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Last Updated: Thursday, 18 January 2007, 10:32 GMT
Singer Gray in commentary box
By Paul Fletcher

The grid system for Sunday's game
Five Live Sports Extra's coverage sees a return to the original grid system (Image reproduced courtesy of Radio Times)

Football commentary goes old school on Sunday - with a dash of celebrity thrown in, courtesy of musician David Gray.

Manchester United fan Gray will be the guest summariser on BBC Five Live Sports Extra for their 1920s style coverage of the Red Devils' trip to Arsenal in the Premiership.

Gray will focus on United, with former Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson providing his thoughts on the Gunners.

  • The BBC Interactive video scorecard featuring the grid, live statistics and Five Live Sports Extra commentary will be live on the BBC Sport Website (UK users only) this Sunday.
  • While Wilson has a lifetime of experience, both as a player and a broadcaster, 38-year-old Gray, who shot to fame with the release of his album White Ladder in 1998, is making his debut.

    Singer David Gray
    I have got a huge sheepskin coat - it is beyond those worn by John Motson

    David Gray

    "They are going to unleash me on the unwitting British public," Gray told BBC Sport. "If I can tame my natural bent towards expletives I should be fine."

    Gray's involvement came about after a chance comment he made while appearing on Eamonn Holmes' television show.

    He forms part of a four-man team put together to mark the 80th anniversary of the first football commentary, which took place on 21 January 1927 and covered Arsenal's match with Sheffield United.

    The early days of commentary featured the now defunct grid system, which involved dividing the pitch into eight squares numbered one to eight.

    Regular updates would inform the listener of exactly where the ball was by listing the relevant grid.

    This role will be undertaken on Sunday by the BBC's legendary reader of football results James Alexander Gordon, with John Murray providing the commentary.

    And although Gray is very much the novice, he is at least determined that he will look the part.

    "I have already been briefed about my attire," added Gray.

    "I have got a huge sheepskin coat - it is beyond those worn by John Motson and I will be wearing that."

    Gray was born in Manchester and his family have been supporting United all the way back to the formation of the club.

    As a youngster Gray was taken to watch United by his dad - and the team's rivalry with Arsenal is a theme that has run through the singer's life.

    He recalls crying at Wembley after Alan Sunderland's late goal condemned United to defeat in the 1979 FA Cup final but describes Ryan Giggs' spectacular 1999 FA Cup semi-final replay winner as "the most exquisite pain you can deliver to an Arsenal fan".

    BBC Five Live commentator John Murray
    I don't think our commentary will strictly be in the 1920s style

    BBC Five Live's John Murray

    The first football commentary was broadcast by former Harlequins rugby player Henry Blythe Thornhill Wakelam.

    It was a rather stuffy affair - and Murray is hoping for a slight less formal occasion on Sunday.

    "If you listen to the early commentaries they are very stilted and formal," said Murray.

    "We want to give a flavour of that - using the grid numbers - I don't think our commentary will strictly be in the 1920s style.

    "I think that it is nice that in a game to mark the first commentary we will have somebody involved who has never done one before.

    "I think David will provide an element of freshness."

    Gray, who plays at right-back when he pulls on his boots, will be given training ahead of the match, with Murray set to provide some expert coaching.

    In conversation it is obvious that Gray is looking forward to the experience, although he admits that he has no idea just what will happen.

    "I have never done anything like this before and I have no reason to believe I will be any good at it," he said.

    It should make for interesting listening.

  • Normal commentary is available on BBC Radio Five Live as well as the commemorative 80th anniversary version on Radio Five Live Sports Extra.
  • Digital TV viewers in the UK will also be able to see the grid and viewers' comments as they listen by pressing the red button, video which we will also make available on the website

    screen shot of the pitch with eight boxes
    How Sunday's match will look to interactive TV viewers via the red button

    Arsenal v Man Utd
    18 Jan 07 |  Premiership


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