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Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Outside the Box – Football on TV: An incident-packed week at the BBC leaves Savage short of support and Lineker lost for words

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Sqf Chris Pettitt

They say a week in football is a long time and it can certainly be said that there was enough controversy, incident and wonder crammed into the last seven days of football to keep Joey Barton’s Twitter account going for years. The fallout from the Manchester derby, the return of Scholes and Henry, the diminishing art of tackling from our game, Natasha Giggs being booted out of Celebrity Big Brother, Warnock, Hughes, Cahill, Carroll, there has scarcely been enough time to think about anything else.

The vast amount of talking points meant there was a packed schedule for Saturday lunchtime’s Football Focus, and there was one question above any other to which I was itching for the answer: would Robbie Savage finally wear a pair of socks while he is on TV? No, he wouldn’t. But we’ll come to the Robster later.

First up we followed professional motor mouth Garth Crooks to White Hart Lane to interview Harry Redknapp in a week in which hysteria over his Spurs team’s chances of winning the Premier League reached dizzying levels. Described as the “chief inquisitor”, Crooks demonstrated his usual style of boring the pants off everyone in close proximity and at times Redknapp resembled one of those awkward dinner-party hosts, trying to politely yawn and encourage the unwelcome guest to just shut the hell up and leave.

Our Garth was having none of it though and kept on thrusting questions, machine gun-like at Redknapp; “Will you take the England job?”, “Can Spurs win the title?”, “Does this turn you on?”. Ok I may have imagined that last one as I had completely tuned out of Garth’s interrogation by this point and was replaying the 1981 film ‘Escape To Victory’ in my head and Sylvester Stallone’s rickety attempt to portray a goalkeeper – more unconvincing than an apology from Wayne Rooney.

In amongst Garth’s unceasing barrage though, ‘Arry did reveal a few nuggets of information including his thoughts on the England post and the relative merits of Spurs’ Premier League rivals. He also told us that he largely shuns the footballing fraternity and would rather spend time with his “family and his dogs”. A nice thing to hear in today’s 24-hour football frenzy culture but it might make you wonder what he does for stimulating conversation; I suppose he talks to Jamie about football matters, before turning to his dogs for a more intellectual chat.

Back to the studio then and host Dan Walker decided that another of the week’s hot topics - tackling, required a good old-fashioned debate. So Savage and Alan Shearer took on former top-level referee Alan Wiley to deliberate over the various tackling talking points that have arisen in the past week or so. What ensued was a 10-minute heated discussion, in which Savage repeatedly tried to mount frenzied attacks on referee Riley, only to see him failing to get his point across completely, and we ended by seeing a couple of clips of Savage being clattered on a football pitch. It was actually quite a neat little metaphor for Savage’s entire football career.

In the interest of balance, I should really take this opportunity to point a few things out about Robbie Savage. Over the past few months I have been fairly relentless in my degradation of the Welshman, partly because his appearance on Strictly Come Dancing ruined most of my Saturday nights, along with my faith in the human race as a species; and partly because well, I don’t particularly like him. But Savage, love him or loath him, has been a (sort of) good servant to football and whatever my childish thoughts are about his career, he is (sort of) worthy of his place on our screens – particularly as it means I can continue to point out his many foibles. I just wish he’d wear a pair of damn socks.

Later on Saturday you may have witnessed that joyous moment during the evening’s Match Of The Day when Gary Lineker’s imperiously laid-back demeanour evaded him for a second when his autocue broke down during one of his “witty” pre-match links. All these years, Lineker has maintained his assured façade but for a fleeting moment the knackered autocue rendered him a mute imbecile, staring mournfully down the camera desperately hoping for Hansen or Shearer to rescue him from this moment of mortification. It was the most entertaining MOTD moment since Des Lynam performed a striptease for Comic Relief*.

There were further technical problems earlier in the week at the BBC. Back on Wednesday evening you may have watched MOTD Live: League Cup Semi-Final and the first leg between Man City and Liverpool. If so, you may have also heard that awful and annoying sound throughout the whole of the first half, it was incredibly irritating and almost ruined the game. And he was still commentating in the second half too – bloody Lawrenson.

*I’m contractually obliged to point out that this is not true. It was for Children In Need. - Football News & Transfers

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