> Decent pundits are hard to come by, with the market saturated by mono-syllabic ex-players.  In Richard Keys and Andy Gray, Sky had a winning formula.  Whilst their conduct was inexcuable, will the broadcaster live to regret its decision?

Prehistoric and out of touch yes, but I’ll still miss Gray and Keys.

Disgraced former Sky Sports host Richard Keys identified ‘dark forces’ working behind the scenes at Sky that prevented himself and Andy Gray from making public their apology to Sian Massey, the female referee’s assistant at the centre of Football’s latest scandal.

In an interview with TalkSport (before the broadcaster employed them), Keys claimed that this made any chance of reprieving his job untenable.

“Having done that [apologised, I] asked could we make people aware of the fact that we both had a conversation and that both parties felt it was best to move. I was told ‘No’”.

For those who don’t know, the short story is that Keys and Gray, Sky Sports hosts, questioned Ms. Massey’s  ability to do her job purely because she is a woman, and were stupid enough to keep their microphones on whilst doing so.

However, it is important to remember that when all the poking and probing surrounding the controversy has finished, we will be left with one incontrovertible fact, that we will forget however many vengeful enemies they may have trodden on to reach the top of their now fallen Sky Sports empire. Whatever the rashness of Gray’s decision to sue the News of the World and BSkyB share holder Rupert Murdoch for alleged phone hacking, they do only have themselves to blame.

Along with Soccer Saturday host Jeff Stelling, Keys and Gray were the pillars of the sports broadcasting company that for all intensive purposes ‘owns’ football. Yet, by their own admission they were practitioners of “lads’ mag” banter who, by the sounds of it, would not be out of place should jobs on the testosterone fuelled channel Men and Motors become available.

However with adjectives such as ‘prehistoric’ and ‘boorish’ still reverberating, the pioneering work they represented as the two most visible front-men for Sky’s football coverage these last 20 years, not to mention their own talents as broadcasters must not be forgotten. In truth, Gray’s match day analysis could sometimes pall. His work however still shone compared to fellow Sky pundit Jamie ‘Gareth Bale literally has three lungs’ Redknapp and the BBC’s embodiment of stating the bleeding obvious Alan Shearer. Redknapp has since appeared in a Nintendo Wii advert where he openly mimics the duo’s “Smashed it” antics, a move which could best be described as tasteless, and at worst as disrespectful to his peer’s contributions to sports broadcasting as Keys and Gray’s comments were to Miss Massey.

Gray and Keys pioneered the use of technologies ranging from the complex, such as measuring the distance and speed of a shot to the technological advances that saw the score line and clock appear in the corner of the screen. It is indeed difficult to recall a time before Sky Sports controlled live football and a time before Keys and Gray guided you through from first whistle to last.

Of course some viewers of the beautiful game and more particularly non-viewers will disagree, but I for one don’t mind admitting that I will miss the Keys and Gray double act.

Michael Hart