Tag Archives: TV

Leeds Need to “Nail” Huddersfield’s Mooy: Ironic Whinge from Town Fan – by Rob Atkinson

foster

Terriers fan, moral high-ground holder and justice evader David Foster

As the latest Yorkshire Derby edges closer, with Huddersfield Town due to host Leeds United at High Noon on Sunday, the build-up took a slightly hysterical turn earlier today, when respected YEP reporter Phil Hay observed that United’s main job would be to “nail Aaron Mooy. If he runs the show, Huddersfield will win”. A fair enough observation, you’d have thought – but the reaction among certain Huddersfield fans of nervous and delicate dispositions was frankly ludicrous.

One Town fan in particular, a Mr. Duncan Foster, twittered his distress: “What an appalling tweet. If you worked for me I would fire you. To suggest “nail” a player is wrong. You have a responsibility”. Mr Foster, you may not be surprised to learn, is a drama director – so his hissy fit and histrionics were possibly to be expected. Feelings run high when local rivals meet, and that appears to be particularly the case among the denizens of Huddersfield’s Coronation Street-style cobbled streets, with their dark, satanic mills and packs of rabid poodles.

Ironically, Aaron Mooy himself has some form in the matter of “nailing” opponents – and in a much more literal sense of that word than Hay intended. Huddersfield’s early season win at Elland Road turned on an incident which many, Town manager David Wagner included, felt should have earned Mooy a red card, when he was guilty of a two-footed challenge on Liam Bridcutt. To add insult to injury, Mooy not only remained on the pitch, he also went on to score a fine winner. Huddersfield fans are neither the first nor the only ones to suffer from selective memory disorder but, in the case of Mooy, Leeds could respond with “live by the sword, die by the sword”. Phil Hay, for his part, found it scarcely credible that anyone could seriously think he’d been advocating injuring the Town man. The Town side of the exchange reeked of small-time paranoia and opportunism, and what has to be said is a slightly precious attitude from Huddersfield’s most prominent drama queen, Mr Foster.

It has to be said also that any attempt to occupy the moral high ground on the part of “Corrie” director Mr. Foster tends to leave a slightly odd and repellent taste in the mouth. Foster, who was secretary of his local branch of Gamblers’ Anonymous at the time, narrowly escaped a driving ban in 2010. He was found with over twice the legal limit of alcohol according to a breathalyser test, asleep at the wheel of his car, which was parked three metres from the kerb, engine running and lights on. Foster escaped a ban only “by the skin of his teeth” after an emotional plea to magistrates, citing his many debts and his utter penitence. Such a narrow escape from just deserts puts him almost in the Aaron Mooy class for dodging justice, but it does also tend to make him look a bit of a hypocrite when he lectures a professional journalist about “having a responsibility” – and on the most specious and contrived of pretexts. Still, it takes all sorts.

The fact of the matter is, Phil Hay has it spot on with his analysis. Huddersfield work their best moves through Aaron Mooy, and any sensible opponent would set out to nullify him, if they can. Clearly, a team of Leeds United’s reputation and devotion to the beautiful game will take a more scientific approach than the one chosen by Mooy himself at Elland Road. We are not, after all, a side known for dirty or foul play.

After his assault on Liam Bridcutt, can that dirty dog Mooy – or indeed the hardly blemish-free Mr. Foster – really say the same? 

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Stand Up, If You Hate Man United (And Think It Might Be TV’s Fault) – by Rob Atkinson

The Mighty Man U supporting experience

The Mighty Man U supporting experience

On Saturday 8th January 2005, Manchester United played Exeter City in the 3rd round of the F.A. Cup. It was something of a mismatch on paper, but surprisingly a plucky Exeter team held out for a 0-0 draw, and took the holders to a replay. A significant achievement for the minnows, but this game was noteworthy for another reason; to date it remains the last F.A. Cup tie involving Manchester United not to have been shown live on TV.

Even on the face of it, this is a remarkable statistic. Particularly in the earlier rounds, there are many matches from which TV companies can take their pick, and traditionally the perceived likelihood of an upset is a big draw. Given the perennial dominance of Manchester United until quite recently, it’s usually difficult to see much chance of a giant-killing, and the interest in games involving them, you might think, will be mainly for those occasions when they’re drawn against a Chelsea, or a Liverpool, or maybe even a Manchester City or an Arsenal.

Looking at the list of games included in this amazing run of uninterrupted TV spotlight, some of them really do make you wonder what the companies concerned hoped to achieve, with the chances of an embarrassingly one-sided contest surely outweighing by far any prospect of a surprise. It begs the question of whether broadcasters are putting too high a priority on audience over entertainment value. There may be a certain piquant charm in seeing the likes of Burton Albion gazing wide-eyed at the immensity of the Theatre of Hollow Myths, but some of the ties televised have lacked even this saving grace. Middlesbrough, Fulham or Reading at home? Hardly sets the pulse racing, does it?

Ten years on from that neglected Exeter tie, the unprecedented run of unbroken TV coverage shows no sign of ending. Despite a less than challenging tie away to either Accrington Stanley (who are dey??) or Yeovil to kick off their 2015 FA Cup campaign, the Pride of Devon have once again been selected for live coverage, much to the joy of their loyal fans from Milton Keynes to Singapore and back again.

Any hint of complaint about Manchester United will, naturally, bring anguished howls of protest from the direction of London and Devon, as hard-core Reds, some of whom may even have visited Old Trafford, loudly complain about this latest manifestation of “jealousy”. It’s become rather a knee-jerk reaction, but there’s really not a lot of foundation for it. Anyone truly motivated by envy (jealousy means something different, chaps, look it up) has a simple solution at hand – simply jump aboard the bandwagon. The prevalence of the Old Trafford club on our TV screens will certainly garner them increased “support” from those who just want to be identified with such a vulgar example of a club gorging (until lately) on success. It is the more negative effect of blanket coverage that should be worrying, not so much for Manchester United, but for the sport itself in a wider sense.

There is a danger here, after all, that the media have not only created a monster, but that they are actively encouraging that monster to eclipse all their rivals. The basis of any sport must be healthy competition, but there is disquieting evidence that the playing field has not been level for a long time now. It doesn’t take too much digging to unearth some unsettling trends. One study over a number of matches suggested that 88% of all marginal decisions went the way of Manchester United, and of course there was also a distinct lack of penalties awarded against them in league games at Old Trafford over a period of years.

There have also been instances of referees who had displeased former tyrant manager Alex Ferguson mysteriously disappearing for months from their fixtures. In a game of fine margins, as any game is at professional level, evidence that one club enjoys preferential treatment is a matter of concern. Such a trend, given the amount of money flowing into the game, could easily lead that one club into an unhealthy dominance, to the detriment, ultimately, of the spectacle as a whole. Fierce competition is so crucial to any healthy sport, that the importance of this principle is difficult to overstate.

Success, they say, is all about the steady accumulation of marginal gains. Manchester United as an institution appears fully to appreciate this, as any club should. But these days, the media are the game’s paymasters, particularly the TV companies – and when they start favouring one club above all others, then you have to fear for the ability of others to compete in the long term. It’s a matter of concern – and it could easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as more coverage (of an almost exclusively favourable nature) promotes more support ever further afield for “United” as the media love to call them. And the more support they gain, the more of a market there is which will feed on their success, so the more commercially desirable their success will become – and commercial pressure speaks volumes when knife-edge decisions are to be made.

It would be difficult to imagine that any other club should have such a long, unbroken run of live TV coverage in their F.A. Cup ties. In the 3rd round of last year’s competition, they figured in their 42nd consecutive such event when Swansea knocked out the media favourites at the earliest stage possible amid national media mourning with black armbands de rigueur in press rooms everywhere.

As a Leeds United supporter, I’ve had cause to bless the tendency of TV companies to cover even the games where “United” seem certain to roll over the opposition. On January 3rd 2010, Leeds, then of the third tier, triumphed at Old Trafford before a live ITV audience, sending the Champions spinning out of the Cup at the first time of asking. But satisfactory as this was, it’s the exception, not the rule – normally the colossus will trample the underdogs, and their millions of fans worldwide will be happy. But what about the rest of us? Are we to continue paying our satellite subscriptions, and buying our match tickets, for the privilege of watching Man U clean up as the stakes become higher, and the odds become ever more skewed in their favour?

Nowadays, of course, there is hot competition between various companies for the right to show plum ties. Rightly or wrongly, the men in suits behind the scenes seem to regard any Man U tie as “plum” – whatever the opposition. They will wring their hands and argue (probably rightly) that if they don’t take the option of showing the next Pride of Devon cup event, then some other TV station will. For better or worse, there appears to be no prospect of any cup match featuring the media darlings being left off our screens – however boring, turgid or predictable such games might frequently be.

So the view seems to be that Man U are good for the TV companies, good for audiences, good for advertisers – and clearly the guaranteed coverage is good news for Nigel McWurzel and his plastic glory-hunting chums in their bedsits in Torquay. But it’s not good for the game, not good for fairness of competition, and decidedly not fair on other clubs. Will this situation be tolerated ad infinitum? probably not. At some point, worms will start turning and – at the risk of mixing metaphors – maybe the bubble will finally burst. Then, chill winds of reality will blast through the offices of the TV moguls. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Crocodile Tears from Lineker and Stelling Won’t Fool Leeds Fans – by Rob Atkinson

Gary "Wingnut" Lineker

Gary “Wingnut” Lineker

What have Gary Lineker and Jeff Stelling got in common? Well, they’re both engaging chaps who front popular football programmes on the telly; they have both developed a “style” – for want of a better word – designed to endear them to the less demanding fans out there – and, most recently, they have both taken out an onion and wept tears of breathtaking falseness over what they sincerely hope is the impending demise of Leeds United.

Lineker is the latest incarnation of Match of the Day man, presiding over the ongoing popularity of a football highlights programme with fifty years of variable quality behind it. It was under his stewardship that one of the programme’s less glorious deeds was perpetrated when, in the wake of S’ralex’s long-overdue retirement from the Theatre of Hollow Myths, the programme put together a montage of managerial greats, with the Purple-Nosed One at the head of the parade, natch. This item was notable to real students of the game for its studied failure to even mention the name of the greatest club manager of all, Sir Don Revie. It was a tawdry attempt to reinvent history and appeal in the most insidious and deceitful fashion to the vast army of the programme’s viewers out there who “all hate Leeds” – but couldn’t tell you why, beyond a mumbled “….well, me Dad hated ’em, like…” Complaints to the BBC elicited nothing more than that cowardly corporation’s usual bland, patronising stonewall response – and Lineker did nothing other than essay his well-practised boyish grin, which apparently has middle-aged women the nation over suddenly needing a change of undies.

Now Lineker’s Twitter account states that he “genuinely feels for Leeds fans”. He clearly feels the need to qualify his sincerity by use of that word “genuinely” – that’s a sign of someone talking about someone or something on which they’d normally waste no finer feelings. But Gary feels “the heart has been torn out of the club”, hence his crocodile tears. Well, we’ll wait until the next time Match of the Day needs to revisit the managerial greats issue, thanks, and see if you’ve actually learned anything – no breath will be held.

Stelling: Countdown to hypocrisy

Stelling: Countdown to hypocrisy

Jeff Stelling is a sort of semi-comic front man for Sky’s Soccer Saturday programme, where one of his chief delights is to let a few seconds of tension build up for Leeds fans out there in TV land, before delivering a hammer blow with news of another goal against us – all with that trademark smug smirk on his gob. Now he, too, has chosen to sob publicly about his anguish over the Leeds situation. Jeff clearly thinks no small beans of himself – part of his counterfeit yet tear-stained lament includes the telling phrase “On the field, it is a total shambles with unknown player after unknown player coming into the club – I defy Leeds fans to say they have heard of them because I certainly haven’t – and it looks like it is going to be a terrible, terrible season”. Overlooking for a moment the fierce hope detectable in those last few words, it’s amusing to see that Stelling is so sure that, if he’s never heard of a player, then no Leeds fan can possibly have heard of him either. That’s some ego, for a Hartlepool fan. Unbelievable, Jeff! If he were to cast his mind back, Stelling might possibly reflect on who, exactly, had heard of Patrick Vieira before he signed for Arsenal – or Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Leeds), Eric Cantona (Sheffield Wendies on trial), and so on and so forth. Mr Stelling should, perhaps, wind his neck in a little and admit the possibility that he is not the fount of all football wisdom – except, maybe, when compared to Paul “I fink he’s only got free goals all season, Jeff” Merson. The Sky front-man’s expert opinion is that Leeds are doomed to relegation this season. Wishful thinking, Jeff?

When times are hard and you’re not all that popular to begin with, then you should expect wolves in sheep’s clothing, people who will smile and smile and be villains, well-meaning types who will sidle around behind as if to pat you on the back, before slipping a knife between your ribs. Leeds United and Leeds fans should be familiar from past experience with all of these unsavoury types, and their crocodile tears and weasel words should not fool us now. Just wait for better times to roll around, and the soft sawder and treacly syrup of ersatz sympathy will disappear like a ghost at cock-crow – it’ll be all open nastiness and overt bitching again. And do you know? I actually prefer it that way, so please bring it on.

We’re Leeds United, we hate to be pitied and we love to be hated. Your hate is what makes us stronger, after all – so please forget all the bovine ordure Gary and Jeff – let’s get back to normal eh? As soon as you like, there’s good chaps.

New Era of Success for West Ham Could See End of Leeds Obsession – by Rob Atkinson

New Plans for Allardyce and West Ham

New Plans for Allardyce and West Ham

After a long history of flattering to deceive, West Ham United, doyens of London’s East End as the locally-famous ‘Appy ‘Ammers, are at last about to embark on a period of real achievement – by the simple expedient of switching their priorities away from the stony ground of league football, in which any seeds of success have stubbornly failed to flourish in the 119 year history of the club.  It’s a bold move – but the feeling is that something has to be done, as football has never been a happy environment for the Hammers or for their long-suffering fans, many of whom would rather talk and write about true giants of the game, such as Leeds United – rather than waste any time on the Boleyn Boys.

In that long history, there has been the odd Cup success, including – as many Hammers fans would have you believe – the World Cup in 1966.  But league success – that true indicator of a big and successful club – has eluded the East London hopefuls.  Their best top-flight finish was third, 29 years ago.  A symbol of the club has been the bubble, famously linked to West Ham by their “Forever Blowing Bubbles” theme song.  Like the bubble, they can be pretty, and they can promise to fly high – but again, as with the delicate and fragile ephemeral phenomenon that is that glistening envelope of water, they tend to flourish only briefly before bursting abruptly and disappearing from view.

Now, the club’s owners, highly respectable porn barons Sullivan and Gold, have had enough of all that bubble stuff, and they intend to seek success where it might more feasibly be achieved.  A source close to the two dirty old men was quoted as saying, “The guys see us as having more potential in the field of light entertainment, rather than plodding around a football field with a load of rough boys, getting kicked and invariably losing.  So the plan is to switch targets for this coming season; we’ll be entering a team into Strictly Come Dancing, and we might possibly stick a couple of likely solo acts into BGT or maybe even the X-Factor.  But all of that is just the beginning.  If this goes as well as we think it might, we’ll be pulling out all the stops and giving it the full 150% for The Big One.  Yes, folks – watch out.  The Hammers are going all out to win Eurovision in 2015!  We just have to do something – win something – to get our fans talking about us – instead of bloody Leeds United all the time.  It’s humiliating…”

A source at the FA was cautious when asked for a reaction to this.  “It’s quite unprecedented for a club to pull out of league competition and concentrate on light entertainment, dancing, crooning, acrobatics, prestidigitation – that sort of thing.  We did have that time when Man U pulled out of the FA Cup to go poncing about on a beach in South America, but …”  Our man scratched his head, bemused like.  “We’ll have to see what the full committee make of it.  I suppose if any club were to make this sort of switch, it’s more likely to be West Ham than anybody else.”

The mood at Upton Park, though, is one of grim determination.  “By the time we switch to the Olympic Stadium, we want some silverware on the sideboard,” said our source. “Dancing, magic, tricks with dogs, anything. Singing, certainly.  Look at the bearded lass who won Eurovision just the other week.  Dead spit of Billy Bonds, she were – weren’t he?”  When asked whether the Hammers would still be playing football at their new venue, our man was cagey.  “There’s more to life than bleedin’ football, you know! There’s lots we could do there to make a crowd like ours happy.  Dancing on ice, all sorts.  Just watch us go, once we start winning stuff. You wait and see, mate, you just wait and see – starting with ‘Strictly‘.”

In related news, the club are expected to announce that the iconic “Forever Blowing Bubbles” song is to be dropped, with immediate effect, due – it is said – to those connotations of fragility and ultimate disappointment. Instead, and to signal an era of success unknown in the ‘Ammers’ ‘Istory, the club tune will be “Stranger in Paradise” from the start of the 2014/15 “Strictly Come Dancing” season.  It is anticipated that new lyrics will be sung by the Upton Park crowd, beginning “Hail Fat Sam, He’s a Walrus Called Allardyce”.

The Hammers’ two surviving World Cup winners, Martin Peters and Sir Geoff Hurst, have issued a joint statement, reading simply: “It’s Bobby Moore that we feel for.  If he was alive today, he’d be turning in his grave.”

Alf Garnett is 95 (and supports Spurs).

Leeds Humbled in Cup: The “Soccer Saturday” Experience – by Rob Atkinson

Merse at the back, looking “fick”

So, it was FA Cup time again – a competition where we’ve actually done OK these past few years, as a bit of light relief from generally mediocre league form. This year, the Cup Magic was to be non-existent, the Cup run very short and not so sweet. Out we went, humbled by League Two Rochdale, of whom it must be said: they deserved it. 5-0 would hardly have flattered them. Leeds played like a side who felt they had only to turn up to win; the thing is, they didn’t really even turn up.

But are we downhearted? Well, yes – some of us are. But not me. I’ve grown out of disappointment at cup exits. They’ve happened every year, twice a year – sometimes more in really good seasons when we’ve qualified to be beaten by some continental team – for all of the forty-odd years that I’ve actually cared. You become immune – and that helps, especially when our league status argues that we’re never going to have a chance of winning the bloody thing anyway. Let’s worry about cups when, on form, we should beat pretty well anybody. When those days return, the cups will look a lot more likely and a lot more attractive.

Today, without a match ticket and with no live TV coverage, I gave myself over to the tender mercies of the Sky Sports “Soccer Saturday” team.  It was an enlightening experience, confirming for me that, yes, we played terribly and that, yes, they still hate us.  We’re still the Damned United.  At one point, Jeff Stelling told us that he’d been told to stop referring to us as “the Mighty Leeds”.  He didn’t say by whom – I had it narrowed down to Phil Thompson (still bitter over some ribald jibes at his Manilowesque nose from the Gelderd End back in the day) and Paul Merson who, as the token Fick Cockney, simply doesn’t know any better.

Stelling got more excited as the afternoon went on, returning frequently to Spotland for reassurances that Leeds weren’t threatening to get back into the game (we weren’t, either).  His references to our glorious Cup history, for the purpose of contrasting today’s dismal display, seemed a little forced as we’ve only won it once – 42 years ago.  But Jeff wanted this to be the Marquee Giant-Killing, and he bigged it up accordingly.

It’s not as if there weren’t other shocks.  Villa lost at home to third division Sheffield United, much to the joy of their Cup-hating manager Paul Lambert.  Donny lost to little Stevenage – and the excitement of this game was enough to bring on earache, as the reporter at the Keepmoat was one John Gwynne.  He has one of those “rich north country” voices which sound like a goose farting through a foghorn, and many were the updates he loudly bawled, with scant regard for the sensitivities of the more delicate viewer.

Soccer Saturday sets its stall out to entertain as well as inform – which is presumably why they employ clowns like Merson (How’s it going Merse?  Still free-nil, Jeff.)  One of their comedy themes lately has been the appalling record of Hyde in the Skrill Premier League.  They’ve gained only three points all season and have a goal difference of minus 51.  Today, they lost 4-0 at Gateshead – one of their better results of this campaign.  But on this FA Cup day, the chance was missed to mention that Hyde are record breakers themselves, having once lost 26-0 to Preston in the 1887-88 competition.  Surely, they could have got a bon mot or two out of that?  But no, sadly they were too ill-informed – unless I missed it in listening out for a Leeds recovery.

Back at Spotland, it was becoming ever more obvious that our beloved United were merely going through the motions and that the mighty Rochdale were having it easy.  A richly-deserved second goal arrived, and we were well and truly Out – much to the malicious satisfaction of the United-Damning hacks in the Sky studio.  The Leeds fans packed behind the goal at Rochdale’s ground took it all in good part.  “We’re shit, and we’re sick of it,” they bellowed, displaying a keen sense of observation as well as a powerful collective ability to convey angst.  Sad to report, they gave Brian McDermott a pretty frosty reception at the end of the game.  It is to be hoped that the resolve of that gentleman was stiffened, rather than shattered.  My money is on him; he’s a never-give-up type.  He’ll have to be.

Worse things happen at sea – or, indeed, at Histon.  Rochdale have done well at home this season and in Keith Hill they have a manager who’s used to slaying the Whites with a nominally inferior team – he did it all the time at Barnsley.  His side played football today that put to shame the more direct approach of Leeds, but there is a lesson to be learned and it’s to be hoped the players learn it.  No league points were lost today, as Brian McDermott, looking for scraps of consolation, ruefully remarked.  And of course it seems likely that big changes are afoot.  For all the hysterical reaction over this defeat, you’d think that people out there actually thought we might have gone on to win the Cup.  Truly, that was never going to happen.  So, what have we lost, after all?  Only the chance to be beaten in the next round or two, possibly by someone against whom we’d simply hate to lose.  What should we do, then?  Why, we should draw a line under it sharpish, and move on.

This season is not going to be a season of on-field achievement – I will confidently predict that here and now.  The progress made this season will be mainly off the field, as a hideously-neglected scouting network comes online, and investment makes possible the instigation of a more progressive transfer policy.  Plans are afoot for Elland Road too, to brush up some of the tired old fabric of the place.  It’s long overdue – and I know people will say “Get the team sorted first”.  But there’s no reason why both areas can’t be addressed at the same time, if the right levels of investment are – as rumoured – shortly to be available.

The baseline requirement for this season, football-wise, is not to go down.  Making the play-offs would be a massive bonus; actually going up, little short of a miracle.  We’re currently just too far behind the teams that have invested properly for this level – they will likely pull away as the months go by.  Going up next season, on the other hand, is a reasonable ambition; there are three transfer windows to do the necessary work.  I would happily settle for that as the immediate aim – if next season is to be the Big Push, then there’s a lot of excitement in store.

Who knows?  Perhaps in a year or two, we really will be “Mighty Leeds” again, and maybe Jeff Stelling will even be allowed to admit it.  Won’t that be a glorious day?  And as for Paul Merson – well, he can bladdy-well stick his hard-of-finking objections where the sun don’t shine, squire.

Sky Sports Football Coverage Crisis Looms – by Rob Atkinson

Image

In the wake of this week’s Capital One Cup 3rd Round ties and the draw for the 4th round of the competition, a looming crisis for the BSkyB organisation – rights holders for live TV coverage – has been revealed.  The draw has thrown up ties between Newcastle and Manchester City, clearly a glamour tie – and also, before the determination of the West Bromwich versus Arsenal 3rd round game, the winners of that were pitted against Chelsea.  Arsenal duly went on to knock West Brom out on penalties, to confirm a London derby against Chelsea at the Emirates – and Sky TV were thrown into immediate crisis.

The problem lies in the unacknowledged Sky protocol known within the organisation by the secret code-phrase “Some Clubs Ultimately Matter” (SCUM).  The origin of this protocol goes back at least eight years in the case of the FA Cup.  Statistics for the secondary League Cup competition are not available owing to its comparative lack of importance. However, a Sky TV spokesperson admitted that the last Man U game not to have been broadcast live was “a bloody long time ago, like when Noah was a lad”.

The SCUM protocol is of such importance to Sky TV’s marketing and commercial departments that it is regarded as the prime reference document when live TV games are chosen.  Hence the dilemma now being faced by decision-makers, who normally at least attempt to put up some sort of justification for selecting yet another tedious Man U stroll at an embarrassingly quiet Theatre of Hollow Myths.  Off the record, a Sky commentator remarked, “We’ve got a problem this time.  People are going to want to see the two obvious stand-out ties in the next round.  Newcastle v City and Arsenal v Chelsea are both huge.  We’ll struggle to justify leaving one of those out to cover Man U reserves diving for penalties against a pallid side like Norwich”.

There was some glimmer of hope for the Sky executives in the short time between the draw being made and the end of the West Brom v Arsenal tie.  Sky Sports News covered the penalty shoot-out at the Hawthorns by remote reporting, and it would appear that pundit Alan McInally had failed to read the SCUM script.  Executives and studio presenters alike cringed as the Scot egged on Arsenal’s collection of spotty pubescent junior footballers to convert the penalties needed for victory.  It is expected that McInally may be carpeted and reminded of his responsibilities to shareholders.

“The problem is,” confirmed Sky’s un-named spokesperson, “if we failed to show a Man U cup game, we’d get flooded with complaints from Devon, Cornwall, the Home Counties – all over the south of England really.  That’s a lot of Sky subscriptions – we have to take our commercial survival seriously.  That’s why the SCUM protocol is so important to us.”

A high-level meeting is expected in the next few days to try and thrash out some acceptable fiction whereby either the game at Newcastle or the one at Arsenal can be omitted to allow the organisation to fulfill its obligations to SCUM and the Man U supporters, the bulk of whom live within easy travelling distance of Sky’s Isleworth HQ.  “We have to sort this out,” said one harrassed executive, “At the end of the day, SCUM is too vital to us all for considerations of mere football merit to prevail.”