ITV’s football coverage… why?

Okay. I’ve had a small rant about this already, but now it’s time for a full blown bile unload. After watching last night’s UEFA Cup Final, which lovingly ended in riots about a mile up the road from my house, I couldn’t believe how bad ITV’s coverage is. I mean, I’ve always disliked it… but hellfire. Last night was my dream-team of useless dolts.

As a neutral, or indeed, as someone who doesn’t support one of the big four (Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal), the European finals provide a big thrill. Generally, I don’t pick a side and sit back and let the tension, the action, the to-ing and fro-ing, wash all over me. However, when faced with those that are stealing a living at ITV Sports, I can’t quite embrace the game like I could.

So, who is this dream-team? Well, at the head, you’ve got Matt Smith who grins his way through the shows, like a man who is still excited by this football thing. Now, instead of looking like a man excited by a game, he looks more the lad who is inanely chirpy because the sports jocks have allowed him into the inner sanctum. Hell, he’s probably got some ‘hilarious’ tale about Steve Ryder flicking him with a towel down the gym or something.

Next up you have chief pundit, Andy Townsend. Now, Andy Townsend has had less than a glittering career. When he was a player, he was hard working and functional. He also ill advisedly died his hair blonde once. He played for Chelsea before the millions (and subsequently, before they were any good) as well as Norwich City and Middlesborough. Yep. He’s not a man who ever played at the top of his game. When I think of the options out there, it makes it all the more painful to watch him pissing about with his gadgets (a touch screen TV). If I were ITV, I would be knocking on the door of former Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool players, rather than this dull shagsack.

To top it all off, a man I can’t believe I forgot in my last rant. The one person I hate more in sports commentary more than any other. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the distinctly beige Jim Beglin. I first recall Beglin when watching Bolton Wanderers on the box some years ago. What made him stand out? The fact that he continually referred to us as ‘Tranmere’, who just happen to be one of our biggest rivalries. Last night, our Jim kept chirping up with incredibly useful insights like “Rangers need a goal” or “they keep giving the ball away”. Even the most green football fan could see that. What we needed was some David Pleat styled inside knowledge… as opposed to some berk who had been unfathomably let loose on a mic again.

My beloved Bolton Wanderers nearly got relegated this season and my biggest concern was that, if we went down, I could miss the millions earned from Premier League football, I could miss the playing at Old Trafford and Anfield… but I could not bear the thought of ITVs coverage. I would watch Match of the Day and weep at the thought of Alan Hansen not tearing our defence to ribbons with razor sharp analysis. It ITV are a station going through a change, then by God, they need a huge overhaul of the football team because, given the chance during Euro 2008, we’ll all be pressing ‘1’ in droves.

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