We Are Sunderland, And We Are Sorry To Inconvenience You

Paul Thomas

BT Sport almost certainly are not intentionally biased or knowingly agenda-driven - but they are definitely rubbish at covering football.

Sunderland are in the FA Cup quarter finals. I know, I know, old news, right? Well, I'm personally starting to wonder whether it happened at all.

I mean, I know that Southampton lost their fifth round tie - that much has been made abundantly clear - and I know that Sunderland were playing the Saints in cup last weekend. I watched the game and everything.

I also know that when ball number seven was pulled out of the pot for the quarter final draw, the name that was read out was Sunderland. Although, for all intents and purposes it had might as well have been 'not Southampton'.

Similarly, as I sat down to watch the Brighton versus Hull City game last night to see who Southampton wouldn't be playing in the quarter finals, I was told by commentators how excitable Tigers fans had traveled from Yorkshire motivated by the prospect of seeing their side reach their first ever FA Cup semi final.

May be I have missed something? May be some kind of bye into the semis had been granted when I wasn't looking? But no, apparently Steve Bruce would be 'licking his lips' at the prospect of a home quarter-final with whoever the rubbish was who had not lost against Southampton the other day.

Both the game between Not-Southampton and Southampton and the one between Brighton and Hull had one thing in common - BT Sport.

It's not a channel that I often watch in all honesty. Considering it usually involves listening to either the monotonal drones of Michael Owen or the monotonal whine of Clarke Carlisle (does he work for BT? If not then someone equally dull does) with half time generally dedicated to David James essentially tell you that the only two half-decent goalkeepers who ever lived were himself and Artur Boruc, it's fair to say I avoid it where I can.

This weekend, however, I endured their coverage of both games, and I was quite astonished by the lack of general relevance to anything they afforded Sunderland not-Southampton.

It was like they had the whole thing planned out. Southampton were going to cap a really eye-catching season by marching to Wembley with the BT cameras there in their debut year to film the view from the top of the trendiest bandwagon in town.

And the view from that bandwagon as it came screeching to a halt against Sunderland wasn't a pretty one. The tantrums alone were gruesome viewing, and that was just from the supposedly unbiased television broadcaster.

The story had to be quickly and bitterly changed from the resurgent Saints marching to Wembley to the bumbling Saints beating themselves and knocking themselves out of the cup by virtue of making a few changes to their team. The scandal.

The very limit of Sunderland's involvement - you know, that team who are statistically the best cup team in the country this season - was to be the plucky recipients of this appalling self-destruction. That's it.

Don't forget how much the Southampton fans really wanted to win the FA Cup and stuff, though. Yes, every set of fans in the country really want to see their team win stuff, us included, but apparently we are supposed to feel uniquely sorry for them and being denied it by virtue of losing a game against a decent side they haven't managed to beat in four attempts now this season is a travesty worth weeping about.

But don't expect those tears to count for anything, because according to BT and their various joy-sapping dullards we are barely worth acknowledging anyway unless we are meekly rolling over and submitting to their preplanned script.

This is not football coverage. The job of sports journalists whether in print or broadcast is not to arrive at a ground with a clear expectation of what should transpire and then inform you why it didn't. It is to reflect on events in an openly impartial manner and report what happened. It's not difficult, or at least it shouldn't be.

So we are terribly sorry that we are Sunderland and our existence inconveniences you BT. If there is any justice in the world, I only hope that we can be punished for our flagrant insolence by having to endure your atrocious FA Cup coverage all the way (back) to Wembley.

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