Friday 21 July 2017

The kids are alright, but only when Cotterill is in command

Last week, they decided that England's youth couldn't be trusted to stay out late. The Notting Hill Carnival, which normally shuts down at 10.0, ended at 7.0pm to ensure there was no overspill from London's riots.

The youth, however, soon had other options other than a night looting jerk chicken and curried goat stands. By the middle of the week, beacons flickered across the cities of England summoning the children. They did not have to worry about being captured on CCTV. They were on Tv.

As Sky Sports News dashed across the country wondering if Shaun Wright-Phillips was going to make it to QPR in time (although never asking why a QPR fan wouldn't prevent this) or reporting that Niall Quinn was in a secret location, Britain's youth again showed their capacity for mischief.

Sky have noted the excitement of the American drafts and realised they can do it in Britain. Their deadline day coverage also resembled election night reports, even down to the sense of deflation whenever they went over to Scotland to report on the underwhelming events there.

Everywhere else there was uncut adrenaline. The longer the night went on, the harder it became for the reporters outside grounds to control these mobs. And the kids surrounding the reporters were pretty wild too.

Only at Tottenham Hotspur was there some peace. Their reporter Gary Cotterill had been there for days. He wasn't going to let England's youth ruin things now. As he told them what to do, when to speak and when to stay quiet, you felt that this is what it must have been like when Old Joe Jackson whipped the Jackson Five into line.

Cotterill, like Old Joe, was committed to family entertainment and he was going to get the kids committed too.

There was a wild look in his eyes as he corralled the kids. Sky were prepared to run with any wild idea, especially anything to do with helicopters. Cotterill speculated that Peter Crouch was in a helicopter that flew over his head, simply because a helicopter was now flying over his head. This was John Cooper Clarke's Burnley and people were pointing at aircraft.

This may have been Cotterill's transfer window, not Jim White's. Jim, I fear, has jumped the shark. In fact, he seemed even to have literally jumped the shark or engaged in some other kind of extreme sport given his state of agitation when he came on air last Wednesday. Whatever dose Jim's adrenaline normally comes in had been altered.

It seems strange to suggest that a man like White, who exists permanently in a state of unsustainable excitement, should have become temporarily detached from whatever moorings he usually has in the bay of reason and good sense but there was something different.

A network that can promote a game like Wigan-Blackburn as the most important thing you are likely to see all year is hardly going to downplay a man of Jim White's hyperbolic capabilities, especially as White certainly doesn't want to downplay anything himself.

Perhaps their insistence that the world was watching couldn't withstand the genuine sense that a lot of the world was watching as White trended across the globe on Twitter.

Sky, in their own way, have always pushed the product not the man. That is why subscriptions aren't affected by the bland punditry of Jamie Redknapp, even if Gary Neville, with his relentless commitment to moaning, looks like being an incredible find.

Now they were pushing Jim White on us and it didn't work.

There was also the unnecessary addition of Alan Curbishley in the studio. Curbs is not the go-to guy to get a party started. Perhaps, as the man who signed Freddie Ljungberg for West Ham, he's not the man you ask about prudence in a transfer window either but there he was.

Sky had men on the ground and they had White so perhaps they felt they could do without their reporters with two phones confirming the location of Leroy Lita.

Cotterill had the finest material to work with. He had charted Harry Redknapp's pain during a frustrating transfer window. There was a peculiar sadness in Redknapp's eyes as he reported the latest developments in the Luka Modric deal. Modric was going nowhere and Harry would be left to look for thrills in getting a deal for Gary Cahill together. When that didn't happen and a job lot of players -- Palacios, Crouch, Jenas, Hutton -- departed, this day of days for Redknapp seemed diminished and small. He had built the transfer window, recognised its possibilities when others were seeing it as a means to regulate and soothe. Harry was a visionary and now he was being squeezed out by the bean-counters. He was Robert Evans, wild and erratic. Now it was as if the focus groups were making Harry's movies.

Cotterill was there to offer kindness and understanding, and a microphone to unburden himself. Harry availed of all three. Cotterill listened to his pain, broadcast it and kept the kids in line. It was a bravura performance.

The kids were boisterous at the Emirates as well. If there was a place where the youth could claim some underlying reasons for the trouble they were causing it was at Arsenal. In fact, they could have hung the London riots on Arsenal's 8-2 defeat given the fin de siecle feel about the place.

There weren't just kids looking for trouble, there were grown men fermenting revolution or, at least, fermenting the signing of Yann M'Vila.

One fan was asked if Arsenal consulted with him on signings. He said no, but it might have been the most preposterous point of Sky's coverage.

There was a lot of praise for Arsenal's fans, mainly from Arsenal fans, for their support for the team at Old Trafford. One Arsenal fan made a distinction between the limp display of board, management and team and the Arsenal fans' rousing performance in the stands.

Now they wanted blood or at least new blood. They ended up with Mikel Arteta and Yossi Benayoun. This won't keep the kids off the streets.

dfanning@independent.ie

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