In the very first edition of Box2Box Offside, commentary doyen Martin Tyler discussed his connection with Australian football, and his relationship with two pioneers of our sport, Johnny Warren and Les Murray.

In Australia, there is perhaps no voice more synonymous with global football than Martin Tyler. While the country has a strong history of fine commentators presenting domestic affairs, Tyler’s commentary for SBS at every World Cup since Italia 90’ has provided the soundtrack to Australia’s window to the world, dating back to an era when this wasn’t so readily available.

Given his well-publicised friendships with Les Murray and Johnny Warren and a lifelong passion for cricket, it may come as a surprise that Tyler has only visited the country once, to call the 1988 Bicentenary Gold Cup… and even that proved difficult at the time.

‘It looked as though we wouldn’t be let in, there were all sorts of issues with the Australian embassy where I spent more time than I had in the country, trying to get the right visa. Happily it was ironed out right at the very end’, Tyler told Box2Box Offside.

‘We came as a family, my wife and my eighteen-month old son. We had family in Australia so it was a good opportunity to go, but I wouldn’t recommend taking a baby all that way! My wife cried at the airport, she thought we were mad, but it all worked out wonderfully well. The tournament and the hospitality was fantastic.’

Tyler’s call of Socceroos captain Charlie Yankos’ long-range thunderbolt against Argentina in a famous 4-1 victory remains the enduring moment of the tournament, which was held as a once-off to commemorate the 200-year anniversary of British settlement in Port Jackson.

“What’s Yankos got us his sleeve this time?… It’s a great goal! Char-lie Yan-kos!!’

Enjoy Martin’s call of Charlie’s famous strike, from 1.47sec…

It was perhaps fortunate that goal came in Australia’s third match; had it been earlier it may not have been called with such immense clarity, Tyler having battled all the hurdles of 1980’s preparation.

‘The only training session I could see was at four o’clock in the afternoon the day I’d arrived from the English summer, where it had been getting dark at 10pm, to the Australian winter, where it was getting dark at four.’

‘The late Eddie Thompson was very helpful to me… there were about 25 players I was trying to learn, John Kosmina was the only one I knew because he played in England. I was in the dark with poor floodlights, trying to assimilate all this information!

‘It got a lot better after that, I had a great time. The football was very interesting and of course, Charlie Yankos became the star of the show. In the Parramatta Stadium I met Dominic Galati of SBS, and that really was the great personal legacy for that trip.’

That connection would see Tyler calling for SBS two years later at the Italia ‘90 World Cup, and at every edition since. Through this involvement he’d become entwined with the movement to grow the game in Australia spearheaded by Les Murray and Johnny Warren.

‘I spent quite a bit of time in the ‘70s in my holiday time going to the USA seeing the North American Soccer League, as it was then, struggling to get a grip on the sporting consciousness of a big sporting country. I had some experience of what Australia was going through and the fight Les and Johnny were up for, and SBS played an enormous part in giving them the platform to evangelise the game.

‘I’ve talked a lot about it, I’ve always believed there’s room for all sports, it’s not about being number one. It’s about being the best you can be. The organisation of the league in Australia has found it difficult, at times, to align that with a crusade to bring more fans and athletes to the football.

‘They were wonderful people. I was privileged to know them, very professional, dedicated to their sport and broadcasting, and Les’ voice is still just amazing. The City Centre pieces he did in all those World Cups were heaven to listen to and watch.

‘We had a great time together, and it’s never been the same being on SBS duty since we’ve lost them.’

Catch the full interview below, including Martin’s entry into the industry and how it has changed over time…