The dismissal of Andy Gray and Richard Key’s subsequent decision to \’quit’ Sky Sports following the off-camera comments made about a female referee assistant and crude remark towards Sky presenter Charlotte Jackson leaves the satellite broadcaster with two important seats to fill in the coming weeks.
Twenty minutes is a long time in football these days so twenty years must appear like a couple of lifetimes and the Sky Sports Directors and Heads of Production face an onerous task in selecting the right personnel to take over from the Gray-Keys tag-team which had been ever-present since Sky began beaming live English Premier League football in 1992. Irrespective of whom Sky select as their new first-line presentation tandem the satellite station desperately needs to clean up its corporate image and cannot go on as if nothing happened.
So who are the realistic contenders for both the presenting and the top punditry positions at Sky Sports Football? The following is just a brief list of suggested candidates.
Sky Sports Football Anchor (Richard Keys’ previous role)
The Gillette Soccer Saturday presenter looks a custom fit for the Richard Key’s role as new anchor of Sky Sports Football’s live coverage. Stelling has been named as Sports Broadcaster of the Year for five successive years by the Sports Journalists’ Association and with good reason.
His easy-going presentation style and constant playful sniping at fellow Soccer Saturday pundits such as Phil Thompson and Paul Merson has helped the programme attract record numbers of viewers over the past number of seasons. His stint at the helm of Channel 4’s Countdown since 2008 has also introduced Stelling to a completely new British audience and in short, he would appear the perfect ready-made replacement for Keys.
Co-Presenter of Sky Sport’s hugely successful Saturday morning football show Soccer AM (don’t mention the Soccerettes), Helen Chamberlain would be a terrific (and timely) addition to the broadcaster’s live football coverage. A Sky Sports regular, Chamberlain has also presented various Darts and Poker tournaments and is always engaging, bubbly and entertaining whenever on camera.
The fact Sky would consider a woman for such a pivotal position in light of the departed Gray and Key’s remarks is not the main reason Chamberlain should get the job. She is simply a fine presenter, football fanatic , Torquay fan and appealing character and would be a surprise but welcome choice for the hot seat.
An outside bet but James Richardson has excelled in recent years as the anchor of the hugely popular Guardian.co.uk football podcast programme \’Football Weekly’ and \’Football Weekly Extra’. Richardson first appeared on Channel4 as presenter and chief reporter of the channel’s Serie A Italian football coverage entitled \’Football Italia’. A recent stint with Setanta Sports demonstrated Richardson’s dry wit and humour before a live studio audience and his ability to present a live football broadcast is unquestioned following a decade covering Italian soccer on Sunday afternoons.
Unlike Jeff Stelling and Helen Chamberlain who are already Sky Sports employees, Richardson has recently been picked up by the BBC for their regional football coverage in the South West. He would still represent an excellent addition to the satellite broadcaster’s live coverage and his professional and unassuming presentation style would be in direct contrast to Richard Key’s inane attempt at banter with the former professionals in the studio.
Sky Sports Football Pundit (Andy Gray’s previous role)
The former Scottish international manager and player is by far and away Sky Sport’s most interesting and incisive pundit. Amid the dreary rhetoric of Jamie Redknapp and Ruud Gullit, Souness remains a beacon of sensibility and his no-nonsense, straight-forward talking style sets him apart from all the other usual banal comments that have infested the satellite broadcaster’s live football coverage.
Souness recently appeared on Irish National broadcaster RTE and performed heroically alongside the aggressive Eamon Dunphy and thoughtful John Giles. The three pundit’s performances during the 2010 World Cup along with genial anchor-man Bill O’Herlihy regularly beat the BBC and ITV coverage. Souness is ready made for the position and unlike Gray would not be afraid to criticise English internationals. In short he would represent a serious upgrade on the previous Scotsman who fulfilled the role for over 20 years.
The current Blackpool manager would represent a complete outsider as choice for the main punditry role on Sky Sports but admit it; he would be good TV every time he was on camera. A manager who is never afraid to offer a sound bite, his colourful use of the language coupled with his broad accent would be a complete contrast to Gray’s previous doleful Scottish warbling.
Holloway is no mug, as his Blackpool side’s ascension up the Premier League table will testify. It would be intriguing to hear Holloway’s tactical musings, as usually MOTD and even Sky Sports News just tend to transmit something funny or semi-controversial that the Blackpool manager has uttered rather than his insights into why his team has won or lost. Holloway would be a wildcard choice, yes, but an interesting and new departure from the regular SSN punditry.
Jeff Stelling and Graeme Souness look the likeliest candidates to be promoted from within the towers of Sky Sports but James Richardson and Ian Holloway would be my dream choice to liven up what was an already stagnating coverage of the English Premier and Champions Leagues.
Who would your preferred choices be?