Posts Tagged ‘Steve Claridge


Has ‘The Football League Show’ improved?

I don’t like to use the word infamous lightly, but it is a word that I would use to describe BBC One’s ‘The Football League Show’.

The programme was launched in 2009 – after the BBC obtained the rights to show live Championship matches and highlights from the Football League – and the remit was very much focused on offering something new.

Unlike ITV’s Football League highlights package, which included ‘Football League Extra’ and ‘The Championship’, it was presented in a studio rather than an empty ground.

It certainly wasn’t seen as a low-key affair; the package was a big thing for the BBC and the programme’s producer, IGM Sports Media.

The early days

Even the opening titles were different. Again, unlike ITV’s offerings, there weren’t any shots of crests and managers in 2009. There were fans wearing their replica shirt over a Hi-Viz jacket, and doing cartwheels outside a train station. It was meant to be real football for real fans.

The opening minutes of the very first edition were bold, too. Take, for example, presenter Manish Bhasin’s introduction on 8 August 2009.

He proclaimed:

“Yes, good evening and a warm welcome to the brand new ‘Football League Show’ as we aim to bring you every goal across all three divisions. By the way, there’s only 95 just to squeeze in tonight. Over the next 40 weeks, we’d also love to hear from you. Have you got the right manager in charge? Have you got the right players in the team, perhaps? What about your result this afternoon? Here’s Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes as to how you can get in touch.”

And the second edition was no better, with Bhasin saying:

“The best opening day attendance figures for nearly 50 years show exactly what the Football League means to its fans. And, if that first week threw up some extraordinary results, then let me tell you, today was no less dramatic.”

The attitude taken by the programme – and Bhasin – was overzealous and condensing. They felt that the Football League was exciting; so exciting that it should be alike forcing half a dozen chicken balti pies down your throat at once.

Other elements of the programme were just as preachy. Steve Claridge was recruited to act as the programme’s pundit. During the first edition, Bhasin described him as “a man who knows the Football League inside out”.

But, at best, he has been unbearable to watch during its tenure. Clichés were often, and incoherently, bandied around with a swagger of arrogance. For a show that is broadcasting beyond midnight on a Saturday, it was the wrong tone.

There was also an ‘interactivity’ element, where Greenwood-Hughes read out texts and e-mails from viewers.

As a troubled indictor of this segment’s quality, the first five messages were about Newcastle United: four of them stated that Alan Shearer should become their manager, and one was about Tim Krul being stung by a wasp. A further two messages, during the first edition, supported Shearer.

Greenwood-Hughes also patronisingly said “well done” to a Peterborough United fan, who thought that their defeat at Derby County was a “starting block for a good season”.

During the first series, there was a slight obsession with Newcastle; on most occasions, their matches were shown first.

Within just a few minutes of the first edition, Bhasin said:

“Well, you [Claridge] mentioned the big teams, no doubt the big talking point of the Championship is Newcastle. Who’ll buy them? Who’ll be their manager? And can they bounce back at the first time of asking? Well, we got some sort of pointer to that last question, at least, when they travelled to West Brom, a game you might have seen a little earlier on BBC One.”

And then there was Mark Clemmit, a man who was equally enthusiastic talking about Torquay’s “postcard image” or about “Cardiff City’s swanky, new, £15 million stadium”.

That’s perfectly fine, but there was no light and shade to his presentation – the joviality felt like a façade, at the very least.

He presented two items: a feature about a team in the Football League – particularly if they had changed stadiums or managers – and ‘Potted History’, a collection of ‘wacky’ facts about another team.

These two segments rarely lasted more than a few minutes, but listening to Clemmit often felt like being forced to down a couple of pints after vomiting on the balti pies.

However, the amount of actual football shown was proportionally low. Over 22 minutes of the 75-minute time slot was spent on Championship football, and just under half of that was used for two games: Newcastle United v West Bromwich Albion and Derby County v Peterborough United.

Over 11 minutes was dedicated to League 1 highlights, while nearly nine minutes was used for League 2 football.

The format factory

In a way, you could say that ‘The Football League Show’ was an experiment during its earliest editions. Before 2009, there were two other similar experiments that flopped: ITV’s ‘The Premiership’ and the launch of Channel 5.

The former, which started in 2001, had a number of new features including a teatime screening, Townsend’s Tactics Truck and Terry Venables’ ProZone analysis. All three of those items were scrapped within a matter of weeks.

Channel 5’s launch in 1997 was also troubled. Its flagship programme, ‘Family Affairs’, wasn’t originally a soap about a community, it was pitched as a soap about just one family.

Its early schedules were also “stripped”, a tactic that was normally reserved for digital television. In fact, it often felt like a satellite channel.

Furthermore, two of its main sport presenters were Dominik Diamond, best known for presenting Channel 4’s ‘GamesMaster’, and Gail McKenna, a former Page Three model and future ‘How 2’ presenter.

The channel quickly obtained broadcasting rights for the Poland versus England international, but it was transmitted from a London sports café with stars from ‘Family Affairs’ and ‘Gladiators’. Claridge was also given his own role, in the form of providing betting news and analysis.

Channel 5’s reputation for its sports coverage never recovered from this moment – even if they managed to take an interest in the UEFA Intertoto Cup, Eredivisie and Primeira Liga.

The problem with these two examples, and ‘The Football League Show’, is there was an eagerness to please that went too far. They tried to add too many new gimmicks at once, while failing to get the basics right.

A slow improvement

But changes have been made to ‘The Football League Show’. The show is now pre-recorded, which led to the interactive element and Greenwood-Hughes being dropped in 2011.

Clemmit remained, despite the quiet axing of his ‘Potted History’ segment, although the insufferable enthusiasm remains.

Claridge’s role has also been reduced, being partially replaced by Leroy Rosenior. His gentle tone is suited to the programme’s late transmission time, and he also comes across as intelligent and well informed on occasions.

Bhasin’s interest in the Football League seems more genuine in 2013 than in 2009, and the programme’s overzealous attitude has been toned down.

For example, Bhasin introduced an edition, on 23 February 2013, by saying:

“Good evening, and we’ve become increasingly used to managerial chopping and changing in the nPower Football League. But this week, though, it seems to have stepped up a gear. Out went Paolo Di Canio and Dean Holdsworth, while in came Paul Ince, Simon Grayson and Andy Scott. Not to mention Alan Knill, now covering for Martin Ling over at Torquay. And they’ve all, of course, got to hit the ground running with points becoming more precious by the week. A warm welcome tonight to Steve, as we reflect on a busy day across all three divisions.”

This change in tone is seen in the new titles sequence, which was introduced in 2012. The focus is on the past – with images of Brian Clough and Glenn Hoddle – to remind viewers that football existed before 1992.

It isn’t ideal, but it is a sight more preferable than a John Westwood-esque figure dancing around in a circle.

Also, in 2013, ‘The Football League Show’ is now broadcasting more football than in 2009.

For example, on 23 February 2013, nearly 28 minutes were dedicated to Championship matches and nearly 15 minutes were spent on League 1. Furthermore, there was over ten minutes of League 2 football.

By comparing the editions on 8 August 2009 and 23 February 2013, the amount of actual highlights being broadcasted has increased by 20.32%. It must also be mentioned that both shows were 75-minutes long. (NB: this chart provides a more detailed comparison.)

The programme’s quality has slowly improved to an acceptable level and, for the most part, it is now perfectly watchable.

The future?

But there are still doubts of whether the programme requires a punditry element, particularly when Claridge is at the helm.

A back-to-basics format is recommended, where just the goals are shown, à la ITV’s ‘Football League Extra’.

If its length remains at 75 minutes, then more action can be shown – particularly as its coverage of League 2 feels rushed – but the producers would be wise to reduce the running time by 15 minutes or even half an hour.

It may look like a step backwards, but it would get the most out of a format that is difficult to produce with such short lead times.

‘The Football League Show’ may have its critics, and there is still room for improvement, but it has changed since 2009. And it is all the better for it.


The ‘best’ quotes from Steve Claridge’s ‘Beyond the Boot Camps’

Admit it, you don’t like Steve Claridge.

It’s okay. Everyone gets a little bit frustrated when you listen to the former Portsmouth and Leicester City striker waffling on about nothing during ‘The Football League Show’.

Claridge was not a bad player, but his over-earnest approach to punditry is annoying.

He makes Garth Crooks look like Robbie Savage and his tendency to emphasis every point with such force is embarrassing. He also seems to think that he is Pelé of punditry and his inflated opinion of himself does not stop there.

Anyone who has read his two autobiographies will know that Claridge is a man who thinks of himself very highly and has the arrogance to match.

‘Beyond the Boot Camps’ by Steve Claridge with Ian Ridley takes this narcissism to new levels but, thankfully, it also provides some classic quotes.

The ‘best’ 25 quotes, in reverse order, are revealed below. Hopefully, you can have a good chortle at them.


“By then I wasn’t your normal 34-year-old player looking to squeeze the last drop out of his career, I was fanatically fit and knew I could play until I was 40” (p.26).

Claridge on being offered the Portsmouth player-manager job in 2000.


“I don’t really have any hobbies, since football has been both my job and my hobby” (p. 278).

Claridge talks about life outside football.


“Looking back, I can understand now why Pulis played them together, because they were a strong, powerful pair and that was his style and a sign of how he wanted the team to play. Back then, though, I had trouble gasping how the best striker in the club was being left out” (p.22).

Claridge talks about Tony Pulis preferring to play Lee Mills and Lee Bradbury up-front, at Portsmouth, instead of him.


“I had only rarely needed agents, and only then to sound out clubs for me, and had no need of one now. I knew how to draw up a contract” (p.32).

Claridge on the irony of not needing an agent.


“He liked all the stuff about cones and bibs; making sure the team bus was on time and players’ meals sorted. I liked to think about teams, patterns and shapes and preferred to leave all that stuff to someone else. Guy was also a nice bloke, whereas I have an edge to me, so thought he would be a good foil for me on the bad-cop, good-cop principle of managers and their assistants” (p.29).

Claridge remarks on Guy Whittingham’s credentials as a player-assistant manager.


“It was another place to add to the list of those who were now hiring me as a firefighter. I should have been travelling round the country in a red engine with a bell ringing” (p. 223).

Claridge talks about his final days as a professional footballer, this time at Paul Merson’s Walsall.


“It was a point proven all round, both to Pulis and McGhee, not that either of them said anything to me” (p.23).

Claridge has the last laugh after scoring for Portsmouth in their 3-1 victory over Wolves.


“He was an honest lad, who would later go through the pain barrier for me when he probably wouldn’t have done for other managers” (p.30).

Claridge on Ceri Hughes.


“My first game was at home to Sheffield Wednesday and, naturally, I picked myself” (p.32).

Claridge discusses his first match as Portsmouth’s player-manager.


“Also, I had the courtesy to brush my teeth that day and I’m not sure he did” (p. 130).

Claridge discusses the personal hygiene of footballers at Lewes FC.


“I had just bought an £80 Boss T-shirt that went missing after training, which annoyed me. The next week, Pethick turned up for his lift down to training wearing it and spun some story about where he got it. When I told him it was mine he seemed surprised, but said I could have it back after training. I wasn’t having that. I had it straight off his back and made him travel down to Weymouth naked from the waist up” (p. 132).

Claridge talks about a spat with Robbie Pethwick, during his managerial spell at Weymouth.


“Things got so bad that I had to put Guy Whittingham on the bench against Wimbledon on Boxing Day. Fortunately we got away with a 1-1 draw in which I scored. Guy also came on, and I challenge anyone to find another example at such a high level of both a manager and his assistant being in a squad together, let alone on the filed at the same time” (p.44).

Claridge discusses his managerial legacy.


“They had interviewed the other bloke but now wanted to offer me the job. Thank God for that, I thought, I’ll get my air fare back now” (p. 180).

Claridge’s reaction to be offered the job as Millwall’s manager.


“Havant – who would later be tagged with all that romance-of-the-Cup stuff some seasons later when they went to Liverpool – were not in reality a particularly friendly or welcoming club and I had recently been refused access to their boardroom for a half-time cup of tea when scouting a player because I was wearing black jeans. And all this despite the fact that we had let one of their scouts into our boardroom pre-season who was wearing shorts” (p. 123-124).

Alan Partridge, erm I mean Steve Claridge, talks about wearing jeans and shorts during football matches.


“When you are a player, you can indulge your personality, as I had done in acquiring that reputation as mine as a character” (p.39).

Claridge discusses his personality.


“Most players put together an autobiography as they come to the end of their career – if they are interesting enough for people to want to read about them, that is. Rarely do they have a second volume in them. Steve Claridge, however, is not most players. The evidence comes in the form of one of the most vivid and varied of footballing lives, on and off the field” (p.3).

The book’s first line.


“Anyone who would later go on that BBC show Dragon’s Den and who wanted to get the better of Theo should have contacted me first to know how to deal with him – financially at least” (p.66).

Claridge boasts about his financial acumen.


“For me it is quite simple. In the end, I am right and he is wrong” (p. 248).

Claridge on the acclaimed football journalist Gabriele Marcotti.


“Steve’s management style was the one and only thing that let him down in his time at Weymouth,” Waldock believes. “To say his style was brutal would be an understatement. The Alex Ferguson hairdyer would be described as a subtle breeze in comparison with some of Steve’s post-match debriefs” (p. 104).

Former Weymouth captain John Waldock on Claridge’s spell as Weymouth’s player-manager.


“To be honest, I don’t think there are many who do know more than me” (p. 253-254).

Steve Claridge on Steve Claridge.


“Steve is a maverick who rewards someone who allows him to get on and do the job by delivering results. He has that spark and touch of ingenuity that requires the indulgence the talented need. In return, he brings a liveliness and vibrancy to the place and to your existence” (p. 242).

Co-author Ian Ridley on what Claridge is really like.


“As I spoke with Theo over the next day or two during discussions about my pay-off, he went over the old ground and said he was hearing more and more about how poor-pre season training had been. I reminded him that this was Steve Claridge, who was one of the fittest footballers around and who expected his players to be as well. Some of them had said it had been the hardest pre-season they had known” (p. 200).

Claridge explains why he should not have been sacked as the manager of Millwall.


“Actually, I think I get too technical at times because I am very into the tactics and strategy of the game, which you need to be as an expert summariser, both on radio and TV. I like to explain why certain formations work for certain teams, why this player is good in such a role, what his strengths and weaknesses are. I think what people like, or at least they say to me they do, is that when I say something, I give an explanation for it. If something is wrong, I say why. People also like a bit of humour, a bit of lightness amid the lesson if you like, and I think I can deliver that” (p.253).

Claridge talks about why he thinks he is a good football pundit.


“Was someone inside the club acting as his “mole” to get stuff against me?” (p. 192).

Claridge talks about why he was sacked by Millwall.


“Steve has always insisted that it was him who made Emile Heskey look so good and that it was him who got Heskey his £11 million pound move to Liverpool from Leicester” (p.60).

Steve Claridge: footballer, broadcaster, and the man behind Emile Heskey’s successful career.


The ‘Football League Show’ drinking game

Everyone knows that ‘The Football League Show’ is a load of old rubbish.

From Steve Claridge’s unjustified arrogance and Manish Bhasin’s wooden presenting to the misplaced enthusiasm of Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes and Mark Clemmit, it’s a show that frustrates constantly.

But people still watch it, despite its sheer awfulness, because it shows all the goals.

So, how do I propose to make the viewing experience of ‘The Football League Show’ that little less painful?

By introducing a drinking game for the aforementioned show, of course.

It may seem like I’m offering less value for money here – given that the article is just a glorified collection of tweets, made by myself and other bloggers – but such an idea needs to have a compendium.

If you haven’t seen the show before, please watch embedded YouTube clip below.

It should convince you that such a game needs to exist.

The rules are simple.

Just watch the show at ‘a quarter to midnight’ and whenever something that is included in five lists occurs, take a drink.

To prevent liver damage, I recommend that you only follow one of the five lists.

Remember, this is just a bit of fun and this list shouldn’t be taken seriously; it’s satire more than anything.

You’d probably be hospitalised for alcohol positioning, if you actually played this game.

With that over, I shall introduce you to the lists – one for each of the four presenters and one for the show itself.

The Show
• Drink a shot whenever someone looks incredibly smug, for supporting a lower-league side, in the opening titles. Also, add another shot if they jump at the same time.
• Drink a shot for every keepy-uppy that is performed in the opening montage. (Submitted by ‘The Reality Rant’)
• Drink a rum and coke every time there is an element of bias towards Leeds United and Newcastle United.
• Down two shots every time the commentator mentions that a player has scored against their former club.
• Drink any drink every time past encounters between the two sides, who are included in the highlights, are mentioned.
• Down two shots whenever Lizzie and Manish look like they are flirting, when they meet up at the desk after Manish closes the show.

Manish Bhasin
• Down a shot when Manish gives out a statistic, at the start of the show. Add another shot if this statistic is about the number of goals that have been scored.
• Drink any drink every time Manish says “yeah”, whenever Lizzie or Steve have finished a sentence.
• Down a shot when Manish starts delivering a line, whilst staring into the wrong camera. (Submitted by ‘The Reality Rant’)
• Down a glass of wine when Manish makes his annoying interlude in the middle of ‘Match of the Day’. (Submitted by ‘The Reality Rant’)
• Also, during this interlude, you may jug an extra bit of wine if Manish says ‘The Football League Show’ is on at a “quarter to midnight”.

Steve Claridge
• Down any drink, straight-away, whenever Claridge mentions a player that he’s played alongside. (Submitted by ‘Gary Andrews’)
• Down a shot whenever Leroy Rosenior acts as a stand-in for Steve or appears as a co-pundit.
• Down two drinks every time Steve mentions a player he played alongside or against, whilst he was player-manager at Weymouth.
• Down a double vodka, each time Steve looks at his notes. (Submitted by ‘The Reality Rant’)
• Double vodkas all round, whenever Steve says a player and/or a club has not had an easy time in the past.
• Down any spirit whenever Steve says a team has “spirit”. (Submitted by ‘The Reality Rant’)
• Drink all of the drinks cabinet every time Steve mentions his managerial career.

Mark Clemmit
• Have a sip of your drink every time Mark mentions the year when a club was formed.
• Down a shot every time Mark exaggerates his words to make it sound like it contains an extra syllable.
• Drink any drink when Mark bounces up to any Football League club manager like a long lost friend (Submitted by ‘Footyphila Plus’)
• Down a shot when Mark utilises the smart jumper and shirt combination. Add another shot, if he also wearing a pair of jeans and add a further one if he is wearing white trainers.
• Drink any drink whenever Mark says a wacky and/or obscure fact, usually relating to the folklore of the club or the town/city.
• Drink any two drinks whenever Mark walks around the stadium’s terrace/stands and add a further drink when he touches a trophy that the club has won.
• Drink any three drinks whenever Mark feigns annoyance at having to schlep off somewhere remote. (Submitted by ‘Narrow the Angle’)

Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes
• Drink any drink whenever Lizzie has to read out a bloody awful email saying that “Team X are going up” and/or “Manager X should be sacked”. (Submitted by ‘The Carvalho Peninsula’)
• Down two shots whenever Lizzie fumbles around her papers. Add an extra shot if she also goes ‘erm’, at the same time.
• Drink a cocktail every time Lizzie asks Steve a question that has come from a viewer.
• Down the drink, that you are holding, each time Lizzie reads out a hoax email.
• Down three shots if Lizzie mentions that they’ve had an influx of email from supporters of one particular club.
• Down four shots whenever Jacqui Oatley stands-in for Lizzie.
• Drink a bottle of gin when David Garrido acts as a stand-in replacement for Lizzie. (Submitted by ‘The Reality Rant’).

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