Jonathan Liew: Colin Murray is not just irritating and irrelevant – he is a very bad presenter
Published 23/01/2013 | 15:17
THERE are days when, to be perfectly frank, you wonder what the point of it all is. Terrorism, injustice, dubstep: where will it all end? Why fight? Why bother?
But there are some days when, against all the odds, against this seemingly irresistible tide of ill, you feel you might finally be getting somewhere. Those days are rare, but they are golden. And yesterday was one of those days. Colin Murray is leaving Match of the Day 2. Let the bells ring. Let the birds sing. Let us all give his substitute a big cheer.
Murray, as far as we are aware, will continue to present a host of sport programmes on BBC Radio Five Live, Radio, ironically, suits Murray a good deal better. There are built-in silences to fill. Talking too much and not bothering to listen is an asset rather than an annoyance.
Forgive me if you think that lets Murray off lightly, but I choose my words carefully. The last time I wrote about Murray, in Oct 2010, during the early weeks of his Match of the Day 2 tenure, I was quickly contacted by the law firm Schillings.
If you’re a celebrity, and you want to sue a newspaper, Schillings are who you go to. But what became clear over the five rambling, increasingly jaw-dropping pages of their letter was that Murray was less interested in securing punitive damages for defamation than he was in mending his broken heart.
Given conservative estimates of four hours’ legal consultation and drafting of the letter, and a rate of around £500 an hour, Murray essentially paid £2,000 for a therapy session.
One can only hope he does not spend his free weekends DJing. Bizarrely, point five of the Schillings letter addressed Murray's DJ sets, which I described as “pedestrian”.
“Our client takes great exception to this,” thundered the lawyers. “Our client is very proud of his DJ sets and goes to great lengths to ensure that his sets are lively, imaginative and distinct from other performances.”
We will return to Murray the DJ. But first let us deal with Murray the presenter. His most glaring weakness is this: he wishes he were a pundit.
There is clearly a great deal of insecurity there: the sensation of being in but not of the world of football. Like most major world religions, football treats outsiders with suspicion. Murray felt uneasy from the start and decided to counter this head-on by asserting himself.
The trouble is, he went too far. Nobody will ever care what Colin Murray has to say about football, especially not when David Moyes is sitting four feet away. Yet Murray stubbornly persisted, awkwardly wedging in his own irrelevant take on the game, the neurosis feeding the nonsense.
Watch Murray closely and you realise he never asks a question. Instead, he makes a statement intended to show he knows what he is talking about, and then stops talking. And then fails to listen to the answer. Not only is it irritating, it is bad presenting.
Sometimes, his pig-headedness has more jarring consequences. Pat Nevin is one of the finest pundits on Match of the Day 2. But the way Murray treated him on Sunday was grossly insulting.
Murray: Maybe the referee couldn’t see Caulker in the snow.
Nevin: But you’re ignoring the fact that from the referee’s position, it looks precisely like Rooney’s kicked him. The assistant referee should give a penalty kick. I’ll give you that.
Murray: You’ll give us that. That’s great. We’ll take those slim pickings.
A few minutes later, Murray moves on to the next game.
Murray: This is the time, if you just want to say I was wrong on the penalty. It takes a real man, Pat.
Nevin: From the referee’s position ...
Murray (interrupting): Ahhh! You’ve had your chance.
Nevin looked visibly irritated, and you can probably understand why. Murray is the boy who wants to play at Big Football, despite possessing very few of the tools for the job.
So how did my legal battle with Colin Murray end? The case never went to court. Instead, we sent him a detailed letter rebutting every single one of his points in some detail.
Yes, even the DJ one. In September 2006, I visited the Lava Ignite nightclub in Edinburgh. Murray was playing a DJ set, and ‘pedestrian’ is pretty much the only word I can think of to describe it. Sweet Child Of Mine. Mr Brightside. Smells Like Teen Spirit. Indie disco by numbers.
Of course, if you are playing a set in Scotland, what is the most clichéd way of ending it? As I trudged out into the night with The Proclaimers’ 500 Miles still shredding my eardrums, little did I know how useful my indignation would ultimately prove.