Dark forces

AS regular readers of this blog will already be aware, I know nothing. Three days ago, I suggested Richard Keys and Andy Gray would survive Offsidegate. First Gray went, sacked. Then Keys parcelled up his career and hurled it on to the nearest tip with one of the most extraordinary radio interviews I’ve ever heard.

“Why have you decided to come in here and talk to us?” Paul Hawksbee asked Keys at the start of his appearance on TalkSport this afternoon. Keys spent the next hour trying to say sorry for his remarks about Sian Massey at Molineux, trying to explain himself and, in places, trying to justify himself. It was the sound of career suicide.

TalkSport interview: Full transcript (via Daily Mirror website)

Dear God, where to begin? There was the reference to “dark forces”, who allegedly prevented Keys from apologising publicly on Sunday before the story mushroomed. There was his early claim that he and Gray were being “ironic”. (I’m not convinced he knew what the word meant.)

There was his insistence that the details of his apologetic phone call to Sian Massey the same day would remain private – followed by his revealing of parts of the conversation. And there was his suggestion that he and Gray were more pumped up than usual at Wolves on Saturday because their special guest was Matt Murray.

There were digs at Rio Ferdinand (for criticising him), at Karren Brady (for not taking the call when Keys phoned to apologise on Sunday), at the media (for being the media). It was funnier than Alan Partridge, sadder than Noel Edmonds, weirder than David Icke in places.

Did Keys really, at one point, suggest that he had “behavioural problems”? It would appear that he did, in response to a question about off-air comments concerning an ex-girlfriend of Jamie Redknapp. Did he really claim that the release of his off-air comments was comparable with phone hacking? Yes he did. And did he really claim that, had his comments about Massey not been made public, that he would have phoned her anyway to apologise? He did.

And I wondered about that. “This story first broke in the Mail on Sunday, in the second editions,” Keys said. “And I looked at it and I scratched my head and I thought: ‘You fool.’”

Really? That Mail on Sunday piece contains quotes from Keys, who was presumably contacted by a journalist late on Saturday for a response to their planned story. According to the article, this was what he said:

“I have no recollection of that. I have no idea what you are talking about. My recollection is that I wished the young lady all the best.”

When told a recording existed of the conversation, he said: “If you have a tape, then you don’t need me to talk to you.”

It’s possible Keys panicked, I guess. Confronted by potentially-awkward revelations, and with no time to think, his instinct may have told him to deny everything and hope it blew over. Maybe his mind changed when he saw the story in print.

But put that initial denial together with a whole series of attempts at self-justification during the TalkSport interview, and a picture emerges of a man who wasn’t sorry for what he said, but was sorry he got caught.

As Iain MacIntosh’s brilliant analysis of the TalkSport interview points out, nowhere was this clearer than in Keys’ comments on the Charlotte Jackson incident.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, Gray is seen during rehearsals for a Sky Sports Christmas show asking fellow presenter Charlotte Jackson to tuck a microphone pack into his trousers. While Keys laughs, Jackson ignores the comment. She doesn’t look like someone enjoying a piece of “banter” (a word Keys used several times this afternoon – and what a catch-all word it is).

Asked about the clip, Keys dropped himself right in it. “Charlotte can handle herself,” he said, hurriedly adding: “But that doesn’t make it right.” No, it doesn’t. It was a horrible, flippant response to a serious allegation – the response of someone who doesn’t really understand why they’re in trouble, but feels they must say sorry anyway.

Question marks remain. Keys’ reference to “dark forces” suggest – perhaps with some justification – a feeling that a person or people were out to bring him and Gray down. Alastair Campbell has suggested on Twitter that Gray’s pending legal battle with the News of the World over alleged phone hacking my have been a factor in his downfall. Keys, asked about that, was at least sensible enough not to speculate.

Keys could certainly be forgiven for looking at the amount of compromising footage that has suddenly come to light showing him and Gray acting like Neanderthal wazzocks, and wonder if they have been the victim of a hatchet job. There is enough there for conspiracy theorists to get their teeth into.

The other way of looking at it is that, with that much evidence piling up, both men have had this coming for some time. An anonymous article from a former Sky Sports employee, published on the New Statesman’s website earlier today, suggests there was a culture of misogyny at Sky Sports.

That article paints a picture of Keys and Gray as men so used to living in their own little bubble, they’d lost touch with the idea that other people might see the world differently.

Keys has, perhaps, now started to realise this, ending the interview by telling Hawksbee and his co-host Andy Jacobs that he was considering his resignation.

Three days ago, I suggested both man would come through with their jobs intact. Within 24 hours, Gray had gone, undone by evidence of his comments to Jackson. Given a chance to make amends for his own sexist remarks, Keys spent an hour on the radio effectively writing a resignation letter.

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One Response to Dark forces

  1. Chopper says:

    That New Statesmen article is interesting. I was thinking, before it really kicked-off, that whoever was in charge of Keys & Gray should have shared the blame. Sounds like Andy Melvin is that person and a pretty significant factor in the culture that clearly pervades Sky Sports Football coverage. Wouldn’t be surprised if he is quietly replaced in the next few months.

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