Friday, 20 August 2010

International Wednesday

Wednesday 12th August

Sweden v Scotland 19.00 ESPN
England v Hungary 19.30 ITV1
Republic of Ireland v Argentina 19.30 Sky Sports 1
Wales v Luxembourg 19.30 Sky Sports 2

Prologue


Have you ever tried to watch more than one football match on tele at once? Of course you have. I have on untold occasions which generally has the same outcome that I don’t end up seeing very much of any of them. With this in mind I decided to try and 'watch' not one but all of the four ‘home’ nations friendlies available to me last Wednesday. If we have any sensitive readers from Northern Ireland please be assured that had I been able to access Setanta Ireland then your game in Montenegro would also have been featured.

Programme(‘s)

In textbook ESPN fashion the first of the nights featured programmes opened with the players already lining up on the pitch ahead of the national anthems and commentators Derek Rae and Craig Burley introduced themselves. As Rae pointed out on no few occasions, the colours each team were wearing would’ve confused the less-skilled eye (which I know none of you are) as both teams wore their away kit which looked vaguely (in Sweden’s case) or frighteningly (in Scotland’s case) similar to the oppositions home kits. Anyway, immediately after kick off Scotl..sorry Sweden took control and returning superstar Zlatan Ibrahimivoic finished off an aesthetically pleasing but surprisingly easy move by side-footing past Scotland’s (similarly returning from international exile) goalkeeper Alan McGreggor.

The game continued like this for majority of the opening half-hour but the most noteworthy moment came when Scotland’s Kirk Broadfoot attempted what could only be described as a ‘De-Jong’ on Sweden Keeper Andreas Isaksson. After half a minute of lying on the ground Isaksson then remonstrated with the offending full-back which looked fair enough to this onlooker. However the impressive number of Scotland fans behind Isakson’s goal largely seemed to disagree with Isaksson, me and the referee and when Broadfoot was booked they booed vociferously and as a result of some advice they surely must give at TV Editors college, we saw a close up of a handful of fans handing out 18-certified abuse to the ref.

At this point we were approaching half-seven and decided I couldn’t let miss the opportunity to see the opening to England’s potential booing against Hungary so immediately switched to ITV1. After what felt-like a lengthy opening credits, Adrian Chiles set the scene and welcomed us to Wembley: ‘the player’s didn’t particularly want it, the clubs definitely didn’t…and the fans didn’t seem too interested.’ This was followed by a predictable montage of clips highlighting England's World Cup campaign.

Almost immediately we went to Gabriel Clarke at pitch-side to find out what kind of reaction the England players received when they came out for their warm ups (‘mixed’ apparently) and what struck me most at this point was that I don’t think I’d actually recognise Gabriel Clarke if for instance, I was stood next to him at a bar. As soon as he started waxing lyrically about having ‘caught up’ with Janet behind the bar to gauge the ‘mood in the camp amongst the girls’ I’m sure I’d have no problem, but on looks alone I’d fall short.

As we went back to the studio to get the thoughts of Gareth Southgate and Sir Les Ferdinand I thought I’d have a gander at the coverage of the Ireland v Argentina and Wales v Luxembourg games that were shortly to begin. I got to see a graphic of the Argentina line-up and veteran Welsh ‘supremo’ John Toshack being interviewed so took the sharp decision to go back to the only live action taking place at that point from the Rasunda Stadium. This then provided me with a disappointing moment no.2 in as many paragraphs. I’ve always believed I can tell the score of a football match on TV/radio by hearing the first few seconds of crowd noise upon turning it on. As the time/score display had disappeared I sat watching a couple of eventless minutes of this comfortable in the belief Sweden were still 1-0 up. Then to my disgust I saw a replay of a 2nd Sweden goal. First the realisation I don't know what Gabriel Clarke looks like then this! If I was to tell a blatant fib I'd say I had a good mind to give up this whole TV Sports watching gig as my head and heart are clearly not in it any more.

Flicking onto the Wales v Luxembourg game which had now started at the flamboyantly sounding Parc Y Llanelli I could hear the players shouting to each other which is always a barometer that is used to highlight what a low crowd is at a match and I can safely report that in this case it was a truly accurate barometer. A quick move to the Aviva stadium Dublin alerted me to how ridiculous one of the stands of this new, much celebrated ground looks. If you haven't seen it think three sides of the Emirates with one end about the size of the away section at Roots Hall but with the roof still at the height of the Emirates (stick with it) and you're on the right lines.

Another possibly arthritis inducing movement of the fingers took me back to Wembley for the most hyped sporting event in recent memory: the England players entrance onto the pitch for a overwhelmingly meaningless friendly game. You won't be surprised to hear (regardless of the fact many of you will have heard it yourself) Clive Tyldesley absolutely lapped this moment up. As we saw the players in the tunnel and edge towards the pitch Tyldesley paused before describing that 'the reception is.......forgiving, loyal and fairly warm.' He then proceeded in doing what comes most naturally and annoyed me with a standardly nonsensical comment with deliberate pause for emphasis 'it's a night I think for the players to sing...their national anthem.'

A further flick through the games saw me back in Llanelli and just as Joe Ledley shot wide with the game still goalless the perils of attempting to view multi-game were painfully brought home. A scores update appeared at the bottom of the screen and alerted me to the fact Sweden had further extended their lead. Naturally I turned to this game only to see play had re-started and a replay of the goal wouldn't be forthcoming for a while. During this time I then missed David Cotterill's opener against Luxembourg and Angel de Maria's goal for Argentina. As a veteran multi-viewer I should use my wealth of experience to tell you that this occasionally happens quite regularly.

My self-discipline in deciding I'd stick with one game for five minutes was rewarded when Luxembourg equalised in Llanelli. This prompted one of the more enthusiastic celebrations I've seen in what appeared such a low-key game as the jubilant Joel Kitenge and his team-mates sprinted towards the management and subs in the dug-out to share in the giddiness. As I'd now seen a goal I allowed myself to re-visit Wembley and see how the game had settled down now all the Brouhaha about people shouting 'boooooo' or not should have died down.

Not a lot happened for the ten minutes I persevered with this bar Joe Hart comfortably saving a Zolton Gera effort and maybe I'd managed to block out Tyldesley as I don't have any quotes from him during this period. The advertising boards around the uncharacteristically good Wembley surface did catch my eye as in bright lights I read 'REF ASSAULTS DOWN 13%' which I took to be in relation to the FA's respect campaign rather than some reduced rates being offered by hired goons.

I caught the final whistle of Scotland's dismal showing in Sweden and immediately turned back to England v Hungary and the only game that was at this point in-play. I imagine there was a stoppage at this time as the camera's were focussing on England's subs warming up. Tyldesley then mused that Fabio Capello would be asking Stuart Pearce 'which one's Frankie Fielding and which one's Scott Loach...he'll know he's the under-21s coach...not sure I would.' Now pretty much all that I write relating to the England v Hungary game could've been viewed if you follow all the great football bloggers I do on twitter. One (the identity of which I can't remember) asked at this point 'why is a lack of knowledge found so amusing at the ITV?'

I'm quite confident that for all his faults Tyldesley would be able to tell me which one was Frankie Fielding and which one was Scott Loach if they were stood together but chooses not to for the purposes of what he perceives as 'banter.' This is obviously absolute bollocks. For one it's not a bad thing to know the subject you're paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to talk about and secondly you won't lose any 'street-cred' if you tell us such information. I won’t carry on in this light as there have been plenty of writers out there who have highlighted these shortcomings better than I am now but strongly support the criticism of this seemingly intentional dumbing-down of football coverage.

While I was getting more annoyed watching the England game I missed Wales re-take the lead against Luxembourg but to their credit they added a third goal soon after which was nice of them. This was a simple Andy King header from Craig Bellamy’s corner with the keeper providing a near-perfect example of being at ‘sixes and sevens.’ Sticking with events in South Wales the commentator who I think was Allan Parry told us that Luxembourg ‘once went 11 years without winning an international friendly’ and just as he was doing so one of their midfielders ‘ballooned’ a long-range effort a long-range over the bar so he added ‘…and with shooting like that, you’d have to say they’re in for another long wait.’

Off to Dublin again and Lionel Messi picked up the ball slightly in his own half to beat three or four Ireland players before having a pass intercepted by Richard Dunne. This prompted the big Irish, long-time hero of mine to try and replicate the skills just shown by arguably the greatest footballer in the world. He started well beating one of his Argentine opponents before a heavy touch saw him stumble in his desperation to keep the ball around the half-way line which was undeniably the footballing highlight of the evening thus far.

Back at Wembley the crowd noise (not to mention the display in the top left hand corner) told me it was still 0-0. As the very commendable crowd of over 72,000 began to show their frustration we were shown a group of fans (two grown men, two children) holding up a banner which read ‘WE STILL LOVE U’ which I’m sure was the kind of worthy ‘talking point’ Tyldesley, tabloid hacks and ‘the lads at Talk Sport’ were enjoying getting their teeth into.

My attentions were once again back at the Aviva stadium where I heard that Andy Keogh ‘has a point to prove’ saw Carlos Tevez eating a lolly and decided that Ireland Assistant Coach Marco Tardelli does still bare a decent resemblance to himself in that iconic picture from the 1982 World Cup Final.

Back at Wembley and I turned on just in time to see Wayne Rooney being substituted after Hungary had just taken the lead. I was fortunate in that I enjoy witnessing a footballing ‘state of crisis’ which is what this undoubtedly now was so stayed here and as a result, shortly got to see a couple of moments of brilliance in the form of Steven Gerrard’s two goals. I’m not a huge fan of Gerrard to be honest and if you’ve read this blog before you may know I’m even less of a fan of his nickname but for all the hype that surrounds him and the England team/players I believe these two goals were ‘World-class.’

More rubbish from Tyldesley followed and a stand-out included the bemoaning of Capello for not having stood up: ‘It wouldn’t hurt.’ It also wouldn’t make any difference to anything with the possible exception of the longevity of the seats in the Wembley dug-out Clive.

Back in the studio Chiles continued in a similar vein and made sure we were back focussing on the over-riding issue of the evening: ‘you’ve got to feel sorry for the boo-boys, they paid £20 and couldn’t do any such thing.’ Did they really? Did ‘the boo-boys’ pay £20 to ‘boo their heads off’ or did they go hoping that the team they support that represents them would win a game of football? I’m not unfamiliar with people who seem to get a level of enjoyment at criticising players they’re supposedly at a football match to support but what proportion of that ridiculously large crowd went there to do that? Personally I don’t think it was large.

To finish off we had interviews with Joe Hart (more articulate than I remember though still reminds me a bit of Jedward lookswise) and Fabio himself. The first question he was asked by Gabriel Clarke was if he enjoyed it as he sat down? Over a week after seeing this I’m now running out of ways to get annoyed that such minor irrelevant issues are made into issues worth quetioning. Capello was dignified in his responses saying he was surprised by the positive reaction from the crowd and thanked them for it. I didn’t really pay much attention to the remainder of the interview as it was about something as insignificant like how he felt his team had played or something.

With the climax of this final game of the evening and Wales having finished their game 5-1 against Luxembourg it falls on me to report that the games featured 13 goals in total of which I’d seen five hit the net ‘in real-time.’ This really isn’t good enough for a self styled ‘TV Sports Enthusiast’ and if any of you feel inclined to boo after giving up your time to read about this disappointing performance I won’t hold it against you. God knows, in your shoes I’d probably do so myself!

Happy Viewing Guys and Girls, Dave

Watch

Friday 3rd September

Armenia v Republic of Ireland – Sky Sports 1 16.30
Montenegro v Wales – Sky Sports 3 18.30
Slovenia v Northern Ireland - Sky Sports 1 19.00
Lithuania v Scotland BBC1 - Scotland 19.15
England v Bulgaria - ITV1 19.30

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

CSKA Moscow v Saturn

CSKA Moscow v Saturn
Saturday 10th July
ESPN 13.00

Prologue

'Eyebrows were raised' when ESPN announced they would be showing the Russian Premier League when the channel hit our screens replacing the collapsed Setanta. When I say 'eyebrows were raised' I mean a series of txt messages were exchanged between myself and great mate Shoegl about the possibility of 'bloke in the pub' enthusiastically adopting Spartak Nalchik as his team, kids running around in Amkar Perm kits and a street being named after legendary Rubin Kazan manager Kurban Berdyev. To my knowledge the screening of these games hasn’t quite had this effect on the British sporting public as yet so with that in mind we that thought that a bit of DTVSr exposure might give it a push in the right direction.

Programme

As often happens with ESPN's foreign games the coverage started with the players lining up in the tunnel and commentator Martin Hyndley welcomed us to the afternoon's action from the Khimki Stadium. Immediately confusion set-in as I recognised this as Dinamo Moscow's stadium. Further research indicated that I was sort of correct in that Dinamo play there but it isn't their stadium neither as both they and this afternoon's hosts are temporary residents, CSKA having recently moved from the vast Luzhniki arena (of which they were also tenants.) Now I know what you’re thinking here, you’re thinking: ‘Dave, if I’d have wanted the lowdown on stadiums in Moscow I would’ve clicked onto ‘Dave’sStadiumsofRussiaReview’ so just get on with bloody action will you?’ And if you were thinking that the answer is ‘yes, yes I will.’

Before this first game following the summer break the players lined up on the pitch for what I'm sure was the Russian national anthem. Many of the crowd sang along with the players largely taking the ‘Spanish approach' (that was a three-week old dig at Clive Tyldesley by the way...you already knew that though.) With the formalities over the action was about to begin and commentator Hyndley told us that Saturn, who sat bottom of the table had only won one game prior to the break (against Lokomotiv Moscow.) CSKA (pronounced 'seska' rather than C S K A) in second spot were expected to win this sort-of derby and make up ground on top of the table Zenit St.Petersburg.

The main team news centred around the omission of CSKA's World Cup players in the form of Japan winger Keisuke Honda, Chilean winger Mark González and Serbian striker Miloš Krasić although the latter two did feature on the bench. The game kicked of and as I often seem to do was just noting that nothing had happened when 7 minutes in Saturn (or 'Saturn Moscow Region' as a graphic often referred to them) took a surprise lead with an absolute belter. Lone striker Dmitri Kirichenko volleyed on the turn into the keeper’s top left-hand corner from the edge of the box. Kirichenko naturally celebrated this fantastic strike but to my dismay they're didn't appear to be any visiting fans for him to celebrate with. "Do we have a shock on our hands here?" Asked Hyndley. Read on (or alternatively consult the interweb) and find out!

A short while after this I required my umpteenth visit to the toilet for the day following the previous night's ale-consumption and asked Mrs.DTVSr to “let me know if owt happens?” As a result it brings me great pleasure to inform you that on approximately 16 minutes 'the red and blues had a shot on goal but he saved it.' The very same 'red and blues' (CSKA) were now posing more of a threat than they had at any point previously and equalised on 27 minutes. The goal came from an overwhelmingly weak and badly executed shot from midfielder Alan Dzagoev which despite being low somehow went over Antonin Kinsky in the Saturn net. In fairness to the keeper the ball did appear to 'move' a bit and would have undoubtedly been placed in the category marked 'Jabulani' had it been at the World Cup.

As had happened throughout the opening 30 minutes, the commentator's knowledge and enthusiasm for the Russian game continued to impress me no-end. Naturally I drew the comparison with the appalling levels we were subject to in the World Cup whereby Lee Dixon famously admitted to 'not knowing too much' about two teams he was being paid to offer 'expert' analysis on. Not only did Hyndley seemingly know the background to every player on the pitch he even went so far as to mention bits of trivia such as the scorers in the previous day’s youth-team fixture between the two clubs. Is it really considered a better option to employ Alan Green who'll give the impression he's suffering some hardship by being made to watch Brazil v Portugal (at the World Cup Finals FFS!) than someone who not only can give insight to a players form, career history and strengths but actually gives the impression they want us to enjoy it as well?

Anyway, after 36 minutes Saturn re-took a shock lead with a header from their previous scorer Kirichenko. Well they would've re-took their shock lead had it not incorrectly been ruled out for offside. This prompted angry gesticulations from their manager Andrei Gordeev who if he added a few pounds would look exactly like a stereotypical Eastern European Gymnastics coach. He carried on his tirade of displeasure directed at the referee and officials all the way up to half time of which little of note happened bar a text-book modern case of “handbags.” Lyndley then told us that this was nothing in comparison to the brawl that marred the 2004 meeting between the two clubs and having discovered the x-rated film I can confirm that predictably he was correct (Disclaimer: Anyone under the age of 18 must get permission before watching this) CSKA V Saturn 2004 Scrap
.

The ‘steadily improving Armyestas’ put pressure on the ‘Aliens’ (I’ll leave it up to you to deduce which nickname belongs to whom) from the beginning of the second half which resulted in one of those all too often occurrences of a shot hitting the advertising hoardings and re-bounding into the netting leading to many in the stadium believing a goal has been scored. Fortunately as this wasn’t an English game (and of equal relevance, there didn’t appear to be any there….although I’ve since seen a picture that shows me there were some and numbered around 100) the opposition fans didn’t break into a collective ‘aaarrrrrrgghhh’ then start chanting ‘Who are ya? Who are ya?’ at the mistakenly celebratory CSKA masses.

A disappointing crowd development at this point was the noticeable racist abuse Saturn’s Benois Angbwa received on a couple of occasions from the previously excellent CSKA fans. Credit again should go to Hyndley who rightfully deemed it worthy of a mention but didn’t go into an all-out righteous rant about Eastern Europe’s racism in football problem that the likes of Green or Jonathon Pearce undoubtedly would.

Around an hour in and the home side brought on their returning World Cup ‘stars’ González and Krasić and continued to take the game to Saturn, forcing a goal line clearance from a close-range header at a corner. The two subs were in the thick of the action and Krasić had a very optimistic penalty shout where upon the replay, Hyndley diplomatically informed us he’s ‘no stranger to the theatrical side of the game.’ As CSKA pushed forward to get the anticipated three points, they naturally left gaps at the back and on a couple of occasions Saturn broke and save for some poor execution and indecision would’ve had a couple of clear chances in which to nick the game themselves.

Despite both teams efforts and an entertaining end to the game neither side could find the illusive second goal much to the displeasure of the CSKA fans and coach, Leonid Slutsky who I’d describe as looking like a more extreme version of David Platt.

An enjoyable return to national rather than international football viewing for me, helped in no small part by the intrigue factor of a league I’ve not watched much of and a commentator who accurately describes the action and informs me of interesting things I didn’t know. I’ll be watching the Russian action on ESPN again and may even find myself enthusiastically discussing the fortunes of Spartak Nalchik over a pint with one of their legions of British followers my fantasy world created a year or so ago.

Watch

Russian Premier League Review - ESPN
Tuesday 13th July 20.00
Thursday 15th July 19.00



Weekend fixtures TBC

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Interview - Our Man on the Inside

As a blog that concentrates specifically on watching sport on TV (not that we don’t watch it live fellow enthusiasts. We do, and berluddy enjoy it as well) we thought we’d try and approach our subject from a different angle. Influenced by our blog hero and inspiration Danny at European Football Weekends we decided we’d seek out an interview with someone involved in the old TV Sports game and are pretty happy with the scoop we’ve pulled off here.

We tried to get Adrian Chiles, Alan Hansen and even Gabriel Clarke but to no avail and just when all hope was looking lost we pulled this gem out of the bag!

Yes, it’s EVS operator for ITV’s coverage of the World Cup: Steven ‘Cheets’ Cheetham!

A marginally easier interview to get from the TV Sports World due to him being my old housemate, Cheets took time the time to answer a few questions all the way from Sarf Afreeka.

So Cheets, first things first, what are you doing for ITV out in SA?
Well Dave, first of all I'm not actually working for ITV I'm actually working for HBS - Host Broadcasting Services (DTVSr: sincere apologies to HBS.) Basically they show all the games, but they get companies from different countries to provide the crews to work on them. ITV have two English crews out here, the team I'm in do any games that are at Ellis Park in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

We do all the match coverage from games at those two stadiums and have done 12 games so far with one quarter final to go (Spain v Paraguay). We basically show all the slow motion replays during the games and build players wraps, closers etc. (DTVSr: oh aye, player wraps and closers.) My job is a bit different from what I usually do as I have to build a 3 and a half minute highlights edit of the game for half time and full time. It gets played out at the end of each half and the commentator voices it as it’s played out. This goes round the world to any broadcasters who can use it as they like.

So do you get to go to any games while you’re there?
We've not been to any games while we're out here so far as they have all been sold out (DTVSr: that’s just the two stadiums Cheets works at readers.) We could have gone to the first Holland game as tickets were still on sale but it was early in the trip and after a heavy night out and no-one actually realised this until just after kick off. Its difficult to go as most games that are local we work on, we could go to games at Soccer city as this is also in Johannesburg but they have all been sold out and I'm told it's a dodgy area to go flashing your money around trying to get tickets outside. We are looking to go to the quarter final between Uruguay and Ghana on Friday though which would be good.

What do you get up to in your spare time then?
We haven't had much time off to be honest. We got here a few days before the tournament started but had to go to the grounds and make sure that everything was set up and working properly and sort out accreditation etc. Then most days since the games started, we generally work two or three days in a row and then get a day off. When we work on the early games we get back in time to go to the hotel bar and watch the later kick off.

Then we have been out into town a fair bit, where we are based there is a big mall right outside with lots of bars and restaurants. It seems like quite a safe area where we are and there are a lot of people with loads from different countries about. I've basically been doing a lot of drinking and eating steaks. When we have had a day off we've tried to do a few different things.

The first day-off we went to a fan park and watched Argentina v South Korea. That was good as although its winter over here its still boiling in the day and it’s not until the sun goes in that it gets pretty cold. We had a good drink, took a ball with us and had a kick about with some South Africans. One of the lads we’re working with used to live out here as well and one of his old friends had a BBQ one night that we all went to.

Another day we went to a safari park and had a look at some lions and stuff (DTVSr: Good in-depth stuff this mate.) It was amazing as we actually got to go in with some lion cubs.

Today we went on a bike ride through Soweto which was real eye-opener to see how some people have to live over here. The kids were all really happy though, we played football with them and they were jumping all over us.

Have you had any other contact with many of the locals?
We have had a bit in bars and at the fan fest we played football with some who also had a few drinks with us afterwards. They have been very friendly on the whole and just happy to be hosting it.
That first day was awesome when they had their first game. People were out on the streets dressed up everywhere. It took us hours to get to the ground as the traffic was just backed up but was a really good atmosphere. It was good when they beat France too and a shame when they went out as it was fun having them in the tournament.

Today in Soweto everyone was very friendly and waving and posing for pictures. The kids would run and try and high five us as we rode past and then when we walked round the houses they walked with us and were holding hands and jumping on everyone.

Great stuff, you had much/any contact with many travelling fans from the various teams?
We’ve had a fair bit of contact with travelling fans when we go out at night. There have been a lot of South Americans staying round here, first it was mainly Argentina fans about and then a lot of Mexicans. There’s even been some New Zealand fans (DTVSr: To be fair they were in the tournament Cheets) and we generally just get talking to people after a few beers.

I've also had to go out with a camera man as he films all the crowds arriving at the games to get fan shots and colour which has been good seeing the different fans and how they act. The Chile fans at their game v Spain game were awesome, best I’ve seen so far

Back to your work then, do you get to do much hob-nobbing with the celebs of the ITV sports team? How do they react to you lads on the technical side?
To be honest we don't really see that side of things. We are just at the games doing actual match coverage. All the presentation for ITV is in a building called the IBC that is near Soccer City so they are all in a studio there rather than at the ground. I saw Adrian Chiles, Southgate and Townsend in a bar that we go in quite a lot. Kevin Keegan was in a restaurant we went in one night and when we watched England v Algeria Danny Mills and Robbie Savage walked into our hotel bar and watched it in there.

Any funny stories from that side of things?
No.

A refreshingly brisk answer Cheets. Do you have to deal with foreign TV crews as well? Is there a power struggle (ala sun loungers around the pool) for equipment use/good spots?
The foreign crews are mainly doing games in other areas of the country so we don’t really see them. There is a French crew that we see about but don’t really have much to do with them. There is a rivalry as when you watch the other crew's games you look for how they are doing it to see if it’s any better or worse than how we do things.

This is the first one I’ve been on so am new to it all but from what people say the English crews are generally regarded as doing the best match coverage. Then again there could be a French team also saying that so who knows? There’s no battling for sun loungers moments as such but if there was I think there’s more of us so we’d have them.

That's the spirit! To the action then, who’s impressed you so far? What did you make of England?
England were awful. Can’t believe how bad we were, thought winning the group and avoiding Germany would be massive and we couldn’t even do that although not sure we’d have done any better against Ghana. I actually watched the game in the fan park and there were a lot of Germans about. The disallowed goal was a big moment but they carved us open so many times that I don’t think it made much difference.

I’ve been impressed with the usual lot. Argentina have looked good. Brazil have looked decent. The Germans have been good and I think they might win it if they can beat Argentina. Also Chile and Uruguay have all looked pretty decent. As for players Messi has looked good even though he’s not scored. I thought Veron was awesome in the last group game and he’s still one of my favourite players. Ozil for Germany looks very good and I want United to sign him
but I think that’s very unlikely (DTVSr: Fortunately it is Cheets.) David Villa looks awesome, David Silva can f*** off (DTVSr: bit harsh.) Sneijder is quality too.

What are you missing about home (other than the Dave’sTVSports team obviously?)
Just Dave of Dave’sTVSports. That’s it! I don’t know really, it’s gone really quick and been pretty busy so I haven’t really had that much time to think about home that much. It’s been a bit weird living in a hotel for a month though, I feel like Partridge.

I kind of miss being home to watch all the matches. It’s weird that I’m over here working on the World Cup and I don’t think I’ve ever seen less games in a tournament. We generally miss the other games being played the same days we work so I only see the ones we work on and then some on our days off. If I was at home I reckon I’d have seen pretty much every game.

What I am going to miss about being here is being fed and given beer every time I finish a shift. As we are at the ground all day we get a meal when we get there and then when we finish we have our dinner (DTVSr: It’s ‘tea’ Cheets, we’re Northern) and there is beer in a cool box and wine on the table. I don’t think I’ll get that when I get back home.

Have you been able to keep up with the comings and goings of the last ever Big Brother?
I’ve not seen a single thing from Big Brother, I’m gutted. I haven’t even seen pictures of anyone that’s in it. Think that’s probably a good thing but it’ll be the first one I haven’t watched from start to finish.

Did you know a match at Wimbledon went to 70-68 in the last set?
I did see that about the tennis and the guy got knocked out a couple of days later because he was exhausted. I also hear Murray is playing well. Not seen any of it and if he gets to the final it’s the day we travel home so not sure if we will even get to see that...but tennis is gay so who cares. I’ve seen a bit of the cricket as well. Nice to hear us having a bit of success in that at least.

Well I’m sure if Novak Djokovic, Sue Barker or Jeremy Bates were reading this they’re not anymore. To finish, aren’t Vuvuzelas great?
Vuvuzelas are f****** loud! The first few days everyone had one. In the streets, shops, bars, restaurants…everywhere. That was quite annoying if you were trying to eat a meal and someone’s blowing one of them down your ear hole. It calmed down a bit after a few days though. I don’t mind them at the grounds and I’ve not really noticed it that much when I watch on TV or am working on the game. I’m definitely bringing one back if I can cram it in my suitcase.

Well we look forward to a genuine South African Vuvuzela arriving at DTVSr towers early next week. Many thanks for the interview Cheets.
No probs.

Steve will have worked on ITV1's highlights programme featuring Spain v Paraguay this Saturday at 22:30.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Dave’s TV Sports Review: World Cup. Days 1-4

2010 Fifa World Cup. Days 1-4

We’re hiding behind a stag-doo as an excuse for a lack of blogging during this 2010 FIFA World Cup (not quite sure what I can come up with for the last couple of months…oh alright then, drinking) so far as it took up days 1,2 and 3 (and 4 in a recovery stage) but as we settle down during day 5 it’s time to get this show on the road as it were.

So far then Mark ‘Lawro’ Lawrenson has been my most annoying TV 'personality.' Watched bits of Japan v Cameroon yesterday and he just proceeded to moan about everything in the style of a 60 year old man who hadn’t watched a game since the 86 FA Cup Final (‘now that Lawrenson feller for Liverpool, he was a player’ is what I would’ve loved him to have said in my fantasy extension of his old bloke miserable-sodness yesterday) combined with a moody teenager.

*Guy Mowbray: So Cameroon have a chance to test Kawashima in the Japan goal with this free-kick.
Lawro: Yeah that’s gonna happen.
Balls sails 10 yards over bar.
Lawro: Told yer.

*I actually made this transcript up but like to think it gives a flavour of what we were subjected to.

Would go along with the startlingly obvious consensus that Germany have been the best team so far. England and Italy both respected tradition by being ‘disappointing’ in their opening game. Too much is being made about the ball, the vuvuzela’s (‘What are those I hear you ask?’…No I already tried that gag yesterday on twitter) and the fact there’s a few empty seats in some stadiums. It’s appears a modern phenomenon that a stadium always has to be full and if it isn’t then ‘questions have to be asked’ of someone and something.

Whilst on the issue of stadiums and crowds I am somewhat disappointed we don’t seem to see as much of the choreographed group dancing that ‘lit-up’ last years Confederation’s Cup. You know the type, about 50 locals turning around, moving back and forward to a tune of ‘der der-der der-der HEY’ that always ends with them giving the guy next to them the high-tens. Then again
maybe they did form part of that booze fuelled first few days and if so I apologise.

Quite liked Mick McCarthy’s summarising during Italy Paraguay yesterday. This may cause some derision but I think he is genuinely good at offering some insight despite his broad Yorkshire tones. I’m not denying he will offer predictable opinions on tactics though but these raise a smile for yours truly. Not to the same extent as after 20 minutes of Portugal v Denmark in Euro 96, with the Danes seemingly not having touched the ball and Portugal cutting through at ease, great mate and eldest brother Jon laughed at Jack Charlton saying ‘he’d like to see a big lad up front' but I grin nonetheless.

Will hopefully provide more in-depth analysis on the in-depth analysis as the tournament goes on which should benefit from me being actually sat in front of a screen where I can hear our expert commentators, panellists and summariser.

Happy Viewing folks. Dave

Watch

World Cup games are shown daily on BBC1 and ITV1 kicking of at 12.30, 15.30 and 19.30 throughout the group stages.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Vintage DTVSr: Gazzetta Football Italia

Gazzetta Football Italia
Saturday Mornings Early 90’s – Early 00’s
Channel 4

Prologue

I once heard that this was the most watched programme ever….on a Saturday morning…on Channel 4. Mock all you want but when Kabaddi forms part of the competition for this title, it should by no means be taken lightly and oh how I looked forward to it as the inspiration to get up on a Saturday morning during my teenage years. A brew, bacon buttie and to be greeted by James Richardson sat in some grand Piazza accompanied by an elaborate Tiramisu and Espresso. Bellissimo!

The Programme

Once Richardson had introduced the show we’d get to see highlights of the main game from the previous week which we had almost certainly seen live the previous Sunday. The man himself would carry out post match interviews in Italian with your Beppe Signori’s, Gianluca Pagliuca’s and Giuseppi Gianini’s and then of course in the queens with your Gazza’s, Des Walker’s’s and Platty’s. After another couple of highlights from the bigger games of the previous week it came to what went onto be the signature feature of the show and Richardson’s review of the papers while sat in said grand piazza.

He’d sit there reading out the headlines from the huge multi coloured sports papers and immediately deliver the English translation with brilliantly dry timing and expressions. “‘Bergkamp: Inter – Basta’ Bergkamp, Inter Enough!” before going onto explain the story. This was interesting enough for many enthusiasts such as ourselves but what I personally remember and relish were the more obscure stories such as Genoa’s Czech striker Tomas Skuhravy writing off his car in the early hours while returning home from a brothel (I've done extensive internet research since starting this piece and cant find any records of it but swear it did happen....possibly) which he clearly enjoyed telling himself.

There were more serious moments where Richardson would adopt the appropriate tone describing for example the killing of the Genoa fan that had lead to the abandonment of the previous weeks live game against Milan and the subsequent suspension of a weeks full sporting fixtures across Italy. While it’s not a news item anyone wants to hear, that I still remember so much about this, which was a national crisis at the time is probably down to the brilliance with which he and the programme came across to their audience.

The following feature and a staple of any highlights programme worth its salt was the remainder of the goals from the previous week’s matches. I’m sure many of you can associate with my predicament here as having correctly anticipated that buying a Torino season-review might prove difficult in the (in my case) Tameside area I sat patiently with remote in hand, keen to capture Ruggiero Rizzitelli's brace at Brescia the previous week to add to the collection of the other season's action. I still have this skilfully edited 93/94 season review on VCR that details a respectable 11th placed campaign and politely ask that those of you wish to borrow it form an orderly queue.

The final section of the programme tended to be an interview by Richardson, or focus on a particular player, club, referee, journalist well just about anyone with some connection to the world of calcio. I was going to provide an example of a memorable moment from one of these but having just googled the subject came across this: ‘once famously, he got Attilio Lombardo to do the lambada' that demonstrates the man's brilliance and whit far better than anything in this blog ever could.

Unfortunately in 2002, Channel 4 pulled the plug on their Serie A coverage and since then Italian football has popped up on various channels with little if any success. A few of them have employed Richardson to front the live matches and also attempt to re-create the brilliance that was Gazzetta Football Italia but for this viewer the magic was gone. My hero was still his funny and knowledgeable self but the programmes and product didn't have the same lure the original did. There are many possible reasons for this and it was touched upon in a small piece in the current WSC.

In the early 90's, coverage of any European League was pretty thin on the ground so it had novelty value. Not many people had Sky and even then you were limited to Eurosport's imaginatively titled 'Eurogoals' which was a pretty bland selection of match highlights/goals round-ups and whatever you came across while perusing some of the many German channels (inclination of smut fully intentional.) This was a completely different scenario to ten years later when the amount of people with Sky was much higher and the volume of domestic and continental coverage was incomparable.

The product was also seen as the best in the world at the time. Well, the league had the best players in the world although many (wrongly IMHO) bemoaned the 'dull' football that was played but the talents of Gullit, Baggio and Batistuta were an obvious draw. Compare this to now where its pretty unanimously agreed the crown of 'best league in the world' is a straight fight between the Premier League and La Liga with Serie A on a similar level to the Bundesliga and maybe Ligue 1.

To be honest this was never my main attraction to it as Italian football had and still has an unmistakable lure. The team names and colours, the stadiums and probably more so the fans. Always misrepresented by British press, I was absolutely fascinated by the Ultras. The huge group banners behind the goals, the end-covering tifo as the teams come out, what are they singing and why is that lad with such a huge voice always there (I hope most of you understand this attempt at a gag)? The Rome derby when Roma as the away team went 3-0 up before half time and the absolute pandemonium that we got to witness on their curva after each goal. Utterly awesome stuff that lead to a brief obsession with not only the football and fans but country for me.

Other than on the Football Weekly Guardian podcast, we don't get to hear the voice of James Richardson any more. Apparently there was a recent campaign to get him the role of Match of the Day 2 presenter following Adrian Chiles sudden departure this month but I was glad he didn't get this gig, as I said to great mate Phil 'house' Bridgehouse, I'd hate to see a watered down Richardson that there’d undoubtedly be pressure on him to become for such a programme. There are surely enough people with some level of intellect interested in the game for someone to give him a go again though. The height of football related humour isn’t seeing a replay of Martin O’Neill running up and down a touch line for the eight-billionth time in the last ten years. There’s so much better, more interesting stuff they could feature on that would enhance our enjoyment of their coverage and getting a bald man to do a popular dance that sounds a bit like his name would be a good start.

Watch

Live Serie A coverage and a magazine highlights show are on ESPN throughout the week

The Football Weekly podcast with James Richardson from the Guardian can be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/series/footballweekly

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The Grand National

The Grand National
Saturday 10th April
BBC1 13:00

Prologue

Red Rum, Garrison Savannah, the whole family gathering in front of the telly, Grandma putting 50p e/w on, queues down the road outside the bookies. Party Politics on the eve of the 1992 General Election, the ‘National that never was’ the following year, who did you get in the sweep? 100/1 winners, the bookies will be laughing, Paul Nicholls, Jenny Pittman…and they’re off!

‘Why is the nation so transfixed with the Grand National?’ I pondered upon deciding to blog this a week or so ago. I haven’t really got the answer to this so I hope you are content with my Paul Whitehouse-esque reminiscing of previous years races.

Programme

In a change to the norm of a DTVSr I didn’t watch the whole four hours of coverage of the programme. As it was centred around a race that lasts around 10 minutes I couldn’t really devote all that time to it or more honestly, be bothered to. This did lead to the odd situation of walking around ASDA and making a bee-line for the their sound and vision section as I could make out a virtual run of the Aintree Course on their many TV sets. ‘Them porcine mushrooms will still be there in 5 minutes’ was the blunt decision I (correctly) made as I parked myself in front of the assembled mass of wide screen/HD teleboxes.

The programme had began with a textbook slightly arty BBC opening sequence that had the horses racing through various streets, city centres and past landmarks that then merged into the course. Claire Balding introduced the programme and we were quickly shown a montage of clips featuring Champion Jockey Tony McCoy who was yet to win a National as well as the winning rider from last years race, Liam Tredwell who won on 100/1 outsider Mon Mome.

The build up was largely made up of plenty of interviews and features on Jockeys, Trainers and Owners taking part in the race and those who’d had involvement in the past. As I say, I’m not hugely knowledgeable about the old Racing game but its hard not to be impressed by the time, effort and emotion invested by people that came across in some of these clips. Other than those involved in the business the other main interviewees seemed to be celebrities and the stand out for me was Peter Kay who we then found out would be presenting the trophy. I’m ashamed to say that it’s only as I’m typing this now that I’ve realised it’s due to Kay’s association with the race sponsors John Smith’s that presented us with this mildly ludicrous scenario.

The other races from the meeting were also covered but the only one I got to see was the 2.50 which produced high drama that would have an effect on the main attraction. Ruby Walsh who was due to be on the ante-post favourite Big Fella Thanks suffered a bad fall while riding Celestial Halo that resulted in a broken arm. Again, even to the less knowledgeable racing observer this was obviously a huge bit of news (especially as I know who he is) as every couple of minutes updates on the state of Walsh’s injury were given. Paddy Brennan, the winning jockey of this race in the immediate post-race interview (which takes place as the rider is still on the horse) asked ‘is Ruby ok’ as we were informed that ‘all jockeys know when someone’s had a bad fall, and that was a bad fall.’

John Parrott and Gary Wiltshire who were out amongst the bookies talked of how this could effect the betting but both seemed more concerned that Walsh would miss the race and Wiltshire, who was otherwise my hero of the coverage perhaps exaggerated when he commented ‘it’s a tragedy Ruby wont race in the National.’ I’ve seen Wiltshire on gambling related programmes before and enjoy his big loud cockney enthusiasm when announcing for example: 'the ‘panntarrs(punters) are snapping it appp(up) at dabble(double) carrrrrpitt(carpet.)’

Just before the race we got the full list of runners and riders to a funky electro-dance backdrop that didn’t feel quite right as the veteran commentator Jim McGrath announced them. We were also treated to a section I was equally amused by before this year’s Gold Cup as one of the reporters ‘on the ground’ asks a row of punters who they’ve backed. This inevitably results in a row of people with different levels of on-screen confidence:

Reporter: ‘So Madam who do you think will win today?’
Smirking Lady: ‘….Tricky Trickster’
Smirking Ladies Husband: ‘Big Fella Thanks’
Nervous Looking Lady: ‘Clou…Cloudy Lane’
Giggling possibly Drunk Lady: ‘Beat the Boys whoooooo’
Shyer friend of Giggling possibly Drunk Lady: ‘yeah Beat the Boys’
‘Likely looking’ Lad with arm around his mate: ‘Don’t Push it…Come on AP lad bring it home’
Young boy: Mon Mone
Reporter: As you can see everyone’s backed what they hope will be the winner.
Collective Crowd: ‘Whayyy’

I’m not entirely sure what the journalistic merit is in this but this now appears to be the norm across the sporting spectrum.

Parrott and Wiltshire were whipping themselves up into a right frenzy as they reported many of the prices on the horses being slashed. Wiltshire then waved a betting slip around for 'five bags of sand' that one punter had placed on Bring it Home and that had contributed to bringing it in to 10-1 Joint favourite.

As they lined up to begin the two most noteworthy sights was the volume of unsightly white sweat coming from now joint favourite Bring it Home and that one of the other riders was unseated from his Nag and struggling to get on as a seemingly difficult attempt to start the race was in progress. The race began at a second attempt but King Johns Castle didn’t and both the clearly uncomfortable horse and the frustrated, albeit now seated jockey looked forlorn figure’s as the rest of the field galloped off into the distance.

Conna Castle made the early running and lead until fence 21 of 30. There was the usual large volume of falls but very few of them seemed to be of the stomach-churning variety you often see in this race and fortunately none of the horses had to be put down as a result of injuries caused over this most celebrated 4 miles and 4 furlongs. On approaching Beecher’s Brook, Black Apalachi was now leading a group of 5 who were a considerable distance ahead of the rest of the field with Don't Push It on his tail. Having cleared the last it was now between these two but Don't Push It appeared to have a lot more left in the engine and ended up winning reasonably comfortably by five lengths.

Result:

1.Don't Push It (Tony McCoy) 10-1jf
2.Black Apalachi (Denis O'Regan) 14-1
3.State of Play (Paul Moloney) 16-1
4.Big Fella Thanks (Barry Geraghty) 10-1jf

As well as the weigh in, various interviews and trophy presentation we were told the bookies had took a hammering as not only had a favourite won, but they'd took plenty of bets on the other 3 placed horses as well. My newly crowned 'voice of the people' Gary Wiltshire gleefully waved the £5000 stake winning betting slip and expressed delighted that it had been a day for the punters.

I approached this particular entry with a passing but no great enthusiasm for Racing, however as with Cheltenham earlier in the year was genuinely impressed at quality of the event. Its the people who are the best at what they do, doing on the biggest stage and that deserves the respect and coverage it attracts. As for the horses, as I once said to great mate Steve 'Steveo' Garner: 'they look like a good set of lads' as well.

Watch

2011 Grand National
Saturday 11th April 2011
BBC1

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Late Kick Off

Late Kick Off
Monday 8th March
BBC1 (North West) 23:25

Prologue

One of the earliest football ‘magazine’ shows I can remember was Kick Off, hosted by Elton Welsby (or ‘Everton Wellbiased’ as an 11 year old future DTVSr scribbler found it hilarious to call him) on Granada (that’s ITV in the North West of England if there’s possibly anyone reading this who doesn’t know that or isn’t from there.) Broadcast early on a Friday evening you’d see goals from the previous week, a preview of the weekend games and features from North-West clubs from any of the 4 divisions. This would typically involve Clive Tyldesley interviewing Joe Royle about how much of a role the plastic pitch at Boundary Park is playing in Oldham’s promotion push or Rob McCafrey taking part in a penalty shoot-out after a Tranmere training session.

In the days when the only regular football coverage was Saint’n’Greavsie and a televised live 1st Division (that’s what you kids call the Premier League erm kids) match every fortnight or so I remember being excited when the programme hit our screens and rightfully so as it was un-missable for the young TV sports enthusiast. I can’t say I envisaged this current programme of a similar format would prove so captivating for a 30 year and present DTVSr scribbler, but this Monday I gave it a go to find out.

Programme

Face of BBC North West Sport and former editor in chief of the Daily Sport, Tony Livesey welcomed us in ‘an unprecedented week for North West football, to a special addition of Late Kick Off.’ Livesey was of course referring to the tragic death of Macclesfield Town manager Keith Alexander last week that has understandably had a huge effect on lower league football in the region.

We went immediately to Macc’s match at Hereford and saw the players coming out of the tunnel and the team with t-shirts baring a picture of their former manager. The brief match action showed Macc get an impressive 2-0 win and afterwards the players saluted the travelling fans who sang about Alexander. We then saw an interview with Chairman Andy Scott who understandably told that he was ‘glad to get the game out of the way now.’ Another interview followed with current player Matt Butler and then Alexander’s ‘friend and assistant’ Gary Simpson. Simpson wore the ‘trademark orange socks’ as his friend superstitiously had for every game and talked emotionally about how pleased he was ’that we managed to get a result for him today.’

Back in the studio Livesey asked guest and former Lincoln (one of Alexander’s former clubs) and Macc player Simon Yeo how Alexander would react to all the tributes being directed towards him. Yeo said that he would be baffled (my words not his) by all the ‘fuss’ (his) surrounding it.

On such a sad story to begin the programme Yeo did brighten it up in DTVSr’s eyes by regurgitating two of the most none-anecdotal anecdotes imaginable about his former manager. One centred around Alexander nipping off for a cup of tea and some biscuits as he was prone to. He would wind Yeo up by saying they were bourbon biscuits because Yeo loved bourbon biscuits but get this, they weren’t, they were ‘probably custard creams.’ The second was that he let them train in treacherous conditions at Lincoln once and chose to sat in his car and watch rather than join them. I understand its wrong to speak ill of the dead and I’m not, I’m speaking ill of Simon Yeo’s anecdote recital skills that I don’t imagine were befitting of the man.

The next feature was Bury’s centre forward Ryan Lowe reporting on his own teams’ game against Dagenham and Redbridge. As Lowe has scored 14 goals thus far this season he’s clearly quite good at being a centre forward. This is fortunate as based entirely on this, I don’t think he’ll make it as a TV reporter. Despite having a strong scouse accent Lowe spoke with very little tone or enthusiasm. When describing a missed chance, his timing was comical in a kind of primary school assembly type way: ‘a lighter first touch from me………would’ve improved my chance……….of an early goal.’ Unfortunately for Lowe he was denied a perfectly good goal not long after that as the linesman unexplainably flagged when he was clearly two yards on-side and unfortunately for us we had to listen to his account of it. The game finished 0-0 and Lowe then interviewed his manager Alan Knott, and the BBC Radio Manchester reporter for Bury, Bill Rice where oddly enough Lowe spoke more comfortably than at any other point during the report.

We saw a round up of the other League 2 games from the regions teams and when asked, the other studio guest, Blackpool’s Keith Southern said that he thought Accrington and Morecambe both still had a chance of getting in the play-offs. It seemed to me that Livesey had asked him this just to include him in the programme and I wondered if Southern actually had an opinion on this subject. ‘Not given it any thought and don’t really intend on doing so thanks Tony’ would I imagine have been a more fitting response.

League 1 goals then followed and a great irrelevant cliché opportunity didn’t go unmissed by Southern who upon seeing Tranmere’s debateable winning penalty said that he’d ‘take it at this stage of the season.’ Not to be outdone in the pointlessness stakes Yeo, when questioned whether Oldham’s draw at Exeter was a point gained or two dropped enthusiastically answered ‘oh a point gained, I’ve been down to Exeter loads of times and we’ve not come away with anything.’ So there you have it, the relative difficulty of all games will now be judged on how Simon Yeo has gone on when he’s played at that ground.

It was now time for ‘focus on,’ a section of the programme where one of the regions footballers is asked a series of short snappy questions and in turn provides short snappy answers. This week, Jim Bentley of Morecambe was the subject and the one answer I can remember him giving was that his favourite player as a child was ‘probably Kevin Ratcliffe or Graeme Sharp’. ‘My favourite part of the programme that’ Livesey then lied. I will happily stand up in court and argue that this man who provided a grateful nation with a near endless stream of hot naked chicks in a daily newspaper gets a suitable degree of enjoyment out of seeing a footballer telling us his main dislike is ‘smoking…people who smoke.’

If nothing else the following Championship goals review reminded me that Jason Euell now plays for Blackpool (he scored their winner against Ipswich) and when asked about his teams play-off chances Southern again played with a straight bat in saying they’ve been ‘written off all season and just see the aim as getting the 51 points and then we’ll go from there.’ After a quick look at this weeks fixtures Livesey told us ‘we end the programme where we began’ and a relatively lengthy interview with Bury’s Ben Futcher (who’d also played under Keith Alexander) followed. Again it was understandably an emotive issue for Futcher and he looked as if he was struggling to hold it together but as with those he’d followed he managed to do it.

Maybe an odd week to judge late kick-off as the programme was overshadowed by last week’s tragedy but with its unsociable scheduling and pretty limited content (the more interesting bits (goals) can easily be found elsewhere) I can’t really see it lasting and unlike the late 80’s/early 90’s Kick Off, I doubt it will be missed.


Watch

Kick Off
Monday Nights
BBC1 23.25

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Liverpool v Unirea Urziceni

Liverpool v Unirea Urziceni
Thursday 18th February
Five 19:30

Prologue

If Dave’s could take a rare moment to get serious readers, he’d like to tell you that he picked this game as it highlights his biggest bugbear with the modern game. The UEFA Cup (and FA and League Cup’s) was once seen as a hugely important competition that could define whether a club ‘at the top table’ had enjoyed a successful season or not. Now it’s seen as hindrance to the bigger priority of getting into a qualifying stage for another competition. Everyone knows the reason for this is the much sort after ‘Champions League Revenue’ that comes with qualification for the group stages but one of the many things that disappoints is that lots of fans as well as directors of clubs seem to give this priority over their team winning a pot.

Maybe it’s me here at Dave’s. Maybe I’m living with nostalgic and romantic ideas that are no longer relevant. Maybe I’m putting short term glory ahead of perceived long-term stability (such as that enjoyed after Champions League appearances at Elland Road and sportsdirect.com@St.James’Park.) And maybe kids don’t now grow up dreaming of scoring the winning goal in the cup final, instead its the goal that means their team finishes 4th and in turn, they get a mention in the boardroom when the club announces a record turnover at the yearly accounts.

Programme

The face of Five’s Europa League coverage and Liverpool fan Colin Murray told us that a ‘sold-out Anfield expects tonight’ (which I suspected was an early porky from the chirpy Ulsterman (the ‘sold-out’ rather than ‘expects’ bit obviously)) and immediately we saw Rafa Benitez and his Liverpool team arrive at the stadium amidst the news he was fielding a strong team for the game. We were then treated to a montage of clips highlighting Liverpool’s poor season so far with snippets of radio commentary focussing on defeats and exit from the Champions League. Just as the full depressing reality of a team being 4th in the Premier League and still in European competition in mid-February was hitting home we were thankfully uplifted as the camera slowly walked under the iconic ‘THIS IS ANFIELD’ tunnel entrance, the music picked up and we got to hear radio clips of more successful moments from the season so far. Phew!

Unlikely popular pundit Stan Collymore was in the studio with Murray, while at pitch side we had the thinking-mans pundit (pun semi-intentional) and softly spoken Scot, Pat Nevin. Nevin then let me down after that favourable introduction by rolling out one of the traditional Liverpool in Europe sound bites that ‘these fans love European Nights.’ A graphic appeared showing us the current odds for this year’s tournament and unsurprisingly Liverpool were sillily underpriced favourites at 13/2. Nevin opined that current holders Shakhtar Donetsk were the value at 14/1 whereas if DTVSr was asked to delve into its substantial gambling knowledge he would advise you to take a chance on ’The Peoples Club’ from across Stanley Park at 20/1.

As the build up continued we were given snippets of info on Unirea which included that the town of Urziceni could fit into Anfield twice over and there’d still be 10,000 empty seats, the club ‘fell out of’ the Champions League group stages despite beating Rangers and Sevilla and that former Sheffield Wednesday and Chelsea player Dan Petrescu was their previous manager. All the kind of stuff DTVSr (mostly knows but still) likes to be told to be fair. Benitez was then interviewed and I don’t think anybody could’ve faulted the basic logic in stating that he’s ‘playing a strong team as they want to win.’

Straight from another advert (we were now onto number 4 with the programme 25 minutes old) we saw shots of the crowd and Murray enthusiastically told us that a familiar song could be heard and true to his word a surprisingly full Anfield was scarves aloft singing You’ll Never Walk Alone. Is anything more comforting of a European night at Anfield than commentators going over the top about this spectacle that more often than not is followed by average at best support for 90 minutes? So we could all reflect on just how magical this is, Five thoughtfully went to another add break and on coming back Murray informed us that ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone had just gone on for ‘3 or 4 full choruses…It’s a European night all right!’ You said it Muzzer!

Liverpool started the game well and after just 35 seconds Steven Gerrard had quite a decent chance and his volley was saved by the Unirea keeper Giedrius Arlauskis. It would not be unfair to say this was the highlight of the play for the 1st 45 minutes as despite controlling possession, Liverpool created very little in the way of chances. The stand out aspect for DTVSr was the prominence of one of the referee’s assistants. For those of you unaware, UEFA are trialling the introduction of 2 additional referee’s assistants behind each goal during this years Europa League games meaning there are 5 ‘officials’ on or around the pitch during the match. Despite having watched a good handful of matches in the competition already this season I hadn’t noticed that they walk onto the field during play so seeing this assistant 10 yards into the pitch at the Kop end looked bizarre to say the least. Wearing navy blue trackies to accompany his bright blue ref’s shirt one would be forgiven for thinking we were witnessing sporadic but laboured one-man pitch invasions from a Danish league keeper.

With a trackie bottomed official walking on and off the pitch being the most noteworthy moment of the opening half hour, commentator Dave Webb remarked that ‘it’s a quiet night at Anfield isn’t it.’ Surely this broke the journalistic code of conduct that can only describe European nights (why are they never referred to as ‘European Games?’) at Anfield as ‘passionate’, ‘electric’ and ‘typical.’ As the whistle went to signal the end of the first half Webb continued to write his own death warrant by telling us ‘the lack of noise around Anfield tells its own story.’ Shame on you Dave Webb, Clive Tyldesley would be turning in his grave (were he dead.)

Murray welcomed us back to the studio after the adverts by telling us he’s ‘not a big fan of stats on a night like this so here’s the one maters, Liverpool 0 Unirea Urziceni 0.’ We went to Nevin who was now in one of them control room type analysis vans (popularised by Channel 4’s Test Match coverage a few years back) and he showed us clips and graphics to indicate the shape of Unirea’s defence. After a few words from Nevin and Collymore regarding Liverpool’s poor attacking play, Murray made a gag at the expense of their pronunciation of Liverpool centre forward David Ngog. “I’m a big fan of David ‘N-go’, its David Ngog I’m not so keen on.’ This made a change from him telling us how big a game this could turn out to be in ‘Leverpurl’s’ season.

No changes to either side as the second half began but the Leverpurl fans got behind their team with a chorus of ‘oh when the reds go marching in’ At this point I should state how surprised and impressed I was that Anfield had sold out for this. Those of you who keep up with my tweets will know that I put this down to reduced ticket prices and offered to ‘eat my hat’ if this wasn’t the case. Well I can say that having done a little research on the topic, tickets were their usual price and that last night, true to my word, I ate my ‘hat’ (in the form of tasty ham and salami pizza.) I would like to add to my unlikely praise of the Liverpool fans by saying that I don’t think any other club in Europe would have done so for this game (yes, I am more than aware that there are stadiums twice the size of Anfield amongst some of the clubs of Europe.) However I would like to finish on this attendances note by adding that should Liverpool play in the Europa League again next season, expect to see a few thousand empty seats at number of games and if I’m wrong, well I’ll eat my hat again.

After an unprecedented second commentary mention of the night for Northwich Victoria (Unirea played them in a friendly on Monday) we saw Anfield legends Kenny Dalglish and Phil Thomson sat together. ‘Nine hundred and ninety two Liverpool appearances between them’ Webb very matter of factly pointed out, which I’m guessing he didn’t just remember of the top of his head. Thankfully the game livened up around the hour mark as Unirea had a half chance with a shot from the edge of the box, shortly followed by a decent long range effort from Liverpool full back Fabio Aurelio. Ryan Babel then replaced the ineffective Albert Riera and Gerrard had a very half-hearted penalty appeal turned down which on replay didn’t even seem worthy of that adjective. ‘It’s like appealing for an LBW and then realising its going well down leg-side’ Webb commented.

The urgency of the situation seemed to becoming more apparent to Liverpool now who built pressure and after a scramble in the Unirea box, Ngog’s shot was deflected wide for a corner. ‘They’re no mugs’ said Webb who chose this moment to read out Unirea’s Champions League record and co-commentator Graham Taylor added that he was ‘impressed they’ve stuck to their game plan so well.’ In another positive move Benitez brought off midfielder Alberto Aquilani for young Spanish forward Daniel Pacheco. After a pretty standard applause/cheer for this substitute Webb told us ‘If nothing else that has really lifted the mood here’ in an obvious attempt to get back on track to the guidelines given in the ‘How to commentate on European nights at Anfield’ manual.

Just a minute after a promising looking situation for Unirea, Liverpool scored after Pacheco headed Babel’s deep cross back across goal for Ngog to nod in from close range. ‘Well that’s what we’ve been asking Liverpool to do isn’t it’ Taylor stated. This understandably perked the Kop up and ‘Fields of Anfield Road’ briefly reverberated around the stadium. Gerrard then teed himself up for a great effort from outside the box which was ‘so Steven Gerrard wasn’t it.’

Taylor when asked what mark out of 10 Liverpool’s performance merited, said that he ‘wouldn’t give higher than a six’ which was pretty much the number I was expecting and as the game came to an end it was hard to argue with the veteran ex-England Manager. Even in the 10 minutes or so after they’d made the breakthrough and with the crowd relatively lively they hadn’t put any great strain on the opposition. Still, it’s hard to imagine them not progressing through the 2nd leg and as Gerrard said in the after match interview ‘they’ll get more joy against them next week, when they have to come at us in their home ground.’ Disappointingly Gerrard had ignorantly overlooked the fact they are playing the game in Steaua Bucharest’s, rather than their own home ground the following week but fortunately at no point of the broadcast had one member of the Five ‘team’ referred to him as ‘Stevie G.’ The use of which is my 2nd biggest issue with the modern game.

Watch

Benfica v Hertha Berlin
Tuesday 23rd February
ESPN 17:00

Unirea Urziceni v Liverpool & Werder Bremen v FC Twente
Thursday 25th February
ESPN 17:00

Shakhtar Donetsk v Fulham & Juventus v Ajax
Thursday 25th February
ITV4 17:30

Sporting Lisbon v Everton
Thursday 25th February
Five 19:30

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Italy V England

Italy v England
Sunday 14th February
BBC1 14:00

Prologue

Welcome to the first non-soccerball based blog of Dave’s TV Sports Review folks. As this is such a momentous (the more cynical readers might say me actually publishing a new blog is momentous these days) occasion I’ve decided I’d like to share with you my hopes and aims for this piece of work. First and foremost I’m hoping you enjoy it, secondly I hope my inherent lack of knowledge on the oval balled game doesn’t jump out of the screen at you and thirdly I hope the constant interruptions to my viewing by checking the scores of FA Cup 5th round games that were taking place at the same time didn’t mean I missed any vital action.

Programme

The programme predictably began with a montage of clips showing people in England and Italy Rugby clobber in various touristy spots around Rome relating to the fact that it was Valentines Day in the Eternal City (and everywhere else I hasten to add.) Presenter John Inverdale was then stood on the Stadio Flaminio pitch with regular 6 Nations summarisers Jeremy Guscott and Jonathan Davies who enthused about the previous days incredible Wales v Scotland game and France’s impressive win against Ireland.

We were then shown a section dedicated to Lawrence Dallaglio’s cycling challenge for sports relief which is taking him to each of the 6-nations stadiums (three of which I’ve been past but not in fact fans) and a review of England’s win against Wales the previous week. Back on the pitch, Inverdale told us he’d been watching Jonny Wilkinson practicing his kicking for half an hour, which was ‘totally metronomic.’

The build up continued with an interview with Italy coach Nick Mallett who largely took the opportunity to defend his teams’ widely criticised negative tactics against Ireland last week. The interview was cut short in bizarre fashion as the director decided that we’d seen enough of Mallett’s musings and that a shot of an Italian girl in the crowd holding up a sign with the legend “WILKO WILL YOU MARRY ME’ adorned across it was more important. Being a sucker for a bit of romance I hoped Jonny would accept this proposal but the beeb chose to ignore this potentially life-changing moment for England’s most recognisable player but instead concentrated on the impending but now largely irrelevant game of rugby.

Pitchside reporter Sonia McLaughlin Spoke to Kiwi legend Justin Marshall who commented on the amount of England fans who’d made the trip and suggested many of them would’ve used the ‘I’ll take you to Rome for valentines weekend love’ followed by ‘you’ll never guess but England are playing Italy that weekend’ tactic. I was surprised this ‘theory’ had took the best part of 20 minutes to come up but personally think the likelihood many used it is slim at best. If you’re into following international Rugby its pretty likely the other half is aware when the 6 nations is on and will soon put two and two together. Bit of advice for you readers but if you are going to attempt to pull such a stunt be a bit savvier and choose something like a Segunda Division game (and put the words ‘hastily rearranged’ before it) rather than something that’s likely to be advertised before Eastenders. Some of you will thank me for this in the future.

We get to see the players come out through the tunnel and line up for the national anthems. The England players as always put a lot more passion into their singing of God Save the Queen than their footballing counterparts and watching the Italians belt out Fratelli D’Italia is as entertaining as ever with the emotion getting too much for Mirco Bergamasco who couldn’t halt the waterworks.

England kicked off and immediately won posession back and attacked with the ball being tossed about the backs and Delon Armitage was very close to scoring after chasing his own chip that was scrambled away by the Italians. A great response followed by the Italians who regained their composure after the early scare and created some pressure of their own in England’s 22 with commentator Nick Mullins and summariser Brian Moore enthusing that they were re-cycling the ball far quicker than they had in the previous week’s game in Dublin. After 5 minutes we’d seen both teams looking to ‘play rugby’ which unfortunately raised expectations that this was to be an entertaining game to compliment the two the tournament had produced the day earlier.

The game ‘settled down’ after this which is a term that implies some form of benefit but in reality it just meant it became a bit of battle between both packs and England’s backs kicking the ball poorly whenever they received it in their own half. With the score at 3-3 England won a penalty just inside the Italy half and Wilkinson stepped up to inevitably put it over the posts as Commentator Mullins told us ‘he hasn’t missed one when starting a game for England since 2003.’ Well just as I’m making the note ’18 – Jonny 3-6’ (how much does that look like a bible reference btw?) the ball falls short and we’re told that ‘it’s maybe because they're using the different Mitre ball.’

Just a couple of minutes later England win another penalty just outside the 22 and slightly to the side of the posts. ‘Jonny doesn’t tend to miss 2 in a row’ announces Mullins and then quite remarkably Wilkinson puts the seemingly easy kick wide. “I blame you” Moore tells Mullins. At this point DTVSr has to hold its hands up as for the second time in a few minutes I had presumptuously recorded that England had taken a 3-6 lead before the kick had been taken which as everyone knows definitely puts the ‘kiss of death’ on world class sportsmen.

Not to be outdone, teary national anthem singer Bergamasco then missed his 2nd penalty attempt for the Azzuri. ‘He slaps it like a set of bagpipes doesn’t he’ Mullins tells us of his unique kicking style which never having witnessed a set of bagpipes ‘slapped’ I’ll have to take his word for. For the next ten minutes or so, my most stand out moment was one of the Italian players getting injured as it highlighted to us that the Italian word for ‘physio’ is ‘fisio’ which is one for all you ‘language fans’ (© great mate, Richard Salguero) out there. Bergamasco made no mistake with his next effort and with the half coming to a close Italy were leading their more fancied visitors when Riki Flutey made a break from midway inside his own half leading to a penalty and ‘with a huge sigh of relief, Wilkinson puts England level at the break.’

Half time was mainly took up by the perennially grumpy Guscott and traditionally more-chirpy Davies agreeing that England’s kicking game isn’t getting them anywhere and they need to utilise the pace and skill of their backs a lot more. We were then told the fantastically entertaining news that Wales Flanker Andy Powell was arrested for drink driving a golf-buggy down the motorway after celebrating his teams win over Scotland the previous night. As Inverdale concluded this news item he impressively suppressed a grin that was itching to make an appearance but Davies and Guscott were unable to replicate this and both broke into a schoolboy-esque giggle.

The second half kicked off and for the first couple of minutes the England players carried on where they’d left off and continued to accurately kick the ball directly into the arms of Italy full back Luke McLean. Moore then enthusiastically linked Italian fly-half Craig Gower to buggy-gate and Mullins added that he was nearly the 1st international ever to be denied a spot due to the coach reading his Wikipedia entry and if we didn’t know what he was talking about we should check it out. I for one am grateful Mullins brought this to our attention as I can now report that one of Gower’s misdemeanours was at a charity golf event back in Australia where he ‘argued with several guests, groped the teenage daughter of former league player Wayne Pearce, chased Pearce’s son with a bottle before vomiting on him, streaked around the resort, wrecked a golf cart, held a butter knife to the throat of a Sydney radio personality and threw the knife at guests before being kicked out of the resort by security.’ In fairness we’ve all been there haven’t we lads?

Back to the game and a moment our half-time summarisers had been crying out for as a break from Ugo Monye from inside his own half and a couple of passes later Matthew Tait is touching down for the games first and ultimately only try. Again Wilkinson misses a seemingly easy conversion and again Moore has a pop at his commentary partner for ‘putting the mockers on him.’ 6-11. Another break from Monye leads to another penalty and with 3 more points and the sin binning of Mauro Castrogiovanni, England looked to be setting up to kill the game off easily.

Mullins then pointed out that sin binnings have had a massive effect on earlier games in the tournament with teams decisively taking advantage with the extra man and as if to further prove the ‘kiss of death’ nonsense correct, Italy took control of the following period and by the time their man returns to the field have clawed the score back to 9-14 and England are firmly on the back foot. The crowd sensing an upset are now getting behind their team with the familiar chant of ‘EE-TAL-YA, EE-TAL-YA.’

With nine minutes to go Bergamasco put another pen over to make the score 12-14 and with a full 15 players back on the field Italy are in sight of what would be their most famous victory in the competition and Brian Moore’s ‘never heard the crowd here so loud.’ Just when it looked like the upset was possible though England produce their best phase of play for a good 20 minutes and Wilkinson executes a relatively simple but nonetheless vital drop goal to give England the winning scoreline of 12-17.

In the couple of minutes after the final whistle McLaughlin interviewed an out of breath England Captain Steve Borthwick who was stubbornly defiant about his teams underwhelming performance. This did the relatively simple task of aggrieving Guscott who then described Borthwick as ‘brainwashed. His heads played a game his body hasn’t produced.’ Inverdale then seemingly hesitantly brought up the subject of Wilkinson’s poor performance, for whom ‘its hard to be objective about as he’s such a national treasure.’ Hard to be objective about a national treasure John? Nonsense! I’m objective about them all. The Queen Mum(God rest Her Soul), David ‘Del Boy’ Jason, HP Sauce…they’re all blinking marvellous!

Watch

Wales v France
Friday 26th February
BBC1 19:50

Italy v Scotland and England v Ireland
Saturday 27th of February
BBC1 13:00

Friday, 5 February 2010

Afternoon Report - Transfer Deadline Day

Afternoon Report
Monday 1st February
Sky Sports News 16:00

Prologue

Now you may find this hard to believe but I watch Sky Sports News quite a lot. With only council telly (freeview) its my default channel if there’s nothing on or more than likely, something’s happened in the sporting world that I want to see the action and of course, reaction from. I know its faults. I know they provide umpteen stories a week that in no way constitute a story, I know it gives over-proportionate coverage to certain teams and players, and I know they choose many of the female presenters for nothing more than their aesthetic quality (phwoarrr eh lads…sorry, got carried away then. Sincere apologies to my legions of female readers.) With this tendency to broadcast hours of absolutely nothing, no event in the sporting calendar is more suited to SSN than the transfer window but despite this description I and I’m sure many of you find it compelling viewing.


Programme

Mainstay presenters Jim White (the Scottish one who looks exactly how you’d expect a ‘Jim White’ to look…unless you were thinking of the snookerer Jimmy White, then in that case he doesn’t) and Simon Thomas (young, catalogue-boy, Jamie Redknapp type) welcomed us to this decisive hour of the January transfer window. The graphic that has appeared on this channel throughout the month of January popped us to tell us there was “0 Hours 59 Minutes and 42 Seconds” left of the transfer window now and Thomas confirmed “clubs up and down the land have less than one hour to get their business done.” Then we were transported to various reporters introducing themselves with a Eurovision-esque feel about it except they looked to be very cold outside training grounds of various Premiership clubs rather than sat above the beautifully lit up skylines of Helsinki, Brussels or Minsk.

White then enthusiastically took over and wanted to ‘get straight on with the transfer news and James Cooper outside Manchester City’s training ground.’ Cooper told of a ‘day of mixed fortunes’ as City were denied a work permit in very odd circumstances for fantastically named Kenyan McDonald Maninga but expected to complete the signing of run-of-the-mill named Middlesbrough winger Adam Johnson. Cooper then kept us ‘up to speed’ with any movement from the other North West clubs and I realised that each reporter across the country would do this as well as the one whose training ground they were outside.

White, equally as enthusiastically then introduced David Craig from Sunderland’s training ground. Craig told us that Sunderland had signed Alan Hutton on loan and let Nyron Nosworty go to Sheffield United, also on loan. I have to confess at this point I was already quite bored by SSN’s coverage of deadline day and not even the news that Newcastle had signed Coventry’s Leon Best for an undisclosed fee could re-ignite my interest. The hype and excitement was becoming too much and I just wanted ‘facts.’ What’s happened, what hasn’t happened (a very big chunk of deadline day ‘news’) and what is likely to happen. You know facts! Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of hype and you don’t need me to tell you Sky Sports’ brand of hype is the best in the business but I found the World Cup Finalesque build up to seeing a middle-aged man with a microphone stood in the cold outside a training ground a bit tiresome.

Much of the same was repeated for the remainder of Afternoon Report with different reporters looking largely bored outside different training grounds and not a great deal of breaking news to report. We got to see an interview with agent and ex City player Barry Silkman outside Upton Park. He tells us that while ‘today is very exciting for fans and press its very frustrating for players and agents who have to work within these deadlines.’ I was going to comment on the buckets of sympathy I hold for players, him and his colleagues suffering this plight of deadlines but instead decided that I should tell you I think Russell Brand would do a great impression of his high cockney tones if he hasn’t already given it a shot.

One of my favourite aspects of Sky Sports News is the 3 different sections of information on the screen that you can choose to pay attention to if the main news ‘story’ at that time isn’t capturing your imagination. I bring this up as around this time, the ticker (yellow bar, dead bottom of the screen) caught my attention with news that Hull’s Peter Halmosi had moved to Szombathelyi Haladas on loan until the end of the season. Now not much excites me more than a foreign football team whom I’ve never heard of before and after 1 extensive minute of googling I can confirm ‘Hali’ play in green and white in the Hungarian first division and last season was their best ever, finishing 3rd. I’m sure you’re as intrigued as I am as to whether this shrewd acquisition will be the final piece in the jigsaw to capture that first illusive Hungarian League Title.

Next we were told the English transfer window closes at 5:00 pm. We knew that, that was why I was watching with a view to blogging it. But..ahh, a graphic pops up that shows us the different times the transfer window closes in selected countries finishing with midnight in Scotland. ‘Its always good at midnight in Scotland’ White tells us’….its always good anytime’ he finishes. ‘Hahahaha’ adds Thomas. Adverts.

After the break we go to Pete Calley outside Birmingham’s training ground who gives us a round-up of in and out-going transfer news for the west midlands club that I cant be bothered repeating here. We go back to the studio and Taylor now tells us about some players ‘who definitely wont be coming to the premiership.’ Fortunately he stopped after Klaas Jan Huntellar and Mattieu Flamini as I expected this could’ve turned into quite a long feature.

Amazingly with such a host of nothing to report SSN diverted its attention away from deadline day action to give us some other sports stories from the day. Being news this caught my attention and I found out Peterborough had sacked their second manager in a few months and that Nigel Clough (allegedly) kicked Billy Davies in the ‘fracas that marred’ the end of the weekends East-Midlands derby.

The highlight of the remainder of the hour was Gary Cotterill’s bitchy ‘If Mido can show the kind of form and keep to the kind of waistline he was showing today’ while stood outside Upton Park and then we got to see Big Ben at 5:00 pm to signal the end of the transfer window. The introduction of the transfer windows and creation of SSN must’ve done wonders for Big Bens profile as they’ve allowed him to treble his live TV appearances each year. We were now past 5:00 pm and technically the blog should end here as this is firmly ‘Evening Report’ territory. However I think I should tell you much the same happened in this hour expect for the confirmation of Adam Johnson’s transfer to City and news broke of Robbie Keane’s impending loan move to ‘boyhood heroes’ Celtic, much to the bafflement of great mate and father Big Dave.

At 5:17 we had the breaking and non-transfer ‘news’ that England Manager Fabio Capello would take the decision over whether John Terry would remain as England Captain ‘in light of allegations regarding his private life.’ This obviously required a 5 minute interview with Sky’s chief football reporter Nick Collins who ‘wasn’t surprised’ as Capello is ‘his own man.’ I’ve got a few pages of notes to account for the next 45 minutes of Evening Report but I’d just be repeating the same anecdotes you’ve just read.

As I conclude this latest review I don’t like the picture I’ve painted of my relationship with Sky Sports News, we’re largely very happy together and I hope the feelings of love are mutual but as in all relations we have our ups and downs. This wasn’t our best day together but it is my duty to you to review TV Sports as I find them.

Happy Viewing fellow enthusiasts. Dave

Watch


Afternoon Report
Sky Sports News
Weekday Afternoons at 3pm.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Tottenham Hotspur v Leeds United

Tottenham Hotspur v Leeds United
FA Cup 4th Round
Saturday 23rd January
ITV 17:00

Prologue

The Cup is dead! Long Live the Cup! The cup was dead after the Saturday of the 3rd round (traditionally one of the highlights in the calendar of course), poorly attended fixtures with no giant killing left us longing for the days of Ronnie Radford, Sutton United and Tim Buzaglo to re-ignite the flailing passions in the grand old competition. The romantic British sporting public needed a hero of a similar ilk and just when it seemed all hope was lost we were blessed with 2! Step forward Jermaine Beckford and Rafael Benitez who were the stars of the subsequent 3rd round upsets and breathed new life into this year’s competition much to the delight of neutrals everywhere and relief of ITV sport executives.

Programme

Steve Ryder welcomed us and introduced the panel of ex Spurs and Leeds Goalkeeper Paul Robinson and familiar ITV face Andy Townsend. He immediately fell into the common trap of asking a footballer a question while giving him the answer at the same time by putting to Robbo that he must have split loyalties tonight. Robbo didn’t let us down: ‘Yep, split loyalties. Just hoping for a good game of football.’ Townsend then told us that since Leeds win at Old Trafford they hadn’t won another game since, all of which they’ve been favourites in but tonight, being underdogs ‘makes them dangerous again.’ More gibberish followed when ‘Appy Arry’ was interviewed and asked if it was going to be pretty straightforward for Spurs tonight. ‘Straightforward?’ he responded while half-laughing in bemusement. ‘I’ve never seen a cup tie that’s straight forward yet.’ This prompted me to wonder what he was doing for his teams 3rd round tie against Peterborough and if he wasn’t there why didn’t someone tape the 4-0 win for him?

Commentator Peter Drury gave us the team news and seemed most excited that Spurs included ‘a delicious full 1st team debut for Leeds United Academy product, Yorkshire’s own Danny Rose.’ In the few minutes before kick-off we got shown a few crowd shots and the camera focussed on a bare-chested Leeds fan before finding three more just a few moments later. At this point I decided that for your benefit I’d do a running total of shirtless Leeds fans we were ‘treated’ to but after numbers 2, 3 & 4 there was a resounding drought so unfortunately here’s where this ‘fun’ feature begins and ends readers!

A whirlwind start to the game where other than an opportunistic effort from round 3 hero and all-around livewire Jermaine Beckford, the famous Tottenham Hotspurs are absolutely battering their League 1 opponents. It’s not long before Spurs pressure looked to have paid off as Rose was clearly caught in the box and Allan Wiley, stood just yards away inevitably pointed to the spot. Defoe stepped up but put a decently struck penalty far too close to Casper Ankergren who made a good save. This predictably got the travelling four and a half thousand travelling support giddy but Drury was going somewhat OTT when he described them as ‘celebrating like they’d won the cup.’

Spurs continued to create chances and you could tell the home fans clearly thought they weren't in any danger of not winning as there wasn’t the discontent crowds get when their teams missed a pen with a game still at 0-0. I’m not saying this is particularly wrong as they’d fancy their chances at home to anyone and that obviously includes a team two divisions lower. I do have to be honest though, at this point (and all points since the draw was made) I found myself hoping Leeds United would win through this particular round of the Football Association Challenge Cup.

After another run and shot from Defoe, Drury tells us ‘Tottenham could be over the hills and far away’ and Spurs fans can clearly be heard singing their elongated version of ‘oh when the Spurs go marching in’ which (if you’re interested) I think is one of the best versions of a traditional classic heard in our stadiums folks. How Spurs aren’t in front at this point really is a mystery as Ankergren’s goal is being peppered from all angles. Great mate Shoegl, shamelessly pimping himself for a mention in this blog txt me at this point with ‘If this was a boxing match…’ which in fairness is a great cliché and subsequently he’s achieved his aim.

22 minutes in and Defoe is put clear through and when appearing to hesitate, gets tackled from behind by Leeds defender, Jason Crowe. Co-commentator and former Leeds fullback Jim Beglin didn’t think Crowe ‘got a huge amount of the ball.’ At this point I disagreed with him as on first viewing it appeared he’d cleanly taken the ball. The replay then proved why Jim Beglin is paid to give his opinions about football and I’m not paid to write mine down and publish them on a sparsely-read blog as it clearly should’ve been a 2nd pen to the lilywhites. Leeds best spell of the game so far then followed with chances for Robert Snodgrass and Beckford who were clearly their most dangerous players.


The Leeds fans then thoughtfully start singing ‘are you blogging Manchester?’ Which I thought was some nice recognition of my work although Drury seems to mistakenly think they’re singing ‘are you watching Manchester?’ In either case the answer is yes and it’s nice that they thought to enquire about my activities during such a big match for the fallen giants. Then, just as I begin to think they’re looking good to repeat the previous round heroics, Peter Crouch easily hits in a rebound after Nico Krankjar has a shot saved and dispels these thoughts.

The Spurs fans predictably break into their famous FA Cup Chas’n’Dave penned classic as half time approaches. No, not 1991’s ‘It's lucky for Spurs when the year ends in 1’(or to give the accent effect ‘Its Laaaaaarckey for Spurs when the year ends in wann!’) But ‘Ossie’s dream’ and ‘Spurs are on their way to Wembley’ reverberates around ‘the Lane.’ Jermaine Jenas leans back and sky’s what would’ve been a belting 2nd goal and that’s it. Half Time, Tottenham Hotspurs 1 Leeds United 0.

Leeds start the second half with real purpose and are gifted an opportunity almost immediately as Beckford intercepts a poor Jenas backpass but his touch is too heavy and it rolls out for a goal kick. Leeds manager Simon Grayson has clearly put something in his players’ half-time cup of tea as pressure leads to another corner, from which the ensuing scramble sees Beckford skilfully put the ball under Mario Gomez to equalise. ‘Rockingham Road, Old Trafford, White Hart Lane’ Peter Drury decides to shout out the grounds Beckford’s bagged at on the road in this years competition.

Leeds who really could’ve been beaten in the 1st 20 minutes are now on-top and seemed to be flowing with confidence. ‘By the way’ Beglin begins his point as if he’s going tell us he’s going for a pint after the game and ask if anyone fancies it ‘are Leeds up for this now!’ which was a rather disappointingly bland ending to his sentence/statement/question. It also seems the home crowd are becoming somewhat agitated which is welcome viewing as each misplaced pass or lost tackle is met with the not unfamiliar White Hart Lane groan. Beglin does however seem worried that his former club wont want a replay as another game could upset their promotion hopes. Fortunately for him a moment or so later Roman Pavlyuchenko produces a moment of quality as he dummies a pass which takes a defender out of the game allowing Defoe to put him though easily and he places past Ankergren to make it 2-1. In quite a unique celebration the goalscorer runs to the fans behind the goal, takes off his gloves and throws them into the crowd. I’m surprised that some 4 days after the FA haven’t yet issued a directive to referees that all glove chucking celebrations will now result in a booking.

In the same way ‘do-gooders’ watch programmes they know will outrage them so they can clog-up the switchboards and write to points of view, I watch Spurs cup ties (well any cup ties as it gets shown regardless) to get irked at mentions or clips of Ricky Villa and would you adam’n’eve it, on 78 minutes Peter Drury refers to ‘that’ goal. If your reading this Peter, I can do without the constant (once in 90 minutes) reference to a goal that still haunts me to this day (I should point out was only 1 year old at the time.)

Everyone appears content with Spurs seemingly progressing to the 5th round and Leeds on their way out but ‘having given a good account of themselves’ which appears to be the only thing you have to do as a lower-league underdog in a cup tie. Chances come to both Bale and Jenas to get the 3rd goal and put the tie out of sight and despite a lot of effort Leeds don’t look like creating the chance to get a second equaliser. Extremely deep into injury time Beckford gets the ball in the Spurs box in a one on one situation with Michael Dawson. Just as I’m urging him to shoot he runs at Dawson and lures him into a challenge that sees Beckford going to ground and appealing for a penalty. Wiley delays his decision and dramatically points to the spot which prompts me to shout ‘he’s give it!’ despite the fact I was in the flat on my own.

After a seemingly huge wait Beckford stepped up to take the dubious pen he’d just earned. This was a pressure kick yet Beckford showed composure ahead of his years to hit a perfect and unstoppable pen into the roof of the net. Predictably this sent the travelling Leeds fans into raptures and the game could only re-start for a few seconds more before Wiley brought it to a close and the Leeds players celebrated their unlikely draw and impending Elland Road replay. What a game! Its 2 in 2 for dramatic late goals on this blog’s featured games so far and lets hope this is a sign of things to come eh TV sports fans!

Watch

Crystal Palace v Wolverhampton Wanderers
FA Cup 4th Round Replay
Tuesday 2nd February
ITV4 19:30

Leeds United v Tottenham Hotspur
FA Cup 4th Round Replay
Wednesday 3rd February
ITV 19:30