by Mike Forrest

I Miss Andy Gray

I miss Andy Gray. No, not the sexist, unfunny Andy Gray but the excitable Andy Gray that would bring excitement to our ears – enhancing the football television experience.

Gary Neville is a far better pundit than his predecessor, offering tactial insights and knowledge of the game that would be so unknown to Gray that he’d liken it to witchcraft. However Gray trumps Neville when it comes to commentating, and commentating is perhaps the most important part of the television football experience apart from the match itself of course.
As good as Gary Neville is on analysis and opinion, many more people will hear and listen to a commentator’s voice. Thus the onus is on Sky to get their partnership in the ‘gantry’ right.

Martin Tyler and Gray had a formidable repotoire and they’d be able to bounce off one another adding to the excitement of the match. For the biggest game of the season on Monday Sky had Tyler and Niall Quinn commentating. Tyler was great as usual but Quinn’s passive, laissez faire, mundane tone and his constant use of the word “tenacity” (I swear he must have a business called tenacity and was trying to subliminaly advertise it) took away from the spectacle.

For all of Gray’s flaws as a tv professional – and there were many – he still retains the niche of being best co commentator bar none. I’d rather his passionate “OH YOU BEAUTY” than Gary Nevilles pig like orgasmic squeal or Niall Quinns praising of everyone and everything – “Oh he really shook hands well there with the mascot, a great technique and shook the hand with tenacity, you could tell he really wanted it”…

Di Matteo Di Man

Roberto Di Matteo has been quite simply fantastic at Chelsea. From orchestrating victory over  Barcelona to overseeing Fernando Torres score a hattrick, it certainly seems the quaint Italian has the midas touch.

However is it right that he is being so successful at Chelsea? How can a manager that fails to win a game for nearly two months at a non-entity like West Brom  be doing so well at Chelsea?
Surely this totally disproves the myth that if a world class manager like Alex Ferguson or José Mourihno managed a club like West Brom they would do well? Going by Di Matteo’s form, they most definitely wouldn’t.

I am not equating Roberto Di Matteo to Ferguson but is the importance of managers overestimated? Chelsea are blessed with a talented and a driven squad and Di Matteo is merely the coach that puts the easy pieces together and, with a smidgen of tactical nous, just look at the success he is having.

Does Di Matteo prove that you just need an ambitious, desire filled and talented squad to be successful and that the stature of the manager is mainly irrelevent? What would happen for instance if Ian Holloway managed Tottenham? Would his prowess at coaching attacking football work wonders at Tottenham, or what about if Brendan Rodgers went to Barcelona? Pep Guardiola started out as a youth team coach and just look at how brilliant he was as manager.

I can’t help but wonder if Di Matteo’s success, sorry chance at success, will evolutionise English football. Managers will be gone, there will be a director of football whose sole focus will be to sign players and a coach to coach them.

Of course there is a type of system like that already, one which Liverpool abysmally and expensively failed at but Di Matteo is proving that might be worth perservering with.

Obi Wan Elbow

On Wednesday night we witnessed the beauty of football but also its hideous side. Papiss Cissé provided the delights, whilst John Obi Mikel perpertrated the despicable.

The brilliance of Cissé’s goals has rightly drawn a vast amount of attention. However in his goals wake, John Obi Mikel’s crime has gone virtually unnoticed.

For those of you who don’t know what I am talking about, here’s the backstory. Cheick Tiote, renowned for his tough tackling and tendency to get booked, caught Mikel with a slightly mistimed tackle; something which Mikel has been guilty off in the past. The Chelsea midfielder took exception to this and seemingly made it his aim to attain retribution.
He aveneged the mistimed tackle by duly pounding his elbow viciously into Tiote’s head when going up for a header. Tiote had to receive medical attention for 10 minutes. Job done for the Nigerian.

Now I am not saying that Mikel deliberately went out to cause as much damage as he did but in my opinion as soon as he elbows Tiote, he immediately swivels around in a way seemingly to check if he had excercised sufficient damage rather than as an apologetic stance.

If that elbow had been made by someone like Roy Keane there would have been a witch hunt, but Mikel – even in the powerful glare of the Premier League – is a much lesser-profiled player who largely slips under everyone’s radar. His elbow was just as brutal as Keane’s challenge on Alf Haaland, of this I am no doubt.

Of course Mikel escaped a red card from referee Mark Halsey and presumably he will also dodge any retospective punishment from the F.A or his club and what a shame – for it really was a sickening “challenge”. It was something you would be more accustomed to seeing in UFC than a football match.