Ray Hudson: An Appreciation Of The World's Greatest Football Commentator

Sick of Andy Townsend’s shoddy analysis sucking all the joy from football? Ray Hudson. You need Ray Hudson in your life...
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Sick of Andy Townsend’s shoddy analysis sucking all the joy from football? Ray Hudson. You need Ray Hudson in your life...

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This story starts with a question, a question of whose chip was better – Daniel Sturridge or Alexis Sanchez? I’d seen Sturridge’s, it was so good that I didn’t even mind him doing to wriggly-arms dance, but I’d heard Sanchez’s was maybe better. So, I head to find a highlights reel hastily cut together from a dodgy stream, and that’s when I heard him.

At first, I assumed this mad-Geordie was an excitable amateur who’d recorded his commentary at home, so little interaction he had with the main American commentator, but no! Ray Hudson is a genuine co-commentator on beIN Sport, and is apparently given all the licence in the world to say just about anything. He sort of sounds like an out-of-tune piano being twatted in the back of a pop song – annoying at first but soon you realise it’s much more interesting to listen to than the tired platitudes you’ve all heard before. In those Clasico highlights I was looking for, a through ball was played to Ronaldo that ended with him being bundled over, and no penalty being given. A normal, by-the-numbers commentator would blandly narrate the action, maybe achieving a fever pitch somewhere around CR7’s tumble, but nothing like...

(Madrid player wins ball in dangerous area) – “LOOK OUT!”
(Through ball to Ronaldo) – “GOOD BALL!”
(Ronaldo picks it up) – “HE’S IN!”
(Ronaldo falls) – “AHHHHCK!”

When Ray’s not reacting to the game’s events like he’s your mate down the pub, he’s coming out with some of the most brilliant turns of phrase you could think of. There are some regulars in the Hudson canon – things are often “majestical,” and “magisterial” even more so. Crosses are “Bernini sculptures” (Look him up, I did, good sculptures like), and Karim Benzema is never Karim Benzema, and always “Big Benz.”

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I’m sure Hudson commentates on games that don’t involve Real Madrid, Barcelona or Argentina, but I’m at the disposal of YouTube and so that’s all I’ve been able to listen to really. That said, this line from a pre-season friendly between Barca and Thailand is just perfect:

“This is a Napalm goal, not a Neymar goal, because the explosions are going off all over the place”

...Now, important to remember Hudson comments on an American channel, and so his audience will have a different cultural relationship to napalm. We think of it, we think that fiery stuff that rained down on Vietnam, or if you’re from the Midlands, the band Napalm Death. Americans think of it and it’s a pretty timely reminder of that particular conflict, and hey Thailand and Vietnam aren’t that far away are they? Hudson knows. He’s digging the knife in. What a bloke.

When he’s not offering insightful political analysis, he can also be found reviewing films:

“Majestical Argentina, merciless, like Kathy Bates with that sledgehammer in that movie, remember that, Misery? That’s what Messi was like”

This was for an Argentina qualifying game if I recall. It’s the off-the-cuff nature of the sentence that really sells it. You get the feeling like he’d probably seen the film the night before and it was still fresh in his mind, Bates’ contorted face bearing down on James Caan. It’s also worth noting that Lionel Messi sort of looks a bit like Kathy Bates, so comparisons like this are inevitable. I prefer Dolores Claiborne myself but that’s fine.

Remember all that hoo-hah after Gary Neville’s “OOIARGHHGH” sound when Torres scored for Chelsea? In Britain that was a commentating anomaly. It’s as if commentators over here are taught restraint, measured analysis, when really you just want them to react as if you would react – that’s why the most memorable moments of commentary aren’t the snappy soundbites, they’re the spontaneous, gut reactions to moments of footballing magic – with the notable exception of Kenneth Wolstenholme’s “They think it’s all over...it is now”. Going back to Ronaldo for a second, when Ray took a look at that penalty decision again he reiterated his support, saying:

“I’m in his corner, carrying his spit bucket on that one”

And I’m carrying yours Ray.

Also, Sturiddge’s chip was better. Miles better.