Peter Drury is a special commentator, but Sky Sports must use his verbosity sparingly
and live on Freeview channel 276
Big news for fans of alliterative melodrama this week. Sky Sports, that brash, brazen broadcaster of regal renown, have plunged into their pockets, swooping like the eagle god Zeus kidnapping Ganymede, to pilfer and pillage Peter Drury for their own. Glory be to the golden throated goat of the gantry; prodigal for so long, prolific for even longer, and now, at long last, home. Or something like that.
On Sunday, it was announced that Martin Tyler would be hanging up his microphone after 33 years as the voice of Sky. The internet rejoiced. In his place, Drury has been unveiled as the network’s new lead commentator. And thus, the internet rejoiced again.
At a glance, these are understandable reactions. Tyler is a legend of the broadcast game, and should be revered as such, but it is hard to deny that his signature brand of ho hum exposition has become stale in recent seasons, and his lack of enthusiasm in big moments frequently borders on the criminal. It is almost absurd to think that this is the same man who gave us ‘AGUEROOOOO!!!’ all those blue moons ago.
By contrast, Drury is a darling of the viral soliloquy and quip. You might remember him from such verbose pontifications as ’Roma have risen from their ruins’ and ‘Jesus for Silva - a move Judas Iscariot will be proud of’. His booming, intricate wordplays have won him legions of admirers on social media, and have helped him to garner a semi-heroic status as a kind of emblematic anti-Tyler. He is like the Charles II to his predecessor’s Oliver Cromwell, and the general consensus among football fans is that all of their Christmases have come at once.
But let’s just hope that familiarity doesn’t breed contempt. Drury is unquestionably a maestro, but his orations have a tendency to come across as pre-meditated and lacking in spontaneity; Jim Ross and Jerry ‘The King’ Lawler have called Wrestlemania spots that sounded more natural than his response to Everton narrowly escaping relegation this season, for instance.
In small doses, Drury can be sublime, adding gravitas and profundity to a sport that we all want to believe is the most important thing in the world. But over the course of an entire campaign, will his schtick become tiresome and rote? Only time will tell.
Of course, those who have consumed his work with Premier League Productions in recent seasons have been quick to point out that he does possess more nuance and depth beyond his ‘three-night run of Macbeth at a local community centre’ mode, and to that end, they are absolutely correct. But the concern is that Sky, with their fixation on sound bites and wildfire social engagement, will encourage Drury to ham things up for the sake of the gimmick. Poor Martin Tyler must have shouted ‘AAAAAAAND IT’S LIVE’ more times than he’s told his wife he loves her, after all.
Granted, there is nothing wrong with a bit of pageantry and calculated pomposity, but sometimes less is more. Use Drury’s enviable locution cannon, yes, but use it sparingly to maximise its impact in those truly special moments. In other words, Sky, please don’t strong arm him into reciting half of Shelley’s Ozymandias if, say, Luton Town take an early lead over Nottingham Forest in mid-October. Many, many thanks in advance.