20 The Daily Telegraph Monday 31 August 2020 *** Sport Final whistle witnesses in the shape of, erm, sports journalists to debate the relative merits of the men in the dock. Claridge’s chamber has no actual power to impose any meaningful sanction, but hands down its verdict in an entertaining way nevertheless. Alas, the budget and legal reach of the show does not quite run to compelling Actual Souey or Actual Poggers to attend themselves, but I see no reason why Sky could not develop this format into something considerably flashier. Confusingly, the courtroom drama exists as 50 per cent of a series called The first half of last night’s episode was a chat show with Olympics badminton silver medallist Gail Emms interviewing the former Wolves and one-cap England winger Matt Jarvis about Liverpool’s defence (is good) and what it has been like for footballers training in lockdown (is bad). No other women, ballsy or otherwise, featured on the programme so it is not quite clear what the angle is with that but if you sometimes ponder the mysteries of existence and wonder what it is all for and conclude that there is a nagging, existential nothingness and gap in your life where meaning should be, then it might well be that Jarvis telling Emms that Virgil van Dijk has very much made the difference in that back line for the Reds is the answer and the key. It might also be that there is now just so much TV time, radio air and web space to be filled with sport and stuff a bit related to sport that Emms, Jarvis and all other current and former sportspeople have to be ready to be deployed at a minute’s notice to plug a schedule gap. Keep an eye out this week alone for Fatima Whitbread and Allan Lamb’s Sunday morning middle-eastern themed cookery show, let Scottish curling great Rhona Martin be your guide for a powerful, hard-hitting investigative BBC3 series about exploited greyhounds in Peru, clear time in your busy schedule for the very personal journey taken by former England secondrow Wade Dooley about compulsive shopping (Netflix) and enjoy some quality entertainment for all the family with Alan Tyers Claridge as judge is no guilty pleasure Ballsy Women. I have long enjoyed the punditry work of Steve Claridge, who has transitioned from a magnificent shift up front for a couple of dozen clubs into a waspish, unbiddable voice on Radio Five and elsewhere. Claridge started his long journey at Fareham Town in 1983, a footballing era in which dinosaurs roamed the earth, and was still doing battle for Gosport Borough in 2011-12, deep into his other career in the media. No wonder he looks trim and rangy still at 54; it has been a tireless effort by anyone’s reckoning. He first stood out for me about 15 years ago in his habit of giving dim Playing to the gallery: Steve Claridge in Sky’s ‘Sport in Court’, where he had to rule on (below) Graeme Souness v Paul Pogba Alas, the budget and legal reach does not run to compelling Actual Souey or Actual Poggers to attend radio phone-in callers the short shrift that is their due, flatly refusing to pretend to Dean from Stourbridge that Dean’s insistence Walsall should sack manager Terry Parsnip and get Johan Cruyff into the Bescot Stadium hot seat had any value whatsoever. When the decline and fall of Western civilisation is finally writ (Tuesday next is pencilled in), far too many idiots being encouraged to think their opinion should be heard will surely merit a chapter, and football phone-ins will have played a grisly part. But not the man Claridge, who now brings this imperious demeanour to bear on a fun new show for Sky, a “Sport in Court” offering in which actual real-life lawyers make the case for the relative merits of footballers past and present as Claridge gets away a couple of well-timed “Order in court” bits of am-dram business. The first case under discussion is that of Graeme Souness v Paul Pogba, who recently got involved in an incidence of handbags via the media where Pogba responded to an, admittedly relentless, coating off from Souey on Sky’s football programming by saying that he did not even know who Souness was. Son, he was on Bread And Lamb, A Question of Sport. Boys from the Blackstuff, for starters. Under the pitiless gaze of Judge Claridge, both sides can call expert Ballsy Women: Wednesday 2.30pm and Friday 7pm. Sky Showcase, channel 192.
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