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.

News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
news

As anti-Semitic attacks rise, Grant Feller re-evaluates his identity

News
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
News
people
News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
News
Gillian Anderson was paid less than her male co-star David Duchovny for three years while she was in the The X-Files until she protested and was given the same salary
people

Gillian Anderson lays into gender disparity in Hollywood

Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Life and Style
fashionThe Secret Angels all take home huge sums - but who earns the most?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
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

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?