My old friend Charles Sale is back and this time he is reporting that James Allen is back on F1 commentary taking over from David Croft as the voice of the sport on BBC Radio 5live. Also when James Allen is unavailable then Jonathan Legard will take his place. It should be noted here that Charles Sale has got a lot wrong regarding F1 coverage within the past few months so take his comments with a pinch of salt. I know I do. However for the sake of this blog post I’m assuming that it is accurate.
I was never a James Allen fan. I make no bones about it. I thought he was an excellent pit-lane reporter and was the best I had seen in that role until Ted Kravitz rode into town (or the pit-lane). He got the job of Murray Walker’s successor based on the strong recommendation of Murray himself. However as we all know it is the hardest job in any form of employment to follow a beloved and successful person. Whoever follows Sir Alex Ferguson will have a hard job on their hands. Look at how X Factor struggled without Simon Cowell. Success is hard but when you get it – you’ve got it. Following on though is an extremely difficult task.
James Allen clearly had (still has) a great F1 brain but that isn’t what you need first and foremost when being a commentator on a live sporting event. You are there to narrate what you are seeing for the audience. You aren’t there to provide technical analysis or insight into what is going on. Your co-commentator and pit-lane reporters are there to do that. Your job is to put everything into context and make the event easy and enjoyable to follow. This is something James didn’t have at the start of his stint in the F1 commentary box for ITV.
He did get better. Of that I think there is little doubt. However I will always think back to Jenson Button’s first win and how he acted and shudder:
When you compare that to Murray Walker’s great call as Damon Hill, a long-time friend and son of his long-time friend Graham Hill won the World Championship in 1996 you can tell the difference:
In commentary you are remembered for the big moments and if you nail them you’ll be ok. Whether James Allen is more suited for radio we’ll find out in due course if this report is true. In a way I hope it is as I do think he has something to give F1 broadcasting. He got a tough break following the voice of a sport and he did get better but once the boo birds were out his future was sealed when ITV pulled out of the sport. He said himself that he didn’t even apply for the same job with the BBC for the 2009 season.
So is James Allen returning to the commentary box, possibly splitting time with dumped BBC TV lead commentator Jonathan Legard? We’ll know in due course but if he does I think it will certainly be a good move to the Beeb. James Allen can repair his broadcasting reputation. His F1 website is one of the best and his qualities as a journalist are clear for all to see. I suppose it is all down to James himself to see if he still has the thirst for live broadcasting. I suspect he does as once you have it, it never leaves you…
Edit: James Allen has now been confirmed. Score one for Charlie Sale!
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