Outside the Box - Football on TV: Match of the Day hits the target . . . just
I spent this weekend at a music festival and alongside the obvious pitfalls of such an excursion such as fetid portaloo’s and beer that ranks alongside drainage water in both quality and taste, it also meant that I was indefensibly absent for the opening weekend of the Premier League season. Fortunately, despite the nefarious deeds of Rupert Murdoch’s news empire, his wonderful approach to the world of television means that I wearily returned home on Monday morning to find a healthy selection of football nestling comfortably on my Sky+ box.
Of course, my first port of call is the Saturday night staple Match of the Day; the first thing I was intrigued to find out about was whether the producers had replaced the awful opening titles of last season. Do you remember them? The concept was a good one, mix footage of older players like George Best and Eric Cantona playing alongside todays stars giving us a tantalising view of the greatest footballers of different eras playing together. Unfortunately the BBC had obviously spent all of the years budget on Doctor Who or something because the resulting opening credits looked like they had been put together by a 16-year old computer design student – and a bad one at that.
Fortuitously the credits have been revamped and the producers evidently did wrestle some of the SFX budget away because they are much improved. Blending the cherished childhood memories of footy sticker albums, yearbooks and archive footage with more modern iconic moments being captured on iPhones it encapsulated far better the spirit they tried to achieve with the shambolic opening titles of the previous year.
So, new titles, but the same old faces on the MOTD sofa and Gary Linekar’s warm and familiar greeting to the show was a welcome sound and immediately make us feel as though the football was never gone. His two studio guests for the opening show were the two Alan’s (Shearer and Hansen) and the first genuine shock of the new football season appeared not only on one, but both of Shearer’s feet! I know he’s trying to deviate attention away from the Usain Bolt-like speed that his hair is receding at but were those shoes snakeskin?
Returning too were the cosy voices of the regular MOTD commentating team. It’s like settling into pairs of old slippers as the soothing tones of Motson and co regale us once more; of course there’s always one old pair that are smelly and full of holes – Jonathan Pearce to give him his actual name. Pearce took charge of the first highlights package of MOTD’s season, an entertaining game full of incident, drama and the now annual sight of Kieran Dyer being stretchered off.
There were other notable moments during the QPR highlights; the BBC continuing to "dumb down" by showing Jamie Redknapp amongst the Loftus Road crowd and Neil Warnock alienating the whole of the south coast in his post-match interview by stating that “I’d rather be here than going to Portsmouth or Brighton”. Chances are Neil mate that the people of those cities are not going to be losing any sleep over your absence.
Of course, the relative spectacle of an episode of MOTD is almost exclusively dependent on the week’s football and this opening Saturday of the Premier League season was not particularly memorable. The only real drama and talking points were courtesy of everybody’s favourite philosopher Joseph Barton who not content with dominating the build up with his forthright views of how to run Newcastle United, has now took it upon himself to referee the games he plays in, albeit with a more "hands on" approach.
The bad-tempered actions of Barton, Gervinho and Song certainly got the two Alan’s talking in the studio and even resulted in some bad natured tweeting from Barton who took exception to Shearer’s criticism of him and called him a “slaphead” and mocked his dress sense. Now really, what kind of idiot would stoop to that level?
All-in-all, a solid if unspectacular start to the season for the MOTD team. But we all know that the real fun won’t begin until Mark Lawrenson makes his 2011-12 bow with his dour demeanor and childlike whimsy. His humour was missed this week with the only thing passing for wit being a crack by Steve Wilson commentating on Norwich’s trip to Wigan in which he said something about Delia Smith having the recipe for staying up. Hilarious stuff I’m sure you’ll agree.