No love, no joy
Helen Chamberlain’s former sidekick has celebrated leaving Soccer AM for 6.06 with a book. Taylor Parkes wants to know why anyone – anyone – thought it was a good idea to expose the presenter’s ego and prejudices across 288 smugly written pages
Soccer AM is a bad memory: hungover mornings in other people’s flats, disturbed by a crew of whooping simpletons, the slurping of pro and ex-pro rectums, cobbled-together comedy that made me long for the glory days of Skinner and Baddiel’s old shit. Yet Tim Lovejoy himself, with his fashionably receding hair and voice oddly reminiscent of Rod Hull’s, I remember only as an averagely blokey TV presenter – in fact, one of the few averagely blokey TV presenters to make me clack my tongue in irritation, rather than buff my Gurkha knife. Other than as a namesake of The Simpsons’ self-serving man of the cloth, he barely registered; just a bland, blond ringmaster in a cocky circus of crap. Almost a surprise, then, to find that his new book is not just tedious in the extreme, it is utterly vile.
Chopped into “chapters” that barely fill a page, in a font size usually associated with books for the partially sighted, Lovejoy on Football is part autobiography, part witless musing, and one more triumph for the crass stupidity rapidly replacing culture in this country. Hopelessly banal and nauseatingly self-assured, smirkingly unfunny, it’s a £300 T-shirt, a piss-you-off ringtone, a YouTube clip of someone drinking their mate’s vomit. Its smugness is a corollary of its vacuity. I hope it makes you sick.
First, it’s clear that being Tim Lovejoy requires a very special blend of arrogance and ignorance. When he’s not listing his media achievements with a breathtaking lack of guile, he’s sneering at those “sad” enough to take an interest in football history, revealing his utter cluelessness about life outside the Premier League (in a section called “Know Your Silverware”, he refers to “League Three”) and making sundry gaffes, major and minor. He names Johan Cruyff as his all-time favourite player, then admits he’s only seen that five-second World Cup clip of the Cruyff turn. Grumbling about footballers’ musical tastes, he complains that “all you’ll hear blasting out of the team dressing room is R&B, rather than what the rest of the country is listening to” – by which he means indie bands. Everywhere there are jaw-dropping illustrations of insularity, self-satisfaction and a startlingly small mind.
There’s something sinister here, too: beamingly positive, thrilled by wealth, too pleased with himself to ask awkward questions, Tim Lovejoy is the football fan Sepp Blatter has been waiting for. Roman Abramovich’s darling young one. Not least for his complacency: his lack of understanding of how football works (and doesn’t work) is best illustrated in a section called “Give Your Chairman A Break”, in which he defends “that Thai bloke at Man City”, and implores us to “look at the Glazers... you would have thought they were nothing but a bunch of Americans intent on buying the club and selling off Old Trafford to Tesco judging by the howl of protests from the fans. Within two seasons though, they had won the title and built a squad the envy of Europe.” Bang your head off the wall at such unreviewable stupidity – Tim’s infantile ideas of shunning “negativity” prod him into precisely the kind of thinking that has had such hugely negative influence on the game. “Look across our national team” – he means England, by the way – “and there isn’t one player who wouldn’t walk into any side in Europe... why is it, before every tournament, we start believing we’re overrated?”
And, surprise: Lovejoy is as wretched a starfucker as could be inferred from his television shows. Everyone in football is Tim’s mate (and here we have pictures to prove it, stars looking confused in his grinning, over-familiar presence, frozen by an arm around the shoulders). He’ll “even watch the occasional game of rugby now, because I’m friends with a lot of the players like Will Greenwood, Matt Dawson, Lawrence Dallaglio and Austin Healy”.
It’s perhaps telling that among the many anecdotes offered here, the most heartwarming (and least surprising) involves Tim getting clattered hard by Neil Ruddock in a charity game; even in this version of the story, there’s nothing to suggest Razor meant it affectionately. Still, our man is blinded by quite astonishing hubris, reprinting a photo of a banner at Anfield reading “LOVEJOY SUCKS BIG FAT COCKS” with a glee that is nothing like self-deprecation. “The hardest thing about leaving Soccer AM,” he says regretfully, “is the thought that I might no longer be influencing the game.” True, it’ll be tough. But who knows? Perhaps the game will struggle on.
It’s not that there was ever a time when football on telly wasn’t in the hands of dimwits, poseurs and blowhards. It’s not that Lovejoy is significantly more objectionable than TV shits of ages past. The point is, in his own mind and that of the powers that be, he’s one of us. He is us. Savour that. God help us.
Lovejoy on Football is published by Century at £16.99