sport news BT Sport commentator Ian Darke recalls 'scary' experience of covering ...

Through the highs and lows of sport, they're the voices in our heads. As we watch the levels of drama unfold, they provide the script.

When you look back on some of the biggest moments in sport, a commentator's iconic lines often come flooding back alongside the memories. Steven Gerrard's thunderbolt against Olympiacos. Sergio Aguero's winner against QPR to land Manchester City the title. If you watched them, you'll remember Andy Gray roaring 'ya , what a hit son, what a hit,' or Martin Tyler telling us 'I swear you'll never see anything like this ever again.' 

Having been deprived of all sport earlier this year as the pandemic wiped out the calendar, all eyes - and ears - turned to Germany as the Bundesliga became one of the first competitions to resume from the shutdown in May. 

BT Sport commentator Ian Darke, one of the most recognisable voices in the game, was on hand to talk us through it. But at times, it was a difficult conversation.

Ian Darke, one of the most recognisable voices in commentary, has lifted a lid on his experiences of calling Bundesliga matches from his home during lockdown

Ian Darke, one of the most recognisable voices in commentary, has lifted a lid on his experiences of calling Bundesliga matches from his home during lockdown

The eyes of the world turned to the German top flight as it became one of the first sporting competitions to return from coronavirus suspension

The eyes of the world turned to the German top flight as it became one of the first sporting competitions to return from coronavirus suspension

In a spectacular operation by BT at the height of the pandemic, directors, producers and commentators all worked from home to put the coverage together. 

Darke, a self-proclaimed technophobe with a questionable internet speed, has compared the experience to 'climbing Everest in plimsolls' as he sat in his study, being fed pictures from the broadcaster's headquarters in Stratford.

'It was scary to be honest, and I don't usually get scared in broadcasting,' he tells Sportsmail. 'It was a pretty hi-tech set-up but in the end it still relies on the strength of your broadband signal.'

A game which caused particular distress was Hoffenheim vs Hertha Berlin, as his connection failed at a crucial point in the match.

Darke admitted his set-up was 'like sitting at the controls of a Boeing 747 and said it was 'scary' trying to provide coverage with a questionable internet speed

Darke admitted his set-up was 'like sitting at the controls of a Boeing 747 and said it was 'scary' trying to provide coverage with a questionable internet speed

'We've all commentated off-cue before, but at one point a guy is taking a corner kick and the picture just froze for 30 seconds. The next thing I saw was the goalkeeper with the ball! The viewers at home are probably wondering why there's no sound coming.

'I wasn't exactly shaking but you're thinking, 'let this game be over without there being any more technical difficulties'. To be honest, the tech guys at BT were the heroes because they made it happen and I don't know how because it felt like you were sitting at the controls of a Boeing 747.'

Thankfully for Darke, the pandemic restrictions eased enough to allow the Premier League to restart the season in June and for him to get back in the commentary box. But calling games behind closed doors means the buzz of the crowd is gone.

Now commentating in empty stadiums, Darke said it can be like 'talking in the Grand Canyon'

Now commentating in empty stadiums, Darke said it can be like 'talking in the Grand Canyon'

Generating excitement for viewers at home can be a tough ask when the only sounds on offer are the echoes of players shouting and a ball being kicked. The invention of artificial crowd noise helps give us some semblance of normality, and Darke has it fed into his headphones to put him in the groove.

'At least that just gives you the feel of being real. Without that, you feel like you're talking in the Grand Canyon, with your voice bouncing off the sides. It's easier to just get yourself in gear and it gets the adrenaline pumping.'

Darke, one of Sky Sports' original commentators alongside the likes of Martin Tyler and Rob Hawthorne who helped launch Monday Night Football In 1992, took his first career steps on the playground. 

He has no recollection of it, but he's told he would commentate into milk bottles while standing on the sidelines watching school football matches.

He started off as a local news reporter before heading to Radio Leicester in 1975 and later joining BBC's Sports Report radio team in London – what we now know as 5 Live. There he worked alongside big names – the likes of Peter Jones, Bryon Butler and future Match of the Day host Des Lynam.

He remained in the shadows for a while, helping out on production in the background, before a big break arrived on the boxing scene in 1980. Lynam would usually handle the fights for the BBC, but he had left to start his TV career.

He was sent to report on Muhammad Ali v Larry Holmes in 1980 for his first boxing job as a journalist before he became a full time commentator

He was sent to report on Muhammad Ali v Larry Holmes in 1980 for his first boxing job as a journalist before he became a full time commentator

'They said to me, 'There's a big fight in America, we need somebody to go out and cover it, you're on the plane on Monday. So the very first fight I ever covered was Muhammad Ali against Larry Holmes. Then it's all downhill from there!'

He had never been to America, let alone

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