Crawley v Leeds on TV: Now Reds have a whole team of reality telly stars

To begin with, BBC1's coverage of Crawley v Leeds was all about one reality TV star. By the end, the whole Reds team had joined Mark Wright in his celebrity status.

Sunday, 10th January 2021, 4:20 pm
Jermaine Beckford and Jermaine Jenas discuss what Mark Chapman should call them both

For once the Beeb's choice of live game was exactly the sort people want to see - Crawley v Leeds, not Arsenal v Newcastle, that Saturday night offering being one that no-one outside of Gunners and Toon circles was interested in. And for once, they were rewarded by being able to beam a massive upset live to the nation.

There was an early mention of Gatwick Airport - and of course there were several early mentions of the Reds' newly signed reality TV star and radio DJ Mark Wright.

And of course, there was footage of the day exactly 10 years ago when Crawley got past Derby in the third round. Derby being giant-killed in round three? Not much has changed in a decade, then.

The ever affable and professional Mark Chapman had too many Jermaines on his hands - both Beckford and Jenas were with him in the outdoor studio gantry thing that has become the norm for live TV games these days. He soon settled on calling them JJ and JB. It was a good job that little fella Defoe wasn't drafted in as well.

Wright got plenty of pre-match minutes and the question was asked: Is his signing just a publicity stunt? Well, no, we don't think so - and in fact you could ask the same about the BBC giving Martin Keown a deal.

The former Arsenal man was alongside Jonathan Pearce and they were very respectful of Crawley, perhaps in line with the pre-match sequence that accidentally promoted John Yems' team to League One. JP and MK (to continue the JJ and JB theme) were praising the home team's recent form and avoiding too many David v Goliath cliches.

And what was this - a big game without VAR? My God, how could the TV lot cope without that to talk about at half and full-time? They managed, and no-one died as a result of the absence of the fellas at Stockley Park being involved.

Mark Chapman was in charge for the BBC for Crawley v Leeds

At least they had some fog to talk about. Pearce had been worried as he had driven to Crawley that it might cause the game to be called off - prompting Keown to praise the groundsman for getting the game on. Errr...

The first half was quite odd, a bit soulless, and I can only put it down to the fact there were no fans in the ground. I opted for 'no fake crowd noise' so all I got was the shouts of the players and club staff in the ground. Sometimes you can't get away from such occasions feeling like a training session.

It took until the 40th minute for Pearce's voice to be raised, that when Tom Nichols met a corner but saw his goalbound header athletically kept out by Kiko Casilla.

At half-time, JJ said he was so close to the pitch he'd been shouting instructions to the Crawley players, which they'd duly ignored. But the TV team were struggling to get excited about what they were seeing.

A Crawley foul in the box that the ref didn't spot was highlighted at the break - along with a theory that the footballs used at lower league grounds are colder than at top grounds. I might have to watch that back later to see what the heck they were talking about.

After the break the Reds were attacking the catchily named Structured Communications Stand - while Leeds were supposedly defending it. There wasn't much defending going on, though, as first Nick Tsaroulla danced through to open the scoring and then Ashley Nadesan ran on and scored the second rather more easily than he should have been able to against Premier League opposition.

At this point in such games you normally expect the big boys to rally - but it didn't happen here and soon Jordan Tunnicliffe lashed in the third. Pearce was getting more excited by the minute, Keown was just keeping calm and carrying on.

TV didn't quite get its wish - that would have involved the former star of I'm A Celebrity, Strictly, The Only Way Is Essex and a few other programmes we've probably forgotten not only getting on the pitch, but scoring a goal too. But it got its wish for a proper Cupset.

Pearce even had the temeirty to suggest Wright's few minutes on the pitch were all the newspapers would be interested in, as if Wright hadn't been the angle the BBC had been banging on about.

"The FA Cup just keeps giving," said Keown as the match ended. "There's always an upset." It was about the most useful thing he'd said all afternoon.

Then it was back to the Jermaines and JJ said it was a comfortable win helped by a brilliant Reds back four, while Leeds looked toothless. And JB said of Crawley: "They looked like they wanted to be here. Crawley have played out of their skins."

A few emotional interviews with the goal heroes followed and that was Crawley's couple of hours on BBC TV done. But maybe it's not the end of this rather engaging new reality series...