Football has returned一本道理不卡一二三区, and James Richardson, beard bushy and resplendent in the on-trend “nature is healing” style, was its ideal host.
A generation of football fans has grown up with, or grown used to, Richardson urbanely bringing us football from abroad, and there could be no better tour guide for the largely uncharted territory of the Bundesliga than him pointing out such-and-such a touted player, or nudging the viewer’s attention to a historic relationship between this-or-that pair of teams.
His presence gave proceedings a sheen of class and thoughtfulness, a sense that this was football for adults. Where his Football Italia work often found him paired with a giant ice cream or a tiny coffee, there were no props this weekend for Richardson to have fun with other than the alarmingly red face of Raphael Honigstein.
“Rapha has done his own make-up,” Richardson noted early doors. He had certainly done some of it: perhaps confusing the powder for the rouge? On the cosmetic application front, I would say that Honigstein ought not to give up the day job and, as the UK’s leading voice on German football, he is going to be in constant demand over the next few weeks.
Those two were socially-distanced either side of a big desk in the BT Sport studio in Stratford. Via the magic of Skype, they were joined by Owen Hargreaves, linked from his home and beamed to loom above their heads like the giant, watchful portrait of a feared dictator.
One of the pleasures of the lockdown has been to see inside the homes of footballers: it was gratifyingly congruent that the sensible Canado-German has done up his pad in a pleasant, if glacial style, all chilly whites and cut glass. Only an opened musical or jewellery box on the mantel gave a tantalising hint of what passions might lurk, repressed, inside the Hargreaves breast. Or perhaps he just thinks about the football.
The trio of Hargreaves, Richardson and Honigstein lent the coverage a scholarly feel: at least considered against the fact this is normally the BT time slot where Chris Sutton and Robbie Savage are encouraged to debate at each other like a lobotomy ward Frost-Nixon. Even the least perceptive watcher – and more on Martin Keown later – cannot have failed to notice that the games were to be played in front of empty stadiums, and without the crowd noises, the Var rows, the exhortations to show more passion, the snubbed handshakes and technical area flare-ups, there was in the football and the coverage alike a disembodied, sterile sense of a practice run.
Which is not to criticise what was overall a fine weekend’s work by BT Sport; one can only imagine how difficult and stressful it must be to put on live TV with your commentator, Paul Dempsey, for the two Saturday games I saw, in Ireland and your pundit, Steve McManaman, in Manchester. Plus wherever they keep old Martin. BT has an option to switch to the world feed if the commentator loses his broadband connection, but producing the show must feel like you are only one co-worker’s family member tripping over a plug away from a panic that will give you anxiety dreams into your eighties. Rather mean of internet blowhards to butcher them for the occasional hesitation over a lesser-spotted sub from Borussia Monchengladbach, but boys will be boys, and all that frustration has to go somewhere.
一本道理不卡一二三区Ian Darke, also in action, tweeted a video of himself calling the match from his study, and shared the delicious nugget that Dempsey had to contend with the Tesco delivery man ringing the doorbell four times during his game.
一本道理不卡一二三区Whether you think football is nothing without the fans, or that some football is better than nothing, it is hard to feel that BT Sport could have done anything more.