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Colin Murray's Brilliant Insight Into The Frustrating Format Of Match Of The Day

Colin Murray's Brilliant Insight Into The Frustrating Format Of Match Of The Day
By Gavin Cooney

Match of the Day is a concept brilliant in its simplicity: show the best of the football action in ninety minutes and get out of the way while doing it. The format works so well that there is no reason to change, but the effect of that is the show often feels quite rigid.

Punditry between games is Ikea Analysis: Slotting A into B while dutifully dissecting contentious decisions and so on. Match of the Day has got the football aspect nailed down, but everything about it all feels a bit forced. On this week's episode of the Football Show, we spoke to former Match of the Day 2 host Colin Murray, which you can listen to by subscribing or by listening below:

Murray spent three years presenting Match of the Day 2, before leaving the BBC to replace Andy Gray and Richard Keys on TalkSPORT. Murray much prefers working on radio, and offered some great insight into what is frustrating about working on Match of the Day, and how he doesn't really fit sports TV:

When you're on TV, it's very prescriptive. That's sports TV in general, it has to come with a frown, with a bit of earnestness. That's probably why I've never really fitted in very well with sports TV, whereas radio is about creativity as it's down to your words. It's about what you say, it's not how you look, or what you're wearing. So it's a lot more creative, it's a lot more challenging, and unfortunately it's lesser paid!

Yeah, I prefer to have space to chat, and to go off on a tangent if I want to. Just to explain, if you're doing highlights of a football match, you get a running order. And off the back of that, you get two people sitting in front of you who used to play football. During the day they've already decided what they are going to say on air. So they prepare the little packages they want to talk about - it was the left back's fault on the goal; the centre-back is out of position; the midfield movement of Kante, or whatever it may be - that's been made hours before.

Your job is fake in a way. Your job is to ask something which allows them to link into it. So when the pundit says that a goal happened because the left-back was out of position, I'm thinking really? Is that because he cost 50 grand from Barnsley, and he's up against someone who cost 50 million from PSG? You can't really do that, you can't disrespect their opinion.

You end up working backwards, and there is no creativity in it. Whereas if you put me on radio and told me 'right, you have half an hour to interview this person, whatever way you want to do it, but make it something people want to listen to for half an hour', that is a much harder task. That is a much more creative and fulfilling job than just linking ex-footballers into VT's they made three hours earlier.

But then it's very hard for a guy who was a substitute for his school team in East Belfast to turn around to one of the top scorers in the Premier League. Understandably, they don't want a gobshite from Belfast who couldn't make his school team to turn around and say 'do you think we can do this instead?' But you would look for those pockets here and there where you could do something different, and I don't have a problem with any of the pundits I worked with, they were all really good to me. But you'd get in trouble if you went off script a huge amount.

Murray also explained his departure from the show:

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It was one of those things where you're in between leaving and being pushed. I had a three-year contract, and we were on BBC Two but moving to BBC One. When I took over, I had a vision of where I wanted to bring the show, hoping to bring it on the road and have something extremely different to Match of the Day, and that was never really something that got off the ground if I'm being honest.

Rightly or wrongly, I'm not saying it would have been right to do it in that way. There was always a bit of a friendly jarring between where I'd take it and where it needed to be. When it moved to BBC One, and when I met up with the guy who is in charge of BBC Sport and I told him where I wanted to take it. He said that 'where you want to take it, we don't want to go'. So I just saw out the rest of my three-year contract.

You can listen to the full interview on the podcast.

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