matches, FA Cup finals and Thames Television’s Midweek Sports Special.

Nearly Retired

In 1998 he retired from ITV. This came about partly because of a health scare which had resulted in his undergoing heart surgery.

However, he didn’t totally forsake his time behind the mic and in front of the camera. During his ‘semi-retirement’ he presented programmes for Talk Sport, BBC Radio Five Live, and Sky Sports.

His retirement also gave him more time to watch his beloved Gillingham FC.

“Goodbye and thank you for watching” – These were the words I remember him saying as he signed off at the end of each programme.

In the end Brian’s poor health got the better of him and he died on 1st September 2001, aged 69. He was buried in the church near his home where he had worshipped for many years.

At the funeral service his close friend and sports journalist Norman Giller said: “Brian was a refined, modest man whose next boast would have been his first. Yet he had much to boast about, a supreme commentator, consummate broadcaster, and, above all, a caring, considerate human being, loyal colleague and devoted family man. A bright light has gone out on the worlds of sport and broadcasting.”

Giller took the words right out of my mouth.

Oh, and about the quote at the head of this column. It wasn’t a Colemanballs, it really was Brian Moore; proving that even the very best can have an off day.


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