Planet football brightest star in Saturday’s space

Stoke v Manchester United: Football from a different world
Stoke v Manchester United: Football from a different world
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SAW football from three different planets on Saturday.

Obviously that’s not literally possible, but bear with me.

On the way to see Stephen Merchant at the City Hall, as I said, bear with me, we called at The Common Room upstairs at The Forum on Division Street for a pre-show livener, something to eat and to catch the football on telly.

That was the first and lost planet, Planet Full Pub.

It was rammed at 5.30pm on Saturday. When was the last time that occurred outside a World Cup?

Filled mainly with vociferous but polite and non-threatening football fans watching the late afternoon games, the £3 a pint prices didn’t seem to bother what looked like a studenty crowd - it’s only loan money after all.

This planet looks a lot like earth but has too many good-looking young people watching football in harmony to be real.

The second planet, Planet Had-0-0-Written-All-Over-It-Even-Though-It-Was-0-1-In-The-End, was a desolate place and even more boring than it’s name suggests.

Watford V Forest was the Championship game featured on BBC 2 with a 5.15pm kick-off.

A ratings winner it wasn’t. If that was your first sighting of football you probably wouldn’t bother again.

Turgid, predictable and repetitive, the game churned on largely uncared for as people got their seats and drinks for the main show.

Watford and Forest fans aside, you only had to watch the game for 15 seconds to be absolutely certain you didn’t want to watch any more.

Then came Planet Football - Stoke v Manchester United.

Styles as contrasting as some of the hair-dos on Division Street and with much of the colour and attendant hoop-la.

Stoke’s Bomber Command against the stealth and guile of United’s Special Forces.

The fan count in the bar seemed about even with ‘oos’ and ‘aahs’ on De Gea saves and Hernandez’s hobbling by Jonathan Woodgate - who was surprisingly still uninjured by the time he creamed the Mexican on the edge of the area to even up the sides.

What a game. Not a classic but fast, skilful and exciting.

Stoke are a decent side now with good players all over the pitch, a system, belief and great fitness and well worth their point.

United were shorn of their superstar but still had the confidence and ability to ooze class some of the time.

Of the 30-something TVs in there 28 of them were showing the Stoke game while the other two soldiered on in silence, all out of sync, with Watford v Forest.

Glancing from one to the other, it almost looked like a different sport. One all colour, noise and trickery, the other dull, dull, dull.

It’s unfair to be picky about teams that survive on a tenth of the budgets of their illustrious betters.

But you see exciting games everywhere from the Blue Square North to Sunday morning kids’ games with skill, incident and thrills so it’s not just about money and ability.

Stephen Merchant was excellent too, thanks for asking.

He loped about the stage like a bespectacled Peter Crouch but without all that climbing on other people’s shoulders.

But by then football had long-finished, Green ’Uns were being pored over in pubs, students thinking about a second kebab and Forest fans enjoying the relative excitement of a long trip back up the M1.