Sky Sports and Liverpool FC – Monday night was beyond embarrassing and a whole new low
Newcastle United may have set the cat among the pigeons by finishing fourth last season, but Monday’s defeat at Liverpool showed that the club is a long way from breaking Sky Sports and the rest of the TV media’s sickening love affair with that particular member of the so-called “Big Six”.
It would be mildly refreshing if the only thing that irritated me about that match was the fact we left with no points and were subjected to another dismal VAR decision, as a professional referee with the benefit of a TV replay somehow missed Diego Jota’s blatant dive.
However, the football was not the sole cause of my frustrations. In fact, I thought we played reasonably well, albeit being forced to uncharacteristically defend for most of the match against a Liverpool team which is extremely difficult to compete with on their own territory.
The only way to get anything from a trip to Anfield when Liverpool are at their best is to defend with your lives and cause a threat on the counter attack, which actually we did pretty effectively for much of the game. With a little bit more luck we might have just stolen a point, but just like our previous three matches against them, any spare luck did not ultimately find in our favour.
No, my other big frustration was the dismal Sky Sports coverage, but you could equally substitute any broadcaster in place of that one and come up with the same verdict.
Allow me to start with some personal feelings.
Liverpool’s anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone, the media as a collective have unilaterally decided that it is some kind of inspiration to which we must all pay attention.
I think there is a genuine belief that, if the broadcasters tell us enough times, opposition fans will sit there in awe of Scousers holding their scarves aloft and churning out a dismal rendition of a show tune that an also-ran Merseyside band made even worse with their now-famous cover in the 1960s.
To be honest, I have long been tired of Mark Knopfler’s Local Hero at St James’ Park (I much prefer Alan Price’s rendition of the Blaydon Races that the team came out to during the otherwise painful Jim Smith era) so I am not about to make a case that ours is any better.
Then again, nobody pretends ours is some kind of Ode to Football as the media are determined to pretend Liverpool’s is.
So that is grumble number one.
My second is much more specific to Sky Sports, namely the obsessive focus with showing us Jurgen Klopp’s face. Whether he’s griping or gurning, baring his shiny porcelain teeth or doing one of his sarcastic smiles when a decision goes against his team, believe it or not I do not wish to endlessly gaze at him.
And we are not just talking about the odd flash to show his reaction to an incident either. On at least a dozen occasions during Monday’s coverage, the Sky cameras focused on him for a good 20 seconds or more. It reached the stage where I was actually holding my hand up to block the screen and asking my sons to tell me when he had gone before I could bear to look again.
Clearly I switched the TV off immediately following the game and left it a full five minutes before I put it back on to avoid seeing him doing his cheesy fist pump towards the Kop, as I have no doubt the Sky cameras covered that in glorious Full HD.
My third grumble about Monday’s coverage was the utterly abysmal and partisan commentary by Peter Drury. If ever a commentator was guilty of willing an event to happen, it was evident in Drury’s relentless sycophantic admiration of Mo Salah.
For any readers with an appreciation of classic literature, Drury’s sickly adoration of Salah was reminiscent of Mr Collins’ unrequited worship of Lady Catherine in Pride and Prejudice.
I do not doubt for a moment that the Egyptian is one of the greatest ever Premier League stars. Nor do I doubt how much Liverpool will miss him, nor what a headline it would have made if Salah had scored the hat-trick on his final game before African Nations Cup duty.
Then again, I would be either hard of hearing or lacking memory if I did doubt any of those things, since Drury spent most of the 90-plus minutes ramming it down our throats.
Not since John Motson, has a commentator believed so wholeheartedly that they can make things happen by willing it in their words, and if you are the supporter of the team at the receiving end, it becomes pretty insufferable to hear.
Of course the Liverpool supporters will be complaining about Gary Neville’s contribution, for no other reason than he happened to spend his career at Manchester United and it turns out those two sets of supporters are not the best of friends.
Actually, I found Neville neutral, fair and showing a bit of wisdom (as I normally do), which makes it all the more frustrating that he and Mike Dean’s observation that Jota had blatantly dived barely got an airing in the post-match analysis (save for a cursory “oh well, Dubravka touched him anyway” from Jamie Carragher).
It seems that among the various rules none of us understand about football these days, contact in the penalty area in this contact sport (clue is in the description) now permits a player to fall to his knees at will any time thereafter and be awarded a penalty for his troubles.
Drury’s lack of respect for Newcastle was not limited to his head being so deeply stuck into unthinkable Liverpool places either.
There was also the frequent mistaking Joelinton for Bruno and vice-versa (for no other reason than they are both Brazilian, presumably?), as well as confusing Sean Longstaff for Dan Burn (for no other reason than they are both Geordies?) on a couple of occasions.
As an aside, my favourite complete dismissal of Newcastle players actually having a right to be called by their own names came from Dean, with his hilarious reference to our Slovakian stopper “Dubrovnik”. In Dean’s defence, I suppose the Croatian capital is somewhere on the continent and so is Slovakia, and neither are anywhere near his happy place, Tranmere’s Prenton Park.
All in all, it made for pretty grim viewing/listening. Eddie Howe’s observation after the game that we need to quickly move on to the next game has never been more true.
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