Rob Houwing

Bailey: biased or just loyal?

2012-02-10 09:34
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
Rob Houwing’s ‘Tops on the Telly’ column

Perhaps you need to be a fan of traditional arch-rivals like Manchester City, Liverpool or Arsenal to really get your back up about Gary Bailey so often seeing things through “Red Devil eyes” on SuperSport’s soccer coverage.

Considering that “my” team is Newcastle - the real United, I always protest - I seldom get too hot under the collar about Bailey’s Old Trafford leanings, given that the black-and-whites seldom have a significant say in the title race.

Mind you, I’m sure even Gary might have taken pretty gamely on the chin the champions’ 3-0 humbling at the hands of the unexpectedly high-riding Toon not too long ago!

Be that as it may, the former Manchester United and England goalkeeper, now 53, has come under fire again of late for allegedly stepping over the mark in his “enthusiasm” for all things red.

There have certainly been some tweets flying around this week in the wake of the latest edition of Monday Night Football (anchored by Neil Andrews on SS3), where the weekend Premiership drama was discussed by the fairly customary trio, also comprising Shaun Bartlett.

Of course United came from 0-3 down to scrap out a 3-3 result at Chelsea - Bartlett reckoned it might just be a key point gained in title terms - and were helped by two penalties (one glaringly soft, I did think) awarded by Howard Webb.

Subsequent to the latest “MNF”, Twitter has been abuzz with such indignant statements as “United-heavy panel”, or “Oh look, Gary and Shaun both think MU will win the league, #biased” and “MNF is a great show but should get a more neutral panel”.

Certainly there are times when I’ve had reason to think Bailey can cross the line of impartiality, but a good part of me also quite enjoys his stubborn affiliation to a side he represented almost 300 times in just under a decade until the early part of the “Fergie era”.

What you see, after all, is pretty much what you get ... a staunch one-club man, at least as far as the English part of his career between the sticks was concerned.

He has a natural loyalty which I suspect may also come through when someone like Victor Matfield gets cracking in earnest with his new SuperSport rugby analyst job and could find it hard to hide his affection toward the Bulls.

Gary did once explain (or at least try to) his philosophy on a SuperSport website Q ‘n A with enthusiasts: “I try not to be biased, and generally say good things about Man Utd because they have been so incredibly successful.”

Still, I have a suggestion for Andrews and MNF to appease Manchester City fans, in what looks increasingly like a two-horse race to the line over the next three months or so: why not occasionally invite into the studio an unashamed but knowledgeable “City man” like Vincent Barnes, better known as a cricket coach, it is true, but also once a pro footballer in his younger days in Cape Town?

Any other blue-half-of-Manchester personalities you can think of to act as potential “balancers to Bailey”?

Rob’s Awesome Foursome

1. Sevens World Series rugby
Las Vegas, Saturday and Sunday 02:00, SS1 & CSN

The Blitzbokke are blowing hot and cold, so retention of their “Vegas” title from last year would be a timely achievement – they could only manage to win the Plate competition at Wellington last weekend, so fell a place in the rankings to fourth. Losing the services of nuggety, experienced Paul Delport for the US mission is a blow, but with a bit of luck the squad will rally. Note that Cup final actually falls in the early hours of Monday morning for South African TV-watching purposes ... around 00:25. Consider it a good, bleary-eyed mini-trial run for the similarly time-unfriendly Proteas’ Test series in New Zealand! 

2. Manchester United v Liverpool, English Premiership soccer
Manchester, Saturday 14:45, SS3, SHD3 & Maximo

For once the usual Lancashire derby-like hype around this fixture may be eclipsed a tad by the pre-game “encounter” – well, it is anticipated there will be a cursory handshake – between racial-slur guilty party Luis Suarez and United’s victim of it, Patrice Evra. Maybe the desperately cold snap in the UK will ease the crackling heat of the occasion to some extent, but I wouldn’t count on it! The Red Devils will target all three points at Old Trafford, no doubt, and I fancy they will just about sneak them from a tight contest despite ‘Pool looking fairly tight at the back at present. My tip? 1-0.     

3. Bulls v Cheetahs, Super Rugby warm-up
Polokwane, Saturday 17:00, SS2 & CSN

Fairly cock-a-hoop about their successful raid on Newlands last weekend – albeit against a very second-string Stormers XV – the Cheetahs now face an appetising encounter with the Bulls at Peter Mokaba Stadium, just a fortnight from the extended “silly season” ending and the real deal mercifully getting underway. Both franchises have named decent starting line-ups, so competitive juices should flow to good extent. I fancy the Bulls, for all the talk about the mass shedding of legends, are going to be surprise packages in Super Rugby this year, so let’s see if there’s early evidence of that in the friendly meeting ...

4. Ivory Coast v Zambia, Africa Cup of Nations soccer final
Libreville, Sunday 21:00, SABC1, SS4, SHD2 & Maximo

I believe I am not the only one who has battled to get the adrenaline going during the latest edition of Africa’s premier soccer showpiece. Matches have generally not been well supported, meaning there’s been all the atmosphere of a dentist’s waiting room at times, and being staged in a pair of relative backwater nations obviously hasn’t helped – I suspect that inadvertently South Africa’s cause in hosting the next one has been boosted! It’s a shame that we don’t get the dream Ivory Coast v Ghana final now, either ... but hats off to Zambia nevertheless for going all the way. Being vaguely southern African, the underdogs probably get my quiet support on Sunday night.

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