Matt Gatward: Smithy is funny but Collymore's specs are hilarious

The View From The Sofa: Europa League/Sport Relief five/BBC1

Football coverage on Channel Five, or Five as they insist on being called these days – like Smithy, they know it works better to go by a single name – was cringe-inducingly bad when it first hit the air. Cheap sets, tacky graphics and John Barnes mumbling like Amy Winehouse used to make for a painful evening's viewing.

Not any more. Things have progressed nicely down Five way if Thursday's coverage of Liverpool against Lille in the Europa League was anything to go by. Barnes has been moved on and Colin Murray hosts the coverage, proving that a trained presenter does a better job of presenting than a trained footballer (Murray would not be allowed to play up front for Aston Villa, would he? Although if Emile Heskey can, maybe he's got a chance).

Pat Nevin does a fine turn as the half-time-full-time analyst, mixing tactical insight with a wee bit of gentle humour and banter (although why he borrows Channel 4 Cricket's video truck is never explained). And Dave Woods (formerly the BBC's rugby league man) and John Scales (formerly Liverpool's central defender) make a decent double act in the commentary box, both remaining largely cliché-free and aware of the ebb and flow of the action.

If Scales had shown such tactical nous during his playing days, maybe Liverpool's wait for a league title would have come to a halt during his spell at Anfield.

Of course, it wasn't seamless. Stan Collymore is Five's man in the studio alongside Murray and has mastered the art of saying little that isn't predictable. Although, in truth, it was hard to take in anything he said during the half-hour match build-up (during which time there were no fewer than an incredible five advert breaks) as it was impossible not to stare agog at his new Dennis Taylor-style specs. Fabio Capello he ain't. Thankfully, somebody from the Five crew – presumably after they had picked themselves up from the studio floor where they'd been rolling around clutching their sides – must have asked Stan to ditch the bins because by half-time they'd disappeared, leaving us to hang on his every word. (Thinking about it, maybe he should have left them on.)

The whole Five team are also unashamedly pro the British clubs competing in Europe (more supporters than reporters). It would grate if it were just favouritism but there is a whiff of desperation too, as Five know elimination for Liverpool and Fulham knocks Five from their football perch for another season as well. It's always better to bow out gracefully.

Should David Beckham's Achilles injury force him to bow out there will always be a career in acting after his role in Smithy's Sport Relief sketch on Friday. Becks and Smithy (James Corden of Gavin and Stacey fame) share flower-arranging, a bubble bath, a bed and each other's pyjamas during the skit, in which Smithy wins Coach of the Year Award on Sports Personality night. Tom Daley is splashed in the face, Andy Murray is smashed at tennis.

Smithy's rant at the gathering of sports stars and their loss of focus is priceless. Coe, Flintoff, Redgrave, Radcliffe, Giggs all play along in good spirit. To Flintoff: "Gonna stop playing now, Freddie, cos your knee's a bit poorly? Your [drinking] arm's OK, though, isn't it?" To Coe: "Look who it is. Bet you're pleased with yourself with your 2012 and your lordship. I remember when you were just a runner mugging off Steve Ovett."

If you missed it, download it from iTunes. Mugged off you won't be since the £3 heads to Sport Relief.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Manager (Junior)

Negotiable: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Account Manager (Junior) Account ...

Solar Business Development Manager – M&A

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Accountant,Reconciliations,Bristol,Bank,£260/day

£200 - £260 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Accountant, Reconciliations, Bristo...

Test Analyst

£20000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Tes...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried