Outside the Box: Spanish television marathon is a sight for square eyes


It has not happened in the Premier League – yet – but in Spain this weekend there is the ultimate example of how football is in thrall to television, with all 10 La Liga matches starting at a different time to facilitate maximum coverage.

The "feast" began yesterday with the less than appetising prospect of Zaragoza at home to bottom-of-the-table Osasuna (4pm local time) and continued at two-hour intervals through to Barcelona against Granada (10pm). Mallorca and Valencia have a midday start today in the first of five staggered games culminating in Real Madrid's visit to Real Vallecano (9.30pm).

Then there is the Monday night event pioneered by American football and copied by Sky Sports when La Coruna meet Seville.

It will be no surprise that Madrid and Barcelona are given the two prime slots, as they continue to be the biggest audience-pullers and claim 50 per cent of all TV revenue. The others fight among themselves to do their own deals.

At least the Premier League in its various agreements – BT Vision, with Jake Humphrey as presenter, replace ESPN next season – offers all 20 clubs the same basic share before adding on varying amounts based on TV appearances and league position.

Bridge of sighs for Woods

For Michael Woods, once regarded as one of the brightest English prospects, football has come almost full circle, from Chelsea to Stamford Bridge – though not in the way he hoped.

The midfielder first made news in 2006 when Chelsea's then chairman Ken Bates was accused of poaching him and another young player, Tom Taiwo, from Leeds United (ironically where Bates is now chairman).

A settlement between the clubs was reported to be for several million pounds, but Woods played only two FA Cup games and Taiwo never made a first-team appearance. The latter went on loan to Carlisle, eventually signing for them and, after saying he wanted to be closer to his family in Yorkshire, he has just moved to, er, Hibernian.

Woods played half a dozen times for Yeovil at the end of last season but last weekend was back in his home city, in the third tier of the York Minster Engineering League. His team? Stamford Bridge.

Turn grey while waiting

Talking of Leeds, has any player ever waited so long to score for his first club as Andy Gray? With an impeccable Elland Road background as the son of Frank (more than 350 games) and nephew of Eddie (former manager, voted third-greatest Leeds player of all time), he made his debut as a 17-year-old in 1996, going on to play for them in that year's League Cup final and winning two Scottish caps.

After amassing a century of league goals for 10 other clubs, he rejoined Leeds during the summer and finally scored for them last Tuesday, in the last minute of a 3-2 home defeat by Hull City.

Bookies play by the book

Since our feature (on 26 August) about the identity of "The Secret Footballer", whose book of the same name was published last month, a different sort of book has materialised – comprising odds from William Hill.

Whereas Bolton's Kevin Davies was the favourite in a readers' poll, so much money was immediately plunged on Dave Kitson, now with Sheffield United, that he was reduced from 7-1 to 1-3. The abrasive Kitson fits many of the clues, having come up through non-league as a late starter, been through promotion and relegation (with Reading) and once set a club-record transfer fee (to Stoke).

But doubts and possible red herrings remain: the newspaper in which he writes continues to bill him as a "Premier League footballer", which Kitson has not been for two years; and as Hill's spokesman Joe Crilly points out, a recent column mentioned playing abroad, which Kitson has never done.

All bets will be refunded if the identity is not revealed by the end of the year, which, as it is in nobody's interest to do so, is the likely outcome.

s.tongue@independent.co.uk; twitter.com/@stevetongue

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