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