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Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Outside the Box – Football on TV: Tevez, title races and titillation in a terrific week of football TV

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Well, it was a helluva’ few days in the Premier League title race last week wasn’t it? The fortunes of the twin Manchester clubs are weaving increasingly erratic patterns as the burden of the top trophy begins to heap its weight on their slumping shoulders. The last seven days or so have seen a number of shocks, surprises, sulks and shrieks as hysteria and conjecture over Mancini’s misfirers and Fergie’s flyers became so all-consuming that the only way to escape the hype was to cancel your Sky subscription and watch The One Show spend all week banging on about the Titanic. Not for me though and as ever, I had my finger on the pulse and you may recall this column last week saw me in the thick of the Premiership championship debate when I was blindly blathering on about Vinnie Jones hanging out with psychotic policeman or some other guff.

I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear there will be no side-stepping the big issues this week; I’ve been hotwired into the football airwaves, soaking up the tumultuous goings on at the Etihad and the DW Stadium and I won’t be going off on any wild tangents about obscure footy shows this time; well, apart from Eurosport’s masterpiece Table Soccer: World Cup, but more of that later.

Let’s begin on Wednesday and Match Of The Day as the mighty Wigan thumped United a staggering 1-0. That result wasn’t the only peculiarity as the suave crisp-loving Gary Lineker was given the night off to gorge himself on Ready Salted and it was usual MOTD2 pilot Colin Murray at the wheels of the big mama. He did a pretty fair job too, particularly in light of the mammoth goings-on in the title race during the evening. He also had the extra pressure of man-hulk Martin Keown sitting opposite. Another rare sight on the MOTD sofa, Keown is carving out a neat little niche for himself at the Beeb; no longer the snarling giant of the Arsenal back four, he speaks clearly and concisely on the matters of the day and only retains the odd snippet of menace behind his crazy eyes. Murray survived, and more importantly, so did Wigan to hold onto their famous win against United.

Later in the week and the MOTD bosses took another calculated risk on Saturday as they decided to invite serial nonsense-merchant Garth Crooks onto the sofa. Seriously, having Crooks and his rambling rants on Match Of The Day is like perching a pigeon on a Van Gogh masterpiece and encouraging it to excrete its muck all over the work. Such was the mind-numbing banality of Garth’s comments, that I actually fell out of love with football for a short time and was filled with a melancholic sense of peace and tranquillity with Dido songs soothing my aching brain and the distant whirring of Garth’s dulcet tones a mere ripple in the calming waters. It didn’t last long; I was wrenched from my serenity as Crooks screeched this startling little pearl of wisdom about Carlos Tevez and the contrition he demonstrated in the lead up to his match-winning performance at Norwich: “he’s had to swallow, has Tevez” Garth admitted. Well hang on there, I know Tevez has some bridges to build with Mancini and the rest but I’m not sure he wants forgiveness that badly.

I was searching for reasons why the producers even plumped for Garth Crooks. Sure, he’s a fairly regular fixture on Final Score but with the advent of Sky’s Saturday lunchtime games, Stelling’s Soccer Saturday and your local pub opening at eleven in the morning, there is only about six people watching that. So he can waffle on until his heart’s content to Dan Walker and the rest of those stiffs and no one’s any the wiser. Surely there were more suitable candidates to fill the gap left by Hansen, Lawro, Dixon et al as they vacated their usual weekend posts presumably for a day on the sauce at the gee gees. But there must have been someone loitering around the BBC sport offices with nothing better to do; Mark Bright? Alan Green? Even Jake Humphries – he could do with a bit of work, he’s been making the tea for the past few months since the F1 went to Sky.

Still, Jake, Garth and all at the BBC are having a far better time than Sky’s Andy Burton at the minute. The 9-foot purveyor of prattle managed to look a right tit twice this week. Firstly, in a frenzied interview with long-time nemesis Kenny Dalglish after Liverpool’s dramatic victory against Blackburn, Burton was forced to bullishly stand in the Scot’s way to keep him from walking away from the interview. Then, during the post-match musings of Saturday’s Live Ford Football Special he ridiculously wasted his chance at getting the thoughts of man-beast and bench-fancier Carlos Tevez by opening with the stupid question: “Carlos, did you dive?”. A pointless, irrelevant poser to ask a man who should have so much more to explain. Burton may have halted Dalglish’s exit a few days earlier but Carlos is a different prospect altogether and the Argentine hitman was gone before Burton could say ‘my Sky career is doomed”.

Just time then to mention my new favourite football programme, and possibly Andy Burton’s next gig. He’d love it on Table Soccer: World Cup too because it was full of totty. Yes, it was the women’s table football championship in France and it is everything you would expect; people too unfit or not good enough to play real sport, people with too much time on their hands and a load of seedy old fellas in the crowd – I’m sure I spotted Gray and Keys in there.

I can’t pretend to understand the subtle nuances of the table football world, but each game included two referees, four balls and some real desperate commentary. Yes, you heard me; it does have a bloke describing the ‘action’ for the viewer. My cumbersome words don’t do justice to this televisual masterpiece, so go now my friends and watch Eurosport. The title race is over any way, isn’t it? - Football News & Transfers

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Chris Pettitt



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