Robin Scott-Elliot: Collymore excels with Ajax while England are taken to the cleaners
Europa League, Channel 5 / Six Nations, BBC
Monday 27 February 2012
Sir Alex Ferguson, or SAF as Manchester United insist he is called in order to combat Chelsea's bid to corner the potentially lucrative managerial initials market, made a mistake last week. For someone who knows his Bordeaux from his Beaujolais, his grasp of soft drinks is less firm if the untouched glass of orange juice throughout his interview with Jim Rosenthal on Channel 5 is anything to go by.
I have AVB down as an orange squash sort of a guy but not SAF. Rosenthal left his alone too and there they sat, two large orange glasses in the middle of a dark, moodily lit room as SAF told JR why appearing on C5 was OK.
Channel 5 are desperate to be liked, and to matter. Anyone involved over the two legs with Ajax was made to promise it was great to be on the channel and great to be playing on a Thursday.
Stan Collymore took it seriously – are you watching Alan Shearer? – going to see Ajax three times in preparation and doing exhaustive research into who was playing (and who wasn't). Collymore may be a decent pundit, but it is hard to be sure as Channel 5 don't have the confidence to stay in studio for any length of time. Instead we have to play "Where's Pat?" as the diminutive ex-Scotland winger Pat Nevin pops up on the touchline, then in a TV truck. It's a waste of one of the game's more intelligent thinkers.
The BBC have the same approach to the Six Nations, scattering pundits all over Twickenham. Their game was "Where's Andy?" The trouble was that Andy sat still. With no Prince Harry around – the Beeb's usual go-to cutaway at Twickers – Farrell Snr stepped into the breach. If Owen Farrell featured at the centre of on-field events, the next shot would be of dad. Owen did plenty which meant Andy is due an appearance fee.
There was no doubt this was a Big Game. One of the preview films contained a helicopter, explosions and a collapsing cliff, TV code for this is serious. In the commentary box Eddie Butler and Brian Moore, the Antony and Cleopatra of broadcasting, bicker and bitch but they belong together. They are a thoroughly entertaining double act. Moore was on Desert Island Discs yesterday and admitted that he could start an argument on a deserted island.
It was a Great Game, bruisingly entertaining from start to finish, although the endless and inconclusive replays of David Strettle's last hurrah stripped some of the drama from the finale. The last act was overdrawn.
Pre-TV replays, the referee would have made an instant, gut decision and the game would have bowed out on an immediate dramatic high, leaving Inverdale, Guscott, Davies and Co to stir their thoughts into the controversy. They had their own intuitions, founded on lifetimes in the game, as to whether it was a score but had to agree that inconclusive replays meant a try could not be given. TV decisions may be right for rugby, but for the viewer they have torn away an element of the swings of fortune that make sport so endlessly enthralling.
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