Footy on TV: A bumper Euro 2016 edition

Date published: Friday 1st July 2016 10:33

BBC pundits

It’s week three of the Euros, so put on some elasticated waist trousers, kick back and enjoy this week’s bumper edition of Footy on the Telly (and radio)…

 

Fashion police
Three weeks into the tournament and it’s starting to feel like a hostage situation. No-one has done any washing and everyone’s sniffing suspiciously at their armpits and wondering if they left their last pair of underpants in that woman from Seaton Carew’s room last night.

Jermaine Jenas still looks well-scrubbed, though. In fact, the other day he appeared on the TV wearing a dark crew neck jumper, looking for all the world like a 16-year-old dressed by his mother for parent-teacher night. I have a theory; JJ is getting a year younger as every day passes. By the time the final comes around he’ll be in nappies. Maybe we all will.

However, when it comes to stylish, there’s no-one to beat Mr Vialli. He turned up for the Italy v Spain game in an extraordinary, radioactive azzurri double-breasted jacket that was buttoned up throughout. It appeared to be longer than a regular jacket though, putting me in mind of those little shorty coats that AVB used to sport whilst squatting on the touchline. The overall look was part stylish coach driver, part trippy safari jacket. Only Luca could pull off something like this.

Sitting in the same seat a couple of days earlier was Dean Saunders in a retina burning salmon-coloured shirt that was vivid enough to be seen from Mars. It made him look like some sort of exotic fish. But it’s a welcome change from the all-black outfits sported by the likes of Vinny Kompany and Thierry H.

Over on ITV, Ian Wright briefly abandoned those odd satin collarless nightshirts of last week and went for oddly patterned, tailored shirts instead. A cream one with a green cactus print was an interesting choice. Who goes into a shop, sees hundreds of shirts and thinks the one with a little cactus is the must have? Still, it’s always interesting to see what choice he’s made each day.

And talking of random clothes, I’ve long thought that Gabby Logan stumbles bleary-eyed into her wardrobe in the morning and just puts on the first clothes that fall off the hanger. Hers is the fashion equivalent of atonal music and it’s an approach I greatly admire. The more jarring and incongruous it all is, the better.

Meanwhile on Twitter, Danny Baker has been wearing some sort of fez emblazoned with a third eye. He is cooler than any of us.

 

Lingo bingo
We need to talk about Mark Lawrenson. The man is some kind of poet. This week he’s been reaching into his grab bag of obscure but brilliant expressions like he’s an Ian McMillan of football.

When a player feigned injury, to Lawro “he’s gone down like custard”, Of course he has. Just right.

“It’s not a case of pass the cheese, is it?” said the great man during the Poland v Switzerland match. I’m still not sure what he meant but it sounds great. Is it a euphemism for farting?

When Jonathan Pearce said “there’s a pat on the cheek for Shaqiri” (from a Polish defender) quick as a flash, Lawro says “well he had four to choose from”. Again, I’m not sure what he’s even really trying to say, if anything, but it’s such wonderfully colourful language. In an often bland world, we need Lawro’s psychedelia. And he’d really hate me saying that.

In the same way that some pop songs sound like they’ve been written purely to be used in adverts, Sam Matterface’s commentary style gives you the impression he’s just trying to create soundbites to be replayed at a later date. When it comes to commentating, John Murray is the master and has, as ever, been peerless. Listen and learn.

Now, defending is a great artform, requiring concentration, physicality and grit, but not for one minute did I realise that “it’s about getting people on joysticks, that’s what top centre halves do”, So sayeth Mr Rio Ferdinand. Err…OK Rio, if you say so. How do you actually get people on joysticks? And then what do you do with them once they’re on the joystick? Everyone else seemed to know what he was talking about, though. Or at least, they nodded. Sometimes Rio seems really interesting and intelligent, sometimes the exact opposite. Maybe we all do.

“I just can’t stop thinking about Space Jam. It’s like the Monstars nicked their talent or something.” This was said by Ian Wright. It contains 20-year-old cultural references, which is far too modern for me, but a lot of people loved it.

I’ve been enjoying Trevor Sinclair this week. There’s something very mid-90s Joe Bloggs, you’re twistin’ my melon man, Madchester about him. His co-comm during the Hungary v Belgium games included the expression, to describe Eden Hazard’s performance, “He’s on it like Scotch bonnet.” Now, I assume this is a reference to the chilli pepper and not the item of headgear, though either makes as much sense. Also liked clever Trevor’s use of the legal term “due diligence” to describe the Red Devils defence and also his habit of referring to Hungary as Hungaria, which sounds like a country in a Marx Brothers movie.

And this is a quintessentially Steve McClaren moment. You can’t help but not like him for it, poor Steve, it’s as though reality conspires against him.

No week would be complete without an Andy Townsend existential extemporisation. “When it’s this loud in the stadium what a lot of people at home don’t realise is you can’t hear each other shout. You almost have to have a sixth sense to know where your teammates are.” Err…eyes, Andy. Eyes.

When discussing why England have only won three knock-out round games in 50 years, Danny Mills, quite profoundly, I thought, pointed out that “this is a completely different group of players to the past””. Well spotted Danny…hold on, though, isn’t that Mark Hateley up front?

But as ever it falls to Danny Baker to say what we were all thinking in as concise and vitriolic manner possible. This is poetry to rival anything by Charles Bukowski.

 

Hits and misses
This week has been all fun and not much dumb. A great moment was Gary Lineker saying “you’ve got to hand it to the Irish, Thierry…” This induced more embarrassed facial twitching by the Frenchman, to general hilarity.

With Slaven Bilic now gone, Lee Dixon has had to step and do some heavy lifting. One piece stood out – his analysis about how Luca Modric pulled the opposition out of position to create space for other players. It was simple but masterful and really showed how running off the ball is as important as anything else. Thank goodness for his calm, warm, expressive and sensible voice. He has quietly, undemonstratively, been an absolute star.

You do wonder about Glenn Hoddle, though. He spent a lot of time saying why Jamie Vardy should have played, saying he’d make something happen, regardless of lack of space. But ten minutes after Vardy had come on, Glenn had to say, rather miserably, that there was no space for Vardy. I mean, yeah, we all knew that, man. All of us.

Peter Crouch was on for the England game. Apart from sporting iridescent teeth that are surely visible from space, he’s been a bit half-hearted. Clearly a decent cove, but really needs to up his game and give us more energy, more insight…just…more.

As someone whose anger at England was drained out of me aged nine after watching us get beat 3-2 by West Germany, I couldn’t stop laughing throughout the Iceland match as fury, ire and disbelief became widespread. At half-time on 5live the always excellent and entertaining Mark Chapman (wonder if he gets sick of being called Chappers?) went to Ian Dennis, who was located behind the goal. Denno was, as Denno often is, bloody furious about the crimes against football he’d just witnessed. In response to his ire Mark, laughing, said, “you don’t want to come on at centre half, do you?”. We certainly could have done worse than to replace Joe Hart with Alan Green. At least he’d fill the goal.

John Murray, Green, Chris Waddle and Danny Mills did 5live’s coverage of the game. What was noticeable was the latter three’s complete and total lack of faith in England to recover from being 2-1 down. With 25 minutes gone, Danny told us “there’s still time to get back in this”. Yes, Danny well over an hour, in fact. Greeny said “England’s body language doesn’t look great”. How is everyone an expert on body language these days?

John Murray asked rhetorically if England could recover their “riviera touch”. That Riviera Touch was a mid 60s Morcambe and Wise movie.

What next? References to ‘Til Death Us Do Part?’ or The Dick Emery Show?

“Why wasn’t Rashford on earlier?” wailed Alan Green, immediately following up this sentence with “oh, he’s been dispossessed” as though answering his own question, right there.

Their post-game vomit of disgust at England’s hapless wazzocks was enjoyable in its own right. Also props to Mark Chapman for being the ringmaster for the whole England rant-a-thon. It can’t be easy to do a post-game show like that, when everyone’s emotions are running so high. It can all too easily descend into stupid shouting, without a strong presenter to guide it.

Something that was both and hit and a miss simultaneously was The Waddler’s biannual rant on The State Of Things. It was shorter than previous efforts and didn’t quite top the Tow Law man’s angst charts, not least because, well, it made little sense. But it sounded great though and, in a country that we’re told has had enough of experts, that seems to be enough. And hearing him get angry is never not a pleasure. “They’re all headphones,” he said, at one point, using the English language in his unique impressionistic way. Unlike Chris’s mob when they also used to lose when playing for England.

This month there’s been far too many ex-England players giving it ‘in my day’ as though it was a higher standard to judge now against, as though they had ever won anything for England, or had even played well the majority of times. It must be galling to be a current England player being lectured to by players who screwed it all up just as badly or even worse than you have and then have them blame it on your headphones.

On 5live Wednesday night’s discussion on the upcoming quarter-finals was excellent stuff. Hosted by Mark Chapman and based around contributions from Mina Rzouki, Rafa Honigstein, Philipe Auclair and Dean Saunders it was both informed and funny. The Frenchman saying England’s fear of failure was paralysing. Mina commenting that unless something is at stake, the Italians can’t really be bothered. But Deano was on especially excellent form, saying approvingly of Gareth Bale that “he’s the first to organise the golf day” as though this is the ultimate standard against which to judge the worth of a man’s character. Ah, The Golf. Adding that “he’s not like managing El Hadji Diouf”. Who presumably doesn’t like The Golf and thus can’t be trusted.

But it got even better when they called up Hermann Hreiðarsson, a once uncompromising Icelandic defender. “Can you check your right elbow?” says Deano. “Cos I think my teeth are still in there.” Deano has been good value all month.

 

Proper Football Men
They think they’ve discovered self-parody but somehow it ends up as bitter, arrogant and self-aggrandising. And it’s at least 10 years too late.

PFM work this week included Deano’s golfing – top work; Ray Wilkins on TalkSport spoke almost entirely in cliches. Excellent. Alan Brazil behaved boorishly towards a fellow Talksport employee; top banter. And ‘Arry has been saying things about…y’know…whatever…top top, FA rubbish. Can I ‘ave my money now?’ Giggsy turned up on ITV and seemed to be making a bid for PFM status by going on about pampered modern footballers and how they don’t care. He also had the classic ability to mix his tenses in sentences such as “…and that’s when the goal come”. The word is came, Ryan. Came not come. No offence, luv, have you had a boob job? Pull my finger.

As Roy Hodgson resigned it felt like a memo was sent around the PFM sulphurous cabal to tell them all to start pumping Glenn Hoddle for the job. Yes, that Glenn Hoddle. This is a bit odd because no true PFM likes Hoddle and thinks he’s a bit of a weird hippie and they don’t like weird hippies.

Hoddle looks like your dad on holiday in his short sleeve lemon or cream shirts, the sort you buy from a service station or that shop in the hotel lobby. Loves holiday slacks. He seems to find smiling painful and he does talk a lot of guff, such as last week’s “he’s two-footed; left foot and right foot”. In my anecdotal research, he’s been easily the least enjoyed co-comm or pundit with many outright contemptuous of him.

But nonetheless The Waddler was quick to raise his erstwhile popstar pal as England’s new mastermind. Other clever boys Gary Lineker and Jermaine Jenas concurred. Oh lads, you do disappoint us, you’re better than this. Alan Shearer wants the scream team of Hoddle and Southgate, but no-one else does, least of all, I suspect, those two men.

None of which has gone down well with Danny Baker whose Twitter timeline has been a one-man tirade against grimacing Glenn all month long. If you’ve not seen it, I’ll leave you to find it in all its glory, but for me the highlight was this tweet

The Soccer Saturday boys have had their say too. Merse says “he’s a very good international manager, the best we’ve had since Terry Venables, and is a no-brainer for me”. Mind, everything is a no-brainer for Merse.

Matt Le Tissier is more circumspect. “The list of names I’ve seen isn’t particularly compelling if I’m honest. There’s no one candidate that stands out above all others.” Ouch. No love for Glenn there. Get out the shopping trolley of shame, Tis.

Chaz Nicholas is another Hoddler. “We all disagreed with his views, but does that make him unsuitable to be a football manager?” Err…yeah, probably.

And Tommo? He goes for that nice soapy boy Gareth Southgate.

Uncle Ray Wilkins also opted for Glenn, and probably still calls him a “young man” and admires his firm, bronzed thighs. And actually said the way Glenn does his TV work proves how suitable he is. That’s just too trippy for words.

It makes you pine for the days when Big Sam was the go to man for the PFMs to hoist on their drink sodden petard.

Reidy, Rediy, son, pour me an ether, Bisto and hair pomade smoothie and a large one for Miss Toilet Duck and Effluent Flushing body of 1976. C’mon let’s go to Flaps n Slaps.


John Nicholson

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