All the Premier League ins and outs in one place...
We didn't even include your favourite Ron...
It's another annoying international break. As we are old-fashioned, we really don't hold with international breaks and hanker after the days when international games were played midweek between league fixtures. These gaps really interrupt domestic momentum; it never really feels like the season has started until these last two competitive internationals are out of the way. And after all, England have hardly been world beaters as a consequence of this enforced lay-off have they?
Anyway, freed from the hypnosis of top-flight football, we've tried to use these barren days productively by watching sports channels that we normally ignore. Last week it was Primetime, this week it is Premier Sports - 428 on our Sky system. We think we probably pay money for this but are so badly organised financially that we're not really sure. Could it be that £10 debit a month to Big Butts On Bikes?
So what do you get for...however much it is we pay? There's ice hockey, which is always good for serious violence, both codes of rugby, of which the same thing could be said, boxing, which is really licensed brutality, GAA which involves sticks, and handball which is our new favourite sport. So plenty of blood and snot then.
Obviously, we don't ever really watch much of this. However, it does have a good selection of football. The main gig is the Blue Conference Square Vauxhall Minor Counties League For Not Quite Professionals. This is pretty much like watching any football game you might see from the third tier downwards. The crowds vary from a few hundred to 5000 at Luton Town. It's all fully committed stuff and lacks any of the pretension and general fannying around that you see higher up the football ladder.
But it doesn't stop there. They also show games from the Argentinean Premier League and the Copa Libertadores as well as the Argentina internationals. This Saturday they're showing them play Uruguay at 1am. This could be well worth injecting coffee into your eyes to stay awake for, as it will doubtless be a crazed bloodbath.
But wait. There's more. Premier Sports also have a deal with Celtic and Rangers to show their matches if they've not been shown elsewhere already. So you can watch Celtic in the Champions League or perhaps Rangers take on Berwick or Stirling. This, friends is how the other half live. If this is still not enough excitement, Premier Sports also brings you the Airtricity League from Ireland.
Admittedly Premier Sports sounds like a shop which would be staffed - and looted - by sportswear-clad kids on methadone but if you want something a little less ordinary, it's a decent place to calm your jonesing football veins.
But it is the Conference football which it all revolves around really and a splendid product it is. The preview show for the Stockport v Wrexham match - a 'mouth-watering' fixture - is done by Steve Bower, and ex-Leeds and Everton powerhouse Ian 'Snods' Snodin with Claire Rourke pitch-side doing the team news and interviews. It's a good team and all seem to have plenty of experience at this level and really know their stuff. There's a genuine rapport between them. We really enjoyed the plain speaking and the no-nonsense pretension-free style, which is entirely appropriate to the subject matter.
The interviewed managers are regular blokes who clearly haven't had media training and are not defensive like those with money and power. This makes things natural and rootsy in a most refreshing way. This is The Real World and none the worse for it; like watching a fly-on-the-wall doc instead of a Hollywood blockbuster.
We really don't know that much about this league but here are three people who do and they helped us understand who was who and what was what in a short space of time. The football at Edgeley Park was fun too, ending 3-2 to the Welsh club after the awarding of two penalties and a sending-off. We'd come back for more of this. As football on TV goes, Premier Sports is happening in one of the smallest rooms at the party but it's got the stink of good times all over it.
Also this week: we enjoyed the Jock Stein documentary on Radio Five, presented by the reliable Mark Pougatch, with Pat Nevin riding shotgun. The show focused on the death of the legendary manager after the Wales v Scotland World Cup qualifier at Ninian Park in 1985. A highly impressive list of names, including Sir Alex Ferguson and Hugh McIlvanney, spoke about the man. Absolutely worth checking out on the iPlayer for those who might not know too much about the first manager of a British side to win the European Cup. Also really got you thinking about the extraordinary amount of managerial talent produced around Glasgow and Lanarkshire. Recommended.
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
Read football legend Ronnie Matthews recent Daily Telegraph column on John Terry and Joey Barton here; his ghost-writer Alan Tyers helped with some of the punctuation.
And read Johnny's book, 'The Meat Fix' here
Follow Alan on Twitter here
or Johnny here.