Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Billy on the Box: The Italian job

Five coverage doesn't blow doors off

Italy. Home of ice cream, spaghetti fields as far as the eye can see, silly wee mugs of strong coffee and football that couples beauty with tackles verging on the psychotic.

I was always a firm fan of Football Italia on Channel 4, presented by the smooth James Richardson, so when it went off the air I kind of lost interest.

Five, desperate to find something, anything, for John Barnes to do has jumped on board the bolognese express with the imaginatively entitled Football Italiano.

They must have burning the olive oil all night thinking that one up.

I'm not sure if this new programme is brilliant or awful but it's worth watching for Laura Esposto.

Absolutely gorgeous, she sounds like a cross between Frankie Dettori and Captain Bertorelli from Allo Allo, although there was no mention of the fallen Madonna with the big boobies.

She is joined by Mark Chapman, the Radio One DJ not the bloke who shot John Lennon.

It continues a worrying trend with radio presenters, including Colin Murray, popping up in football. What next? George Jones doing Match of the Day?

The lovely Laura struggled on, telling us it was ''alf-time'. I was half expecting some gruff Aussie bloke coming on looking for Ailsa and calling Francesco Totti a flamin' great galah.

Thankfully our new Italian totty was too busy reading the scores out. This was bizarre. The scores were given in Italian and then Chappers gave us the scorers in English.

Thankfully John Barnes was in the commentary box or it could have got very confusing.

They really should have left it at that. Trying to get Laura to analyse the game with Gabrielle Marcotti was a bit like watching a tiger nip off a gladiator's wobbly bits.

"Roma has the chance to score, for example, the third goal, but it did hasn't happened," she told us. I have absolutely no idea what she was talking about but she's still lovely.

Stick with it right until the end, when everyone gets up from the desk and goes for a walk to a big map of Italy on the studio floor, where Laura tells us where we're going next week. So bad, it's really goodissimo.



Take it as Red - this is way forward

"And Cliftonville get us under way in our first ever live Carnegie Premier League match."

Words I thought I'd never hear arrived last Monday night as Sky commentator Rob Hawthorne set the ball rolling on a great night for local football.

A shame that it took a non-local broadcaster to realise there is something worth covering. Not only did we have it live, there were also extended highlights the next day too.

If only it could be like this all the time.

Great game, fantastic atmosphere and superb coverage but let's not forget, this is Northern Ireland, so someone made the effort to be offended.

There were a few 'party' songs, and we're not talking Agadoo here, but it was enough for Stephen Nolan to stick both feet into local football just for a change.

I wish I had a pineapple, and I wouldn't be pushing it up a tree.

If a few verbal insults, no matter how moronic, are the worst things being hurled, then things aren't too bad.

We've had centuries of this, so why did we think that the arrival of Sky Sports in our country/province/statelet/enclave (delete as politically applicable) would solve problems that no-one else could?

Maybe Rob should have had Kofi Annan beside him rather than Gerry Armstrong. Then again, he may have known how many goals Glenn Ferguson had scored!

There was the occasional blip from old Arconada, the odd mix up over some of the players but I'll live with it if we can get this sort of coverage all the time.

And it may also persuade a few people out there to get off the sofa and support the local game, because there's very little chance of our local stations giving it the coverage it deserves.

I'll leave that with you, I'm away out to paint a Sky Sports mural somewhere.



Kirsten has morphed

For the uninitiated, Kirsten O'Brien is a very pleasant and bouncy blonde who presents a modern-day Take Hart on CBBC.

By night though she has turned into a rather saucy co-presenter of the Fanbanta Football Show on Channel Four.

Imagine a down market version of Soccer AM and you'll not be far away.

Part of the entertainment this week was Kirsten doing a handstand with her bits hanging out on a table in a bar that serves as the show's set.

It's like seeing Morph coming on in a basque and suspenders and sliding up and down an HB pencil.

Her Tony Hart is an unfunny comedian called Joe Mace, and this week we were treated to former ref Jeff Winter reading us extracts from Rio Ferdinand's book while stretched out in the bath.

And you wonder why this is on at midnight.



Stars light up the Sky

Has anyone else found Sky One's Premier League All Stars strangely entertaining.

Teams made up of 'legends', 'stars' and fans have been battling it out all week, not just to win, but to try and keep Ian Wright and Helen Chamberlain quiet. Not easy,

It's basically six-a-side but with corners and throw-ins, the ball drops from the sky for kick-offs and then you have a powerplay which means a goal counts double.

What it has confirmed though is that being a star in another sport does not make you a footballer. I give you Jonathan Edwards, triple jumper supreme but clearly that corrective surgery on his eyes has had a disastrous consequences for his feet.

The highlight though was a big Geordie bloke called Dougie Grant, who was built more like Russell Grant, and he was a true star.

There was controversy though as former Musical Youth singer Dennis Seaton fell out with Ruud Gullit. Apparently he refused to pass to the Dutchie. Apologies!



The final word

Not often I find myself agreeing with Mark Lawrenson but it happened on Football Focus on Saturday. The bloke who presents it was waffling on about some Brazillian scoring a goal in the Women's World Cup and Lawro said: " I watched this myself, how sad am I?"

The sound of irons being chucked at the TV must have been deafening throughout England.

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