Robin Scott-Elliot: FA Cup lacking in glitter but darts remains pure gold

View From The Sofa: World Darts, FA Cup Third Round/BBC, Sky, ITV
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The Independent Football

In the build-up to Christmas, sometime at the start of September, there was a succession of adverts on TV suggesting people traded in unwanted jewellery for cash. What state the economy would be in if Bobby George had taken up that offer doesn't bear thinking about; suffice to say that Alistair Darling's eyebrows may well have finally matched his hair colour such would have been the figures involved.

There were rings on his fingers and if there had been bells on his toes, they too would have been gold. There were more necklaces than necks at the Lakeside, although there weren't that many necks in evidence as they tended to get lost in a forest of chins. There were bracelets too. Close your eyes and with the clinking of jewellery and gruff South-eastern voices it was possible to imagine you were being sweet-talked by Pat Butcher.

But like most things to do with darts, Bobby dazzling is TV gold. The BBC have the poor man's version of the world championships – not literally of course when you factor in Bobby the pawn star – and labelling Tony O'Shea world No 1 belongs in the realms of the global involvement in baseball's season finale.

Which is all beside the point as this column was meant to be about the FA Cup. Third-round Saturday is supposed to be one of the highlights of the sporting calendar. But these days, thanks in part (and at the risk of biting the hand that feeds the sofa) to TV shifting any half-decent looking game to Sunday, that's like saying Tony O'Shea is the best in the world. O'Shea incidentally is nicknamed Silverback due to his "squat figure", to borrow from Wikipedia. The BBC, as is their obsession when it comes to non-team sports, kept cutting to Mrs O'S, who was roaring her husband on while clutching a cuddly gorilla, which would seem to back up Wikipedia for once.

Like the Queen's Speech in years long gone by, third-round Saturday used to be one of the sterling traditions of the Christmas holidays, but these days nobody's that bothered unless it's been an annus horribilis, ie one of your many homes has been fire damaged or your fringe players – the Prince Charlies as they're known in palace circles – have just lost at Bury.

Football Focus and Dan Walker, their puppy dog presenter, promised some romance and delivered a clip of Ronnie Radford within 60 seconds, but instead there was Gary Megson, sitting so mournfully on the sofa he made Lawro look full of beans. Walker bounced happily opposite them, "Lovely to see you Gary, look what happens when I unravel this roll of toilet paper. Who said walkies?" Megson kept mentioning "the football club" in case any viewers switching over from T4 thought he had been manager of Smooth, Bolton's premier nightclub.

On Soccer Saturday, their man at Stoke broke an FA Cup exclusive. "I can exclusively reveal that the York coach arrived five minutes ago," he said breathlessly, although that might have been down to the cold. At Boro, a pale man whose teeth may have been chattering suggested that the "weather could be the big story of the day". The football certainly wasn't, so when a secessionist movement on the sofa seized control of the remote and switched to Clifford the Big Red Dog, there was little protest, particularly when it turned out to be an allegorical tale of Manchester City: a dog that grew very big but still couldn't stop making an absolute tit of itself.

Order was restored in time to see Tic-Tacs advertised during half-time on ITV, another FA Cup tradition – and that's just about where we came in.