One of the very few programmes I missed badly whilst out in Italy was Soccer AM. We can get lots of UK soccer on the Italian Sky platform but not the UK Sky sports channels. The thing I like about Soccer AM is that it is the only footie programme based on the fans’ view of the game not some panel format of opinionated tired old pundits (see Jimmy over the Hill blog) nor inarticulate cliche-ridden ex footballers and managers now earning a second fortune with a meeja career. Have you ever listenned to Peter Beardsley talking? Can he deliver a sentence without using the phrase ‘to be fair’? Or have you listenned to the pearls of wisdom dripping from the lips of Bobby Gould – it’s just mumbo jumbo. Or two of my personal favourites on BBC, Carlton Palmer – unintelligible and Garth Crooks – deliverer of the most convoluted and meaningless questions. Nothing insightful, interesting, amusing or telling. But Soccer AM’s different.
Actually it’s not the only fan-based footie programme to have become successful. There was the Fantasy Football show hosted by Skinner and Baddiel. The problem was David Baddiel -as an academic he always seemed an unlikely partner to street urchin Frank Skinner, especially because he wasn’t funny, at all. Plus I don’t believe he ever played competitive football, the odd celebrity 5 a-side but never on a cold, wet Sunday morning down Hackney marshes. So I don’t regard him as a true footie fan. Soccer AM meanwhile is hosted by the lovely Helen Chamberlain, a lifelong Torquay Utd fan, and the incomparable Tim Lovejoy, a Watford fan pretending he really likes Russia FC.
Now Helen would never make it as a frontwoman in Italy – there they employ just the most stunning looking women who gabble an awful lot but I’m not fluent enough to appreciate just how much they know about the game. Helen does ok on the looks front but it’s her enthusiasm for the game and her team and the characters in the sport which make her so watchable. Tim on the other hand is a consummate TV host, dominating the screen with his personality. It’s really no big surprise that I read the other day that he’s leaving Soccer AM for a new kind of show from Simon Fuller’s 19 TV company. It sounds grim but I wish Tim well of course. He’s currently hosting ‘Something for the Weekend’ which isn’t as cheeky as the name suggests. Basically it’s a cookery programme which he co-hosts with nutritionist Amanda Hamilton and some scouser chef. She’s quite nice but no match for Tim and yet he seems a bit trapped by the straightjacket format.
Conversely Soccer AM which does follow a porgramme structure feels free-flowing and spontaneous. Every one has their favourite bits from the many catch phrases (lighttt drizzle, badda badda bing, a right touch etc), the fans of the week, cross bar and 10yd bucket challenges, the saucy sexy sassy soccerettes, Fenners/Tubes/Rocket/Sheephead, showboat, taxi, the Wembley shootout, the wrestlers (a personal favourite), Yorkshire news (ditto), the mix of footie/music guests, goals goals goals and so much more.
The only thing the programme lacks is a proper 10 minutes given over to a section on football grounds – the different styles and standards etc. I’d love to present that.
I read that Ralf Little’s in line to replace Tim. Uuumm. It’ll never last.