Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the Box: A new season and some old faces are there for kick-off

On the Box: Billy Weir

It was the first day back at football school and no fewer than three new boys dandered up with shiny satchels bulging with clichés and a piece box containing hard cheese sandwiches, a half-time orange, a United biscuit and a bottle of Football Special.

I have been away for a couple of weeks so the news that Colin Murray had been handed the gig to present the EFL (that's divisions two to four in old money) was something of a shock.

As I dug deeper, it seems that it had caused the sort of ripples usually reserved for a head the ball dictator being blasted by a democratically-elected head the ball for threatening to bomb Guam, an island only famous for having once been coached by Iam McFall (who I believe is suing the Black Eyes Peas chap over the name).

I am aware that there are many conscientious objectors to Murray, and he does tend to adopt the Jack Russell finding a new leg approach to presenting, but I genuinely don't think, and I have to double check this, he has threatened to nuke Nauru.

Despite rumours that the EFL were less than impressed that he had annexed Five's football coverage, he turned up at Craven Cottage, home of Fulham, and, as is the law these days, when the Cottagers are mentioned, Richard Osman, the tall one from Pointless, has to turn up.

Many have argued that anything football-related on Five is pointless, but at least when he returned to the studio they had turned everything back down to less than 11, no more awkward-looking bemused supporters, no constant wandering around the place and one pundit, Michael Gray, allowing for ballistic badinage between sofas to take place.

What Murray does bring is a bit of McCooeyness, shoe-horning Northern Ireland references whenever he can, with Oliver Norwood singled out for his display for Fulham.

"I would say that, of course, he's a member of the Green and White Army," he said, before talk turned to the man with the best name in the Championship, Hull manager Leonid Slutsky, who, we were told retired from playing when he was 19 having fallen out of a tree trying to rescue his neighbour's cat. A case of 'they think it's all over, it is miaow.' Heaven help him if Hull's owners get to change their name to the Tigers.

The tried and trusted format was followed, a good chunk of highlights from each Championship game and bit of a chat in between and then a round-up of the lower divisions at the end, which threw up a moment of Murray madness.

Talk turned to Forest Green Rovers, famous for being terribly politically correct, but they have a fan.

"I'm sick of all these references to bean burgers all the time, this image that they're all up there wearing hemp trainers, lighting incense, dancing around bonfires," he said, proving that you can take the man out of Dundonald but…

"The little club on the hill sell burgers just like everyone else, there's just no meat in them, curry chips, brilliant," he concluded and you got the feeling that it wouldn't be long before he'd be off to the chippy.

This is a charge that was often levied at Frank Lampard, cruelly referred to as Fat Frank in some quarters and having recently retired this could catch up with him.

BT Sport kicked off the new season with the Community (Charity) Shield as Frank's old boys, Chelsea, took on Arsenal at Wembley, where we were greeted by Jake Humphreys in a shiny new suit from the M&S Korean Dictator Range.

"It has been the most ridiculous summer as far as transfers have been concerned but at least now we can stop talking about that and talk about football," he said. Not quite.

"Oh, and we made a big money signing of our own as well - Frank Lampard."

He joins an ever-growing collection of midfielders on the BT Sport sofa, and there was much mirth as he was teamed up with Steven Gerrard, something that didn't work well in their England days.

Gerrard had been a swot, doing his homework on Twitter earlier, posting 'I wonder if we can work together because we couldn't play together, could we?' and adding in the studio 'that's why I jumped in, I knew everyone would be out there sharpening their pencils.'

Not quite everyone, there was one former pencil sharpener whose days of lead are behind him, with retired referee Mark Clattenburg completing the triumvirate of new boys.

He has been locked in a cupboard surrounded by TVs and is, supposedly, there to give his expert opinion on controversial decisions.

At least I think it was the former referee as he bore an uncanny resemblance to Alan Partridge's Geordie mate and sounded exactly like him. He disappeared out of his little room for a while in the first-half to go and clean off some rude words from the side of Humphreys' motor.

So like league tables after week one, a bit early to draw conclusions, Murray will be grand when he calms down a bit, no matter what Lampard does he can't be as bad as Owen Hargreaves or Robbie Savage, and the only risk with Clattenburg is that he'll nip off to get a tattoo when he calls a decision right.

It's a bronze for Bolt as there's no fairytale ending

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Jamaica's Usain Bolt (left) and USA's Justin Gatlin after the Men's 100m Final. Photo: Adam Davy/PA
 

Things started so well for the BBC and the World Athletics Championships, with a gold for Sir Mo Farah kicking things off in style last Friday evening.

"Let's have a look at the medal table," chortled Gabby Logan, as after one race Team GB/Somalia ruled supreme, but there hasn't been much to raise a titter since.

Inglorious failure has been the name of the game but in better news it means that licence-payers will have been saved a fortune in cushions as no new ones will have to be commissioned for Gabby's sofa.

This has been the innovation of the championships, the pundits joined by cushions of them in their pomp (or should that be plump?) and some would argue this is the best material that Gabby has to offer.

At least Usain Bolt could cushion the blow of British mediocrity, the hype of his last 100 metres race on Saturday night reaching levels of Steve Cram suggesting that Farah is a 'one-man world super power.'

"One of the things that separates the all-time greats of this sport from the rest is their ability to deliver when it matters most," said Gabby and you just knew that was Bolt's chances gone.

And so it proved, Bolt trailing home in third behind Christian Coleman and Justin Gatlin or Drug Cheat Justin Gatlin-Booooo to give him his official BBC name. No sign of any cushion for him just yet and who knows what might be hidden in it.

The Beeb was more distraught than Bolt who spent forever saying his goodbyes while little mention was made of the bad man who had won.

"This is sport, there are no guarantees, there isn't always a happy ending. The man in the shadows came out of the shadows, the pantomime villain of the piece," said a crestfallen Steve Cram.

Maybe so, but when he asks the crowd where Bolt is, in between booing, they'll say 'he's behind you.' Two places behind you.

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