Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

Say hello, wave goodbye

Jamie Carragher retired from football at the end of the season
Jamie Carragher retired from football at the end of the season

There are certain words when uttered that have the effect of you pursing your lips, tilting your head slightly to one side, and letting slip a little ‘hmmmm, I don't know' in Mavis Riley fashion.

 

These words arrived on Monday when one of my esteemed (his word, not mine) colleagues, remarked that Match of the Day had been good the previous evening.

In fairness, by the law of averages, there had to be a good show at some point and despite my scepticism all hope was not lost, for although I no longer tune in as religiously as once was the case, I still, out of some misplaced devotion, have the show on series link on Sky Plus.

Most of the time it gets the yellow button treatment and has left the building before Gary Lineker even gets the chance to utter a pithy opening, but with my curiosity pricked, I braced myself and settled down for the excitement of the final day.

Unlike in the heyday of Match of the Day when you got Jimmy Hill, a couple of games, a brief post-match interview if you were lucky, Bob Wilson rounding up the rest of the action and if they had a bit of time to fill, Archie McPherson with a clip of Aberdeen playing Partick Thistle, there were 10 games on offer.

Of course, another reason the show no longer plays such a major part in our football lives is down to Sky, with two of the games having been on live and Football First offering up an alternative.

It has much to commend it, mainly Sarah-Jane Mee, but also it is on earlier and also gives you the opportunity to play the new game for all the family that is sweeping the nation — guess the footballing nonentity of yesteryear who will be on the sofa being distracted by Miss Mee's legs.

Will it be Perry Groves, Dave Bassett, Paul Walsh, Alan Curbishley, or God forbid, Jason Cundy, or will they have really scraped the backside off the big wooden thing and Ray Parlour will be there?

These players have long since said their less tearful goodbyes and on a day when it called for emotion to say cheerio to several of the game's big stars, it was fitting that Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer were on and not distracted by Gary's shapely pins.

“What a finale we have for you, highlights of all 10 games, 36 goals and numerous goodbyes — keep some hankies handy, it could get emotional,” he said, although no mention of Partick.

As is the wont of Match of the Day down the years, with Arsenal and Spurs battling it out for the big prize — fourth — it meant we were flitting about like a bluebottle on a motorbike between St James' Park and White Hart Lane, with commentator Steve Wilson at the former welcoming us to the ‘Euro mission gong contest where une point can make all the difference.' Never mind Bonnie Tyler, send for Martin.

Time for the emotional roller-coaster to set off, Newcastle fans showing a bit of class with a warm send-off for Steve Harper, in his 20th year with the club and having made about 40 appearances in that time, but a nice touch.

Proper football clubs do this sort of thing well, others don't. Some, who shall remain nameless (Chelsea and Man City) are upper class but don't have class. They're like the family that no-one wanted to live beside with a clapped out Ford Cortina and a settee on the lawn who got lucky, won the lottery and moved to bigger things. They're now loaded, have many new acquaintances and mix in loftier circles, but there's now a burnt out Aston Martin and a chaise longue on the croquet lawn.

Aston Villa are old school and gave Stilyan Petrov a rousing reception, Jamie Carragher's cheerio at Anfield was first class, well done to Stoke and Southampton for saying goodbye to Michael Owen and at the Hawthorns, Paul Scholes and Sir Alex Ferguson were given another fitting farewell.

There were to be tears at Spurs too as Gareth Bale defeated Sunderland but it wasn't enough and he waved goodbye with a longing to join a team who can win trophies and play in Europe — he moves to Wigan on Monday.

Some Chelsea fans begrudgingly thanked Rafa Benitez for his efforts while at City the supporters showed a good deal more class than the board by singing Roberto Mancini's name throughout, and as the curtain came down we wondered would we see any of these people again.

Of course we will, most of those leaving have been signed up by Sky or BT Sport, with even Mark Halsey joining the latter, but one wonders, will we ever hear of David Beckham again?

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