Will Hawkes: Phone-in generates lots of heat but little light or delight
View From The Sofa: You're on Sky Sports, Sky Sports 2
Monday 24 January 2011
It's one of football's eternal truths that managers operate under the most intense of pressures. Take Avram Grant, for example. West Ham's hangdog manager has not had the best of months – or seasons for that matter – and things just keep getting worse.
Unfortunately for Grant, supporters have opinions and they're not afraid to express them. The internet has led to an explosion of footballing heat – if not much light – but the real crucible for footballing chat remains the phone-in. You might think that this is a format made for radio but that hasn't stopped Sky Sports from doing it on the telly. You're on Sky Sports features two ex-footballers (on Saturday the strangely intense Jason Cundy and Graham Stuart), a blonde referred to only as Chloe, and lots of opinions.
Grant, understandably given his side's failure to see off Everton, played a starring role in a number of these opinions. After Chloe had set up the debate ("We want to know if you are happy with the manager at your club, and more importantly, if you would like to see someone else in charge." More importantly?) the callers got down to business. John from Yeovil hit the nail on the head. "We don't seem to be able to hold on to leads that often," he lamented. Cundy nodded, turned to Stuart and asked: "They do not seem to be able to hold on to a lead. Where does the manager come into that?"
After Stuart had answered that to his satisfaction (something about team spirit – I drifted off a little), Andy from Chelmsford demanded: "Why did Avram Grant take all his strikers off the pitch at the end?" A good question and one Stuart couldn't really answer. Fortunately another opinion came whizzing along, this time on the subject of Wigan's manager, Roberto Martinez. Paul from Wigan asked: "Does Dave Whelan even care any more? Why will he not sack that joke of a manager Roberto Martinez? Boring, rubbish football."
Stuart didn't agree that Wigan's football was boring but his heart wasn't really in the discussion. Wigan, it turns out, just don't have enough fans. "I do not think too many people would be too worried to see Wigan drop out of the Football League," he said. Cundy looked taken aback. A controversial point of view? Uh-oh. Stuart was unrepentant: "Do you want to go to the DW Stadium?" he asked Cundy. I don't think he meant for a date. "They only get 10,000 people in. This is the Premier League. We want to see packed stadiums."
Stuart should know about empty stadiums, having played for Chelsea in the early 1990s before they reinvented themselves as an international brand. West London's playboys were the subject of John from Blackpool's call. "I don't understand what's going on at Chelsea," he said. "Who's in charge?"
"I think the championship is out of reach," was Stuart's response to a question that hadn't been asked, "which is sad to see because as ex-Chelsea players, Jase, we want to see them do well." And if they don't, just blame the manager.
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