Fergie, the fatuous and the long hard trail

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Statto obviously thinks he's grown up a bit since Skinner and Baddiel used to push him around in Fantasy Football League. On his new venture, Eat My Sports (Sky 1), he's referred to only as "Angus Loughran", a name he obviously made up a few minutes before going on air.

It's not entirely clear what the show - which presumably pinched its title from the great Alan Partridge line, "Eat my goal! The keeper's got goal pie all over his shirt!" - is supposed to be. In tone, it's somewhere between Fantasy Football League and the worst sports programme ever made, Under the Moon. It begins with a welter of cliches - "The weekend starts here" is one - and makes plenty of time along the way for a slew of bad jokes - Rob Andrew brandishing an outsize rugby ball, for example, elicits the observation that rugby players have bigger balls. I laughed till I slit my throat.

The co-presenter Tom Watts doesn't help with his insistent chirpiness, and it's probably a bit unfair to observe that the main problem is Statto himself. But let's do it anyway. The erstwhile Channel 4 commentator on Chinese football comes across as an awkward hybrid - the delivery and demeanour of Gary Lineker before his media training course (which, admittedly, made not a bland bit of difference) and - appropriately, given Statto's penchant for a punt - the arm movements of John McCririck (though Statto is slightly better looking). After half an hour of hand-wringing, as he delivers his closing lines he flaps his arms like Icarus before he got slightly overheated.

It's as an interrogator that Statto reveals the full glory of his limitations, though. Alex Ferguson doesn't often grant interviews, so when you get one you don't want to waste it. Call for Paxo - sorry, Statto. His inquiries are of the "How do you manage to be a world superstar and still manage to fit in so much work for children's charities?" variety.

In fact, here are his questions in full so you can recreate in your own mind his obsessive pursuit of the truth: You and football: how did it start? Was it always a dream? Are you taking great pride in your young players coming through? You seem like a father figure to them. There can't be a higher pressure job than being manager of Manchester United. How do you think you handle that? Do you ever get bored with football? Do you ever get bored with being asked inane questions like these? How are you managing not to bristle with contempt? Precisely how fatuous is this interview?

I made three of these up. I'll leave you to figure out which.

Eat My Sports might not be the highest quality broadcasting you'll ever see, but the most onerous aspect of Sky's sports coverage has to be their trailers, which come at you like an Australian rugby league team being paid by the tackle. ITV, with a somewhat smaller ad-quotient, have to find other ways of making the hard sell. And so they've introduced a new concept: newsertising, otherwise known as "Sports Trailers at Ten".

The idea was first tried out on the evening of Manchester United's win over Chelsea in the Charity Shield a couple of weeks ago. The newsreader, Nick Owen, told us to look away if we didn't want to see the result of that afternoon's match, which had, he assured us, turned out to be a thriller. The highlights were, of course, on ITV later on.

As the respective managers admitted, the game was patchy at best. So what was Owen banging on about? Perhaps he'd been referring to the penalty shoot-out - which was no more or less exciting than any shoot-out. Whatever he meant, it was a bit like those newspaper hoardings that say something along the lines of "Bank of England robbery", and you buy the paper only to find that someone has had their purse nicked on Threadneedle Street.

The other technique involves stretching out stories beyond their natural life (not something we newspapers are ever guilty of). Last Sunday, when Damon Hill was a faulty gearbox away from an improbable victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix, ITN news quite rightly had the story near the top of the running order.

The next night, there it was again - near the top, not even after the adverts with the other sports stories. The news angle? Damon Hill had come second in the Hungarian Grand Prix. More than 24 hours earlier. Now, this might be dismissed as bad news judgement - were it not for the fact that ITV have the rights to Formula One. Funny that.

Mind you, they don't have a monopoly on bias. On Wednesday morning, with Essex having to do little more than get out of bed and rub the sleep out of their eyes to complete a NatWest semi-final victory over Glamorgan, an Essex wicket fell. The commentator Tony Lewis, who's as Welsh as Vinnie Jones - sorry, bad example - was ecstatic. "Wowee! Wowee! I don't believe it," he declared, metaphorically taking off his titfer and chucking it in the air. Still, a few balls later and it was all over. Lewis was back to his slightly glum self and normal service was resumed. As it will be in this column next week, when Andrew Baker gets back from holiday.

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