Radio review: 5 Live Football League
5 Live Football League
Mondays, 9pm, BBC Five Live
Presented by Arlo White
The BBC’s increased coverage of our division this season is by no means restricted to the visual medium. There has been an encouraging upping of profile on Radio too and one of the best examples of this is a new magazine programme titled, with bounteous imagination, “5 Live Football League“, an hour long meander through the issues of the week in all three lower divisions, on Monday nights at 9pm.
Apart from when a Premier league fixture intervenes, this promises to be a regular piece of scheduling, and its airing tends to follow the now established “Monday Night Club”, a modern day football version of Question Time covering more rarefied subject matter (Premier and Champions League, In-ger-lund etc.) — a roundtable involving familiar panellists such as John Motson, Ian McGarry and Steve Claridge, as well as wildcard choices like Rod Liddle, last night’s attempt to make the others sound like they are experts (he ended up being far more forthright and interesting than any of them).
The lynchpins of 5 Live Football league itself are presenter Arlo White, who looks about 11 on the BBC website, and that old warhorse Mark Clemmit, a man who has been cautiously introduced to television over recent weeks. White is authoritative and comes across as knowledgeable: he epitomizes the high standards of the station (hectoring individuals such as Alan Green apart) and always appears to have done his homework. British Wireless’s professionalism has been in sharp contrast to the half-baked worshipping of ex-players-as-pundits we have suffered on the telly for too long now and White is suitably enthusiastic in living up to this. As for Clem, well he is something of a lower league hero now — his humorous anecdotes and open heartedness now given extra credibility by the presence of his beloved Middlesbrough in Championship waters. If he can avoid looking like he was dressed by the CBeebies wardrobe department, then we’ll continue to love him.
Last night’s show was devoted to the forthcoming “Steel City derby” (surely a recent coinage?), with Kevin Blackwell and Brian Laws jousting verbally and staying just the right side of being annoying. Blackwell in particular came across very well, although he confirmed just how steeped in the Football league he is, commenting intelligently on stories from Leagues One and Two, including the sad death of Stockport striker Carl Baker’s brother from leukaemia. On being asked if great managers make great players, he predictably said it mattered not one jot, citing Wenger, Mourinho and, after some hesitation, Houllier as proof. Protestations that he and “Lawsy” were great mates might have become cloying but the latter amusingly debunked Billy Davies’s branding of Wednesday as a long ball team and Blackwell himself found it hard to contain his glee at Neil Warnock’s Scunthorpe nightmare. The general bonhomie was refreshing compared to the pathetic stand offs indulged in by Premier League managers and made for a diverting hour of listening.