My time tunnel: Barry Davies, commentator, gentleman and back seat driver!

My time tunnel: Barry Davies, commentator, gentleman and back seat driver!

barry davies with camera I have been fortunate, writes Vernon Grant. Since joining Yorkshire Television in 1980 I have gone on to work with some of the best sports commentators in the business.

Moos of that time was spent in commercial television, for YTV, C4 and Sky Sports. For 18 months I was also Head of Production for an independent production company.

It was during that time, in 1996, that I went to the home of BBC commentator Barry Davies. Located under the flightpath of Heathrow airport, I knew that interviewing someone in that area inevitably leads to a chat being interrupted by low flying jets. But it was a lovely day of football chat and Barry and his wife were the most welcoming of hosts to me and the crew.


Barry Davies is a gentleman and remains my all time favourite BBC Match of the Day commentator.

At the peak of his powers he was not only an excellent football commentator. He was that rare breed in modern day broadcasting, he applied the English language correctly.

But don’t ever chauffeur him anywhere. Later in our association I picked him up at home in Datchet and drove him to my place of work in Putney. He was going to record a voice over for me. I was suitbaly excited.

No sooner had we joined the M4 than Barry went into commentary mode. Only this time it was not on Franny Lee (“Look at his face, just look at his face”) or the Dutch national team (“The future’s bright, the future’s orange”).

Barry Davies commentated on my driving. He was a back seat driver sat in the front. It was a road trip I would never forget.

Each change of lane brought with it a comment. “Interesting choice, Vernon.” “Oooh, outside lane there, not a move I would have made.” “Central lane to inside lane at this point? But we’re not coming off the motorway yet, Vernon.”

I didn’t mind a jot. He instinctively commentates. As I to this day instinctively yell “Cue!” and “Wind him up” when I am at home watching television from so far away that the presenter couldn’t hear me if I used a megaphone. You can take a good man out of TV, but you can’t take TV out of the man.
His commentating on my driving decisions appealed to my sense of humour and we laughed it about it then and on the return journey when Barry declined my offer for him to drive my Audi back to Berkshire.

barry davies still

To my mind I had a true legend in my car. I had driven much more famous people in my motor since 1984, but none I respected more than Barry Davies.

I suspect that had I been his producer at the BBC we would have worked well together. We are both perfectionists and while I know Barry could lose patience with some colleagues, I think he would have been happy with my voice in his earpiece (as many top presenters have been) and I would have relished working with him when we were each at the height of our powers.

I’ll always have my day in Datchet.

In their celebrations of the 50th year of Match of the Day the producers had the great idea of bringing Barry back to commentate on a game and he did a splendid job, reminding me and others of what we miss these days (and of how modern day commentators speak way too often).

They have forgotten that television is a visual medium.
Every picture tells a story and, when commentating, less is more. Nobody knows that better than Barry Davies, who spoke to BBC Breakfast earlier this year.


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