Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the Box: Heaven and Hull for big TV cup rivals

By Billy Weir

The FA Cup wasn't just a battle this year on the pitch between Arsenal and Hull, there was an even bigger war raging on the sidelines as ITV locked horns with cheeky upstarts, BT Sport.

Here's a look then at how they fared and who were the winners and losers on the day.

Build-up: This was in two halves for BT Sport who got in first at noon, in a throwback to the days when cup final day started on Tuesday. Just in case you didn't realise it they called their show 'FA Cup Final Build-Up'. Genius.

All angles were covered, Lynsey Hipgrave sent to a deserted Wembley, Darryl Currie sent to the deserted hotel Hull were staying in, Helen Skelton on a bus with Tigers – sadly Hull fans not big Frosties-loving felines – and Tom Watts, Lofty from Eastenders to you and me, standing outside Highbury before tracking down Arsene Wenger.

Like Spinal Tap, they went the whole way up to 11, as that's how many people they had crammed behind their counter at the side of the pitch by the end – one pundit for each viewer.

ITV arrived at 3.00pm, just when a football match should be kicking off, but times have changed so it was nice that the first person we got to see was Dickie Davies and Adrian Chiles spent the next two hours telling us how hard it must have been to fill all those hours of tedious build-up in the past. Easy, just Chiles, the unwanted offspring of Fred Elliott and Jive Bunny, to say everything twice and the time will fly past.

ITV 0 BT Sport 1 or 11.

Presenters: Time for some grandiose opening gambits from Chiles and BT Sport's Jake Humphrey.

"Wembley on Cup Final day remains the most special of places, almost sacred in football's consciousness," said Chiles as we drifted off into unconsciousness.

Jake, began with a hallowed player, or his statue, standing beside one of Bobby Moore surrounded by Hull fans, quoting the great man's saying 'if you never concede a goal you will win more games than you lose' before ruining it all by mentioning social media and hashtag. Class is permanent.

ITV 1 BT Sport 1

The studio: A no-brainer this one, BT Sport, thousands of them, camped by the side of the pitch with their big counter, while Chiles only had something wooden and past its best beside him. More of Andy Townsend later, Chiles also had a cheap-looking plinth, but at least ITV did have a studio.

ITV 2 BT Sport 1

Unlikely guests: Always a part of the big day, ITV tried their best by wheeling out comedian Tim Vine to keep our spirits up in the build-up and then golfer Ian Poulter. BT Sport could boast Tiger though, no, not that one, this one was William Blake's epic poem and read out by none other than Omar Shariff. The best Chiles could offer was that Hull were the under-dogs, or under-tigers. Thank goodness they aren't nicknamed The Panthers.

ITV 2 BT Sport 2

The reporters: ITV has the superb Gabriel Clarke, whose piece on Arsene Wenger was wonderful. BT Sport has Helen Skelton. Gabriel was ably backed up by Ned Boulting. BT Sport has Helen Skelton.

ITV 3 BT Sport 2

The pundits: It was the likely lads for ITV, Roy Keane wearing black just in case you forgot he was scary and Lee Dixon there because he loves the Arsenal and Tim Sherwood there because he 'ates the Arsenal. BT Sport had a bigger coup in Rio Ferdinand, desperate to put himself in the shop window, David James, desperate for a few quid and Ian Wright and Jimmy Bullard who were, well, desperate. Rio did reveal that it was a 'big pitch' but he's not Roy Keane so an easy choice.

ITV 4 BT Sport 2

The co-commentator (s): BT Sport showing off again by going that bit extra, shoe-horning Neil Warnock in to sit alongside Michael Owen, meaning that we now had two men saying very little with one repeating what we'd just watched and the other having a continual moan about referees and foreigners in the game.

They also managed to squeeze in that a penalty shoot-out is a lottery and it only takes a second to score a goal but they were in good company.

ITV had Irish legend, Andy O'Townsend, with such gems as Hull have 'a chance but everything had to go right for them.' Thanks for that. All as ordinary as each other. No points. Or point.

ITV 4 BT Sport 2

The commentators: Clive Tyldesley was the man with the mic for ITV, and didn't mention that night in Barcelona once so well done for that but did have the presence of mind to mention 1966.

Sky's boxing commentator Ian Darke got the nod for BT Sport and you kept expecting the Monday Night Football dancing girls or Jimmy Bullard in a tiny skirt and tight top holding a board up telling us how many rounds had gone.

He almost won a point for remembering Omar when Hull went two-up, yelling 'a sensational start for the Tigers who really are burning bright' but Clive has suffered enough this season with United being rubbish. No score draw.

ITV 4 BT Sport 2

The presenters again: "Almost impossible to predict what's going to happen," announced Chiles at half-time and also warned that 'this could go either way' so we could rest easy. Jake was back at full-time again with the game locked at 2-2 to remind us of the magic of the FA Cup and that the Indianapolis 500 would be on later, exclusively live on BT Sport and just before Ray Winstone came onto the screen offering us the chance to 'ave a bang on that.'

The final whistle: Lee Dixon and Ian Wright, now in Arsenal scarf, were beaming, and now the reporters went to work, getting nothing of any interest from anyone, except Ray Stubbs (I nearly forgot about him) who was so desperate to find someone to talk to, he spoke to Jack Wilshere, who played such a vital role in the final.

Final score: ITV 4 BT Sport 3 (after extra-time)

So there you have it, the FA Cup is over for another year and Arsenal won, just in case, like me, you'd switched over to see how the La Liga decider was going on Sky and missed Aaron Ramsey's goal.

Belfast Telegraph

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