TV WATCH Review of the month on screen
Pointless as it is to mutter “how times change” when watching old TV coverage of football – of course they’ve changed, that’s what all the money is for – it can occasionally st i l l startle. The Big Match Revisited on ITV4 has been repeating the run-in from 1982-83 and in one particular week the coverage was of L iver pool’s game at Tottenham. In their manager Bob Paisley’s last season the visitors needed a draw for the title, or dropped points by second-placed Manchester United. This fact was given one mention in Brian Moore’s introduction alongside a brief shot of Paisley. Liverpool lost but United drew – their match covered by a still of the programme cover and a mention of the f inal score. The celebrations were conveyed by means of Phil Thompson sitting in a comfy armchair and being noncommittal when asked if anyone would ever match his seven Championship medals. At the end of the programme Moore mentioned the title win in passing before heaping praise on Glenn Hoddle.
That there was once a t ime when t it le races were just a side issue seems incredible now when Liverpool, despite not having won the equivalent of the same trophy for a generation, can be the subject of an Amer ic an-produced documentar y series, edited l ike a workplace docusoap. Broadcast media uses the term “structured reality” for the seemingly endless parade of preening would-be models interacting for the camera. Being Liverpool isn’t quite that, as its version of reality features things that would have happened whether a f ilm crew were there or not. But the programme’s approach has a deadening ef fect on events that actually mean something to people. Despite the occasional shots of supporters in pubs – a subplot following the fan group Spirit of Shankly lasts about two minutes in total – there’s no attempt to grasp what the club is about beyond its PR properties. Clive Owen’s voiceover claimed early in the fourth episode that “conf idence in the football club [ is] l ike eating, drinking and breathing – believing is simply the only option”. Football only gets talked about like that in Coca-Cola adverts or a Sky Sports new season trailer, a world removed from how people actually experience football fandom.
Being Liverpool is only six episodes long and the f irst three, as mentioned in WSC 309, covered the close-season with a repetitive focus on medicals and shaking hands in front of club cameramen, leaving the second half of the series to cover all of two Premier League games. Introductions were made in the f irst show so only fripperies remained. Pepe Reina moans about the hardness of hotel pillows; Joe Cole carries a baby car seat past the team coach, declaring “Raheem’s seat!” to anyone
who will listen; Jamie Carragher is subtitled for the American audience – though surely Channel 5 could have edited that out of the UK version.
Brendan Rodgers seems to be big on Powerpoint presentations and footballing simplicity but the players don’t seem entirely willing to take in what he has to say. If the team’s form doesn’t improve, the footage of Rodgers at a meeting the evening before the f irst match, holding up three envelopes that supposedly contain the names of “three people who will let us down this year” may become the modern equivalent of Graham Taylor’s “Do I not l ike that” in Norway in 1993. Also, there’s no excuse for any Premier League manager to borrow a phrase from Paul Merson as Rodgers does in summarising Zoltan Gera’s opening goal for West Brom as “the boy’s got an absolute worldy”.
Given nearly 90 minutes to f ill in while the rain-sodden Poland v England f ixture was in the process of being called off, Adrian Chiles was reduced to looking out of a window and try to keep a lid on the rising hysteria among his panel. While Roy Keane stewed silently, Gareth Southgate and Lee Dixon tried to follow Adrian’s line of thought which eventually led down a conversational cul-de-sac about buying new underwear. Chiles’s only reliable way out was to hand over to reporter Gabriel Clarke in Warsaw and hope he could keep talking for minutes at a t ime. Clarke seemingly decided that he didn’t have to follow the usual rules of TV – his growing irritation at one point leading him to blame a Polish passer-by for the roof not being shut.
Chiles and Keane made a token gesture towards making up after the following week’s Champions League game. Adrian told Roy that the last t ime Manchester United had won in Europe having been two goals down was Juventus in 1999. “Congratulations,” he added. “Ah, cheers,” replied Roy. For a moment he almost seemed satisf ied.
Modern times Football’s bid for world domination
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Football’s bid for world domination Football’s bid for world domination
Independent, October 4 Independent, October 4
Daily Mail, October 4
Daily Mirror, October 8
Daily Mirror, October 23