First published in The Pink on Saturday, October 30, 2010

WALL-TO-WALL blanket coverage of Paul Merson would not make for the greatest TV show in many people’s minds.

Especially when you are forking out cash to actually watch football.

But this is what Sky have decided passes for live coverage of football these days – a middle aged man’s face.

Don’t get me wrong – many’s the time time I have sat down to watch Jeff and boys chew the fat over the football going on around the country.

But of Wednesday, it went one step too far.

Having treated myself to Sky over the summer (I say treated, more finally wearing the missus down like a child at Christmas) I came home from work and thought “Great, I’ll watch some football tonight.” How wrong I was.

I flicked on the goggle box and up came Sky Sports News – with Merson chatting away to Saints fan Ed Chamberlin about how Stoke or someone were doing.

Fair enough – that’s what they show on SSN. So I went to switch to Sky Sports One, looking forward to a feast of overhyped and probably quite dull football.

Instead I got the exact same programme, which was essentially a rolling advert for Sky Sports Two. Which I don’t have.

Now if you include the HD versions, that’s FOUR channels of Merson’s face with “on Sky Sports 2 now” plastered over it.

There’s nothing wrong with promoting your own products, but I pay for Sky Sports One each month to watch sport.

Not to tell me where I can watch sport.

I also pay for Sky Sports News, which I’d expect to show things telling me where to watch the matches. I don’t pay for blanket coverage of what Paul Merson thinks about Rory Delap’s ability to wipe a ball on his shirt.

If I didn’t pay extra for SS1, I could take this on the chin and think “Ah well, never mind” but since Sky were ordered to provide two channels from their sports line-up they are going out of their way to make the stations they sell to BT, Virgin and the rest as virtually worthless as they can.

It just makes me think that I’ll cancel the whole thing come the end of the contract next year and go back to Freeview.

Over the last 12 months, I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with my life as a football fan. Episodes like this just hammer home the fact that we are mere cash cows to be milked as much as possible.

We’ve known it for a while, but the pretence is wearing thin now.

From paying a lot of money each month to watch an advert for something else to Jim White screaming at me about SENSATIONAL NEWS regarding a Sunderland squad player going on loan to Sheffield United, Sky has long been a key player in the end of romance in football.

Even getting Sky in was a battle with my conscience – sadly I was sucked in like many of us are.

Throw in Rooney’s pay demands, badge kissing players who disappear at the first chance they get, Blackpool being sponsored by a company that offers loans at an interest rate over 2,000 per cent, over-priced pies... I could go on, but quite frankly it upsets me.

Even Saints’ tiresome emails trying to get me to fork out for corporate hospitality are annoying me – I just want to be able to pay my money and enjoy some sport, without being seen as a walking piggy bank who will smash open at the first sign of slippers with the Southampton FC crest on it or a shirt bearing a picture of Didier Drogba’s face, printed in some far eastern sweatshop.

Perhaps my seduction by Sky a few months back means I deserve it. Maybe we are as stupid as the marketing men think we are.

Or perhaps the game is up and they are getting desperate to get what they can out of us before it all implodes.

Whatever it is, football just doesn’t have the same appeal anymore. I wish it did.