Wayne Flask

Author Translator Music Writer Public Annoyance

I will miss Andy Gray

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I will take time out of slagging football players and/or managers to slag my favourite TV network. No I don’t go into finicky criticisms of Sky Sports because quite frankly, here in Malta, we are only too lucky to receive it. Let alone compare it to MOTD and anything on ITV.

So yes, Sky Sports is my favourite TV network. Andy Gray has been with me since my first FIFA game, I think it was FIFA 97 before the times when you could actually select a commentary of a different language, when he and John Motson did the honours (Martin Tyler does it these days).

For the love of everything Andy Gray, you’d need a subtitle to follow his banter without losing concentration on what’s happening on the pitch. Yet his pre-match insights are a lesson to all: he is an ageing pundit who can use a touchscreen and effectively show what today’s footballers are doing, ranging from simple passing to complicated marauding on the edge of the offside line. A former player, he would turn down the opportunity to coach Everton and show everyone how much he knows about football.

They don’t make them like they used to anymore. These days, Emmanuel Adebayor can sit in the comment box and gurgle something unspeakable for 90 minutes while his partner is giving birth somewhere on the planet.

Mind you, good pundits need not necessarily be politically correct, or amiable for that matter. The best Italian commentator I remember, Bruno Pizzul, was despised by many Maltese (particularly the England fans who I bet never even heard of Andy Gray). Yet, Pizzul, despite his complicated use of diction, was never out of line in his punditry, never a touch too nationalist or biased: a true expert, emotionally spot-on even when following non-Italian sides for RAI. Look at the sorry bunch who have inherited his fortune: Collovati, Bagni, Mazzocchi, Bizzotto. Bagni, in particular, can hardly utter a sentence without a gaffe or two.

Now, back to Andy Gray, sacked for comments on lineswoman Sian Massey. How come an off the air voiceover of his is leaked to sister TV station Sky News and published just like that? I find it very strange that such a leak happened at all.

"I tell you, John, Sian Massey is sexier than Howard Webb and has the same knowledge of offsides."

Maybe the crew didn’t like Andy Gray. Now, the Guardian has reported three as yet unnamed female correspondents, one of whom still works for Sky, saying that there is a “culture of sexism and bullying at Sky.” A bit late in the day to report this?

His judgements on a female linesman are out of place – very true. But would you fire everyone who passes comment on a “looker”? You’d have to fire thousands of bar staff, bus drivers, milkmen, supermarket cashiers, policemen, accountants, lawyers… Let alone insulting the linesman. I’ve done it many times, be it man, woman, or furry feline.

Andy Gray famously parped “What do women know about offside?” And yet a common jibe here in Malta refers to women’s driving skills. Are we all jobless cause of that? That joke’s older than Gray himself, and the social phenomenon of feminism hasn’t tackled it at all.

Frankly, the emergence of clips on youtube depicting Gray’s purported sexism is way too coincidental. While I repeat this behaviour and comments are simply not on, firing Gray reeks of a set up. In Sky’s world of gloss and plastic, the outspoken Scotsman becomes the first victim of the new MD, Barney Francis. But, mind you, says one of the female journos interviewed by the Guardian, Sky Sports is still run like a “bloke’s club”. So I would easily assume this is a quick public rebranding.

Also, why not fire Gray’s co-commentator Richard Keys? The latter was let off with a reprimand. So was Andy Burton, who stars in some clips with Andy Gray where lineswoman Sian Massey seems to be the subject of the discussion.

Andy Gray is the old warhorse. One mistake and he’s off to an early pension, take a bow son. Politically correct Sky, now, should fire the others too. I want to see you do just that.

I’ll miss Andy Gray and his touchscreen, and if EA Sports dream of taking him out of FIFA… well you know.

I almost forgot, this is a tweet by Rio Ferdinand: “Discrimination should not happen in our game at all … prehistoric views if u think otherwise” Will you tell me how your teammates treat women? You might want to ask Rooney first.

written for footballxs.com