Radio Review: The Monday Night Club

Posted by on Jan 29, 2013 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
Radio Review: The Monday Night Club

Some excuses to start with – I’m tired after the weekend, the work has piled up and I have rarely organised alternative activities. I don’t fancy embarking on the box set that has arrived from Lovefilm and I’m yet to be enticed into downloading any album so far released in 2013.

So I invariably find myself tuning in to BBC Radio Five Live and that station’s Monday Night Club – a roundtable football discussion hosted by the omnipresent Mark Chapman, varying from an hour to two and a half hours in length depending on whether there is a game on or not, the last edition of which is still available on iPlayer.

I wasn’t too keen on ‘Chappers’ to start with – the sobriquet would be enough to provoke condemnation. There was something of the eighties sports presenter about him – not quite Partridge but straying into Nick Owen or Elton Welsby territory nonetheless.

But in time, I’ve grown to grudgingly admire him – a true roustabout he has become, and his effortless knowledge of a range of sports must mark him out as a real asset for the Beeb. Peddlers, a  recent analysis of the Lance Armstrong scandal was an impressive piece of radio and he has slotted into coverage of the Superbowl and Rugby League with ease.

Nor, when it comes to football, is he unduly fixated on the Premier League – the Monday Night Club does focus on that competition for sure, although last night’s vintage mainly concerned itself with the FA Cup and there are occasional appearances from Mark ‘Clem’ Clemmit to talk about the Seventy Two. Clemmit was so gloriously lampooned in a recent When Saturday Comes by Glen Wilson – but if his Football League Show appearances do induce cringes aplenty, he has a face, voice and personality for radio.

Another regular behind the headphones is Steve Claridge – as opinionated as ever and mercifully absent on this Monday’s edition. ‘Watford played well last night’ you’ll hear him say – when you know full well he was co-commentating on Arsenal v Chelsea. Chris Ledger’s legendary piece for Obscure Music and Football is a neat summary of the former Aldershot man’s contributions to our national consciousness.

Instead, John Motson, Robbie Savage and journalist Ian McGarry made up the quartet and with that dramatis personae, how could the show ever avoid lurching into tabloidese?

‘Motty’ falls into the Jimmy Hill category for me – an idiot savant who one just about roots for because he appears to have the interests of the wider game at heart – his childlike enthusiasm is undimmed. That said, the pronouncements were straying into Hill territory last night – in particular when discussing Aston Villa’s recent travails.

The failure of the Birmingham club to spend money in the transfer window was bemoaned, with veteran Villa watcher Pat Murphy enlisted to join the conversation. Sure, the multiple failures of Paul Lambert’s men provide opportunities for schadenfreude from fans of other clubs but hadn’t the panel stopped to think that Randy Lerner’s caution might be due to financial difficulties? After all, he has plunged over £200 million into the team, including £24 million for Darren Bent.

Greater digging was needed and although the likes of Newcastle and QPR have been spendthrift, Motson’s claim that ‘Reading have also spent money’ stretched the point – I doubt that Villa fans would be satisfied had they spent less than a million on Daniel Carriço, Hope Akpan and Stephen Kelly.

But the seasoned commentator is a positive joy to listen to in comparison to messrs Savage and McGarry even if the former’s controversial pre-season prediction that Villa would be relegated is gaining more credence by the day (to his credit, he no longer seems to be gaining pleasure from this – outwardly at least).

Savage’s excesses are well chronicled – his uncontrolled statements have the air of a nasty bout of Tourette’s syndrome but it’s McGarry who really spoils it all – named as one of the 100 worst people on twitter, his refusal to extract himself from the fundament of Chelsea Football Club and Jose Mourinho in particular as well as a comical tendency to speculate wrongly on transfers, has marked him out as a necessarily avoidable figure in the best tradition of the Wapping Jackals.

So why do I listen? Well fatigue is one excuse, but the show does have the occasionally interesting aside – last night’s was a discussion of psychometric testing and its impact on the game – a genuinely fascinating quarter of an hour in which Damien Comolli lauded these checks’ importance while resolutely avoiding any mention of Andy Carroll.

No, the Beeb does great work and Damon Threadgold’s recent piece for In Bed With Maradona highlights this fully. Nor is it yet Talksport – and we don’t have to listen to adverts for Tesco’s and Playstation thereon. Substitute Pat Nevin or Gary Neville for a couple of the jokers on this particular panel and you might just have a piece of high quality radio. For now though, my subsequent listen to Chris Nee and Steven Green’s Aston Villa Review podcast was far more edifying.

Rob Langham
Rob Langham (pen name: Lanterne Rouge) is co-founder of the defiantly non-partisan football league blog, The Two Unfortunates, a website that occasionally strays into covering issues of wider importance. He's 47 and lives in Oxford while retaining his boyhood support of Reading FC. He tweets as @twounfortunates and has written for a number of websites and publications including The Football Attic, The Inside Left, When Saturday Comes, In Bed with Maradona, Futbolgrad and The Blizzard as well as being nominated for the Football Supporters' Federation Blogger of the Year Award in 2013.

6 Comments

  1. Lloyd
    January 29, 2013

    I’m not really in the habit of turning on the radio of an evening but, funnily enough, I listened in to part of the show last night as I was making tea…

    When comparing it to what the BBC offers via its TV services, it has to score quite highly. As you point out, Mark Chapman isn’t nearly as annoying as he was / could be, and some of the threads they pick up really are quite interesting and inspire ideas for writing, etc.. I’m not sure the same can be said for the Football League Show…

    And I disagree with Glen – I think that Mark Clemmit does a reasonable job and would argue that someone in his position has to be less formal with players and managers (so as to get them to open up) than he perhaps suggests in his WSC piece.

    As to the guests last night…well…Motty is just unlistenable at times, spouting off the standard ‘people need to get over the MK’ line without pausing for a moment’s thought. And his comedy old-man chuckle / eyebrow-roll at the use of psychometric testing was indicative of how old hat he is. For me, his opinion is just irrelevant.

    As to Savage, he has the same kind of nasty streak in his broadcasting as he did during his playing days, hounding callers who disagree with him. But, unlike Motty, he does at least come up with a useful point from time to time…

    Reply
  2. Rich Nelson
    January 29, 2013

    I only recently got into the Monday Night Club via the Five Live daily podcast, tides me over on the commute to work. Not listened to this week’s yet (saving that for hometime) – normally land on it when Steve Claridge is around. I assume still trading off the reputation of an ‘honest ex-pro’, he just seems to think that football was at a peak in his day, and doesn’t come across as an admirer of top level football.
    ‘Chappers’ also popped up on the Test Match Special pod today. He seems enthusiastic, but I worry that he may suffer from overexposure once he starts on MOTD2 in the autumn.

    Seems apt that this post appeared today, along with Stan Collymore’s rant about journalists and ex-pros on Twitter, and the subsequent reply from WanchopeDickov.

    Reply
  3. Ben
    January 30, 2013

    I’ve had the misfortune to hear some of this when trying to catch a Monday evening commentary…

    As someone who grew up in the 80s and 90s, I find it hard not to have a soft spot for Motty – but the truth is he doesn’t say much worth listening to these days. Take that out of the equation and all you’ve got is a bit of wide-eyed enthusiasm – endearing, and that’s about all.

    Savage is a cartoonish character who’s taken the place of Ian Wright – outspoken (often aggressively so – one recent exchange with David Pleat in particular), often moronic and with the same irritating habit as Steve Claridge of prefacing every comment on whether or not they’ve played with the player in question (or under the manager in question).

    ‘Clem’ too comes across as a bit of a buffoon on ‘The Football League Show’, his palliness with the managers cringeworthy, but his pieces do at least sometimes delve beyond the Championship and his heart seems to be in the right place.

    As for ‘Chappers’, I’m baffled why he’s got the MOTD2 gig. I’ve listened to an interview he did with David Ginola this evening and he failed to elicit one interesting response. Not Colin Murray’s biggest fan, but he’s more palatable than Chappers.

    Lloyd, you’re right to namecheck Pat Nevin and Gary Neville – arguably the only two decent pundits around (the latter surprisingly so). Keith Andrews was the pundit for Radio 5 Sports Extra’s commentary on tonight’s Villa v Newcastle game and he was OK, and Kevin Kilbane’s not too bad either – but I’m not sure there are many other commentators/pundits I’m interested in listening to. Lee Dixon showed some initial promise but has been struck by the Curse of ITV…

    Reply
  4. Lanterne Rouge
    January 30, 2013

    Good point on Clem, Lloyd – I rather think the Football League Show gig was forced upon him and I think he’s a reluctant TV star.

    One aspect I didn’t mention was the show’s attempt last year to include a blogging element which saw the likes of Michael Cox from Zonal Marking, Gav Stone from the now defunct Les Rosbifs and Chris Nee (mentioned above) take part in discussions. Obviously this was enjoyable from a blogger’s point of view but the experiment didn’t last long.

    Another mindless aspect of Monday’s show was Savage’s stout defence of Peter Odemwingie saying that ‘you have to look after your family’. If we assume the Russo-Nigerian is currently on £30,000 a week, then that makes for a salary of £1.5 million a year before tax – not too bad really and enough to perhaps make most fans hope for a bit of loyalty.

    Reply
  5. Lanterne Rouge
    January 30, 2013

    Some explanation of the spat between Stan Collymore and Paul Sarahs mentioned by Rich above can be found here: http://www.twitlonger.com/show/ks5suq

    Reply
  6. Leeds, Ipswich and Crystal Palace meet their Deadlines | The Two Unfortunates
    February 1, 2013

    […] Five Live’s evening long special on transfer deadline day saw presenter Mark Chapman ask whether this bi-annual occasion is beginning to resemble the NFL draft in its endorsement of […]

    Reply

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