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Commentary charts are unique to each commentator. We all prepare a little differently. There is no right or wrong way.
This is my way.
These are prints of match notes for some of the most famous games of the modern era. This is an impression of what I look down on at kick off.
I made my radio commentary debut in 1976. I delivered my first television commentary in 1989. I have hand-written a chart like this for every match. The style, the layout and the colour coding have changed little in that time. Commentators are creatures of habit, and, even though I could display the same information on a computer spreadsheet, the manual copying out remains part of the learning process.
The neat and precise design of the charts is also a psychological prop. Their tidy appearance provides a kind of comfort blanket, a mental confirmation that I have prepared fully.
Fail to prepare, and you prepare to fail.
Names and title information are usually in black, player and match data in blue, goal statistics in red and miscellaneous material in green. I write the charts with standard biros and file them all away for future reference after each match.
Many of the originals have been donated to charity auctions and club museums. Sir Alex Ferguson had my charts for Manchester United’s two Champions League victories framed and hung on his office wall. Match notes for the biggest games often span three or four pages but these are faithful representations of the style of commentary chart I compose for all commentary matches.
This is what my safety net looks like when I step onto the high wire of live commentary to millions of viewers. This is what the start of one of the rides of your life would have looked like from where I was sitting.
We started up ‘Commentary Charts’ with authentic reproductions of original prep notes from memorable matches I worked on, then soon began to receive requests from fans to compile impressions of charts for the iconic games played by their favourite team. This I have done with a process of retrospective research as if I were commentating on that match tomorrow.
I just wish I was!