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Old 9th January 2006, 10:02   #1
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Default Green refuses to back down

Green refuses to back down
By Giles Smith
The Times January 09, 2006

FOR THREE QUARTERS OF SATURDAY night’s edition of 606, Radio 5 Live’s football phone-in with Alan Green, Bolton Wanderers were like the war in Fawlty Towers — best not mentioned. Adrian on the M1 mentioned them once, but I think he got away with it. “I don’t care what Sam Allardyce says,” Adrian told Green, “you’re brilliant.” “Let’s not get on to Sam tonight,” Green replied, through the self-satisfied chortle that is one of his less lovely on-air calling cards.

Green wanted to hear from Colchester United fans, on their way home from Sheffield, and from “John on the M42”. But if he was eager to speak to Bolton supporters, ready to discuss their side’s victory away to Watford, and perhaps to ask Green, in passing, what he meant last week when he said, “I wouldn’t pay to watch Bolton”, our host was not saying so.

Finally, though, a stray one crept under the wire, in the form of Stephen, from Sussex, who asked, “Are you aware of the reaction it’s caused?” Asking Green if he is aware of reactions to himself is like asking Jordan the same question: it’s not something you really need to wonder about. Certainly Green would not have to be reminded that Allardyce’s reaction was to ban Radio 5 Live from press conferences. “Are you ready to apologise?” Stephen asked. Green insisted that his “measured remarks last Monday” were legitimate under the usual rules of opinionated cut and thrust. “Is that not what this game is about?” Green said.

“But you’re a commentator,” Stephen said, “not a pundit.” Which cuts right to the heart of it. For all Green’s inelegant protestations — “commentary has moved on farther than what it was 50 years ago” — there remains something potentially awkward about combining life as a match commentator and as the host of a phone-in. A commentator would hope to rise above fallouts. A phone-in jockey, on the other hand, must collect them in the manner of Scout badges.

With his Sir Alex Ferguson badge already proudly on his tunic, above his Roy Keane and David Moyes badges, Green was last week merely doing his obligatory Allardyce badge. If he were not also a key BBC match commentator, only congratulations would be due. As it is, confusion arises about what Green is: one of the rightful heirs of the late, great Bryon Butler, or a distant cousin of Howard “Shock Jock” Stern?

Perhaps the commentator has more going for him. Green admires an honest opinion, so I am sure he will not mind people saying that, under his stewardship, 606 now routinely offers one of the most piffling hours it is possible to spend in the company of a radio.

This is not to say that the show does not have its own, eerie magnetism. On the contrary, like wine gums, it remains a steady and necessary component of the post-match drive home. Even so, for anyone who remembers the show’s glory days as entertainment, under Danny Baker, it can induce a little mournfulness to note its present status as a turgid national forum for points barely worth making aloud in a pub.

As such, we ought, perhaps, to be boundlessly grateful for the occasional dust-up — even a dust-up, such as the one over Bolton’s alleged ugliness, in which everyone ends up looking slightly silly. It gives the listener a reason, beyond habit, to tune in. But one suspects that Green knows that.
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