Wave of boredom washes over Marsh
Feature by Rick Lamb
Updated Wednesday, 31st August 2005
After his well-publicised indiscretion led to his sacking by Sky, Rodney Marsh has found a new outlet for his unique brand of broadcasting.
There was a time when Rodney Marsh was in his element. He was comfortable in his ability and everything he did came naturally to him. He was a star in his own right, part of a team at the top of its profession and pulling clear of the competition. Those were the days, however, when footballers could wing it. They just turned up on a Saturday afternoon and turned it on for the fans. Stats were for the gaffer, the footballers relied on inspiration and looking good. It was, after all, the era of a certain George Best.
Things have changed, though. Bestís liver packed up and his social life became a bit too volatile for a second career in a row. A new breed of younger footballers from a more professional era came in with better preparation and more knowledge of the ever-changing sport. Then Rodney went and made that tsunami joke. You didnít think I was talking about his football career did you?
While there are an astonishing number of woefully ill-prepared pundits plying their trade as broadcasters and journalists, Rodney Marsh took it to new levels. Much of the problem is down to the sheer arrogance of footballers, many of whom believe that they work in a closed shop. Just look at the reaction to Sir Clive Woodward. They know about the game, so they donít have to prepare, know statistics, pronunciations of playersí names or any such trivialities. Opinions are, apparently, far more valuable than insight.
Of course, the journalists on Jimmy Hillís Sunday Supplement donít always cover themselves in glory, but they can think their way around a topic. Rodney Marsh, in his latest incarnation, has gone from the ridiculous to the sub-bland.
One gets the sense that Marshís Ron Atkinson moment was born out of being too comfortable. Rod had made a habit out of being as controversial as he could and making the most ludicrous claims just to stand out. Granted, not many thought Bradford would stay up, but nobody else said theyíd have their head shaved on the pitch if they did. But Marsh loved it.
He probably thought he was a bit above Youíre On Sky Sports as well. These days it tends to be the preserve of the Paul Walsh and Kenny Sansoms of this world or, God forbid, Nigel Winterburn. Marsh had graduated from that and got his pick of the seats alongside Jeff Stelling. His crass performance just days after thousands perished in South East Asia smacked of a player getting sent off when relegated to the reserves. Thankfully, he vanished from our screens.
Unlike Big Ron, who at least had the defence that his comments were not intended for broadcast, there was no real controversy. Atkinson was good at his job, you see, and has been missed for the good things he brought to ITVís otherwise average coverage. Marsh was not remotely missed. Not with Chris Kamara around.
But guess whoís back. TalkSPORT, who have managed to make a broadcaster out of Alan Brazil, if not Ray Houghton, have continued their patchy recruitment policy by bringing Marsh into the afternoon slot after occasionally filling in for the rotund, clown haired Scot at breakfast time. If you thought they sometimes struggled for things to talk about on the UKís biggest commercial radio station, you had seen nothing. Itís visible via the magic of radio on your telly. Talksport TV allows you to put faces to the voices, to see footballers on the slide, and to give yourself a splitting headache by staring at the giant orange Connect 4 studio.
While a trained professional, Paul Breen-Turner, sits frantically pushing buttons, making notes and basically running the show, there sits Rod. Telephone guests, as opposed to run of the mill callers, are greeted by Rod as if an old friend, and Iím sure some of them are. He then demands that his left hand man asks them a question, as if the idea of Rodney himself doing it were completely out of the question. Marsh adopts a more casual approach to dress than he would if Stelling were involved, but no less casual an approach to his job.
Take Josep ĎPepí Guardiola, Barcelona legend and former Spanish international midfielder, and his link to Manchester City a couple of weeks ago. The playerís trial at the City of Manchester Stadium (I much preferred typing Maine Road) was reported on the stationís news, and prompted a brave response for somebody with Marshís record of conjecture about current affairs. He said he sounded like a flower. Pep Guardiola sounds like a flower, he declared. Thatís exactly the sort of thing my mum would say, because she has no idea who Pep Guardiola is. Marsh, who clearly doesnít either, went on to ad lib a superb feature for the day that if anybody knew of any Ďotherí footballers who sounded like flowers, they should call in. Inspired, Iím sure youíll agree. Breen-Turner was quick to try and gloss over an issue that wouldnít have had the showís sponsors, The Times, exactly bubbling with delight.
Marsh was not finished, though, and the run down on what was happening on the show prompted a rare interjection from the former Sky Blue. He called again for more examples of players that sounded like flowers, because his old club were signing someone called Pep Guardiola. He even gave another example, Frank Tulip. Obviously he couldnít think of a real example (like Tim Flowers, eh Rod?), but if he also evidently couldnít be bothered watching Barcelona or Spain in the nineties I suppose itís to be expected.
It isnít just this one incident, and it wasnít that I was particularly offended by Marshís tsunami comment. I am more offended by Marsh himself and what he stands for. While former sportsmen can make very good broadcasters, like Richie Benaud and, I think itís fair to say, Gary Lineker and Alan Hansen, others just ponce a living off the back of their former glories. Itís insulting to viewers, insulting to those who train for years to become journalists and insulting for those sportsmen and women who have to put in a lot of time and effort to build a second career. But then some people didnít even put in the effort first time aroundÖ