THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Cameron Carter describes the month's football coverage, including Lineker crying wolf, a terrible pun and Arsenal v Barcelona

Mel Brooks does a turn about an old man at a Jewish wedding launching into Strangers in the Night but starting too high, so that his voice breaks into a whispered scream trying to hit the high note in the chorus. Gary Lineker got himself into a similar predicament on February 5 as a result of his repeated use of hyperbole when introducing Match of the Day.

His habit of greeting viewers on a weekly basis with promises of footballing feasts and fireworks appeared to culminate the weekend previously with his introduction of one of the "finest ever" MOTDs. Which meant that on the day that 41 goals were scored in eight games, including the Newcastle v Arsenal, Wigan v Blackburn and Everton v Blackpool hulas, Lineker actually greeted his television audience at 10.30 in the evening looking a bit sheepish.

Like the presenter who cried football "wolf", he explained that he was experiencing difficulty prefacing tonight's Match of the Day as the "finest ever" because he had already used that description last week. Although he really did think that this week's was the finest ever. Gary was experiencing the same internal struggle of the critic who, in his fury to be quoted on the theatre's frontage, describes An evening with Neil Morrissey as the "must-see show of the year" at the beginning of March and is left with nothing in the lying exaggeration locker for the rest of the year. Well, perhaps this will teach Lineker to become a bit more old-school BBC in future and restrain himself to adjectives such as "diverting" or "noteworthy" when welcoming us each week.

One of the more depressing phenomena of modern living, besides glacial thaw and exposure to mobile phone sales staff, is the local television news experience. The whole local news thing is deadening, of course, but in particular the apparent necessity for the newscaster to include a jocular word or phrase in the lead into an item: "Food for thought at the Carhampton Help For Heroes meat raffle", for example, or "Matt Wingate brushes up his skills on a watercolour weekend in Chipping Norton". But even a lifetime of this common-touch drivel cannot prepare one for the kind of amateur word sorcery attempted by Dan Walker on Football Focus.

When linking to Steve Wilson at St James' Park on the morning of the Arsenal game, Dan asked: "Will Newcastle miss their sweet Carroll Nine?" He tried to make it sound natural, like a man caught kissing a cocker spaniel might try to pass it off as affectionate fun, but Wilson is a properly natural man by the look of him and this sure as hell didn't sound to him like the kind of thing one man says to another man in public. He laughed of course – he had to.

But it was the laugh of someone who is going to ask for an explanation as soon as he can get to a phone. What unearthly congress gave birth to this line? What doting television hag reared it through sickly infancy into maturity and then what wild-eyed BBC Frankenstein coaxed it into the final script? How can man inflict such inhumanity on man before lunch?

The Arsenal v Barcelona Champions League first leg gave us another chance to view one of the latest additions to the football community – the penalty area official, or Special Community Referee Officer or whatever is the correct title. Whenever play approached a penalty area, this shy figure suddenly appeared, darting startled back towards the perimeter, then, growing a little more brave, bobbing back up to peer at the action in a winningly diffident manner. The body language and behaviour was that of a fringe participant not as yet entirely accepted or perfectly assimilated into the game, rather like Jim Rosenthal.

One was reminded of a chap at his wife's work function who hovers around the edge of a group, manfully maintaining an approachable smile in case one of her colleagues finally remembers he is present. We should enjoy this frailly beautiful creature while it retains its modesty and innocence. Too soon it will be given a proper kit and name, and become part of the establishment machine. The next thing you know it will be demanding respect.

From WSC 290 April 2011

Related articles

Back of the net flix: marketing is now masquerading as documentary
Embed from Getty Images // A spate of shows are claiming to reveal life behind the scenes at the world's biggest clubs, though most are part of a...
Rupethink: the Murdoch view of football
By Tim Bradford from WSC 367...
Emotions of watching Euro 2016 from a Glasgow sofa
For the armchair viewer the tournament has been a mixture of pain and pleasure Embed from Getty Images 4 July ~ On Thursday June 9, I doubted I had...