Clive Tyldesley on the 1999 Champions League final that made his career, drinking with Liverpool players and Sir Alex Ferguson’s hairdryer treatment

16 Aug

It sounds like such a cliché to say Clive Tyldesley has seen everything, but with football he really has.

The legendary commentator has seen incredible players live, great Champions League finals, World Cup finals and even one of the game’s greats in Zinedine Zidane end his career in disgrace (well, almost).

Tyldesley (left) commentated on Tottenham’s 2019/20 Premier League opener against Aston Villa and will be heard regularly on talkSPORT this season

Tyldesley has recently joined talkSPORT’s excellent commentary team this season.

So took the opportunity to ask the man about his greatest ever football moments and unsurprisingly there were plenty of fascinating tales to tell.

My Greatest: Player(s) – George Best and Zinedine Zidane

How do you compare the greatest goalkeeper with the greatest striker? It’s impossible to answer.

I think there’s a strong case to say that the most influential player in the Manchester United treble team was Peter Schmeichel. But how can you equate his contributions with the likes of Roy Keane and David Beckham or Dwight Yorke? It’s difficult question to answer.

So in terms of the player who’s given me the most pleasure in my life I’ll give you two answers. I’m old enough to have seen George Best play.

I was a Manchester United fan as a boy so he and Denis Law were my heroes and even though the game is very different today, I think Best is the player who would have adapted his game the best to the modern game more than anyone else.

8. George Best - Right Winger - Northern Ireland
Tyldesley believes George Best would have found a way to play in any era of football

But in more recent times I think the greatest football memories I’ve had have come from Zinedine Zidane and specifically that goal I was privileged to commentate on at Hampden Park in the 2002 Champions League final – it was his wrong foot!

I commentated on the 2006 World Cup final but I didn’t see what he did live and it was a bad moment in my commentary career because he’d been sent off for something that I hadn’t seen.

We saw the replays 30 seconds later but I didn’t see my modern football hero do the worst thing of his life in the flesh.

Tyldesley saw the good and bad side of Zinedine Zidane

My Greatest: Goal – Carlos Alberto in the 1970 World Cup final

Brazil’s fourth goal in the 1970 World Cup final might be the greatest goal ever scored and maybe that was the greatest ever performance of any team, given it was a World Cup final.

My Greatest: Team – Liverpool in the late 70s and early 80s

During my early broadcast career I spent ten years working in Liverpool for a radio station beginning in 1977 and I was the same age as the players of that Liverpool team in the 70s and 80s and many of them remain good friends to this day.

It was a different relationship between media and footballers in those days. I socialised with them as much as I worked with them.

I knew their families, I played golf with them and went drinking with them. I got a real inside track view of the spirit they shared between them and share to this day.

One of the biggest changes in football is that it’s become more cosmopolitan. The players stay at the clubs for less time and so the fellowship you get in a dressing room lasts for less time than they did in the late 70s and early 80s. Teams were unchanged season after season after season.

That Liverpool team became Champions of Europe four times between 1977 and 1984

The bond between those players, the team bond and the essence of the team over the individual – and there were some truly great players in those sides – was so powerful and so impressive, especially when you look at their record during the late 70s and early 80s and how they dominated at home and abroad. They are the greatest club team I’ve ever seen.

You could name a team that could beat them but the team couldn’t beat them five times out of five because Liverpool found a way to win games.

The essence of that team’s spirit and mentality would have given them an ability to find a way to beat any team.

Red rule

Between 1976 and 1990, Liverpool won...

League titles x10

European Cups x4

FA Cups x2

League Cups x4

UEFA Cups x1

My Greatest: Atmosphere – Celtic Park

I’ve been in atmospheres in places like Turkey, which are mind-blowing, a bit crazy and threatening.

In terms of a sheer size and depth of a throaty roar that greets a team onto the field or that time when a team needs the support like when winning a corner, it would be very very close between Anfield and Celtic Park on Champions League nights.

My visits to Parkhead have been far fewer and further between and my son will hate me because he’s a huge Red man, but if pushed I’d have to go for Celtic Park on a Champions League night.

There’s something particularly special about Celtic Park’s atmosphere on a Champions League night
Getty Images - Getty

My Greatest: Manager – Sir Alex Ferguson

Like the greatest player question, how would Jose Mourinho fare if he was put in charge of Bishop’s Stortford? You should really judge a manager by their added value that he/she gives to the team they are with but we can’t really equate so consequently we have to look at achievement.

What I would say about Sir Alex Ferguson is that he was adaptable. There is an image of him which usually relates to the infamous hairdryer and I’ve had two of probably the biggest rollockings of my life from him! It was almost like an initiation.

But he changed. The Alex that took over in 1986 to the Alex that managed in the 21st century was a different style of manager. Parenting has changed, our whole management of people has changed in business, in family environment and sporting environments and Alex moved with that.

His longevity was due to his ability to move with the times and he managed different players in different ways over the course of his career and he did that over three or four Manchester United teams, all with huge levels of success during that period.

The former Manchester United boss is viewed as the game’s greatest ever manager by many

I got very close to Bill Shankly as a person, I got close to Brian Clough as a person and that has been a privilege to spend valuable time with truly great men who were inspirational in different ways but I think if you tried to have an overview of someone who managed in the 80s and in the 21st century and how they remained successful during that period then you’d have to look at Sir Alex Ferguson.

My Greatest: Kit – Manchester City at the Community Shield

I like the retro feel at the moment – I loved the kit Manchester City wore at the Community Shield.

I’m trying not to be a grumpy old man and we’ve got four kids in their 20s in and around the house who keep me up with the times but you’re at your most impressionable when in your late teens and early 20s.

I grew up as a United fan but I don’t really have a team now, so having seen the City kit again, that sky blue kit with the white circular neck looked really cool. Shame they’re not wearing it all season.

Manchester City’s Community Shield kit was a real throwback
Getty Images - Getty

My Greatest: Game(s) – Bayern Munich 1-2 Manchester United 1999 AND Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle 1996

I’m a professional as much as I am a fan and the most important game for me professionally was the 1999 Champions League final. It was the end of my first season replacing the late, great Brian Moore at ITV.

The audience was massive – 20million+ people and the finish was so dramatic that had I messed up any of that I wouldn’t be sat here doing this interview.

That was my career in those three minutes.

I think it’s a matter of opinion whether a commentator did a good job or not but I got all the names right , I shouted the right names at the right moment, I got the final score right and came out of it probably with my reputation enhanced. It was not a great game of football but it was the most important in my broadcast career.

Manchester United’s dramatic win over Bayern Munich was a huge moment in Tyldesley’s career

But maybe the greatest game I’ve ever seen was at Anfield for the first Liverpool v Newcastle 4-3 game, and I was commentating on that.

In terms of how unlikely and how many changes of mood and direction that game took and the atmosphere in which it was played and the significance of it, it was the best.

I can only answer from a personal point of view and but I was privileged to witness that thrill ride of a match.