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Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Outside the Box – Football on TV: A battle of wits ends in defeat for Worthy’s warhorses, but football marches on

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Sqf Chris Pettitt

Let’s face it. Our footballing heroes don’t have the greatest reputation when it comes to brainpower and academia do they? A cautionary glance at the post-match interviews every week on Match Of The Day show us superstars struggling to grasp the complexity of questions such as, “How do you feel the game went today?” It can at times be like watching an inebriated child attempting to recite Shakespeare while chewing on a live stoat. And of course, their off-field antics do little to enhance the feeling that something of an intelligence vacuum exists among our professional ranks.

What is it that Mario Ballotelli will do for kicks this week? Abduct a giraffe from the local zoo? Urinate in Sir Alex Ferguson’s hip flask? Or maybe he’ll restrain himself and just set fire to the Trafford Centre? Chances are though, he won’t be attending a MENSA meeting.

Of course there are exceptions, and there are some footballers that attempt to showcase their intellectual abilities by appearing on TV quiz shows. Famously a couple of years ago, Clarke Carlisle appeared on Countdown and was moderately successful winning two out of three games. And then there was Graeme Le Saux who somehow managed to get to the final of the Weakest Link a few years back despite the handicap of Anne Robinson possibly stirring up disturbing memories of his time playing alongside Colin Hendry. This week saw another opportunity for some footballing legends to prove that their brains are intact when they were invited on to BBC 2’s cardigan quiz Celebrity Eggheads.

Liverpool legend Alan Kennedy, former England internationals Tony Currie and Kerry Dixon joined Scotland’s Alan Rough and renowned footballing playboy Frank Worthington to take on “possibly the greatest quiz team in Britain”: the Eggheads. Calling themselves ‘The Rough Diamonds’, our five mercurial masterminds were on jovial form as the quiz began and were demonstrating the kind of confidence Jose Mourinho exudes before a home European tie with Genk. Tony Currie was up first for a test of Geography against Egghead Barry, and was sure he would put up a good fight. He didn’t. Knocked out after only two questions, he can however be proud of himself for revealing, “I know where Columbia is”. Good stuff Tony, good stuff. Currie’s expulsion was soon followed by teammate Alan Kennedy who inexplicably lost out to professional smarm merchant CJ on Sport. The misery piled onto the Rough Diamonds when Roughy himself was despatched too; so much for enriching football’s cerebral image eh?

Of course the star attraction was Frank ‘Worthy’ Worthington, the heir apparent to George Best’s partyboy legacy. A Leicester legend that went on to play for about 105 British teams, Worthy is the kind of player that the phrase ‘Cult Icon’ was created for. His haggard face is itself a testament to decades of living on the edge; late nights, good times and the odd beauty queen or two. Presumably it was his addition to the group that inspired the ‘Rough’ part of their team name. Anyway he was up against the gifted gran of the Eggheads Daphne, and Worthy wasted no time in trying to add her to his long list of conquests when he described her as “gorgeous”. She was having none of it though and rather predictably, Worthy followed his three predecessors out of the competition to leave Chelsea stalwart Kerry Dixon to take on the full might of the Eggheads all by himself in the final. Host Dermot Murnaghan offered words of encouragement (of sorts) to the lone competitor; “let’s hope you go into the bar after this”, he exclaimed. Don’t worry Dermot, Worthy was already there. Unfortunately there was no fairy-tale end to the quiz and Dixon suffered the same debilitating fate as his fallen comrades, namely not knowing anything.

Not really a successful exercise in demonstrating the intelligence of footballers then, but entertaining nevertheless. Who cares that Alan Rough doesn’t know what the Cryosphere is? He doesn’t and neither should we. Those guys should be remembered for the great players they were, just as Rooney, Beckham and Ballotelli will be remembered in years to come. And besides, the Rough Diamonds gave Daphne and the Eggheads a right good hiding in the five-a-side in the car park afterwards.

Just time to marvel briefly at Sky Super Sunday where we had a triple-header of Premier League action. A mammoth day for the Sky pundits and our old friend Jamie Redknapp, himself a noble purveyor of logical thought, began the day’s proceedings by stating that “QPR look better in midfield at the minute, Shaun Derry’s not playing”; lost another fan there Jamie methinks. Three games later at the Etihad Stadium and Gary Neville offered his distinctly-Manc views on Thierry Henry’s possible return to Arsenal; he admitted there would be a “real buzz around the Premier League” if it happened. Co-commentator Martin Tyler then teased Red Nev by suggesting that he should follow Henry’s lead and burst out of retirement; I’m not sure that would cause too much of a buzz at Gary’s house, let alone the Premier League.

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