Photography: John Walton/PA
Sitting side by side on high stools at the Monday Night Football studio in front of a guest audience answering questions from presenter Dave Jones, experts Roy Keane, Micah Richards, Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville don’t look so much like an elite team of analysts. of the house got together to publicize Sky Sports’ coverage of the impending Premier League season as a boy band announcing a comeback tour prompted by various midlife crises or a large HMRC bill.
With Kelly Cates, Emma Saunders and Guardian columnist Karen Carney unavailable due to previous engagements, the empty bench at one end is reserved for one of the original Spice Boys, Jamie Redknapp, who is overdue in an unlikely state of affairs to please his mate. Irish band icon. To be fair, Keane seems to be in good spirits and looks fit, tan, and extremely thin.
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In fact, he looks so jovial that when questions are dropped to the ground, it seems like a good time to ask if his well-documented, violent, on-field “previous” with Alfie Haaland could somehow overshadow. judgment when, at some point in the very near future, he is called upon to praise or criticize Erling, son of the former Manchester City midfielder. As This one famous tackle in Haaland, the eldest demonstrated, Keane is, after all, a man who clearly knows how to hold a grudge.
During an earlier group discussion about signing City’s new star, Keane remained silent as his colleagues took turns debating the pros and few cons of the club’s decision to sign the Borussia Dortmund forward, but he was quick at first. with a conspicuous narrowing. eyes, to dismiss the notion that he might be anything other than scrupulously fair in future assessments of the player’s Premier League performances.
“I’ll judge by what I see,” he said. “In last week’s game, Jamie mentioned that he missed a chance or two, but I thought his move was absolutely fantastic. He is absolutely an incredible player; I have no doubt that he will be a success at Manchester City and score a lot of goals. When Phil Foden got the chance last week, if you look at his reactions, he was way ahead of everyone else. So it’s not a problem for me to talk about a player, because I may have had a history with his father. I hope to give him a fair assessment, as I do with all my comments.”
The eventual arrival of an apologetic Redknapp (airport issues) coincides with a discussion of Cristiano Ronaldo’s future whereabouts, with no one on the panel looking any wiser than the rest of us about the player’s future in the short or long term. For a man, they expect him to have regular playing time for United if he can’t force a play. Interestingly, the question of the undeniably talented but aging and increasingly immobile striker’s unsuitability for Erik ten Hag’s high-intensity pressure style was decidedly not raised.
With Keane, Richards and Redknapp dismissed, the remaining trio stay behind to discuss the Sky Sports institution that is Monday Night Football. The difficulties of creating new themes to adopt or set aside in your post-weekend slot are increased. In an age where there is an overwhelming amount of forensic analysis of the game’s excruciating minutiae available across multiple platforms, creating new topics to discuss can be difficult.
Neville explains that the opening hour of the tactical discussion on the first episode of Monday Night Football in just over two weeks will be devoted to Manchester United’s new manager and cannot stress enough that it is imperative that he and Carragher do this better than anyone else. other.
During a cost-of-living crisis, when many are struggling to make ends meet, I ask what they can say to someone – with apologies to those in far more dire financial straits – who can no longer afford two overpriced TV subscriptions and are forced to choose between Sky and BT Sport.
“We’re better than BT Sport,” says Carragher, matter-of-factly. Maybe, but you don’t have the Champions League, comes the counter. “You can watch this in the pub,” says Neville, apparently oblivious to the fact that this particular option will no longer be affordable for many when those multi-thousand-pound energy bills start arriving in the mail.
“To be fair, this shouldn’t be about BT or Sky,” says Neville. “What they’ve done in the last seven or eight years is fantastic. They have great experts, but so do we. I look at Super Sunday on Sky when I’m at home and think, ‘Wow!’ We have 128 Premier League games and I know I’m looking like a company right now, but you need to watch the Premier League. You have to watch it.
“It’s every week, it’s at home, so you always choose Sky Sports because of that. And that’s not me being anti-BT because I’m not anti-BT.”
His comment provokes a bold provocation from the decidedly unincorporated Carragher, which provokes laughter, the intervention of one of Sky’s publicists, and the extraction of a reluctant but solemn promise from the Guardian that it would not be reproduced here. “You can quote me on that – isn’t that what Fergie said?” insists Carragher, prompting one of the two subjects in the joke, the MNF Jones ringmaster, to emphasize that he would actually prefer it if we didn’t.
Sky Sports is streaming 128 Premier League matches exclusively live, starting Friday.