Channel 4 had a rocky start to England coverage but turned it around

TV REVIEW: Channel 4 had a rocky start to England coverage by bizarrely discussing Gareth Southgate’s dress sense before turning it around with their fun, light-hearted style, expert analysis… and Three Lions playing Pictionary!

  • Channel 4 began its television coverage of England matches on Saturday night
  • The channel showed Gareth Southgate’s men lose against Hungary in Budapest 
  • C4 was criticised for an awkward early segment discussing Southgate’s clothes
  • But they turned it back around with a fun style and insightful pundits’ analysis 

England’s dismal start to their Nations League campaign against Hungary was beamed to the public via Channel 4 on Saturday night.

The TV channel – currently British Sports Network of the Year – beat competitors ITV and Sky Sports for the right to show all the country’s international matches, it was announced in April, in a first foray into men’s football.

The deal will see England’s games in the Nations League, European Championship qualifiers and international friendlies on free-to-air television until 2024, with all the Three Lions’ previous Nations League games on Sky. 

Channel 4 has done well with several high-profile events like Emma Raducanu’s US Open win and the thrilling finale to last year’s F1 season, and has been renowned for its strong Paralympics coverage since 2012. 

And their coverage kicked off as Gareth Southgate’s men were humbled 1-0 by the hosts at the Puskas Arena, with fans criticising a bizarre segment discussing Southgate’s clothes, but the channel winning praise for its insightful analysis.

So below, Sportsmail has taken a look at the good, the bad, and the awful of C4’s England coverage.

England’s poor start to their Nations League campaign was beamed to the public on Channel 4

The Three Lions lost 1-0 against Group A3 minnows Hungary in Budapest on Saturday evening

And the free-to-air TV channel’s coverage on Saturday night had some good and bad moments

THAT embarrassing Southgate segment 

Where else to start? Channel 4’s coverage of their first ever England international was barely five minutes old when the awkwardness levels peaked as Gareth Southgate was asked about his choice of attire on this warm Budapest evening.

The England manager’s time is surely precious, particularly less than an hour before the team’s opening Nations League fixture, so an opening gambit completely unrelated to the game was an odd choice at best.

‘New campaign and I’ve seen you have appropriately come in new gear,’ presenter Jules Breach joked with Southgate. ‘You’ve gone for a full navy outfit today.’ Southgate raised a wry smile but was a little unsure on quite how to respond. 

‘It’s very hot so I don’t think the jacket will be staying on… but we are looking forward to the game,’ he replied, hoping that would be the end of the matter. ‘It’s a very different sort of atmosphere… it’s been nice having all the school kids in.’

A bizarre, awkward section on manager Gareth Southgate’s clothes went down badly with fans

But Breach was undeterred. She, and the rest of the Channel 4 team were clearly intent on seeing this segment through as a photo montage of Southgate’s various England outfits appeared on screen and the host asked if he would be ‘bringing back the waistcoat, pullover or the polka dot tie’.

‘Well if that is the biggest consideration at the end of the night I’ll be delighted,’ Southgate said, bewildered as to whether this was actually happening.

The discomfort was at this point almost unbearable, so much so that Michael Owen was able to mercifully close the discussion with some light-hearted attempted banter: ‘I can assure you his dress sense was not so good when he was young.’

Fortunately, things got considerably better throughout the evening – in terms of the broadcaster’s coverage at least, if not the team’s performance.

But they didn’t take themselves too seriously 

However, they gained some credit with their light-hearted and jovial style, providing a fresh contrast to the sometimes ultra-serious and po-faced Sky Sports coverage.

Breach and pundits Michael Owen and Jordan Nobbs were happy to chat gaily and crack jokes, appearing more natural and less wooden as a result.

But presenter Jules Breach’s jovial style helped Michael Owen and Jordan Nobbs loosen up

They mixed it up a bit with some off-script moments shortly before kick-off, showing a clip of Breach back-heeling a stray ball in the warm up just past Owen’s face to Nobbs, who diverted it back onto the pitch. 

Ade Adepitan leading a trio of England stars through some Pictionary rounds was a recipe for laughter, too, with Declan Rice, the drily witty Bukayo Saka and wise-cracking Jack Grealish clearly enjoying each other’s company.

Nice analysis from Nobbs and Owen 

Though not perhaps generally considered the A-team of hard-hitting pundits, Owen and Nobbs put in a solid enough performance.

The pair did some good basic analysis of Declan Rice’s driving runs forward from deep in the West Ham midfield, using some Premier League clips to clearly show him and the metres he runs, followed by a brief descriptive analysis of Jude Bellingham. 

Nobbs (left) and Owen (centre) provided some insightful punditry moments before the game

Owen, though not always the most charismatic or captivating, provided an interesting insight into fellow striker Harry Kane’s attempted chipped finish over Peter Gulacsi too – the kind of shot he would have tried in his own stellar career.

Meanwhile, Nobbs, who will miss England’s home European Championships this summer, showed she has a future in television like her distinguished former teammates Alex Scott, Eni Aluko and Rachel Brown-Finnis. 

Rob Green impressed as co-commentator 

Former England goalkeeper Rob Green’s specific and detailed analysis on stopper Jordan Pickford was also good.

It is unusual to hear a ‘keeper discussing a ‘keeper rather than an outfield player pretending they know what the position is like.

Former England goalkeeper Rob Green (above) provided some interesting tactical analysis too

The quick pre-match chat from the commentary box provided an interesting visual counterpoint to the usual pitchside or studio conversations too.

Although Green may not want to hear back a clip released on social media of him possibly mispronouncing Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold’s name as Alexander-A*******!

Strong stance on racism 

As you might expect given the history of problems in Hungary, the C4 team was also well-prepared for a response to the home crowd’s audible booing of the England team taking the knee in an anti-racism gesture.

Swiftly asking governing body UEFA, manager Southgate and player Conor Coady for their thoughts on the unacceptable actions rightfully showed a clear and robust stance on the matter.

Their conviction made up for any minor teething problems like volume distortion during the anthems, poor replays of the penalty incident and early mispronunciations of Adam and Zsolt Nagy’s surname, corrected in the second half.

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