The FA Cup's return to ITV has been a unique, refreshing experience. First you feel the smooth, sweet flavour, then you begin to smile... Hang on, how did an ad for Tic Tacs sneak in here? What with the mints, the naked man, the sweary man, not to mention the third-round debacle, the greatest-cup-competition-in-the-world has not enjoyed the smoothest of channel hops.
No station seems to attract quite so much opprobrium as ITV, and this season they have managed to bring a deal of it on themselves. Not so much the swearing and nudity; after all the best foul-mouthed tirade, as we newspapersmen are duty bound to label it, was Micah Richards' "fucking hell" when faced with Garth Crooks' meandering post-match questioning a couple of years back. Then there was the "shit" voiceover on Match of the Day. And, of course, Mark Lawrenson's studio streak, although that might have been a dream.
Missing Everton's winning goal against Liverpool and making an almighty editorial muddle of the third round was less excusable, so Steve Rider and Co will be on their best behaviour today as they go head to head with Setanta. If you wanted to be unkind, it's the channel nobody wants to watch against the channel nobody watches.
But cruelty is frowned upon at The Independent, and Cup final day is all about shots of young Everton fans frolicking in Fellaini wigs, Armani-suited players strolling on the Wembley pitch before kick-off to be asked how they are feeling, panoramic shots of the empty middle tier after half-time and, eventually, shots of young Everton fans crying into their Fellaini wigs.
Setanta have taken the Venezuelan approach to the final and cleared the schedules. We are promised more than just Angus Scott lecturing us for hours on end à la Chavez, although the president's views on Phil Neville's range of passing would no doubt be instructive. The channel, which is unscrambled for today (insert joke about Steve McManaman's accent here), pitches a pundit line-up of the tousle-haired one, Terry Venables and Kevin Ratcliffe against ITV's Andy Townsend, Joe Royle and Flashheart Sheringham, which is not inspired casting on either side. At least ITV won't be letting Graham Poll anywhere near our screens, so brownie points for them.
In the commentary box it's Clive Tyldesley and Jim Beglin or Jon Champion and Craig Burley. It's the classic football conundrum. Tyldesley and Beglin were in action on Wednesday in a massive, massive game, Clive. Can they raise their game again so soon? Champion and Burley are fresh, but will the lack of big-match action hinder them?
There remains, though, the big question of the day. What will Motty be doing this afternoon? As a BBC man to the core, will he listen faithfully to the radio? Or will he turn the sound down on his telly, settle on the sofa with a packet of strong mints and provide his own commentary? Let it be the latter.Reuse content