THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Simon Tyers reports that on European nights Gabby Logan shows her increasing propensity to wear yet more dark eye make up

The biennial search for the least thought-through cash-in on a major football tournament may have been settled right at the outset by the Budweiser Academy. Not only does the humour derive from the basic principle that Americans don’t know the first thing about soccer, a big comment to make when their national side are above England’s in FIFA’s rankings, but it appears whoever storyboarded the advert doesn’t even understand American sport. Bad enough that a real basketball coach, Kevin Cadle, is shown coaching gridiron footballers. Worse that we see a player collecting a punt from the goalkeeper and making off the other way with the ball in his hands, when, if he was aware of American football rules, he should be returning it towards the keeper’s end.

Why is Gabby Logan wearing more and more make-up as ITV’s Champions League season progresses? By Arsenal’s trip to Villarreal she was sporting so much dark eyeliner the organisers of Whitby’s goth weekend must have been formulating an invitation letter. It’s plausible that, having missed the start of the season due to giving birth, she feels she needs to keep up the reputation fostered by many a magazine profile of radiance in the face of heavily shaking studios – ITV’s cupboard was wobbling visibly after Milan’s win over Lyon, necessitating a hasty handover to pitchside.

Ally and Andy’s sideshow has remained undisturbed even by the Nou Camp spectator who was picked up on pitchside mikes following the Barcelona v Chelsea game shouting “go home BBC!” at them and after Arsenal’s win they got to extend their brief by inviting Thierry Henry to their podium. It wasn’t the disaster viewers would surely have expected, even from a network that still believes in David Pleat’s elastic approach to the art of co-commentary, largely because Henry appeared visibly dazed by the whole experience, spending half his screen time determined to get a message across to Steven Gerrard. At least this makes for a direct, accurate route to screen, Gabby next going over to Gabriel Clarke as he “has Sol Campbell with him”, at which we cut to Gabriel with Jens Lehmann.

ITV is of course the commercial channel, so much so that against their better judgment many are already mourning the loss of the singing Mastercard dots, but it now seems Football Focus can’t land an interview with a Premiership player without having to pull them into a makeshift studio at the launch of a heavily branded product. Whether Stuart Pearce, supposedly at the filming of the Carlsberg advert, Wayne Rooney, in association with Coca-Cola, or Shaun Wright-Phillips, combining all his commercial tie-ins in one go by playing with an XBox next to a five-a-side football pitch, such back-door commercialism so soon after the BBC charter renewal could be seen as playing with fire. Things reached a head when Garth Crooks got to meet Paul Robinson at the launch of the “official England pint glass”, just the sort of example the FA would want to set to their travelling fans.

In any case, Football Focus’s head was soon turned by the Scolari affair. While it’s a truism to say that the media only blamed the FA so rabidly because the subject of the story laid the blame at the media’s front door (which will never do), they did a good job of fogging the issue once caught on the hop. In Focus’s case this meant launching a one-programme campaign to get Arsène Wenger installed as England coach, despite having just devoted most of a feature to pundits slamming the very idea of a non-English pick. Wenger isn’t interested in the job, almost needless to say, but the artificial issue was that he hadn’t been publicly approached for the job, unlike Luiz Felipe Scolari, who was publicly reported as having been privately contacted. Then John Motson said he understood that Wenger had been approached after all, leaving everyone in a mess. Mark Lawrenson, never known for giving up in the face of adversity, suggested Wenger should be approached again anyway despite having just been shown a clip of a press conference in which Arsène said he still didn’t want the job.

Crooks managed to top everyone later that day on Score by reacting to the news that Alan Curbishley had left Charlton by blaming Brian Barwick and the FA for the club’s poor recent form and their being booed off, because, you understand, Curbishley might have been unsettled by being linked with the England job. I’m sure that Middlesbrough fan who threw his season ticket at Steve McClaren thinks much the same.

From WSC 232 June 2006. What was happening this month

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