Whiz, bang, crunch, pop, wow, zing, whoosh, krang, smash, ding. Just some of the sounds that will have gone through the heads of Sky executives when planning the latest installment of their Super dooper mega whacky manic mental Sunday madness.
As usual, their unswerving dedication to ramping up the hyperbole for their televised matches to somewhere between a Fox News military bulletin and the straight to DVD Steven Segal sequel of another straight to DVD Steven Segal movie got the better of them, although at least this time there was the legitimate excuse – and tantalizing prospect – of three passionate local derbies (of which Sky had two) and two of the most attack minded teams in the league going at it in a top of the table mega mental super whammy title clash. Boom!
Introducing us to this pleasatronic spectacle was – as always – waxed handed presenter-droid and Andy Gray’s personal pet Richard Keys and stalwart rent-a-pundit and shirtless Thomas Cook rep Jamie Redknapp, for some reason dressed in a 19th Century gentleman’s low cut tuxedo waistcoat, but unfortunately still in some unavoidably distracting 21st century shiny skinny trousers. Joining this duo, who’d arrived at White Hart Lane a full five hours early to sit uncomfortably on plastic chairs and watch the preceding matches on presumably small monitors, was Dwight Yorke, dressed as a kind of garish curtain and with an orange chocolate liquor wrapper sticking out of his top pocket, in a presumed attempt to look like a sophisticated dapper Englishman about town.
After some precursory promotional whiz banging, we were whisked off to St Andrews where the second City derby was about to commence, before quickly bleeding into the Merseyside one with as little rent-a-punditry as possible. This quick tracked relay approach to football broadcasting does at least come with that blessed upshot, allowing the viewer to relax quite comfortably in front of a days worth of action without being literally-ed to death (but not literally) by Redknapp and whatever vaguely connected former – or possibly injured – player they’ve managed to cajole onto an uncomfortable looking plastic bar stool for five hours. The insight of these guests rarely stretches beyond how “well the lads done there”, and despite the infrequent exception of some surprisingly analytical players (Jamie Carragher and Andy Cole spring to mind) they’re preferably ignored all together, along with Redknapp. Literally.
After a lively Brum derby in which a smoke bomb and a streaker added more neutral enjoyment to a game in which Villa hit the home bar four times -a feat they haven’t achieved since Paul McGrath was in the side – the attention fell on Anfield, where the return of King Kenny was being hyped up to suitably excitable levels.
No whooshing or clanking or zoomed close ups cut in sequence to the theme music from Requiem for a Dream could possibly have made adequate replacement for the real emotive moment of the afternoon however, as Dalglish stood parentally in the dug out being serenaded by his faithful crowd to the tune of their favorite Rogers and Hammerstein number. There are still few spectacles in football better, and all the more poignant for its complete antithesis to Sky’s Americanized whiz pop presentation values.
The game itself was all you’d want from a Merseyside derby, except perhaps in terms of actual quality, with Liverpool fans perhaps starting to realize that it might not be all evil uncle Woy’s fault after Everton overturned a their one goal deficit within what seemed like seconds of the second half. Liverpool drew level from the penalty spot but it was Everton who pushed forward for the winner later on, albeit almost entirely in the style of an Allardyce side, with Marouane Fellaini acting as a sort of fuzzy beacon for up field hoofs. The performance of Fernando Torres will have given Dalglish some comfort however, and it was an entertaining spectacle for it’s openness alone.
After some brief reflection from Jammers in which we were reminded helpfully that there were “some positives in there for Liverpool… and some negatives too” which was almost certainly literal, we were whisked off yet again, this time to where we were anyway, and had been all day, back to White Hart Lane.
Unfortunately what was supposed to be the show stopping headline act turned out instead to be a rather damp squib, which are always at least partially enjoyable just to see how Sky attempt to put a positive spin on it.
As little as three games into the season Andy Gray had wasted no time in telling viewers how much better the Premier League (that Sky had) was already than the World Cup (which Sky didn’t) and even during the most lackluster of games he finds it excruciatingly hard to admit they might have picked a duffer, instead relying on admirably stubborn phrases like “fascinating” “delicately poised” or “still anyone’s game”
As it happened this game had started well, which Gray had wasted no time in telling us, but it died down into a bit of a mess by the second half, as both teams forget completely how they’d scored so many goals this season, and so thus it remained ‘delicately poised’ for the duration. Most of the highlights came from United’s mop headed mentalist full back Rafael, who seemed to be playing on far too much caffeine, like an excitable puppy on heat who’s accidentally been given coffee and then pointed in the direction of a group of females. After receiving one booking mid-way through the second half, it was obvious to pretty much everyone watching that he’d eventually go, though few foresaw the second booking being so tame, such was the reckless abandon with which he was approaching both defending and attacking.
The cliché of the Brazilian fullback is thankfully alive and well. And so is the giant walking, talking, whizzing, popping and banging cliché of Sky Sports television. But hey, it could be worse, it could be iTV!
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