TV review: Pitching up at the trough

Pitching up for another season: the Match Of The Day team. Photograph: BBC
20 Aug 2013 @ 9.28 pm
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Pitching up for another season: the Match Of The Day team. Photograph: BBC
It’s all kicking off: the Match Of The Day team. Photograph: BBC

Match of the Day, (BBC1, Saturdays)


Football’s back, and suddenly England is a tawdrier, grubbier and generally more repellent place in which to live.

Well, maybe that’s pushing it a bit. However, when everyone is screaming about the horrors of a sport that has lost its soul to money, what you can you do but holler a little bit louder?

For all that, I suspect that quite a few football fans will actually agree with me. Some will doubtless have spotted the mistake in my opening paragraph. Football, at least a version that still has some connection with the real world, has been back for a few weeks.

No, it’s the Gordon Gekko Premier League (GGPL) I’m talking about here, the one for which Ladbrokes have offered 9999-1 against Crystal Palace becoming the next champions. How’s that for a competitive event? I suspect the odds against their 1977-78 equivalents, Nottingham Forest, achieving that feat would have been rather less generous.

If you look at the pre-season bookies’ odds for the Championship (from QPR 5-1 to Barnsley and Yeovil 100-1) you get an impression of how the top tier used to work. This has led some commentators to observe that the Championship is now a more interesting tournament.

Well, maybe it would be, if the point of it all wasn’t simply to join all the other snouts in the GGPL trough, where new clubs can hand over all that new-found wealth to agents and to players who will spend every single penny on a fleet of flash cars, cocaine and dodgy night clubs.

I should declare an interest. My devotion to Manchester City used to be such that one of my Desert Island Discs would be a BBC radio reading of the League Division One results for the final day of the 1967-68 season. These included: Manchester United 1, Sunderland 2; Newcastle United 3, Manchester City 4.

This made City, with a nice mixture of local talent and very smart buys from lower divisions (the single exception played for Everton reserves), the champions of England.

For old time’s sake and (sentimental soul that I am) friends who still follow them, I was pleased that City finally won the league again in 2012. But there’s no mileage in supporting one of the world’s richest clubs, whose owner before Sheikh Mansour was a former Thailand leader with a dubious record on human rights, and whose recent Old Boys include Robinho and Carlos Tevez.

If your favourite pub got rid of the hand-pumps, micro-brewery golden ales and middle-aged bar women who call you “love”, and replaced them with Australian lager, a recreation of a Las Vegas casino, gangster rap nights and bruisers on the door, you wouldn’t continue to go in there just because it’s still called the Rose and Crown.

But, anyway, if you’re still interested, Match Of The Day is back.