In a nation changing by the second, is there still room for Match of the Day? How can a programme well-known for its refusal to rock the Premier League boat continue to exist in a world turned upside down since it last appeared on our screens? Less than a minute into Saturday's programme, we had our answer: football, it appears, may well be the soothing balm England badly needs. Jonathan Pearce began his commentary of QPR's disastrous return thus: "After a week of hostile destruction on the streets of London, a celebration for the capital city..."
Leaving aside the phrase "hostile destruction" – can destruction be an act of love? – and the questionable reference to England's splintering social contract during a football commentary, what he said was self-evidently wrong. It wasn't a celebration for London, it was a celebration for QPR. The biggest post-match cheer at Craven Cottage, as it happens, was reserved for news of Bolton's 4-0 win.
And anyway, QPR's celebration proved short-lived. To be fair to them, they were well on top until Kieron Dyer hobbled off after two-and-a-bit minutes.
There was sympathy of sorts in the MOTD studio, where Gary Lineker described it as a "rude awakening" for the West Londoners. Alan Shearer, speaking after Pearce had told us that QPR had been out of the top flight for 15 years, began his analysis (you can always tell when there's analysis coming up on MOTD because the word "ANALYSIS" appears on the screen in huge letters) with the remark: "15 years, I think, they've waited to get back..." Thanks Alan.
A veil having been drawn over the Hoops' horror show, we were off to Anfield. Liverpool have spent about £10bn on British footballers this summer, so they would have been expecting to steamroller Sunderland. But they didn't: the game finished 1-1. Luckily for confused viewers, manager Kenny Dalglish was on hand to explain why.
Referring to a penalty decision that didn't go his team's way, he told the Beeb: "We just hope that if our club are ever in a situation like that, we will get the courtesy that [the referee] Phil Dowd showed [Sunderland defender] Kieran [Richardson] today." That's right, Kenny. It's time somebody said it. Liverpool – along with Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea – are always getting stitched up. It's almost like there's some sort of conspiracy.
Just how deeply this anti-Liverpool culture runs was demonstrated in the MOTD studio, when Dalglish's good pal Alan Hansen analysed the game's "talking points" and concluded that his old team had been hard done by. Next, Lineker asked Hansen to explain at length what had "impressed him most" about Liverpool. This, remember, after a game which they drew at home against the team that finished 10th last season.
The inadvertent comedy did not end there. There was Joey Barton's dive, having been tapped on the chin by Arsenal's latest flaky import, Gervinho, at St James' Park, which was followed by Alan Pardew's pompous, harrumphing defence of his outspoken midfielder. More uplifting was the celebratory dance put on by Blackburn's Mauro Formica after scoring on his debut for the club. His joy, like QPR's, was short-lived: Wolves scored twice and Blackburn lost.
There was not much more cheer in the studio. "Not the most exciting day ever in Premier League history," admitted Lineker. Still, after a summer of nation-changing events, it's sort of comforting to have MOTD and its reassuring platitudes back on the box. In a world where nothing seems stable anymore, it would, I'm sure Pearce agrees, be pure "hostile destruction" to lose this most blandly British of institutions.Reuse content