Belfast Telegraph

Match of the Day given a rebranding

By Billy Weir

You can only imagine the meetings that were held in the Match of the Day office of late when it came to discussing some presenting options that were on the cards.

Now, there have been a few odd choices in the past – Clare Balding and rugby league, Michael Vaughan at the golf, Jonathan Edwards and rowing, Steve Cram and curling, Helen Skelton doing anything – but you just have to wonder how many names had been crossed off the list before Russell Brand produced that Eureka moment.

For those not in the know, Brand was a guest pundit on Match of the Day on Saturday evening as part of the Sport Relief weekend on the Beeb, although quite why Leonardo was there was another matter.

Gary Lineker, who had shaken off Sport Relief co-host David Walliams for a few hours, gave us the answer.

"We've brought a bit of Brazilian flair into the studio and I tell you what it's had the desired effect – 32 goals on a pulsating day," said Gary, before revealing that Brand would be joining them too.

He's not Brazilian but is a rather unpleasant clump of hair that would leave us all feeling better if removed from our lives. Andrew Sachs told me to say that. Good to see the Beeb, the guardian of our morals, sticking to their guns on that one. I'm only surprised Jonathan Ross didn't turn up for the Goal of the Month competition.

And Leonardo was described as 'World Cup winner' and not Leonardo 'the man who almost caved in Tab Ramos' skull during the match against the USA at the World Cup and was then banned' but that was a long time ago.

Thankfully on this panel of 'bad boys turned good' we were joined by Alan Shearer. Moving swiftly on.

There was more Brazilian strangeness to come in the evening's first match as commentator Steve Wilson treated us all to an exciting new pronunciation of David Luiz's name, replacing the 'Z' with six S's and nine 'H's', but thankfully didn't do the same with André Schürrle's name, or several people would have been drowned at Stamford Bridge.

It wasn't a great day for another Andre in the shape of referee Marriner, or a 'Marriner All At Sea' according to the annoying caption that now accompanies post-match highlights, as his horlicks of mistakenly sending off Kieran Gibbs instead of Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain was played out.

He later revealed it was nothing to do with getting the wrong man but simply that he couldn't be bothered writing Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain in his notebook and that he'd never liked the Bee Gees.

And talking of annoying, whiny, hirsute things, it was soon time for Brand, more out of water than his mum, Jo, on Splash! to turn up to give his views on West Ham's game with Manchester United.

Wayne Rooney's wonder goal was the main topic of conversation as the long-haired pundit who knows nothing about the game (no, Robbie Savage hadn't popped in) starting off by saying he was 'honoured to be alongside you all'. Only there and insulting people as a Mr Sachs, formerly of Barcelona, wondered if Points of View was still on.

The East End has not seen that sort of injustice since the dark days of Jack the Ripper," was his considered view although he went up hugely in my estimation by bringing Leonardo into the equation by saying Rooney had elbowed a Hammers' defender in the build-up to the aforementioned goal of wonder.

"No offence, I know you were a bit tasty with the old elbows mate," he said, as Gary and Alan laughed nervously, while Leonardo's granda in Sao Paolo rang the BBC Complaints Department.

"Despite looking like Phil Mitchell, he's done a great disservice to the people of the East End," he continued as referee Lee Mason was next up for Brand's rapier wit and it all ended with a wonderfully spontaneous conversation about him replacing the retiring Alan Hansen at the end of the season.

"You win nothing with kids," came the reply, with hilarity abounding in the studio as, off camera, a small man with a moustache, wearing a white waiter's jacket was being elbowed out of the way by Leonardo.

No such unseemly problems over in Spain as El Clasico was a, err, classic, despite Scott Minto.

Don't get me wrong, Sky's La Liga presenter seems like a nice chap, always well turned out, affable, knows his football, but no matter how long he fronts the Spanish football two words always jump to the front of your mind – Charlton Athletic.

Minto was a good, honest, pro but never threatened to be a global icon so when it came to the Real Madrid and Barcelona's superstars and he said 'this is the bit I used to hate as a player' eyebrows were raised. Mind you, some of those games against Millwall were epics.

His punditry team in the studio could claim to have slightly more experience, Gaizka Mendieta and Santi Salori, while up in the commentary box Gerry Armstrong played for Glenavon in the Mid-Ulster derby so he's no stranger to big games between bitter enemies.

Commenator Rob Palmer revealed that Chelsea skipper John Terry was in the stadium, but once he heard that there would be no trophy presentation he packed away his white and red and blue striped jerseys and went home.

He missed a wonderful game, seven goals, penalties galore, a red card and Gareth Bale proving once again that he is not the best player in the world, but it's hard to argue that it's not the best game in the world. Well, unless the Addicks are playing the Lions ...

Belfast Telegraph

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