Gabby settles in at the Beeb. Cameron Carter watches
Of the many shocking defections of the last two centuries, Gabby Logan’s appearance on BBC1’s FA Cup coverage ranks right up there with Rudolf Nureyev’s defection to the West, Burgess and Maclean’s to the East and Des Lynam’s moves, first to ITV and then all the way to the bank.
Is Gabby, one wonders, correct for the Corporation? As some players never seem right in your team’s shirt, Gabby surely isn’t BBC. She seemed to say “live and exclusive” too easily in her old job. Her flashing lip gloss seemed to shout: “I’m straight back into make-up during the commercial break.” To say she flirted with her male pundits on ITV would be to define her role through the implementation of out-moded gender stereotypes, but with Ally McCoist in the room there will be some level of flirting. The BBC likes its female presenters to retain some element of church-going reserve amid the expert analysis and banter, and Logan, many of us recall, not only posed sexily for GQ but, worse, hosted a primetime ITV game show.
Fortunately, dressed soberly in a suit and with understated eyelashes on her BBC outings so far, it looks like she has got the message. Just to ensure Gabby knew exactly where she’s working now, she was teamed up for the Arsenal v Blackburn tie with Lee Dixon and Iain Dowie, the latter sitting with his arms awkwardly hanging down the sides of his chair in the manner of a nervous under-gardener brought into the house to receive instructions from her ladyship. On finalising her contract, Gabby stated: “I’m thrilled to be joining the BBC at such an exciting time.” Someone please tell Alan Shearer that it’s such an exciting time.
Sky 3’s Football Icon 2 rolls on, shedding hopeful teenagers as it goes. The training so far has gone very well, with the young men beginning to evolve into adult players before our eyes. Indeed, the last 14 who made it into “Icon Mansion” have adapted very quickly to gruelling hours on the PlayStation and the punishing physicality of a bean-bag fight. Despite the fact that only the last one standing lands a contract with Chelsea at the end of the series, it’s all very amicable among the group, the only clue to the pressure everyone is under revealed by the two players who trained against the Chelsea physio’s advice, while nursing significant injuries. This is one of the best ways to end a career prematurely but, with so much at stake and mum not around to say “stop being so silly”, it obviously seemed like a good idea at the time.
More mystifying was the response of one of the group when asked to read out the contents of a letter, written to himself, as an exercise concerning each individual’s expectations. “To try my hardest in training,” he began, then paused, clearly reading and skipping a line – “and to win that contract.” Now, what could he possibly have written in the one or two sentences between those orated, that he felt the public was not yet ready to hear – bearing in mind that the letter was to himself? “To try my hardest in training, I am gay, I am gay, and to win that contract” is one possibility but would surely fall outside the remit of the set task. I can only assume the young chap had written something truly heretical, such as “although I understand that there is more to life than football” and then thought better of it with the camera whirring.
Three swift rebukes to end with. First, to Sir Alex Ferguson, a knight of the realm, for chewing gum all through his conversation with Gabriel Clarke following the controversial Lille game. And the word “absolutely”, Sir Alex, has consonants in it.
Second, to the Football Focus team, for constantly Manishing-up Manish Bhasin. “Well, Manish”; “It’s a very damp St James’ Park, Manish”; “At the mairment, Manish”; and so on, as if the young man had an identity crisis. One can only assume Bhasin, for all his surface professionalism, is an incurable narcoleptic and the constant insertion of his name is done to bring back his attention.
Finally, during Five’s coverage of Newcastle’s UEFA Cup second leg against Zulte Waregem, Colin Murray in effect asked John Barnes if he felt the United players were up for it with such a soft job ahead of them. Barnesy, standing right next to both teams as they prepared to walk out for the first half, was forced to bring all his diplomatic skills to bear in order to avoid offending 22 men brimming with nervous energy, with only a microphone as a defensive weapon. It’s enough to make a man consider defecting to Sky 3.
From WSC 242 April 2007. What was happening this month