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Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Outside the Box – Football on TV: Rooney and Savage liven up the tedious break in play


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Sqf Chris Pettitt

There are not many things that evoke a true hatred and frustration in my usually dreary and featureless disposition, in fact there are only three: anybody who thinks the enjoyment of a night out is heightened by the commencement of dancing, any television programme in which the words “Piers” and “Morgan” appear in the title, and wasps, who, like any other frenzied evil beings running around with a loaded weapon and a liberal sense of responsibility, should be stopped and removed immediately. 

However, you can now add one further irritation to this list: the phrase ‘International Break’. The two-week sabbatical in which the players of the top two domestic leagues down tools and either go and put a shift in for their national side or spend a fortnight with the kids in Dubai. But for the long-suffering football fan, it is a torturous fourteen days in which control of the Sky remote is turned over to other members of the household and unceasing horrors are forced upon us. There is no kindly Linekar to usher in a cosy Saturday evening, there is no post-Sunday Lunch snooze in front of the goalless Fulham/Bolton game, and there is no Titus Bramble . . . although admittedly, there were other circumstances around his absence this weekend. No instead, we have to put up with The X Factor, Saturday Kitchen and the ever-infuriating England team.

It was a curious evening on Friday during the England game. For a while there, it was all very un-England-like as we sauntered into an early lead, no need for worry or strife. A pleasant waltz towards the European Championships. But, let’s be fair, it was all going a little too well wasn’t it? It wouldn’t really be England without messing things up completely would it? And good old ‘Wazza’ duly obliged when he unfathomably decided to hack away at some Montenegrin and get himself sent off.

At least it gave the guests on Football Focus something to talk about the following day. An intriguing line up of Gary McAllister, Martin Keown and Joey Barton were on hand to dissect Rooney’s actions and their collected thoughts were a dubious mish-mash of insight and hypocrisy. Keown, who admittedly has smartened himself up a bit and now articulates himself rather better than the days in which he would communicate with a series of grunts, was particularly forthright in his views on Rooney’s behaviour. He stated that it was vital that a footballer “remain professional” in important games and “not become emotional”; a noble stance of course, although is this really the same Keown that remained professional and unemotional in his playing days, most memorably during an ill-tempered game for Arsenal against Man Utd and a certain penalty miss? And the less said about serial-nutjob Joey Barton passing judgement on a player getting sent off for violent play the better.

Keown maintained his ‘fair-play’ facade throughout the show. He again defied history and logic when talking about his time playing for England and claimed that, “we had a great deal of respect for the Manchester United lads”. You know what, he might be telling the truth and maybe he did enjoy spending time with Gary Neville and Paul Scholes, but personally I prefer thinking of Keown as a hard-nosed, troll-like gargoyle who spent his days playing psychological mind games with the Neville brothers and kicking Nicky’s Butt every time he dared go near him, but perhaps that’s just me.

There was one further moment of confusion and intrigue, the moment Gary McAllister was asked whether he was “eyeing a number one or number two”; I assume it was recollecting yet further memories of japes while away on international duty, only this time with Scotland. Well, you’ve got to pass the time some way haven’t you?

Elsewhere, I endured my first experience of Robbie Savage prancing around on Saturday evening and Strictly Come Dancing. Leaden-footed, a distinct lack of movement, no creative spark and woefully unprepared; a routine description of a typical Derby County performance under Savage’s stewardship but how was his dancing you ask? Well speaking as an ill-informed laymen, it was alright. On the Strictly set, Savage is surrounded by a motley crew of has-beens, never-will-bes and a crowd urging to see more passion; again quite reminiscent of his time at Derby, only this time with the prospect of achieving more points.

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Chris Pettitt

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