IAN HERBERT: Channel 4’s toe-curling England coverage has all the appeal of CARDBOARD… their relentless pursuit of ‘entertainment’ leaves no time to report, analyse, debate and disagree
- Channel 4’s England coverage at the Nations League has been a painful watch
- Presenter Jules Breach produced a toe-curling interview with Gareth Southgate
- She then took Michael Owen around Munich in a seemingly endless segment
- It took a long time for any analysis or debate on football matters to break out
- The channel also has none of the compelling voices other broadcasters enjoy
Small mercies. At least Channel 4’s coverage of Germany v England did not take us back into the unbearably excruciating realms of Gareth Southgate’s ‘full navy outfit,’ as presenter Jules Breach described it to him before the game in Hungary last Saturday.
It was hard to tell who found that particular episode the more toe-curling — us or the England manager, who manfully coped with the question by saying: ‘It’s very hot so I don’t think the jacket will be staying on… but we are looking forward to the game.’
Undeterred, Breach ventured into the realms of Southgate’s waistcoat and polka-dot tie, before Michael Owen closed the discussion with a self-deprecating line about his own dress sense as a teenager.
It’s the notion of rigorous football talk which has gone out of fashion. The soft music playing as Kelly Somers conducted pre-recorded interviews with Raheem Sterling and Southgate for Tuesday night’s broadcast added to the sense — enhanced by the level of questioning — that this was some kind of promotional video.
Channel 4’s Jules Breach conducted a toe-curling chat with England boss Gareth Southgate
Owen gets his share of stick but he was the one putting in the hard yards.
There was a very long walk with Breach around Munich’s Olympic Stadium where he scored that hat-trick, in that 5-1 win 21 years ago. We had Owen posing for Breach to take her own picture of him. Owen meeting fans in the main square. Owen locating the room he stayed in all those years ago. His story of how he inadvertently swapped his shirt away after the 5-1 game, yet managed to get it back, was a rare addition to the sum of football understanding.
But the segment was endless. Proper entertainment would have been seeing Roy Keane’s response to a broadcaster trying to put him through all this.
It took a long time for some analysis to break out, with Owen having his moments on the respective merits of a back three and four. But the studio output had all the properties of cardboard, with Breach demonstrating her intent to bring ‘fun and fresh energy’ to all this by introducing Owen at the start as ‘the father of Love Island’s Gemma Owen’.
The broadcaster’s coverage of England at the Nations League has all the appeal of cardboard
Breach took England legend Michael Owen on a seemingly endless tour around Munich
One of England’s greatest strikers responded: ‘Jules, I came all the way to Germany to avoid all that back at home, and you’ve brought it up straight away. This is taking my mind off it, so don’t bring it back up.’
Alongside Owen and Joe Cole was Jordan Nobbs, the 29-year-old Arsenal and England midfielder, who provided a dash of millennial cool though not a whole deal more. There were none of the compelling voices other broadcasters have found.
There was not even any German knowledge in the studio. Journalist Archie Rhind-Tutt, who provided excellent insight, was stuck on the touchline with Channel 4’s Somers, fielding jokes about his garish jacket.
The problem with the pursuit of ‘entertainment’ like this is that there is no time to report, analyse, debate, disagree.
The problem with pursuing ‘entertainment’ like this is it replace rigorous football analysis
We will now always be able to say we’ve seen Declan Rice, Jack Grealish and Bukayo Saka play Pictionary together. Yet there was no talk of Jamal Musiala, the teenager who opted to play for Germany instead of England.
There were a few unscripted moments in the two broadcasts of the past few days — Breach, during one England warm-up, backheeling a stray ball past Owen’s face to Nobbs, who cleared it back on to the pitch.
But this doesn’t feel like progression. ‘Football’s coming… to a new home,’ Breach declared before the Hungary match. It doesn’t even feel as good as the last one.