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Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Outside the Box – Football on TV: Mischievous Murray makes Match Of The Day 2 anything but the Muppet Show

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It already feels like the 2012-13 season has been going for months. Arsenal and Tottenham have had about three different periods of crisis already; Sir Alex claims Wayne Rooney isn’t pulling his weight, despite only having played one and half games; and Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert is already facing calls for his dismissal. I’m even going to stick my neck out and rule Chelsea out of relegation this season. Thankfully, we are only just past the second weekend of the new campaign and we’ve got a hell of a lot more to look forward to yet. One thing that is clear in these early stages is that we are blessed more than ever, with a varied plethora of televisual football feasts. One such example is a programme that has gone from strength to strength since castrating it’s festering host Adrian Chiles a couple of years ago: Match Of The Day 2.

MOTD2 always provides an irreverent summary of the weekend’s Premiership action and acts as a gentle Sunday night buffer as the dreaded Monday morning approaches. Unless ironically enough, you’re a football player, in which case Monday morning is yet another gold-tinted portal into a new week of a fairy tale life filled with glamour, riches and Clem from Football Focus. For the rest of us though, current helmsman Colin Murray and his MOTD2 brethren give us an opportunity to eke out the last remnants of the weekend’s football before the drudgery of normal life resumes. Murray is a sturdy captain too. Looking increasingly like Harry Potter at a Morrissey concert, he tries hard to ensure a level of frivolity is present among the dour pundits he sits opposite. He extracts just enough humour from Shearer’s shiny bald head and Lawro’s haggard old face without ever incurring their wrath.

Last Sunday then, Murray had the added benefit of a headline matchup on offer in the shape of Manchester City’s visit to Anfield. A cracking game that threw up all manner of talking points. Early on in the game, the entertainment wasn’t even on the pitch as a shot of the bench saw a police officer having a word with a member of the Liverpool entourage; I can only presume there were a few queries to be answered about one of the cars packed outside the stadium. There were oddities amongst the Manchester City squad too. We got our first glimpse in a while of the more rotund Toure brother Kolo, as he returned to the City starting line up; although his wheezing and shoddy performance suggests he could probably do with a few more of his wife’s pills. Then there’s our old mate Carlos Tevez who, perhaps in a continuing crusade to build bridges with his paymasters, seems to be keeping the club shop’s shirt printers in business with his multitude of printed messages underneath his shirt. He will soon face a dilemma however if his blistering scoring record continues. He will surely eventually run out of political and personal messages to reveal, and have to resort to baring his favourite song lyrics, or perhaps details of his tea the night before: un delicioso guiso de cordero, gracias mamá. Google Translate if you want in on this journalistic exclusive of Tevez’s next celebratory message.

But there was more to Sunday’s heavyweight clash than Argentine wordsmiths and fat pills, so much more. The stunning introduction of Liverpool’s Raheem Sterling at just 17 as he fearlessly battled with the likes of Yaya Toure and Mario Balotelli was wonderful to witness. As was Suarez’s majestic free kick and an assured home debut for Joe Allen. Liverpool did well to put their opening day defeat at West Brom behind them and push the champions all the way. Were it not for the comedy defending of Martin Skrtel gifting Tevez his goal, the result could have been even sweeter.

If the flavour of Liverpool’s performance was sweet, then MOTD2’s other game on Sunday left an altogether more sour taste as misfiring Arsenal travelled to Pulis’ pugilists Stoke; and the Potters carried out their latest attempt to kick seven bells of crud out of their fellow professionals. Seriously, there was more danger for an Arsenal forward wandering around the Britannia Stadium on Sunday than there would have been for a little lamb frolicking in a field in Clacton – hashtag ‘essexlion’ for all you cool Twitter cats. Indeed, Stoke manager Tony Pulis on the side lines, clad in his baseball cap and steely gaze, looks less like a football coach, and more like a 15 year-old kid playing Tekken 2. The most distressing aspect of the Stoke/Arsenal game though came afterwards in the post-match interviews when questioner Jonathan Pearce was called “sweetie” by Tony Pulis and it conjured up such horrific images that I considered going to find that bloody lion myself and poking it with a stick just to put me out of my misery. Or at least walk up to Robert Huth and call him a nob.

An action packed MOTD2 then, I haven’t even mentioned that Colin Murray was joined by Match Of The Day new boy Mick McCarthy for the show, and that he was actually pretty good. Big Mick had a busy Sunday all round as he had turned up on the sofa earlier in the day on Sky’s Goals On Sunday where there seemed to be an alliterative theme going on: Mick McCarthy, Joe Jordan, Chris Kamara and erm… Ben Bepherd were assembled for the weekly goal fest. I only bring this up because the stern faced grouches of McCarthy and Jordan were eerily reminiscent of another pair of hard-hearted onlookers from a legendary Sunday show. That’s right, Statler and Waldorf, those two cantankerous hecklers from The Muppet Show. It was probably just me but one thing’s for certain; that won’t be the first time Mick McCarthy and Joe Jordan have been called muppets. And it won’t be the last if Colin Murray has anything to do with it.


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