For the first time in eleven years, I have to care about what happens in the Championship. Just writing that sentence gives me a little pang of misery, but after Middlesbrough’s woeful 2008/09 season, it’s something I’m going to have to come to terms with. This season’s shaping up to be as engrossing as it is unpredictable, with Forest’s big spending, Ipswich’s grizzly new manager and countless improving mid-table/playoff teams. Alongside this, Peterborough and Leicester are bringing excellent footballing sides from League 1, coupled with the arrival of three distinguished clubs dropping down from the Premier League; Gareth Southgate (the manager) has picked a pretty good time for it.
Despite this, it seems that the hierarchy of the BBC has taken it upon itself to suck as much of the joy and excitement out of the competition as possible, replacing it with bright lights, tedium and… Steve Claridge.
If you’ve already seen it, then you’ll know what I’m on about; if you haven’t, then imagine ‘The Wright Stuff’, filmed in an echoey warehouse, interspersed with football highlights and insight from an ex-player who appears not to have slept in roughly four years.
But all of this weirdness pales into insignificance when compared to the worst part of the show. The BBC’s producers have embraced the belief that everything on television should have some kind of interactive feature, thus plonking Jacqui Oatley in a small room next door, periodically reading out tedious e-mails such as:
“And Tim from Derby says: ‘Come on the Rams!’ – great email from Tim there, keep them coming, guys!”
Who is Tim from Derby? And why does it appear that someone is seriously sitting at home thinking: I’m not sure if Claridge’s thoughts on Nigel Clough’s push for a playoff place are entirely accurate, if only they gave a voice to Tim from Derby…?
The general public ruins the media. Have you ever heard a football phone-in on the radio? It sounds as if someone’s dropped a microphone into a Yates’s Wine-lodge. A typical call will go something like this:
Caller: “Yeah, well, er… I’d just like to say that [insert player’s name] was absolutely shocking today.”
Presenter: “Really, why?”
Caller: “Well, he was just shocking, y’know, he was just, crap.”
Presenter: “To be fair to him, he did score twice.”
Caller: “Yeah, but other than that, what else did he do? Absolutely nothing.”
Why are we letting fans get involved in the making of these shows when the vast majority of football fans are, let’s be honest, absolute cretins?
It’s Oatley that I really feel sorry for, though. Two years ago, she became the first woman to commentate on Match of the Day. She did a much better job of it than the vast majority of TV commentators. Despite this, if you ever need a boost in self-confidence, then have a peek at the reaction of an abundance of raving chauvinists to the development. Thirty-two separate Facebook groups were created calling for her sacking (apparently a vagina makes you incapable of understanding an offside trap).
I can only speak for myself, but football shows need fewer features, not more. All we really want are highlights, a bit of insight from an ex-pro (emphasis on ‘a bit’) and that’s it. No frills, no fuss. I watch football shows because they show football, not because Mark Clemmit is looking around Scunthorpe’s new ground. If that’s what floats your boat, then fine, but do it on your own time and don’t waste my precious Saturday night TV schedule.