Belfast Telegraph

The A to Z of big return to Premier League circus

By Billy Weir

It only seems seconds since we worried would John Terry hand back the big silvery trophy with the blue ribbons on it, Man Utd fans wondered just how high would Louis van Gaal's forehead stretch into the sky and just how many over-priced players would Brendan Rodgers buy after selling Raheem Sterling.

These questions remain unanswered, but one thing is for sure, the football season is back, live and kicking, so here we go, a look at the good, the bad and the downright awful of the first weekend.

A is for Am(en): A new look on Soccer AM with a new face as old boy John Fendley made his return in an effort to revive the once thriving Saturday morning entity. You may as well give a kiss of life to a sausage, simply awful, it's got so bad you almost want Tim Lovejoy on the sofa again. Nurse, fetch my tranquilisers, the really strong ones.

B is for Back: "Good evening, it's back, we're back, they're back, welcome - six games on the opening day of the Premier League - back to back," began Gary Lineker. Apparently we were back on Match of the Day, with Leicester City on first against Sunderland, nice that they're letting Gary pick the running order this year.

C is for Counting: Sky aren't slow in parping on their own brass instrument so 23 Years and Counting was a fanfare of how good they have been at covering the best league in the world (their words, not mine). Still, it was a cracking start to the season, an interviewer asking decent questions to Graeme Souness, Thierry Henry and Jamie Redknapp and letting them answer. It won't catch on.

D is for insert contentious name here: All hell broke loose in social medialand on Monday Night Football when commentator Alan Parry referred to Republic of Ireland international James McClean as the 'Northern Irishman from Londonderry.' Sky have announced that Parry is to be replaced. Gregory Campbell starts on Monday.

E is for Evolution: Not complete revolution more evolution for BT Sport as they kicked things off with the borefest that was Spurs' visit to Man Utd on Saturday lunchtime and a debut for Harry Redknapp, Rio Ferdinand and Glenn Hoddle, with the latter later joining Darren Fletcher and Michael Owen in the commentary box. Do we really need two pundits to say nothing?

F is for Football League Tonight: Dearie, dearie me. Channel Five have had some embarrassing drivel on over the years but suddenly celebrities sticking their hands into the orifices of livestock seems positively high brow to their new Saturday night highlights show. Presented by Kelly Cates, who you can't help thinking of Kenny Dalglish in a frock, more bells clanged than a Quasimodo convention when she dandered out in front of a studio audience who looked like they were being held to ransom.

G is for George: And alongside Kelly, was George Riley, proving yet again that the move from radio to TV is not as easy as it looks, especially when you insist on trying to interview one of the captured punters who then answers without a microphone. Next week, they decide to show a game only using a mime artist.

H is for Howe: No, not a return of Fred Dineage and co, this is the Eddie version, manager of Premier League new-boys Bournemouth, who was everywhere this week, but cruelly subjected to an interview with Garth Crooks on Football Focus. Funny, it's something that I always associate with Crooks, in that every time he comes on screen the word 'How' springs to mind.

I is for Poulter: More toe-curling stuff on Soccer AM as Tubes went to interview celebrity Arsenal fan and part-time golfer Ian Poulter, who said that as a fan he's 'off the sofa shouting and screaming'. Funnily enough, I was doing that at a sofa on Saturday morning too.

J is for Jimmy: Soccer AM did have one redeeming feature allowing Jimmy Bullard the chance to come on and be Jimmy Bullard in You Know The Drill where he goes and trains with a football manager. He had some shooting practice with Dean Saunders and this week meets van Gaal to see if he can make any sense out of what he's on about.

K is for Kasabian: A surprise mention for the popular Leicester-based beat combo from new Foxes boss Claudio Ranieri on MOTD who referred to their music inspiring them before kick-off. "Are you a fan of Kasabian yourself?' mused interviewer Martin 'Climie' Fisher. "No, not a fan, but I know them, it's good rock and I love rock," said Claudio. Madder than a box of mad things.

L is for Ladies: After a summer of women's football, there is definitely a more feminine touch to football, with Kenny in a dress, Jacqui Oatley popping up more than Gabby Logan and two of England's Lionesses on the Soccer AM sofa. Thankfully there was no dentist in the studio.

M is for Moody: He may be special but Jose Mourinho was in one of those moods after Chelsea's draw with Swansea as Steve Wilson found out of MOTD. "There were big decisions," he began. "I don't want to talk about them," came the non-reply. "None of them?" whined a hurt Wilson. "No." And that was that.

N is for nonsense: At least Wilson could rely on Arsene Wenger for a bit of sense as he spoke to the Arsenal boss on Match of the Day 2 after the Gunners defeat by West Ham. "It is not a tranquil motorway the championship, you have to respond to accidents and today we provoked one," said Wenger. Suddenly trawlers and sardines seem sensible.

O is for Leyton: Back at Football League Tonight and Barnet manager Martin Allen was brought on to talk all things League Two including his side's defeat against Orient. "Okay, talk me through this," said Riley. A few seconds of awkward silence and Allen responded: "What do you want me to say?" Somewhere Manish Bhasin and Steve Claridge sniggered.

P is for Partick: There were many ugly things on the first weekend, and I haven't even mentioned Martin Keown, or how Specsavers have done a roaring trade on Soccer Saturday, but how could you take Celtic's game at Partick Thistle on BT Sport seriously with that daft character standing on the touchline? Enough about Gordon Strachan, I'm talking about Kingsley (pictured), half star, half Spongebob Squarepants, Thistle's new mascot, who consigned Jaggy MacBee to history. Channel Five may hire him.

Q is for Quiz: It wouldn't be Channel Five without a competition to keep you interested, with Riley announcing of Football League Tonight: "Stay tuned to win tickets to a game, cash and a massive TV." Presumably this will enable you throw the TV out the window and escape from this living nightmare.

R is for Really Cruel: Spare a thought for Jamie Redknapp, who was everywhere on opening weekend, but his caption on 23 Years and Counting was a tad cruel. Henry (four major honours with Arsenal, including two Premier League titles), Souness (23 major honours as player and manager) and Redknapp (295 Premier League appearances). Could have been worse, it could have mentioned his Rear of the Year award.

S is for Shearer: I don't know if it was first weekend giddiness and maybe I dreamt it, but I'm sure Alan Shearer is getting better on Match of the Day. I know I don't believe it either, he seems to spark off well with Danny Murphy even if they do look like a couple of Maris Pipers in search of the rest of the bag of spuds.

T is for Twitter: Note to football producers across the land - we don't care what people think, just get on with the programme. "The Canaries of Norwich took on the Eagles of Crystal Palace - lots of Tweets about this one, no doubt. Alastair Mann has a bird's-eye view," said Lineker. My response only needed eight characters.

U is for ugly: Not a great start for Petr Cech, but at least it gave Jamie Redknapp the chance to confidently predict on Soccer AM that 'he'll make a real difference at Arsenal'. Indeed.

V is for Virgo: Not John, but Adam, who would need quite a big waistcoat as he seems to have adjusted well to retirement, the former Brighton defender brought in on Football League Tonight as the man to stand beside the big TV. That's a big TV, not a massive one.

W is for Webb: Another new addition to BT Sport's bulging presenting team as former referee Howard is the latest former official to offer very little insight and certainly no criticism of the men in the black. Nice to see him back at Old Trafford although a little awkward to see him sitting on Sir Alex Ferguson's lap in the stands.

X is for X-rated: Sadly evolution hasn't caught up with Robbie Savage as there was no change as Fletch and Sav returned on BT Sport on Saturday but apologies were needed as Redknapp Snr recounted a tale of Neil Ruddock 'up all night s******* and drinking 10 pints." Razor is believed to be furious, it was 15 pints.

Y is for Yorkshire: A baffling start on Football League Tonight as we started at Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship, then Sheffield United in League One. A new direction in football broadcasting, covering teams geographically, like the Big Match did years ago when Brian Moore would announce 'the pictures are from Yorkshire Television and the commentator is John Helm'. Sadly not, it was just all over the place.

Z is for Zarate: West Ham's Mauro rather handily scored against Arsenal as did Wilfried Zaha for Crystal Palace meaning I didn't have to resort to trying to cram in a reference to Zinedine Zidane in an effort to finish things off or say 'zzzzzz' I'm off to bed now because I'm shattered. Anyhow, where's my ZZ Top album, I'm away to rock with Ranieri.

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