Shameless feast means no coming back for seconds

Richard Edmondson on the marathon stamina test that is Sky's expanding football coverage
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The Independent Online
The whole cadence of Sundays has been ruined. Time was when you could rise on the Lord's day with a dull head, postponing the moment when you search for remaining change, or a scrumpled fiver, from the night before. Then it would be down to the pub to discuss the Sky game with your fellow slow thinkers, the 4pm match itself, and finally back to meet the boys for some ponderous analysis. Everyone was comfortable with this reliable Sunday programme, especially the wife and kids. But now the continuity has been shattered.

Sky's addition of the Nationwide League Division One to their Premiership coverage means there will be at least four live matches a week from now until the time those strange folk are dancing around the Maypole. The first screening yesterday of a Division One game kicking off at 1pm was a portent of the dreadful decisions that dedicated hedonists will have to make over the winter months (an all-day Sunday pub with Sky is probably the only answer to this terrible problem).

Less worried will be the players and managers who fancy swapping their opinions for reward. A second televised game on a Sunday means Sky needs a second anchor man, a second panel. On the early evidence they will very much be seconds. Yesterday's first game between Birmingham and Crystal Palace was introduced by Russ Williams, who possesses a parting which seems faithfully to replicate the course of the Thames. The man on the touchlines at St Andrews was George Gavin, who could justifiably claim he had been let down by his equipment as he appeared to have been given Norman Collier's microphone.

Russ's probing included thoughts such as "he will be hoping for better luck next time". His guests were not much better. Barry Fry, Terry Fenwick and Kenny Sansom formed the panel: faith, hope and charity, the charity being the donation of any money to poor old Kenny.

The former England full-back has lost a yard but gained a stone, and it was probably fair to say that his attendance was by dint of a Palace connection rather than any searing insight he had to offer. In his complex summing up Kenny opined that "Everton were all over the place". This would not have been an erudite observation even if Everton were one of the two teams involved in the match he had been watching. Sue Barker and Ruud Gullit have already been poached by the BBC after stints on Sky, but it seems safe to assume that Kenny will not be joining the exodus.

Fry is usually good value, even if there is a nagging belief that at some point he might try to sell you something. Like Geoffrey Boycott, the option always lingers that he might forget himself for a moment and unleash some language or opinion that would make a docker rouge.

Richard Keys, who is with the big boys covering the Premiership, has long since lost any pretence of shame. His perform- ances in the link chair continue to suggest the Ayatollah made an identification error when he issued his fatwa. George Graham was the man who went home with Keys's hairs all over his blazer yesterday and he once again offered a learned insider's account, which was predictable enough as accounts are George's strong point.

While George was present for duty, two old favourites were missing. Andy Gray was inhabiting the gantry with the admirable Martin Tyler and so unable theatrically to spin videos through his monitor. Barry Venison's excuse for absence was that he was playing in Southampton's red and white stripes, a wicked ensemble by Premiership standards but a touch bland for our Barry. If there is one thought that will keep our landlords sleeping well it is the fact that our Barry will soon be back on the 1pm beat, driving people out of their homes with the sheer force of clothing made out of old kaleidoscopes.

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