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Tuesday, 04 December 2012

Outside the Box – Football on TV: Adrian Chiles and The FA Cup try, and ultimately fail to make the Wimbledons common


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We are taught from a very young age that all things essentially fall into one of two categories; good or bad; right or wrong; noble or evil; Gary Lineker or Joey Barton. Except the subtleties, the shades of grey that only creep into our ethics as adulthood tightens its relentless grip, prove to us that such a simplistic notion is mere child’s play. Often, good and evil are cultivated from the same seed. You need look no further than the cinematic masterpiece that is Superman 3 for such a vivid example; don’t pretend you haven’t seen it, it’s on about five times every Christmas. You know that bit when the warring factions of the protagonist’s nature burst into two entities and we are treated to the unexpected, albeit visually stunted slugfest between ‘evil’ Superman and kindly Clark Kent in a junkyard. Two halves of the same fabled beast, battling for control of its proud heritage, polar opposites but with an unerring resemblance.

So on a completely unrelated matter, Sunday saw the first ever meeting between the MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon. Ah you see, now my completely pointless and unfathomable gibberish back there makes a smidgeon of sense doesn’t it? Yes, the broken parts of the old Wimbledon FC were fused back together for the FA Cup 2nd Round Live at the weekend and the raw scars of that brutal separation were still weeping in the week leading up to the game. As an inept layman commenting on this sensitive breakup, I wouldn’t dream of choosing sides and labelling either side as the wicked bogeyman. Thankfully though, ITV has its own band of inept layman who were more than happy to poke their noses in and ruffle a few feathers. That’s right, as if the rival supporters’ respective quests for ownership of the Crazy Gang heritage was not arduous enough, they were forced to swallow more bile by having to sit through Adrian Chiles defecating on their tragic tale.

Chiles was in his element though recounting the story, slipping effortlessly back into his old One Show guise complete with that patronising insincerity, as if he was talking about a one-armed boy scout who lost his goldfish during the war only to run into it seventy years later at a sushi restaurant or something. Still at least Chiles was playing the game; his two studio guests were as stony-faced and impassive as they come. Ex-Crazy Gang stalwart and pretend football manager Lawrie Sanchez spent so long straddling the fence that he was getting vertigo; whereas Martin Allen – literally the meanest looking fella in England, took up Keano’s usual ITV role and stared menacingly at Chiles throughout, seemingly like a coiled spring waiting to lunge.

The vitriolic atmosphere continued as the game began with both sets of supporters vociferously claiming ownership of the nickname “the Dons”, as well as all the usual nonsensical football chants back and forth. One AFC fan even paid to have a plane fly by carrying a message reading “We are Wimbledon”. Gallant I thought until ITV’s Clive Tyldesley told us that the stunt was actually organised by a AFC fan living in Virginia, USA:- so a banner attempting to bemoan a decision to move a football club 60 miles up the road, orchestrated by a fan who loved his club so much he moved 3000 miles away. And it wasn’t just the supporters doling out the bad vibes either: MK Dons coach and serial talker Ian Wright stopped to have a few words with ITV at half time and used most of them to have a pop at AFC Wimbledon goalkeeper Neil Sullivan, although to be fair, Sullivan is about 67 and hard of hearing so he won’t have been hurt by it.

The continuing hatred that festers between these two young clubs will surely continue for many a year, and providing it exists as no more than vocal banter and boardroom bellyaching there is nothing wrong with it. Watching on from neutral ground, I have to say I found the overwhelming significance some of the supporters seemed to place in the location of their team baffled me, particularly as many appeared to be far too young to even remember Wimbledon FC in it’s previous form. Are football clubs really that important? Evidently they are, but what do I know? I’m pragmatic to the point of lunacy - I would have encouraged Joey to have a bash at a question in German too. I would have given Avram Grant the Chelsea job years ago. And I probably would have perched myself next to Lawrie Sanchez on that fence. On the other hand, my only point of reference for the epic fragmentation of the old Wimbledon FC was to bang on about a crappy 80s action film so I can scarcely be counted as a viable authority on any football matter at all. Just this once I’ll defer to Chiles’ respectful handling of the story, but like MK and AFC, the battle between right and wrong goes on. I’ll see you in the third round Adrian.

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Chris Pettitt

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