Tag Archives: crucible

Edge of the Box: Chelsea Champions League win was real drama

Chelsea show the rest how to do Saturday night drama… and prove Britain does have talent

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UPDATED:

19:05 GMT, 20 May 2012

The telly has always been a great thing to turn to if you’re looking for some heightened Saturday evening drama. Over on BBC1, it might come from the fictitious city of Holby, where a builder could well be reassuring his workmates ‘don’t worry lads. That roof looks like it will take all of our weight, no problem’.

Or perhaps on Channel 5, from within a house full of hopefuls, where you may find a skinny fella in even skinnier jeans called Max, clutching a bottle of beer and pouring out his heart to an orange-coloured girl called Minxy through a fringe the size of a 747’s wing.

Or it may even happen on ITV, where a performing dog called Pudsey has so captured the nation’s heart, a certain bear with an eye patch is furiously dialling his agent from his front room to find out if they can sue the multi-talented mutt for copyright, or unfair trading, or deformation of character, or something!

Real drama: Chelsea's players celebrate after winning the Champions League

Real drama: Chelsea's players celebrate after winning the Champions League

However, none of the above will ever likely match the real human drama that took place on Saturday evening inside a giant lampshade in Munich, when after a day of footballing thrills and spills, it came down to an extraordinary penalty shoot out to prove that Britain HAS Got Talent!

More from Mark Webster…

Stelling and Co provide perfect backdrop to 'Squeaky Bum Sunday' as Merson steals the show
13/05/12

Edge of the Box: The FA Cup is not what it used to be… but fair play to ESPN
06/05/12

Edge of the Box: Kings of The Crucible make sure we're all snooker loopy at the World Championship
30/04/12

Mark Webster: BBC show off the city during London Marathon ahead of Olympics
22/04/12

Edge of the Box: ESPN and ITV should deliver Cup cracker after Wembley warm-ups
16/04/12

Edge of the Box: BBC and Sky competition means F1 and the fans are the real winners
15/04/12

Edge of the Box: Masters is pure TV gold (and green, yellow, pink, purple) as Augusta National bursts into life
09/04/12

Edge of the Box: BBC4 go through the gears to deliver Rally's Craziest Years
02/04/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

Of course for both ITV and Sky Sports there were hours of fun to be garnered from their mutual coverage of the build up and Champions League Final game itself.

Of the former, the terrestrial channel had some really decent pieces, including Ned Boulting’s Arjen Robben interview, during which Ned told us Munich’s ‘flying wingers are barely on speaking terms’, that after Arjen had told him ‘I don’t want to talk about it’.

He does have an eloquent left foot though, Ned.

And there was also a really chirpy chat between Christine Bleakley’s ‘former TV husband’ Adrian Chiles and her actual boyfriend Frank Lampard.

Which had both men perched precariously on a massage table, during which a laughing Frank informed us ‘ear flicking has been around for ages’, whilst managing to resist leaning over and giving the Chiles lug hole a little tweak.

During the game itself, both Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend were as ever, on their game with the lead man prophetically suggesting ‘Chelsea really do need a hero now’ after the Bayern goal, and the former Chelsea man exclaiming of Drogba’s header ‘that is a bullet’, through what was left of the poor fella’s croaking voice’.

However, they couldn’t quite match Martin Tyler and Gary Neville’s response to the Chelsea equalizer over on Sky Sports.

Real excitement: Both ITV and Sky commentators showed their emotions when Didier Drogba leveled late on

Real excitement: Both ITV and Sky commentators showed their emotions when Didier Drogba leveled late on

Tyler managed to add at least 342 extra ‘a’s to the end of Didier’s surname, and was joined about half way through his ‘Drogbaaaaaaaa’ epic in near perfect harmony by the new England assistant coach, who let rip with the kind amazing primal scream that Tarzan would have been proud of.

Was it me, or were they quite excited

This sense of excitement, and indeed occasion was then owned, for me, by Sky’s men in the booth.

As Tyldesley rather abstractly threw to an ad break with the words ‘you won’t miss a single moment of the drama’, Sky’s anchor Jeff Stelling was setting up Jamie Redknapp, Ruud Gullit and Graeme Souness to bring a genuinely tense, emotional, first-hand insight into the theatre of the 12 yard stand-off.

Fully kitted out: John Terry wore his Chelsea strip to collect the cup despite being suspended from the game

Fully kitted out: John Terry wore his Chelsea strip to collect the cup despite being suspended from the game

Gullit admitted with a nervous laugh that he couldn’t stand ‘the walk from midfield to the penalty spot’, but added that when you get there ‘you must smash it as hard as you can’.

Souness then recalled that in his own Liverpool European shoot out experience, ‘(as) I put the ball down to take my penalty, I felt this is not a problem. Whether I was kidding myself..’

While Redknapp was analysing the players on the field and spotted an ailing Schweinsteiger: ‘(He’s) gone down with cramp. I’m sure he’ll want to take one (but) running up, I know it’s like a three or four yard run, but it’ll feel like a marathon’.

Heartbreak: Bastian Schweinsteiger is consoled after the game

Heartbreak: Bastian Schweinsteiger is consoled after the game

A ‘marathon’ in which, we soon discovered, the unfortunate German would fail to cross the finishing line.

From that point, both channels could of course share a fabulous kaleidoscope of images that ran through the full marathon of emotions: There was Schweinsteiger on his knees, head hidden in his shirt and buried in the grass.

Chelsea’s old guard of Lampard, Drogba and John Terry in an emotional hug (when I was a kid, I used to wear my kit under my clothes to go and watch football, too, JT).

Riding high: David Luiz and Fernando Torres celebrate on the crossbar of the goal

Riding high: David Luiz and Fernando Torres celebrate on the crossbar of the goal

Roman Abromovitch texting (‘on to Drogba’s agent’, quipped Neville).

Ivanovic riding the crossbar like it was a bucking bronco.

Ashley Cole, lip trembling, asserting ‘THIS is the reason I come here’;

Boswinga’s mambo through a Blue-shirted guard of honour; and Roberto Di Mateo lifted aloft by his players to hold the trophy even higher.

OK, so that little lot may not be a dancing dog, but it wasn’t half bad.

WEDGIES

Tuesday morning on BBC News, and Dickie Bird was at the Palace picking up a much deserved OBE and apparently explaining the LBW law to Prince Charles in the process…

Wednesday on ITV’s London Tonight, and Perri Shakes-Drayton not only helped Will Smith improve his hurdling technique, she also delivered a pretty decent rendition of the ‘Fresh Prince Of Bel Air’ theme…

Friday on Sky Sports from Lord’s and Bumble – stylish new hairdo on show – explained to Nick Knight how he knew fans had been queuing outside HQ since 4.30 am: ‘I’m always up once or twice in the night – it’s me age’…

Paul Merson and Jeff Stelling provided perfect backdrop as Manchester City won – Edge of the Box

Stelling and Co provide perfect backdrop to 'Squeaky Bum Sunday' as Merson steals show

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UPDATED:

09:29 GMT, 14 May 2012

If it's the box for you on a Saturday afternoon rather than the being there, like many a football fan, the next best thing is provided by watching a bunch of gentlemen of a certain age, watching something you can't watch, for you.

I think it is safe to say for a format that was clearly borne out of sheer necessity, Sky Sports' Soccer Saturday coverage – on this Sunday, Gillette Soccer Special – is now a genuine telly phenomenon, led by the imperious plate-spinner of pundits, games and facts that is Jeff Stelling.

It has become compelling viewing for fans who want, yes, goal updates, but also a real sense of occasion to go with it.

Scroll down to watch Paul Merson's reaction to Man City's winner

What a scream: Paul Merson reacts to Manchester City's winner against QPR

What a scream: Paul Merson reacts to Manchester City's winner against QPR

Keeping it together: Jeff Stelling is the main man on Sky Sports' football show

Keeping it together: Jeff Stelling is the main man on Sky Sports' football show

More from Mark Webster…

Edge of the Box: The FA Cup is not what it used to be… but fair play to ESPN
06/05/12

Edge of the Box: Kings of The Crucible make sure we're all snooker loopy at the World Championship
30/04/12

Mark Webster: BBC show off the city during London Marathon ahead of Olympics
22/04/12

Edge of the Box: ESPN and ITV should deliver Cup cracker after Wembley warm-ups
16/04/12

Edge of the Box: BBC and Sky competition means F1 and the fans are the real winners
15/04/12

Edge of the Box: Masters is pure TV gold (and green, yellow, pink, purple) as Augusta National bursts into life
09/04/12

Edge of the Box: BBC4 go through the gears to deliver Rally's Craziest Years
02/04/12

Edge of the Box: Old Firm fire burns as strong as ever but Sky still turn up the heat for Rangers against Celtic
26/03/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

And what better way to finish yet another humdinger of a season than with, as Jeff put it as 3pm arrived, 'squeaky bum Sunday' – with titles, relegation and Champions League spots all up for grabs.

For the show, Stelling had his favourite far-from-flat back four in place: Charlie Nicholas in black jacket and grey tie, his sparkling diamond stud occasionally catching the studio lights from his left earlobe.

Phil Thompson, in a tie of the palest salmon pink; Paul Merson, man in grey, his neckwear featuring what appeared to be a 633 Squadron formation; and Matt Le Tissier, ever the cavalier, his shirt defiantly open-necked.

Mind you, in all of the days these
lads have had together, I think it's comfortable to say that they’d
never had one quite like this; a couple of exhilarating hours during
which Stelling continually endeavoured to update the standings.

But was more often than not
interrupted by a scream or a yelp from the panel as yet ANOTHER goal
went in to change the picture as it was being described.

And it all kicked off, well, when
they kicked off – the first few minutes of the day providing nearly as
much drama as the last (well..).

No more than two minutes were
underway when Merson, in the middle of describing how the Etihad Stadium was
'rocking', found himself rudely interrupted by the scream of 'it's a
goal' from his next door neighbour.

The team: (from left) Matt Le Tissier, Merson, Phil Thompson and Charlie Nicholas

The team: (from left) Matt Le Tissier, Merson, Phil Thompson and Charlie Nicholas

It's a goal! The temperature was raised early in the piece through after Adebayor scored for Spurs

It's a goal! The temperature was raised early in the piece through after Adebayor scored for Spurs

Thompson – covering the Tottenham game – who no sooner having crowed 'are you watching Arsenal', was trumped by Le Tissier with an even higher-pitched screech of 'oh Jeff, it's a goal', as Benayoun put Arsenal one up at The Hawthorns.

Fifteen minutes on, and Jeff managed to get in one he had prepared earlier, telling us it was Elvis day at Swansea, then adding 'but a little less conversation from me' as he threw to Charlie who confirmed 'squeaky bum Sunday had come alive' with United going 1-0 up. The day was indeed living up to its billing.

Indeed, so into it was Matt, at 3.30 the Saints' favourite son positively saw the light at The Hawthorns,
letting rip with a Gospel shout and raising his hands in praise to the
god of football as he proclaimed 'Oh Desmond! It's in. 2-2' (Tutu, for
the great unwashed).

In fact, there may indeed have been
Greater Forces operating when a few minutes later, Iain Dowie – over in
the Potteries – was suddenly frozen solid in his gantry and the screen
turned black as Merson brought us a City goal from the Etihad with a
quick, throaty burst of 'blue moon, you saw me standing alone'.

Stelling's explanation for this loss
of pictures was 'there's a lot of wind, I'm told. Not from Ian Dowie,
from Stoke' which raised a chorus of approving guffaws from his quartet.

That was pretty much it for a
scintillating first 45 – save for Merson saying Yaya Toure was so
crocked he was 'moving like Tiss used to'.

Drama! Makckie's goal put QPR in front at the Etihad Stadium

Drama! Makckie's goal put QPR in front at the Etihad Stadium

Of which Thommo pondered aloud, 'that quick' – and after a much-needed half-time breather, we were straight back at it.

At 4.08, the cry 'Goal! Goal! GOAL! The title race is back on again' went up, as QPR equalised.

Stelling then gave Nicholas an opportunity to describe the corresponding atmosphere over at United's game, but no sooner had he begun to wax lyrical on the subject, than the increasingly frantic Le Tissier was in again – hollering 'Oh my God, goal – shut up Charlie' as Arsenal took the lead and pushed themselves back into third place.

Never normally one to miss out on the melodramatics, Joey Barton was now to make his entrance stage left as Merson proclaimed 'red card Joey Barton.

This found Stelling in his pomp as he summed up the day so far: 'City-itis – will it strike again But QPR are down to 10 men, with barely a player on the field (Barton) didn’t assault'.

More approving laughter from his four top pundits.

Final result: City's late comeback sealed the title to send the fans into raptures

Final result: City's late comeback sealed the title to send the fans into raptures

Final result: City's late comeback sealed the title to send the fans into raptures

But of course this was not to be the end of the drama, which went all the way to the last few seconds of what Stelling breathlessly described as 'an astonishing, incredible, amazing day' – his team of pundits all now drawn to the screen bringing the final whistle, and thus the title to the blue half of Manchester.

'As long as I've been watching football, this is the most unbelievable thing I have ever seen', exclaimed a bemused, exhausted Merson.

Something I can echo having thoroughly enjoyed watching it through his, and his fellow pundits eyes. Phew!

WATCH VIDEO OF MERSON'S MAGIC MOMENT

WEDGIES

Monday on BBC2, and John Inverdale and Sir Steve Redgrave are perched by the side of a river for the Rowing World Cup in Belgrade, like two anglers short of some tackle…

Tuesday night on BBC2 and Louis Saha was on Newsnight to bring some thoughtful reflections on the French election, whilst adding that in comparison to many countries, England 'was paradise for footballers of any colour…'

Wednesday on Channel 4, and the racing show from Chester spotted Michael Owen offering some tips to fledgling owner Wayne Rooney. Perhaps prophetically, his horse didn’t win…

World snooker championships 2012: Ronnie O"Sullivan wins fourth title

Ronnie rockets to fourth world snooker title… before telling fans 'I'm not done yet'!

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UPDATED:

20:07 GMT, 7 May 2012

Ronnie O'Sullivan assured snooker fans 'I haven't gone yet' after winning his fourth World Championship title at the Crucible.

The Rocket had threatened to follow Stephen Hendry into retirement ahead of the final against Ali Carter, which saw him complete an 18-11 win.

Carter joked immediately after his second final defeat 'Maybe if he retires I might win it' – but O'Sullivan immediately dismissed such thoughts.

One of the greats: Ronnie O'Sullivan celebrates his victory with his son Ronnie at the Crucible Theatre

One of the greats: Ronnie O'Sullivan celebrates his victory with his son Ronnie at the Crucible Theatre

'A few people doubted me but I'll let them know when I'm not ready,' he told BBC2. 'I certainly haven't gone yet.'

O'Sullivan put the seal on his glorious tournament – and perhaps one of snooker's great careers too – by carrying off the Betfred.com World Championship title for a fourth time.

Snooker's most exhilarating performer feared he would never add to the Crucible crowns he landed in 2001, 2004 and 2008. Twelve months ago he had decided to pull out of the World Championship until a late change of heart saw him line up.

Now, after putting heart and soul into a push for glory in Sheffield, and with sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters helping him find peace of mind, O'Sullivan is on top of the world again at the age of 36, a winner over Carter.

We have lift off: Ronnie O'Sullivan in action against Ali Carter at the Crucible on Monday night

We have lift off: Ronnie O'Sullivan in action against Ali Carter at the Crucible on Monday night

The Chigwell cueman becomes the oldest champion since Ray Reardon, who at 45 landed his sixth title in 1978, and if it were any other player such a success might be considered one which could spur a late career flourish.

O'Sullivan had the Crucible crowds on tenterhooks though, as he entered the final on the back of a retirement warning. It could come now, he had said, although considering he first threatened to quit at the age of 18 and has repeatedly done so throughout his career it was hard to know what he would decide.

Silence please: Referee Michaela Tabb calls for quiet with Ali Carter at the table during the final

Silence please: Referee Michaela Tabb calls for quiet with Ali Carter at the table during the final

The concluding session saw Stephen Hendry, the man who retired on the tournament's middle Sunday, take the final bow of his 17 days in Sheffield before the finalists made their entrances.

There was a warm welcome for Carter, whose surprising venture to the final has taken in a stunning comeback over last year's shock merchant Judd Trump, a helping hand from Peter Ebdon, and gallons of carrot juice.

Carter believes the juice has helped him to stave off the effects of Crohn's disease which at the turn of the year had become so destabilising that he too considered quitting snooker.

Cauldron: O'Sullivan at the table during the final at the world famous Crucible Theatre in Sheffield

Cauldron: O'Sullivan at the table during the final at the world famous Crucible Theatre in Sheffield

Farewell to a legend: The retiring Stephen Hendry took a bow before the final session

Farewell to a legend: The retiring Stephen Hendry took a bow before the final session

Ebdon has had an impact on his game
too, no doubt with tactical advice that helped him past Trump and
Stephen Maguire, but in the final he was found lacking the attacking
threat to trouble O'Sullivan.

When O'Sullivan made his entrance it
was to a raucous reception, and the crowd's long-time favourite
delivered the triumph so many of them craved.

'I'm not going to worry about 900 people shouting for Ronnie,' Carter said, heading into the match. 'I might have three or four shouting for me, but I'm in the final and I've got a chance.'

The 32-year-old from Tiptree was only very briefly even on level terms though, O'Sullivan pulling away from 3-3 to take a lead he would never look like relinquishing.

O'Sullivan made three centuries in the match, including the 141 he registered on Sunday that enters the record books as the highest break in a World Championship final, and the dash to 101 in the opening session on Monday which was sparked by a silky smooth long red.

On Monday night, 15-10 ahead entering the final session, he began in the manner of a champion with a 70 break that meant Carter required eight of nine frames to achieve his title goal. And it was soon all over, O'Sullivan polishing off his triumph with a sharp 61 break.

Snooker World Championship final 2012: Ronnie O"Sullivan takes seven frame lead over Ali Carter

O'Sullivan rockets to seven-frame lead as Carters' Crucible challenge crumbles

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UPDATED:

15:37 GMT, 7 May 2012

Ronnie O'Sullivan has moved seven frames clear of Ali Carter and set up the possibility of a finish with a session to spare in the Betfred.com World Championship final.

Leading 10-7 overnight, O'Sullivan began with a break of 101 and then punished a flurry of Carter mistakes as he extended his advantage to 14-7.

With 18 frames the target for victory,
and four still to play following the afternoon mid-session interval,
O'Sullivan, who dropped heavy retirement hints on Saturday, was tearing
towards the line.

Take a seat: O'Sullivan has extended his lead over Carter

Take a seat: O'Sullivan has extended his lead over Carter

Nine frames are scheduled for this evening, with Carter looking to survive until that session at least.

The 36-year-old Chigwell cueman was silky smooth at the start of the day's play, caressing a long red in before cruising to his third century of the match.

On Sunday he fired in breaks of 117 and 141, the latter the highest break ever achieved in a Crucible final.

A missed pink proved costly for
Carter in the second frame of the session, with O'Sullivan making a
punishing 37 to surge five in front.

Eyes on the prize: The three-times champ has been in irrepressible form

Eyes on the prize: The three-times champ has been in irrepressible form

Eyes on the prize: The three-times champ has been in irrepressible form

Carter's frustration at his own performance became clear when he missed a red, cueing down the table, into the right pocket.

He walked back to his seat, arms
outstretched in exasperation. O'Sullivan needed three stabs at winning
the frame, but misses from Carter provided him with the openings.

The final frame before the interval
took on colossal importance. Carter surely could not afford to lose it,
and the Tiptree potter looked sure to do so when O'Sullivan sprinted
54-0 ahead on a break.

Carter was allowed back in though, reached 41 and then missed the yellow, stretching to his limit.
Soon O'Sullivan had tucked away all the colours, to move ever closer to a fourth world title.

Long way back: Carter has it all to do if he is to battle his way back into the final

Long way back: Carter has it all to do if he is to battle his way back into the final

ESPN FA Cup coverage was good – Edge of the Box

The FA Cup is not what it used to be… but fair play to ESPN

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UPDATED:

07:16 GMT, 7 May 2012

There’s no denying it, they have been screaming it from the rooftops for years. They probably even had a bit of a yell about it from the twin towers when they still stood proud at the top of Wembley way: the FA Cup isn’t what it used to be.

Ask anyone who knew their football before the blue chip days of the Premier League and satellite games, and Cup Final Day was not just about the two teams who made it to north-west London (and the lucky blighters who could get a train home afterwards!) – it was a football beano for all the fans.

Football feast: ESPN's FA Cup Final Day coverage was extensive

Football feast: ESPN's FA Cup Final Day coverage was extensive

More from Mark Webster…

Edge of the Box: Kings of The Crucible make sure we're all snooker loopy at the World Championship
30/04/12

Mark Webster: BBC show off the city during London Marathon ahead of Olympics
22/04/12

Edge of the Box: ESPN and ITV should deliver Cup cracker after Wembley warm-ups
16/04/12

Edge of the Box: BBC and Sky competition means F1 and the fans are the real winners
15/04/12

Edge of the Box: Masters is pure TV gold (and green, yellow, pink, purple) as Augusta National bursts into life
09/04/12

Edge of the Box: BBC4 go through the gears to deliver Rally's Craziest Years
02/04/12

Edge of the Box: Old Firm fire burns as strong as ever but Sky still turn up the heat for Rangers against Celtic
26/03/12

Edge of the box: F1's TV future is in safe hands with Sky Sports
18/03/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

And it was A DAY; broadcasts starting in the morning from team hotels and on the coaches to the ground, and including the fun and frolics of special shows like It’s A Cup Final Knockout and Question Of Sport – memories so engrained that even the most hardcore fan can still get a little misty-eyed at the thought supporters trying to score penalties past a keeper on a trampoline.

Well, they may be the new kid on the block here regarding football coverage, but that has not stopped ESPN deciding that the spirit of Cup Final Day was not only up for grabs, but worth placing both hands firmly upon, and on Saturday at 8am they launched into a marathon of FA Cup broadcasting – culminating in ad free coverage of the game itself.

For their Big Day Out, the broadcaster decided not to go for a Grandstand finish; namely base everything at an HQ and include a range of features. Instead they themed each segment, often with a version of one of their staple programmes, and like a good midfield general, left no blade of grass uncovered in the process to bring us the FA Cup Experience.

In the space of about eight hours, ESPN were everywhere, exemplified perfectly in their Breakfast Show.

At one extreme, they were deep inside the arena with the amiable Jason MacAteer who walked us from the Chelsea dressing room to pitchside – taking in a smart ‘kitchenette’, John Terry’s tiny shin pads and some scrunched up newspaper that had apparently been inside Didier Drogba’s wet boots on the way.

Back in AVB’s days, this may also have given Frank and Fernando something to read as they warmed the bench.

Key: Frank Lampard (bottom left) might have been on the bench under AVB

Key: Frank Lampard (bottom left) might have been on the bench under AVB

Then at the other extreme, we were thousands of feet about the stadium as (if ever there was a) roving reporter Nat Coombs revealed from inside the cockpit that the pilot of the Goodyear balloon steers it with his feet. Two good one’s he had, too, it has to be said.

In the space between bowels and blimp, there was, let us not forget, lots of hours to fill before their well-honed pre-game coverage – given an impressive dry run last time they were at Wembley for the semi finals – took over proper, and I suppose it should come as no real surprise that it didn’t always necessarily ripple the back of the net.

The fact is there are just so many ex-footballers and archive clips you can see and hear, and only just so many ‘why is it so special’-style questions a presenter can ask before you start to get that dj vu feeling all over again. And after nigh on nine hours of it – and again, even!

Beaten: Viewers saw Chelsea beat Liverpool

Beaten: Viewers saw Chelsea beat Liverpool

Nevertheless, this does not preclude the fact that each programme definitely brought something to the party; and each with their own individual variation on the theme retained in spite of the unfamiliar surroundings (so that you’ll still easily recognise them when they return next season.

Aha – you see what they did there!). The only one that suffered there, I felt, was Talk Of The Terrace which was at the back end of the coverage and flitted between Mark Chapman and Kelly Cates chatting with guests (and because of the time they were on, revisiting questions and clips for the umpteenth time) high in the empty stands and a live band in a hospitality suite playing what looked like their worst gig ever to about half a dozen slightly bemused fans.

Spot on: The Brunch show with James Richardson and Robbie Savage (above) was perfect

Spot on: The Brunch show with James Richardson and Robbie Savage (above) was perfect

Getting it spot on though was the Brunch show hosted by James Richardson with Robbie Savage.

This mixed a literal roundtable chat (Alex Stewart revealing he wore number 4 for England as a tribute to his football hero, John Hollins) with a bit of cooking with Wembley chef 'Cockers' and the resultant scoffing.

It was the kind of relaxed atmosphere
and jaunty jibing that sat perfectly in the day – and left you with a
real hankering for scallops marinated in lime.

Also
of particular merit was the documentary Kings For A Day, which
beautifully analysed the magic of the Cup through the eyes of
giant-killing heroes and football minnows. Or as Fleetwood’s Micky
Mellon put it ‘if it’s David and Goliath stuff, we’re David’s little
brother’.

This was a show that underlined the fact that the FA Cup is competition, institution and a special date in the calendar all in one. And well played ESPN for setting out early and going all the way on the day to remind us of that fact.

WEDGIES

Monday Night Football and the Manchester derby provided its own little set of mini Unmissable Wedgies namely: Monday lunchtime on Sky Sports News and Jim White refereeing a battle of words between Gary Owen at the Etihad and Norman Whiteside in the city centre, rendered totally bizarre by the sound delay.

Later in the afternoon, there were more words from the streets of Manchester, this time with a fruit stall owner who while explaining why he had no red fruit on display, had an orange nicked by a passer-by who raised it triumphantly like a winner’s medal.

Guest: Didier Drogba appeared on the Graham Norton show

Guest: Didier Drogba appeared on the Graham Norton show

Minutes later, Jim White was even more excited than normal as the groundsman let him paint on a penalty spot.

Friday night on BBC1 and Graham Norton welcomed Didier Drogba to the show (‘you’re surprised!’, cracked Graham) and made Julie Walters' night by doing the ‘Drogbacite’ dance with the host.

Edge of the box: ESPN FA Cup coverage was good

The FA Cup is not what it used to be… but fair play to ESPN

|

UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 6 May 2012

There’s no denying it, they have been screaming it from the rooftops for years. They probably even had a bit of a yell about it from the twin towers when they still stood proud at the top of Wembley way: the FA Cup isn’t what it used to be.

Ask anyone who knew their football before the blue chip days of the Premier League and satellite games, and Cup Final Day was not just about the two teams who made it to North West London (and the lucky blighters who could get a train home afterwards!) – it was a football beano for all the fans.

Football feast: ESPN's FA Cup Final Day coverage was extensive

Football feast: ESPN's FA Cup Final Day coverage was extensive

More from Mark Webster…

Edge of the Box: Kings of The Crucible make sure we're all snooker loopy at the World Championship
30/04/12

Mark Webster: BBC show off the city during London Marathon ahead of Olympics
22/04/12

Edge of the Box: ESPN and ITV should deliver Cup cracker after Wembley warm-ups
16/04/12

Edge of the Box: BBC and Sky competition means F1 and the fans are the real winners
15/04/12

Edge of the Box: Masters is pure TV gold (and green, yellow, pink, purple) as Augusta National bursts into life
09/04/12

Edge of the Box: BBC4 go through the gears to deliver Rally's Craziest Years
02/04/12

Edge of the Box: Old Firm fire burns as strong as ever but Sky still turn up the heat for Rangers against Celtic
26/03/12

Edge of the box: F1's TV future is in safe hands with Sky Sports
18/03/12

VIEW FULL ARCHIVE

And it was A DAY; broadcasts starting in the morning from team hotels and on the coaches to the ground, and including the fun and frolics of special shows like It’s A Cup Final Knockout and Question Of Sport – memories so engrained that even the most hardcore fan can still get a little misty-eyed at the thought supporters trying to score penalties past a keeper on a trampoline.

Well, they may be the new kid on the block here regarding football coverage, but that has not stopped ESPN deciding that the spirit of Cup Final Day was not only up for grabs, but worth placing both hands firmly upon, and on Saturday at 8am they launched into a marathon of FA Cup broadcasting – culminating in ad free coverage of the game itself.

For their Big Day Out, the broadcaster decided not to go for a Grandstand finish; namely base everything at an HQ and include a range of features. Instead they themed each segment, often with a version of one of their staple programmes, and like a good midfield general, left no blade of grass uncovered in the process to bring us the FA Cup Experience.

In the space of about 8 hours, ESPN were everywhere, exemplified perfectly in their Breakfast Show.

At one extreme, they were deep inside the arena with the amiable Jason MacAteer who walked us from the Chelsea dressing room to pitchside – taking in a smart ‘kitchenette’, John Terry’s tiny shin pads and some scrunched up newspaper that had apparently been inside Didier Drogba’s wet boots on the way.

Back in AVB’s days, this may also have given Frank and Fernando something to read as they warmed the bench.

Key: Frank Lampard (bottom left) might have been on the bench under AVB

Key: Frank Lampard (bottom left) might have been on the bench under AVB

Then at the other extreme, we were thousands of feet about the stadium as (if ever there was a) roving reporter Nat Coombs revealed from inside the cockpit that the pilot of the Goodyear balloon steers it with his feet. Two good one’s he had, too, it has to be said.

In the space between bowels and blimp, there was, let us not forget, lots of hours to fill before their well-honed pre-game coverage – given an impressive dry run last time they were at Wembley for the semi finals – took over proper, and I suppose it should come as no real surprise that it didn’t always necessarily ripple the back of the net.

The fact is there are just so many ex-footballers and archive clips you can see and hear, and only just so many ‘why is it so special’-style questions a presenter can ask before you start to get that dj vu feeling all over again. And after nigh on nine hours of it – and again, even!

Beaten: Viewers saw Chelsea beat Liverpool

Beaten: Viewers saw Chelsea beat Liverpool

Nevertheless, this does not preclude the fact that each programme definitely brought something to the party; and each with their own individual variation on the theme retained in spite of the unfamiliar surroundings (so that you’ll still easily recognise them when they return next season.

Aha – you see what they did there!). The only one that suffered there, I felt, was Talk Of The Terrace which was at the back end of the coverage and flitted between Mark Chapman and Kelly Cates chatting with guests (and because of the time they were on, revisiting questions and clips for the umpteenth time) high in the empty stands and a live band in a hospitality suite playing what looked like their worst gig ever to about half a dozen slightly bemused fans.

Spot on: The Brunch show with James Richardson and Robbie Savage (above) was perfect

Spot on: The Brunch show with James Richardson and Robbie Savage (above) was perfect

Getting it spot on though was the Brunch show hosted by James Richardson with Robbie Savage.

This mixed a literal roundtable chat (Alex Stewart revealing he wore number 4 for England as a tribute to his football hero, John Hollins) with a bit of cooking with Wembley chef 'Cockers' and the resultant scoffing.

It was the kind of relaxed atmosphere
and jaunty jibing that sat perfectly in the day – and left you with a
real hankering for scallops marinated in lime.

Also
of particular merit was the documentary Kings For A Day, which
beautifully analysed the magic of the Cup through the eyes of
giant-killing heroes and football minnows. Or as Fleetwood’s Micky
Mellon put it ‘if it’s David and Goliath stuff, we’re David’s little
brother’.

This was a show that underlined the fact that the FA Cup is competition, institution and a special date in the calendar all in one. And well played ESPN for setting out early and going all the way on the day to remind us of that fact.

WEDGIES

Monday Night Football and the Manchester derby provided its own little set of mini Unmissable Wedgies namely: Monday lunchtime on Sky Sports News and Jim White refereeing a battle of words between Gary Owen at the Etihad and Norman Whiteside in the city centre, rendered totally bizarre by the sound delay.

Later in the afternoon, there were more words from the streets of Manchester, this time with a fruit stall owner who while explaining why he had no red fruit on display, had an orange nicked by a passerby who raised it triumphantly like a winner’s medal.

Guest: Didier Drogba appeared on the Graham Norton show

Guest: Didier Drogba appeared on the Graham Norton show

Minutes later, Jim White was even more excited than normal as the groundsman let him paint on a penalty spot.

Friday night on BBC1 and Graham Norton welcomed Didier Drogba to the show (‘you’re surprised!’, cracked Graham) and made Julie Walters' night by doing the ‘Drogbacite’ dance with the host.

World Snooker Championships: Ronnie O"Sullivan leads Ali Carter in final

Rocket Ronnie edges closer to fourth world title as grueling schedule takes its toll

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UPDATED:

22:22 GMT, 6 May 2012

Ronnie O'Sullivan claims he has never known a Crucible campaign so gruelling but a fourth world title should be his reward for lasting the pace.

O'Sullivan built a 10-7 lead over Ali Carter on the first day of the Betfred.com World Championship final, with 18 the victory target.

He will look to press home that advantage and has also dropped a heavy hint a retirement announcement will follow the match.

Eyes on the prize: Ronnie O'Sullivan (left) leads Ali Carter after the first day of the final

Eyes on the prize: Ronnie O'Sullivan (left) leads Ali Carter after the first day of the final

Whether O'Sullivan goes through with that remains open to question, and perhaps subject to his mood, but he has been giving serious consideration to following Stephen Hendry's lead in walking away from the sport.

To lose one legend in a tournament goes down as a pity, but understandable given Hendry's fading talent; a second in O'Sullivan's case would leave the sport bereft of its greatest entertainer.

If he does quit, O'Sullivan will go out on a thrilling high, but also in an exhausted state.

'This is probably the hardest place to come and play. Seventeen days in Sheffield and I feel like I've been here two months,' he said.

'For some reason this time it's felt a bit longer. I don't know if it's age catching up, but it never felt this long when I was 21 or 22.'

O'Sullivan hit a purple patch of form at the end of the opening afternoon session which illustrated the difference between the players.

A sprint to 92 was followed by a total clearance of 141 in the final frame as Carter slipped 5-3 behind in their all-Essex tussle.

End of the road O'Sullivan is contemplating announcing his retirement after the final

End of the road O'Sullivan is contemplating announcing his retirement after the final

The rush of heavy scoring from the firm title favourite was barely in keeping with the action which came before or after it, though, because for much of the opening day the pair were mired in safety exchanges.

Carter had got the better of semi-final opponent Stephen Maguire on the back of high-precision snooker and intense focus, the influence of Peter Ebdon shining through in his play. Ebdon, the 2002 champion in Sheffield, is helping Carter with mental aspects of the game from behind the scenes, and clearly their relationship is proving fruitful.

There are no complaints from O'Sullivan over Carter having a helping hand.

'I think it's brilliant,' O'Sullivan said.

'I had Ray Reardon in my corner for a couple of years and I learnt so much off Ray. Any snooker player can always add to your game.

'I think it's very healthy in a way. Peter obviously is a great man to have in your corner and I think Ali's been wise there. Not that he needs it, but it's always nice to have someone in your corner.

'They get on really well and it seems to be working. Along your journey it's good to learn as much as you can, and I think it's a good move.'

Ultimate prize: O'Sullivan is looking to win his fourth world title at the Crucible

Ultimate prize: O'Sullivan is looking to win his fourth world title at the Crucible

A break of 56 steered O'Sullivan ahead in the day's first frame, after the pair spent almost 12 minutes toying with each other before the first red dropped.

O'Sullivan's first century, a 117, was sparked by a fine long red and pushed him 2-0 in front.

Carter replied with 84 and it was 2-2 after a battle of minds in frame four, with every red grouped around a corner pocket. O'Sullivan had the first real chance but spurned it by potting a red when attempting to knock in the black, and Carter seized his opportunity.

They split the next two frames before O'Sullivan found the form which carried him to earlier wins over Ebdon, Mark Williams, Neil Robertson and Matthew Stevens – three world champions and a two-time runner-up.

On the resumption this evening the match frequently returned to its earlier disjointed state, with the safety from both men outstanding at times but not creating a great spectacle.

O'Sullivan moved 9-5 clear with runs of 49 and 68 and a sprinkling of low breaks. Carter, from Tiptree, cut into the lead with a 59 break, but O'Sullivan replied by taking the next with a rapid 62.

The frontrunner had chances to lead 11-6, but when he missed a black to the middle pocket it became clear he would have to settle for a three-frame advantage overnight.

Snooker: Ronnie O"Sullivan claims early lead over Ali Carter in world final

Three-time champion O'Sullivan claims early lead over Carter in world final

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UPDATED:

16:59 GMT, 6 May 2012

Ronnie O'Sullivan hit a streak of devastating form to surge ahead of Ali Carter in the World Championship final.

A total clearance of 141 in the final frame of the afternoon carried him into a 5-3 lead in their all-Essex tussle at the Crucible, a match O'Sullivan has revealed could be his last before retiring.

The century, O'Sullivan's second of the session, followed his 92 in the previous frame.

Big clash: Ronnie O'Sullivan and Ali Carter in early action in the world final

Big clash: Ronnie O'Sullivan and Ali Carter in early action in the world final

That rush of heavy scoring from the
firm title favourite was barely in keeping with the earlier action,
though, because for much of the session the pair were engaged in safety
combat.

Carter had got the better of Stephen
Maguire on the back of high-precision snooker and intense focus, the
influence of Peter Ebdon shining through his play.

Ebdon is helping Carter with mental
aspects of the game from behind the scenes in Sheffield, and clearly
their relationship is proving fruitful.

A break of 56 steered O'Sullivan
ahead, after the pair spent almost 12 minutes engaged in a safety battle
before the first red dropped.

Looking good: O''Sullivan at the table in Sheffield

Looking good: O''Sullivan at the table in Sheffield

O'Sullivan's first century, a 117, was triggered by a fine long red and pushed him 2-0 in front.

When the 36-year-old Chigwell man missed from long range in the third frame, Carter punished him with a run to 84.

It was 2-2 after a battle of the
minds in frame four, with every red grouped around a corner pocket.
O'Sullivan had the first real chance but spurned it by potting a red
when attempting to knock in the black, and Carter seized his chance.

They split the next two frames,
before O'Sullivan found the form which carried him to earlier wins over
Peter Ebdon, Mark Williams, Neil Robertson and Matthew Stevens.

WORLD SNOOKER CHAMPIONSHIPS: Ronnie O"Sullivan beats Matthew Stevens 17-10 to make Crucible final

Unstoppable Rocket makes fourth Crucible final: O'Sullivan bids for another title

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UPDATED:

20:50 GMT, 5 May 2012

Ronnie O'Sullivan put the Crucible on retirement alert again as he powered into the Betfred.com World Championship final and warned he was ready to quit snooker.

The three-time champion will take on Ali Carter tomorrow and on Monday after both men posted convincing semi-final victories.

O'Sullivan crushed Matthew Stevens 17-10 and Carter was a 17-12 winner against Stephen Maguire, to set up an all-English battle for the title.

This tournament has already seen the sport's most successful player of modern times, Stephen Hendry, call time on his career, and now crowd favourite O'Sullivan says he is seriously considering following the Scot into a life beyond the green baize.

Title in sight: Ronnie O'Sullivan beat Matthew Stevens to make the final

Title in sight: Ronnie O'Sullivan beat Matthew Stevens to make the final

'I don't intend to stay in the game long, even though I feel in a lot better place,' O'Sullivan said.

'I've made that decision and this might – I'm not saying it is – be my last time in this tournament.

'I might consider having a good long break, a couple of years off or whatever. I've weighed up the pluses and the minuses and I'm quite comfortable with that decision.

Crowd pleaser: O'Sullivan salutes the crowd as he makes the final

Crowd pleaser: O'Sullivan salutes the crowd as he makes the final

'There's no better way for me than to have a good run at Sheffield and get to the final and if I win it, great, absolute bonus.

'I've had a fantastic time and it's got to come to an end sooner or later. I don't want to drag it out too long. I always said I'd like to go out on a high and getting to this final has been great. I'd love to go on and win it now.

'I'm not saying it's a guarantee but I think now is as good a time as ever. I know it might seem crazy but people close to me know what's going on. I've not been afraid to show how I feel. I feel in a good place to be able to say that. I've weighed up lots of things.

'Sometimes you've got to live life a little bit, maybe do a little bit of Strictly Come Dancing.'

To give O'Sullivan's remarks a little context, today's was the latest of many retirement threats to have come from the 36-year-old Essex cueman, the first having been made while he was still a teenager.

What is certain is that O'Sullivan is brimming with desire and belief in Sheffield this year. His work with sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters has produced a focused sportsman with impressive drive.

Come the final, Carter will be hoping for a more favourable outcome than he experienced in 2008, having been soundly beaten 18-8 then. It could easily be one-sided again though.

On the way to the final: O'Sullivan cruised to a 17-10 win over Stevens

On the way to the final: O'Sullivan cruised to a 17-10 win over Stevens

O'Sullivan made a slow start against Stevens this morning before picking up his performance after the mid-session interval, and the consolidation of his overnight six-frame lead meant he returned for the evening session with a handsome 15-9 cushion.

Stevens bit into that large advantage with a 116 break, missing the yellow when a crowd-pleasing total clearance looked inevitable.

The spectators did not need to wait long to see the table cleared in one visit though, with O'Sullivan sinking all the balls in a supreme 130 run to move one frame away from the final.

Well done: Matthew Stevens congratulates Ronnie O'Sullivan

Well done: Matthew Stevens congratulates Ronnie O'Sullivan

And the end for Stevens' fine fortnight was not long in arriving, O'Sullivan having breaks of 35 and 26 in securing another visit to the title match.
On hearing of O'Sullivan's retirement warning, Stevens said: 'I hope he does (retire).

'I can't see him doing it, but you never know with Ronnie. If he did retire as world champion, what a perfect way to do it.

'But I think he loves the game too much – he loves the buzz out there, no matter what he says.

'But if he does go, then it's good for all the other players.'

World Snooker Championship 2012: Ronnie O"Sullivan on brink of final

O'Sullivan edges closer to Crucible final after Stevens threatens comeback

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UPDATED:

13:20 GMT, 5 May 2012

Ronnie O'Sullivan put a lethargic start behind him to move two frames away from a place in the Betfred.com World Championship final.

The 36-year-old started so slowly it seemed Matthew Stevens, 11-5 behind heading into the session, would significantly close the gap ahead of Saturday night's concluding session.

At one stage Stevens got back to 12-9, having taken four of the opening five frames, but the final three went O'Sullivan's way and at 15-9 behind it was looking to be a case of completing the formalities when they returned.

On the brink: Ronnie O'Sullivan is edging towards the World Championship final

On the brink: Ronnie O'Sullivan is edging towards the World Championship final

Welshman Stevens was initially far the perkier player, producing his best snooker of the match, while O'Sullivan was in slumber mode.

The Chigwell cueman's best form in this tournament has come in afternoon sessions, in which he has strung together six-frame winning bursts against Mark Williams, Neil Robertson and Stevens, who felt the force of O'Sullivan at his best on Friday.

The 10am start may have been a factor in his unsteady form on Saturday, with Stevens taking the first two frames with a high break of just 44.

O'Sullivan came to life with runs of 50 and 68, before Stevens captured frames either side of the mid-session interval, the first thanks to a 66 break.

Not looking good: Matthew Stevens has work to do against Ronnie O'Sullivan

Not looking good: Matthew Stevens has work to do against Ronnie O'Sullivan

Stevens' third frame of the morning banished the prospect of a finish in the match with a session to spare, and his fourth hinted he might make a real contest of the match.

But then O'Sullivan swept to an 81 break in six minutes, and despite failing to scale those heights in the next two frames, still managed to pinch them.

Stevens, though, should have had the second of those frame, the last of the session.

He led 52-37, having just potted a glorious long red with the fierce, deep screw that Judd Trump made his trademark last year. Brown to the middle pocket was by comparison an easy shot, yet Stevens missed his target by a clear inch.

The likelihood of 14-10, giving Stevens a fighting chance, was taken away as O'Sullivan raced to 39, taking the frame and keeping alive the possibility of the red-hot title favourite making a swift getaway.