Andy Townsend leaves ITV: his best football cliches

The much-derided pundit is leaving ITV after 15 years in and around the commentary box with Clive

Andy Townsend
(Image credit: Michael Steele / Getty)

Andy Townsend, the TV pundit credited with popularising some of football's most infamous cliches, is to leave ITV after 15 years.

The broadcaster, which has lost the rights to the FA Cup and will no longer show live Champions League and Europa League games after this season, is offloading personnel including Townsend and sport anchor Matt Smith.

According to David Sale in the Daily Mail, the decision for Townsend to leave was "mutual", as the former Republic of Ireland midfielder wants "wants to work on live football and has offers from other international broadcasters".

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The move has raised some eyebrows as ITV has been tipped to join the bidding when the Premier League TV rights come up for auction in February. "Shedding football personnel doesn't say much about ITV's ambitions to take Match of the Day highlights off the BBC," notes Sale.

Although he describes Townsend as "one of the best operators in the difficult role of co-commentator", the midfielder who played for eight clubs including Chelsea and Aston Villa in a 20-year career, has been widely lampooned for his use of cliches during commentary. The Daily Telegraph published a Townsend phrasebook before the World Cup, while football fans have been encouraged to play 'Townsend bingo' during matches.

However, he has maintained his position as ITV's chief co-commenter, even surviving a stint in the much-derided Tactics Truck when ITV briefly held the rights to the Premier League. Last summer the Daily Mirror even claimed that Townsend's predictable interjections and cliche-ridden analysis added to the enjoyment of watching a game.

Top Townsend-isms:

For me, Clive: Having spent his career alongside commentator Clive Tyldesley, Townsend developed an easy familiarity with his colleague, frequently referring to him by name. It has become Townsend's calling card. The phrase has been adopted outside football and is now frequently used to preface a statement of the blindingly obvious.

In and around: Originally meaning in the general vicinity of, the expression has taken on a life of its own. Townsend often urges players to get "in and around" the penalty area, although he has subverted the phrase to such an extent that it can now be applied to an actual player. A striker might be encouraged to get "in and around" the goalkeeper, for example.

As an established part of the football lexicon, its usage continues to develop. Pundit Kevin Kilbane recently referred to incidents that occurred "in and around" Christmas.

Kevin Kilbane takes the use of "in and around" to new heights. @FootballCliches — Tom Henson (@TomHenson89) January 7, 2015

That's better!: A verbal pat on the back for a team or player, usually after they have taken Townsend's advice on an aspect of their game. Townsend, for example, may berate a winger for failing to provide a decent cross, but if he manages a good delivery next time he will praise him with a heartfelt "that's better", delivered with breathless urgency.

Your Arsenals, your Chelseas: There may only be one Andy Townsend, but in his world there are several Arsenals, and Chelseas... and Messis and Ronaldos (although in the latter case he is right). This phrase is used to emphasise the qualities of the subject. A team may have qualified for the Champions League but will they be able to compete with "your Barcelonas and your Real Madrids"? Conversely, Townsend was no doubt wondering earlier this week how Liverpool would handle the challenge of "your Wimbledons" in the FA Cup.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.