Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Billy on the Box: I love it, love it, when there’s free footy going

Being a native of Ballymena I’ve never been the sort of chap known to look a gift horse, or indeed any benevolent farmyard animal, in the mouth.

So it was with a grateful and curious eye that I cast my beadies over ESPN’s freeview weekend with a spring in my step and a palpable puffing out of breath from my wallet.

Now there was a lot on that didn’t really float my boat, the NHL and NBA being two of them. I love American Football and baseball but really there is only so much room for Yanks in your life.

As for UFC, if I want to watch two sweaty, chubby men fighting each other in front of a blood-thirsty, baying crowd, then I’ll tune in to the next Old Firm game. There must be one soon, it’s been about 20 minutes since the last one.

The Aviva Premiership (that’s rugby, not a competition to decide the worst of Paul Whitehouse’s ads and while we’re on the subject if they haven’t the decency to let us get insured over here why do we have the ads inflicted upon us?) and German football doesn’t really do it either.

I also have an issue with Italian football. I’m of an age where the old calcio should feature Gazza and a smug James Richardson being smug and drinking a latte and reading an Italian paper smugly and if it doesn’t then I can’t really take to a Scotsman sitting in a cupboard in London to convey the excitement of Juventus v AC Milan to me.

But more Premiership football and because it’s free my Seven Towers’ roots have me nodding like Churchill at a moshing convention. That’s the insurance dog, not the wartime hero.

To think in a generation’s time children will think that World War Two was won by a mutt going ‘oh no’. Not exactly ‘we’ll fight them on the beaches,’ and I’m sure Winston would have insured us over here. I digress.

There was a nod to my Braid-dwelling days as we cut to the dressing room and Ray Stubbs and Kevin Keegan loving it alongside Uwe Rossler below a big sign saying ‘passion’. Perhaps this was a subliminal weather forecast for people from Ballymena warning of heavy rain ahead, and perhaps something for Angie Phillips to look into.

Then again the City kitman was probably more concerned that Uwe had been let loose and would start chucking the neatly folded shirts everywhere as is his wont.

The big news, literally, was of Kolo Toure’s unfortunate slip in fighting the flab, landing a drugs ban, and as Kev pointed out it was ‘a big blow’. A scurrilous accusation.

And then we were off, the three wise men from Eastlands scuttling around corridors in the search of the holy grail, or rather the table they stand at like three farmers leaning on a fence.

Then we were joined by Rebecca Lowe on a behind the scenes look at the club and I was eagerly awaiting a trip to the trophy room to have a peak at the sky blue carpet (this joke can also be used for Ballymena United, and dates back to the early Jurassic period).

No such luck, just a trip in the lift for the VVIP (that’s very, very important people) before we went back to the desk and the three wise men saying what a great keeper Ali Al Habsi is. Oops.

Wigan may as well have had Abu Hamza in nets as the former firefighter from Oman handed City the win on a plate, or as Jon Champion helpfully suggested he may now be known as Ali Mishapsi. Or maybe not.

Still, apart from that I emerged relatively unscathed from the ESPN experience, but two words still would preclude me from splashing out on a subscription — Robbie and Savage.

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