Outside the Box – Football on TV: Football on Sky is becoming a fairytale thanks to Wilkins the Wizard
So we were repeatedly told that it was the ‘biggest club game in world football’ as Liverpool and Manchester United met at Anfield on Saturday for the ever-intense North-West derby. The fevered atmosphere was apparent at Sky for Live Ford Football Special and there was an almost fairytale mood in the air; an age-old tale of near neighbours, of heroes and villains and magical moments. All the ingredients were in place along the red brick road as the characters came to life; there was even a strange far off land with curious creatures (a pub in New York showing the game, with reporter Andy Burton randomly interviewing a couple of US soccer fans for no obvious reason).
Then of course there is the wonderful wizard of Sky, Mr Ray Wilkins. The unfortunate set of circumstances that led to Wilkins’ promotion to number one co-commentator should now be seen as the sparkling crown of silver linings. The kindly Ray brings a homespun simplicity to the maniacal menagerie of our frenzied game and his intoxicating mix of boyish whimsy and seasoned knowledge make him a charming and wise oracle, always worth listening to. And even better, he sometimes says really stupid stuff too.
Wilkins sparked a bit of ambiguity during the game when he talked about a “pest in the studio”. With messrs Gray and Keys already departed, just who is left to warrant such a description? Well I can’t imagine it could be any of the three regulars that were in the studio for our fairytale game, although if Old Ray is the wizard, then our trio of experts may need to pay him a visit, as each are missing an important quality.
The newly acquired Gary Neville has not yet found his broadcasting feet and must assert himself and gain the courage to really sound off, there is certainly potential there though. And what about the stern and emotionless Graeme Souness? He needs to soften up a tad, and a touch of Wilkins’ heart may go a long way to helping. Which only leaves us with Jamie Redknapp and of course he requires a . . . well, you know the rest.
In all, the United/Liverpool game was one that took a while to get going, but was a satisfying spectacle in the end. Similarly, the landscape of Sky’s football coverage post-sexism row is now a far more enjoyable place to be, after a slightly stuttering start and the boys upstairs should do all they can to keep hold of their wonderful Wilkins to ensure we all live happily ever after.
The game at Anfield was also the headline event over on Match Of The Day but it was United’s Manchester rivals that were the real star turn. Manchester City’s 4-1 humbling of Aston Villa without the likes of Aguero, Dzeko and Nasri was a further reminder of the imposing strength they have at their disposal this season. And in Mario Ballotelli, they have a comedy great to follow in the footsteps of Cantona, Diouf and Bellamy; one of those genuine nutters who, were they not professional footballers, would either be on about five Government ‘lists’, or turn up at Big Brother auditions with a box of fireworks and a teddy bear. Alan Hansen certainly finds Ballotelli entertaining, although he was probably missing his comedy partner Lawro, who missed MOTD this week but did appear on the 756th series of A Question Of Sport.
Devised by a couple of Elizabethan jesters, A Question Of Sport has been a staple of British entertainment for over 400 years and shows no signs of slowing down. Always able to attract the biggest names in sport, it holds a unique place in the hearts of sports fans and the memories of my brother and I duelling over our questionable sports knowledge will live long. A Question of Sport inevitably suffers the same problems that any long-running TV show does and at times tries too hard to appear trendy and cool by introducing new concepts and challenges. At its best though, it is an enjoyable and entertaining quiz that relies on the banter between teams and the opportunity to see our most-loved sports personalities having fun, and that is nothing to be ashamed of.
Remember, Chris Pettitt will be here every Tuesday at Squarefootball.net