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Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Outside the Box – Football on TV: Time is running out for the Football League Show but Reading and the Saints defy the odds


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Back in the hazy midsummer days of August 2011, while hoards of frenzied teenagers were marauding their way through the streets of London setting fire to police cars, looting Poundland and generally ruining Boris Johnson’s holiday; I was indulging in a regular pre-season pursuit. Like every football fan eagerly awaiting the recommencement of hostilities and certain that their fanciful expectations will be met, I was busy spouting my misguided and ill-informed predictions for the coming season. And like every football fan, my misguided and ill-informed predictions were so off the mark that I wonder if lawn bowls might be a better sport for me to follow.

Down in the Championship, I was so sure of my promotion picks that I was exuding the kind of confidence Sir Alex feels when he realises Howard Webb is reffing his next match. So it was with much assurance that I proclaimed the three teams vying for top spot would be West Ham, erm… Leicester City and… erm, Ipswich Town. So, in the sobering hindsight that only comes at the end of a hard-fought season, it was difficult for me to watch Saturday evening’s The Football League Show on the BBC.

Manish and the rest showcased the excellent Southampton who have just about joined Reading in booking their place at the top table; it may interest you to know that I also tipped both of those teams to struggle after the loss of key players (that distant, doomed thudding you can hear is the final nail being knocked into the coffin of my aspirations to find work as a football journalist).

Anyway, the Football League Show; usually no more than a unobtrusive tool to induce sleep after a boozy Saturday, except of course when Robbie Savage is on and his dazzling white teeth burn themselves onto your retinas meaning you can’t sleep for a fortnight. However, the drama playing out at both ends of the Championship table meant this week’s FLS was a far more interesting affair. Not only were Nigel Adkins’ Saints all but promoted, but the sorry saga of Portsmouth reached its long-awaited climax as they tamely tumbled down to League One after defeat to Derby. Ex-Pompey striker Steve Claridge was in the FLS studio and spoke quite wistfully about his former club’s tumultuous fortunes and lamented their 10-point deduction. He was less mournful about Coventry’s consignment to League One and was positively indifferent to their plight; mind you, Cov are about the only English team Claridge didn’t play for so why should he give a toss.

So congratulations to Brian McDermott and Nigel Adkins, despite their teams’ respective promotions adding to my growing list of reasons to give up writing about football and start slagging off those plebs on The Apprentice instead. Still, West Ham may yet save my wafer-thin reputation and gain promotion through the playoffs and if that is the case it may just keep the excitement going for The Football League Show as it ebbs into its final months.

You may have heard that the BBC are planning to axe the show at the end of the season despite protestations from many football supporters. A shame, but it’s hardly The X-Factor is it? There are only about seventeen people who watch it regularly, and even fewer who stay with it to the end. Plus, just think how great Saturday nights will be now after Match Of The Day finishes; an hour of footage showing Gary Lineker and Alan Hansen counting their money and betting on how long it will be until Alan Shearer decides to visit Wayne Rooney’s hair clinic.

There were slightly unedifying developments at The PFA Awards on Sunday, shown later on Sky Sports. The recently incarcerated muttonhead Ched Evans was included in the League Two team of the season. I’m sure voting took place before Evans’ trial but you’d have thought some lame brain at the PFA would have considered his inclusion so soon after his prosecution to be slightly distasteful. I was also peeved with a couple of glaring omissions from the Premier League team of the year. No Nicklas Bendtner? No Andy Carroll? No Marouane Chamakh? It’s just madness. So Van Persie has scored 27 league goals and lit up the division with his flair and limitless class? He didn’t wear a funny little clown hat and mask like Bendtner; or run around Anfield like a stoned giraffe a ‘la Andy Carroll. Come on PFA, you’re supposed to represent the players; the likes of Van Persie and Rooney who actually possess talent don’t need your help – it’s the sad acts like Gabriel Obertan that really need a leg up. So, the campaign starts now: Bendtner for Player of the Year. Who’s with me? 


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