It's all statistics, graphs, pointless figures and potty facts

So what do you think of it so far? The new season, I mean, with all the new delights and sensations, new players and personalities on parade. The England team as a focal point for universal love and praise, adoration and arse-licking - that's been something new and unexpected, when you think how often we loathed them last year. But there have been several other exciting changes and arrivals.

Graeme Souness's lack of a moustache - that was a surprise. I hope he's looked everywhere for it. Manchester United's shorts seem to have got baggier, or their players thinner, or am I just imagining it? Bolton Wanderers have started well. There's always one team that starts unexpectedly well - that's to be expected - but the bonus is Sam Allardyce, with his Dickensian name and Dickensian looks. Our modern managers tend to be foreign and ascetic, like Sven and Wenger, and look like professors. Sam is Olde English; he should really be in charge of the horses at a posting inn on the Great North Road.

The disappearance of Jaap Stam, that was sudden. I'm not convinced by Fergie's given reasons - that he wanted a talker at the back. It was clear since Schmeichel's departure that the defence was a silent zone, not to say dumb. Stam, Wes Brown, Ronny Johnsen, Mikael Silvestre and Phil Neville don't go in for talking. But Blanc has hardly got much English, so how is he going to shout and scream and take charge? He just happens to be more skilful than Stam. That's a good enough reason.

There's one new arrival I'm still not sure about, The Premiership, that new footer programme on ITV. The Gordon Drury is still out as regards to that one. I was initially pleased by the idea of a Saturday evening football programme at a decent time when decent people are still up, not either in bed or drunk. I had grown fed up over the decades with the old Match of the Day as it got later and later, but as all students of biology and botany, geology and geography know, things adapt to new circumstances, new survival strategies or different strains are created. In nature, that can take about ten billion years. In football, as in politics, things can change in ten minutes.

If Match of the Day started no later than 10pm, I'd watch it. One minute later and I gave up. In the end, it always did start later, so I created a new routine. I videoed it and watched it on Sunday morning, with my muesli, before going swimming at Kentish Town baths. By having it on video, giving myself a choice of when and what to watch, I always whizzed on when it came to any boring introductions or chat. I realised I wanted to watch action, not analysis. I can get all that at home, in my head. It saved so much time as well, cutting an hour's prog down by about a third. So, that was my London Sunday morning routine, for what seemed like for ever.

With the arrival of The Premiership at seven on Saturday evenings, I've changed my life to accommodate it. I do like Des,what a twinkler, and Venables and Ally McCoist, kissy kissy, but then who doesn't? They smile all the time, have no objectionable features, no seriously irritating habits - that's why they've been chosen. The problem is, I just don't want to listen to them. I want to get on to the games.

After a game, I quite like managers being interviewed - or at least, I like watching their faces, looking into their souls. And I enjoy players talking, regardless of what they say, which is usually nothing. It's the sound and accent I like, not the content. Beckham's voice is weird, hypnotic, as if he has swallowed a speak-your-weight machine or hired a ventriloquist who is hiding behind him, pulling the strings.

What I don't want is statistics and graphs, pointless figures and potty facts, which last Saturday they even started to shove at the top of the screen during the action. So-called experts giving us their analysis was bad enough, but now they insist on throwing all this stupid technology at us. OK, so machines can count the number of passes and movements each player has made in a match, how many inches covered, how much spit has been spat, but it can only measure quantity, not quality. They've cut down on this rubbish in the past couple of weeks, but some of it is still there.

Then, as it's ITV, that means advertisements. We've become so used to watching uninterrupted live and whole football games, even on Sky or ITV, where they save the ads till half-time, that we have become spoiled, in a way: we have grown to enjoy and expect at least 45 minutes of pure, unadulterated football. Watching The Premiership at seven o'clock, I find myself screaming and shouting at the screen every five minutes. There always seems to be something to annoy or distract.

It's even worse up here in Lakeland. Unlike every other channel, ITV doesn't come digital in Cumbria, at least not on my set. It's like watching through a gauze. I fear that if I start videoing it, and watching it on Sundays, the picture might deteriorate even further, so that I can't see anything.

I'm making no decision at the moment. Rearranging my whole weekend life once this year has been quite enough, but when we return to London next month, what shall I do? Will I give up watching it on Saturdays completely? Will I use the video, so I can eliminate the chat and the ads, and revert to my old habit of Sunday morning watching? Yet I like it being available on Saturday evenings.

Football, you see, is part of the fabric of one's life. The authorities have mucked around enough over the years, changing days and kick-off times, and we've all put up with it. This could be the first time when we the punters strike back.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 17 September 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The end of the open society?