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Sky Coverage Gives Us That Sinking Feeling


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The knockout stage of the Champions League is back and with it comes that state of confusion brought about by the importance of the away goal counting double. It shouldn’t be that difficult to gauge what is a good score in the first leg of any competition, however this rule complicates matters for me and all the more so after last night’s Sky coverage of the match against Juve. I began confidently enough having seen ITV’s experts on Tuesday, namely Teddy Sherringham and Andy Townsend, bolster the spirits of those home team supporters of ManU and the Arse by giving a sensible, if subjective, appraisal of where the respective teams stand after their first leg games, but at this point it is probably wise to outline my understanding of the broadcasting principles currently applied throughout the industry on this subject…so I will.

Basically, as I see it since its inception, the standard TV procedural plan for covering CL games is to haul into the studio a series of past [it?] players from the English clubs in the last sixteen to comment, with some supposed degree of first hand inside knowledge and insight, on events as they unfold. More often than not these individuals have fallen on hard times and, having no other means of support whilst being ’between jobs’ of a football nature, are down to their last million or so. Not all of them, admittedly, but what they do all have in common is an allegiance to one of the big name clubs and this, for instance, sees the likes of Sherringham appear one night and Souness the next, thereby covering the bases, so to speak. This approach also occurs with regard to co-commentary on matches, Beglin and Smith being similar ’Pool and Gooner examples from the two nights in question.

Sky’s ability to overdose on channels gives them a distinct advantage over their rival in the CL field, which in effect, means that viewers supporting different clubs can be hived off into them, each given the ’personal’ touch these expert analysers and co-commentators provide. This is what happened around this time last year when we appeared on the good ship SS Extra under the captaincy of Jeff Stelling and Ray Wilkins was his second-in-command. A smooth trip was had by all, which shows that the system can work well, but last night the boat sailed again, hit choppy waters and sank without trace leaving its passengers floundering in the icy waters of self satisfied co-commentary and utterly confusing expert analysis. In short, ex-Gooner Alan Smith steered us towards the away goals rule rocks and ex-Gooner David Platt tried to make sure our confidence for the second leg was shattered upon them. Strangely, and somewhat disappointingly, Jeff Stelling seemed only too pleased to be going down with his ship, happily drilling holes in the vessel whenever he got the opportunity. If you weren’t on board, here’s what happened…

After a first half of pace and power by Chelsea, epitomised by Drogba’s performance and acknowledged by Alan Parry and Alan Smith in commentary, we seemed to lose our way in the second and allowed the opposition to control the game. This state of affairs, in equal measure, quietened viewers down and livened Alan Smith up. You might think that, television being what it is, Smithy could easily be unaware of the audience reaction, but, having already explained how the system operates, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that Chelsea fans represent the vast majority of passengers on the SS Extra and it really isn’t good travel company policy to get overexcited at the prospect of a list to starboard, let alone an equalising goal from Juve. Undeterred, Smith continued to set out his black and white striped deckchairs in the hope of a ray of sunshine and when Nedved just failed to oblige near the end he sounded so disappointed you almost thought he was going to cry.

Cruise over [it wasn’t one, yet it fit’s the piece rather well] I sat back safe in the knowledge that a one goal victory has to be good news in anyone’s language, but I hadn’t counted on another ex-Gooner [and also ex-Juventus striker] telling me differently. And boy did he revel in telling me differently!! Platt by name, though prat by nature, he proceeded to tell the happy CFC holidaymakers that they really hadn’t had a good time at all and it was clear to him that his old team would score goals in the return leg, thus making the 1-0 scoreline a dead ringer for victory for the Old Lady. Endless evidence for this break with traditional thinking on matters [losing the first leg plus lack of an away goal to boost hopes in the return] seemed to revolve around them ‘looking like a team’, whereas we did not. Add to this the superb home form of the men from Turin, the superb talent that is Del Piero and the brief appearance of Trezeguet, who only returned from injury for a few fleeting moments, but apparently the glimpse was enough to convince Platt that he was likely, nay ready, to score in a fortnight’s time.

Justification aplenty, then, for this optimistic summary and prediction of future outcome, except that it wasn’t justified in any shape or form when you looked at the result or the general consensus when it comes to normal punditry thinking on the away goals rule. No, this verdict was not delivered for the benefit of a waiting British audience, but more for the ever growing number of Italians in the capital and for that very reason the CFC fans had every right to feel aggrieved and consumed with a desire to slap the Plattypuss around a bit. In addition Sky Sports, by allowing on their screens such a blatant misrepresentation of the natural laws applying to away goals assessment, are also complicit and Jeff Stelling duly went down in my estimation as he not only allowed Platt to get away with it, but fed him lines of encouragement with aplomb.

No doubt Mike O will be on here soon to tell me of my overreaction, but, if he didn’t see it himself or hasn’t heard it from others, not once amongst the Plattitudes was there mention of the possibility of Chelsea scoring an away goal, thereby requiring Juventus to score three and that in itself speaks volumes. For a long time I have felt that the fringe benefit of biased and patriotic commentary bestowed by the Media in this country on English clubs in the Champions League [when up against foreign opposition] has never quite stretched as far as doing the Chels any favours, but now I am even beginning to have my suspicions of a complete reversal of allegiances where we are involved and where none should be present in the first place. What’s that, Mike? Okay, I will turn the sound off, although somehow that doesn’t seem to address the problem for me as it has compliant 'going down with the Titanic' connotations. What say the rest of you?

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I too was disappointed in Stelling. At one point he in formed us in gleeful tones that Juventus haven't lost a home European match in 156 years or thereabouts.

Don't we only need a draw to progress? Perhaps they've changed the rules.

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Well. I haven't got Sky, but did hear the closely allied Talktrash commentary, which broke away from out game for extensive periods for the express purpose of glorifying what was happening in Madrid last night: "looking forward to another special European night at Anfield in a fortnight's time, and my God haven't there been a few of those over the years ... "is Steven Starfiah about to come on ... " "wonderful performance by Rafa's Redmen". Bear in mind that this station was covering our game, and yet that goal in Madrid was celebrated louder and longer than our goal ever was. More on Talktrash. that idiot Adrian Durham who repeatedly insists that Liverscum are everybody's second favourite team. I ask you, what planet is this pillock living on? Yesterday he was preaching that "every Everton fan will at some time have cheered for Liverpool".

This same ginger tosser was heard preaching at length that if we lost Barcelona it would be good for the game. Apparently he can't understand why English fans don't want other English clubs to do well in Europe. Except when it comes to Chelsea.

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I know what you mean. Gooner commentators aside, I wish someone would come up with a common understanding as to what is a 'good' and 'bad' result when it comes to CL two leggers.

Over the last decade or so, I swear I've heard all of the following (most of these are from the mouth, I recall, of Mr Glen Hoddle):

The most important thing is to score at home

The most important thing to get the away goal

It's absolutely key not to ship in any goals at our place

Under no circumstances should we let them score at their place

We must, above all else, keep a clean sheet at their place

Drawing at home isn't the end of the world

The away draw is a good result

The away draw is a great result if the first tie is at their place

The away draw is commendable if it shuts their fans up

The only way there can be penalties is if both ties end the same

The only way there can be penalties is if both ties end the same including extra time

There really can't be any penalties if the aggregate scores are the same, but one team has scored more than the other, by which I mean away goals.

etc etc.

Personally, I think - and I know I'm an amateur here - that the trick is to try and win both games and in so doing, not let the oppositiion score more goals than you, particularly of the away variety, which don't really count if you've score more than them anyway.

I think


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Why the hell was Joe Cole watching the tie in Madrid and not the one at the Bridge? Why couldn't we have had a balanced panel of pundits rather than one totally biased Juve supporter?

Dorset - I agree totally, but is it really a new thing that Sky don't want us to do well?

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Hasn't David Platt become a right fat c**t

as usual dorset has written a well thought out and provoctive piece, but i think he could have saved himeslf loads of time and effort if he had just posted what ballack & blu did. way more succinct and straight to the point.....but an excellent read anyway dorset and spot on. i know were getting close to paranoia here but it does seem the media in this country back the other 3 of the so called big 4 in a much more positive way than we seem to get.

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Yea i heard Durham chattin that sh*t, how liverpool were everyones second team, blokes a dick'ed and SKY when it comes to punditry is shocking, no-one is ever guna have anything good to say about us.. but who gives a fu*k.. fu*k SKY and fu*k Stan Cun*ymore..


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Great pice Dorset, I too was fuming at recent commentary. In the States the Cl games are covered by Derrick Rae and Tommy Smyth. Derrick gives a reasonably unbiased account, while often stretching to add as many adjectives into his commentary. While Tommy Smyth (sorry, that is smith with a y as he often likes to tell us) usually falls into the "I love Man U and Liverpool, and often talks of Anfield's special nights!"

Other than his usual "bursting the ol' onion bag" as his metaphor for scoring a goal his commentary is usually cringeowrthy, and manages to talk about Liverpool and Starfish as often as possible. I think it is a plague that is ruining commentary; people don't like the nuveaux riche and that is what we are seen as. I remember Andy Gray, after we won the premiership in 2005 saying "I don't want to ehar about Chelsea buying the League, because we've had people try that in that past (Leeds and Villa) and failed....it takes skill and a great manager!" I actually gained some respect for Andy, for once talking sense and pulling his tongue firmly out of SAF's pants.

However, it's not just in the CL, and this is me getting back to my original point. Last week, we play Villa in a great, important match. Robbie Earle was co-commentating. Now, case in point: Heskey dives, and I really do mean dives, just outside our area. According to Earle, this was perfectly acceptable as there was a challenge in a dangerous area and being a veteran of the game it was good for Heskey to use his guile to gain any advantage for his team. Now, several short minutes later we see Ballack go down under a very unconspicuous challenge near the Villa penalty area. You would imagine that Earle would acknowledge such an elderly statesman of the game with the same recognition given to Heskey, right? Well, according to Earle, diving from imported players was a cirse on the "English game!:

It is astonishing how commentators hold themselves to such double standards


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Yeah Scott, Tommy Smyth was a nightmare especially during the Inter match. It couldn't have been more obvious the united players were diving, they were falling down before the contact was made, and when it was made it was so negligable, and he kept saying oh yeah thats a foul alright. Love Derrick Rae though, favorite commentator by far.

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I actually quite like Tommy Smyth and didn't feel that he was biased for our game. In general, I think the commentating on the match has been shameful. Arsenal can only manage to score from the penalty spot but their 1-0 win is treated as a triumph. We win 1-0 and we're told that we are lucky boys who are in for a spanking in Turin. To read any of the recaps or hear any of the analysis, it was treated as if we lost not as if we beat the 2nd place club in Serie A

Mind you Man U drawing at the San Siro was a triumph as they utterly humbled Inter! (but failed to score any goals, which I seem to remember being an important part of football).

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