A new football league season and a new show for the Saturday night highlights.
First Channel 5 deserve massive congratulations for putting the Football League Tonight show on at 9pm prime time to run up before Match of the Day, rather than the later night slot which BBC used.
It shows a commitment to using the highlights as a prime bit of TV coverage.
Unfortunately that’s pretty much where the praise ends I’m afraid.
Clearly the producers have decided that they need to make the show an entertainment spectacle as well as a football one – and that is its greatest error.
Yes, this was the first episode and like the first week of the new football season it takes a while for things to bed down.
But putting together a football highlights show should, in theory, be pretty easy – put as much football as possible on show and get out of the way.
If you are going to build something around the action then make it insightful, whatever it is: background research, tactical analysis, good quality player or manager interviews etc. Something more than just generic clichés.
Sadly, Channel 5 failed to do this.
The studio audience concept is always a risky one to attempt and this one failed pretty damn well.
If you’re going to have an audience then be prepared to use them and use them well. The best example I’ve seen of this recently was on BT Sport’s Rugby Tonight programme. I haven’t watched it in a while, but last time I saw it they got the audience involved in practical demonstrations, asked them intelligent questions (unsurprisingly getting intelligent answers as a result) and gave them a real purpose for being there. The Football League Tonight audience may as well not have been there how little it was used and how poorly coordinated it was – no microphones available for answering the few generic questions that were posed was a particular highlight.
Bringing in Barnet manager Martin Allen to talk about his team’s first game back in the football league was a good move.
Again, sadly he was rather thrown to the wolves with no preparation time and not having seen the highlights before being asked to commentate on them – poor all around.
You genuinely felt sorry for the guy who was trying his best but just had no support in the studio.
So having talked about the show, what about the football.
Well, the approach to splitting up the highlights from all around the leagues seemed confusing and disjointed at best and downright idiotic at worst.
I’m all for giving bigger exposure to the lower leagues, but again, doing it in a way that seemed to have a little more thought or structure put in to it would go down better – maybe changing the order of the highlights each week would work?
If the show is going to be an hour long, then how about a main game from each division? Five-to-ten minutes of highlights for each of those three games would give plenty of time for the rest of the highlights and other discussions.
There seemed little awareness about another major story which played out in injury time of the Doncaster vs Bury match which saw Jamie Forrester accidentally score for the home side when returning the ball after an injury.
After some form of scuffle the football gods were eased by Bury walking the ball in to the net for the unopposed equaliser.
The incident has been viewed one million times and while that shouldn't be the judge of every news worthy event, it's a pretty good start.
But aside from referencing Forrester's tweet apologising, no further mention was made - no interview with one of the managers or Forrester himself. Nothing.
The final damning and rather bizarre error came with the very last set of highlights.
This included the Birmingham vs Reading game where Reading had a potential equaliser disallowed after a shot hit the crossbar, bounced down and out.
At first (blurry) glance it appeared the ball may have crossed the line, but it was difficult to say.
On returning to the studio the first words we heard were from George Riley saying: “It looked in, that Reading goal.”
Kelly Caites replied: “I’m going to have to see it again.”
Which prompted Riley to add: “We’ll watch it later.”
"NOOOOOOOOOO!" I (and I suspect hundreds of thousands of other fans) screamed.
This is the whole point of a football highlights show. You’re the ones with control of the footage, show it again.
Can you imagine the Match of the Day or Sky Sports crew just passing over a major incident like that?
To be honest, there really is no competition to Sky Sports News’ Goals Express for football league highlights right now.
Channel 5 could learn from that by just sticking to the football.