The marginalisation of the FA Cup may have reached new levels of exclusion yesterday but broadcaster ESPN decided to return to old ways via the new. Having bought up the failed Setanta to set up a UK outpost and convert it to their house style, the American outfit – Disney owned – dedicated 12 hours to our neglected national institution.
Starting at 8am with Breakfast at Wembley – "we'll make your sausage sizzle" announced one host, setting a tone – ESPN tried to mix the nostalgic elements of old ITV coverage with the slick, American outside broadcast. Cameras never stopped moving. Everybody had a headset. And every item seemed to have a predetermined time limit.
Robbie Savage, last seen in his vest and underpants after his retirement match, turned up only marginally more dressed, in scarf and faded jeans. Part-host/part-celebrity, at least in his own mind, Savage was involved in some guff on corporate feeding and then torpedoed an item on Stoke and Manchester ales by announcing that he didn't drink beer. Savage's dozy contribution was matched by the hapless lad assigned to the Stoke hotel but who was restricted to the main road a mile away.
A later sequence, borrowed from the parent company, involved two broadcasters sitting pitch-side behind a white desk akin to Liberace's piano, speeding through stats.
Archive fillers followed but soon we were back pitch-side where the Liberace desk was now manned by host Ray Stubbs, with unemployed managers Sam Allardyce and Kevin Keegan, Franck Leboeuf (why?), and Savage re-dressed in a Liberace suit. "Looks like your 70s haircut Kev," quipped Savage as bearskin-clad Coldstream Guards marched past.
Eventually the match commentary took over. "Balotelli's down, what happened?" screamed Jon Champion in rare drama. "Didn't see anything," Chris Waddle replied helpfully. After nine hours, I had – an American burger with too much English cheese.