Everyone loves Saturday morning. Waking up, blinking in the day-off sun and realising that work can wait for two days.
For football fans, it’s obviously extra special. Those who regularly attend games shrug off hangovers to board trains and buses for far off stadiums and even those headed only for the sofa feel that pang of anticipation over their early morning coffee.
Bets are placed; fantasy teams are tweaked; afternoon shopping trips are avoided.
Saturday morning television is an oddity, though. Domestic English football engages millions of people every weekend and so there are hours of associated programming pointed at the relevant fixtures.
Isn’t it strange, though, that all of it is pitched at the same level?
There’s nothing original in criticising football’s Saturday morning output or in making disparaging remarks about the kind of people who tune in regularly to watch Soccer AM or its BT Sport rival, Fletch & Sav, but its still relevant to point out that, really, they cater to identical audiences.
Somewhere, therefore, there must be a lost demographic. A group of people who hate banter, who are tired of that hackneyed, faux-ironic humour and who are not tantalised by a revolving cast of ex-professionals poking fun at each others’ haircuts and clothing.
That’s not a judgement and this isn’t a case of right and wrong: light entertainment exists because there’s a demand for it and television is supposed to cater to everybody.
But where’s the variation?
Sky Sports’ most admired program is its Monday night analysis show anchored by Ed Chamberlin, Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville. It is the gold-standard of British football broadcasting and it’s remarkable – given that universal fondness – that no attempt has been made to reproduce it in a pre-game format.
It’s a real anomaly. For two organisations who spend as much time and money as Sky and BT do on promoting their Premier League coverage, they appear curiously intent on trying to funnel their vast audiences through one very narrow channel.
Saturday morning is slapstick time: it’s all in-jokes, celebrity-fawning and Paul Merson stumbling over simple foreign names. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with that and maybe, in a world in which football means far too much to far too many, the game benefits from a degree of self-deprecation – but that, on British television at least, has probably gone too far.
Something is only refreshing when it represents a variation from the norm and our Saturday morning diet now consists solely of Soccer AM’s whooping simpletons and Dazza, Shagger, Bazza, Jamo, Sav, Big Dean and Kevy Kevy Kev Kev on the other side.
There has to be something else, it can’t just be that.
Where are the previews of games and the analysis of where they’re likely to be won or lost?
Where’s the opportunity to learn something before the matches rather than just after they’ve been played?
This isn’t a plea for elitist, exclusionary television; trawl through social media on any Saturday morning during the football season and it will become obvious that, minority though they may be, a lot of people have an appetite for something different.
Nothing too intellectual and nothing which parodies the sport through over-analysis, but just something which occurs slightly above the “Oi Oi, it’s the football” crowd or which, through its existence, offers more than just charity for ex-professionals unable to secure permanent media work.