The Premier League finishes Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea in the first three places. Liverpool and Arsenal will scrap for fourth and oh, by the way, it's always a very special night under lights at the Boleyn Ground. So says Ray Parlour on Friday during another assault on our efforts to repel cliche ridden comments on the nation's most dumbed down radio station - talkSPORT.
To be fair to the nasal pundit, I was mixing in some of John Motson's drivel and yet there are already some of you out there rushing to defend such tosh as fair comment and 'good old football chat.' I am becoming a talkSPORT derider of some note and frankly pleased about it. I listen in vain for the informed comment of Henry Winter or Gabrielle Marcotti and yet my reality is painfully interrupted by presenters like Brazil, Irani, Goldstein and the supremely confident and uber-knowledgeable guru of modern football - Adrian Durham. I want to turn it off each morning as I wake to it but my desire for 'real' informed chat about the game is still there - as is talkSPORT's dire and cliched outlook on football.
The enormous and slightly embarrassing sight of Alan Brazil is spared the majority of listeners, but not his irritating sidekick and his own poor grammar and cliched phrases. As he struggles to repel Irani's attempts to butt in early and be first to greet any guest ("It's me Ronnie! I'm here you know!") I'm reminded of Alan Hansen: Irani wants the first word and Hansen the last. But it is the cliched banter that grates and the lazy use of sentences that have little structure and even less resonance with anyone who wants in-depth discussion. Lengthy in-depth discussion? I should really get a grip. How on earth that can ever happen on such a station is a mystery not even Stephen Hawking will admit to understanding.
The problem with talkSPORT (and we'll return to Ray and his predictions in a moment) is that the station is there to generate money. Not an issue - after all, it is a business. So, the monstrously proportioned and slightly bored Brazil can always cut off any conversation that sounds like it might be heading for interesting or might be too long with a quick, "We're running out of time," or "We have to leave it there," or "We need to cut to some adverts." The only blessing is that it also prevents us from listening to Irani bleating on about Germany and Man United and Brazil's mangling of the English language. If you bother to spend one hour with a stopwatch, pen and paper, you come to realise that an hour's chat as advertised is reduced to a few minutes of quick chat with mates like George Burley (how hard is Brazil working to get this flop back into management?) or some pontificating journalist like John Cross (sounding like a poor Vicky Pollard with his intro of "Yes, no ...") or even Steve Curry. The words just fill in the gaps between the adverts and the station promos.
Back to Ray Parlour then and how does he fit into this mess of a radio station? He's one of the experts they drag out to explain what many fans can see for themselves. It's a dumbing down process that reduces stations like talkSPORT (to be fair, it's the only one of its kind) to irritating and yet mildly interesting fare. The problem on that Friday with Ray Parlour was the way he suggested that managers like Ferguson have "been there before" and "done it before." Enter John Motson and his trite Boleyn Ground comments to add fuel to this fire. Just because Ferguson has been there before, he can steer Man United through to the top three; he's done it before and why not again? But isn't it nonsense when the majority of players, the weather, the grass, the atmosphere, the time, the dates and the fans are not 100% the same as in previous years? Following this? Isn't this what Motson means when he says (and I play loose with his words to be fair) .... "Bolton have never beaten Wiolves in 129 years at home" or "Liverpool have never scored less than seven goals against West Ham under lights on a Tuesday, away in the rain in October at the Boleyn Ground!"? It's all just cliched drivel and they want you to buy into it.
Football is too exciting to too many people to have it dumbed down to statistics that are verbally manipulated to make them sound important to a casual listener. Commentators like Motson have seen lots of games over the years - but so have I at my age. The people I talk to in the wine bar, the pub, at the ground and at work understand the game. Journalist and commentators don't have degrees in football critique and there are no special courses that enable them to understand the game better than you and your mates. They are simply fans with a larger audience than we have in the pub or on the bus. Some like Martin Samuel and Henry Winter are worth listening to and reading. Most of the others are 'take it or leave it' for me. Ray Parlour may have played the game, but there is little he adds to my knowledge of the game listening to his nasal words.
As for talkSPORT - they have little ground to manoeuvre as they need to make a profit to keep going. I appreciate and accept that. What I can't accept is that they have marginalised people like me that want longer and more informed discussions about the game. Radio 5 Live at times can do that - but not often enough - and so that really does leave us with Brazil and his cohorts. Maybe I need to accept that talkSPORT is simply a vehicle to get a few mates on, talk about the game like they think we all do in the pub and break every three or four minutes for adverts. I could do that if it were not for having people like Andy Goldstein on at night. Those who know me will say well stop listening to the radio if it annoys you that much. But will that stop the rot and who is going to ask the questions when the only answers are coming from people like George Burley, Steve Curry and gold old "friend of the station" 'arry?