Andy Gray: There's always a problem with gaffes, said sacked Sky Sports pundit

26 January 2011 06:11
'As long as Sky want me,' Andy Gray told Sportsmail at the time of his 50th birthday. 'I would never see myself working for another broadcaster. No, categorically not.'

Well, Rupert Murdoch's satellite trailblazer has decided it no longer wants the former player who, in an award-winning television career spanning more than two decades, became Mr Sky Sports Football.

It remains to be seen whether, even after a lengthy cooling off period, any competitor would touch these damaged goods with an assistant referee's flag, although Chelsea fans were singing 'Andy Gray, Channel Five' as their side beat Bolton 4-0 on Monday night.

Don't be fooled by the sign: Gray has just signed for Wolves for a British-record £1.5million

Gray the goalscorer played 20 times for Scotland, was transferred in 1979 from Aston Villa to Wolves for a then-British record fee of £1.5million and later won FA Cup, League championship and European Cup-Winners' Cup medals with Everton.

More than Gary Lineker, however, and more even than fellow Scot Alan Hansen, it is as a TV pundit (albeit eventually a disgraced one) that he will be remembered.

BSkyB, then Sky Sports, changed the face of football broadcasting with their technological innovations, volume of output and introduction of the Americanised, free-speaking co-commentator.

A winning smile: scoring to win the 1980 League Cup

This feisty Glaswegian was in thevanguard of the revolution as that free-speaking co-commentator, aposition he maintained through two decades of increasing power andsoaring pay. He was believed to be earning around £35,000 a week at thetime of his dismissal.

'Who's the boy with the golden hair?' Dundee United fans chanted in support of their young striker who went on to score 46 goals for the Scottish club in 62 games.

Proud Scot: Gray before an international appearance

Right from the start Gray boasted apotent mix of intelligence and bravery. It was a combination that stoodhim in great stead as a broadcaster until the final days. He spoke witha passion of football as both art and science. Bravely andconstructively - he would like to think - he criticised mistakes byofficials, players and managers. This was the era of opinions in asport that had never been short of them.

'My enthusiasm is genuine,' he wrote in his autobiography Gray Matters. 'I love football. It has every emotion that you experience in life: excitement, joy, despair, anger and frustration. To me, being involved in something that produces all those feelings is fantastic. And my commentary style reflects it.'

His broad Scottish accent - said to be the model for Mel Gibson's portrayal of William Wallace in Braveheart - never changed, sometimes to the annoyance of his mainly English audience.

But 'Scottish football speak', as he called it, was hammered out of him. 'I would say "I seen" and a voice in my ear said "saw". Similarly, every time I said "he done", the word "did" boomed out of the producer's mouth. After 18 months of that, I was fine.' The only concession to his constituency was a deliberate slowing down of his delivery.

As it happened, Gray admitted in his book to nightmares about meeting a similar fate to the one this crazy week has brought. 'On air, (commentator) Martin Tyler and I chat in much the same way as we do off, but with less swearing. In fact, one of my recurring nightmares used to be that at some game I'd get so carried away I'd forget where I was and let fly. I used to worry about it all the time.

'Like most men, my language can be choice at times . . . believe me it can happen to anyone . . . there's always the problem with gaffes. All commentators make them and I've contributed a few in my time. My best was, "The most vulnerable area for a goalkeeper is between his legs".

Striking partner: Gray in a publicity shot with a deer's head!

Gray told Sportsmail a few years ago that he still had 'the mental age of a teenager'. He was at the time suffering from the after-effects of a week-long celebration for his 50th.

It had begun with a golf match involving four men who came together on day one of BSkyB - Andy Melvin, deputy managing director of production at Sky Sports, interviewer Geoff Shreeves, Richard Keys and Gray himself. Their enemies within Sky would have thought them a smug quartet as they headed for the 19th hole in London's West End.

The trappings of success: Gray poses outside his Warwickshire home

Perhaps there was a whiff of hubris in the air. Hubris has brought down empires in the past. The departure of Gray is the end of an era, indeed the end of a broadcasting empire.

There used to be - might still be - a claymore inside a glass case on a wall in Gray's Warwickshire home. An inscription identified it as the sword wielded by Mel Gibson in Braveheart. It cost Gray £2,000.

For those who like their symbolism, Wallace met a bloody end and, for that matter, Gibson has upset more than a few in recent times.

 Andy Gray sacked by Sky Sports as star analyst pays the price for sexist tiradesREVEALED: The video that cost shamed pundit Gray his job at SkyMARTIN SAMUEL: Make Sian Massey a special case and you may as well tie her to the kitchen sinkSacked! Sky's Gray kicked out after THIRD tape. will Keys be next?Martin Samuel: Listening to Keys and Gray was like a visit to 70s cabaret clubOut of touch, out of time, out of work! Gray and Keys got too comfortableEvil tone means Keys and Gray have lost all respect, says Kelly SmithI trust women officials in the game, says England manager Fabio CapelloSexism row assistant referee Sian Massey out of the firing lineLaura Williamson: Do me a favour, love. Sky duo's attack was no jokeGraham Poll: Outdated Sky duo Keys and Gray are a smug and sorry messSky suspend reporter Burton as shamed duo Gray and Keys face calls to be axed

 Explore more:People: William Wallace, Mel Gibson, Richard Keys, Rupert Murdoch, Gary Lineker Places: London, Scotland

Source: Daily_Mail