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Tuesday, 06 December 2011

Outside the Box – Football on TV: The rise and fall of the sprightly Savage is far from a waltz in the park

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Do you remember the first time you ever saw Star Wars? That intoxicating and bedazzling rush of pure unadulterated excitement as you sat slack-jawed, unable to wrench your eyes away from all the bright lights, whizzing space ships and questionable acting? And perhaps you also remember the desolate feeling that rumbled inside as the orchestral chimes brought the film to it’s conclusion, unsure of when you might dare to dream of such a cinematic event again. My ridiculously-earnest memories of Star Wars aside, the laboured point I am trying to make is that one of the first painful lessons we learn as youngsters is that our experiences, no matter how magnificent they might be, can’t and won’t last forever. We were all painfully reminded that this was the case on Sunday. That’s right, Robbie Savage was knocked out of Strictly Come Dancing.

Savage’s transformation from pugnacious midfield battler to twinkle-toed artiste has finally been halted 10 weeks into the competition, and who amongst us can honestly say that we thought he would get this far at the beginning? Certainly not me, and probably not Nigel Clough, who may just be contemplating phoning Savage’s dance partner Ola Jordan after seeing what she has done for his former captain, and pressing her for tips on improving levels of fitness in his current Derby squad.

Savage was booted from Strictly after finishing bottom of the table on Saturday, and it’s difficult to dispute the decision after his lukewarm performance on the dancefloor, and even more disturbingly, his “acting” in a small skit during the pre-dance training montage. All I can say is that Sav’s acting makes Vinnie Jones look like Robert De Niro, and I think we can all agree that is not a world we want to be part of. Savage’s journey at Strictly was probably best summed up by head judge Len Goodman on Saturday when he said, “you made the best of what you’ve got”. Kind of encapsulates his entire football career too doesn’t it?

Despite his exit from the dancing, Robbie still found time to irk us some more when he hotfooted his way over to the Match Of The Day 2 studio to join Colin Murray and the evergreen Pat Nevin. Murray wasn’t missing the opportunity to rub some delicious salt into Savage’s fresh and gaping wound, making cracks about his teeth, his hair and of course, his apparent lack of any genuine talent.

But the BBC is not just a forum for Robbie Savage, there was also some football to enjoy on MOTD 2 and first up was Molineux and the game between Mick McCarthy’s struggling Wolves and misfiring Sunderland, playing in front of their manager elect Martin O’Neill for the first time. An entertaining game, packed with incident and in particular one crazy minute in which Seb Larsson won and subsequently missed a penalty, before Wolves went up the other end to score a goal of their own. A timely reminder to O’Neill that the perils of the Premier League have only intensified in the time he’s been away and the colossal job he faces on Wearside is on par with that of Savage’s make-up team at Strictly.

It was a more emotional and understated affair in the other game of the day at Goodison Park where the late Gary Speed’s father Roger was in attendance for the exquisite pre-match tributes to his son. Another reminder, not that it was needed, that the gaudy, weekly circus that is football can sometimes reach deep within itself to demonstrate an incredible humility and solemnity.

Back on Friday, fans of England and the Republic of Ireland sat in anticipation as the teams their nations would face next summer were revealed during the Euro 2012 Draw. Sky Sports News had a stellar line up of experts for the big draw including Alan Smith and Phil Babb, two titans of world football. As you might imagine, they were all pretty damning of England’s chances of success, and equally full of praise for the plucky Irish.

The intriguing thing about Sky’s coverage of the draw was that they didn’t actually show it; much like Jeff Stelling’s legendary Soccer Saturday which consists of viewers watching old men, who are in turn watching live football matches and excitedly telling us what’s going on. This has mystifyingly worked for many years for Stelling and his band of merry men but Friday’s tedium of watching five men attempt to describe a couple of blokes pulling balls out of fishbowls rose the bar to chronic levels of dreariness, at one point I spontaneously decided to punch myself in the face just to generate a bit of excitement.

A bit of an own goal from Sky then, making us endure an hour and a half of monotonous nonsense when a fifteen-minute newsflash would have sufficed. Still at least it didn’t feature Robbie Savage, that really would have tipped me over the edge.

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