With the new Football League season having kicked off at the weekend and the Premier League hot on its heels, football fans and betting aficionados will have two main options when it comes to following Saturday’s developments on television. Sky’s Soccer Saturday and the BBC’s Final Score are both shows which preview the day’s action before making use of videprinters and punditry to keep you updated with all the goals and developments across the leagues. But who reigns supreme in the peculiar concept of producing second hand football?
The image of Soccer Saturday as the wealthier relation has been enhanced by the decision to broadcast the show in HD. It is an impressive set worthy of such digital clarity, boasting florescent lights and logos. The smart, clean appearance of the set extends to the host Jeff Stelling and his regular panel of pundits, of varying ability, who will all be suited. This should not give the lasting impression of a stilted atmosphere as the Countdown host will break the ice with a well-timed pun or a self deprecating swipe at his beloved Hartlepool. Jeff Stelling is the clear selling point of this six hour marathon show. He is a consummate professional and his knowledge of the game including the most obscure statistics is unrivalled. As is his ability to plough through all the goals with a speed, accuracy and consistency which borders on the autistic. His delivery and pitch adds to the drama, captivating the audience. Expect more humour from the in-house pundits usually consisting of Paul Merson, Matt Le Tissier, Phil Thompson and Charlie Nicholas. They enjoy some friendly banter whilst making their predictions and opine about who is ‘different class’ this year. Just don’t anticipate perfect pronunciations of Laurent Koscielny or Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.
However do not expect much better from the dozens of pitch side reporters either. Dean Windass who used to struggle with his feet now does so with his words as an eventful match will overwhelm him. That sensation is well-known to Chris ‘unbelievable Jeff’ Kamara who habitually fails to distinguish between red cards and substitutions. Such comedic interludes can come as welcome relief once your betting selections have gone awry. The show is never at risk of descending into farce as Stelling jovially keeps order whilst correlating results from umpteen divisions even down to goal difference.
It is a rather more low-budget, cosy affair as you switch your attentions to the Beeb’s Final Score. Greeted by Gabby Logan or Mark ‘Chappers’ Chapman with a few pundits stationed on a curved sofa, the dress code is firmly smart casual. A headache inducing screen-saver background constantly displays the names of sides throughout the Football League. As the presenter zips through all the developments on the videprinter the pundits are concentrating on the Premier League action. This is Final Score’s distinct difference from its rival where their studio pundits focus on a game each. Garth Crooks and journeyman Steve Claridge keep you abreast of every Premier League game in tandem. As they cast their scrutinising eyes across the top division there is greater opportunity for debate and disagreements. Whilst it is usually cordial, the opinionated Crooks and Claridge will occasionally ruffle the less forthright Lee Dixon and Mark Bright. Disagreements were in abundance when Carlton Palmer used to appear alongside Crooks and events such as Adebayor’s provocative goal celebration polarised opinion brilliantly.
Final Score purports to provide comprehensive coverage of all teams across the division, sending out twenty reporters to football grounds on a Saturday. Double that and you may start to get close to Soccer Saturday’s output. Live cameras and a reporter were even in attendance for Stevenage’s encounter with Macclesfield at the weekend. Despite Sky’s greater financial investment in their football results show it is Stelling’s continued presence which secures their advantage. The ease, skill and speed at which he updates the viewer is astonishing. It just may be worth checking to see if Garth Crooks is having one of his days on Final Score though.
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