I DO LIKE MONDAYS
It might be thought easier to find Osama Bin Laden
arguing with Lord Lucan on the deck of the Marie Celeste
over whose turn it is to ride Shergar than to tune in
to a football-based TV programme that doesn't insult your intelligence.
But such a beast actually exists.
STV's 'Monday Night Live' is
a pure joy to behold. No fancy gimmicks, no techno-babble, no sycophantic
interviews, no mangling of the English language a la Charlie
Nicholas. Just a host and two studio guests. Three talking heads
spouting off in a studio for an hour. A format that is a throwback
to the sixties. And it works - sometimes beautifully so.
And, as a bonus, Archie Gemmill's miracle goal
against Holland in the 1978 World Cup is shown in
the credits (twice) every week. Makes a change from having to watch
a certain Wembley game from some twelve years beforehand
every five minutes
For the uninitiated, MNL goes out on STV after
the news so it can vary between 10.30-11.00. Host Jim Delahunt
introduces current topics to studio regular Graeme Spiers
of the Herald and one other guest. In recent weeks these
have included Channel 4's Stuart Cosgrove and the
doyen of Scottish football writers, the inimitable and irreplaceable
Apart from the odd mistake like inviting on kiddies
computer games-obsessive and all-round non-entity Dominik Diamond
who thought it was a real hoot to throw things onto the pitch (
a week before Robbie Winters was struck by a coin), the show
seldom fails to inform and entertain. Cosgrove showed that it is
possible to be sarcastic AND humorous (Spiers will think twice
before ever producing a hanky in public again) in a way that
the idiotic Diamond could never be. Nor, for that matter, the pathetically
unfunny Frank Skinner.
Still, I suppose that as a St Johnstone supporter,
it's necessary for Cosgrove to possess a sense of the absurd.
Bob Crampsey used to save the day in the old
Scotsport studio by coming on to deliver an unscripted live
monologue on the Second Division promotion race or something equally
unprepossessing every time the cameras failed (which was often)
and end up captivating his audience with enthralling tales of the
good old days at Queen's Park.
Age hasn't withered him. When Spiers talked about
the venerable Bob as being old in a discussion on league reconstruction,
Crampsey gently reminded him that in the period in question (the
1970s) that he (Crampsey) had merely been middle-aged.
As for the look on Delahunt's face when he thought
that Crampsey was telling him that Jimmy Hill had died, as
they debated the rights and wrongs of silences before matches, well
it was absolutely priceless.
It really is impossible to put down in cyber-print
just how good this show can be. Of course anyone based in Scotland
can see it for themselves, but so now can anyone in the rest of
the UK, Ireland or mainland Europe who possesses a Sky satellite
dish and digibox ( see also article below). Here's how.
Press the services button on your remote control.
Go to System set-up. Then to Add Channels. Now key in the following
Symbol Rate: 22.000
Perform a search and choose which of the ITV regions
that come up ( in this instance Scottish, Grampian, Ulster and Channel
Islands) you want to store. Store them all if you like. To watch
them, press Services, then Other Channels, then the channel of your
choice. Using slightly different settings it is possible to to store
ALL ITV regions. Oddly enough if you are a customer of ITV Digital,
you are unable to receive these channels.
If you don't have Sky Digital or live outside Europe
and want to watch some intelligent football patter, then beg someone
you know to send you a video in a compatible format.
Sky's own 'Inside Scottish Football' is a
useful enough programme but it is very much Rolf Harris to
BBC'S OWN GOAL
When this writer first scrambled over the top of Hadrian's
Wall nigh on thirty years ago, keeping in touch with Scottish
football was a difficult task. Radio Scotland could be heard
clearly about one minute in every five, a daily newspaper could
only be bought if living close to a major railway station, the Sunday
Mail and the Sunday Post could be obtained only if in
possession of a map which highlighted specialist newsagents with
pinpoint geographical accuracy, and even phone calls back home were
subject to the Rice Krispies effect - snap, crackle and pop.
When Scotland beat Wales at Anfield
to qualify for the Argentina World Cup (thanks be to the
Hand of Jord), the Middlesbrough division of the Tartan
Army had to hire a minibus and drive 120 miles north to get
to a village past Berwick which had BBC Scotland reception.
Gradually, things got better. Teletext brought
patchy match reports, but reports nonetheless. The Record, Herald
and Scotsman became more readily available and satellite
TV coverage was admittedly far superior to the much-loved memories
of Arthur Montford.
Today, the Scot based in the rest of the UK, Ireland
or mainland Europe has never had it so good. Digital TV brings live
matches on a regular basis. Digital radio is so good that I can
hear broadcasts far more clearly in Cornwall than I ever did living
in the North-East of England. I can even have an early edition of
a daily paper (the ones on sale at Glasgow Central at 8pm) delivered
through my front door. And thanks again to digital TV, I can write
this after watching Scotsport on STV.
For those further afield, the net has become a godsend.
Newspapers, radio stations, club websites, online fanzines - all
have proliferated in the digital age. The BBC in particular
deserves praise for broadcasting every SPL match live since
Yet that same BBC scores disastrous own goals with
the handful of live games it covers domestically. These matches
are shown on BBC1 Scotland and therefore can be watched by
a Scottish-based audience only. There is no technical reason
why satellite digital viewers elsewhere in the UK and Europe cannot
receive this channel, but they don't. To compound matters, BBC2
Scotland CAN be accessed on satellite, yet the Beeb refuses
to show its games on that channel. Why not? Do they think the
viewer is too stupid to flick a switch? Or point a remote? All
STV live games can be viewed, at no extra cost, by the satellite
The BBC has invested heavily in digital TV, recently
launching two new children's channels which will provide an alternative
to the couch potato fodder offered by the existing Americanised
kids channels. BBC Knowledge has a superb range of programmes
and I can even find a few kind words for BBC Choice (gives
you the new Vic and Bob and lets you see EastEnders late). So
this is not the bog-standard anti-BBC "why do they waste
my licence money on this crap" rant that is all too sadly
common. Just a plea to the football-loving (well, Man U anyway)
Director-General Greg Dyke: either let BBC1 Scotland
become available to digital viewers or move your Scottish games
to BBC2 Scotland.<