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Tuesday, 06 September 2011

Outside the Box – Football on TV: Golden Oldies at Sky prove to be Masters

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The legendary American comedian Bob Hope once quipped, “Middle age is when your age starts to show around your middle”. This observation proved to be spectacularly apt as I tuned in to Sky Sports’ Grand Final Masters this weekend.

If you’re unfamiliar with the annual Masters summer contest it runs as follows; legendary footballers of the past such as Andy Cole, Uwe Rosler and Richard Edgill dust off their Adidas Predators and turn out for indoor versions of their past clubs in a six-aside tournament.

It’s a fun and entertaining filler through the summer months designed to plug the pre-season gap in the footy schedules as the regional heats take place. But Sunday saw the culmination of this year’s event and the eight finalists took their place; Rangers, Watford, Leeds, Liverpool, Notts County, Man City, Villa and Manchester United, who this year boasted Masters debutant Roy Keane among their ranks. The mention of Keano’s name itself was enough for me to be rubbing my hands with glee at the thought of a wild lunge or two before the evening was through.

Before we got to Keane’s United though, we got to know a few of the other teams first. Eventual winners Rangers set out a impressive marker early on with a comprehensive win over Watford with cult hero Michael Mols in imperious form and Alex Rae trying to make the fans aware that Keano was not the only snarling bruiser in the building with a few tasty tackles of his own. Despite the impressive performance of Rangers, it was match commentator Dean Saunders that provided the real highlights with his colourful observations; bear in mind that the overriding rule of Masters Football is a minimum age for players of 35, when Saunders tried to explain away Watford’s poor showing; “Rangers team is full of internationals against a young Watford team” he somewhat bafflingly commented. Or perhaps his Keegan-esque advice to all the coaches of Masters teams that may be listening, “try not to go two-nil down”. Can’t really argue with that can you?

Of course the star turn was indeed Roy Keane and if he thought he was going to get a heroes welcome in the Manchester MEN Arena that was hosting the event, then he was sorely mistaken. In what is usually a good natured, family affair he received the kind of stick Frank Lampard endures on an average night at Wembley. There were merciless boos echoing around the arena whenever he dared to go near the ball – it probably didn’t help that the mischievously-obliging sound staff at the arena repeatedly issued a burst of Darth Vader’s Imperial March theme to coincide with Keane’s movements. Thankfully Keane was able to keep his simmering temper under wraps although as his United team went crashing out to Leeds in the semi-final, some of the old frustrated anger was unleashed on his under-performing teammates, Viv Anderson particularly was probably avoiding Keane’s daggered gaze at the full-time whistle.

The joy of Masters Football is not in the winning though, it is seeing footballing legends of the past with much less hair and far more weight trying not to pass out over the sixteen-minute games. And then there is some of the wonderful revelations of what some of them are up to now; like ex-Rangers Dutch defender Bert Konterman who, we were told, now works as a Christian Preacher, or Craig Ramage the property developer and what about former Watford striker Tommy Mooney who ended his football career and went on to invent Twitter*. This is the reason you should watch the Masters when it returns next summer, to see for one more time your favourite players of the past pulling on your teams colours and plodding their way breathlessly around the pitch trying not to fall over.

Of course some ex-pros build new careers for themselves as broadcasters, take the current mystifying line-up at Sky for Bulgaria vs England on Friday evening. Messrs Neville, Hoddle and Redknapp Jr. were in attendance in Sofia for the big Euro Qualifier and Jamie had some stern words for Fabio Capello. Bemoaning everything from his tactics to his dress sense, Redknapp then issued his most damning criticism: “his (Capello) use of the English language is not good enough,” he cried. Sorry Jamie but a phrase including “Pot”, “Kettle” and “Black” sprung instantly to my mind.  

*I made one of these up. Craig Ramage is an accountant.

Chris Pettitt will be back on Squarefootball next Tuesday with more of his insight into football on the telly box.

Related Articles:

Manchester United ensure a Super Sunday for Sky

Strong showing by the Football League Show

Match of the Day hits the target . . . just


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Chris Pettitt



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