Outside the Box – Football on TV: Comical Colin losing his seat could mean Match Of The Day 2 losing much much more
It could be argued that watching football on television has become a full-time endeavour. Well obviously for me it is because each week I force my rambling and churlish thoughts on the subject on to your computer screens in a senseless demonstration of puerile envy. But for all of us now, it seems that not an hour passes through the day when some soccer sustenance or other isn’t on offer somewhere in the broadcasting sphere. There are even whole channels dedicated to football with the likes of Liverpool TV and Chelsea TV, although to be fair the second of those does double up as a farcical drama channel full of violent clowns, murky Mafiosos and Rafa Benitez going absolutely mental. The point is that football dominates a hefty portion of our collected TV consciousness and when news of change at one of the staple shows surfaces, it causes quite a stir.
It is with a thunderous shudder back in the bitter January months that the news of a coup had occurred in the bowels of the Match Of The Day 2 ship. Our cuddly, cardigan-clad cheeky funster Colin Murray had riled one too many of the bloated ex-pros stealing a living on the MOTD2 sofas and was being cast out like an impeccably well-dressed leper at the end of this campaign. Who then, would be replacing the charismatic Ulsterman? A sparkly meta-drone from Sky Sports’ assembly line? The John Lewis model of BBC presenters Dan Walker from Football Focus? The huge floating cockney jowls of Ray Winstone bellowing “ave a bang on that”?
Well the BBC have turned their grubby noses up at that list of stunning possibilities and in fact have placed all their chips on the unceasing featurelessness of company yes man and Final Score barker Mark ‘Chappers’ Chapman. Not particularly an ire-inducing choice, Chappers is fairly likeable in a non-descript, podgy sportshound kind of way, but he lacks the cynical whimsy and biting rhetoric that Murray so gleefully extols in his late Sunday showdowns with Shearer, Hansen and the rest.
It was reported when the story broke that the decision to remove Murray was indeed taken because a few greying feathers had been ruffled amongst the stony-faced ex-pros. Murray’s cheeky wit and refusal to passively endure the mumbled tosh hurling from the pundits’ mouths has evidently irked one too many of them and there has plainly been complaints from the wounded parties.
You have to wonder what the BBC want though? Match The Day 2 has proved popular since it’s conception in 2004. It’s original host Adrian Chiles, in the hazy days before he became the most cretinous irritant blighting British screens, created a fine blueprint for a MOTD2 helmsmen. The programme was always billed as a rascally nephew to the esteemed flagship show of Saturday night, filled with sassy one-liners, jokes about how crap Titus Bramble was and an unapologetic sense of merriment. Murray carried this mantle seamlessly upon taking over and indeed his Radio One-infused credibility and mischievous sense of fun upped the ante. So if the almost decade long spiel of MOTD2 still feels fresh and acts as a worthy accompaniment to the more stuffy main show, why cut Murray loose now and replace him with the sturdy, albeit tepid frame of Chappers?
Perhaps they want to push the show in a more serious direction, it can certainly be reasoned that with the ever-increasing number of big games being played on a Sunday, the analysis should be as rigorous and astute as the Saturday show, and could maybe do without quips about Per Mertesacker lumbering around the pitch like a stoned donkey. Perhaps it really just is about a clash of personalities and the likes of Shearer and Lawro want rid. Or perhaps Chappers is just cheaper. Whatever the reason, it feels like a sea change in style; unlike Murray, Chappers stems from the world of sports journalism and will therefore bring a level of experience and knowledge. But with Murray’s departure, it seems the perky sense of joie de vivre will leave with him and MOTD2 may nestle into that same crowded trough of analysis-heavy coverage currently blocking up the schedules.
Murray has the reigns for the rest of the season so we’re told, and hopefully he will go out with the same knowing grin he’s always had etched upon his face during his relatively brief tenure. If it was me, I would turn up each week with a growing resolve to upset as many of the ego-filled bunkum-cultivators as possible. Tell Shearer his hair is disappearing faster than Britain’s accumulated wealth. Tell Hansen the pondering repetitiveness of his analysis has long ceased to be relevant. Tell Savage he’s a ponce, although he probably already knows that. Turn up for next week’s MOTD2 swigging on a bottle of Jack Daniels, belting out The Smiths’ This Charming Man and cracking wise about Lawro’s doom-laden frown. We’ll all be behind you, because unlike those stuffed shirts at the BBC we know that the overwhelming saturation of football on television needs it’s witty lighter side, perhaps now more than ever.