A few years ago, a fifteen year old boy telephoned my favourite football phone-in and spoke very eloquently about his team, Stoke City. Robin was passionate and offered commentary on Stoke’s playing squad, tactics and management structure as well as informed ideas as to what might improve their play even more.
Which, as you’ll know if you’ve listened to BBC 606 with Fletch & Sav for any length of time, is as rare as Mark Clattenburg keeping a low profile during a game.
I enjoyed it. I love football and a big part of being a football supporter these days is about engaging with the extensive media coverage it draws. Match commentaries, summaries, articles, phone-ins, speculation, gossip and opinion all form part of the fabric of modern football. There are superb contributors and awful ones. But for the most part, it’s great.
The seasons passed, punctuated by uncontrolled shrieking outbursts from Robbie Savage and statements of the bleedin’ obvious from Michael ‘Drone King’ Owen, and aside from the occasional small child bursting forth with stock phrases that prompted cooing and the now standard “I better be careful, you’ll be after my job next,” my radar remained silent. Even when Radio 5Live announced they were launching a competition to find the Young Commentator of the Year, it just spat at me a bit, then fell back into its customary stupor.
This morning, while I was brushing my teeth, I realised how negligent I’d been.
The Premier League season begins tomorrow and to celebrate, a young Manchester City fan was invited into the studio to talk about it. Which he did, with enthusiasm and passion and the joy of someone yet to be marinated in cynicism for twenty years. I get it. It’s sweet to hear kids talking about football and parroting what they hear other people saying and we can all pretend they’re dead clever and the future of football broadcasting. But it’s sweet in the same way that candy floss is sweet. After about three minutes, it becomes claggy and sickening. Your mind starts to wander from the subject at hand and begins a subconscious search for somewhere discreet to vomit. You don’t want to spoil everyone else’s enjoyment, and you were hungry after all, but what you’re consuming has no nutritional value whatsoever.
Too late. You’ve been sick on someone’s shoes and everyone hates you.
I’m fully behind kids engaging with sport from an early age, and given the impact ticket prices are having on the ability of parents to take their offspring to games, would actively encourage it. But please, let’s not fetishise their contributions. It’s increasingly difficult to find football media that isn’t shouty, ill-informed, opinionated and riddled with banter. Radio 5Live is one of the few outlets offering varied, frequently illuminating opinion and analysis from a variety of sources. They even employ Chris Sutton, so you can’t accuse them of not covering their angles.
I realise that these days, content creation is all and this type of thing is gold. But beneath the froth lies a fanbase who want to hear analysis of the game we’ve loved for years from experts. No bells, no whistles and no artificial but ultimately empty sugar highs.
Please. Or I’ll be forced to stop listening to 606 and will have to find another outlet for my ire. No one wants that.