INearing the end of the first half at Elland Road on Tuesday night, Leeds United fired a free kick deep into the Crystal Palace game, about halfway between the corner flag and the penalty area. It can only be described as “in a dangerous situation”. Ravenha stands over her.
“This is going to be done at an unbelievable pace, that’s my expectation,” says Ally McCoist, who is very self-confident. The Brazilian raises his right hand and proceeds to smash the ball about 30 yards above everyone else and out for a goal kick.
You can hear Mquist start to laugh. “Okay,” says John Champion. “We can go back and you can bring that thing back if you want.”
“Well, actually I’m standing by her. I didn’t say how high she would go up…there was so much speed…” At this point McQuest wrinkled with laughter. It is impossible not to laugh with him.
It’s a wonderful moment. A monotonous soccer match brought to life by a craft expert. It’s a busy week for him – he’s still trending on Twitter the day after the Merseyside derby. Offering happy colleagues connections is one thing – turning a social media platform into a positive and friendly place on its own is quite another.
Interestingly, more people are tweeting about the guy talking about the game than about the game itself. It sounds harsh on Diogo Jota and Jordan Henderson, but analyzing analysis often interests us more than the thing it’s meant to discuss.
Having hosted several shows on TalkSport with him, I can confirm that Ally is everything you could wish for and expect – warm, funny, smart, selfless. So there’s no objectivity here but it does seem to have achieved the unachievable in sports broadcasting – clear historical rivalries aside – to be universally loved. I can say for sure that I don’t know that feeling. But who does? Barry Davis? Jeff Stelling, perhaps?
Ally’s rush week comes on the heels of the increasingly fervent debate between Roy Keane and Jamie Carragher over Cristiano Ronaldo on Super Sunday. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbein’s wide smile is a complete joy. The camera zooms in as Carragher shouts, “What’s the point of signing it?” With Scouse’s unyielding urgency.
Having commented on Jonathan Wilson’s episode on the subject over the past few months, I find myself firmly in the Carragher camp when it comes to Ronaldo. But the disagreement is so loud and intense that you almost forget what they are talking about at the end. It should be more important than football.
The scene concludes perfectly with Dave Jones patting Kane three times on the thigh – and ending with a nice fist. “It’s time to go,” as if trying to persuade a five-year-old to leave a friend’s birthday party. How long did Dave spend debating whether and when to go for the triple paycheck? It’s a brave move. We’ve seen Kane’s reaction to less. The timing is perfect. And most importantly, it’s a great TV. How much analysis do you need when Roy Keane exclaims: “Glass. Glasses. Glasses“?
The following day, the Guardian Football Weekly podcast received more questions about it than nearly all of the Premier League action this weekend. Are they pre-organised, designed and upgraded? Has Kane become a parody of himself? Should critics scream Arsenal Fan TV?
The real question is does any of this matter – if it’s fun and interesting, then go ahead. Many TVs will not turn off during this exchange. Half-time or full-time competing with boilers, toilets, bars and second screens – you have to make an impact. He might not be challenging Ken McQuest for universal love – but in broadcast terms, he totally has it.
There are many ways to be a proficient expert. what is your role? How does the team fit together? What is chemistry? From Kane’s anger to Ian Wright’s joy. The Tactical Mind of Emma Hayes or The Ultimate Joy of Soccer Relayed by McQuest.
I am currently in Australia and hosting the Champions League coverage of Stan Sport alongside two distinguished experts – Craig Foster and Mark Bosnich. Foster is a forensic analyst who can pick out tactics mid-match and explain them in a straightforward, engaging way in the first half, using a touch screen similar to Monday Night. Bosnich brings infectious energy and joy to covering football at 5am – as well as the experience of playing at the highest level ever.
They are completely different and that’s why it works. There’s obviously a big disclaimer here – we have at least two and a half years of work together and I don’t want it to be awkward next Wednesday morning – but it’s great to watch them in action: to see what different things they’re looking at and how quickly they see patterns in the game , how they complement each other, and how they discuss the same game in different ways.
We have a wonderful obsession with who talks about the game and how we talk about it. There’s a great (award-nominated) podcast dedicated to Football Cliches called Adam Hurrey – it painstakingly delves into the silly details of every bit of it. It characterizes the acceptable use of language – “fun manager game”, “undo tools”, “not even getting out of the first mode”.
If football is not a matter of life and death, then talking about it is not at all. So the key is not to take any of it too seriously. Because someone somewhere will hate you and tell you that you ruined the show, their day, their radio station, their TV channel, their life – or all of the above. Unless, of course, you are Ally McCoist.