As a player, Manchester City Football Administrator Brian Marwood could have been the son George Graham never had; a tricky winger not afraid to put a bit of effort in. Anders Limpar certainly paid the price for following in his footsteps.
Then he turned into an all-round good egg, happy to help Gordon Taylor choose paintings at the PFA, always generous with a tip for sports betting fans and willing to do any Sky co-commentary gig Andy Gray didn’t fancy. That was before he snuck over to the dark side at Man City via some marketing spoofery at Nike.
But back to the guff. One of Marwood’s proudest co-commentating moments was when he took possession of the first spotter’s badge to be awarded outside of the ITV network. Unsurprisingly, it was chief Big Ron plagiarist, Andy Gray who officiated at the ceremony. Taking time out from pressing buttons and pulling levers in the Sky Monday Night Football control room, Gray rather made a mockery of the time-honoured passer’s prize by rewarding Marwood for simply remarking that Sheffield Wednesday were a little suspect in the air, minutes before they shipped another header from a corner.
In truth, Marwood deserved this treasured – if ill-gotten – metaphorical memento, mainly for spotting that you could make a handsome living from the media game with a command of English that seems to be the fruits of a weekend TEFL course in Burnley.
You see, Marwood really isn’t very good at talking. In UK terms, he’d probably be ranked somewhere outside the top 35 million or so talkers out there. But, rather than let such details deflect him from a career in broadcasting, he made a virtue of necessity. Never one to stick his neck out anyway, Marwood neatly operated on the principle that if they can’t understand you, they certainly can’t say you’re wrong.
“Ian Wright is missing the absence of Dennis Bergkamp.”
A subtle reference to a Highbury rift or simply another rubbish attempt at talking? Nobody really knew, and there was the genius of it. The mark of a true star, however, is the ability to adapt. And as the savvy footballing public eventually cottoned onto his caper, Marwood magnificently patented the triple negative – an impenetrable commentary code that enabled him to back both nags in a two-horse race.
Go ahead – try and make sense of this:
“You certainly wouldn’t bet against him not converting that chance.”
“I’m not sure they won’t be looking not to substitute him this early.”
“I don’t think there are too many people betting against him not scoring from the spot.”
You’ve no idea, have you? So whether the chance goes wide, the sub comes on, or the spotter is saved, Brian’s got it covered. The only wonder is that Trevor Brooking didn’t think of it first.
The downside of becoming reliant on this approach is that, when shorn of his confuse-and-conquer safety net, Marwood has found himself unable to commit to the simplest statement of fact.
So you’ll regularly hear the likes of:
“It’s his first cap, so I would say he’s not got a lot of experience at this level.”
“There’s still 45 minutes to go – for both sides, I would guess.”
“The ball could have gone anywhere and almost did.”
And it was after this magnificent piece of fence-sitting on Rafael van der Vaart that he knew he had nothing left to achieve in co-commentary:
“He’s not renowned for his trademark headers.”
No wonder Gary Cook insisted on doing all the talking for a while.