Cooney and Black

Shock! Horror! Even Help ma’ Boab! Football Focus can exclusively reveal that David Moyes is coming back to management – and Neil Lennon has banned bobble hats at Bolton

Neil Lennon


LEST my head be infiltrated by absent-mindedness, I’ve noted in my diary that I should resist any inclination to watch Football Focus ever again.

Unfortunately, the one thing that seems to alter on the Beeb’s long-running Saturday programme is its signature tune, and yet I would suggest that change of a rather more radical nature is required.

At the moment, it continues to disappoint and bewilder this viewer. I would suggest that since being devolved from Grandstand and awarded autonomy in 2001, it has resolutely declined to move with the times.

It is apparently oblivious to the requirements of the modern-day football fan, who, incidentally, is paying out fortunes just to remain abreast of the machinations of this idiosyncratic game.

In short, that fan is seeking more transparency; he would like to know just a teensy weensy bit more than what he doesn’t already know. And yet, for some strange reason, Football Focus steadfastly denies him this information.

The programme seems insulated against reality: it trundles perfunctorily, often haughtily, on its way, the giant figure of Dan Walker in the vanguard, bearing the standard of mediocrity.

I’ve nothing against the fella in a personal sense. He’s seems fairly agreeable, articulate and normally word perfect for the presenter’s role.

On the debit side, he’s bland beyond belief; a leader of the bland, if you like. Remember, though, he is simply a reflection of the template laid down by his predecessors: Steve Rider, Gary Lineker, Ray Stubbs and Manish Bhasin.

But he can’t be allowed to shoulder the responsibility alone. Before the show’s latest offering, the Salford PR merchants were rapturously announcing the fact that Football Focus had secured the first interview with David Moyes since his departure from Manchester United.

We were told that the man had been avoiding TV cameras for six months. On watching him in conversation with Dan Roan, the BBC’s new sports editor, I suggest the sporting world could quite easily have waited another half year and maybe more without experiencing withdrawal symptoms.

The fact is that those preparing themselves for a potential humdinger of a story were to be disappointed. What we learned wouldn’t have shattered an IKEA wine glass, never mind the earth.

In BBC minds, the greatest revelation was that the Scot was ready to take on the challenge of managing a Premier League club again – one, mind you, that ran in parallel with his ambition.

What, a sacked man who trousers a £5.2million severance package from Old Trafford declares himself sufficiently rested in mind and body to earn himself another few million quid? Well, I never! How can this, in any way, be interpreted as a headline story?

You could have forgiven those spin doctors their triumphalism had Moyes announced that he was comprehensively fatigued with those who inhabit this often immoral football world and never wanted to set foot in any club again. Now, that would have been some narrative.

We should always remember, of course, that football on the Beeb is the polar opposite to politics on the Beeb. Political editor Nick Robinson belongs to the bulldog breed: his sporting contemporaries carry the pedigree of poodles.

Very few reporters and their producers /editors fancy soiling their fingers with contentious matters. Sycophantic to a sickening degree, they wish to placate those they are interviewing, rather than place them indelicately on the spot. That’s not what they feel their role should be.

And so the cameras rolled: Moyes displayed all the symptoms – and circumspection – of a man manacled to a confidentiality agreement. He expected the club to do what was right with him, He never attempted to reach the heart of the matter. Nor was he encouraged to do so by Roan, a graduate of Cambridge University

Walker, sensing the inadequacy of the interview, later explained that Moyes had been unable to go into certain areas. He should have revised his explanation to include all areas of interest.

Which leaves this observer wondering about Auntie’s motives: did they see it simply an exercise to show there is still proactivity in an old girl who, it should be said, is getting her rear end regularly tanned by BSkyB and BT Sport? If so, they were deluding themselves

Even allowing for all this confidentiality nonsense, there were areas into which Roan might have strayed without provoking legal apoplexy.

In the opening sequence, you heard Sir Alex Ferguson encouraging fans to stand by their man at Old Trafford. What were Moyes’ thoughts on Sir Alex? What additional support did he lend when times were dire? Were both men still on talking terms?

I imagine there was nothing stopping him, either, asking Moyes about the potential depression brought on by eleven years of walking on water at Everton, and nine months drowning at Old Trafford. How had the ego suffered? What of the humiliation? How hot had been his outrage? How long had such bitterness lasted?

The fare on offer was nothing short of desultory and, unfortunately, there was more to come for the viewer. Towards the end of the programme, they had an interview with Neil Lennon, newly ensconced at Bolton.

Now, considering Lennon’s let’s say eventful four years at Celtic, this is an interview that guarantees every possible ingredient. But, predictably, there was to be no baring of the soul on this occasion.

If I remember correctly, there was a lot of chums-together laughter, and the main thrust of it was that Lennon had banned his new players from wearing bobble hats.

Shock! Horror! Even Help ma’ Boab! As I said earlier, things must surely change in Salford. Meantime, Football in Soft Focus has just been deleted from my Saturday lunchtime menu.




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