Robin Scott-Elliot: 'Wee Gordie' Strachan attacks Chiles for slipping into cliché
View From The Sofa: FA Cup, ITV1
Monday 31 January 2011
This is, it's safe to say, a time for football presenters to mind their Ps and Qs, and do their own ironing. When the Manchester United team-sheet arrived in the ITV studio at St Mary's on Saturday it must have tested the resolve of all those in the box to keep schtum. That strange "nggghhhh" sound was Adrian Chiles biting his tongue as he sought to stop a flood of invective that might have touched on his company paying all those millions (for the competition rather than to him) to show United's reserves, becoming a sort of MUTV with knobs on (if that sort of language is acceptable).
We had seen the United coach arrive and seen Rooney, Berbatov, Nani, Giggs stride off it with Fergie at their head. The next time we saw them they were huddled on the bench – the money shot as it were – with Rooney, as he does off pitch, resembling one of the Bash Street Kids.
Gordon Strachan is more Wee Eck (see Jocks and the Geordies in The Dandy) when it comes to cartoon casting. Wee Gordie – he kept mentioning his height – has an occasionally patchy record on the role of women in the workplace; and in the wake of the Keys and Gray, ahem, affair (there, mentioned them) he behaved impeccably on Saturday and even admonished Chiles for using the "small team can go out there and enjoy themselves" line. "That's a cliché," barked Strachan, who is good value as a pundit with his air of unpredictability mixed with moments when it is impossible to understand what he's saying.
With his downbeat, weight of the world (is that why he hunches?) approach, Chiles is a presenter for our times, the Chilesgeist. What he, and for that matter Gary Lineker and David Gower, has is an air that what we are watching is not the be all and end all. That was the Keys and Gray approach: every game and its consequences were apocalyptic, although not as apocalyptic as Key's longest (audio) suicide note in history on talkSport last week.
Sky Sports are broadcasting to a more niche audience than free-to-air channels, but Ray Stubbs on ESPN and Gower on Sky's cricket coverage are in the same bracket, yet still manage to interact with, rather than dictate to, the viewer. But wherever Keys ends up, anytime you see him in a studio it will be impossible not to remember him with his feet on the table uttering offensive nonsense. He did bow out on a broadcasting high, as his lunchtime ramble on the radio is already the broadcasting highlight of the year.
Paul Hawksbee and Andy Jacobs are not to everyone's taste – "Is this political correctness gone mad, Richard?" one of them (they are the Ant or Dec of radio) wondered at one point – but all they had to do was uncoil the rope and Keys did the rest.
There was one voice raised in Keys' and Gray's favour. It came on Question Time from Katie Hopkins, the former Apprentice who makes Thatcher resemble Florence Nightingale. Hopkins is the lady who likes to lamp. With friends like that, more enemies will follow.
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