Match of the Day on a Saturday Night, the culturally engrained equivalent of a weekly Christmas Dinner, with extra sprouts, adhered to religiously under influence of bad habit, lack of inspired choice and various toxins. Still we resentfully watch, with a flaccid sense of hope that it’ll be different from the previous season. Eyelids tellingly droop as our souls collectively leak away through the bottom of the couch, never to return. Like getting served bad bangers and mash in a Gastro pub, you find yourself asking “How did you manage to get that wrong?” It’s just a football highlight package. However, somehow it manages to feel like watching football in a Rumbelows showroom surrounded by guests from a particularly bad wedding. Here are 5 suggestions for change that may bring it in line with the vastly improved MOTD2:
Gary Lineker or “The Velvet Owl” as Stewart Lee sarcastically christened him. More like a perma-tanned vulture dressed in an epilated shirt. Set up on a perch to peck his pundits with questions so achingly predictable that could have been sent to the studio on a postcard three weeks prior by a Geography Teacher from Orkney whose only previous interest in football was a fleeting game of Subbuteo in 1991. Gary needs a shake; he needs some serious competition for the hot seat. Every other week they should place the superb Mark Chapman, the enthusiastic Colin Murray or even that Matt bloke who did Football Focus last season just to keep him on his toes. Lineker may then have to up his game from the slightly bashful grin and flashes of charming self-deprecation he’s relied on since They Think It’s all Over in the mid-Nineties. It’s a flawed long-term TV persona because it became boring five years ago. MOTD producers probably hope he’ll eventually emulate the vastly overrated Des Lynham but the reality is that they need another angle on the Anchorman role before Gary Lineker greys away into the mould of Frank Bough, David Colemen or Dickie Davies before our very frustrated eyes.
Gary needs a shake; he needs some serious competition for the hot seat.
2. Pantomime Action
What’s this? A sudden piece of edited VT that shows us Peter Crouch being subbed on for Spurs with 10 minutes to go? “That’s strange” you think “There must have been other substitutions in the game, why are they only showing this one?” Two minutes later and the bastard son of Ian Ormondroyd and Martina Navratilova pops up and scores the winner and a horrible sense of betrayal creeps across your evening. Why telegraph these events? Why ruin it for us? Showing us a booking for a particular player and not another is letting us know he’s getting sent off in approximately 6 minutes time. We don’t need these dramatic cues, this isn’t Hollyoaks, and we don’t need to watch with subtitles for the stupid. Leave the pantomime villains and golden heroes to Roy of the Rovers and just let us watch the action. This also goes for their handling of anything slightly controversial or sweary or a particularly bad tackle. They’re quick to warn us about what we’re going to see is a bit ‘disturbing’ or that bad language may happen. What do they think we all see at actual football games, with swearing, bad tackles, violence, dirty songs, spitting and beer and stuff? It’s as if real football matches are an uncivilised wildness war zone that they report back from. They need to accept football as a whole and accurately reflect it. That is after all their remit, is it not?
3. Choice of Pundits
Hansen and Lawro™. Stan Lawro™ and Oliver Hansen. Defenders of the faith, two relics of the Grandstand school of sports coverage, shorn of hideous golfing sweaters, forced into tight trousers and smart casual posturing on a massive sofa. Undeterred by the inability to conjure anything insightful or provocative from their collective back catalogue of facileness they resort crushingly to type. Hansen’s terse robotic style and dry Scottish delivery keeps his shiny hair well below the parapet whilst Lawro™ relies single-handedly on unbridled sarcasm with occasional unexciting slivers of pure Northern disdain. Parched to death comments that will pungently plop out of his strange mouth and float effortlessly over his shredded wheat hair into the ether. You’ll never win anything with quips Lawro™. Both need to go. At the least they need separated or given a strict set of instructions on how to not appear jaded, smug and/or condescending to the viewing public and the entire world of modern football. And of course that Red Lawro™ , Yellow Lawro™ should never, under any circumstances grow, or attempt to grow back , his moustache. We currently seem stuck with them. Whilst the relative qualities of Nevin, Dixon, O’Neill, Dublin, Hartson, Keown and many more have failed to break the dynamic. There’s also an able apprentice in the tight trousered shape of dullness that is Alan Shearer. A man who has clearly creosoted Linekers skin enough times to warrant a bit of payback riding the chariot of knee capping frustration that is MOTD. Stop it. Shearer is an anti-pundit. Take a lead from the outstanding 5-live and try some new people. Jason Roberts, Dean Kiely and even Robbie Savage add freshness. Just listen to the quality discussion that is the Monday Night Club on 5-Live where Motson more than holds his own against Claridge, Chapman and guest journalists for an example of how it should be done. However by the time the BBC realises they’ve been left behind it’ll be far too late and we’ll all be watching Sky.
4. Obsession With Goals
MOTD needs to decide whether it’s a children’s show or not. Currently it’s for everyone but comes across, much like Top Gear, as being aimed at the expectation levels of an 8 year old boy. They promise goals, goals and more goals. Lineker even tallies the amount of goals at the top of the show, as if nothing else happens in a game worthy of note. MOTD has now become You’ve Been Framed but instead of camcorder mishaps as the TV porn of choice is goals scored. As if the producers are terrified we’ll all switch off should the nipple count of net busters fall below the irrelevant benchmark set the by previous weeks quota. It even affects their choice of games to devote the most coverage to. An important 1-1 draw between two sides chasing European qualification is demoted in favour of a 4-3 “thriller” between Bolton and Sunderland due seemingly to the aggregate goals count only. As any football fan knows goals are not only where it’s at, some of the most exciting games I’ve ever seen have been low scoring or goalless. What’s wrong with focussing on some tactics, some great team moves or some fantastic saves? This is not American sport; we don’t need to see the scoreboard change every few minutes to retain interest. Show us the goals just don’t make it the focal point of the entire show. And, if indeed MOTD is for kids then make it known and we’ll watch the better Sunday night product. Just don’t leave us trapped in this unpleasant valley with mountains of patronising nonsense on one side and a range of half-baked opinion and glimmers of serious football chat on the other.
5. Self Questioning
This is a phenome-not that isn’t just confined to football but MOTD would do well to adopt a zero tolerance policy to pundits asking themselves obvious questions then answering them badly all within the same sentence. They all do it, some are worse than others, Lawro™ for example: “Do I think Arsenal have enough quality to mount a title challenge? Yes. Do I think they’ll win it? No” or “Do I miss my tashe? Yes. Does Souness miss his? No.” At this point your head is bursting, the voices inside it are screaming for mercy or murder. “Stop asking yourself shit questions!” you wail as your mental stability topples from its perch crashing down amongst the empty cans. It’s sadly indicative of the state of the punditry and the anchorman that this has crept into the script of the show. A line needs drawn in the sand. It’s bad enough that all footballers and managers are endlessly replicating the style in their post match interview s without us being treated to it in the studio too. Please can the BBC issue a policy of no self-questioning across all its Television and Radio presenters and pundits for the sake of television coverage over the next 10 years? Let’s start with MOTD as it seems endemic amongst the ‘talent’ that occupies the psychedelic-couch-inside- a-virtual-football design of the studio. Then we may finally start to get the punditry we deserve.
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