Johnny’s been in a prison this week, but he’s managed to tunnel out with a spoon and now he’s back home with the radio and telly on at the same time, twitching a little from over-exposure to this week’s Euro 2016.
While the world of football punditry and presenting isn’t ever going to be a catwalk show, there’s been some interesting choices this week.
Did you see Rio Ferdinand’s strange origami collar last Saturday? It looked like a normal collar but folded in an odd way and was anchored with a black stud – one of those fashion details which makes you wonder if it’s actually supposed to look like that, or is just a manufacturing error and no-one dares tell him.
On that same show, Jermaine Jenas was wearing a black suit over the top of what appeared to be a lightweight white hospital gown which gave him a ‘recently escaped from an institution’ feel.
Thierry Henry, on the other hand, has started wearing 1970s-style denim shirts. Very pleasing.
Meanwhile, Gary Lineker has been sporting shirts made from some sort of shiny mercerised cotton in pale blue or white, that look smooth and very expensive. The sort of shirt which, if I wore, would have massive pit stains within minutes. Luckily Gary is too cool to sweat and ruin a good shirt.
Danny Murphy has kept up his ‘sports master who also teaches Geography anonymous dad’ look. Amazing that you can wear clothes so unremarkable. Maybe, like Mark Pougatch and Lee Dixon, he’s a fan of normcore.
Meanwhile over on ITV Ian Wright’s glasses continue to distract by looking far too small for his head, almost as if they’ve shrunk in the wash whilst wearing them. Lothar Matthaus however, appears to have worn the same clothes for two weeks and seems content to sit with his legs as wide apart as his seat will allow, while wearing the vaguely disgusted expression of a man who is trying to locate a decaying brussel sprout.
And where do you buy a shirt like this? It looks like something bought in 1985 for a wedding. And those trousers are distressing and possibly illegal.
However, the biggest fashion statement of the week came from Peter Reid. Can’t believe it didn’t sway public opinion.
Farage Gove & Johnson Out. IN for me. Oh and I forgot Daily Mail as well. pic.twitter.com/q5QQKVsJPB
— Peter Reid (@reid6peter) June 22, 2016
All sorts of brilliant silliness this week, from Danny Mills’ existential angst about the space-time continuum, “England will score. It’s just a matter of time, but will time run out first?”, to Glenn Hoddle’s reliable insight about feet: “Hamsik is two footed, that’s left foot and right foot.” Thanks Glenn. Oh and while we’re at it, thanks also for this comment on England. “Let’s do it in a footballing way, because they’re all footballers out there.” Oh Glenn, you are a silly billy.
Tony Pulis has developed a way to make sure you don’t get those hard-to-say foreign names wrong; he just doesn’t say them, mostly substituting it with “the lad”.
Alan Green is of course always on hand to dispense withering cynicism and caused much hilarity when working alongside Thierry Henry and the superb Neil Lennon, saying during the Portugal game against Iceland, after a foul on Nani, “Nani is OK: magnificent recovery from the stretcher case he was 10 seconds ago.” Mind you, he was positively gushing about working alongside TH, saying what a lovely man he was. Where had the real Alan Green gone? That was a stand-out game because NL and TH were riffing off each other all night. Lennon is very dry-witted, good-natured and articulate with it. After the game he said to the Frenchman, “It’s nice to see your face, when I played against you, I only saw the back of you,” to even more hilarity. It was a lovely moment and entirely typical of the spirit of much of the TV and radio coverage. Everyone is having a great time – well, why wouldn’t you be? Sometimes it’s like TH is treated like he’s everyone’s favourite cuddly teddy bear, radiating cuddly good vibes.
Lawro has been deploying his two favourite expression all week, finishing sentences with “…is it not?” or “…in all honesty”, but did his best work when an Irishman was kicked in the dangly-pain region. “Let’s just say it was south rather than north,” said Lawro with poetic understatement. Only he’d say something like that. It’s his USP.
Local dialect of the week award goes to John Hartson for saying “Spain have gone the full booner” before the Croatia game. You can’t beat having a full booner. Big John’s choked reports from the Wales v Russia game, almost on the verge of tears, were another highlight.
When it came to alliteration, no-one this week could compete with Gary Lineker saying of Vincent Kompany that this was his “pre-pubescent punditry period”. Eurggh. That sounds wrong, especially on the BBC.
5live producer and sometime-commentator Alistair Bruce-Ball being called ABB, by Danny Mills, also felt odd and uncomfortable, if only because I kept imagining he must be squatting on his haunches whilst doing commentary.
To hear Gerry Taggart alongside Conor McNamara, commentating on the Croatia v Czech Republic game, when that business with the flares kicked off, was magnificent. At one point he screamed “what’s going on?!” and it sounded as though he’d swallowed a harmonica. He was especially bewildered that the Croats where fighting amongst themselves, as though fighting other people was understandable. Mind you, the two Irishmen made the whole thing sound very, very exciting.
Though neither were quite as excited as the Icelandic commentator who basically had a nervous breakdown live on air and began yelping like a stuck pig. Excellent work.
Hits and misses
Can’t work out if it’s a good or bad thing, but there’s a bit of a love-in developing between Wrighty and Slaven, who can’t seem to keep their hands off each other. Lots of grabbin’ ‘n’ squeezin’ in that way that only ex-footballers do. But the trouble is, they’re too far apart, so have to really lean and stretch out to get hold of each other, which makes it seem even more peculiar, as though they simply must touch each other and won’t be denied. Bilic has gone home now, though, so Wrighty will have to find another ex-player to grip.
5live’s Carolyn Barker has been a surprise hit of the week, doing her programmes with a fizzy comedy wonderfulness, at one point saying the Waddler would be joining them, as soon as he’d finished eating his digestive and marmite biscuit, whilst laughing at the unconventional snack combo.
TH has been a hit all week long. When Ronaldo missed his penalty, he said, “I called it….I didn’t say it out loud, though.” While hardly ideal for the job he’s got, we’ve all been there. No-one ever believes you and it’s so frustrating.
Last week I featured the wonderful Jens Lehmann on the radio, this week he’s been let loose on the TV and has been equally entertaining, managing to combine frivolity with a quiet, almost sinister menace. At one point sitting alongside Neil Lennon, he said something about Norn Iron lacking football intelligence, much to the ginger one’s chagrin. But that’s a great thing. We want disagreement and a bit of tension. The blandocracy serves no-one well. I can’t help but feel Jens missed his vocation as a villain in a Die Hard movie.
I didn’t hear it but I’m told that Colin Murray’s commentary on the Northern Ireland v Germany game was like giving the microphone to an excited fan. That sounds good.
More TH fun. Some sour souls have thought this cringeworthy. Those people are joyless drones. Oh and this simply isn’t losing control of your facial muscles. It is the opposite of that.
Henry's face before he laughs is just amazing…https://t.co/MeKeQQElRn
— BreatheSport (@BreatheSport) June 19, 2016
Of course, no week is complete without some more Hoddley nonsense. He commented that “it’s Spain’s Achilles heel, they will concede easy from crosses”. Not only is the assertion highly debatable, but you really need an adverb there, Glenn. Them are the things what is easy to learn, at the end of the day.
Some have enjoyed Trevor Sinclair and Dion Dublin’s good-time-all-the-time double act on MOTD, often on a less stellar game. It sometimes seems as if they’ve been put in a cupboard and left to mess around.
The only really miss of the week is putting the Waddler, Alan Green and Danny Mills together for the England v Slovakia game on 5live. Individually they’re fine, individually they’re good value. But as a trio, their overwhelming disapproval of almost everything England do is just too much acid and not enough sugar.
I’m sure they’d say they’re calling it as they see it, but it often feels more like they pour the events into a pro-conceived mould of England being not very good. One will say England are too slow, while the other will accuse them of rushing everything. Lack of possession is criticised, but retaining possession and slowing the play down in doing so is also wrong because we’ve got to play at a tempo.
Players are tired due to not having a winter break, but resting them for the third game is also wrong because you lose momentum. Finishing second was a failure even before anyone had any idea who’d they’d play next. Being defeatist and scared of playing big sides is wrong, but finishing second and maybe having to play a big side on the way to the final is also criticised. Roy is first too conservative, then too reckless. All three say people over-rate England and that’s a problem, but then they go and say we should be beating sides like this easily and if we can’t beat Iceland we shouldn’t even be in the tournament.
It’s part of this weird fear and loathing for England that seems endemic in parts of our media. Perhaps, in this case, it’s rooted in not wanting to be jingoistic and when Green, Waddle and Mills voices were a counterbalance to the over-rating, over-vaunting elements that used to dominate England coverage it was welcome and much needed. But now that there is no expectation to do anything much, it sounds over the top and out of whack with the reality. England aren’t THAT bad. We’ve all seen a lot worse. But when Slovakia had a free-kick awarded near England’s penalty box, Green said “I’m already frightened”, as though England are utterly useless and on the verge of conceding all of the time. It’s silly and paints England as some sort of ludicrous clown team, forever on the verge of a big panic. Even days later Mills was on talking about this and seemed very confused – saying how attitudes are all or nothing with England, and that was very unhelpful, and then promptly proceeding to do exactly that himself. There is a pragmatic position to be adopted between the two extremes of support and hate, glory and failure. Gab Marcotti calls it the “endless feast or famine” of English media, and it is really tiresome.
Proper Football Men
Reidy son, what are you doing in a Vote Remain t-shirt? This is not good. We’ll have to report you to the PFM ethics committee. You do know that the EU is full of foreigners, don’t you? What? You’re a socialist, well we’re all very social Reidy, and this brush cleaner and psychoactive toad daiquiri is very refreshing, cheers, but Britain should be for the British, or at least for the English, no offence Kenny. Alright Keano, put the scissors down, son. I mean we need to stop these Europeans coming here and taking English footballers jobs with their hard work, dedication and higher skill levels. OK I almost exclusively only sign foreigners, but that’s the foreigner’s fault for being better than the English lads, and that’s only because all of the foreigners are taking the English lads’ jobs. So it’s all the foreigner’s fault, Reidy. I’m Out. Not like that, Dion, backs against the wall lads, no offence, I never said them things, Jeff.
The only place you can find a PFM at the moment outside of an expensive Middle Eastern resort or in Richard Keys hotel room, is on Sky Sports News being watched by next to no-one, as tumbleweed blows through the Soccer Saturday studio.
The casinos are empty, the shopping trolley of shame left in the canal, Miss Butter Bean and Canned Comestibles 1985 unaccompanied on her way home from a night at legendary Skelmersdale nightclub, Breast Pumps. Even TC can’t get thrown over a house these days. No-one is even laughing at the daft things Merse is saying. It’s all gone very quiet at the PFM mansion of delusion.
But somewhere out in the football wilderness, a huge creature is stirring, ready to rise to answer his country’s call, firing up his Powerpoint presentation, plugging in his vibrating plate, and chewing a wad of gum the size of a seagull, ready for England’s next failure.