As if watching Chelsea stumble to their third loss of the season against Man City at the weekend wasn’t frustrating enough, listening to Joe Royle’s attempt at commentary piled on the irritation for Chelsea fans. I feel compelled to write a few words on it.
I can’t have been the only Chelsea fan infuriated by Royle’s endless refusal to criticise any Man City player or ‘see’ any infringement they might have made. Borderline decisions going in City’s favour went unquestioned while contentious verdicts going the other way were errors of judgement from Howard Webb.
Meanwhile, Royle was desperate to paint a picture of Chelsea as ‘losing it’ and reacting badly to perceived injustice. He totally ignored the fact that, in general, Chelsea players reacted pretty well in the face of one or two poor refereeing decisions (one that went against Ivanovic was just laughable, and he ended up getting a yellow) and that John Terry did an admirable job in ensuring he was the only player in blue and black hoops remonstrating with Webb.
Supposedly Chelsea – top of the table and packed full of experienced players that have won trophies Royle himself could have only ever dreamed of – were ‘rattled’ as soon as Man City had scored their contested first goal (on 36 minutes). Meanwhile Man City – who in reality won the day through a well executed plan to stifle and harass Chelsea rather than excellent passing football – were portrayed as world beaters.
When Royle criticised Drogba for going down theatrically after Onuoha had nigh-on assaulted him in the box (resulting in a penalty) it was pretty much the last straw; and this was just minutes after he had castigated the Ivorian for staying down too long after a challenge when in fact he had immediately got back to his feet.
From the point of view of a fan who spends £14 a month for the privilege of watching ESPN, I thought it was appalling that Royle made no attempt to offer balanced, reasoned commentary or that the producers didn’t bring him into line. In fact it was only his co-commentator who acknowledged his blinkered viewpoint, reminding Royle that he had history with Man City.
Besides the commentary, I’ve been less than impressed with ESPN generally. They clearly feel the need to over-dramatise events (Saturday’s game had plenty of drama and excitement without endless hyperbole from the commentary team) and Kevin Keegan is in no way equipped to be an insightful or interesting pundit.
And, to complete the rant, their brash, mammoth graphics aren’t really my cup of tea. I guess it is their first season with rights to Premier League matches, but any channel that makes me yearn for Andy Gray is clearly doing something wrong…
This isn’t just bitterness – check out my match report where I acknowledge how Man City won their deserved victory. Anyone else watch the game agree with me about Royle though? Post a comment.