As fish in barrels go, criticising ITV for its football coverage is akin to tackling a sturgeon in a hogshead with a blunderbuss. There's the inordinate amount of advertising. Or the token 15-minute build-up to what was a must-see game, if not quite of the magnitude of Jose Mourinho's ludicrous "the world will stop" hyberbole. Or Clive Tyldesley's beyond self-parody commentary. Or Adrian Chiles, for many, many reasons.
But before Uefa and the FA tout around for another channel to air their wares, it should be remembered that there is one jewel in ITV's crown which should be taken into consideration: Roy Keane, the Father Jack of football punditry.
Keane was at his curmudgeonly best when debating whether Nani should have been sent off during Manchester United's loss to Real Madrid. For the record, Keane believed the referee, Cuneyt Cakir, was right to send off the Portuguese winger. "It was dangerous play," Keane repeatedly harumphed.
But what made Keane's ire even more hilarious was that it was Gareth Southgate who had taken up the opposing opinion. The pair rarely saw eye-to-eye as players – although they did meet foot-to-chest back in 1995 – and they have kept up their mutual antagonism in their roles as pundits.
On Tuesday night Southgate, in the tone of a supply teacher attempting to control a class of 14-year-olds, manfully tried to defend Nani by saying the player wasn't aware of others around him. Keane's eyes bulged. He seemed only just to stop himself from repeating his 2002 World Cup catchphrase of "stick it up your bollocks", before sputtering, in a pitch you suspect his children would tremble in fear at: "Gareth, does he not think there would be other footballers on the pitch? Does he think he has 20 yards to himself? Whether he meant it or not is irrelevant. It was dangerous play."
Keane had the dubious privilege of having in his corner Chiles, who was hopping about behind him like a bully's henchman squealing: "Do him, Keano, do him!" Poor Southgate only had the mild-mannered Lee Dixon to back him up. And when Keane went into full monstering mode, the ex-Arsenal man actually resorted to waving his hands in surrender gestures, stammering: "That's only my opinion."
It was only when Keane started assassinating Nani's character as a player ("He's a quick boy to go down anyway, he's not the bravest player on the planet") that you thought that, as a disgruntled former United employee, he was getting a little too personal. It wasn't exactly incisive. But no matter – it was still great telly.
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