Disgraced former Sky presenters, Andy Gray and Richard Keys made their debuts as the newest hosts of radio sports show TalkSPORT this morning, in the 10.00am-1pm slot.
The pair have reportedly suffered massive pay cuts from their Sky wages, and produced three hours of bland radio chat with some of the ex players who have not publicly condemned them for their recent (and past) behaviour.
TalkSPORT’s tagline is ‘For men who love to talk sport’ there is nothing offensive in that, but it does somewhat suggest a haven for men like Gray and Keys.
Leaving aside whether or not you think they should have gone, TalkSPORT replacing Mike ‘Porky’ Parry with the duo is a clear message of support and reinforces the programme’s reputation as a non-PC radio show. Yet the pair played it very safe.
Parry’s own outdated attitudes to women were generally so little boy lost that they were rendered harmless. He also poked fun at himself to temper his tendency to put his foot firmly in his mouth on a whole range of issues.
Gray and Keys are a different beast altogether.
We are not a PC office and ‘harmless banter’ is just that, harmless. However, Keys and Gray were not joking with their comments about referee’s assistant Sian Massey and West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady, and actually sounded annoyed that these women dare intrude on their world.
Initially both men were only ‘reprimanded’ by Sky, until the now infamous footage of the ‘Charlotte Jackson microphone incident’ emerged.
Gray was then sacked, with Keys resigning almost immediately afterwards.
Did Keys walk out of loyalty to Gray? as his official statement suggested, or did he in fact have a job lined up at TalkSPORT? Alternatively was he worried the same busy little person who leaked the video footage in the first place (believed to be reporter Andy Burton, who has been suspended) had a back catalogue to choose from?
Let’s face it; YouTube is awash with clips of Keys and Gray offending somebody or other with their juvenile and unprofessional attitude to the game which has paid them both handsomely for years.
This week The Daily Mail reported that Keys had also made a ‘racist slur’, eleven years ago, calling Jamaica-born striker David Johnson, ‘choco jocko’, in reference to the possibility of the player’s eligibility to play for Scotland, again while miked but off air.
What the original footage showed was that neither presenter was prepared to move with the times. The fact is, the introduction of women in football is part of the game evolving and Sky need to keep things fresh.
The comments made allegedly lead to phone calls from women all over the country seeking information on how to qualify to become referees.
And neither man is irreplaceable.
Had the pair been replaced by Sky poster boy Dave Jones (who has subsequently taken over most of Keys’ duties, at least for the time being) without the videos leaking, we may have had people up in arms about them being replaced by a younger model. But I doubt it.
And as for Gray, well there’s an endless supply of ex footballers who can hold a microphone and some who might even actually impart analysis.
Conspiracy theories are rife regarding Gray’s phone hacking lawsuit against the Murdoch owned New of the World being the real reason he was sacked, while Keys resigned.
The bigger question is why bother to hack Gray’s phone? clearly giving him a microphone will provide him with enough rope to hang himself!
Perhaps Sky were not, after all, too sad to see either man leave.
For now, the pair have their tails firmly between their legs as they sit in the TalkSPORT office breathing a sigh of relief that they are still employed, albeit for a fraction of their former salaries. Today’s programme showed they are on their best behaviour, chastised schoolboys who know they have to ‘be good’ for a while.