Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the Box: Sky have Friday night on their minds

By Billy Weir

There's an old adage of being careful what you wish for and it certainly seems to have been taken to heart by Sky as the new football season kicked off in earnest, or the Emirates, as the case may be.

Friday Night Football was a new experiment for them last year, Jeff Stelling wheeled in to front the show with Countdown's lady of letters and number cruncher extraordinaire Rachel Riley brought in alongside him.

Let's be honest, it wasn't very good. Jeff has been returned to his carers at the Soccer Saturday Rest Home, where he is safe in the bosom of his fellow inmates with varying degrees of infirmity and suffering from early onset incompetence while, after much trolling, Rachel has called it a day.

Back in April in this mighty tome, I expressed my fears that the bosses may take the head staggers and do what they have now done and bring in Kelly Cates in their stead and yep, you guessed, the worse case scenario has happened.

She is flavour of the month at the moment with Sky, but they weren't taking any chances on her Friday night debut, providing some Scouse support in the shape and sound of Jamie Carragher and just to make sure of no charges of Liverpudlian bias, bringing along Gary Neville.

They were also helped by an early (very early) contender for game of the season, a 4-3 thriller as Arsenal came from behind twice to beat Leicester City, and while Cates performed well enough, it is Carra and Nev who are worth their weight in gold.

Mind you, Neville was a bit rusty after the summer break, his first contribution being 'ummmm' when asked if there had been enough change at Arsenal.

She also had Carragher on the back foot saying 'you called for Arsene Wenger's head last season', and weighing up where he was protested that was 'a bit strong' while Neville was having a fine old time outside the ground, interviewing Arsenal fans.

"Let's get Gary Neville on a Friday night at Anfield talking to supporters, it certainly won't end like that I can guarantee you," snorted Jamie. He could just dazzle them with his medals…

On his travels, Gary ran into an Aussie Arsenal fan here on his honeymoon and this theme was kept up as Kelly and co were constantly going walkabout, from the side of the pitch, then across it, stopping people for a chat, then heading into the stand at half-time.

At the end we were back on the pitch for more interviews beside a huge TV on the side of what would have been the perfect vehicle if the next Pope is of restricted height. Although seven of them may stretch even Sky's budget.

And as we mark 25 years of the Premier League, the man who has seen it all, Martin Tyler, was in the commentator's seat and he was in his element.

"What a night, Friday night," he exhaled as the goals rained in.

"There's an old song 'gonna have fun in the city' the line goes, 'Friday on my mind.' Well this Friday night will stay in our minds for a long, long time."

After the match, players were pounced upon by Cates and her lynch mob and Wenger joined them later for a chat, Carragher praying that his wish for a guillotined Frenchman wouldn't be brought up again.

Much banter ensued between Neville and Carragher and Arsenal fans who stayed on to watch their analysis, Cates commenting that 'I always said you would end up in panto.' Oh no you didn't.

Talk turned to whether or not Liverpool's Brazilian international Philippe Coutinho should stay or go to Barcelona with Carragher saying 'there would be a riot if he left' and as quick as a flash Neville retorted with 'in your house' and with that it was all over.

The final words, appropriately enough on her big night, belonged to Cates.

"Well what a start it has been to the Premier League season, it is back with a bang," she said. This may have been the match or an angry Frenchman wrestling with a Scouser off camera and Neville shouting 'calm down, calm down'.

"It was a French-inspired Friday night fightback," concluded Cates. As for her display? Comme ci, comme ca, as they say in the French quarter of Merseyside.

The Good, the bad and the ugly

THE GOOD: The new series of Celebrity Masterchef kicked off last night and a generous dollop of sporting people have been included on the menu this time around with Rebecca Adlington, Stephen Hendry and the legend that is Henri Laconte. He might not be very good, but at least he should be able to serve up okay.

THE BAD: Clearly there’s been a bit of a stink over the summer as Final Score returned on Saturday with their resident strawberry blonde reporter Nial Foster joking that he was off to put on some aftersun following a sunny stint at Solitude and back in the studio Mark Sidebottom suggested ‘and maybe some aftershave as well’. Cheeky Brut…

THE UGLY: Soccer AM presenter Helen Chamberlain, who has been on iceberg watch for many years now, finally jumped ship just before the new season got under way. In her place, Sky has appointed comedian Lloyd Griffith and footballing cheeky chappie Jamie Bullard, to join John Fendley in it’s inevitable decline into the murky depths. Stop being cruel, just put it out of its misery.

Silver and gold for GB and a final farewell to Team Beeb's finest

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Farewell: It’s goodbye to Sir Mo and Lord Brendan of Gateshead

The final weekend of the World Athletics Championships provided more drama, beauty and tragedy than a week's worth of Hollyoaks.

It is now a legal requirement that any sporting event held in London on a Saturday must be pre-fixed with another word beginning with 'S' but the way things had been going it wasn't going to be a very nice word.

Things got off to a bad start. The countdown to #Motime over, it was time for Sir Mohamed Farah, as he will now be known, to take to the track for the 5,000m final with the hopes of a nation on his shoulders and the BBC team hanging out of him.

"Cameras trained on one man, a moment of history they hope, oh to be here on this day. We're all watching, we're all hoping he'll deliver," wailed Steve Cram.

And he did. A silver. He would have got away with gold if it hadn't been for those pesky Ethiopians ganging up on him and one of them not only having the audacity to beat him but to then also celebrate by doing the Mobot.

The BBC were in bits, the last hopes for gold gone, but at least #Boltdown would surely give us the happy ending we all wanted in the 4x100m?

"Surely the Championship won't deliver another upset?" asked Gabby Logan as suddenly the likelihood of another upset being delivered went through the roof.

And then it happened. Team GB and NI (in fairness, we didn't contribute a lot unless Adam Gemili is one of the Ahoghill Gemilis) won the race, the third fastest time in history and a pained shriek of 'golddddddd' not heard since Tony Hadley caught himself on the microphone stand in Spandau Ballet's farewell gig.

As for Bolt's farewell gig? That didn't go so well, those not wearing red, white, blue and NI green spectacles noticing that the greatest man ever to pull on a pair of gutties was hopping down the track on one leg in agony.

"I'm sorry in that moment of excitement I missed the greatest ever athlete faltering in his last moments," said a crestfallen Cram.

At least Michael Johnson, as good a pundit as he was a runner, retained some perspective.

"It isn't a super Saturday, but it is special," he said and I wouldn't argue.

As for the next day, well, it was so long Sunday, the end of the Championships and more importantly, goodbye to one of the Beeb's finest in the Geordie tones of Brendan Foster who is retiring and has no knowledge of hashtags.

Fittingly he bowed out with the 1500metres final, and fittingly it was won by a Kenyan. Like Farah and Bolt his will be big shoes to fill, it could be a while before Saturdays are super again.

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