It could well go down as the day Sky Sports and the Premier League finally ate themselves.
A fine channel and an exciting product which together have done so much to improve our viewing pleasure of live football lost the plot completely in their latest ‘Super Sunday’ edition (December 10).
Two big derby games, one in Manchester and one in Liverpool, were hyped so relentlessly and so breathlessly, I expected to witness sporting Viagra. Instead it was a limp few hours of mis-management, defensive blundering, weak officiating, negative tactics and inane commentary. All topped off by an embarrassing mass scuffle in the Old Trafford tunnel area by all accounts.
Sky could have saved themselves with their punditry, but instead chose to ruin the outstanding chemistry of Gary Neville and Graeme Souness by inviting a biased, half-witted fading musician in Noel Gallagher to behave like the unfunny, attention-seeking clown he is.
I’m not joining in the unfettered adulation for Pep Guardiola and his Manchester City side either. Of course they will win the league by many points, and they play the most attractive football, but they are not even in the top two teams Guardiola has managed. City can’t have that accolade while continuing to pick Fabian Delph and Eliaquim Mangala.
But that doesn’t fit Sky’s narrative as everything has to be the ‘best ever.’ City are merely the best of a bunch who are either boring (United), erratic (Arsenal, Chelsea), badly managed (Liverpool) or lacking depth (Spurs). City also dive the best and are experts of the cynical foul. Referee Michael Oliver, strangely feted by many for his one-eyed perfomance at Old Trafford, missed three obvious City cautions, two of them for Gabriel Jesus in a matter of moments
Meanwhile Martin Tyler’s absurd commentary claimed a match decided by two scruffy set piece goals ‘lived up to the hype’, (a nonsensical claim as it would have needed to finish 7-7 and included a punch-up between the managers to achieve that) matched only by his obsequious statement saying it was ‘an honour to mention Gallagher’s name in commentary for the first time.’ Pass the sick bag.
I sympathise to some degree with Sky as they have no Champions League football to purr over and they have a dedicated cricket channel without the Ashes. Times are tough for Sky and their acclaimed (or possibly made-up) sources.
But it’s far from a vintage Premier League they are covering with such witless enthusiasm. Watching Everton’s neanderthal tactics succeed against Liverpool was proof of that.
That game was also proof of the mythical aura around Reds boss Jurgen Klopp who tried to be oh so clever in resting half of his fab four for a derby his entire city take incredibly seriously and paid the penalty thanks to his persistence in fielding clumsy centre-backs.
Naturally Klopp deflected blame by passing it on to referee Craig Pawson. Another unsavoury moment on a deeply unsatisfactory afternoon.