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Day: January 27, 2011

Replacing Andy Gray is tough but replacing Richard Keys…not so much. Step forward Mr James Richardson.

Whatever you think of what went down at Sky regarding Richard Keys and Andy Gray one question still needs to be answered – who will replace them? I’ll have a look at who I see as some of the candidates.

First we’ll look at the #1 co-commentary position – Andy Gray’s old job.

Internally Alan Smith, the former Arsenal and England striker is the obvious candidate. He has been the #2 co-commentator on Sky Football for a fair while now. Knowledgeable but does he have the gravitas to pull off the big games?

Elsewhere within Sky Football you have Don Goodman and Garry Birtles. Both doing well but do the hierarchy really think they are ready for the step up to the big games? I doubt it.

Another name to mention is Chris ‘Unbelievable Jeff’ Kamara. The former Navy boy has a following on Sky but hasn’t done much, if any, co-commentary for several seasons. Was an astute co-commentator when he did it but most would see him as not serious enough for the gig.

So this leaves me to think that for the start of next season they’ll look to bring in a new voice.

Outside of Sky you look at ESPN and they have both Craig Burley and Chris Waddle, neither of whom are exactly the darlings of the message boards. Would be a surprise for Sky to move for either of them.

The BBC has an array on names but are any of them any good in the co-commentators chair? The answer is no, not really. Mark Bright got the big live Carling Cup semi-final 2nd leg this week and was nowhere near the standard you’d expect for a top flight football match. Mark Lawrenson has been ok in the past but would Sky go there? Not sure they would.

Over at ITV you have David Pleat and Jim Beglin and here is where you’ll find the most obvious candidate. Jim Beglin has grown in stature over the years and is now very good at his job. He’d certainly attract some looks from Sky if they look for an external hire. However when all is said and done replacing Andy Gray is not going to easy for the company, unlike however replacing Richard Keys.

When looking at replacing Richard Keys Sky have a very simple decision. Do they promote internally with the likes of David Jones, Mark Bolton, Jeff Stelling and Ben Shephard all already on payroll or do they look externally and go and get the best in the business – yes the best – who is currently not doing any live football to my knowledge.

All football fans who any knowledge or who even have a passing interest in TV presenting know who I’m talking about, yes James Richardson. The former host of Football Italia on Channel 4 and Bravo’s coverage of the same league is the class of the field. He knows his stuff and has a fantastic demeanor. He has been criminally overlooked by the big networks for too many years but now an opening has shown itself and if they want to totally revamp their live football coverage then he is clearly the guy for them.

I won’t knock the internal candidates, all of whom would step up and do a solid job but none of them would step in and bring what James would bring to the table. He knows the game inside out, has a laid back style but asks the right hard-hitting questions. For me this is a no brainer and should Sky want to take this opportunity to move it’s football coverage into a bold new era then they don’t have to think twice.

Replacing Gray will be tough as there isn’t anyone out there who screams out at you but as for Richard Keys, James Richardson is just a phone call away.

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