The year is 2005.
Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ is in heavy rotation on your MP3 player, you’ve convinced your parents to let you see Saw 2, Wotsits are still packed with all the best E-numbers… life is good.
The weekends are dominated by football; Thierry Henry, Andy Johnson, Shaun Wright-Phillips and so on.
But the only way to properly warm up for the weekend was with Soccer AM.
In the early to mid noughties, Sky Sports’ Saturday morning football show was cracking television.
Tim Lovejoy and Helen Chamberlain were the hosts; genuinely funny, engaging, endearingly rough around the edges when it came to presenting.
They were the kind of people you’d like to spend an afternoon in the pub with.
And for the most part, the show’s content was perfectly catered for its audience.
In the days before social media addiction, Soccer AM was the first port of call for viral videos.
The show’s Third Eye, Taxi, and Showboat segments covered all the easily missed moments of the week and packaged them for easy consumption.
And it was laugh-out-loud funny.
Sure, it was immature on occasions, with slapstick preferred to subtle wit, but it worked.
Sheephead, Tubes, Rocket, Fenners had good chemistry with Lovejoy and the result was a cauldron of good-natured banter and enthusiasm.
In contrast, the modern version of the show feels forced and cringe-worthy.
The show’s popularity also meant it influenced wider football culture.
Remember the ‘EASY, EASY’ trend and the campaign to get the word ‘bouncebackability’ in the dictionary?
Even players and managers would often get involved with whatever inside joke was flavour of the month.
The Soccerette segment, in which an attractive young lady paraded up and down a catwalk before being forced to endure questions designed to generate innuendo, is the kind of thing you would never see on television these days, and probably for the best.
Lovejoy would ask the girls about their martial status; if they replied ‘single’ then the whole crew would cheer like England had scored a last-minute winner.
If they replied that they had or boyfriend, or god forbid, a husband, Lovejoy would yell ‘It’ll never last!’ much to the amusement of his colleagues.
It’s pretty awful in hindsight but there was never any malice or intent to objectify the girls in an excessively seedy way — it just fit the bill at the time.
Soccer AM was also a place to discover new music.
Any band worth their salt in the UK has had at least one representative sit on the sofa and be subjected to one of Tubes’ hilariously bad ‘raps’.
The backing tracks for the various montages were carefully curated and promoted up-and-coming indie bands, rappers and R&B acts.
Underpinning it all was childlike passion for all things football and you got the sense that every member of the crew would happily talk all day about any given aspect of the game.
It’s difficult to identify exactly why the magic has disappeared.
Whereas before the cast’s enthusiasm was infectious, now the theatrics are tiresome.
You only have to look at the shortened running time to get a feel for the decline in quality.
Soccer AM has gone from being four hours long, to three hours, to two hours, to an hour and a half.
Perhaps the show’s format just worked better in a time gone by, or maybe we’re just getting old.
It was an absolute riot though and even now if a player makes a horrendous mistake it’s almost impossible to not yell ‘Taxi for [insert player’s name]’ in the way Fenners used to screech it.
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