Time flies on football's watch. It is 30 years since around 100,000 washed up at the old Wembley to witness a couple of Scots in the form of Graeme Sharp and Andy Gray score memorable goals in Everton's 2-0 FA Cup final win over Graham Taylor’s Watford, a club then run by Sir Elton John.
Gray's contribution to the world's most celebrated knockout competition continues to be recalled some three decades on, especially to those with an affinity for Goodison Park, but it is more recent footage of him that has prompted some fevered discussion of late. The world has moved on from the days when Gray was a rampaging forward for Everton and Scotland, but apparently he has not.
Gray was sacked from his role as Sky's leading football pundit in 2011 after infamous footage of him emerged making sexist comments towards the presenter Charlotte Jackson. He had earlier been suspended by the broadcaster for making derogatory and sexist comments about Sian Massey's suitability as a female match official before a match between Wolves and Liverpool. The sorry catalogue of videos charting Gray misdemeanours are all out there in cyberspace if you missed them first time around.
The fall-out saw the presenter Richard Keys, his then colleague at Sky, resign amid the maelstrom after he was indicted by damning footage of him fraternising with similar sexist behaviour. Their conduct hinted at a wider culture of depressing, misogynistic and outdated attitudes towards women.
Gray apologised, but paid a heavy price for his outburst by losing a job he once turned down the chance to manage Everton for in the 1990s.
Apparently, that is not enough for some people. Gray has been working alongside Keys in Qatar since he was banished by Sky into the broadcasting ether before BT Sport employed him as a pundit for Everton's FA Cup tie at Stevenage last month.
He is a much better co-commentator than BT regular Michael Owen, the man he stood in for. But Gray was not allowed to return quietly with another video of him back in his Sky heydey drip fed to a website that showed him and Keys indulging in more crude behaviour.
Like a couple of adolescent schoolkids, Gray and Keys are caught on camera singing "Get your t*ts out for the lads!" to touchline reporter Clare Tomlinson and telling her to "Get off the pitch!"
While Gray's behaviour was poor, it was not illegal. Just sad, unfunny and unsurprising emanating from a football dressing room culture of the 1970s and 1980s brimming with macho, boozing characters. Neither was it anything new. Just as wretched was the sneaky and cowardly act of releasing footage of him by an anonymous source who just happened to have access to Sky's video vault of unedited off-screen material.
BT Sport's decision to continue with Gray for the FA Cup tie between Arsenal and Liverpool on Sunday has predictably prompted some scorn. Women in Football - a women's campaign group for equality in the world game - suggests the decision to work with Gray more or less endorses sexism.
A spokesperson is quoted in The Guardian on Saturday as saying: "Many women working in the football industry will be disappointed with the decision to give Andy Gray a platform on UK television, a move which appears to be at odds with BT Sport's commitment to championing women in sport when the channel launched last summer."
The problem with the latest footage of him mocking Tomlinson is that it was back in the early 2000s. The Double Jeopardy law should be invoked in theory when discussing Gray's antics. He should not face trial again for the same charges in which he was found guilty by his previous employer.
He apologised after being tried and found guilty in the court of public opinion. To continue this assault on his character becomes something very sinister.
This onlooker does not condone such hoary old views, but whatever happened to forgiveness? Or is that also an outdated concept?
We live in a day and age when you have to be very careful about where you tread in terms of behaviour, use of vocabulary and conduct because everybody it seems is offended. And everybody reserves the right to be offended. Has anybody out there not laughed or smirked at a something that could be viewed as a non-PC joke?
The best social commentary comedies were never PC, like The Office and David Brent's warped view on life: "Let's stop degrading women, please. Let's have a laugh with them, not at them. Let's have a laugh at work...with women... at us..."
We suddenly have unfunny programmes like Miranda with canned laughter because the Beeb don't want to be seen to offend. It tends to defeat the whole purpose of comedy because nothing without an edge is funny.
The ITV programme Loose Women has survived for over a decade on a diet of women talking about blokes with more than an air of casual sexism permeating it.
Richard Keys and Andy Gray.
A lot of the topics up for discussion could be construed as sexism, but are somehow passed off as innocent banter. It is deemed acceptable because it is women talking about blokes.
Could you imagine the outrage there would be if a similar programme called Loose Men or Guy Talk was broadcast at lunchtime? There would be an army of campaigners demanding the studio was burned to the ground.
If Loose Women is allowed to survive in this day and age then Andy Gray should be allowed to resume his broadcasting career without another spell on the ducking stool.
Sky Sports sacked Gray yet continue to encourage their above average looking female presenters to wear tight tops presenting sports news. Why? Because sex sells as does football. Why do they not wheel in women presenting in smocks and sackcloths over their heads if they are worried about sexism?
We live in a culture where tabloid newspapers and lads magazines debase women for profit with page three models yet this is somehow accepted as a social norm. The Daily Star are one such organ. They announced earlier this week that Jim Davidson was set to make £1 million this year having won Celebrity Big Brother.
He is a comedian whose act was declared sexist, racist and outdated, but people warmed to a likable and believable personality. The large public vote in Davidson's favour was a backlash against the phoney moral outrage that tends to accompany the politically correct times in which we live.
Rather than Double Jeopardy, all we have is the sickening stench of double standards in the pursuit of equality.
Gray will comment on a game on Sunday that involves Luis Suarez, a player representing Liverpool who earlier this week suggested he had done nothing wrong after being banned for eight games and fined £40,000 for racially abusing Patrice Evra several times. Yet Liverpool have not sacked him. Indeed, they have rewarded with him a new, bulging contract apparently worth £200,000 a week.
John Terry continues to flourish at Chelsea despite being suspended for four matches and fined £220,000 by the Football Association for hurling a racist one-liner at Anton Ferdinand.
If such men are allowed to repent as players, Gray should be allowed to get on with his life in peace without a politically correct lynch mob wanting to burn him at the stake every time he reaches for a microphone. It is time to move on.
- Sports & Recreation
- Society & Culture
- Andy Gray
- Richard Keys