I’M beginning to suspect that John Roder enjoys commentating on the Premier League’s less glamorous matches.
Witness the bon mots he came out with while watching Stoke and Fulham grind to a halt at the Britannia Stadium.
1) “If the first 35 minutes of this game came out as a film, it would go straight to DVD.”
2) “You get the feeling that these two teams wouldn’t score if this game went on until midnight.”
3) “There’s nothing like a good game. And this is nothing like a good game.”
4) “I might spend most of my Saturdays being confronted with strong evidence that the Premier League is not the best in the world after all, but at least I don’t have to commentate on celebrities being pushed into a pool by a giant polystyrene wall like Jonathan Pearce does.”
OK, I made the last two up. Nonetheless, Roder has turned the job of covering the final game on Match of the Day into an art form.
If you want to send a commentator to some giant shoebox of a stadium, in the middle of a windswept retail park, to watch two teams made up of ex-Championship and French League players scrap out a goalless draw among flying crisp packets, Roder is your man.
He covered the final game on MOTD more often than any other commentator last season – and it seems he knows his place.
More than once, he has suggested to managers during post-match interviews that their game will be last on Match of the Day.
He did this with Paul Jewell at least once last season, and again recently with Steve Bruce after Wigan and Stoke were embroiled in a sleep-inducing goalless draw.
I have a feeling that Roder’s philosophy is: If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And if life gives you lots of terrible football matches to commentate on, then celebrate that fact.
Last night’s final match: Stoke 0 Fulham 0
Commentator: John Roder
By Roder’s standards, Stoke against Fulham was a thriller, thanks to the following three incidents:
1) Rory Delap’s shoulder. Delap has had a pain-killing injection for a shoulder problem. During the first half, he tried to hurl one of his long throws into the area.
But he couldn’t do it. The ball dropped out of his hands and travelled about 10 feet. It was an alarming sight; like watching a super hero suddenly stripped of all his powers.
I half-expected a close-up of Delap staring forlornly at his arms, crying: “But . . . my . . . magic . . . throw. It’s . . . GONE.”
2) Danny Higginbotham’s blatant handball. The Stoke defender had a ‘Hand Of God’ moment later in the first half, flapping at a cross with his right arm and almost punching it behind for a corner.
It should have been a penalty. But Stuart Atwell – a referee who isn’t having much luck this season – not only missed the incident, but could then be seen telling Fulham’s protesting players that Higginbotham headed it.
3) John Pantsil’s theatrics. The Fulham midfielder clashed with Ricardo Fuller in the second half.
The two players went head to head like rutting stags, and then Pantsil waited a couple of seconds before falling to the ground clutching his face. Fuller was stupid to get involved; Pantsil was stupid in not realising just how many television cameras there are at Premier League games these days.
You see? Three incidents in one game. How can you call that dull? Now, when’s that DVD coming out?
1. Capello: 4 (GD: +1; CD: +4)
2. Fulham: 4 (GD: +1; CD: +1)
3. Wigan: 4 (GD: 0; CD: +2)
4. Middlesbrough: 4 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
5=. Blackburn: 4 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
5=. West Brom: 4 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
7. Stoke: 3 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
8. West Ham: 2 (GD: 0; CD: +2)
9=. Bolton: 2 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
9=. Newcastle: 2 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
11=. Gubba: 1 (GD: +1; CD: +1)
11=. Manchester City: 1 (GD: +1; CD +1)
13. Portsmouth: 1 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
14=. Everton: 1 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
14=. Hull: 1 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
14=. Sunderland: 1 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
17=. Arsenal: 0
17=. Aston Villa: 0
17=. Chelsea: 0
17=. Liverpool: 0
17=. Manchester United: 0
17=. Tottenham: 0
(NB: Teams level on points will be separated by Gubba difference: the number of times a team is last on Match of the Day with Tony Gubba commentating. If they are still level, they will be separated by Capello difference: the number of times a team is last on MOTD with Fabio Capello present.)