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Sky's Excess - Should We Really Expectorate Anything Less?


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First the pleasantries. Can a person ever have too much of a good thing? Well, it was Shakespeare's Rosalind who first posed the question in 'As You Like It' and I would like to ask again, sans Carra, MNF's match and Sky Sports coverage of those remarkably 'good things' otherwise known as Manchester City FC. Frankly, when it comes to these good things in particular, I stopped 'as you liking it' long before this game took place, having felt that the media outlet had gone all pschophantic over the team and their manager way too early in the Premier piece and to an extent unparralled in the League's history. Even Fergie's fledglings never had it so good this early in proceedings and the old boy's rise to messianic status took an age by comparison with the unseemly haste surrounding Pep's ascension, a journey still to be completed in terms of English domestic titles and Champion Leagues won, incidentally.

Okay, you may be forgiven for thinking that there is an element of sour grapeiness in the opening paragraph in view of our recent defeat at their hands, albeit by the narrowest of margins, but in my defence I will offer up the following gem from Antonio Conte's pre-match press conference, when SSNews reporter Ian Bolton chipped in with this question:-

As a coach, when you watch Manchester City, do you admire what they do... do you go WOW!... or do you, as a coach who has to play against them, do you [go] OH NO IT'S THEM!?”

Not only did Ian's oiliness remind me instantly of The Fast Show's 'suits you sir' sketches - do you like them Antonio, do you, do you? - but it also revealed the extent to which these Sky guys will now go, a previously untapped base level of fawnication, in order to illicit the answers they want. Just try responding to this unctious approach without either sacrificing yourself on the altar in Pep's ever-broadening church or sounding like a non-believer who well and truly deserved to be burnt at the Etihad stake. No surprise then that Conte didn't fancy being severly singed, or even flambed, as a certain Frenchman was twiceover. Instead he tried what can only be described as a typical Jose Mourinho park-the-bus job on the opposition. It almost paid off, but in the end only really succeeded in pissing off the broadcasters to such an extent that Gary Neville and Jamie Redknapp lost what little reputation they have for calm professionalism, growing more exasperated and frustrated with each passing minute of the ninety and subsequently declaring the play to be 'disgusting' and likening the overall performance to 'a crime'. To be fair to co-commentator Martin Tyler, he did on occasion try to rein Neville in a bit, but there was to be no stopping him or Redknapp.

Indeed, Tyler has become Sky's one and only wise head with doyen status and he was also at the pre-match press conference waiting in the wings with a couple of follow-up long hops for Conte to belt out of the park, but neither were seen on SSN throughout the evening and all viewers were left with was the impression that Antonio was, like everyone else, in awe of the Champions Elect eleven and their coach. Indeed, awestruck we all must be in this season's Sky Sport's excessively packaged Premier League, it's compulsory and almost heretical to dare to disagree when pressed to comment, though Sean Dych might, if any of the Sky pre-primed reporters ever pluck up enough courage to ask him to eulogise. By contrast, Antonio's approach was subdued to the point of sulleness and he carried this through to the actual game with his tactics on the pitch. Truth be told, he could have played this formation with a few more youngsters in the side, they would have closed down quicker and shown less sign of disgruntlement at having to roll up their sleeves and defend from front to back. Not that I am in agreement with the way we played, far from it, but I can see no sense in merely adding to the mountain of meme that surrounds Guardiola and his City team these days and,, much to Sky's displeasure, neither could the boss.

But more importantly, where does all this leave Antonio Conte now that we are also out of the Champions League? In short, I'm not sure he wants to stay anymore, the tide of criticism, poor performances, daft questioning and downright stupidity in TV studios having taken its toll. Sadly, he has been under pressure since the very first, scarcly believable, loss to Burnley and the subsequent defeats against all of those so-called smaller teams. He has the body language of a man who wants out of a Premier League whose main paymaster dearly wants in on a top-of-the-bill Mancunian double act, buttressed by an entertaining supporting cast currently made up of Liverpool and Spurs, neither of whom are guaranteed their billboard status, but nevertheless will do for the time being. Chelsea from Day One this season and Arsenal since they draped Wenger like an ablatross around their own neck are both seen as yesterday's clubs with no future other than as mere roadies loading the trailers and parking the buses for the forthcoming Pep and Jose Travelling Circus and that is exactly what we are in for over the next few seasons, or for as long as it takes Jose to realise he really isn't very good at continually playing second fiddle in Sergeant Pep's No Longer Hart's Club Band.

Yet somewhat surprisingly, after yesterday's twelve minute press conference rant,it would appear Jose is going nowhere (probably in more ways than the one he intended) and has decided instead to defy his critics and justify his playing style as only he can, a stance Conte has taken too, but with hardly any panache, knowing full well pretty much everything is resting on our next two games. Not that Sky gives a damn as, without a coverage foothold in either Champions League or FA Cup camps, they have no meaningful football until the end of the month anyway. And we all know what I mean by 'meaningful' when it comes to this broadcaster - excess and plenty of it, great dollops of Gary, Carra and Jamie telling it like it is, extolling the extraordinary talent to be found in the best team on the planet, perpetuating the myths surrounding all those great teams and managers from the northwest and highlighting the crimes against footbal perpetrated by those down south that have fallen from grace. Which brings us full circle to Carra and 'Gob Gate' as Shed Enders have so descriptively dubbed it.

In different circumstances, the Saturday Soccer crew would doubtless give any rival high profile pundit disgracing himself in this way a right pasting, but with Carra being a one-of-our-own of Harry Kane proportions this will not happen today and should the matter even be discussed the mood will be reverential, Phil Thompson will be saddened, Merse amazed, Charlie Nicholas astonished and Le Tiss quick to stress how much out of character this out of body experience was for their colleague. What is certain, however, is that there will definitely be no excess on show, no disgust, no over-the-top effrontery culminating in schoolboy batz, nor any 'He's got to go' viewpoint expressed. And this is very much my point - if it takes an in-house fall from grace to bring Sky Sports excess down a notch or twenty it can only be a good thing. Therefore, with this in mind, I would have no objection if those who dictate policy and standards at Sky, now they have something really Disgusting to get their teeth into, take this as an ideal opportunity to begin the curbing of undue excess that has become the hallmark of their Premier League coverage, the Super this, the Sensational that, the Criminal this, the Disgraceful that, they should all be confined to history and replaced by at least some semblance of much needed Martin Tyleresque decorem.

At the end of his suspension Jamie Carragher could well become Sky's first Ex-spat, but if he were to continues he would be a constant reminder of what excess ultimately brings to any confrontational situation, his vulnerablity being the brake that is now permantly applied to his criticism of others. Sky's intention appears to be to counsel and retain, the mantra being that lessons must be learned, so having the Scouser on board might just have the stabilising effect required, both for the individual and the organisation. The alternative does not bear thinking about - just imagine the post-sacking press conference, with an Ian Bolton lookalike from the BBC asking “As an angry pundit, when you watch someone spit, do you admire what they do... do you go WOW!... do you Jamie, do you?!”

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