For many years Clive was the Andrew Ridgeley of football commentary’s standard-bearing duo. However, Big Ron’s fall from grace stripped the glamour from his double-act.
Of course, Clive will always retain one distinguishing characteristic – he is a rabid Manchester United fan, and will make no attempt to conceal that fact during a broadcast.
In an unofficial survey of TV repair shops (which excluded the greater Manchester area, large sections of Surrey, and all of Asia) it was found that 94 percent of all screen breakages were reported the day after a televised Man United Champions League tie. In all cases, thorough cross-referencing identified Clive as the commentator.
To be honest, this kind of thing can grate after a while:
“Roy Keane is such a driving force! He’s a powerful man, I’ll tell you, there’s been a few times after questions when I’ve been reduced to stutters by a stare from Roy. He’s a strong man on and off the pitch!”
Especially when it gets even more …well… revealing:
“Those trophy-lifting fingers of Roy Keane’s are getting itchy. Hard man – hard to satisfy, hard to beat.”
Sometimes, Clive’s raging bias can manifest itself a little more subtly. Cast your minds back to United’s ill-fated Big Cup semi-final with Bayer Leverkusen a few years back. First Bayer star, Ze Roberto, picked up his third booking of the tournament for an innocuous enough challenge:
“He’ll miss the next game, which could be the Final.”
Then Nicky Butt did likewise after committing GBH. Cue despair.
“He will miss the Final.”
Magnificently, Clive stayed loyal to United misfit Diego Forlan even after his barren start to life at Old Trafford. In fact, Clive preferred to look at it this way:
“Forlan has played in 15 games now… and he’s nearly scored in all of them”.
Of course Clive’s United devotion paid off big style in 1999, on that “balmy night in Barcelona” that he has since referred to at least twice in every commentary. Then Clive’s commentary was single-handedly responsible for United’s grand added-time larceny:
“What’s this? Ninety minutes on the clock and Manchester United haven’t scored. They have to score, they always score… Sheringhaaaaammmmm!”
The downside, unfortunately, is that he’s tried the same thing ever since. The aforementioned Leverkusen disaster brought similar vain appeals to the Gods.
“They need to score. United always score.”
Big Ron – a not-entirely neutral arbitrator himself – did nothing to rid Clive of the habit, even shamelessly encouraging him to save the day during another United exit to Porto:
“Go on. Put one of your signs on it quick.”
Sadly for United, Clive’s less-than-convincing response couldn’t produce another flukey injury time toe-poke.
“Ahh… they don’t always score but boy do they need one now.”
What’s the betting we don’t hear about this one for the next hundred years?
The United factor aside, Clive’s double act with Ron brought much needed light relief to the less glamourous Euro nights. Usually, Clive played Little to Ron’s Large.
Clive: “So, Ron who do you fancy?”
Ron: “Not you Clive, that’s for sure!”
Ron: “Tell you what, Clive, Cole has missed a stick-on there, I would have put my mortgage on him in that situation.”
Clive: “Tell me, Ron, how much is your mortgage?”
Ron: “I haven’t got one, Clive.”
After Zola took a kick in the wotsits and rolled around clutching them in agony.
Clive: “Hmmm, I’m not sure where exactly he was injured there.”
Ron: “Just inside his own half I think, Clive.”
Mind you, Ron was never quite so willing to go to canvas when Clive brought a punchline of his own into the ring.
Clive: “Earlier in the season a substitution was delayed because the player has to remove rings and chains. That didn’t happen much in your day, Ron?”
Ron: “Not the chains.”
Clive: “It’d take half the night to get your chains off, Ron.”
Of course, Clive was there on the night Ron went overboard, and now it is he who must prove that he can stay afloat without his big orange life jacket. The signs aren’t good. Makeshift partnerships with the dozy Uncle Bobby or the jack-the-lad Andy Townsend just haven’t clicked so far. Still, if Clive can find the right foil, he has a strong enough guff track record to soon get back among the main players.
Here are some of his personal career highlights:
“He is the man who has been brought on to replace Pavel Nedved. The irreplaceable Pavel Nedved.”
“He’s not George Best, but then again, no-one is.”
“He went through a non-existent gap.”
“One or two of their players aren’t getting any younger.”
“If they come back it’s a night we’ll remember for a long time. But that’s a capital if.”
“David O’Leary’s poker face betrays the emotions.”
Clive has also expressed some reservations about the NHS, that will concern Tony Blair:
“Gary Neville is in hospital, where Manchester United fear he may have broken his foot.”
And he regularly donates the contents of his wardrobe to strikers who have recovered their form:
“Quite literally, you would not have put your shirt on him.”
Credit where it’s due though, when it comes to reading the shape of a game, Clive has few equals.
“This is the half of the field where Bayer do most of their damage”
That is a spotter’s badge.