But there was a time when there was no Martin Tyler, and no thought of Tyler even being on the air. Forty years ago, Tyler was, in his own words, “a failing semi-professional footballer.”
“It was impossible to break into because there really was no route to get yourself heard,” says Tyler. “At the time, I was playing weekends, and I got a job on a weekly publication. It was fine because I got to meet some TV people and I was able to continue playing.
“Then, I was offered a job on London Weekend TV that I didn’t want to take because I wanted to keep playing, but a man over here, quite well-known, named Jimmy Hill told me I was mad not to take it because you never know where it will lead you.
“So I did, and my job was editing all the goals together for the weekend highlight shows. And a year goes by and I missed being out and about so I asked if I could put a tape together, and it’s easier once you’re inside to get that seen. Two months later a very small regional company called Southern needed a commentator for one match, as a fill-in. At the end of the game, they asked me if I would like to do another. Fortunately, people have continued to ask me if I would like to do another ever since.”
Tyler’s favorite game in the Premiership came in 1996, when Liverpool beat Newcastle4-3 in what is considered an all-time classic.
“It just had everything, and Kevin Keegan was in charge of such a group of entertainers,” says Tyler. “Stan Collymore and Robbie Fowler both scored twice, David Ginola and Les Ferdinand had scored early and I remember Keegan being slumped over the boards at the end of the game.
“We didn’t want to go home, the stewards actually threw us out,” adds Tyler. “Keegan was such a sportsman: he was devastated at the loss but he knew he had been part of a great game.”
Tyler also has a special affection for the United States. A passionate baseball fan, he remains convinced that soccer will continue to grow in popularity in America.
“I used to go and see the NASL games quite often,” says Tyler. “Ron Davies [of the defunct Los Angeles Aztecs] was the player I always wanted to be and I went and saw him play quite a lot. And I quite I like the Open Cup — that’s a fantastic thing. It’s different in America – you have the college game, and players don’t sign young as they do here as often – but I think it has a lot of potential to grow there.”
Tyler is also unusual in English football. Virtually all people working in the sport support a big club – except for Tyler. He is a passionate fan of tiny, fifth-division Woking FC, a small Surrey club he saw as a child.
“It’s not to duck out on any controversies or issues,” says Tyler, “It’s just the truth. I was taken [to Woking] when I was eight by the kid next door. If he only knew what came from that trip! I fell in love with the game and the club right then and there, and I’ve never forgotten the match: they beat Kingstonian 4-1. I’ve come full-circle since then, because for the past few years, I’ve been the first-team coach at Kingstonian!”
You can see the rest of Tyler’s look back at his years in the Premier League only on Goals On Sunday,