I don’t have a T.V. I’m no technophobe but I haven’t had a telly for years and never feel that I’m missing much. I do sometimes watch it at other peoples’ houses and I know there are some great programmes around but I think Bruce Springsteen wasn’t far wrong when he sang “fifty-seven channels and nothing on”. Much fuss has been made this weekend about the 80th anniversary of the first football match to be broadcast on the radio and I’ve been tuning in for, God help me, more than half of that time.
At the moment I’m listening to the Arsenal v Man United match and I was originally intending to watch it at the pub but in the end I couldn’t be bothered as the Radio 5 commentary gradually lured me in. These days you can listen to Sunderland on SAFC.com or search around on the Internet and try to find a commentary on a local station while the B.B.C. are never far behind in giving goal-flashes and maybe live summaries. The good thing about the radio is that you don’t have to sit still and you can do whatever you want at the same time. You can even nod off on the settee and let the commentary enter your dreams. Considering our form in recent years i.e. B.K. (Before Keane), dreaming was probably a better option than the real-life nightmare.
Arsene Wenger was talking earlier today about the benefits of the radio
and cited the way it encourages us to use our imagination and I completely agree with him, though I think old Arsene uses a little too much imagination at times when it comes to interpreting the actions of his own players. When you’re listening to the match you’re obviously dependent on the words of the commentators as well as their expert summarizers but the reactions of the crowd are a major contributing factor too. Going back a few years I was dozing in bed one Saturday afternoon listening to the West Brom v Sunderland match and every time a certain Baggies player got the ball and moved forward he electrified the crowd and sounded very dangerous. I found myself shouting “get it off the bastard!” on more than one occasion and it quite disturbed my slumbers. That player’s name was – step forward, Kevin Kilbane. Well, he never reached such heights for us or was it just the deceptive power of the radio? Maybe if he hadn’t been booed so much by elements of the SoL crowd we would’ve seen the best of him. At any rate, he’s played almost continuously in the Premiership since we sold him.
I’ve got my favourite radio commentators and top of the pile is Alan Green. He always tells it like it is and clearly loves the game. I saw a picture of him recently and he was nothing like I’d imagined him but he sounds like the kind of guy you could sit around in the pub with for hours shooting the breeze about football and having a good laugh. I also find ex-Sunderland player Chris Waddle entertaining, especially when he tries to alter his Geordie vowels and says that he can see it going to pelanties. Still, he’s played at the top level – Roker Park and Italia ‘90– and his comments are valid most of the time.
I can happily live without some bloke announcing the zones of the pitch in which the ball is being played, as they used to in the early days, but it has to be said that sometimes goals seem to come out of nowhere and the commentator hasn’t had a chance to come up with any words before you hear the roar of the crowd. The absence of a picture can make the last few minutes of a crucial match almost unbearable as I pace the room glancing at my watch to count the seconds down, moving plants about, putting books away and basically doing anything to pass the time till I hear the whistle blow. Some matches especially stick in the mind and the second Peter Reid Era victory at St James’s Park was particularly enjoyable. I even recorded it and listened to parts of it later. I do get out now and again as well.
As for the Sheffield Wednesday match – as usual we threatened to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and the team deserved a bit of a bollocking from the manager for that. But it’s clear that we’re well on the way to better things. Just how much better remains to be seen but after a weekend off we’ve got three very winnable home games coming up and these are followed by six-pointers against Birmingham, Derby and West Brom in late Feb and early March. Victory in one or more of these will really put us in the driving seat.