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Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Outside the Box – Football on TV: A final day fanfare for Sky and the Blues


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It all came down to this then. It’s been a gruelling journey, epic in its fluctuating fortunes as the favourites for the crown jostled back and forth. Each weekend millions looked on, eagerly cheering their chosen heroes, willing them to put in the performance that would clinch the prize they so achingly wanted to own. The experts all had their favourites, but only one would actually taste the glory and success that finishing first can bring, and this weekend, finally, the winner was thrust forward: Pudsey the dog was crowned the Britain’s Got Talent champion!

You may have heard that there were some big winners elsewhere on Sunday. I was sat comfortably awaiting the predictably low-key affairs that usually transpire on the Premier League’s final day jamboree. The highlight for me probably being the completely meaningless match-up between Norwich and Aston Villa. Ah, that comforting banality of an entirely pointless game in which everybody involved: the players, the officials and the fans, have only one thing on their mind… next week’s forecast in Crete. It’s what the last day is all about. But then suddenly, breaking the serene dullness engulfing Carrow Road, came Martin Tyler’s echoing and ageless cry, heard up and down this land: “AGUERRRRRROOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!”.

Never has the closing day of a Premier League season been so dramatic. So draining. So unbelievable. Of course, the Sky cameras were there from the start and most of the boys at Live Super Sunday were sharing my sentiments that the day would be a mere formality for City to navigate. Ed Chamberlain was trying his jolly best to ramp up the tension but his studio guests weren’t really playing ball. Ed turned to Graeme Souness and implored: “after everything that has happened in this title race, could we have one last big twist?”

“I don’t think so Ed” came Souness’ shrift reply, almost snorting with contempt at the idea that the title race was still alive. Shows what you knew Graeme, ya big lug.

We know now of course that the eventual culmination of the Premier League title race was anything but ‘a mere formality’. The extraordinary events at the Etihad on Sunday were pure and simply breath-taking, and the scenes at the final whistle will live long in the memory of most that watched on. The overwrought and raw emotion etched on the faces of the City players, management and fans as the realisation of the days events were absorbed were stark in what they revealed; somebody try and tell me that Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero and the rest of the City team are just a bunch of mercenaries, hired guns with no emotional attachment to their club. No chance. There may be some among the squad’s ranks to which money is the overarching motivation; but for those players on Sunday, drowning in a sea of champagne, sweat and ecstatic stupor, the amount of zeroes on their payslip was the furthest thought from their minds.

The post-match, and post-presentation scenes were some of the most joyful witnessed during this long and testing campaign. I was excited, and a little wary with the potentially perilous cocktail that occurred during the celebrations: Mario Balotelli + alcohol + live television. I mean seriously, that’s a Channel 4 documentary waiting to happen isn’t it? Fortunately, Mario behaved and was quite mild when he did get his chance to speak to Sky’s Geoff Shreeves and his only slight was to tell people who have criticised him that they should “shut up”. Nothing controversial there, although I hear of a secret interview with the BBC that occurred shortly afterwards in which Balotelli claimed to be “Jesus”, before confessing that he actually invented Facebook, captured Saddam Hussein and wrote the lyrics to ‘Blue Moon’.

Just as the tears began to subside and Sunday afternoon turned to a bleary-eyed Sunday evening it was time to relive the whole thing again on the final Match Of The Day of the season. The MOTD people indulged in their usual final day mash-up of the key games in which they spliced between the highlights from the Etihad and United’s game at the Stadium Of Light in order to show the key moments affecting each game as they happened. Yes, it does serve as a sort of rough guide to the timeline of events, but I must confess I always find it a little disorientating and wish they would just show each game at a time. I realise it would lose it’s rousing punch, and as a cretinous Sky subscriber I had already witnessed the drama, so perhaps I should just shut my stupid mouth and let the MOTD team do what they do best.

A fitting end then, to this most remarkable of seasons. A season with incredible highs, and with crushing lows; a season like no other. Sunday’s miraculous circumstances at the home of Manchester City have left me no time to mention the other big stories from the final day: the heart-breaking (and not at all hilarious) scenes as United players and fans had the title cruelly wrenched from their grasp; Bolton’s tumultuous season ending in further heartache; and of course the intense scenes at the final whistle at Carrow Road when Paul Lambert was told his flight had been delayed. Gut-wrenching stuff. 

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