Tuesday, October 26, 2010


This is a woman's world, this is a woman's world, but it wouldn't be nothing, nothing without Philip Schofield or some other grey haired buffoon....

 As a rule I am loath to mention the recession/credit crunch/downturn in the economy or whatever other miserable monicker our current state of affairs is receiving, but now that we are mired in this wholly depressing state of affairs I feel it only necessary that the real issues with the recession be addressed. A by-product of this downturn in fortunes is that the traditional family dynamic of the man going out to work whilst the woman stays at home to mind the children has been completely blown apart, (although in truth this is a fairly prehistoric way of viewing things but I felt it necessary to use it to illustrate my point, so bear with me!) nowadays the idea of a 'house husband' is not the cause for derision that it once was, and the amount of men dutifully bringing their children to school or pushing a buggy round the local park is a testament to this. Along with these brave souls, who are doing everything in their power to keep their fragile family unit in working order, there are countless other fit and able men of all ages and with various unutilised abilities, who are finding it difficult to fill the hours in the day on an all too regular basis. Now I for one, do in no way condone spending your life wasting away in front of the television, *adopts the tone of a gnarled old war veteran* “ When you should be out there earning a living for yourself”, but it's simply impossible to spend every waking minute in the fruitless pursuit of the slightest tendril of a job opportunity. So on occasion that leaves even the most assiduous of fellows finding comfort in the familiar weight of the remote control and his favourite easy chair, but for any man to enter the quite frankly hostile environs of daytime tv is to risk not only losing his entire afternoon but quite possibly his sanity aswell.

Of course there was a time way back in the advent of television when programming began at six o clock with the evening news, and the thought of anyone even pausing from their daily grind to sit down and stare at the goggle box was fanciful at best. But as times became less austere and the previous generation allowed themselves to get down off the cross for a few minutes during the day, so broadcasters plucked up the courage to fill those dead hours between the children heading off for school and the long suffering husband getting home from work, with shows aimed at sating the inquisitive nature of the stay at home mum. These shows initially concerned themselves with the pressing concerns of the day such as cooking, fashion, child care and health, but as time went by day time television began to morph into a living, breathing entity full with it's own unique character, dubious charm and all too depressing boundaries which are all too strictly adhered to. From Derek Davis, Oprah Winfrey and Carol Vorderman right through to their modern day counterparts, daytime television has spawned countless careers which in all honesty it had no right to, and it is now seen as a gateway to better things by the various pondlife that blight our lives on a daily basis.

To the uninitiated, daytime television can seem like a scary place, one second you've got the ample charms of Holly Willoughby to soothe your bleary eyes but in the next instance you're faced with an Eamonn Holmes sized dilemma, as the increasingly rotund Northern Irish windbag waddles his sorry way onto the screen and threatens to ruin your day even before it's started. This is a typical problem with these early morning shows as you carefully try to negotiate your way through them without having to spend too much time looking at whomever the resident 'silver fox' is, all the while hoping against hope that Mylene Klass may choose today to have a particularly revealing wardrobe malfunction. The content of these early morning shows is at best mildly distracting but at it's worst it can display a level of morbidity and full on misery rarely seen outside of your local A&E. Various light hearted segments discussing the latest news in the soap operas are all well and good, but once they've lulled you into a false sense of security you'll suddenly be confronted with a grim faced lady of indistinguishable age who's been to hell and back with various physical ailments and has no problem whatsoever in sharing her macabre tales with the nation, as such it's important to learn the tell tale signs that things are about to get serious. As the camera pans back to the studio having just been full of the outdoor reporter (usually someone deemed wacky by someone who wishes they were wacky, FYI: being wacky = being a tosser) and their 'alternative' story we are solemnly informed by the now all too serious hosts that the guest seated across from them was once a happy, young thing in the.............QUICK CHANGE CHANNELS!! IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT TO, JUST SWITCH IT, FAST!!!!! Thankfully even amidst this well of emotional outpourings there is the safehaven of Sky Sports News with it's warm, loving embrace and repeated punchlines hour after hour, and you can breathe a sigh of relief safe in the knowledge that that's one less disease you ever have to worry about getting. On a lucky day you may even be fortunate enough to stumble across the majestic, wondrous televisual experience that is Aerobics Oz Style, but diamonds in the rough like this are all to rare and as the day progresses things only get worse.

No, what's needed in any society is a viable alternative to the thing which has for so long brainwashed the masses, rather than force people to do something just give them a choice instead, such is the way the best revolutions begin. This alternative will come in the face of a new, male orientated daytime tv show entitled 'Blokey Blokes'. The Blokey Blokes will take up residence from 12pm (the time that in all honesty most of it's viewers will rise from their slumber) and be in situ until 4pm, or until such time that they feel they've spoken to their audience sufficiently and dealt with whatever issues have arisen, they're blokes you see so they don't need to adhere to schedules. The presenters of BB (I've just realised that Blokey Blokes shares an acronym with Big Brother but seeing as that's just ended I am entitled to use it as I wish) will come from all walks of life with not all of them being necessarily famous, rather than have the token people who do all in their power to portray themselves as 'one of the lads' on a nauseatingly regular basis, we shall scour the world for suitable candidates, here are a few of the blokes who I believe may just be up to the task. Kriss Akabusi, enthusiastic nutjob would enliven things when the conversation inevitably begins to falter, Sean Ryder, they say every face tells a story, if that's the case then Sean needn't open his mouth as his mug says it all, Mel Gibson, say what you like about Mel but you cannot deny that the man is a riveting combination of genius and lunatic, Michael Carroll, made famous for winning the lotto and blowing the lot on sports cars and drugs, Carroll would be marvellous entertainment and probably really needs a steady income right now, and Sean Lock, having two Seans on the show may become a problem, particularly given the frazzled state of Ryder's brain, but Lock deserves a wider audience and speaks to the grumpy old man in us all. Every show needs at least one relatively straight man to keep thing ticking over and that honourable position would go to the legend that is Bill Murray, he would at once both egg on the more deranged of guests while at the same time plead for a modicum of peace, all the while smirking mischievously at the camera as things went postal all around him. Other guests would pop in and out as they felt like it and local tramps, vagrants and winos would be invited in for a dram of whiskey and chided into telling a tale or two about their exploits whilst they warmed their feet by the fire. There would be no strict itinerary as such, although obviously guidelines would need to be adhered to to prevent things descending into anarchy, phonelines would be open all day as would the bar, and callers brave enough to speak to the presenters would run the risk of ridicule, any risk would be more than worth it though given the wealth of real life experience available to the rapt audience. The best thing about BB would be it's organic nature, no man has any need for a sterilised, by the numbers form of entertainment anymore, which is typified by arguably the most popular male orientated show on television, Soccer Saturday, which is basically a load of blokes sitting in a room watching football and shouting their heads off, BB would be like that but instead of limiting itself to football it would encompass all the things that we as men love and cherish above all else, just imagine Mel Gibson sitting down watching hardcore pornography and telling you the viewer about it's merits or lack of as the case may be, the possibilities are endless.

All this may seem a bit churlish and unrealistic, but as more and more men find themselves at home and at a loose end on a daily basis it's only going to be a matter of time before someone snaps and says enough is enough, women constantly like to harp on about equal opportunities across all sectors so let's see how they like it when men invade their last bastion and claim it for themselves. Let it be known that this is not a tirade aimed at inflaming a battle of the sexes, more an observation regarding the lopsided nature of daytime television and the need for change, we live in an age which will be reflected upon as the most startling in terms of the progression made by mankind, so when you see Blokey Blokes appear on your TV guide please don't get all haughty and pen a strongly worded letter to the powers that be, instead just console yourself with the fact that we will no longer be privy to all your most intimate secrets via the medium of the Loose Women, as we will instead be rolling in the aisles as a one eyed drunkard from Wales regales us with tale after tale of his debauched and decadent life.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pitiful punditry points to pressing problems

...............just who will replace the doyens of the game when they hang up their mic's?

A recurring theme amongst the footballing media today is the concern about the lack of young talent coming through in the English game, journalists decry the dearth of homegrown players lining up for the top Premier league clubs on a weekly basis, and in the process fret about the knock on effect to their national team. Such is the level of disquiet through all avenues of association football, that Sepp Blatter and his wise cronies have implemented a new 25 man squad system which nobody really understands, but it's purpose appears to enforce and encourage managers to promote young players to the first team squad, in favour of splashing the cash on Eastern European misfits with a penchant for late night revelry and a dubious notion of what being 'loyal to the cause'entails. This is all well and good and I for one welcome this new ruling despite it's obvious flaws, but in my opinion there is a far more worrying issue affecting football today and it's one that can't be rectified by Blatter, Platini or any of the bigwigs in the halls of the governing bodies, forget about the young footballers for a second, of far more pressing concern is the gradual degradation in the quality of football punditry and this is an issue which will I believe will be much harder to resolve.

Now that football saturates our screens, airwaves, monitors and newspapers on an almost unrelenting basis it's become easier and easier to become an 'expert' on the game, no matter that your career consisted of a little less than one hundred top flight games at some mediocre clubs where you were the most mediocre of players (yes Jason Cundy I am talking about you) matters not, the only qualification you need to make it as pundit nowadays is to be besotted with the sound of your own voice and to spout opinions which contradict themselves almost before they've left your mouth. Of course characters like Cundy are only a minor source of irritation as they reside firmly in the Championship level of punditry, despite their continual striving for promotion to the big leagues alongside such luminaries like Andy Gray, Alan Hansen and our own quite inimitable Eamon Dunphy. The aforementioned trio are probably the most viewed exponents of this most dubious of talents, and with that airtime comes a presumed gravitas which is all too apparent in their lyrical waxings, but as the mainstay at each of their respective broadcasters they have, somewhat begrudgingly on my part anyway, earned whatever kudos they think they have and are the lesser of many evils in the world of the pundit.

Here in Ireland we are fortunate, or misfortunate whatever way you wish to look at it, to have the bolshie trio of Giles, Brady and Dunphy (with the occasional appearance from pugnacious channel hopping Scot, Graeme Souness) polluting and in the same instance, enlightening our minds, with a brand of football punditry which is as far removed from the fare offered across the water as is humanely possible. But just as we worry about who will replace the likes of Dunne, Given and Keane when they finally call it a day on the field, the same applies to those who offer insight and drama before, during and after the real action takes place. Giles has begun to resemble a mummified corpse and can barely string more than a couple of sentences together these days without losing his train of thought and seeking help from the ever patronising Brady, if Eamon Dunphy were to slip into full on dementia it's debatable as to whether the viewers would notice the difference, but love him or loathe him it'll be a sad day when he's finally carted off the screen kicking and screaming to anyone in earshot that 'Ronaldo is nothing only a tramp'. Of the mainstays Brady is the only one who's not of a pensionable age, but I can't imagine him being there without the other two as in truth his main role is to act as peacemaker and play devil's advocate whenever possible. Then you have the enigma that is Bill O'Herlihy who's plays a role similar to a holding midfield player, prodding and probing and doing the dirty work whilst going almost unnoticed, like many of the greats his loss would only be felt after he'd gone.

So who does that leave? Waiting patiently in the sidelines for the chance to get promoted to the big stage are the likes of Ronnie 'Am I a scouser or am I a Dub' Whelan, Kenny 'Eyebrows' Cunningham, Ray 'I was an incredibly chirpy player but I'm the most miserable pundit known to man' Houghton and Trevor 'I'm clearly bald but at least I can grow a goatee' Steven. This is far from a stellar cast and it's clear that if football punditry is a squad game then RTE will struggle once the season hits the hard winter months. Whelan is fairly amicable and talks a lot without really saying anything, but it's nigh on impossible to listen to him without marvelling at the wonder that is his accent, from Dublin to Liverpool and back again all in the space of a few seconds, great stuff. Cunningham is clearly deranged and looks like someone who's attended one media seminar too many, next time he's on, mute the tv and watch him, it looks for all the world like he's threatening to eviscerate the person he's speaking to as his eyebrows dance merrily around his forehead, lunatic. Houghton should come with a health warning for depressed people as he can manage to turn even the most exciting of games into something akin to the most torturous of ordeals, it's unproven as to whether suicide rates go up during Houghton's air time but I believe it to be true. Trevor Steven's appointment was a misguided attempt to bring a bit of panache to the panel, the bigwigs at RTE must have looked at his CV and seen his time spent with Marseille as a clear sign of a cultured man who would bring an air of calm, authority to proceedings. What we've got instead is a mosquito brained imbecile who rarely, if ever, says anything of note. However, hope is not completely lost, as amidst this gaggle of misfits is a ray of light which comes in the guise of Richie Sadlier. Aged just 31, and having being forced to quit the game at a young age due to injury, Sadlier has gone on to form an embryonic career in the media which has culminated in him making occasional appearances on some of RTE's football presentations. From the off it's been clear that Sadlier is not your ordinary retired footballer, and it's a joy to watch his insightful and in depth analysis on the game, and all done without the need to resort to the insincere tones of rapture favoured by his English equivalent Jamie Redknapp. Sadly the talents of this young man are made all the more evident by their rarity, and to look at the current crop of Irish players on the cusp of retirement and therefore potential candidates for the world of punditry, doesn't leave you feeling too confident. You'll notice that I have chosen to completely overlook the artisans plying their trade on second rate broadcasters TV3 and Setanta, this is mainly due to the fact that anybody willing to pay the likes of Trevor Welch and Pat Dolan to ruin our lives is worthy of nothing but utter disdain and apathy.

In England however, there is a more competitive nature to the battle of the broadcasters, even though Sky quite clearly are the biggest draw, although this is more due to them flexing their financial muscles than anything to do with the quality of their coverage. Sky's head honcho is of course the detestable Andy Gray. Such is this man's high regard for himself, he is quite happy to host a Sunday evening show called 'The Last Word', which as the title suggests is the last and therefore presumably the definitive word on all the weekends action. The fact that Gray hosts this show with his sycophantic sidekick Richard Keyes means that he has free rein to spout his theories unchallenged and will in essence always get the last word, clever thinking it has to be said. He has also seized the opportunity to bore us even more with the return of Sky's Monday Night Football, which consists of Gray playing with his modernised subbuteo set while Keyes oohs and aahs in the background. Gray firmly believes that each and everyone of his opinions is pure, unrefined ambrosia and we, the viewers, should consider ourselves grateful for the chance to hear them, if there was an award for smuggest, patronising buffoon on TV, then Andy Gray would win it year in year out. Sadly it's debatable as to whether he's even the worst pundit on Sky, yes step forward Jamie 'Skinny tie, shiny suit' Redknapp, never has a man spoke so much and said so little. Redknapp is the equivalent of a tiny, yapping dog that never shuts up and constantly nips at your ankles without ever actually biting you, his opinions veer from left to right as he babbles incessantly on and by the time he runs out of steam he's left with a blank expression on his face as he, and we both, wonder what the fuck he's just been on about. Sky have a large coterie of pundits whom they can call on, depending on whichever game they're screening, but aside from an occasional Phil Thompson rant on Soccer Satruday, the chances of ever witnessing a heated debate on the channel are as remote as Andy Gray admitting he's wrong about something.

The poor relations of broadcasting in England are the once mighty BBC and it's gimmicky, quirky rival ITV. The BBC was once a byword for all things quality but in terms of their football coverage at least, this mantle is gradually slipping away. Old experienced heads Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson have become so complacent in their position on the sofa opposite Gary Lineker that they may aswell be reading from an autocue, it's as if they're still patrolling the back line for the all conquering Liverpool 80's side, as they just go through the motions on a weekly basis barely breaking sweat. When the third cog in the wheel is the monosyllabic, dullard Alan Shearer then it's easy to see why Hansen and Lawro give off an air of total disinterest and boredom. But just as Richie Sadlier offer a shimmer of hope on RTE, so the BBC have their own bright, young talent willing to shake things up a bit. Robbie Savage was, and still is in fact, one of the most regularly goaded and taunted players to grace the modern era, his shock of blonde flowing hair makes him instantly recognisable on the field and his reckless, and often feckless, nature only add to his notoriety. But get him in the studio and suddenly this headless chicken of a football player is transformed into an eloquent and strong willed individual, who's about as shy in giving his opinions as he is in going into tackles, whether he'll manage to maintain this manner of punditry without upsetting someone higher up is debatable, but if he does fall foul to his paymasters at the BBC then it'll only be a matter of time before someone else picks him up given his unique talents in front of the camera. ITV are, and always have been, something of a joke when it comes to football punditry, given the fact that they spend the majority of their air time taking breaks it's a wonder why they bother even having anyone in the studio to be honest, they've recently taken to doing pitchside analysis which is quite a clever cost cutting exercise from their point of view. When their pundits do get a couple of minutes to hurriedly run through the events of the game it's usually Andy Townsend and Gareth Southgate who are charged with the task, is it really necessary to give an opinion on the respective merits of these two hapless oafs?

So now you can understand it's quite clear to see that while we're all worrying about the future of the game and the influx of foreigners ruining the opportunites of young homegrown players, the real problem that we should all be pondering is where the new, bright, articulate pundits are going to come from? Watch any post match interview after a Premier League game and you're likely to be swimming in a pool of 'Y'know's', 'likes', 'the lads', 'sort ofs', and various other catchphrases which will consist of 98% of the actual words spoken by the interviewee, rendering the whole process pointless. The recent interview with Danny Murphy where he aired his views without fear of censure or remit was a breath of fresh air and reminded us that not all footballers are semi literate, unschooled mercenaries without an original opinion to call their own. But as the game continues to grow to an almost sickening level of media coverage worldwide, it's clear that more and more ex-pro's are going to jump on the gravy train and give their tuppence worth regardless of whether they're qualified to do so or whether we want to hear them or not. I for one, can't wait.