Think of Kostas Manolas vs Barcelona. Think of Vincent Kompany smashing the ball from 30 yards out into the roof of the net against Leicester. Think of pretty much any dramatic last-minute winner which sent shivers down your spine. The voice that accompanies those spectacular moments, the voice that sends tingles through your body, that voice, is usually Peter Drury. An incredibly skilled orator whose intelligent and flowing commentary only enhances a viewer’s experience of the beautiful game.
Like most football commentators, Drury’s passion for commentary came from a love of sport and began with him doing what millions of other young kids do and commentating on himself scoring a goal in the park. However, Drury wasn’t always destined to be a commentator and after graduating from university he started out as a trainee accountant before he decided to chase his dream, and how thankful the world is that he made that decision.
In an interview, I was lucky enough to have with the great commentator he shared his thoughts on all things commentary and shed some light on what a world without football is like for one of the voices of football.
“The art of commentary is essentially to articulate the event that you’re at. It’s nothing more or less,” Drury said.
“I always think there’s a real danger in talking about some sort of perceived style, because, truthfully, one shouldn’t, I don’t think, set out to have a style.
“But the job of the commentator is to contextualise a sporting fixture, to know who’s involved in it, to understand its history, its place in history and to understand the narrative, and give it all of that to tell a story.”
Drury, like every other football commentator, has a job that millions would trade with them in a heartbeat. What better job is there than to talk over some of the biggest games and biggest names in the sporting world. But what does it take to be a top commentator?
“I think it takes a genuine love of the sport that you’re articulating, I believe a love of language really helps. But perhaps more than anything, it is about authenticity.
“It’s about being true to the way you honestly feel about stuff and the way you talk about stuff.
“To be a successful commentator, as in any other job, you’ve got to be prepared to work hard for a start and that involves hours and hours of work before every football match.”
Unknown to most, commentators spend a lot of time prepping and researching for a match, preparing several pages of notes containing key match facts, historical references and stats on individual players, a major part of the job.
“People might or might not be surprised to hear that Liverpool against Manchester United is in many ways, the easiest game to prepare for because we all know all the players, we all know essentially about the background of the fixture and so on, which isn’t to say that basic factual homework doesn’t have to happen because it does,” Drury said.
“There’s a lot more to learn and to pass on if you’re dealing with say, one of the lesser-known teams in the Champions League or the Europa League.
“So to sort of put it into hours and minutes is difficult, but I reckon on average, prepping for a football match is a day’s work.”
A highly articulate man, Drury’s commentary is both elaborate and poetic, often using words and phrases uncommon to football but somehow fit in perfectly, setting him apart from most (football) commentators.
“What comes out of my mouth is, I hope, a truthful reflection of who I am, now that doesn’t mean everybody has to like it, and not everybody will like it.
“I do love words. I suppose because I love words I become bored of hearing the same old ones and that’s not having a go at anybody else, I get bored of myself.
“If you do a few games in a row and you see how many more times the big central defender heads the ball away from the edge of the penalty area I think how can I find a way of saying that differently?
“I will say once in a while I think, what’s another word for thumped, what is another word for hit and I might even spend 30 seconds looking up another word for thumped or hit.
“But then you have to be very careful about that because if you stick in some highfalutin word that tries to sound clever, it probably won’t.
“Ultimately, we’re all stuck with the same dictionary, the same potential vocabulary, it’s just about sort of deploying it as smartly as I possibly can.
“The truth of the matter is that it’s a big six-foot-two centre-half heads the ball away, he heads the ball away. I think there’s not much you can do with that. Except perhaps vary your vocabulary a little bit.”
Although, clearly one of the top commentators in the world Drury is quick to downplay his success and talent. An incredibly modest man who is always willing to help the next generation of those hopeful of being the next Peter Drury.
“Be yourself, don’t try and copy anyone else, be authentic and be true to yourself.
“It’s also an existence over the course of which you’ve got to learn, and I am not very good at this, to have thick skin because you have to accept that not all the people are going to like you all of the time.
“Ultimately, you’re being paid to watch the best sports in the world and there is not too much to complain about there.
“When it is actually happening and you’re doing it and it’s working, and you’re feeling good, it’s just absolutely brilliant.”
Amidst the videos of commentators such as BBC’s Andrew Cotter commentating on his dogs and rugby commentator Nick Heath’s hilarious ‘life commentary’ Drury explained what a world without football looks like for a football commentator. It involves a lot of reading, watching Netflix and taking phenomenal low, left-hand catches playing garden cricket with his sons.
“Well listen for a lucky football commentator who’s got a healthy family and someone who can enjoy sitting in the sunshine reading a book. You know, it feels kind of okay.
“And I really think it would be churlish for someone in my position to be complaining, even to a tiny extent.
“Yeah, it’s mildly frustrating. I would love to be working and the football season should be climaxing thrillingly at the moment and it’s not but I’m lucky to have my health, to have somewhere to live with a family to keep me company.
“I’m reading books that I wouldn’t you know, I’m reading Tess of the d’Urbervilles at the moment.
“It’s got absolutely nothing to do with football. So I’m learning from Thomas Hardy how to use the language and my god he is better than I am.
“I must say I’m missing the buzz, I really am missing the buzz hugely. But in comparison with gazillions of others I’ve got nothing to complain about.”