Mark Pougatch’s welcome sincerity and ITV’s disservice to Adrian Chiles

It’s long overdue, ITV, but you might have finally got this right.

Mark Pougatch debuted in place of the ousted Adrian Chiles last night, restoring a much-needed gravitas to the Champions League on terrestrial television.  Pougatch is a well-seasoned football broadcaster and the sound of his voice reminds a whole generation of a time when they weren’t allowed to stay up and when they had to follow the evening’s football on Five Live.

That’s good, that’s how it should be.  The term ‘proper football man’ has taken a bashing in recent years, but it’s actually an apt description of Pougatch: he sounds like football.  His straight-down-the-middle style and aversi0n to irritatingly twee mateyness restored the sense last night that we were watching something important and that we weren’t just silly little men gawping at our silly little game.

That’s where Adrian Chiles fell-down.  The character he was asked to play - the everyman, the on-screen viewer - belittled the program and made the audience feel ever so faintly foolish for tuning in.  Furthermore, the continual, exaggerated deference to his punditry team was so pronounced that it almost insulted the intelligence.

We are a smart football society and we no longer believe in the all-mighty pundit.  They, to us, represent the gravy-train culture so embedded in the game and their on-screen presence amounts to little more than the provision of visual symmetry and the filling of air-time with white noise.

We can tolerate an everyman like Chiles, but only if he doesn’t fawn over a Lee Dixon or a Roy Keane and only if he actually forces them to in some way earn their money.

The hatred of Chiles is misdirected anger.  He, like all other television characters, was an executive producer’s creation and, unfortunately, his sports broadcasting career has essentially been sabotaged by the capitalisation of his light-hearted qualities.  He’s a fan of the game.  He wasn’t just someone who had been thrown into the role after a chance meeting within an executive box at Old Trafford or The Emirates, he is an actual supporter.

That, to an extent, makes his demise unfortunate.  The template for contemporary sports presenters is well-established and over-used.  In a world where sexless, inoffensive Dan Walkers and Jake Humphreys are grown in studio basements and reared specifically for purpose, Chiles should have been a welcome novelty.

It wasn’t to be, though, and rather than being the antidote to that banality, he became a caveat to the relentless pursuit of demographics.

If executives focus too much on the A5s, the C1s and the D14s, they invariably end up appeasing nobody - and, unfortunately for Chiles, his epitaph will be a testament to that: He irritated as much as he engaged, he annoyed as many as he entertained.

But here we are with Mark Pougatch.  He understands the game and he isn’t forced to pretend that he doesn’t.  He’s still us, but just a smarter version and one who doesn’t try desperately hard to affect a hopeless inferiority.

He’s Bob Wilson, Des Lynam, David Coleman.

He’s right in every way that Adrian Chiles was wrong.

Pieces of Hate (The Set Pieces): Taking aim at hand-crafted fan banners.

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1 Comment on "Mark Pougatch’s welcome sincerity and ITV’s disservice to Adrian Chiles"

  1. David Elliot | Feb 18, 2015 at 11:41 am |

    I thought he did a very good job last night. It was also good to see the 3 on pitch commentators who actually know something about football and are not afraid to speak their minds.

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