“You must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.” Samuel Beckett
“Ahhhhh, go on.” Mrs Doyle
* * *
According to Wikipedia, and thus the whole of the internet, Victoria Wood once had this to say about our great nation:
“When the Russians feel strongly about an issue, they form a bloody revolution. The British write a strongly-worded letter to Points Of View.”
I’m not so sure about that right now. But even after a week which has seen too many people take to city-centre streets to fight for their right to steal trainers and flat screen TVs, there are still plenty who have found time to tut over trivia.
Do people still write letters to Points Of View? I couldn’t tell you. It’s never been the same for me since the Barry Took era, although Anne Robinson was bearable enough. (No, really.)
In fact, I didn’t even realise it was still on until I searched online. (Jeremy Vine presents it, apparently.)
The whole concept of the show seems a bit outdated. In 2011, if angry from Manchester wants to complain about all the repeats on TV, the easiest way to do it is via Twitter. Barry Took’s not on there (sadly, he died in 2002), but most of the BBC seems to be.
Relatively new to the corporation’s tweeters is Match of the Day editor Paul Armstrong. I don’t know Armstrong, and it’s never a good idea to judge anyone’s personality purely from their Twitter contributions, but he comes across as a wry, good-humoured, enthusiastic, if somewhat put-upon character.
He has been put upon quite a lot since he joined Twitter, with a large volume of people rushing on demanding to know why Fulham/ Wigan/ Stoke/ Bolton/ Everton/ Wolves/ Newcastle/ Liverpool/ QPR/ Aldershot/ Maidstone/ Bradford Park Avenue/ Shamrock Rovers/ Meadowbank Thistle/ Third Lanark/ Blackburn Olympic/ Old Etonians/ Saracens/ Wakefield Trinity Wildcats/ Jossy’s Giants are always last on Match of the Day. Oh, and why you can never find the end of a roll of sellotape, men always leave the loo seat up, the toast always lands butter side down when you drop it and the other queue at the supermarket checkout always moves faster.
And that was before the first MOTD of the new season. With its new opening title sequence.
The new titles are a variation on those used last season, with modern and archive footage mixed together and featuring all 20 Premier League clubs. A good, imaginative idea. Only one problem: Some clubs are far, far more visible in the opening titles than others. And that has led fans of some clubs to ask Armstrong on Twitter if their team are on there at all.
It took me five viewings of the opening titles, but I can confirm that all 20 Premier League teams do feature on there. You do, I will grant you, have to be very sharp to spot Bolton, West Brom, Wigan and Swansea, while it wasn’t obvious to me at first that the Norwich clip was, well, a Norwich clip.
I’ve a feeling this may just turn out to be the most controversial MOTD opening sequence since they last tried to remix the theme tune back in 1990. Oh, for the days when the titles consisted of little more than a few muddy pitches, a bald referee and a giant picture of Jimmy Hill’s face.
Just about the only person who hasn’t tweeted Armstrong to complain about the MOTD running order, it seems, is Joey Barton. The Newcastle midfielder, who appears to be cultivating an image on Twitter as a cross between Frankie Boyle, Stuart Hall, Rab C Nesbitt and Robbie Savage, has been too busy quoting Nietzsche and hurling colourful insults at journalists (‘helmet’ is probably my favourite) to take part on the great MOTD running order debate.
Not so busy, though, that he couldn’t give some feedback on Saturday’s show. Barton had a starring role in the programme by livening up an otherwise uneventful 0-0 draw with Arsenal, as he was stamped on by Alex Song and got involved in the kerfuffle that saw Gervinho sent off. On the MOTD panel, Alan Shearer thought, rightly, that Barton should have been sent off too for grabbing Gervinho’s shirt.
Inevitably, Barton tweeted about both incidents, including a protest against the criticism he had received. Inevitably, those tweets were picked up by the MOTD crew, perhaps keen to pick up the slack left by the Football League Show’s dropping of the e-mail and texts section this season.
“Interestingly, his last tweet said: ‘Right, off to watch Match of the Day now, it’s what Saturday nights are all about,’” reported Gary Lineker, adding: “What a sweetheart.”
Barton’s next tweet read: “Bad shirt, shoes and views from Shearer again. Sort it out slaphead.”
Lineker didn’t read that one out.
Danny Baker, by the way, has come out on Barton’s side in the whole Gervinho/Song debate. I suspect that the brilliant Baker, who occasionally gives the impression of having accidentally left his moral compass in a washing machine, sees a little of his own fondness for ruffling feathers in Barton’s personality.
“Had Newcastle v Arsenal not had Song/Barton, yesterday’s start wouldn’t have been a sensation,” Baker tweeted. It would probably have been on MOTD last too. But it wasn’t.
Saturday’s final match: Fulham 0 Aston Villa 0
Commentator: John Motson
Even Barton and Baker might have thought twice about moving directly from Birmingham to Aston Villa, whose mutual hatred could power the National Grid if only someone could figure out how to harness the energy.
It’s a sign, perhaps, of how much boardroom nonsense Alex McLeish had to put up with during his two-and-a-half years at St Andrew’s that he was prepared to make the move.
Having declared himself the most hated man in Birmingham after switching clubs, McLeish probably needed a nice, uneventful start to his Villa career. He got one, more or less. Fulham had a few chances, but Shay Given showed just what a waste of his talent it was that he should have spent a season on Manchester City’s bench.
Villa’s fans seemed happy enough with a point according to reports, although the real test for McLeish will come next week, at home to Blackburn. Villa didn’t play any pre-season friendlies at home, so it will be his first public appearance at Villa Park. If he falters, the Villa supporters will be in the mood to do far worse than write strongly-worded letters, I suspect.
1. Aston Villa: 1 (2L:0, 3L: 0)
1. Fulham: 1 (2L:0, 3L: 0)
3. Norwich: 0 (2L:1, 3L: 0)
3. Wigan: 0 (2L:1, 3L: 0)
5. Blackburn: 0 (2L:0, 3L: 1)
5: Wolves: 0 (2L:0, 3L: 1)
7. Arsenal: 0 (2L:0, 3L: 0)
7. Bolton: 0 (2L:0, 3L: 0)
7. Chelsea: 0 (2L:0, 3L: 0)
7. Everton: 0 (2L:0, 3L: 0)
7: Liverpool: 0 (2L:0, 3L: 0)
7. Manchester City: 0 (2L:0, 3L: 0)
7. Manchester United: 0 (2L:0, 3L: 0)
7. Newcastle: 0 (2L:0, 3L: 0)
7. QPR: 0 (2L:0, 3L: 0)
7. Stoke: 0 (2L:0, 3L: 0)
7. Sunderland: 0 (2L:0, 3L: 0)
7. Swansea: 0 (2L:0, 3L: 0)
7. Tottenham: 0 (2L:0, 3L: 0)
7. West Brom: 0 (2L:0, 3L: 0)
2L = On second last (Wigan 1 Norwich 1)
3L = On third last (Blackburn 1 Wolves 2)
(Teams receive one point every time they are last on MOTD. Teams level are separated by the number of times they are on second last, then by the number of times they are on third last. MOTD2 not included, because I say so.)