Its 1966 the greatest summer in England’s footballing history and England are three two up deep into extra time with fans screaming at the ref to blow his whistle and make it official that England are the World Champions. The commentator notices something….. the referee is waving his arms around and looks to be… nope just waving play on. Then Moore picks up the ball and spots Geoff Hurst free and on a hat trick, he hoofs the ball up field and as Hurst brings it forward ready to make history and seal the return of football to its place of birth everything cuts out and people watching ITV are shown an advert for fish fingers only for that to then cut and we see Hurst celebrating.
You might now be asking yourself; did that really happen? Well no it didn’t but the fact I said it was on ITV made you question yourself! The truth is that ITV is as behind in regards to football coverage as Sepp Blatter is in regards to football. We all remember the cock up made by them when Dan Gosling broke Liverpool hearts to put Everton through in the FA Cup, although us lucky northerners got it back just in time for that wonderful curled finish.
There was also the World Cup fiasco in 2010, I am of course referring to the highlight of England’s campaign which was Steven Gerrard’s opening goal versus our American cousins that was inexplicable missed by ITV and instead they showed a bunch of cars eating oranges before playing football. Not to mention when the aired the whole of the England Algeria game but we can’t blame ITV for that completely.
And yet, again like Sepp Blatter, ITV still have a job. Football coverage itself is something of an easy target for comedy, something wonderfully exploited on “That Mitchell and Webb Look” that mocks how over exaggerated Sky adverts are, if you’ve not seen it I’d recommend you finish reading this article and go straight to youtube to prepare to laugh your face off. ITV though have always been the ones to cover England games on terrestrial tele and, not that long ago, even the Premiership highlights. It may seem like a long time ago but do you remember “The Premiership”? With U2’s A Beautiful Day as the theme, always having the Manchester United game as one of the featured games and included advert breaks. Shock horror! The day that Match of the Day returned to BBC 1 was a glorious one and I am not ashamed to say that shivers went down my spine when I heard that infamous theme tune.
Desperation showed when they even resorted to grabbing Adrian Chiles from Match of the Day Two to be the new face of ITV football but since his transition Adrian has lost his charm but it’s no wonder when ITV get in Gareth Southgate and Andy Townsend as their top pundits. At least the two Alan’s and Lawro won stuff, Southgate will forever be remembered for that penalty miss and I don’t really know what Andy Townsend did apart from once letting out an excessive amount of phlegm from his nose at the point when the camera was up close and my mum in the room. She quickly asked “Is that why he’s won man of the match?”
The recent game against Spain was full of the ITV’s usual over the top patriotic nonsense and a moment at the end perfectly encapsulated why ITV is so behind the times; as soon as the final whistle blew Chiles said “That makes England world champions by our reckoning”, evidence of how ITV constantly over hype England performances, talk too much about Wayne Rooney and how he’ll be missed and discussing the pairing of Lampard and Gerrard as a problem. At least the later hadn’t been playing as every time he looks to take a shoot Clive Tyldesley would roar “Gerraaaaaaard!” in preparation for a goal that will never happen in a meaningful match again.
ITV is symbolic of everything people said was wrong with the England team in the wake of the disastrous and all too often talked about World Cup campaign of 2010. Like the majority of the media they constantly talked up England’s chances of winning the World Cup even though most football pundits knew that Spain were head and shoulders above the rest. ITV always used the term “Golden generation” to describe the now past it, in terms of international football, crop of players like; Gerrard, Lampard, Ferdinand and Joe Cole. They use the obvious stereotypes to describe teams during the World Cup, describing Germany as defensive, Brazil as the flair team, Holland and their total football philosophy. When it was plain for the world to see Germany were young, fast and vibrant, Brazil became a lot more defensive under Dunga and can you really say Nigel De Jong’s Jackie Chan impression on Xabi Alonso was part of the total football philosophy? It’s lazy and ignorant and it’s time for change.
We live in a time when bankers can lose monumental amounts of money and yet the public must suffer, footballers earn in a week more than a nurse would earn a decade and not so long ago ITV plunged many football league clubs into debt and blamed them for being too excited by the amount of money ITV said they would give them. But every time an England game is on we have to sit through The Verve playing as replays of mostly Euro 96 and a bit of World Cup 90 play and we wonder why we must put up with such moronic football coverage, no wonder people don’t care about international games anymore.
The only promising thing to come from the recent ITV coverage is that England are actually playing well but it seems to be a habit of ours to do well in friendly’s and fluff our lines on the big stage. All in all ITV should move on from football coverage and stick to what they are good at; X Factor, Ant and Dec and cheating the audience into phone-in competitions.
By Tom Johnson