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Category: Football

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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The Return of Mark Halsey

I read today that Mark Halsey has passed his fitness test and will return to the top flight as a Select Group Referee. This is excellent news and I for one am delighted to see Halsey return to what he does best.

His battle with cancer was well documented and to get back to full fitness in such a short time is impressive in itself. However I’m happy that he is returning not only for him but selfishly because he is one of the top officials in the country.

The way he referees is unlike most of the young up and coming referees. He lets a lot of things go, his attitude seems to be ‘it’s a man’s game’ and lets the players get on with it. He also understands the advantage rule better than most and the players seem to respect his style.

Halsey returning to the middle is great news for him but it is just as good news for fans of the beautiful game. If referees have done their job properly then most people won’t even know who has officiated that game. When Mark takes charge of a game you wouldn’t know it and that is the way it should be.

I wish Mark a successful season and look forward to seeing him referee again this season. Hopefully it can end with him leading out two teams at Wembley for the FA Cup, preferably Portsmouth but some things are a real long shot!

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Fantasy Football…

I am a fantasy geek. There I’ve said it. However fantasty football has never been something that could attract my interest too much. I play American fantasy sports where the draft system is in place instead of a salary cap. Much more fun but anyway I have put together my fantasy football team for the 2010-11 season and I have decided on a new strategy this year:

Buy Big Names.

Therefore I have Torres, Drogba and Lampard all in my squad.

My Team is as follows (3-4-3)

GK: Robinson – Blackburn

DF: Upson – West Ham

DF: Campbell – Newcastle

DF: Dann – Birmingham

MF:  Gutierrez – Newcastle

MF: Walcott – Arsenal

MF: Essien – Chelsea

MF: Lampard – Chelsea

AT:  Jones – Stoke

AT: Drogba – Chelsea

AT: Torres – Liverpool

My bench is:

GK: Jaaskelainen – Bolton

DF: Wilkinson – Stoke

DF: Elekobi – Wolves

MF: Rodwell – Everton

So as you can see – I didn’t have a lot left over for subs. I really ignored the defence and hoped the midfield and attack and grab assists and get goals. I think Kenwyn Jones will be a star at Stoke I really do so I’m delighted with him. I am considering bringing in Rory Delap into the midfield (to replace Jonas Gutierrez) and of course I may change my mind as the hours go on but as it stands that is my team and I am proud of it.

If you are in a league on premierleague.com and would like me to join then please get in touch with the League ID.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.