I’m not a fan of video assistant referees (VAR). It’s merely technology for technology’s sake, like talking toilets on Virgin Trains. We’ve absolutely no real need for it, but someone with money thought it was a good idea, so now here we are, pissing into the mouth of Tomorrow’s World. Continue reading “Let’s get VAR, VAR away from here”
In the unlikely event I’d be invited to take part in Room 101, the first object I’d want to be locked away for eternity is the decline of the English language. The nation that spawned the genius of William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Dylan Thomas shouldn’t have to suffer any of its population inserting the word ‘like’ three times into one sentence. Continue reading “Why is everyone talking like a footballer?”
Last summer, as I sat down to attempt to write an article for this fanzine, a retweet appeared in my twitter timeline. It had a picture on it, a picture of a grin in a suit, pointing at a massive yellow screen, smugness and glee smeared over his face like birthday cake on a toddler, as he gestured at a number. Continue reading “On Deadline Day, Banter and all-out Greed”
Last month I went to India. And yes, I had a lovely time thank you very much for asking, but I’ll save going all Judith Chalmers on you for another time, and get to my point. Whilst in India I met my girlfriend’s cousin, Nikhil, for the first time. He’s an intelligent fella, a writer who speaks multiple languages and he’s into football; he supports Chelsea – evidence if ever it were needed that who we choose to support is rarely a rational choice. Nikhil has lived near to, or in, Bangalore all is life. Bangalore are the current Indian football champions. I asked him why he didn’t support them. His answer is that he likes football, and so he wants to watch the best football in the world, and as the Premier League is screened regularly in India, it is this which he, and the other football fans he knows, watch. Continue reading “On Football as the next Great American Drama Series”
I’ve been moonlighting this season as editor of the Rossington Main matchday programme, Main Issue. In that publication I’ve run a series called ‘Football’s Faults’ highlighting everything wrong with the game. Rather than keep those articles exclusive to the hardy souls who head down Oxford Street I’ve chosen to share them here, beginning with this critique of the Football League Show‘s ‘Clem’ which also recently appeared in When Saturday Comes magazine…
In my childhood football was a simple game, played by twenty-two men and narrated by John Helm. Growing up in Yorkshire, Goals on Sunday was my football fix, and it delivered all I needed from a football highlights show. Extended coverage of the region’s main game (ie. Leeds) before the break, goals from all the others after it, and hope that Helm made it through Division Four before mum called me to set the table.
But in the years since, the simplicity has departed. Someone in a glass walled office has gathered suits round a flip-chart and decided I need more than just football highlights from my football highlights. I need interactivity, I need new angles, I need a man eating a pie on the halfway line as the teams come out behind him, and the result of this ‘blue-sky thinking’ is Mark ‘Clem’ Clemmit.
My first engagement with Clem, like many of you, was through the Football League Show’s Potted History feature. A vehicle in which he would flit around a club’s empty stadium, popping up behind seats and trophy cabinets as if he’d somehow escaped from the hand of Matthew Corbett, to read us extracts from the club’s Wikipedia entry.
Mercifully, the feature was withdrawn, but Clem soldiers on attempting to engage with football folk in what middle-management perceives to be their language. Everyone is a mate, ex-players are ‘legends’, players have great ‘tekkers’ and try to score ‘worldys’. Whenever I hear Clem speaking football I’m always put in mind of Arthur Bostrom’s Officer Crabtree in Allo Allo. Like Crabtree’s French, Clem’s ‘banter’ may do enough to convince those in power he’s the real thing, but the rest of us can’t believe he’s getting away with it. You need only view Twitter during a broadcast to see that in his pursuit of this banter Clem has become football coverage’s equivalent of The Texan from Joseph Heller’s Catch-22; a man so happy and good-natured that ultimately no-one can stand him.
Holding enthusiasm for the Football League is no bad thing, especially given much of the media’s tendency to portray it solely as an alternate dimension where Premier League clubs cease to be; like when Eastenders characters move to Manchester. In that sense Clem’s sincerity is a welcome break from cliché and patronisation. However, too often the enthusiasm is over-played, and instead comes across as the sort of faux-jocularity displayed by someone you vaguely know as they lead up to asking for a favour; “Here he is… Gaffer, the Gaffer, eh? Look at you, check the suit out. How you settling in? Yeah… hey, look… mate… you couldn’t lend us a fiver could you?”
Perhaps I’d have more time from Clem if it looked like his nickname really annoyed him. If every time Manish handed over to him we were greeted by a shot of a man grinding his teeth and fixing the lens with a stare that contained dark thoughts of revenge, I would be able to take him at face value, possibly even sympathise as he tried to be taken seriously.
But he doesn’t. He remains Clem by his own choosing and an insistence so resolute I had to look up his actual name whilst penning this piece. Instead of gaining empathy Clem is the kid at school trying too hard, hanging on the edge of the incrowd; laughing too keenly at the other kids’ jokes, particularly the ones at his expense. He seems all too happy to play the part of the fool – the office joker – the guy with Yackety Sax as his ring-tone, the bloke who spends each and every December with mistletoe hooked through his belt buckle.
In Clem lies the crux of the Football League Show’s failings, in that it endeavours so earnestly to please, ultimately it disappoints. For all its attempted features and interactivity, by this time, post-midnight on a Saturday, and with any sense of perceptiveness already dulled out of us by Alan Shearer’s punditry come narration, we don’t want whimsy, nor do we want to think. We just want goals and maybe the odd red card. Nothing more.
Poor Clem. Because unlike a large amount of people presenting and opining on football on television he is clearly knowledgeable about his subject, and his features do offer insight. But in their current slot, they serve only as something we have to get through in order to get what we came for, like time spent with relatives to get to the Christmas presents. Perhaps, for all our sakes, it is time for the BBC to kill off the over-eager mauve clad Jim Henson character gone sentient that is Clem, and give the football journalist Mark Clemmit a chance instead.