Outside the Box – Football on TV: Bruce goes through Hull as the Championship season ends in drama
There are not many days in the course of the long football season that the glitzy farce of the Premier League is shuffled into the background like an ugly sister at a wedding. Usually, as the weekend rolls around every pundit, fan and newscaster is eagerly sharing their thoughts on Van Persie’s latest goal, Redknapp’s latest defeat and Suarez’s latest meal. However, this past weekend saw the top division’s nerdy younger sibling hogging the limelight as the always-exciting Championship drew its league campaign to a finish in spectacularly fraught and equally ecstatic fashion.
Of course, us part-time fans who only glance down beyond the Premier League table occasionally are really missing out. We should be watching the only place to get the lowdown on the lower leagues, the programme that gallantly brings them to a prime time audience each week, well a post-midnight audience anyway, The Football League Show. That’s right Manish Bhasin and his team of low-key pundits were on hand to tell us the full frantic story of the culmination of the Championship season on Saturday, and what a story it was. Almost every fixture of the day had some kind of bearing on the movers and shakers in the division, and most importantly we still were to discover the other team joining Cardiff in automatic promotion.
And of course that’s where we started with stuttering Hull City and the Zola-helmed Watford the two battling for second place. We know of course now that it was Steve Bruce’s Hull City who prospered and this was where the bulk of the evening’s entertainment stemmed, as his huge red face strained itself into every conceivable position during the course of the game. From drooping despair to whimsical wonder, the poor fella looked like he was on the brink of some kind of seizure most of the time; fortunately for him, in every shot we saw him he had his benched son Alex there comforting him - sweet I thought especially as his dad didn’t trust him enough to actually PLAY in the game. Back in the FLS studio, Manish summed up the epic finale with the very definition of journeyman Steve Claridge, who as ever had an armoury of pre-rehearsed lines ready for deployment. Describing the injury-strewn first half of the Watford/Leeds game in which Hornets’ goalkeeper Jonathan Boyd was seriously hurt, Claridge likened it to a “scene out of Holby City”. Ironic really as last week’s unedifying events at Molineux were like scenes from ‘The Bill’; or at least some apocalyptic drama where everyone involved is faced with a bleak future and no sense of hope. Like The Jeremy Kyle Show.
Congratulations must go to Steve Bruce and Hull City though, and indeed commiserations to Gianfranco Zola and his young (largely loaned in from Udinese) team. The FLS on Saturday showed us all why The Championship is such an unpredictable, competitive and exhilarating division, often far more so than the trendier and more vacuous Premier League. With most of the key battles already resolved, I doubt the final day of the Premier League season will match the drama, exhilaration and anguish seen on Steve Bruce’s face on Saturday – well not until this time next season.
Staggering developments over at early morning grouse-fest Sunday Supplement this week. The usual crew of tubby, middle-aged blowhard hacks had been infiltrated by a new face… they’d only let a bloody woman on! Christ what next? There’ll be letting them play the game soon as well. The offending damsel, who coincidentally spoke far more sense than 90% of the typical egocentric pressmen they usually have on the show, was The Times’ Alyson Rudd, a sports journalist with over twenty years experience and unlike the majority of her blokey peers, a former player with Leyton Orient ladies. I hope this newfound diversity around the Sunday Supplement table continues because if there’s one thing the programme has suffered from over it’s many years, it’s the relatively small roster of journalists tucking into the bagels. Who cares if they’re women? Who cares if they’re children? Hell, who even cares if they’re people from The Sun? Let’s just stop relying on the seedy Custis brothers, the comically-earnest Paddy Barclay and that one who looks a bit like Ricky Tomlinson. Then it might not be one of the most hateful footy shows on TV.