Brian Viner: Prehistoric maybe, but I'll miss Gray and Keys

It's easy to forget that duo's pioneering work with Sky took football into the future

With scarcely any let-up in the sound and the fury directed at Andy Gray and Richard Keys, and adjectives such as "antediluvian", "prehistoric", and "boorish" continuing to reverberate, the pioneering work they represented as the two most visible frontmen for Sky's football coverage these last 20 years, not to mention their own talents as broadcasters, has been rather wilfully overlooked.

It is difficult now to recall what the televising of our national game was like before Sky Sports arrived on the scene, promptly introducing all kinds of add-ons now taken completely for granted, such as the scoreline and clock in the corner of the screen. It took a while, but eventually the BBC and ITV were shaken out of a technological lethargy by Sky, realising that they needed a little clock too, and even more importantly had to increase the number of cameras at live matches, or else risk looking, well, antediluvian and prehistoric.

On 24 April, 1991, Gray and Keys presented Sky Sports' inaugural live game: Rangers v Dundee United. In the two decades since, they have embraced any number of bells and whistles intended to keep Sky's coverage of football more comprehensive than anyone else's. And it's not as though Gray was simply the conduit for other people's innovations; it was his own enthusiastic explanation of tactics, using pepper pots and salt cellars after dinner in a Glasgow hotel one evening, more than six months before Sky Sports went on air, from which those early graphics were born.

All the same, the real wizards were behind the scenes. On Monday Night Football in August 1995, Tony Yeboah's stunning goal for Leeds United against Liverpool was precisely measured for speed and distance using, for the first time, an innovation borrowed from Israeli missile technology. With devices like that at his disposal, Gray was like Harry Potter after a visit to Diagon Alley. And invariably alongside him was his Ron Weasley, Richard Keys, appearing to understand every stroke of the telestrator, a kind of space-age pen used to draw lines across the pitch.

In truth, Gray's souped-up analysis could sometimes pall. But in his relentless appliance of science at least he never committed the worst crime of football punditry, that of stating the bleeding obvious, as embodied by the BBC's Alan Shearer.

Of course, some viewers, and more particularly non-viewers, have consistently refused to see Sky as anything other than a malign influence on football, filling the coffers of already rich clubs to create a self-perpetuating elite known, at least before Manchester City struck oil, as the "Sky Four". Those critics will have enjoyed this week's imbroglio. Personally, I don't mind admitting that I will miss the Gray-Keys double act.

Plainly, though, it couldn't go on. In an interview last August, Gray said with characteristic hyperbole that he was more excited by the forthcoming football season than he had ever been. "After nearly 20 years, we must be doing something right," he added, of himself and Keys. That they never did quite chalk up 20 years was, ironically, because they did something wrong.

Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

News
people
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
Arts and Entertainment
filmsIt's nearly a wrap on Star Wars: Episode 7, producer reveals
Life and Style
fashion
News
i100
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey indulge in some racing at a Point to Point
tvNew pictures promise a day at the races and a loved-up Lady Rose
News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past