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Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Outside the Box – Football on TV: A weekend of woe for Walters as the BBC put him centre stage


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Do you remember the glory days of Saturday night TV? That wistful time before Simon Cowell was given the keys to the kingdom and filled the weekend evenings with a symphony of garish fairy lights, screeching teenagers and Louis Walsh. Things were so much simpler before: you knew where you were with Edmonds and Blobby on Noel’s House Party. Even Jim Davidson stopped being the most unpleasant man in England long enough to raise a few chuckles on classics like the Generation Game and Big Break. You see, that is what’s missing in today’s cacophony of Saturday night crud; there’s no smiles, no comic legends, no-one to point and laugh at… except Louis Walsh.

But alas, last Saturday finally ushered in some much-needed mirth, and a new comedy star was born. A performance so tragically comical that the BBC are already in talks to develop it into a sitcom starring Nicholas Lyndhurst and Miranda Hart. And the source of this comedy masterpiece? It was of course Stoke powerhouse and BAFTA-nominated Jonathan Walters on Match Of The Day. Two own-goals, a missed penalty, kicking the ball into his own face; Walters’ performance against Chelsea was like watching your dad play Fifa 13 for the first time. Every mistake he made led him to try even harder to rectify it but the football Gods were having none of it and just persisted in throwing bucketloads of foul-stenched excrement his way.

You’d think there’d have been some professional kinship between Walters and his footballing peers, but no. Not only did Frank Lampard spitefully wrestle the ball away to smash home his side’s penalty denying Walters’ his chance of a Chelsea hat-trick, but then the MOTD pundits had a good laugh about it. Alan Shearer, who usually spends the show rambling incoherently about goodness knows what, could hardly contain his gleeful giggling and seemed genuinely delighted when telling us that Walters “won’t sleep tonight”. I had no such worries for Walters’ possibilities of a blissful slumber, ten minutes of the following Football League Show would surely send him straight off.

The impact of Jonathan Walters’ slapstick show was made all the more uproarious as it came on the day he was earlier interviewed and showered with praise on Football Focus. Dan Walker and his merry men heaped platitudes on the Stoke star as we were reliably informed that Walters was one goal away from becoming Stoke’s all time top Premier League goal scorer, although after his Chelsea debacle, by my count he is now three goals away from that accolade. It was also staggering to learn that he’s made over seventy consecutive starts for Stoke, a record only bettered by his Potters teammate Michael Owen; hold on wait… I’ve got that wrong… how many games has he started for Stoke? None? He’s made more appearances on Match Of The Day this season than for Stoke! Anyway, after all the gushing plaudits Walters received on Football Focus, he was bound to have a stinker against Chelsea, but the sheer level of excruciating misfortune befalling him was altogether more upsetting. Still at least it was a one off performance of calamitous ineptitude, Gervinho has to go through that every week, the poor sod.

Elsewhere on Football Focus there was the usual mix of good-natured joshing, whimsical analysis and Robbie Savage talking out of his arse. He turned up this week looking like a henchmen from a bad 80s Stallone flick. His flowing blonde locks tightly tied into a ponytail and wearing some cast offs from James Bond’s wardrobe, Savage is presumably trying to smarten himself up enough to earn a spot on the Sky Sports team at some point in the future, the trouble is he’s got about as much football wisdom as Margaret Thatcher, and is roughly as popular too.

He limped along admirably enough on the week’s talking points: he shrewdly played a hunch and admitted that in his opinion, Robin Van Persie and Luis Suarez are the season’s top players so far – well he has always been a maverick. Savage also found time to have a go at new Blackburn boss Michael Appleton, and made light of his managerial record claiming Appleton was “lucky” to have been given such a big job. Two things Robbie; firstly anybody setting foot through the chaotic gates of the Venky’s Ewood empire are anything but “lucky” - more ‘hopelessly misguided’. And secondly, as a footballer who got to play for some big clubs and have a long and lucrative career while possessing less talent than… well, Gervinho, I’d be a bit more careful about bandying terms like ‘lucky’ about. Especially if Jonathan Walters is in earshot.

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Chris Pettitt

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