Category Archives: Media

Corpses In Their Mouths

bbc commentary

By recent standards, the build up to this year’s World Cup was relatively low key. The national team’s abysmal showing at the last few tournaments, where the so-called golden generation were outplayed by the opposition and outshone by their own wives and girlfriends, resulted in a situation where both the media and the publics’ expectations were closely aligned to reality for once. The country at large seemed to accept the indisputable truth: England are a rubbish team and had absolutely no chance of winning the World Cup.

Which was fine, of course. Sanity looked like it might prevail and instead, we could all focus on enjoying the competition, spared of any national outpouring of jingoistic fervour and the self-indulgent cycle of chest beating, wailing and navel-gazing that greets every England tournament flop.

Unfortunately, the minute the squad touched down in Brazil, the old ‘World Cup fever’ quickly took hold and as a consequence, every good patriot felt obliged to re-assess the England team’s chances. The logic seemed to be that as England hadn’t done anything at previous tournaments as one of the favourites, perhaps they’d do better now they were relieved of that tag. A slightly flimsy pretence, perhaps – but one that many pundits and commentators were happy to run with. Sigh.

Cheerleader in chief was Adrian Chiles, doing his avuncular everyman schtick as ITV’s main anchor (yes, anchor). Chiles gets the gig, presumably, because focus groups and think tanks have reached the conclusion that of all potential candidates for the position, he’s the least likely to cause anyone great offence. He’s not posh enough to alienate the Sun readers and he’s not Northern enough to turn-off vast swathes of Middle England. Chiles is a human version of Marks and Spencer jeans. Completely non-threatening and minus controversy, he’s a Volvo estate driving at 69mph in the middle lane of the M6… tuned to Radio 2.

Alongside a revolving panel of 3 studio guests, Chiles’ main brief appeared to be ‘if in doubt, steer conversation back to England’. It didn’t matter what game was being previewed or what action we’d just witnessed, everything was geared towards shoehorning in references to ‘what Roy Hodgson might be thinking’ or ‘getting the latest from Gabriel Clarke at the England camp’ every 15 minutes.

To be fair to Chiles, he didn’t have an awful lot to work with. There must have been panic all-round when Roy Keane bailed from his duties on the eve of the tournament, leaving ITV woefully short in terms of actual personalities to pass comment on proceedings. Instead we were left with Glenn Hoddle, veering between complete nonsense and interminably dull recollections of France ’98, the ultra smug, charisma void that is Patrick Vieira and Fabio Cannavaro, on whom Chiles’ developed a painfully unfunny man crush that was duly referenced each time they appeared on screen together.

(Un)fortunately, Ian Wright had to return home after a week due to opportunist thieves/exasperated viewers breaking into his house and threatening his wife and children. I’m not condoning what was no doubt a horrific ordeal – although it did at least spare us a repeat of the lamentable spectacle of ‘Wrighty’ conducting live interviews with bemused, German surfers on Copacabana Beach…. “Yes! Copacabana Beach. This is hot! What’s your name, man?”

Listening to him amongst this bunch actually had the remarkable effect of making Lee Dixon seem both tolerable and knowledgable, though genuine salvation was to occur for ITV viewers during the second week of the tournament, following Martin O’Neill’s arrival. O’Neill is great – tetchy, inquisitive, and opinionated – it only took him about 5 minutes to upset the cosy bonhomie that was in place (even throughout an opening night bricking from Brazilian protesters). First O’Neill took offence to Chiles suggesting he might have cowered in defensive walls during his playing days, “I actually didn’t wear glasses when I played”, he explained – before reminding the sniggering Cannavaro and Vieira that he was the one on the panel with two European Cup winners’ medals. Have a look at his little outburst on YouTube, it was quality.

In Clarke Carlisle, ITV must have assumed they possessed the most boring co-commentator at the World Cup. That looked a shoe-in until the BBC, for England’s opening game versus Italy, decided to unleash Phil Neville on the viewing public. It was a mesmeric commentary debut from Neville, as his Bury monotone filled every millisecond of potential dead air with a non-stop stream of banalities. Actually, that’s a guess based on Phil’s twitter persona – because his voice was pitched at such a level, that it was difficult to make out any actual words. What was emitted wasn’t what could accurately be described as speech, it was more of a drone – reminiscent of a demoralised bumblebee, repeatedly crashing against the window pane of an otherwise silent, spare bedroom.

The BBC’s line-up is a mixture of familiar MOTD stalwarts (Lineker, Hansen, Lawrenson, Shearer) and a handful of newcomers (Lennon, Ferdinand, Henry, Seedorf and Juninho). Compared to the debacle of the last World Cup where the Beeb pundits seemed to revel in their collective cluelessness (“Seen much of Slovenia, Alan?”, “Haven’t a clue, Gary.”), they appeared to have arrived with a few pages of notes this time out, determined to at least give the impression of being well-informed.

Rio has given a decent account of himself so far, appearing genuinely enthused about the opportunity he’s been given and expertly straddling the fine line between capital bantz and serious analysis. Henry too is a natural at the punditry game – instead of guffawing at each cringeworthy Lineker pun, instead he’s taken to bowing his head – a gesture that manages to convey both his own embarrassment and a degree of pity for his colleague. Clarence Seedorf says very little and smiles a lot; Robbie Savage talks utter rubbish.

The biggest clown of the BBC crew has been Jonathan Pearce, who managed to make a complete tit of himself during France v Honduras. After Karim Benzema’s shot hit the post (wasn’t a goal) and was then spilled over the line by the goalkeeper (was a goal), Pearce was utterly befuddled by the resultant goal line technology replays. “THEY’VE CHANGED THEIR MIND!”, he bellowed, as the nation back home collectively began to wet themselves. “WHICH REPLAY ARE WE SUPPOSED TO BELIEVE?!”, he then implored, as Martin Keown quietly tried explaining that as there were two replays shown in sequence, perhaps it might be an idea to believe both of them.

Oh and the football? Yeah, it’s been goals and entertainment all round so far – the best World Cup in years. Fair play to the England team as well, and Steven Gerrard in particular, for delivering in terms of all our pre-tournament expectations for once. It’s about time.

Copyright Red News – June 2014

www.rednews.co.uk

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Do It Better

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Up until recently, a weekend without football was one of those awful anomalies of the fixture calendar – something you had to endure a handful of times per season in the knowledge things would soon be back to normal. Due to being knocked of of the cups we’ve had 2 or 3 in recent weeks and all things considered, they’ve actually proven fairly enjoyable. Mainly this is due to the fact that things can’t get any worse if we’re not actually playing, can they?

The Olympiakos away game could prove to be the tipping point as regards Moyes’ reign at United. Unless there’s an unforgettable night at Old Trafford on Wednesday we’ll soon be out of Europe too, meaning the last couple of months of the season look set to provide as much appeal and excitement as the last 6 months or so have. It’s pointless pretending otherwise… we’re a shambles at present. It’s all a bit of a mess.

The performance in Greece followed the Palace away game which led certain commentators to suggest we might have turned a corner of sorts. We hadn’t. Merely keeping a clean sheet and beating relegation fodder is cause for an outbreak of unconfined positivity these days, especially as it was done without the utterly execrable pairing of Young and Valencia – fast becoming the least threatening pair of wingers in United history.

Other than a brief 6 week spell after he signed, Young has proven to be a complete waste of space at Old Trafford. He doesn’t have a trick, or pace, can’t cross a ball and he’s physically weak. Compared to wingers of the past (and I’m including the likes of Arthur Graham and Ralph Milne, here), he just doesn’t move very well with a football. The only thing Ashley Young appears to be capable of is cutting inside and attempting something spectacular from 25 yards… which tends to result in a goal about once every 6 months.

Valencia meanwhile, is possibly even more of an enigma than Young. The frustrating thing here is that Valencia can play. He really can. We’ve seen him destroy Ashley Cole on a number of occasions and there was that golden spell he had pre-injury where every cross he put in seemed to land on Rooney’s head. I defended the guy for a long, long time but I’ve given up now. Things reached a nadir last season where his confidence had gone to the extent that when faced with a defender, he was performing 180-degree pirouettes and heading back to the half-way line.

On the occasions he does fancy taking on the full back and actually beats him, it usually results in one of his signature-move, ‘smashed across the box’ crosses that again, have about a 1 in 50 success rate. As everyone in the Premier League sussed months ago, it’s all too predictable and easy to defend against. It speaks volumes for Tony’s ongoing slump, that watching him toil with his waning powers, one finds oneself pining for the living embodiment of brainless inconsistency that is Nani. Nani for Christ’s sake! I swear, even Bebe seems a preferable alternative to Valencia at present.

Most fans accept that players go through dips in form at one time or another, it just starts to become a major annoyance when a few weeks becomes months (or indeed years in the recently-departed Anderson’s case). Perhaps the wisest thing the player himself can do is keep their head down and play through it until things improve – a point that seems to have been missed entirely by Tom Cleverley.

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Cleverley, just in case you’d missed it, is not happy right now. Apparently he’s been ‘stung’ by the criticism he’s received from United fans this season and feels he’s been made a bit of an escape goat. I have to admit, my first thought after hearing this was one of confusion because I haven’t heard any criticism of him whatsoever at a game, so presumably he’s talking about getting a bit of stick off bellends on twitter. Simple solution to that one, Tom: don’t take any notice of bellends on twitter.

For me, Tom Cleverley isn’t really a player that invokes any strong feelings because he doesn’t really do much other than simply existing. Indeed, I can’t say I’ve noticed any drop off in his performances because it’s difficult to recall any of his performances. People call him The Brand, but it’d be more accurate to describe him as The Bland. My biggest problem with Tom Cleverley is the way people often compare him to Ray Wilkins due of his penchant for passing sideways. To me that is just an insult to Wilkins who I thought was a lovely player, a true artisan – Cleverley is just a maladroit droid in comparison.

It probably never occurred to Tom or his advisors that in conceiving his TC23 website and media presence, they’ve only succeeded in making him more unpopular with the world in general. This isn’t just limited to these rabid hoards of United fans who are hounding him either, given that England fans have already selected Tom as their official World Cup pariah before the tournament has even started. We all know that no England tournament exit is complete without an MUFC-affiliated scapegoat, fair play to England fans for deciding on this year’s at such an early stage – I expect the quality of effigy likenesses to be off the chart given the additional lead time that’s now available.

If Tom wants to improve his standing in the hearts and minds of United and England fans, I’d suggest it might be wise to explore traditional methods such as playing well in football matches. Y’know, winning the odd tackle, take a few more risks, maybe even consider scoring a few goals or something? Puff piece, ‘nobody understands me’ interviews with a sympathetic Oliver Holt aren’t going to placate anyone or do you any favours – especially when they’re packed with condescending drivel about how your game might be better appreciated by Spanish football hipsters.

Unfortunately, you don’t play in Spain, Tom. You might feel you’d avoid the white hankies and be universally lauded in the land of tiki-taka but you’re at Man United – at a time where competition for midfield places is at an all-time low and you’ve had ample opportunity to make your mark on the team. Almost 3 years into a United career you’re better known for a website and going out with a girl from TOWIE than you are for being good at football, and that’s not down to any misunderstanding or lack of awareness on anyone’s part other than you and the people you’ve got setting up these media opportunities.

Too harsh? Possibly – but he’s 24 now so we’re not talking about some kid who’s just broken into the team, he’s an experienced international who’s got an opportunity 99% of his fellow professionals would kill for. The longer this shocking season goes on, the spotlight will rightly intensify on David Moyes – but it’s time some of his charges began to take more responsibility themselves. No passengers.

Copyright Red News – March 2014

www.rednews.co.uk

Another Day In Paradise

killmenow

If ever there was a day in the football calendar that sums up the cornucopia of cuntery the game has become, it has to be transfer deadline day. The summer window now culminates in a 24 hour festival of idiocy that has become something of a mainstay in popular culture – a bit like Glastonbury or Henman Hill at Wimbledon – in that it provides an opportunity for social inadequates to mug for the camera like total twats and get on telly if they so desire.

Since the signing of Berbatov in 2008, United have been mercifully quiet on the last day of each transfer window – instead it’s been left to the likes of Peter Odemwinge and Harry Redknapp to provide the gags for SSN’s last day banterthon. Not this year, unfortunately. United’s fruitless pursuit of Cesc Fabregas and cack-handed dealings with Everton led to a situation where we started the last day with a wad of money in our pocket and a faint whiff of desperation surrounding us. Since we’d spent the previous 5 years in pursuit of ‘value’ in the transfer market, it didn’t take a genius to work out we weren’t going to find it on this occasion either.

The worst part of the day was the realisation that due to it being the last day of the summer holidays, I was set to be at home all day on childcare duties. The child in question made it very clear that he was intent on spending the day trying to give himself a seizure by playing his PS3 for 15 hours straight – my only task would be to provide regular refreshments. It therefore became crushingly inevitable I was going to spend the best part of that 15 hours watching Sky, refreshing various live transfer blogs, checking twitter and generally hating myself for being so weak-minded as to be actually bothered about this shit.

I’d had the mental strength to avoid it in previous years, but that was achieved with the knowledge that nothing of any relevance was likely to happen. This year though, knowing that in all likelihood something would happen… I just got sucked into it like every other moron. I wasn’t watching with the expectation something wonderful was going to occur, as the day progressed it was more a case peering through my fingers and wondering ‘how much more of a fuck up can we make of this?’

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Firstly, let’s consider what we did achieve. Marouane Fellaini – United’s first afro-bonced midfielder since the days of Remi Moses – who arrived for the princely sum of £27.5M… only £4M more than his reputed buyout clause at the end of July. In any other industry such a cock up might lead to someone losing their job or at least some sort of explanation given to stakeholders – in football, however, such ineptitude is merely par for the course. £4M is only £3M less than the figure Bebe cost, after all… and from the evidence seen so far, United should easily hope to recoup that figure once they appoint an official wig partner.

Yes, the wig thing. Deary fucking me, as if things weren’t bad enough. In the words of one swag seller, “wigs are the new Green & Gold.” The Palace home game provided all the evidence you needed… hundreds of the fuckers. There was one cretinous individual you might have spotted sat on the front row near where Boylie sits wearing one of these things. Every time the ball went out of touch he stood up and started doing a stupid dance, waving his arms around, presumably hoping the cameras would pick him out and he’d make the ‘look at this zany prick’ spot on Soccer AM. Almost unbelievably, his girlfriend (or carer) sat next to him didn’t appear to be embarrassed by this at all. I genuinely hope the pair of them got hit by a bus on the way home.

Fellaini wasn’t the real story of deadline day, of course. Despite the last minute scramble that took place, United had been courting him all summer and the end result was one of the least surprising signings in recent memory. The real intrigue on Sad Bastard Monday stemmed from our interest in Ander Herrera from Athletico Bilbao, a name that had Spanish football sages getting all giddy whilst the rest of us merely shrugged – perhaps underwhelmed by his disappointingly orthodox hairstyle.

Sky were quick to confirm that Herrera was quality with a capital ‘Q’. He had to be because he had scored a goal against Barcelona, a clip I would estimate they showed in excess of 200 times in the space of 6 hours. Also, it looked like it was very much on because sun-dried Joe Mangel lookalike and ‘Sky Sport’s Resident Spanish Football Expert’ Guillem Balagué said it was.

Quite why Balagué has the reputation as an expert in football is one of the great mysteries of the modern game. I don’t follow the bloke that closely or anything but his name has surely become synonymous with inaccuracy and incorrect information. Has he ever got anything right? The minute the words ‘Balagué says…’ or ‘Balagué reckons…’ are uttered should be confirmation that whatever follows probably isn’t going to happen. I’ve not checked this, but it would not come as a surprise to learn that Spanish dictionaries actually contain the verb ‘Balagué’ – which roughly translated into English means ‘to get something wrong’.

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As time ticked on, the Herrera deal began to resemble a low budget Almodóvar farce. By far the greatest moment of the day (by now evening) was the revelation that the trio of lawyers attempting to finalise the deal on behalf of United were actually nothing of the sort. Disappointingly it turned out they actually were lawyers – indeed they were identified as representatives of the very reputable Spanish firm Laffer who’d helped broker Javi Martinez’s protracted move to Bayern a year previously – it just wasn’t clear exactly who they were attempting to represent in this instance.

A couple of weeks later this still hasn’t been cleared up. United have gone on record stating that Laffer weren’t representing the club and indeed, weren’t even known to them. Laffer meanwhile have been quoted in the Spanish media clearly stating their position – that they were not representing the player. Likewise, Herrera himself has confirmed that he had instructed no lawyers to push through the deal and was merely waiting to see if the clubs reached agreement. To me, this still doesn’t tie up sufficiently – who were Laffer there on behalf of in that case? With such contradictory denials from all parties on record, why have neither United or Laffer (both facing some ridicule and with reputations on the line) opted to challenge what the other is saying?

Should we even care? Probably not when hot on the heels of the Mister Potato and Kansai Paints captures, we can bask in the knowledge that Ed and Dickie have finally secured the club’s first official nutritional supplements partner in Japan. Welcome Manda Fermentation Company Ltd! That AND a midfielder in the same month. We are truly blessed. 
 
Copyright Red News – September 2013

www.rednews.co.uk