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Mentioned Part 46

By: Rob Sedgwick
Date: 09/03/2003

Home > Features > Mentioned > Mentioned #46


"No disrespect to the likes of Grimsby..."

sunday 9th march

Life in Division One

By: Steve Claridge.

'Every year now it gets harder,' he says. 'There are only three, Grimsby, Walsall and Rotherham, who probably don't have a chance. I think the ones who go up will be those who keep most players and who do the best loan deals for Premiership players. Loans will be a big part of the season. For me, Wolves, Ipswich and Leicester, because I think Mickey Adams is a good manager, are the best bets.'

Spotted by Billo.

Sky's Bargain Basement

From: The Daily Telegraph.

The credit sequence for Sky Sports' Nationwide League coverage includes, amid the usual montage of footballers doing strange and suspiciously unspontaneous things after scoring, a shot of an advertising board reading "No 1 For Bargains".

This is what you call rubbing someone's face in it, the face in question belonging to the late ITV Digital organisation, whose error it was to assume that lower-league football was an investment worth countless millions and whose resultant bankruptcy has left Sky free to come in and pick up the identical rights for a few quid here and there.

Have they got a bargain? Obviously it would be premature to judge at this early point in the season. However, for sheer hellzapoppin', screen-bustin', armchair-burnin', entertainment value, I reckon Walsall v Ipswich on Saturday evening, the Nationwide season's opening live game, was worth at least ?3.75 of any broadcaster's money. The word from within the industry, though, is that Sky may have paid a little bit more for it than that.

But as I say, it's early days, investments can go down as well as up, and who knows how the marketplace will look come, say, January, when Grimsby entertain Bradford and, hopefully, us.

Irrespective of the quality of the game, one was grateful on Saturday just to have it confirmed that the Nationwide League was still alive and, to a certain extent, kicking. The summer's stories of impending financial disaster had led one to believe it was going to look like Napoleon's retreat from Moscow.

Yet, as the cameras quickly and reassuringly revealed, Walsall appeared to have a pitch with grass on it, two goals with nets and a full complement of corner flags. All of the players were in full kit that matched, confirming that none of them had been issued with the instruction: "Bring something from home that's red." If this was a club whose bank manager was even at that moment clutching his chest and fighting for breath, there was nothing on the surface to betray this.

That said, the stand behind the goal was a building site. Optimistically, I like to think that a new stand was under construction there, though, of course, in the face of football's new economic realities, I accept that the club may well have been in the process of taking a new stand down.

Still, there was every evidence that the visitors, Ipswich, had arrived on a private coach, rather than by National Express. They, too, seemed to have mustered some kit and some sponsors, and the fact that they played the last 20 minutes with only 10 men had to do with substitutions and injuries rather than no longer being able to pay a full side.

Superficially, the only sign of sympathetic belt-tightening was Sky's decision to place our presenters, George Gavin and Tony Cottee, out on the pitch in headphones, rather than build them a hutch somewhere. One worries for Gavin and Cottee later in the season when the temperature drops below zero and the blizzards come. They'll probably have to start hugging each other to keep warm and that may not be the message the channel is keen to send out.

Actually, I'm sure now that it was just the lighting, but for a while I wondered whether Gavin and Cottee hadn't been superimposed on a backdrop of the Bescot Stadium and were in fact standing in London at the time. After all, if broadcasters can routinely superimpose club crests on the playing surface - a decorative touch seen before most live games these days - then why not presenters? It would be a way to save a train fare or two and I'm sure nobody would mind in the present climate (both economic and meteorological).

Otherwise, though, you would never have known there was a war on. There were countless mentions for "opening-day optimism" and a hugely confident reference to "our younger viewers". Our commentator, Ian Crocker, managed to refer at one point, and without laughing, to "the Nationwide field of dreams" and Matt Holland, the Ipswich captain, concluded the evening by holding a straight face while saying: "There's no easy game in this division."

It was all very cheerful, but one wonders whether the underlying poverty of the football might not have been turned to more profitable account. The emblematic commentary moment went as follows: "Hreidarsson . . . whoops!" (Just to be entirely clear about this: Woops is not a new Dutch signing.) The opening 20 minutes were so bad that, had Sky abandoned the commentary and set the game to Drive by The Cars, people around the country may well have started phoning in to pledge money. A fund-raising idea for the future, perhaps.

Horse racing, too, is in a hurry to find a new audience these days and, to this end, one of the weekend's meetings concluded with an appearance by the pop star Natalie Imbruglia - singing, that is, rather than steering a novice over hurdles. Asked on Channel 4's The Morning Line for his authoritative verdict on this initiative, the famously understated John McCririck said he thought Imbruglia had "nice legs" but that he, personally, was "not a leg man".

There's always someone who isn't happy. Still, it was good, I suppose, to hear the issue addressed from such an all-encompassing perspective.

Spotted by Gil Moreton.

Thanks Grimsby

By Sam Hammam.

Sam Hammam has complimented Lennie Lawrence by thanking Grimsby Town for sacking him this time last year. "He's made one hell of a difference to us," said the Cardiff supremo.

Lawrence, who originally joined City as director of football after being sacked by First Division Grimsby Town, has guided the Bluebirds to two successive wins against Oldham and Port Vale. Those victories kept us his impressive record as Cardiff manager - Played 17, Won 13, Drawn 3, Lost 1.

"I am so grateful to Grimsby Town for what they did," said Hammam. "I just wish they had done it a few weeks earlier because we could have been in the First Division now.

"Lennie is a very good man, very strong and self confident. He knows what he wants - and knows what he doesn't want.

"He conducts himself as a gentleman and he's made one hell of a difference for us."

Spotted by Grim Rob.

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