I don’t know about you, but I rarely watch Match Of The Day anymore.
To my mind, the Sunday show’s brighter, better and an easier way to catch up with all the weekend’s action, especially if you’re a cynical supporter following a team that’s no longer in the Premier League. It also means you don’t have to put up with “Lawro” and the two Al’s slouching in their chairs, looking like ageing catalogue models waiting for one last dress-shirt photo-shoot …
I’ve been waiting for a Top Gear-style makeover of the show for a number of years now, but it seems more urgent than ever following the debut season of one Gary Neville on Sky. Quite simply, he’s been a breath of fresh air. Now there’s a sentence I thought I’d never write.
Forget about the knob twiddling – Andy Gray was doing that for ages before he got caught on camera. Obviously, I’m talking about the big replay screens here … though you can take it either way with him. I’m not into the gimmicky side of things – I just mean the analysis on offer from the boy Neville. He’s not a rocket scientist or anything, but then you’d probably get more sense out of a football-mad seven year old than you would Mark Lawrenson. And better fashion sense.
I’ve deliberately not mentioned Gary Lineker yet, and the reason for that is that I actually quite like the bloke. Yes, his jokes are corny, but when he actually gets a few seconds to squeeze out his own opinion, usually in the careful phrasing of a leading question, he comes across as both insightful and bang on the money with his observations. As he’s one of the better-paid BBC employees – and seemingly has a lot of clout these days if SPOTY is anything to go by – I would love it, I mean loooove it, if he were to “do a Clarkson” and say to the producers “You know what? We could make this a much better show, and here’s how I’d like to do it …”
1 Change the format to an informal chat-show style, a la Graham Norton. Lineker would still be the presenter, but rather than just being a linkman between pundit and highlight, he would drive the content, asking probing questions about the matches, the guests themselves and the game as a whole.
2 Change the line-up so it’s never the same people week after week. I’d like to see two professionals from the game, be they current or ex-players or managers, or perhaps a referee or administrator, as well as a well-known broadcaster or “celebrity” fan (and I mean that in the truest sense, ie sombody famous who’s also well known for liking football). Someone like Danny Baker, Stephen Fry, Ardal O’Hanlon or Elton John.
3 Make room for James Richardson. The guy is brilliant but wasted doing podcasts for The Guardian. He deserves a much wider audience both for his football knowledge and his rapier wit.
4 Have a light-hearted five minute retrospective slot looking back at events from the past that occurred on the same weekend in history. This could be a chance to offer some perspective on the game, showcasing the greats of the game and educating younger fans and introducing them to the concept of football before the Premier League. It did exist, after all …
Over to you, Gary …