FA Cup Final : ITV Coverage 2014

“We’d like to throw him up but not catch him” [Roy Keane, ITV pundit, on Sir Alex Ferguson, 2014]

Remembering the past is part of the human DNA. It enables moments to become great memories, creates the foundations for lasting friendship and sows the seeds for important life lessons. Some Northern comedians even make a living out of remembering things; “Bullseye eh, what was all that about?!”

The FA Cup has a long and proud tradition as the oldest cup competition in the world. It’s a cup which, let’s face it, has sunk to the level of ‘just another match’ in recent seasons yet once was the biggest single game of domestic soccer in the country. Before satellite dishes, before the Premier League, even before the great day of my birth the FA Cup final was the only live televised club match in England. The build ups were lavish, the fans all gave a toss and it was the hottest ticket in town. TV companies went potty for it. So you can understand why nowadays the broadcasters love looking back at the ‘good old days’ when coverage started at 11am and celebrities clambered to be a part of the previews.

FA Cup Final

Cup Final replay graphic

A nice feature of ITV’s two hour pre match programming for the 2014 Cup final involved reporter Ned Boulting trawl through the Big Match archives to dig out clips of terrible haircuts, a topless Andy Gray reading a newspaper and a who’s who of Operation Yewtree’s ‘Starr’ names. The opening of the whole broadcast began with soundbites of all the big name hosts from ITV Cup finals past introducing the Big Match from Wembley; there was Dickie Davies and Brian Moore through Bob Wilson and Des Lynam right up to Steve Rider and the present day of Adrian Chiles. Nostalgia was prevalent from start to finish.

Back to Ned’s feature though and one thing seemed clear about final shows of yesteryear – there was quite a bit of flesh on show. Amongst the ‘thigh lights’, if you’ll forgive the dreadful and inaccurate pun, were Glenn Hoddle receiving a massage and Jim Rosenthal treated to what can only be described as a naked foam bath. In a very macho world it’s all a bit homo-erotic. We saw glimpses of all the famous faces or, more accurately, voices that would become synonymous with football on the telly; Martin Tyler, Brian Clough, Saint and Greavsie. The players weren’t afraid of embarrassing themselves, as the great Bobby Moore showed when dressed fully as a pearly king. Innovations which seem old hat now were wonders of their time; the helicopter shots, relaxed player interviews, teammates talking about teammates, cameras on the coaches; they did it all. But mostly it seemed it was done with fun and excitement.

Which brings me on to our ITV host Adrian Chiles. Adrian’s style of hosting isn’t everyone’s FA cup of tea but he is a genuine fan in an industry full of chancers. You know he really is impressed by the condition of the pitch and the grand occasion. With longer build ups like this he’s given more time to shine and talk at length, which he excelled at during his MOTD2 and international tournament stints. He showed his disdain for bland, clichéd answers from his guests too by, on more than one occasion, coaxing fuller answers out. His reaction to pundit Lee Dixon’s comment that Wenger’s final pre match words would be to go and win to take the pressure off was rightly met with “I could’ve told em that!” And above all he tries to have a laugh with us. Comedy and football go all the way back and it’s easy to take it too seriously now. Growing up football was all about the enjoyment of being able to run around, chasing a size 5 plastic or sponge sphere with your mates. It was about recreating those brilliant moments you’d seen at the weekend or on the TV. It wasn’t about the winning or the money. Sometimes it’s nice to be reminded of that in the modern era.

Tim Vine

Tim Vine at Wembley

Comedian Tim Vine, king of the one-liners, cropped up every now and then with his usual job lot of puns and tomfoolery. He reminded us of some of the stories of this season’s competition, which on reflection seemed quite low on headlines. He also got a chance to chat with Chiles and co-commentator and walking, talking cliché Andy Townsend on the pitch. This gave him the opportunity to have fun with the typical questions asked of pundits over shots of the team bus arriving at the ground; “He can’t be playing, he’s about 60”. Vine’s been somewhat of a regular in recent seasons on Cup final day. He reminded us of the time he was a steward at the ’88 final at the Liverpool end when massive underdogs Wimbledon upset them to win 1-0. He was having to hide his joy at supporting the underdog that day and thought he may have to do the same this one as he was wanting Hull to win but sat amongst Gooners. The sort of omen TV folk love on these days.

After fleeting chats with Vine and then golfer Ian Poulter, reporter Gabriel Clarke did his trademark eerie, arty football insert – this time on Arsene Wenger. We were promised ‘fresh material’ by Chiles. What we saw was a man clinging on to past glories with a hint of insanity. “The trees laugh as I go by” said Wenger on his daily commute across the capital. Set in his ways. Refusing to let go and delegate. “The Nutty Professor?” questioned Clarke, amidst clips of disgruntled fans. They weren’t so unhappy at the end of extra time. Neither was Wenger, who was tossed in the air by his team, oblivious to the fact he’s approaching pensionable age and is so slender he could hide behind the goalpost. The highlight of the broadcast followed when Roy Keane made the comment quoted at the top of this article.

Arsene Wenger

Wenger about to be thrown into the sunny sky

With a nod to the ‘lols’ witnessed during the Ned Boulting piece earlier, Hull captain Curtis Davies and midfielder Jake Livermore took part in a ‘Meet the Team’ style interview. Basically a chance for them to show off their best banter. I get the feeling the players enjoy these more than the viewers. I don’t really feel like I know anything more about Matty Fryatt now than I did before Livermore described him as ‘sawdust’. Good with hamsters?

Other bits before the 5pm kick off included Matt Smith, who reunited Dixon and Seaman in the Wembley changing rooms for a reminisce and a moan about the club they love. It’s a shame Smith has only ever hosted one FA Cup final in his time as he’s an excellent host but always overlooked. He’s probably the most consistent all-round sports broadcaster we have currently and can apply himself well to most, shown by his work on darts, snooker and cricket as well as the footy.

ITV studio

The ITV Final line up

With 45 minutes to kick off Chiles and Dixon moved up to the familiar glass box alongside Keane and freshly-sacked from Spurs Tim Sherwood for the rest of the show. A lengthy report on Hull ‘s recent rise was next featuring, who else, but Dean Windass talking about his play off goal six years ago. Followed by the inevitable mention of the failed bid to change the name to Hull City tigers. Grrrr. Let’s hope it’s never mentioned again from this day forth. Windass and Ian Ashbee were also on the pitch during the  first parts of the programme with Adrian. The rest of the build up was the bog-standard studio stuff really before Leona Lewis took over with the singing back where she started; live on ITV on a Saturday night.

Clive Tyldesley partnered Townsend in the commentary box for his ninth FA Cup final on ITV and their last for a while at least. Next season the terrestrial rights transfer across to the BBC. It’s a shame the last six seasons of Cup coverage will be marred by bad decisions – with the ITV Tic Tac goal, nudity and swearing, two broadcast partners losing their rights (sort of, as ESPN’s transferred to BT and of course Setanta are in the big broken telly in the clouds) and the end of the 3pm kick off – as some of the coverage really has been top notch. What I’d love now is for this occasion to regain its status as, truly, the Match of the Day under the Beeb’s guidance next season.

Watch the ITV FA Cup final promo
Read the blog on BT Sport’s Cup final 2014 coverage

About Mark O'MEARA
I am Mark O'MEARA.

One Response to FA Cup Final : ITV Coverage 2014

  1. Pingback: FA Cup Final : BT Sport Coverage 2014 | Mark O'MEARA

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