I’m with Virgin for my cable telly. I’m sure there are benefits to this situation (other than not having to have big black cable – oo-er – snaking round the outside of my house a la Sky), but it initially meant being stripped of two of my favourite shows, Lost and 24. OK, I thought. At least I have Prison Break. Then Sky got that. Nice one Branson. It does mean I get Setanta, though, which is reasonably good, and free.
At first I was pretty chuffed with this most recent acquisition: as well as such niche excellence as the occasional UFC event and Australian Rugby League, I got to see some full Premier League football matches. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have to go to a crap pub for that fix. However, time passes and a certain truth rears, to paraphrase Living Colour, its ugly head.
After a period of both watching the Setanta Premiership matches while also attending the aforementioned horrid pubs (they being either dingy chain faux-traditional ‘Oirish’ pubs or else gleaming glass ‘n’ steel structures as soulless as the Razorlight fans who populate them), it became upsettingly blatant that the evil Murdoch was sorting fans out with much better matches than the evil… Des Lynam?
I can forget about watching matches between the Big Four sides (for those who know even less than me about football, i.e. nobody, they are Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United) – or even between top six sides, for that matter. No, the best we can expect is a Big Four side playing a relative no-mark team on Saturday early evening. And you get used to it, like some kind of televisual battered wife. Of course, if that match involves Arsenal it’s not so bad because I can watch them weave their magic with glee any day.
It does mean, though, that the Setanta viewer sucks up whatever morsels they can; this brings us to yesterday. I was invited to Harrogate to attend a friend’s birthday festivities and felt a pang of disappointment that I would be missing out on – wait for it – Manchester United (Scum) vs. Newcastle. For anyone who doesn’t know, I am a Leeds United fan and only watch Scum matches on the off-chance they might lose. Still a match is a match and the pang, however miniscule, was felt.
Illustration of how foolish my panging was: Scum, much as I hate to say it, has found form after a hilariously shaky start to the season. Their defence is solid, and they have large threat up front in the form of Christiano Ronaldo, Carlos Teves and, to a lesser extent, Wayne Rooney. They score a lot, are infuriatingly consistent, are the defending champions and – as of yesterday morning – two points behind leaders Arsenal.
Newcastle United on the other hand is dismally bad. Watching them in the last couple of months I am amazed they managed to scrape together twenty-six points thus far this season. They drew with bottom side Derby County on December 23rd and lost to 17th-placed Wigan at home. To make matters worse, they are currently – after the ditching of human cane toad Sam Allardyce – without a manager. And they were playing Scum at the fortress that is Old Trafford.
So the fact I even wanted to watch this match, a match in which Scum were likely to smash Newcastle (I predicted 4-0), is a resounding illustration of how desperate the Setanta viewer is for football. And I don’t even like Newcastle.
While in Harrogate, the home of fantastic pastry (and other stuff) shop Weeton’s and numerous middling drinking establishments (including Montey’s ‘Rock Café’. Sorry, if you play Keane, you have to remove the word ‘rock’ from your moniker), someone with a much posher phone than me took a look at the results. Arsenal was held to a draw at home to stupid Birmingham, which didn’t bode well for the inevitable Scummage; it was worse than I thought.
With a Ronaldo hat-trick among the goals, Scum beat Newcastle 6-0, sending them to the top of the Premiership and a message to all the other teams. So in summation my decision to go out was a good one (how depressing would it have been to watch that match), and Setanta viewers are desperate to watch top-flight football. Even if it is the worst possible top-flight match to see. Also: I reckon that, wherever they finish in the table, Newcastle should be automatically relegated at the end of this season for their general crapness. Unless they suddenly become amazing and shoot to sixth place or something, but that’s just not happening.
Or is it?