It would be amusing to hear all the shouting and complaining about ITV’s cock up while showing a bit of a local game from the north west the other day, if it weren’t for the greed and the crass stupidity of the footballing authorities that led up to the situation.
On 1 May 2002 ITV Digital stopped broadcasting. It had bid a fortune to get football league coverage on the service, but when it stopped it then failed to pay up the money that contractually it owed the League and the clubs. As a result many clubs were left in extremely difficult circumstances.
There was much gnashing of teeth, and demands that football fans should stop watching top programmes on ITV. There was talk that football authorities in general would never deal with ITV again. Ever.
But of course time goes on, and hey, who cares if a few little clubs get into financial trouble? We have to see the bigger picture, and if ITV want the FA Cup, then why not? They’ll pay lots of money, and we can’t always look back to the past.
Except that sometimes looking back can be insightful. It depends how far you want to look back – but in essence ITV has been screwing up football coverage since at least the 1960s when, having got the coverage of an England game for recorded highlights, they failed to show the final goal in a 3-2 victory, and failed also to give any explanation of apology. Later they cited editing errors.
ITV Digital could have been seen as a brave experiment that didn’t work – or an ill-conceived desparate attempt to catch up with Sky. But either way there was never any excuse for ITV not to pay the clubs the money that was owed, just as there is no excuse for the FA to forgive and forget. It is a bit like us being expected to forget what the bankers have done, and ignore the current plans to pay themselves bonuses for their failure. “Bankers Behind Bars” is what I say – but that’s another story.
Moving back to what was by all accounts a typically dull and boring game between two northern sides, it is interesting the note in the light of the discussion among the highly educated and literate readership of this site on the topic of football statistics, the array of stats currently coming out about one S Gerrard, a football player from the north west. This fella, who is apparently quite well known locally, got injured in the advert interrupted game, and can’t play for a bit.
Apparently when the Insolvents don’t have him in the team the average number of points they get per game goes down from something like 2.2 to 1. The number of goals they score on average goes down a lot too. In short, without him, they are akin to Blackburn.
Now I don’t say this to gloat over injuries – although myself a player of zero quality and ability, I nevertheless managed in my career to score quite highly on the injury count, and some of those pulled muscles and hamstrings could hurt. So I don’t wish this on anyone. Not even a player from the Insolvents.
But it is interesting to note the contrast with Arsenal. We don’t have 3 star midfielders, and yet we still manage to put together a 10 match unbeaten run. OK it is not perfect stuff, and since the last two games I have been at were 0-0 (I didn’t go to Everton) I am losing my ability to leap up and down and shout a bit. But I really don’t think we have that sort of dependence on one man that the Insolvents have.
What is remarkable is not just that with the departure of Flamini we didn’t have to buy anyone because we already had the top defensive midfielder in the league sitting in the reserves. It is also the way that the squad battles on no matter what. True Adebayor is having a poor run just now, but Van Persie compensates. True we have lost our midfield, but the replacements work hard and Denilson has come to the fore. Another 18 months and missing Cesc won’t matter because Merida will slot straight in.
We all love superstars like Bergkamp, Henry and Vieira, but one-man teams have never been a good idea. Liverpool I might find someone wonderful to pull it all together at this moment, but history suggests they will struggle with their football, rather like ITV struggle with technology.
Still maybe they could get ITV to show all their games, and then Benitez could pretend that they had scored, and thus won, every time there is a commecial break. He could then complain to the EPL that the scores on BBC were given out wrong, and that really they are top of the league by 20 points.
(c) Tony Attwood 2009
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