Johnny Cantor: ‘And Smith must score’ shows the perils of life in the commentary box

Albion fans will head to Old Trafford this weekend when the Seagulls take on Manchester United. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)
Albion fans will head to Old Trafford this weekend when the Seagulls take on Manchester United. Picture by Phil Westlake (PW Sporting Photography)

Sorry seems to be the hardest word. That’s how the song goes. Is it true? Well all I can say is I think it is one of the most difficult things for people to say.

This week I was transfixed by former Brighton and Hove Albion striker Gordon Smith who apologised for not scoring the winner against Manchester United in the FA Cup final in 1983. He didn’t need to, not in my view. He didn’t miss. The shot was saved. The pain in his voice was still there and it clearly still hurts.


He was speaking to us on this week’s Albion Unlimited podcast ahead of another clash between the two sides this weekend. Some may forget he scored the first Albion goal. Smith made more than 100 appearances for the Seagulls and scored over 20 goals for the club.


The reaction to that moment in time though was made worse by the now familiar commentary that he, Smith, must score. It is similar to the penalty that Gareth Batty had saved for England. That time it was a question to a summariser, ‘will he score?’.


A harsh call in my view, I don’t think Warren Aspinall next to me would have appreciated it. There are always potential perils in the commentary box and you are always a moment away from a drama but Smith has suffered more than he should have because of those few words that described the action at Wembley.


As I drove home from the show this week I was listening to the Champions League coverage on a certain network station. As Liverpool went 3-0 up it was declared that the Reds were through to the knockout stages. They may well go through but the final score of 3-3 shows how we can never take anything for granted in sport!


One of my least favourite lines used by some commentators is ‘He can’t miss.’ He can. She can. We all can. Even the best. Ask Ronnie Rosenthal (Google it if required!).


My own personal heartache came years ago in the second round of the Southern Amateur League Cup when my penalty was saved. It wasn’t Wembley or Old Trafford, it was Raynes Park. There wasn’t 100,000 people watching or 80,000, probably eight at a push.


I still remember it as if it was yesterday. I imagine Gordon does as well. I may be justifying it to myself but I say at least I hit the target, and so did he. I think it is okay to ask a question in commentary and some assumptions are all well and good but it can have a lasting impact.


All credit to Smith for his honest, heartfelt words. Have a listen and see what you think. Sorry may be well be the hardest word but all he wanted was to score the goal, win the cup and share the glory with the fans. Don’t we all.

Johnny Cantor covers Brighton & Hove Albion as a commentator and reporter for BBC Sussex Sport.

Follow all the action, home or away, on BBC Sussex Sport or Twitter: @BBCSussexSport or @johnnycburger


To read more by Johnny Cantor, visit www.johnnycantor.com


Albion Unlimited podcast is available to download via BBC iPlayer & iTunes