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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Outside the Box – Football on TV: A tough week for the ‘football family’ but the future’s looking bright, and looking orange for the Toon Army


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It has certainly been a difficult old week in football. Quite rightly, the grave events surrounding Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba dominated all stratums of the game over the past seven days, and by extension all of the football coverage too. This resulted in a strange ambivalence amongst the week’s action in which the sheer triviality of football matches was glaringly apparent when compared to the life and death situation developing in a hospital in Bethnal Green.

Nevertheless, as many have said the ‘footballing family’ came together and ensured that Muamba would be in the minds of everybody as the games continued, and as ever, there were countless talking points springing up. A good place to always take stock of the weekend’s action is on Sunday night’s Match Of The Day 2. And if there really is this wonderful communal ‘football family’ amongst us, then surely Alan Shearer is the slightly creepy uncle who sits in the corner wearing a permanent scowl and calling your mum names. His usually glum disposition was slightly tempered however due to his beloved Newcastle United’s comprehensive victory over West Brom, which was featured as the main game on MOTD 2.

Presenter Colin Murray was consumed by only one burning question regarding the match at the Hawthorns though: what the heck was going on with Newcastle’s orange kit? He simply didn’t see a connection to why they would choose to have that colour of shirt. He asked ex-keeper Shay Given, he didn’t know. He even posed the question to the king of Geordieland Shearer; “is orange part of their history?” Murray asked. But he didn’t know either. To me, there is a clear and eminent link between Newcastle and the colour orange: just go into the town centre on Saturday night and the clubs are awash with a sea of orange. Simple.

There were other curiosities emanating from the game too. For example, I was suddenly struck by just how much Magpies’ defender Mike Williamson looks like he could be Alan Pardew’s son. Seriously, go and Google it, I’m convinced. There was also an immortal piece of commentary uttered by Steve Wilson during the game’s highlights. A phrase never spoken before and not likely to be heard again: “a really good save from Ben Foster”. Cherish those words my friends, for they may go down in football folklore as being as rare as, “England win the World Cup”, “Sir Alex apologises” or “and N’Gog scores his third”.

Elsewhere on Sunday, I felt I needed to build some bridges. Last week, I was a little mean when I made a jibe about how incredibly poor Scottish football is. How unbelievably rank and poor it is. Poor, poor, poor. So, I decided to tune into Rangers v Celtic – Live on Sky Sports to see what I might be missing. And I soon got my answer… a bloody good scrap. Three players dismissed as well as a manager, and fifty thousand baying fans watching on. Apparently this was a fairly tame affair too when compared with recent meetings between the two; perhaps the fact that Rangers only have about £4.67 left in the kitty has dampened spirits somewhat, still that’s enough to get Nicklas Bendtner in at the end of the season so all is not lost I suppose.

The studio guests for the game were entertaining enough. Soccer Saturday’s stern Scot Charlie Nicholas was joined by Neil McCann (no, me neither) to chew over the afternoon’s exploits. McCann described something as “flat and uninspiring”; it could have been Celtic’s poor performance or maybe the atmosphere in amongst the Ibrox crowd. It’s also possible that I may have misheard and in fact he said “fat and uninspiring”, because Ally McCoist appeared in the studio soon after. A novel twist on the post-match analysis to have one of the managers join the pundits in the studio I thought, one that I would love to see replicated in the English game. Just think how great it would be to get a fuming Neil Warnock into the studio with Gary Neville and Jamie Redknapp one Sunday; sweat and rage pouring from his agitated brow while he barks abuse at Red Nev for suggesting his player should have been sent off. It could bring about some of the most degrading and unedifying scenes at Sky since Andy Gray brought his new Hollyoaks calendar into the studio.

Just time for one other thing I noticed this week. Have you seen that advert doing the rounds at Sky Sports showing the daily routine for Gary Neville as he prepares for the mind-numbing banality of Monday Night Football? At 9am he reads the morning’s papers; at 11am he goes for rehearsal and his day builds from there. Strangely though, there is no mention of the time of the day he goes to Old Trafford to have his weekly head-to-head meeting with Sir Alex Ferguson. And by head-to-head I mean Neville’s head and Fergie’s backside. Nev really seems to love it up there.


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