Friday, 4 November 2011

ESPN & Dave's TV Sports Review: An explanation

You can’t have failed to notice the rumours flying around with regard the lack of blogging and tweeting activity from Dave’s TV Sports in recent months and now’s the time to set the record straight. Yes, myself, Dave of Dave’s TV Sports, and ESPN have split.

The separation was made official when last Friday, the 28th October, I arrived home from work and casually flicked ESPN on in the hope of finding out which Bundesliga game would be shown that night to be met by the message:

Access to this service is denied by your viewing card.

It’s hard to explain the emotions felt at this point. Having rang up TopUpTV approximately a month before to inform them that I wished to end my subscription I cannot have been surprised by this. I wasn’t surprised by this. But the realisation was hard to take as an important chapter of my TV sports watching life had come to an end.

We’d been together a while before the first ever DTVSr was, fittingly enough, an ESPN shown fixture between 1FC.Köln and Borussia Dortmund and to read back through it many could be forgiven had they believed this was an unbreakable connection between two kindred spirits. Things were clearly going well in those days. I was enjoying their coverage of European leagues, I was enjoying their coverage of Aussie Rules and they’d started showing the truly excellent 30 for 30 series of documentaries.

It was a relationship that appeared to be growing stronger by the week and we shared some unforgettable moments.

One of the most memorable came last December during the Anderlecht v Hajduk Split Europa League game. On DTVSr’s sister twitter account, @shirtspotter, I tweeted that Hajduk’s kit was giving me an “almighty Oldham 96/97 vibe.” This led to a discussion with @DolphinHotel which resulted in him divulging the information that former Latics striker, Ian Olney, now works as a financial advisor. It’s hard to describe the joy felt at such a moment and just typing my memories of that night brings a smile to my face.

And even in these last few months when the relationship was becoming noticeably fractured we could still share in beautiful moments. Just a couple of weeks ago I found myself doing a little jig in delight when I got to watch Miroslav Klose’s injury time winner for Lazio in the Rome derby. It was occasions like that caused a few to question whether the split was as ominous as I believed it to be. Certainly, the people at TopUpTV’s customer retainer department made a series of phone-calls suggesting a reconciliation but my decision was made.

Where did it all go wrong then? Obviously some things should remain unblogged and I have too much respect for the channel I paid £10 a month to for over two years to badmouth it in public but to look back on DTVSr’s tweets in the past few months it was obvious cracks in the relationship were beginning to show.

The choice of a round of live Premiership Rugby Sevens rather than the Bundesliga opener between Dortmund and SV Hamburg on the evening of August the 5th hurt. It still hurts. And the fact that I couldn’t view the channel until 13.00 (11.00 at weekends) was a constant source of friction, none more so than when it caused me to miss the first hour of Collinwood v St.Kilda a couple of months earlier.

Still, I’m not saying I was faultless in the break down. I know my enjoyment of canned lager and bottled ale while watching the channel often made it feel like it was secondary in providing me with entertainment. As is the case with all forms of experiencing sport, I felt the two could run harmoniously (successfully in fact) in tandem but ESPN did not feel the same, and who am I to tell the UK version of an International sports network how to feel?

One thing it wouldn’t be right for me to comment on here are the, quite frankly, vicious suggestions that another format for watching live sport was fundamental to the split. Those close to us knew we were open in our relationship and I often watched sports on alternative channels while ESPN allowed other TV Sports enthusiasts to view its offerings. It wasn’t and still isn’t, certainly from my point of view, a problem. What’s happened has happened and maybe they’ll be a time to absolutely put the record straight in public but for both our wellbeing, it’s still too early.

And so it is so, we go our separate ways. It hurts but right now I feel it’s for the best. As I said previously we will always have the memories. That tiny graphic they use to indicate a red card has been shown in a game. The bizarre motor racing competition where cars represent European clubs. Their two-hour long review of the seasons French Cup including game commentaries in the native language. The list could be endless.

As for the future I’d say it’s inevitable our paths will cross (possibly as early as this Saturday at 17.30) as we both mix in the same circles and I hope we can still get on. I’m sure we can. We still share so much in common but some things in life just don’t work out. My heart, however, will always skip a beat whenever I hear the words “Eredivise Highlights Show.”

Happy Viewing fellow enthusiasts. Dave

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Manchester United v Arsenal

Manchester United v Arsenal
ITV1 16.45


I've not hidden, or conversely, screamed and shouted about it on these pages but for those of you who don't know, I'm a Manchester City fan. As a bitter (when other fans want their most obvious rivals to lose it's rivalry, when Manchester City fans do it's bitterness. You know the rules.), in 99.9% of the games Manchester United have played since I've been six years old I've wanted the opposition to win. This one was to be no different but my willingness for Arsenal to progress this quarter-final was, by my own rough estimates, about 800 times of that I wanted Liverpool to beat them last week. This, some of you may have gathered wasn't to do with any dislike of Liverpool (not that that doesn't exist neither.) The fact that City were, at this point still in the competition, and looked to have a good chance of progressing to the semi-final themselves made my willingness for United to go out far, far greater.

The fact that they are top of the league at the moment is reason enough to want an opposition team out of a cup competition you are in. That I might have to share the first time I get to see the team I support play at Wembley with them overshadows that immeasurably (two things here: I don't think semi's should be played at Wembley neither. My brother got married the day of the 1999 Division 2 Play-Off Final. OK a third: yes it still bothers me). I hate games against them. In times gone by I've not felt able to eat anything on the morning of them. There's enjoyment in winning them, pretty ridiculous enjoyment, but my overriding emotion throughout is to get through it without getting beat. You wouldn't have to have an encyclopedic knowledge of English football to know that in the last 25 years or so to know City have failed in that task more often than not.

So, it was with slight trepidation I sat down to watch this tie but it was with hope 'The' Arsenal would save me this worst case scenario.


After the usual ITV FA Cup opening credits of some bloke and his son in an East-End (there's no proof it is East-End, I'm just saying it is) greasy spoon wearing indecipherable club colours followed by some Sin City-esque (?) great mate and non-sport liking brother Ian would put me right on this if he'd ever seen it)) graphics we saw clips of the fans of both teams arriving at the Theatre of Dreams. It's hardly new news but, yes, there was inevitably someone wearing a half United half Arsenal 'friendship' scarf. Probably wouldn't be the top of everyone's list but of all of modern football's ills it is the every match frequency and ludicrousness of 'friendship' scarves I have probably moaned about the most.

Former Middlesbrough managers Gareth Southgate and Gordon Strachan joined Jonathan Chiles in the studio and discussed which team needed the win more after recent disappointing results and the longevity of Sir Alex Ferguson's and Arsene Wenger's 'desire.' It shouldn't come as much surprise that I wasn't paying a great deal of attention at this point as it's the kind of cliché-ridden chat we hear on a daily basis but in my defence I was also trying to write the prologue up there ^^^.

After highlights from the days earlier quarter-final in which I admired the travelling Bolton fans level of 'going-up' for their late winner at St.Andrews we saw the teams come out. We were then treated to the bizarre sight of United's Javier Hernández on his knees on the half-way line having a good old pray. For all I know he may do this every game he starts but not having been fortunate to see many of their games this season it was a first view I got of this behaviour.

Now I don't seem to have all the notes I made at the time and (possibly in a bit of a strop) I deleted the game of the TV planner on Saturday night so my description of the match and coverage action isn't quite as comprehensive as it could be. What I have got though is that after about 15 minutes one of them twins headed over from the other one's cross. Clive Tyldesley then proceeded to tell us for the remainder of the half that they were twins, they're very close and often try and confuse their team-mates and staff at United's training base by answering to the other one's name.

Despite, to this neutral's eye, Arsenal's possessional and territorial superiority their reluctance to get a ball in the box or threaten Edwin Van der Sar's goal was causing me to use swearwords in the sanctity of my own front room. The swearing upped it's intensity when United took the lead just before the half-hour when twin no.2, Fabio, put them in front from a few yards out after Hernadez's header had been parried by Manuel Almunia. While at half-time Southgate praised the original header from Hernandez I personally felt the stand-out quality was Wayne Rooney's cross that led to it.

Arsenal again seemed to get in strong positions for the remainder of the first half, and the opening of the second, but due to some indecision from their players and some great keeping from Van der Sar were unable to find the equaliser. The contest and my viewing of the game was effectively ended when Rooney made it 2-0 five minutes into the second half. Having minutes earlier made the well-ballanced statement “there's no f****** way Arsenal are gonna f******* score here” I then astutely added “there's no f****** way we're not gonna get those c**** if we win tomorrow.” Mrs DTVSr, who was lovingly preparing the evening meal in the adjacent kitchen, gave me a resigned 'seen it all before' look. I'm quite sure that was in relation to me swearing at some some unfolding TV sporting action rather than Manchester United progression to the semi-finals.

I tried to take my mind of the prospect of a Wembley meeting with United at times on Saturday night but was unable to. My thought process generally went in this order:

  1. Tomorrow is now a lose/lose scenario: We either have our most embarassing Cup Quarter final defeat in living memory (which would be some achievement) against Reading, or we could go through and have the horrible prospect of playing United at Wembley.
  2. In the ridiculously unlikely scenario we beat Reading and haven't drawn United who do I want us to get?
  3. Would playing them in the semi be preferable as a potential final meeting would top it in terms of 'worst-case sceanrioness'?
  4. Why am I presuming we'll beat the Biscuitmen having watched them deservedly win at Everton and with our recent performances in the week before.

    Those thoughts ran on repeat for the remainder of Saturday night.

    It was a more optimistic Dave who woke up on Sunday. Yes we would beat Reading, and there was a two in three possibility we wouldn't draw them. Watching the start of the Stoke v West Ham quarter the missus asked me who I wanted to win. My response of “West Ham if we draw the winners, Stoke if United do” highlighted my new found optimism that this might not actually lead to this most dreaded of ties at the famous twin-tow...ahem arch thing.

    Then it happened. Having shared a cab to the ground with four blokes I'd had a chat with while enjoying a few pre-match ales in the city-centre, we heard on the radio that Bolton had drawn Stoke. If there was a passenger in that cab who didn't mutter the immortal words 'for f**** s***' then I'm...scrap that. We all said it.

    In the 15 minutes or so before the match I made the decision on behalf of the crowd that we had to be defiant about this now. A comfortable win and we could all sing about winning cups and so on. And a couple of hours later? Following a nervy win, we were all singing about winning cups and so on. It was brilliant as well. For all that I've been asked if it feels different going to City in the last couple of years, the elation after a win in a big game (and this was a big, big game) is exactly the same and it was fantastic.

    To the semi then. Blimey. I've already had enough stomach-churning moments thinking about it and we've got a month to go. I wouldn't say I'm confident about the game, but I'm not dreading it as much as I previously would have. Can't say the same about the day, I am dreading that, but the match should see two well matched teams both with a chance of getting through. And if thing's go as disastrously wrong as we all fear they could? Well, I'll always have my half City half United 'friendship' scarf to comfort me.

    Bolton v Stoke
    Manchester City v Manchester United
    Weekend of 16th/17th April on ITV and ESPN

Monday, 21 February 2011


Not only do I utilise the interweb to enthuse lyrically about the pure excellence of watching live action on TV, I also use it to report on another great sporting passion of mine.

Who here, doesn't enjoy seeing an obscure football shirt eh? Exactly, I can't see one raised hand. Now as this is such a joy to behold I thought I'd set-up a twitter account devoted to such activity. Yes, that's correct, along with the inconsistently updated DTVSr blog and twitter feed, I am also responsible for everyone favourite shirtspotting social networking update, @shirtspotter.

The Bio of the account is as follows: Classic, obscure or unusual football shirts spotted on my travels/TV. Send me yours inc. where/when spotted and I'll RT if deemed good enough

As a service I will now provide you with a three-point-plan to the criteria which constitute “good enough” and how you'll get that most sort after RT.

1) Club/Team

My biggest fear (truly a huge fear this, sleepless nights and all) when I began shirtspotter was that people would contact me to say they'd seen a Barcelona shirt as if that in some way constituted obscure. I figure that I see a Barcelona shirt on my travels around two-and-a-half times a day. Similarly a current shirt of the majority of Premier League clubs, a Rangers or Celtic shirt, Italy, Brazil, Real Madrid, Milan etc. cannot be considered obscure. If you're contemplating whether the team of the shirt could qualify it as such, ask yourself this question:

Is it a shirt you'd expect to see at your local five-a-side complex of an evening?

If the answer is yes then I'm sorry, this isn't a worthy spot. If it is no, then we may be onto something. There are, I should point out, exceptions to this rule though. Let me take Barcelona as an example again:

You see someone wearing the current home shirt with “MESSI 10' on the back. Is this a 'spot'? No. Don't be ridiculous. You're wasting my time and your own by telling me about this.

On the other hand you see someone wearing that gold/yellow mid 80's away number made popular by Terry 'El Tel' Venables at that meet the squad day at Nou Camp when they introduced Gary Lineker/Steve Archibald etc. Grab yourself a beer and pull-up a seat at the shirtspotter table my friend.

2) Location

“Is that lad wearing an Arsenal shirt? No it's not an Arsenal shirt. Is it? No it's definitely not. I'll take a closer look.” You're now within five yards of said lad. “Yes. It's a Braga shirt! Let me tell that shirtspotter feller, he'll be proper giddy” you might think. Let me stop you there one moment.

Where are you at the time of this spot? Are you taking your daily dinnertime stroll to Greggs to fill-up on competitively priced savoury treats? If so, fine, let me know, I'll be delighted to re-tweet it. If on the other hand you happen to be stood outside SC Braga's AXA Estadio prior to their match against bitter local rivals Guimaraes then sorry, this naturally makes the spot null and void.

In the last six months I've been fortunate enough to feast my eyes upon Bury, Lech Poznan and Lancaster City shirts. Unfortunately these teams were playing at the arena's at which they were spotted so consequently weren't reported and you won't have read about these otherwise glorious moments.

3) Original/re-issued shirts

My favourite football shirts, and therefore ones most likely to be mentioned on shirtspotter are generally from the 1980's. “What's the problem with that?” you may wonder. Well you'd have to be pretty disinterested in the world of retro sporting merchandise to not have noticed nearly every (especially British) club have re-produced some of their classic shirts from this era in recent times.

In many cases these are easy to distinguish from their far more illustrious, and in many cases, less comfortable, originals as they don't contain the manufacturers logo. Some however (I'm looking at you Adidas/Umbro) do contain the manufacturers logo and open up a world of confusion for the less skilled eye.

How do you do approach the difficult task of distinguishing then? I'll be honest, there's no foolproof formulae for this but here's a couple of little tips that could help you out.

As with all spots I'd advise getting close-up to your subject. Signs of well-wornness are good. If, for example, someone's got a 1986 Liverpool shirt on and part of the W of CROWN PAINTS is peeling off it's a positive sign the shirt was bought from an allsports in 1986. If it's really bright and shiny and has a number on the back (numbers are quite often a giveaway in this situation) then it's more likely a re-issue. Similarly, a long-sleever, for me, means that the RRP was more likely to have been £49.99 rather than £17.99.

I've not actually stated that a re-issue doesn't count as a 'spot' and won't say unequivocally that it doesn't, however it's less likely to be considered one. Example time again: A 1990 England World Cup shirt with 19 on the back wouldn't be one. A 1987 West Ham shirt may be one. A 1991 Fiorentina shirt would be one. I don't think I can be any clearer than that.

Points to Note

Those of you who already follow me will have noticed that spotting isn't solely confined to that of shirts. Indeed, one of my favourite spots of recent times was a middle-aged woman in Albert Square Manchester wearing a Gremio tracksuit top. Any football-related garment that fits the criteria spelt out above is worthy.

Similarly it doesn't have to be football-based. A spot can be made if someone is wearing a noteworthy item of clothing associated with any sport. You're doing the Inca Trail as part of your holiday of a lifetime and see someone in a Hull KR shirt. Let me know. Bloke in the next office had got an Alberto Contador t-shirt on dress-down Friday. Let me know. Someone gets on the bus in an Edmonton Oilers beanie...etc.

So that's it kids. Keep your eyes peeled when you're out and about and try and follow the guidelines set-out above. May you see a man in a Brondby shirt on your walk to the station.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Rangers v Celtic

Rangers v Celtic
Sky Sports 2 12.00


DTVSr is back, DTVSr is back Hello, Helloooo! That's right fellow TV sports enthusiasts. After a self-imposed exile of about six months, I've decided to watch some TV sports again! I jest of course. I've been watching TV sports throughout those six months (watching it a bit too much some would probably argue...she'd obviously be wrong though) but have only now had the time and inclination to write about it again. “Why's that Dave” you may enquire? Well if you're one of this blog's three readers who doesn't know me personally I've been on a journalism course and don't let the quality of anything your are about to read doubt me on that.

Indeed, those of you who are regular readers of the Huddersfield Examiner's weekly nostalgic Blast from the Past page or buyers of the Non-League and Football League Papers may have recognised my stuff that has been published as part of my work experience. And there cant be many of you that didn't pick up Wales on Sunday around a month ago to read a particularly tasty report on the titanic Southport v Newport clash eh? Anyway, enough of me living on past glories, what you want to read is my account of this season's 17th meeting between Rangers and Celtic right? Right? Want no further my friends.


The programme began with some actor being an old Glaswegian man saying things about the depth of the the Old Firm rivalry with a predictably arty montage of clips. We then went to our presenter, Jim White, who was joined in the studio by ex-Ranger Neil McCann and ex-Celt Chris Sutton who would no doubt provide expert and excellent analysis.

I was trying to make a joke about the frequency with which the two age-old rivals meet when I said it was the 17th meeting between Rangers and Celtic this season. It was in fact the third, of the scheduled six meetings at this point of the afternoon, between the teams with two league games having taken place and this being a fifth-round cup game. I read in a recent When Saturday Comes that overkill is creeping in and the fixture is becoming, the one thing no-one ever thought it could be, boring. I can see where that article's coming from but it's still one out the multitude of live games available to me that I make an effort to watch.

If I was honest, which I am, I'd have to say that my interest in the game stems from a lot of the things many would say is wrong with the fixture. I enjoy watching the out and out hatred from the stands unfold in front of me, I enjoy that the players often get caught up in it far too much and I enjoy, dare I say it, that they sing some pretty nasty things about each other. I'm sure many would disagree (or possibly agree, quite a broad church my readers) but I think all these contribute to make it such entertaining viewing.

Following short interviews with Bursaspor's Kenny Miller (formerly of both clubs of course), Ally McCoist and Neil Lennon, there was a short break before we went to the action. White informed us our commentators were Andy Walker and Bill Leslie if we were taking the first ever opportunity to watch an Old-Firm game in 3D but for those of us content with good old erm 2D, we were stuck with Davie Provan and Ian Crocker.

As the teams came out it was the sea of noise and colour we'd come to expect as the PA played out Tina Turner's Simply the Best which I don't really like then “Follow Follow” for three sides of Ibrox to heartily sing along with which I did (like, rather than sing along with.) The game kicked off at “breakneck speed” and after just two minutes, Rangers took the lead after a real howitzer of a long-range effort from Jamie Ness. His shot flew past Fraser Forster into the top corner of the net to understandably send the afore mentioned three sides of Ibrox into raptures.

With 'the volume now turned up a notch' Rangers nearly doubled their lead in the moments after as Steven Davis' shot rattled the crossbar. With such a cracking start to the game I at no point really contemplated what those lucky enough to be watching in 3D made of it all until typing this up. I think I've been told the 3D camera is on the opposite side of the stadium, or a different camera angle or something. Why would anyone specifically want to watch it in 3D, and what does it look like? Do you have to wear them cardboard glasses with one red and one green lens? These are all things I've since pondered but am actively uninterested in finding the answers out to.

Celtic quickly got back into the contest and around the quarter-of-an-hour mark, their recent acquisition from Derby County, Kris Commons hit home the equaliser. It was the kind of goal that I enjoy in the moment of anticipation when the ball's played across the box and you know someone's on-hand to bang it in. This then prompted the Broomloan Road end to take it's opportunity to erupt.

The Celtic fans, who for me sang the best couple of songs of the day, broke into one of these with their currently popular version of Depeche Mode's (or maybe the Saturday's cover version...or maybe they just like the DFS advert) Just can't get Enough. I'm a big fan of different terrace songs and as Celtic are, as yet, the only group of fans I've heard sing this they win a virtual rosette I've decided to start handing out. They didn't stop at one virtual rosette though. Oh no. Just minutes later they were going at it with their version of Bonnie Tyler's 70's classic, It's a Heartache. As with the above it matched the same criteria so after 20 minutes Celtic were on-top by the most unlikely of margins: 2 DTVSr virtual rosettes.

Despite Celtic, to my technically expert knowledge, looking the better team for the remainder of the first half it was Rangers who re-took the lead when Steven Whittaker hit home a 40th minute penalty after Forster had brought down Steven Naismith. This again demonstrated the level of noise in the stadium as even through my not even HD, and certainly not 3D, TV, I could sort of feel Ibrox shake at this point.

Over half-time McCann and Sutton both felt the sending off of Celtic keeper Forster, which came in the penalty incident, was “contentious.” I felt it was the correct decision and having already gone well-past my loosely-set word guidelines won't elaborate any further on why I'm correct.

The game re-started and we got to see Iain Durrant share a joke with Sir Alex Ferguson (as I always refer to him) in the directors box which if my lip-reading skills served me correctly ended with SAF saying “nooooo hahaha f#ck%ng 'ell.” Celtic again, as they did in the first half, looked the stronger when trailing and it came as no great surprise when captain Scott Brown equalised with another fantastic long-range strike with about 25 left.

Brown celebrated by standing in-front of his fellow pantomime villain and nemesis for the afternoon, El Hadj Diouf, raising his arms while eye-balling him from about a yard away. Now to be fair to Brown, if he happens to read this, which lets face it is highly likely, he may accuse me of hypocrisy for criticising his provocative gesture considering my reasons stated above for watching these games. But my gut-feeling was that he looked a bit of top-hat more than anything and he was booked for this action.

Despite the best efforts of Davis and substitute Georgios Samaras, neither side could find a winner in the remaining time but Naismith made it ten-a-side when he was correctly sent-off with a second booking having dived on the edge of the box. As it had struck me in the first-half and was now being mentioned by the commentary team, this was shaping up for a replay and an unprecedented seventh meeting this season with their two league games and a League Cup final still left to play.

In the post-match analysis (which was double the length of the pre-match preview for any budding statto's out there) our panel re-iterated that they disagreed with me over the first sending off but we were all singing from the same hymn sheet in our opinion that it had been a thoroughly entertaining game. A bizarre glitch in Sky's production department then gave us a minute or so silent clip of what looked like a sound man stood in front of the interview boards for the Championship rugby coverage later.

We jumped back to White in the studio who told us Sutton then had to leave and join Alex Rae and SFA president, George Peat, downstairs to carry out the quarter-final draw in which some teams got drawn against some other teams or some different teams depending on the outcome of their yet to be settled ties. This isn't meant to be derogatory to the Scottish game of which I am genuinely interested, I just cant be bothered repeating it.

So a seventh Old Firm game of the season which will no doubt please the Sky execs and both clubs accountants (do they share gate money in the “Scottish”? I'm sure they do) but probably not the players and fans of both clubs. But what will the keen, and not so keen, TV sports fans feel about it? Well it's very likely I'll watch it. I may even have absolutely no intention of find a place that's showing it in 3D.


Scottish Cup 5th Round replay
Wednesday 16th February
19.30 Sky Sports 3

(subject to change)