ANAnthony Vanden Borre is not a player that many remember. He played 28 times for Belgium. He played for some decent European teams: Fiorentina, Genoa, Anderlecht, Montpellier. He may not remember his 19 appearances for Avram Grant’s Portsmouth in the Premier League 13 years ago.
And he’ll be forgiven for not instantly recalling the moment in the 60th minute of a goalless draw with Blackburn on April 3, 2010, where he was shown a second yellow card by Steve Bennett for a deliberate handball. Morton Gamst Pedersen knocks down the line for Martin Olsson and Vanden Borre sticks out an arm – ruling him out of an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.
In your defense there has been a lot of football, and a lot of life, since then. However, the thing is that everyone knows this moment.
“We are going to Fratton Park, where there has been a red card, but for whom Chris Kamara?”
“I don’t know, Jeff, do I? I must have missed that.”
Cue off-screen laughs from Paul Merson and the rest of the sky sports Saturday football study. “Chris, haven’t you been looking? I haven’t,” asks Jeff Stelling, already smiling. “I don’t know where that comes from, Chris. I have no idea what happened there. What happened Chris?
“I don’t know Jeff!” Kammy responds, doubling over in mid-hysteria.
It’s just a bright bit of television. The best parts are always when it doesn’t go as planned. Stelling advises Kammy to count the players. By now, Kammy is a complete falsetto. “No, you’re right, I saw him go, but I thought they were bringing a sub to Jeff.”
The best moments of the game have less than 600 views on YouTube. The Soccer Saturday Clip he has millions. He’s so good not just because of the timing (obviously Stelling is a master), but because of the wonderful sheer honesty. Many reporters would have tried to brag or make up an excuse. There is a strange desperation to always be right and never make a mistake, and certainly never admit to having made a mistake. But Kammy possesses him with a warmth and charm that has been a constant throughout his 24 years at Sky.
Kamara announced this week that he is leaving Sky Sports. The key to its enduring popularity is something very simple. He is always having fun. It is a healthy lesson for those of us who work in the industry. There’s no need for your little violins, and I appreciate after the last two nights this is not the week to complain, but it can be exhausting. Soccer never ends. #Wegoagain – very well we do. Rare times of alarm, relentless travel, thinking of another superlative for Liverpool. Do I have to watch the championship tonight? And that’s before you consider all the depressing issues in the game that you have a duty to read, report, and discuss.
Kammy made the most of every minute. And in a sport where so many people take themselves too seriously or spout hyperbolic exaggerated opinions every five minutes, he was a gracious interviewer and had a great ability to laugh at himself. And he had almost no inhibitions. In the “Kammy-do it?” on Soccer AM he did it all: a full stand up set, emerging from the tube on Take Me Out to a very bewildered group of potential suitors and, if memory serves, an actual rodeo where he fell off a horse. One afternoon, the two of us got stuck on top of a net in the middle of a forest on a ridiculous assault course.
There are a couple of things worth remembering about the red card clip. First of all, I’m sure Kammy would recognize that if he were the Eric Morecambe of the Soccer Saturday team, he trusted dozens of Ernie Wises across the country: his Gwynns, his Boultings, his Carruthers, his Michelle Owens, delivering witty, shocking updates from each division. That’s why it worked: the slight relief between the important information. The “Amazing Jeff”. It’s hard in a football context or, for that matter, in any other context, to say awesome without an unintentional Jeff slipping out before you’ve had time to think. Kammy did that.
But secondly, you can’t last that long without really studying and knowing the game. I was going to work almost in the middle of the night before Goals On Sunday to find things that Match Of the Day hadn’t noticed. He somehow found a balance between serious football and being downright goofy. Not many can bridge that gap, nor can they branch out into light Saturday night entertainment. That is a completely different world.
Viewers noted that he had trouble with his language at Rotherham the other week. He explained that he has been diagnosed with apraxia, a neurological disorder that can affect his speech. “When it’s bad, it stops the signals going from my brain to my mouth,” she told Good Morning Britain. “Words are slurred. People are thinking is it okay? Are you drunk? What’s the matter with him? I’m trying to use parts of my brain, I have one! – try to speak fluently.” Despite that, the good news is that he will continue to host Ninja Warrior and he will no doubt be looking at other projects. I wish you good luck and happiness.
It’s always worth remembering what a privilege it is to be paid to watch football and given airtime or space in the column to speak your mind about it. Kammy played almost a quarter of a century, much longer than he played. That is a generation of football fans who watch and enjoy their work. That first Saturday of next season will be weird for him. But the clichés are true: life moves fast, the game moves on.
Someone else will be at Fratton Park next season. They will probably notice the red cards. And because of that, most of us won’t even realize they’ve happened.