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Treble Trigger

Posted By Steve Williams On Monday, May 25, 2009 @ 12:06 pm In blog | Comments Disabled

What have been the most memorable moments from this season’s FA Cup?

Well, unfortunately for ITV, most people would suggest Everton’s winner against Liverpool being replaced by a Tic-Tacs advert, the coverage of Histon vs Leeds looking more like a ninety-minute documentary about raindrops and Portsmouth’s defeat by Swansea being filmed from a mole’s eye view. Of course, none of these are the fault of ITV Sport – they were caused by an automation cock-up, freak weather conditions and a condemned gantry at Fratton Park – but it’s not been a great way to launch into the new contract.

Their broadcast partners Setanta Sports haven’t really enjoyed huge success either, but you’d question the value of a deal like this for a pay channel. You’d get pay TV for the Premier League as it’s the only way you could see live Premier League football, but unless your team’s playing in one of Setanta’s live games, most fans would be happy enough with the ITV live matches and highlights shows.

However, Setanta are really pushing the boat out with their coverage of the final, with programming beginning at 9am! The idea is to bring back the fun and excitement of Cup Final Day, back when it was more or less the only live match on TV, and to this end they’ve even hired Saint and Greavsie to take part in the coverage. Exactly who’s so nostalgic they’ll sit through the whole six hours build-up, I’m not sure, but at least they’re making the effort.

So far ITV’s not promised much for their Cup Final coverage, with a more conventional 1pm start time and presumably, lots and lots of Andy Townsend. I can’t bear Townsend, who blatantly exhibits more naked ambition than an Apprentice contestant, and it doesn’t help that ITV use him on 99% of their live matches. The man’s clearly desperate to be promoted to the anchor’s chair, talking longer and louder than everyone else, and a worrying development in recent months has been that he no longer sits with the rest of the pundits in live games, but on the other side of the table alongside Steve Rider.

In Townsend’s mind, at least, this seems to suggest he’s now the co-host, giving him scope to talk even more, now taking it upon himself to interview the other pundits. Well, I say “interview”, instead he just talks and invites the others to agree with him. In the build-up to a recent game when Teddy Sheringham was a guest, he reviewed some footage of the players and said “D’you remember this, Ted?” so often he sounded like he was talking an elderly relative through some cine films.

When you watch Townsend in action you sometimes pine for the days when footballers knew their place and were incredibly ill-at-ease in front of the camera, never trying to upstage their hosts. So it was a treat to see the performance of the former Arsenal and Liverpool star Michael Thomas in his role of pundit on Setanta’s coverage of the FA Youth Cup Final on Friday night. Here was the old “I kicked the ball and there it was in the back of the net” approach to football punditry back in full effect.

Thomas got off to a flying start when he advised viewers that the FA Youth Cup Final “is a massive game, because it’s like the FA Cup Final for the youth team”. It’s exactly like that, Michael. That’s why it’s called the FA Youth Cup Final. When asked if the match would be a chance for the managers to see if the young players could cope with the pressure, he said, “Yes, because it’s a pressure situation and some players can’t cope”. Later, too, he talked about some of the Arsenal players who had gone out on loan this season, “like Gibbs who went to Norwich and, er, um, er, um, the other one at Burnley”.

Still, at least Thomas was enthusiastic, and it was something of a treat to see a fomer player who clearly hadn’t bothered with the media training, someone completely inarticulate. For my money this was just as nostalgic as the return of Saint and Greavsie. It’s often said that there’s too much football on television, and if Thomas can get punditry work, it’s probably right.

Thomas’ fellow pundit was Jason McAteer, a man who, when he arrived at Liverpool, announced his nickname at his old club was “Trigger”, as his team mates decided he was about as intelligent as the fanously slow-witted Only Fools and Horses character of the same name. However, Liverpool already had a “Trigger” in Rob Jones, so McAteer announced that he now wanted to be known as “Double Trigger”. Remarkably, on Friday night, he finally found a double act where he was the brains of the operation.

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