Football Commentator & Columnist
Parc des Princes: Martin Tyler shares his memories of commentating in Paris
Martin once blagged his way onto the bench for a World Cup qualifier at the Parc des Princes. Here's how...
Last Updated: 13/05/20 8:45am
At a time when football grounds have closed their doors, we've asked Martin Tyler to share some of his favourite facts and memories of the homes of clubs around the world.
This week, Sky Sports' Voice of Football is looking at some grounds across Europe. Today, he takes us on a trip to the Parc des Princes in Paris...
Keep an eye on The Football Show on Sky Sports News and @SkySportsPL for some special Tyler's Teasers from Martin.
How I travel there
I love train travel, and the construction of the Channel Tunnel and the Eurostar franchise extended the possibilities of going by rail. It is city centre to city centre as well, unlike the airports.
What it's like to commentate there
As the stage for main sporting events, it has been usurped by the Stade de France, but the Parc des Princes feels more Parisian. The television position is fine. Alan Smith and myself were based in Paris for Euro 2016 and Alan, who knows plenty about good food, was in his element studying menus as keenly as teamsheets!
Emirates Stadium | Villa Park | Vitality Stadium | Amex Stadium | Turf Moor | Stamford Bridge | Selhurst Park | Goodison Park | King Power Stadium | Anfield | Etihad Stadium | Old Trafford | St James' Park | Carrow Road | Bramall Lane | St Mary's | Tottenham Hotspur Stadium | Vicarage Road | London Stadium | Molineux
Did you know?
It was originally a velodrome and for many years the famous cycling race, the Tour de France, held its ceremonial finish with laps around the track in the Parc des Princes.
My memories of the ground
France had a wonderful team in the 1980s, led by the superb Michel Platini. As a commentator, I followed his amazing contribution to France becoming European champions in 1984.
He scored in every one of their five games in winning the tournament, including back to back hat-tricks against Belgium and Yugoslavia. He also hit the opener in the 2-0 win in the final against Spain at the Parc des Princes.
In the same stadium, I had already had a close-up view of his talents almost four years earlier, in very unusual circumstances. It was a Tuesday morning in October 1980 and at London Weekend Television, the regular production meeting for the following weekend's football programmes had come to an end with the conclusion that not too much could be decided until the midweek round of World Cup qualifying internationals, one of which was France against the Republic of Ireland in the Parc des Princes the next day.
Ian St John remarked that he knew well the then Ireland manager, Eoin Hand, who had played under the Saint at Portsmouth. One thing led to another and suddenly Ian was offering to drive to Paris if enough of us fancied the trip. He had no trouble filling the car, five of us in all, but a bit more difficulty in tracking down Mr Hand.
Nevertheless, we set off bright and early on the Wednesday. Ian is by nature one of life's great optimists and though nothing had been arranged to get us into this sell-out crowd, he was sure the Irish would sort it all out. But when we arrived in the French capital and checked into our hotel, Ian came down from his room somewhat deflated: "No tickets, boys, but we can find a nice bar, watch it on TV and have a good night out here in this beautiful city." Three of our party were very happy with that.
Two were not - Jim Rosenthal, an intrepid reporter among his other array of broadcasting skills, and myself. We took a taxi to the Parc des Princes. This was the time when security at football grounds was being ramped up and well away from the ground, we had to disembark faced by a ring of steel.
We told the guards that though we had no tickets, we were with the Irish team, which to our surprise got us through the first checkpoint. Emboldened by this, we got through another security area, and then more still. Finally, we arrived at the main gate where a tunnel, a little like Old Trafford, led onto the pitch. Our patter worked again but this time a fluent English speaker beckoned us through and out on to the pitch, where the squad were having their pre-match walkabout.
I will never forget Eoin Hand's look of astonishment: "I told the Saint. We have got no tickets," he said with emphasis. As every seat had been taken, there was nowhere even to sneak a view, until the Arsenal defender John Devine offered a suggestion to Eoin. "Look boss, the bench is pretty big, the boys could sit with us."
Devine intervention! That is exactly what happened. Jim and I sat with the substitutes in a World Cup qualifier in the Parc des Princes. We were both wishing the Republic a winning evening, but Platini was too good for them as he was for most of the world at that time, scoring in a 2-0 France victory.
What I like about this ground
The Parc des Princes has retained its identity and dignity despite the emergence of the bigger, more modern Stade de France.