TV View: Sky Sports steer well clear of the Saudi elephant in the room

On Virgin Media, Lucy Kennedy may take some time to recover from Pat Spillane

Newcastle United fans hang a banner abiove the statue of former manager Bobby Robson outside St James’ Park. Photo: Paul Ellis/Getty Images

Newcastle United fans hang a banner abiove the statue of former manager Bobby Robson outside St James’ Park. Photo: Paul Ellis/Getty Images

 

“They fink they’ve got their club back,” said an emotional Jamie Redknapp as St James’ Park rose to give a rapturous reception to Newcastle’s new chairman, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund that now owns 80 per cent of the club. Al-Rumayyan beamed back at the fans, but stopped just short of joining in on their rousing rendition of the Blaydon Races, “ah me lads, ye shudda seen us gannin’, we pass’d the foaks alang the road just as they wor stannin’”, a language with which he is possibly not familiar.

And if it wasn’t already a big enough day for the club, Jamie noted that “Ant and Dec are here!”

Ever since he apologised for cutting in to a Gary Neville anti-racism speech live on air, David Jones has been hellbent on not avoiding addressing issues bigger than football, so he asked his panel to comment on human rights abuses, sportswashing and the like.

The problem was that rather than, say, Neville, Graeme Souness and the Carragher Jamie being on duty, thereby guaranteeing a good chat about the issue, Jones had the Redknapp Jamie, David Ginola and Kieron Dyer alongside him.

Jamie is best mates with Jamie Reuben, whose family now own 10 per cent of the club, and Ginola and Dyer are Toon old boys hellbent on supporting the new owners come what may, so it was never really going to be a forensic analysis of all things Saudi.

“There’s some allegations against the deal and those people, I think it’s not our concern to talk about that, our concern is to let the allegation go through and wait for the final prospect of that,” said Ginola, leaving his colleagues wondering when exactly he learnt to speak Swahili.

Dyer, meanwhile, wondered why football was held to a higher standard than Anthony Joshua, golf and Formula One, while Jamie suggested that the debate was stuffed with hypocrisy because “as a country we have a lot of deals with the Saudis”. Highly reasonable points, them, but top of the whataboutery charts.

Then Jones told us that Redknapp Jamie had secured an interview with Reuben Jamie, who is now on the board of the club. For transparency purposes, he told us that the pair were “associates”, their meeting taking place in Reuben Jamie’s new St James’ Park office.

“Jamie, ‘ave you any concerns about being in bed with a state that has an appalling human rights record,” Redknapp Jamie asked. (Kidding).

Redknapp Jamie: “Jamie, thank you so much for inviting us in to your new home, how ya feelin’?”

Reuben Jamie: “I’m feeling great, thank you Jamie, welcome.”

That’s as searching as it got, really. Redknapp Jamie is many things, Emily Maitlis is not one of them.

By the time Newcastle went 3-1 down, Al-Rumayyan was spotted on his phone, possibly asking Freddy Shepherd for a refund, while in the background the Spurs visitors could be heard crooning “you’re just a shit Man City”.

Softer side

Newcastle, you sense, will struggle to be loved after this, perhaps their only hope of garnering some affection to have Virgin Media’s Lucy Kennedy visit them. That was Pat Spillane’s thinking when he invited her in to his Kenmare home for the latest episode of Living With Lucy, reckoning that people who hated him because of his RTÉ punditry might conclude that “I’m alright” after seeing his softer side.

It was all going fine until he alienated the nation’s dog lovers, Pat revealing his dislike for the creatures and a run-in with a neighbour whose mutt came bounding towards him. “And the woman is telling you ‘he’s okay, he likes you, he doesn’t bite’ ….. I say ‘excuse me Mrs, what if I ran over to you and jumped up on top of you and started licking you and said ‘I like you’ - how would you feel about that?’”

Pat hasn’t seen her since, there’s a chance she’s now in a witness protection programme.

Other than that, we learnt that his highly lovely wife Rosarii butters his bread, and that he very modestly has his eight All Ireland medals tucked away in a pouch in his home.

Lucy sat on his bed examining them. “Get your ass out of my bed, that’s my side,” he told her, before adding, in quite a sultry manner, “do you feel those sexual vibrations from the previous occupant?”

Lucy, you can only hope, will one day recover.

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