People

Work ethic defines EPL's voice of wisdom

EPL commentator Martin Tyler in Singapore for the Barclays Asia Trophy. He once got the hair-dryer treatment from Alex Ferguson.
EPL commentator Martin Tyler in Singapore for the Barclays Asia Trophy. He once got the hair-dryer treatment from Alex Ferguson.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

It was a few days before the 2014 World Cup got under way and Martin Tyler was checking into a hotel located in Brazil's Amazonian city of Manaus.

His crisp and clear voice at the reception counter was overheard and the football commentator was suddenly interrupted.

"Fifa, Fifa!" an Ecuadorian boy said excitedly while pulling at the Englishman's shirt.

Tyler was swift to distance himself from the corruption-tainted organisation until the boy continued: "Fifa computer game!"

Tyler smiled. The 69-year-old's voice was still instantly recognisable in South America. Not only have his vocals transcended continents but generations as well.

METICULOUS PREPARATION

I did as much research as I could before I came here and I arranged to be at the first training session of the Singapore team. The most important part of my trip here was the hour I spent watching the team. I spent hours learning how to say their names like an actor learning his lines.

MARTIN TYLER on learning how to pronounce the names of local players

Since he made his appearance in Fifa 08, Tyler has been a staple in the popular video game. But it is through 40 years of commentary where Tyler, whose voice is synonymous with the EPL, really made his mark as one of the legendary voices in world football.

As he sat down with The Straits Times for an exclusive interview at the Grand Hyatt hotel during the recently-concluded Barclays Asia Trophy, it was clear that age had not diminished his enthusiasm as he spoke of his career.

"I have been really fortunate to have joined as a commentator in the beginning so, as the English Premier League (EPL) has grown, because of my involvement in the beginning, I have been seen to be a part of it," reflected Tyler.

"I absolutely love the work. How difficult is it to watch football? Every day is a holiday.

"It has been a truly humbling experience to give pleasure to the audience through my words."

The measure of Tyler's work ethic and professional excellence was seen at the recent Barclays Asia Trophy as well, when a Singapore Selection XI took on Arsenal.

While commentating on the fixture, Tyler was heard by TV audiences speaking of Singapore defender Baihakki Khaizan's various business ventures, Shaiful Esah's set- piece prowess and goalkeeper Izwan Mahbud's impregnable performance against Japan in a 0-0 away draw on June 16.

While commentators at the SEA Games floundered over the names of local athletes, addressing a national swimmer as Li Tao (Tao Li), Tyler's ability to correctly enunciate each and every name of the Singapore side was refreshing and the result of detailed homework.

"I did as much research as I could before I came here and I arranged to be at the first training session of the Singapore team," said Tyler, who was presented with the "Best Commentator of the Decade" award in 2003 by the FA Premier League. "The most important part of my trip here was the hour I spent watching the team. I spent hours learning how to say their names like an actor learning his lines."

Since he started commentating in 1974, Tyler has witnessed plenty of hair-raising moments but when asked about the greatest match he has described, his response was almost immediate.

"It has to be the Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle match in 1996 when Stan Collymore clinched the result with a winner in the 92nd minute," said Tyler, who is also a first-team coach at Hampton & Richmond Borough, who play in the seventh-tier Isthmian League.

"I didn't want to leave the ground after that. It was just special."

And one of his most famous pieces of commentary became a pop culture phenomenon, immortalised in the ring tones of many Manchester City fans' phones.

In the final game of the 2011-12 season, striker Sergio Aguero fired in an injury-time winner against Queens Park Rangers to seal a 3-2 victory that secured City's first EPL title.

"Agueroooooooo," bellowed Tyler at that time.

"That was the greatest moment. You will never see anything like that again," he said. "When Aguero took the touch, my intuition of having had so much experience told me he would score.

"So I drew breath and just reacted to that moment. If something happens like that, you can't plan for it. You just go into overdrive."

Tyler has had his fair share of critics as well. He said: "I have had the hair-dryer treatment from Alex Ferguson for what he called 'careless commentary' when he felt I had been harsh on his team.

"People do have strong opinions and perhaps, sometimes, it's different from yours but you can't win over everyone."

Approaching his 23rd season as an EPL commentator, Tyler is eager to keep going.

"If you don't get the feeling of excitement, it is impossible to do the job. With the difficulty of the travelling, the preparation and the detailing , you just have to feel excited to do this job."

Judging by the wave of vim and vigour in Tyler's voice when he immortalised Aguero's effort, England's undisputed voice of football is not done, just yet.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2015, with the headline 'Work ethic defines EPL's voice of wisdom'. Print Edition | Subscribe