Monday Night Football still sounds American to me, but it’s been part of fans’ furniture since football was invented by Rupert Murdoch and Greg Dyke in 1992. And it’s great isn’t it? Whose step doesn’t quicken towards the ordeal of the Monday morning emails if one has one’s own team, live, on the box just 12 hours later? Certainly pub landlords. But (and you knew that was coming didn’t you) as with so many of Sky’s money extorting rackets/crowd-pleasing innovations, it comes at a price – literally and metaphorically.
What about Saturday afternoon? What about James Alexander Gordon/Charlotte Green, David Coleman with (“Eight games now unbeaten for Airdrie) and what about the table as it stands now? Most of all, what about the build-up, the going round the grounds for team news at 2.30, the “News of a goal and a sending off at Goodison – Jonathan”? There’s a Saturday afternoon party going on all over the country – like a royal jubilee, and you’re Willie Hamilton, sitting alone in pants and a thousand wash grey T-shirt, watching a TV movie starring Lindsay Wagner on BBC2.
We never signed up for this, never signed up for the greatest day of the week being hollowed out, an ugly oyster bereft of its pearl, never wanted our match to be squeezed in between “After the Suarez incident at Villa Park, will Liverpool owner John Henry finally act? Have your say by phoning ….” and “John Murray is at the Mestalla with news of an injury blow for Arsene Wenger as he prepares for the crucial Champions League match tomorrow night”.
Everton fans (and possibly Newcastle fans, although the less frequently Alan Pardew’s men play, the better it may be for the Toon Army) are the ones to be condemned to the strange netherworld of non-playingness this weekend. You suddenly feel a kindred spirit with Davis Cup captains, stuck on the sidelines, impotent, as everyone else is scoring. Sure we’ll keep track of what’s going on elsewhere in the Premier League, recalibrating the table as goals go in (although we don’t even have the frisson that comes with “A goal at the Stadium of Light – Kammy?” as Liverpool play in the just-about-able-to-stretch-the-excitement slot of Sunday afternoon). We’ll look out for a return to form for Rickie Lambert and Jack Wilshere being substituted in the 60th minute after “failing to stamp his authority on the game, still not back to his best after injury”.
So what are you going to do on Saturday afternoon? Roberto Martinez will be watching six matches simultaneously (like David Bowie in The Man Who Fell To Earth) in preparation for his sofa duty with Gary and Alan on Match of the Day – so it’s all right for some. But me? I might write something about the cricket.