TV watch

The Soccer Saturday pundits enjoy a bundle at Reading. Simon Tyers enjoyed watching them

How joyous the sight of men on live TV completely losing their composure. Phil Thompson was allocated Reading v Sheffield United on January 20’s Soccer Saturday, so got to relay unfolding events as Keith Gillespie and Wally Downes – who, it transpired from the highlights, had chosen the moment to push Neil Warnock at which he would least have expected it – took the game a sufficient distance from repute. Thompson’s and Jeff Stelling’s harmonic shocked “ohhhhh!” at the replay of Gillespie’s swung arm was only topped when both benches kicked off, Stelling in particular trying his best to level out his unruffled image with his clear wish to urge everyone on like a ringside punter.

Cameron Carter on Mourinho's touchline overreations and Goals Goals Goals

He may be as prone to smiling as the late Pauline Fowler on a fruit and pulses diet, but José Mourinho is clearly having a laugh. No one in football management has ever used the media in such Machiavellian fashion, or employed quite so varied means of annoying and disquieting his opponents. Brian Clough would routinely intimidate and lecture interviewers, but this was purely for his own benefit. Joe Kinnear had Wimbledon employing noise pollution and a no-lightbulb-in-the-away-toilets policy, but the nurturing of a gang mentality was the only purpose. Alex Ferguson introduced to the modern game the potent psychology of the throwaway remark, but seldom strays from this tried and tested area of work. Mourinho, an entirely new strain, pops up on our screens with a bewildering array of techniques and the deadpan delight in his art that marks out the obsessive genius.

Simon Tyers on Tim Lovejoy and other presenters switching jobs

After years of being downplayed as a near‑unnecessary calendar filler, the Carling Cup is finally being seen as a competitive target for the big clubs once again, with members of the modern Big Four lifting the trophy in four of the last six seasons. Sky Sports are keen to act as cheerleaders for this unlikely rejuvenation, to give the impression of holding a greater nap hand of live football coverage. So they’ve given a Carling Cup presentation job to Tim Lovejoy.

Cameron Carter bemoans Sky 3's obsession with Manchester Utd

Digital television, if it were a person, would register at a high point on the autistic spectrum – nervous as it is of any change, limited in imagination and happiest when repeating its behaviour. Sky 3 is a very digital channel. Their latest big documentary idea was George Best – Football Genius, first shown on October 24 and which is certain to run and run.

Simon Tyers discovers the new weapons that Sky's Andy Gray has added to his artillery

As seasons change and Alan Shearer’s hair recedes at a rate unseen since Ray Wilkins, we can at least rest safe in the knowledge that from year to year some things never change. David Beckham will make a fleeting visit to his coaching school and be interviewed on every single TV outlet, the Football Focus panel will attempt to grapple with a big concept underpinning a major news story and completely fail, and Sky will have a big conceptual technological idea that only they think works.

Cameron Carter observes how Mark Lawrenson is slowly veering away from what he's put there to be – a pundit

John Helm must have done something quite bad, but not dreadful, in a previous life. Perhaps he murdered a cow or was a slum landlord with only one slum. Whatever it was, in his current incarnation he has been forced to eternally comment on the UEFA Cup on Five. Because of his lack of options, Helm can’t make like Alan Green if the action’s a bit slow and tell everyone how bored he is; instead he must remain upbeat at his vigil and keep his and everyone else’s spirits up. As Newcastle toiled away against Ventspils of Latvia, many of us were reaching for the off switch and resignedly contemplating housework. Helm sensed this. “It’s an interesting game,” he pleaded, “without goals.” A slight pause. “Eleven minutes to the break,” he went on, in the preoccupied tone of a man who was calculating that in seconds.

Cameron Carter explains that although we all know and love the FA Cup, John Motson can always be on hand to remind us of this

Spring is a time when wet-nosed lambs and weak young sitcoms stumble into the world. Yet May began and ended with the spectacle of grey-faced middle-aged footballers in sluggish pursuit of the charity pound. On May 1, the Marina Dalglish charity match on Sky One featured most of the Liverpool and Everton teams who contested the 1986 FA Cup final. Now, most charity events involve the entertainment operating at about 30 per cent below par, but these people were really trying. They just couldn’t do it any more. An injured Gary Lineker turned up briefly to kick off, like a vicar at a fete with another parish to get to, after which the 90 minutes crawled by in a pageant of zonal marking, square balls and limping, quickly regretted runs off the ball. Fortunately, a goal was scored just before the end – at least a yard offside, but hotly undisputed as its annulment would have meant extra time and, presumably, a slowing of the pace.

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.

Cameron Carter sees that diving and simulation has become the BBC's current topic for discussion

The big topic on the BBC last month was diving and, in particular, how terrible and somehow foreign it is. During the last FA Cup quarter-final, Garth Crooks gamely attempted to turn a half-time studio debate into a political bear pit when the subject was introduced by Ray Stubbs. Some days later, on Match of the Day II, Stubbs seemed to get a little peevish when Graeme Le Saux and Lee Sharpe didn’t appear to treat his debate on Didier Drogba heatedly enough. At one point he jokingly asked Sharpe why he was smirking, in the way that someone jokingly asks you why you can’t get your own cup of tea. Stubbs is obviously of the view that there are some subjects one simply doesn’t joke about.

Every World Cup it seems that the pundits BBC and ITV choose are not favoured by the masses. Simon Tyers sees that yet again the likely lads and lasses have hung onto their places

This is the time of the year when the BBC and ITV heads of sport start planning out their World Cup coverage – booking commentary positions, working out who the stunt-casting studio experts will be, testing how many visual cliches they can get away with in location reports. Perhaps mindful of the forthcoming charter renewal, the BBC have moved decisively, casting Peter Reid off to Sky months after changing the locks on Peter Schmeichel’s dressing room, while ITV began their traditional mopping-up of former England personnel with Gareth Southgate’s presence on a Carling Cup night as co-commentator, which was deemed so vital he got a close-up at the start of the game.

Sign up to the WSC Weekly Howl - a small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday