Did we like it?
Ron Atkinson’s appeal was always his peculiar vernacular in the commentary box. As a manager he is a living anachronism. And this is what he appears to be as he helps out “old mate” Barry Fry to haul Peterborough United in to the Third Division, or is the Second Division or is it League One?
What was good about it?
• The poor Peterborough manager Steve Bleasdale who is pretty much the victim of a character assassination job. In order to validate Ron’s accession to the Peterborough management team, Steve was portrayed as a buffoon who lacks the respect of the players and who can only communicate in football clichés such as when he tells his players to “roll their sleeves up” or claiming his side “weren’t at the races”.
• Despite imploring Barry Fry that he didn’t need anyone and that he had “four wins out of five” (until he lost a game and Ron spitefully corrected him that it was “four out of six”), Ron was hired. As a result, Steve felt he was being usurped and actually resigned about two months after Ron joined up.
• Ron did provide the odd footballing aphorism from his own experience that still golds true today. “The attention span of a footballer when it’s not something he’s interested in isn’t very long,” he mused as Steve took the team around a local factory.
• The sorry press conference for Peterborough FC that looked like it was taking place in a half-deserted doctors’ waiting room occupied only by tramps who’d wandered in off the street for a bit of warmth.
• Steve losing his voice and having to argue with Ron sounding like a cheap sex line hooker.
What was bad about it?
• Away from the thrills of calling the scores on Soccer Saturday, where he is God incarnate, the lilting jauntiness in Jeff Stelling’s narration is rather gratuitous and ultimately annoying.
• Jeff gravely intoned: “Players at this level (League Two) are lucky if they’re on £20,000 a year.” Hogwash. In April, it was reported that a League Two player earns on average £50,000 a year.
• Jeff also asked: “Will Big Ron be able to work his magic?” Ron Atkinson hasn’t worked any sort of magic at managerial level for over a decade.
• We’re still not quite clear how Ron became qualified to be a ‘troubleshooter’. It almost seems as though the TV caption appearing below him identifying him as “Ron Atkinson: Football Troubleshooter” bestowed that position upon him.
• One of those horribly false telephone calls where TV cameras are serendipitously present at both ends of the line when the call is made, this time between Ron and Peterborough chairman Barry Fry. What made it even worse was Ron enduring with the masquerade that Barry had called him up out the blue by turning his car around as if he wasn’t headed there in the first place.
• Why was the quality of TV footage of matches, presumably Sky TV’s own, sometimes very poor?
• The sense that both Barry Fry and Ron Atkinson are relics from a bygone age trying to inflict their outdated methods on a modern game in much the same way as Bob Dylan risibly called all new music “atrocious” seemingly oblivious that he has become the same old curmudgeonly grouch he once railed against as a young man.
• The over-detailed recaps after each ad break that suggests it was a struggle to fill up one hour’s worth of TV with worthwhile footage.
• Football’s very own Stanley Kubrick, the publicity-phobic Barry Fry, charging into the Peterborough dressing room. “You don’t often see me,” he bellowed in his best working-class-salt-of-the-earth accent, “and when you do there’s trouble!” Or the presence of TV cameras.
• Ron’s strenuous claims that he has “no intention of becoming Peterborough manager”, in a programme that’s called Big Ron Manager.