It was the return to the airwaves of Smash It and Nasty, the two most controversial football broadcasters of the season, turning out on a station that encourages its presenters to speak their minds. "Sensational" was the word chosen by TalkSport to promote the debut of Andy Gray and Richard Keys, less than three weeks after they were fired from Sky Sports for sexist behaviour.
But the result was the radio equivalent of "parking the bus" – to use one of their own less misogynistic expressions. Over three hours, the pair played it safe, anxious to avoid further gaffes. Given that they have recently introduced into the national conversation such delightful phrases as "Would you smash it?", "Hanging out the back of it" and "Charlotte, will you tuck this in for me, love?", their caution was understandable, if tame, for an audience which has come to expect contentious debate.
TalkSport billed its "big signings" as the media transfer of the year and could not have been pleased by a BBC announcement, an hour before the new show went on air, that Mike Parry (whom Gray and Keys are replacing) would be getting a slot on BBC Radio 5 Live from this Saturday. "I feel like I've just had a call from the manager of Real Madrid," Parry said, pointedly.
Gray and Keys have appeared short of friends of late, and they endeavoured to make up for it in a single programme, by inviting a string of their old Sky Sports contributor pals (former player Dion Dublin, manager Peter Reid and presenter Sam Matterface) to appear as guests. Keys, relentlessly referring to them as "buddy" or "mate", had never seemed so popular. "Reidy, you know what I am saying here, a big, big thank you. Thanks, son."
At the weekend, Keys had faced further allegations concerning alleged racist comments he made off-air. To back up his earlier denial, the radio show revealed that he has black buddies, too: on the line after Dublin was the Notts County manager, Paul Ince.
The audience wasn't so impressed. "How long can you just interview your old mates for? Boring!" observed Carole Gomez, one of many Twitter users to vent her feelings at the account set up to provide the pair with listener feedback. The presenters did little to dispel their reputation for not having emerged from the Jurassic period, expressing surprise that digital communication could come from Japan. "We've arrived, old son!" Keys quipped. "We're on Twitter!"
The show reached its highest points when the pair brought on Liverpool's Jamie Carragher to discuss recent upheavals at Anfield and then Ray Wilkins to speak about his old clubs Chelsea and AC Milan. Gray had an opportunity to show his undoubted tactical insight. Some listeners were impressed, with one tweeting that "football people still back them both".
But despite Keys' claims of "floods of emails", the presenters shunned the risk of interaction with the public. For once, these boys wanted to keep their sheet clean. It was 80 minutes into the programme before an email was finally read out, an observation on Wayne Rooney's spectacular goal in the weekend's Manchester derby.
The shunning of social media was, perhaps, because so much of it was disparaging. "My sister's kid dropped my car keys into a v expensive Chinese vase. My question for you guys is: Would you smash it?" was one of the less vitriolic.
One thing Keys did read out was the presenter-delivered adverts. "Get down to Wickes, where you can get ceramic floor tiles for only £8.99 per pack," he implored, not feeling the need to comment on their smashability.Reuse content