Outside the Box – Football on TV: Sky soothe the Monday blues with a long weekend of football action
There was a time once when Monday was a day set aside for nothing but despair. Perhaps a day of recriminations as the heady exploits of the weekend come gushing into view and you’re forced to confront the disastrous consequences of your misdeeds (John Terry?) Maybe a dispiriting comedown after a perfect two days with your love (Mark Lawrenson?). Or possibly just the clunking drudgery of a new working week (Steve Kean?). Whatever the reason, Monday is probably a day we habitually write off before it’s begun.
Somewhere along the way, the top-bods at Sky Sports decided to try and cheer us all up in the post-weekend melancholy by elongating the footy action and introducing Monday Night Football, or #MNF as the Twitter generation call it. And as if the promise of an extra slice of Premiership action isn’t enough, this last season has also seen #MNF become the home of everybody’s new favourite footballing oracle Gary Neville - yes, your problems don’t seem so important now do they. Forget that disastrous one-night stand; don’t worry that you hate your job; turn on Sky Sports and let Manchester’s foremost exponent of teenage facial hair and over-simplified wisdom usher you through this most painful of evenings.
Red Nev was present last night for Live Ford Monday Night Football for the all-London affair between the stuttering QPR and impressive West Ham. Before we got to the game at Loftus Road though, Neville and his #MNF chum Ed Chamberlain navigated their way through the rest of the weekend’s Premier League action. Remarkable insight too from Red Nev, particularly in respect to his former club Manchester United and their faltering performance at home to Spurs. He focused in on his old defensive partner Rio Ferdinand who bore the brunt of the blame for the defensive frailties United displayed, yet Neville almost completely exonerated Ferdinand and claimed he is still the player he always was. Neville then bizarrely went on to argue a convincing case for Rio not to be chosen for England, completely negating the impassioned defence he put forward mere moments before.
There were other punditry peculiarities earlier in the weekend on Sky during Live Ford Football Special on Saturday. This time ‘Grouchy’ Graeme Souness was in attendance alongside Glenn Hoddle and the intelligence vacuum known as Jamie Redknapp. I always enjoy the stunted bi-play between Souness and Redknapp. On the one hand you have the venerable gruff Scotsman; under-developed social skills, a glare that pierces through pretenders with a venomous sting, and a glorious throwback to the tough era of British football. Opposite him sits the vacuous stare of Jamie Redknapp. Possessing a vocabulary of roughly eighty words, of which the most taxing is “tremendous”, Redknapp peddles out the same clichéd nonsense with each and every appearance on Sky’s football coverage. How he has managed to steal a living for so long is beyond me, I can only assume his face fits the stylish Sky template. Although at the alarming rate his chiselled features seem to be deteriorating at, it won’t be long until he looks like his old man and his forced onto the Match Of The Day sofa. Or at the very least the ghoul fest at Final Score.
The Souness/Redknapp duel has rumbled on for years now, encompassing both domestic and European action. Souness sits, ashen-faced, teeth grinding with a seething rage as he is forced to endure Redknapp’s vomiting drivel. He keeps his cool though, and always lets the boy finish before completely disputing everything he’s said. The added bonus for Saturday’s game between the in-form Arsenal and Roberto Di Matteo’s rejuvenated Chelsea side was the saintly serene Glenn Hoddle who doesn’t so much analyse football as glide alongside it whispering excerpts from FA coaching manuals.
Thankfully, the trinity of pundits had a great game to pick apart. Arsenal seemed to have survived the post-Van Persie apocalypse many were predicting and in fact appeared to be flourishing. They came into Saturday’s game on the back of a healthy start and would have hoped to collect the scalp of a transitional Chelsea team. I have heard for weeks that Di Matteo’s men were looking to leave the hurly burly machismo of recent years behind and usher in a new age of “sexy football”. I must say I was sceptical that almost the same squad of players that so mercilessly roughed up Europe’s elite on their way to Champions’ League glory last season could so swiftly have developed a silky Barcelona-esque style in the short number of months since.
But to my surprise, and to paraphrase Redknapp… or Hoddle… or whoever it was who said it, Chelsea out-Arsenaled Arsenal. They beat them at their own game. Outpassed and outclassed, Arsenal couldn’t live with the new Chelsea and even the staunchest critic of the Blues’ physical style of recent times (i.e. me) must concede that there has been a distinct sea-change at Stamford Bridge. There’s still John Terry of course, but there’ll always be a smidgeon of turd that clings onto the dustbin when you chuck the rubbish out, but it can’t hold on forever.