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Why Are We Always On Last? Running Match of the Day and other adventures in football and TV By Paul Armstrong

Release date: 19th February, 2019
Publisher: Pitch Publishing

List Price: £12.99
Our Price: £10.91
You Save: £2.08 (16%)
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“Too much punditry delivered by imbeciles.”
“Not enough thoughtful analysis.”
“Overwhelmingly biased.”
“Outstanding production every week.”
“Why are we always on last?”

These randomly-selected comments garnered from a group of pals in the pub when asked to describe Match of the Day in a single sentence would probably be echoed across the country, which suggests that the folks at the MOTD helm are getting things just about right.

The observations of football fans would probably have been much more enthusiastic when MOTD, introduced by Kenneth Wolstenholme, made its debut on our screens in August 1964. Then, only a single match was deemed the day’s best, but it’s fair to say that in the intervening half century both the televised fixtures as well as the production itself have provided more talking points than any other broadcast sport.

The person in charge of a programme transmitted live every Saturday night is, invariably, the same person responsible for generating accusations of bias, or not knowing his Arsenal from his elbow when it comes to football history. In Why Are We Always On Last, however, Paul Armstrong, who edited MOTD for 15 years, proves beyond doubt that the accusations are false.

He describes the editor’s role as being similar to that of a navigator alongside the MOTD director (likened to a rally driver steering the show), “hoping they’re holding the map the right way up, trying to anticipate the twists and turns in the road.”

Armstrong maintains that “decades of watching Middlesbrough had prepared me well for this role as worrier-in-chief,” though presenter Gary Lineker took a much more positive view. Indeed, when BBC controllers tried to take the thrilling 2006 FA Cup final between Liverpool and West Ham off air (yes, the one that went to penalties) and replace it with Doctor Who, Lineker promptly texted the Prime Minister to ensure the match remained on-screen. He succeeded, but the episode scared the living daylights out of Armstrong.

Match of the Day has become a tradition, one that Armstrong recognises and honours in this pacey, well-written homage to a programme that has, at some point, caused almost every football fan in the land to either howl abuse at the small screen or sit up and applaud. There might occasionally be a tad too much punditry, but there’s certainly no bias.

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