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Tuesday, 03 April 2012

Outside the Box – Football on TV: One year on from Keys and Gray but is Sky burning any brighter?


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It’s been around fourteen months since the corridors and offices of Sky Sports were rocked irrevocably by the now-infamous sexism scandal surrounding part-man, part-ape Richard Keys and his bosom buddy Andy Gray – the worthy winner of Nuts magazine’s 2006 ‘TV Personality That Most Resembles a Baby’ award. Well deserved too. Those tumultuous few weeks could have seriously derailed Sky’s sheened and well-oiled Premier League machine – let’s not forget that the whole sorry episode played out through the early weeks of January and February, traditionally a busy and crucial time for England’s top division.

It certainly doesn’t need me to rake up the sordid facts of the behaviour of Keys and Gray during that time, and neither do I need to remind you what massive tools they were. Never mind though, they have moved on to pastures new and by all accounts are enjoying success at some radio station or another – largely by slagging off people at Sky; a formula I myself adhere to for much of the time. So what became of the Sky Sports coverage in the wake of their long-time anchors (sic) departure? Well, as it is just over a year since the turmoil of the sexism row subsided, it is an opportune moment to evaluate where the coverage finds itself. And not only that, I can chuck in a couple of churlish remarks about Jamie Redknapp and Gary Neville too.

So without further adieu… ‘The 2012 Guide to The Sky Sports Coverage a Year On From All Of That Unpleasant Nonsense From Andy Gray and Richard Keys When The Whole Of Britain Became Very Cross With Them And For A While They Became More Unpopular Than That Bloke From The Go Compare Adverts’

Best new co-commentator – In the wake of Gray’s expulsion, there were obviously opportunities in the big games for new footballing soothsayer’s to step up and educate the masses. The best of the bunch to emerge has surely been Ray Wilkins. His homespun and moderately nonsensical musings were like a breath of fresh air in the early stages of this season. He added an authoritative yet accessible insight into the game and no-one can deny his experience or achievements in football.  He has slightly dropped off the radar recently though; I like to think he is standing in a North London Park somewhere, coaching a load of 16 year olds and uttering things like “my word, that lad is talented” or “that cup-a-soup was simply exceptional”.

Sky Personality still grieving the most from the loss of Keys and Gray – The removal of Andy Gray was probably felt most by the evergreen titan of their football coverage, Martin Tyler. The two of them had spent so much time huddled together in gantries up and down this land over the years that the sudden shock of Gray being wrenched from Tyler’s side left him teetering on the brink of insanity. He is still yet to recover, evidence of this can be heard each week when Tyler blindly accepts the guff Gary Neville feeds him and maintains the former United captain is some sort of football oracle, when in fact he is a football barnacle (or bottom-feeder).

The ‘Jamie Redknapp Award for being unable to add any kind of intellectual contribution to a football broadcast' – Jamie Redknapp

Best unintentional piece of punditry – Occasional commentator Davie Provan talking about Blackburn manager Steve Kean and not doing the Scot any favours in his on-going battle to keep his job at Ewood Park: “He (Kean) used to clean the dressing room, polish the boots and wash and dry my towels – it’s something he should still be doing”. A bit harsh Davie mate, he’s doing his best; still I’m sure many Rovers fans agree.

Best use of technology – Ed Chamberlin, Sky’s football frontman is a sucker for the gadgets and gizmos at his disposal. Each Monday Night Football (or MNF for you cool kids out there), Ed dances around the studio clutching his iPad and trying to forget he has got to spend the next 4 hours listening to Gary Neville bang on about Wayne Rooney’s ability to walk on water. It wouldn’t surprise me if Ed is actually using his iPad to play a few spirited rounds on the ‘Draw Something’ app, just to pass the time between Neville’s frequent trick of talking out if his backside.

So there we have it, a few indicators of Sky’s post-sexism row landscape. I have to say that I find the coverage much more enjoyable since the Keys/Gray monopoly was broken. Sure, Gary Neville irritates that hell out of me, but on the other hand I garner much merriment from pointing out what a complete arse he is. The key point is that the fresh-faced team of presenters and pundits don’t feel the need to thrust themselves into the spotlight. They are savvy enough to realise that the football itself is what we’re watching for, and all they need to do is make the bits in between the action bearable enough for our short-attention spans to cope with. 

Calling all football fans. What do you think about Sky Sport’s football coverage? Is Chris right to bemoan Gary Neville’s contributions? Do you believe things are better since Keys and Gray were sacked? Whatever your views, we’d love to hear from you.

 

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Chris Pettitt

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