Belfast Telegraph

BT Sport spurred on by title fight

By Billy Weir

There was a strange occurrence at approximately 12.45pm on Saturday lunch-time – a football match broke out during an horrendously over-hyped encounter between two Portuguese men at war.

You would have been forgiven that BT Sport had mixed up their schedules with the advertised clash between Spurs and Chelsea replaced by a UFC scuffle between two former chums as Jose 'The Special One' Mourinho took on Andre 'Villas' Boas in the biggest heavyweight tussle at White Hart Lane since Frank Bruno locked antlers with Joe Bugner.

"The focus has been on this place," said Jake Humphreys, pointing to an aerial shot of the ground. "The papers though have been full of discussion, not about the teams, but about the managers," he added, although my focus was on why he was wearing a pale blue jacket last seen modelled by Cliff Richard at Wimbledon.

And from then on it was still all about the managers with Jake joined by usual suspects, Steve McManaman and David James, and David Ginola adding a certain je ne sais pas to proceedings.

There was also Matt Furniss, the resident statistician and computer boffin, dressed by his mammy in a wee shirt and jumper, and being rudely interrupted from playing Grand Theft Auto Five to give us a boring stat that no-one cared about.

James Richardson, the professional beard-wearer and espresso-drinker from the old Gazzetta Italia days on Channel Four was sent to interview AVB, mainly because they both like stubble, and extracted this damning conclusion – I expect the best, but prepare for the worst. This could be BT Sport's advertising slogan.

Finally we went to the ground to talk about players, commentator Ian Darke joined on the sidelines by Michael Owen and Owen Hargreaves and with two Owens it could have quickly turned into a scene from Airplane but there were bigger farces to come.

"John Terry is back in, he's Mr Dependable," said Owen (Michael) and Owen (Hargreaves) stood impassively and said nothing, so absolutely no change there, while a Mr Bridge of Reading cancelled his BT Sport subscription.

Back to the studio and Jake was beyond himself with excitement as it was his turn and they showed his interview with a moody Mourinho whose mood worsened considerably when asked about his relationship with AVB.

"I have nothing to say," he retorted. "Nothing at all?" pushed Jake. "No," came the reply and that was that. Well worth the wait, thankfully Owen (Hargreaves) was there to save the day, with players warming up being him, Jake asked him what's happening.

"The players are just warming up," came the reply, BT Sport getting right to the heart of the matter.

Then it was time for the players to take centre stage, trotting out past a masse of photographers who ignored them completely waiting for the two managers to come out and they, shock horror, shook hands.

A good game ensued, Spurs taking the lead, Owen (Michael) shouting 'Eriksen, Soldado and Sigurdsson – the Three Musketeers," but Darke quickly got things steered back to the managers adding that it was 'first blood to the apprentice'. Well, we were on Alan Sugar's old stomping ground.

That brings me neatly on to Mark Halsey, BT's groundbreaking experiment, the former referee butting in every time there's a foul to agree with his old mucker until such times that even Owen (Hargreaves and Michael) can see that he's made a horlicks of it.

That came when Fernando Torres was sent off for his second bookable offence, which was never a booking, although he appeared to have committed another dozen or so bookable ones, so I think justice was done in the end, with Mr Dependable banging one in to ensure everyone went home happy.

"It was a north London derby and it was a good one," concluded Jake, only it wasn't, adding after the break that Chelsea had 'taken a point back to the west'. Which is it?

Poor Ray Stubbs though was having an even worse time, clearly being forced to stop talking about the match and persist with the question that no-one gives a monkeys about – the Jose and AVB bust-up.

"In the future will you try and heal your friendship with Jose Mourinho," he asked, as AVB headed west, or north, muttering 'I'm not going to speak about this in public' and stomped off.

Lesson learned, Stubbs let Jose moan on about the referee and then asked again about strained relations. "This is between men, it is not public what you want or what people want, we gave a very good football match," he concluded.

He did, they did, but did BT Sport? Like Jake's jacket, more substance, less style, may be the way forward for them.

Belfast Telegraph


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