Sky Sports and the problem with Spurs

redknapp henry spurs

Ten minutes after the final whistle on Sunday — with Spurs sealing 2nd place for the first time in the Premier League era and completing an unbeaten home campaign, four dozen footballing legends ready to lead a grand farewell to one of the English football’s most famous old stages, and thousands of fans invading the pitch behind them — the conversation in the Sky Sports studio turned, inevitably, to the summer transfer window and whether Spurs would be able to keep stars such as Dele Alli.

Did it not cross the mind of the Sky host, Dave Jones, that this may not be the most relevant debate to be having, right now? Did it not cross his mind that, just maybe, tens of thousands of Spurs fans not fortunate enough to be at White Hart Lane on this historic occasion may be tuning in to soak in the atmosphere, celebrate a superb season, and bid goodbye to an old friend? Sure, it is perfectly reasonable to discuss the future of this Spurs team, the year away at Wembley, and the context of the success, achieved on a vastly smaller budget than the other occupants of the Premier League’s top six. But could it not wait, at least, for one sodding hour?

Even the best of TV hosts, which Dave Jones certainly isn’t, would struggle to wring a coherent thought on Spurs — or really anything — from Thierry Henry, while Jamie Redknapp is a malign and charmless presence, who cannot make it through two sentences without undermining Spurs.

“But can they keep hold of their players? But what if a big, big club comes calling? They should be smashing down the chairman’s door demanding a pay rise!”

Only Graeme Souness, a former Spurs apprentice who has fallen hard for Dele Alli and the strong, tough team Mauricio Pochettino has crafted, offered any semblance of a Spurs perspective on this huge day, But throw Souey a bloodied conversational rag — Spurs in the transfer market — and he’ll dive in two footed. Fortunately, the diggers were waiting to move in and Mauricio Pochettino was standing by in the tunnel, so this segment of the debate eventually came to a conclusion.

Sky’s coverage of Spurs has, to put it mildly, started to grate.

It wasn’t all that good to begin with, and hit a particular low in the run-in last season, with Cesc Fabregas of Chelsea and formerly of Arsenal being granted an undeserved platform to goad his upcoming opponents during one of Tottenham’s string of Monday night matches. But against West Ham, when both lead commentator Martin Tyler and presenter Rachel Riley (who is she?) took it upon themselves to suggest Spurs were bottlers as a nine-match winning streak came to an end during a fourth London derby in three weeks, what little patience was left evaporated.

The problem Sky have, or more accurately the problem we have with Sky, is that their roster of pundits and commentators isn’t built for Spurs being good.

For one season of fluke competence, Spurs being good was fine: a Leicester-lite surprise, who didn’t warrant further attention. But with Spurs showing all the signs of a sustained period of competence, Sky’s lack of a Spurs “voice” has become overwhelmingly apparent. Sending Thierry Henry, of all people, to the White Hart Lane finale was preposterous.

Spurs were selected for live TV coverage 18 times in 2014/15 and 21 times in 2015/16. This season, the final number will be 25. Of these, Sky will show 19 — so exactly half of Tottenham’s total games are being broadcast by Sky. Unless performances drop off significantly at Wembley, a similar number of Spurs games will be shown by Sky next season, in particularly given the lack of the Jose vs Pep narrative that drove a lot of live match selections in the first quarter of this season.

As the number of appearances has increased, the role of Spurs has changed. Spurs, up until now, were shown home and away against Sky’s chosen elite — a handy yardstick and almost certainly an entertaining game. Throw in a couple of London derbies, a goal-fest or two against Everton, something embarrassing against Newcastle and a whipping of Aston Villa, and that was Spurs on TV: repeat for 25 years. It didn’t require any thought, and certainly didn’t require any special treatment.

But now, Sky are aware that the situation is changing and they aren’t equipped to deal with it. Sky have some fine pundits such as Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher, while Frank Lampard is as smart and articulate an ex footballer as there is. But there simply isn’t a Spurs voice in the building — someone capable of offering a counter-opinion when the conversation gets tedious, someone who understands the spirit of the club, and can explain to viewers the transformation that Pochettino is leading.

Excruciatingly, the solution has been to play up the Spurs credentials of Jamie Redknapp. Ahead of the North London derby, Martin Tyler grandly welcomed “former Spurs captain Jamie Redknapp” to the coverage. Once I’d finished vomiting, I had to look it up. Redknapp was indeed selected as captain in 2003/04 by Glenn Hoddle, but played only 17 games that season — and made just 49 appearances for the club in total. That’s five more than Edgar Davids made, but Redknapp wasn’t invited to the legends parade while the Pitbull was: at least Jamie could get a lift home with his dad.

Redknapp, as Tyler himself said on commentary earlier in the season, is a Liverpool fan — and there is nothing wrong with that after making more than 200 appearances for the Anfield club. Just don’t pretend to be something you aren’t: give me honest admissions of bias over false claims of balance, any day of the week.

Does any of this matter? Most of the time, not at all. At half-time, most viewers do the washing up or take the dog out; at full-time, most of us finish watching at the final whistle and do something else. But just occasionally, like on Sunday, as a fan you want to savour every moment, drink in the atmosphere as though you were there. And this is when you realise just how abysmal Sky’s coverage of Spurs is.

It seems that Sky — and many other media outlets — are stuck on repeat. After every victory, the question is whether Spurs can keep hold of our star players; after every dropped point, the question is whether Spurs lack mental fortitude. We won nine goddam games in a row, and Martin Tyler — the most experienced commentator and the voice of the Premier League — was accusing us of throwing away the title.

Is it any wonder Spurs fans feel we’re not getting the credit we deserve? Spurs are playing magnificent football, setting club records and keeping title races alive long after all the other “big” clubs have given up; we’ve got a vibrant young squad that is providing more players for the England team than anyone else; we’re doing it on a tight budget, using homegrown players, while building a world-class stadium with virtually no support from the public purse. Spurs should be a model, lauded for doing things “the right way”; instead, after every fucking game, we’re treated to Jamie Redknapp diminishing our achievements and trying to break us up.

I’m no Sky basher, as those who follow me on Twitter know. I think Sky’s sporting coverage is world class, and its football coverage is far better than BT Sport’s dumbed down approach. It’s just unlucky, really, that Sky are so shit when it comes to covering Spurs.

I know Sky don’t care. Liverpool and Man United are all that matters, in terms of the subscription model. We all regret the decision to give Thierry Henry such a prominent role, Sky Sports management included — only four years and £16m left on his contract, lads.

But, as they plan for the new season, I desperately hope Sky at least consider adding one Spurs voice to their line-up. If Crouchy or Robbo hang up their boots this summer, they’d be a welcome addition, or perhaps Matt Le Tissier, Saints legend and boyhood Spurs fan, could be given be a more prominent role.

To be honest, though, empty chairs and a couple more betting adverts would provide more insight into Spurs than Henry and Redknapp Jnr.

Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Twitter for more Spurs chat.

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25 thoughts on “Sky Sports and the problem with Spurs

  1. nakosar

    Great post – thanks. Here in the USA, I think NBC Sports’ coverage of Spurs has been fair and respectful. What about Jermaine Jenas? From what I’ve seen of his writing, he has original ideas, isn’t afraid to take a position, and of course has a solid Spurs pedigree.

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    1. thespursreport Post author

      He’s BBC and BT Sport — so doesn’t appear on Sky. He’s great, but not moving any time soon. My great hope is Peter Crouch — does lots of Sky stuff already, and is a funny and interesting guy who could be a good pundit

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      1. Steve Davis

        Yes from what little i’ve heard from him, i think Crouchy would be great! I agree with the above comment about NBC here in the States, by the way; for the most part, very balanced and well-informed… Graeme Le Saux, Robbie Earle, Robbie Mustoe, even Lee Dixon for goodness sake!

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  2. Donna Marie Pridham

    I was watching at half time. I thought Souness was out of order. He said we were playing efficient but not attractive football. How is that complimentary? He only played one game for us. He is not our friend.

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  3. Nezz

    I get the rant, but at the end of the day, who gives a toss what the biased Sky agenda broadcasts? If they think we’re sh*t then let them. Much like the fans of ‘big” clubs who reckon our players aren’t good enough for them – thanks very much, please don’t sign them, I want them to stay here.

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      1. Sam Johnson

        Nail on the head. That’s the main problem. It also fuels the moronic fans who repeat said narrative nonsense, not just the media. Any real person who cares about football – and that goes for ex-pros and pundits – should want to see real clubs succeed, not money clubs. Chelsea and City should be boring, and Spurs, Everton, Southampton etc. should be the clubs that get the support for how they go about their business, despite the odds against that they face.

        Of the available Sky Sports people who could step in and provide a more balanced view (outside of G Nev), Matt Le Tissier is the one. The way he stuck up for Southampton during the Cup Final (offside goal etc.) was a total breath of fres hair. It wasn’t even that he was being biased towards Southampton, it was that he was annoyed by how easily it was dismissed. Dismissed in terms of it being United and United “would win”, but also he was treated as just an over-enthusiastic Southampton fan, his opinion dismissed as if it were biased. The irony from Sky there.

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  4. Gnome88

    I maybe a Spurs fan for 45 years but I respect Niall Quinn’s views when he is on Sky. He’s the best. The worst for me is Alan Smith. I’m sure he watches a different game than what everybody else is. I do agree that the pundits should shut up about keeping our players. That in itself would start the ball rolling to unsettle our players.

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    1. thespursreport Post author

      Gave Smith a pass in this article — I think he’s OK. Admits his bias, mostly fair — didn’t engage in Tyler’s Spurs-baiting against West Ham. Just does too many Spurs matches — gets boring having him every match. Quinn is OK — don’t mind him doing Spurs matches

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  5. Craig Messenger

    This is one reason I cancelled Sky Sports at home. Constantly wanting to put my boot through the TV at ridiculous comments. Go to my local know watch the game and miss the crap.

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  6. David Fairhead

    Why do they have so many Goons to begin with anyway?.The REAL problem is that we are interlopers.The monopoly has been interrupted and Sky and others don’t like it.Well bloody tough!,because we are here now and NOT going away.Its like Man U fans not being able to accept,that they are just another team now,and not the top dog anymore.Sky would love us to lose all our best players,and go back to being 5th or 6th every season.Tough shit,Sky ain’t happening!.

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  7. Jack77

    It grates me that Alan Smith is so frequently put up as the co-commentator on Spurs games. He has very little to say anyway and his comments on interview lack substance or are banal.

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  8. Jen Jones

    First of all I was at the Lane on Sunday, what a day! Secondly I watched the highlights on MOTD and Sky highlights too, it was like hearing two different matches! Martin Tyler is a disgrace, the whiney gunners, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester lovingpundits should be banned from Spurs matches. We don’t need a totally Spurs biased commentary just a fair one. Why does nobody get us? Infuriating.

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  9. Ian MacCabe

    In total agreement-but don’t get too wound up as I put it down to envy & ignorance of the finer-points of the game. They probably would not understand the prophetic quotes from the late great Danny Blanchflower. But I do think that Sky should desist in having Alan Smith commentating on Spurs matches. Apart from his unashamed bias -he is so fucking boring

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  10. Alan Joel

    Superb article. I never watch what I refer to as the “bollocks” before during and after matches and watch most of the games with the commentary turned off. Alan Smith – don’t get me started. Savage Robbie – why do they employ him! At last an article that talked about the football. Yes we didn’t win anything but hey we were able to watch some of the finest football every to grace WHL – and I go back a looooonggg way! This is a wonderful team which I hope sticks together with the manager and if we don’t win anything next year but play football to the same standard, I for one will be a happy bunny.

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  11. Simon kemp

    Whilst I agree with you and think you have written a brilliant informed post…. I like us being the unpopular underdog who makes the likes of Redknapp constantly contradict himself. He has been spouting crap about us for years. Let’s let our performances on the pitch prove him wrong.

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  12. Terry Oram

    It’s about time Sky got there act together. I’m feed up with hearing Alan Smith bias remarks when commentating on Spurs games. No Arsenal ex-players should commentate on Spurs matches or ex-Spurs players commentate on Arsenal games. Why is it that all the other clubs are going to buy our whole squad of players. No mention of Man Utd, Liverpool, Arsenal loosing there top players. TOTTENHAM are not a feeder club anymore.

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  13. Devils Advocate

    While i agree with a lot of your points, this does smack of bitterness. Who cares what some pundits think. Sky focus on all clubs in the Northwest and up until recently they didn’t have Lampard and in fairness were also fairly anti Chelsea.

    Wether Spurs can keep player is a legitimate question. All the northwest clubs (the obvious ones) have bigger budgets and can tempt players away. Are we really naive to think if United came in with the right price that Kane wouldn’t have his head turned, or Walker to City? The same was said about Leicester last year and losing Kante was a massive loss for them.

    And lastly, while Spurs have been brilliant, still no trophy. Fact is nobody will remember how well Spurs played in 5 or 10 years time if there isn’t anything to show for it even Arsenal whove been awful are in the FA cup final… and lets not go there about the United Southampton final. Players want medals. Some will be thinking of that, look at Torres, yes he was a flop in West London but he won things and i bet when he looks back on his career when he’s retired he will be thankful for being part of teams that won things.

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  14. Jay H

    Who are SkySports?

    My £600pa Sky money went straight to Tottenham this season. Direct funding I call it.

    And agree with the above. NBC are fair and good.

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  15. Tanel Kagan

    You’re entitled to your view but I’m one of those that actually sits through most of the pre-match build up and more often than not the post-match analysis, and I believe the comments have been overwhelmingly complimentary.

    As an ex-Spurs player, whose father managed the club, Redknapp naturally has to throw in a few caveats here and there, just to remind us that he wants and needs to be taken seriously as a pundit, instead of blowing smoke up Tottenham’s arse every second. However, he has consistently praised Pochettino, the evident spirit at the club, and the football that we have been playing.

    Souness too, consistently stating that this may be the best Tottenham team he’s seen, certainly in living memory. And as for Henry, it must stick in his throat that his beloved Arsenal have declined at the same time as Tottenham have progressed, yet nothing I have heard him say has cast doubt on his ability to give reasoned, objective analysis.

    Yes, there will be comments concerning Spurs’ players moving on, but that is nothing unique to us, that is part of the baggage of being a top team. The better your players perform, the more attention they garner. Chelsea, despite winning the title, and being on course for the double, have had the same issue with Hazard and Costa. As they say, if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen, and if you don’t want your players to be talked about as transfer targets, then the safest thing to do is to float about in mid-table mediocrity. Oh wait… we tried that, didn’t we?

    It’s not Sky Sports that needs to re-evaluate itself in terms of Tottenham, it’s Tottenham, including its supporters, that needs to re-evaluate itself in terms of football. Once you stick your head above the parapet and show your credentials, you need to be able to back them up. You can no longer rely on the occasional “good season” and walk away content, you have to recalibrate your expectations and along with that, the reactions of the footballing world to your endeavours. That means that we have to be prepared to take some stick, and be subject to the additional scrutiny that being a “top team” brings. That’s football, maybe we’re just not used to it.

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  16. pantomimefootball

    Brilliant article! Precisely summed up my feelings on the matter. I’m glad I’m a season ticket holder so I don’t have to listen to the sort of nonsense spouted by Henry et al too regularly. Sunday was a magical day, felt very lucky to be there. #COYS

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  17. Pingback: The trouble with Spurs… | pantomimefootball

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