Tag Archives: bbc

Kicking Television


Whilst debate continues to rumble on amongst United fans about whether Wayne Rooney should be dropped in light of his ongoing lack of form, tv viewers were recently treated to an “unprecedented”, behind-the-scenes profile of the man courtesy of the Beeb in Rooney: The Man Behind the Goals. As far as titles go, I might have plumped for ‘Wayne’s World’, personally.

The programme was commissioned to mark the fact that Rooney has now reached 50 international goals – a landmark haul that Gary Lineker was careful to remind us of at least a dozen times. The footage shown of a teenage Rooney served as a reminder of what an utterly devastating player he was in his youth, completely at odds with the waning Wayne we see toiling away in 2015.

Disappointingly, despite promising much more, there was very little revealed about “the man behind the goals”. Indeed, the most remarkable thing about this documentary was how little about Wayne Rooney we managed to learn over the course of an hour. Instead we were treated to about 20 minutes footage of Wazza playing with his kids, 10 minutes of him driving round Croxteth, 20 minutes of vox-pop plaudits from his fellow pros and 10 minutes of non-insightful musings from the man himself.

Rather than giving us stunning revelations such as “fatherhood has matured him” and “he’s a great captain”, I couldn’t help feeling the whole thing was a giant missed opportunity. It would have been so much more illuminating if instead, Lineker had gone off-piste and started rummaging round his house ‘Come Dine With Me’-style. Rather than simply teasing us with mentions of Wayne’s love of live music and flair for writing poetry, it would have proved far more entertaining if they’d cracked open a couple of bottles of wine and got the karaoke machine out whilst Lineker went delving into Colleen’s knicker drawer in search of said poems. Maybe next time.

It’s been a been a while since there’s been a reverential documentary detailing the life and times of Sir Alex Ferguson, so hot on the heels of exposing what makes Wayne Rooney tick, BBC1 followed up this up with Sir Alex Ferguson: Secrets of Success. This programme decided to forgo the already done-to-death biography format and instead went with the premise of Fergie’s new-found status as one of the world’s foremost thinkers in the field of management in business.

Fergie Harvard

Post-retirement, Fergie has managed to swerve the £500 a night after-dinner speaking circuit so beloved of ex-pros. Instead, he finds himself invited to speak at educational institutions alongside Harvard professors. The format seems to be that the academics start the ball rolling by presenting their theories in lecture theatres full of graduate trainees, before Fergie takes to the mic and dismisses all conventional wisdom with his inimitable brand of icumfigovaness.

It’s an incredible (and no doubt very lucrative) gig that Fergie has got for himself, and it doesn’t seem to matter a jot that his pearls of wisdom are simply common sense methods familiar to any manager in any workplace the world over. Nevertheless, the sway that Fergie has in these circles shows no sign of abating any time soon. Everyone sits there totally enrapt in the presence of such a legendary figure, collectively ignoring the fact that his experiences in charge of a football club aren’t in any way related to their own career aspirations of managing a team of 30 stockbrokers.

Out of all the usual faces lined up to pay homage to Ferguson and his greatness, only Tony Blair had the balls to admit that Fergie’s “just get rid of them” mantra doesn’t actually translate to a normal (not that 10 Downing Street can be considered normal) workplace. How utterly bizarre though, that the former Prime Minister actually sought out the opinions of a footballer manager whilst agonising over a proposed cabinet restructuring.

One of the comedic highlights of 2014 was BBC3’s Football Fight Club, a ‘hard-hitting’ documentary exploring “some of the most active youth firms in the country.” As far as hoolie porn goes, last year’s effort was stone cold classic. We met Dante from Spurs, attempting to kick his habit by fighting trees in a forest pretending they were Chelsea; there was a chubby lad from Bury retiring from active service at 18 to become a sensitive singer-songwriter; and of course there was Carl, leader of City’s ‘infamous’ Blazing Squad, memorably driving round Stockport with his 16 year old accomplices trying to arrange a “4 on 4” with West Ham.

Blazing squad

The producers of Football Fight Club don’t try to innovate, they instead stick rigidly with the tried and tested ‘Danny Dyer format’ that’s become the standard for the hoolimentary genre. There are numerous shots of dogs roaming bleak-looking council estates, gangs of kids stood on street corners with their hoods pulled up and a voiceover from a sociology and media studies graduate, explaining in hushed tones about ‘meets’ and ‘top boys’ and ‘banning orders’.

As well as catching up with Carl and Dante, this year’s follow up film introduced some new aspiring Cass Pennants. First we met with Brogan (17) from Lanarkshire, unique due to being a girl and for having seen Nick Love’s adaptation of ‘The Firm’ and taken it seriously. Unusually for a teenage wannabe hoolie, Brogan eschewed the pub as part of her pre-match routine. Instead she met up with her Hamilton Academical’s youth firm cohorts (ages ranging from 9-16) on a piece of waste ground, where they jumped up and down singing songs in their impenetrable accent sharing a small bottle of Buckfast. I’m not making any of this up by the way.

Then we met Denny from Wolverhampton, invited by Dante to travel down to London to ‘mob up’ with Spurs in order to fulfil his long-held ambition of taking on a “top continental firm”. Unfortunately, the game selected was Fiorentina at home, where clearly, nothing was ever likely to happen. By way of consolation, Denny travelled back home on the last train out of Euston gazing wistfully at footage of Feyenoord getting a kicking off the Italian plod the same night. What a pity the programme’s meagre budget didn’t extend to buying the lad a passport and sending him and the film crew out to Rome instead.

Blazing Squad Carl, meanwhile, was still holed up in his Bury flat bemoaning his misfortune of being off the scene due to serving a football banning order. Not really a surprising development when you consider he went on national television last year incriminating himself for an hour. Still, the end was in sight and Carl’s ban was soon due to expire – his preparations for which, we discovered, comprised of getting a new tattoo and buying an Ellesse tracksuit top. Apparently, he was also “looking forward to Derby Day”. Gulp. Be careful out there, reds.

Copyright Red News – October 2015


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


Heroes and Villains

So here we are again. August rolls round and it’s time for another 9 months of money, gossip, lies, tantrums, tabloid exclusives and halfwitted millionaires…yes comrades, the football IS BACK!!

Once upon a time I’d spend the summer months counting down the days until the start of the season. The fixtures being published was a big deal, as was transfer market activity, a new kit being released, pre-season friendlies…this season it seems to have arrived too quickly. A couple of months off without the expense, the stress, feeling compelled to watch SSN, not having to engage in mindless bantoh with fans of other clubs…it’s been great and as things stand, I’m sorry it has to end. But it does. I know I can’t spend the entire winter watching beach volleyball on telly, despite such a prospect holding more appeal than seeing Michael Carrick start the season at centre back.

Given what happened on that final day in May, most people I know of a red persuasion have spent the last couple of months suffering with varying degrees of post-traumatic stress disorder. As the day arrived, only the most foolhardy seriously expected results to go in our favour…but the manner in which everything unfurled, Jesus Christ it was brutal. One thing I can confidently predict about this season, no matter what lies ahead, it won’t be as anything like as painful as the closing moments of the last. Just horrific.

With City winning the league and Chelsea fluking their way to a scouse-like, scabby European Cup win, the scene was surely set for England to win the European Championships. Mercifully we were spared such a sight and true to form, the national team saw fit to deliver exactly what anyone with a modicum of sense expected of them…absolutely fuck all. Completely out of their depth and as inept on the big stage as always, it was a relief when they went out. Watching the quarter final vs Italy was a tortuous experience, one felt relieved for the rest of Europe that defeat on penalties meant viewers were spared a repeat performance in the semis.

The tournament as a whole proved similarly underwhelming and there was an air of inevitability about proceedings throughout the entire fortnight. England struggled the reach the quarters, the Germans were better than the sum of their individual parts and Spain won by virtue of being able to pass the ball better than anyone else. Once upon a time these tournaments were something to look forward to, packed with action and incident that made for genuinely gripping viewing. Euro 2012 only confirmed suspicions that international football has been eclipsed as football’s biggest spectacle – it delivered none of the madness and drama the latter stages of the Premier and Champions Leagues’ had provided only a few weeks previously.

It was left to the Olympics to provide the sporting spectacle of the summer and fair play to the cockneys, even an embittered Northern curmudgeon like myself has to admit they did alright. I tuned into the opening ceremony in full-on, ready to take the piss mode but was surprised to witness something which was at times touching, heartfelt, funny and most extraordinarily, actually very entertaining. Even that sour faced old bag herself, the Queen made me smile for the first time I can ever remember.

For something that basically amounts to a overlong minority sports day, the Olympics did make for enthralling viewing at times. Aside from our achievements in the velodrome or on the running track, many of the other events continue to baffle. The BBC’s coverage was so focused on Team GB, they virtually suspended all other news coverage for the duration to report on our progress in the ‘twatting around in little boats’ and ‘making a horse dance’ disciplines.

Thankfully, the overlong closing ceremony (like watching a re-run of the 1993 Brit Awards on a cocktail of industrial strength acid and ketamine) saw us quickly regain a taste for healthy cynicism to replace the happy and glorious, victory vibes we’d been gorging on throughout the preceding fortnight.

The moment the tournament finished, sports hacks were tasked with dealing with the imminent transition back to Premier League concerns. A handful, namely Rob Beasley in The Sun, predictably opted to run with the ‘aren’t footballers absolute bastards in comparison to our brave Olympic heroes’ line. Such stories have appeared after any non-football, sporting success in recent times, namely the rugby world cup win or ashes victories – the general inference being that football is a game played and watched by utter shitheads.

Of course, football is fucked up – this isn’t a new revelation. It’s easy to take a snapshot of the game in 2012 (mercenary players, financial doping, the greedy opportunism of owners etc, etc) and reach the conclusion that the sport now exists at gutter level. The Olympics has the advantage of occurring once every 4 years, for the rest of the time the majority of its events are marginalised, with participants out of sight and out of mind.

If football happened once every 4 years, then I’d expect our players would be held in similar regards to ‘heroes’ such as Ben Ainslie and Chris Hoy. If that pair lived in the Premier League goldfish bowl, the public would soon be treated to a different spin on their backgrounds, personalities, families and the lives they choose to lead. Football is tainted by money and greed and the likes of Terry, Tevez, Rooney….whoever…are clearly a product of this environment. I fail to see how they are to blame for its existence though.

Still smarting from the Sneijderless summer of 2011, I was determined to give transfer speculation the swerve this time around, having now resigned myself to the fact that we are never going to sign a midfield player ever again. Going off the players brought in, I’ve come to the conclusion that Fergie has looked at Barca’s revolutionary, strikerless formation and is set to present our own version, ‘the doughnut’ – ie ‘nothing in the middle’. Presumably, any midfielder still under contract will be allocated a new position (centre back, right back, winger or striker) using the tombola that was successfully trialled during the league cup run of last season.

The Van Persie capture, despite not being the player most of us hoped United would splurge millions on this summer, has at least provided a pre-season fillip that’s been missing since the purchase of that other ‘final piece’, Berbatov back in 2008. Like Veron before him, Berbs is now ducking out of the exit door – putting an end to an at times dazzling but overall, hugely underwhelming United career. Let’s hope Van Persie avoids injury (and Fergie’s tombola) and instead enjoys a Sheringham-esque career upsurge on the OT stage. Anyway, before we judge too harshly the profligate purchase of a 29 year old crock, it’s perhaps worth remembering Liverpool spunked £11M more on Andy Carroll. Bargain.

Copyright Red News – August 2012