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Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Outside the Box – Football on TV: Bad luck stories abound as the Scots take on Wales in a clash of the misfiring


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It’s a universal truth that some people are just plain unlucky. These desperate souls, through no real fault of their own, just get a rough deal in this bad ol’ world and spend their days enduring an avalanche of ungodly misfortune and rudimentary shite. And don’t suffer the misapprehension that these directionless nomads dwell in the dark cracks of our society; they live in plain sight, in all facets of culture. Nick Clegg, that bloke who plays Ricky Butcher, Anthony Worrall Thompson; these hapless sufferers of fate, with doom permanently etched across their wearied faces must wake each morning with that ceaseless sense of dread, praying that today may just bring with it the change of fortune they must surely be owed.

Well, two of these luckless losers from the world of football came face to face last Friday evening for Live WCQ: Wales v Scotland. Yes, the walking calamity that is Chris Coleman welcomed his Scottish counterpart Craig Levein, himself a rusty magnet for disaster, to the Cardiff City Stadium for a crucial World Cup Qualifier. I decided to watch Sky’s coverage of this match as opposed to England’s dispatching of San Marino on ITV for two reasons; firstly, a meeting of Wales and Scotland with its Celtic history and its football teams’ mutual age of mediocrity was always going to be akin to a car crash – an unbearably horrific spectacle, but one which you would find hard to look away from. And secondly, if I wanted to see England players bully, demean and crush a bunch of wide-eyed wannabe footballers, I’d go down to the Chelsea training ground.

So I tuned in, hands clasped to my face in embarrassment ready to peek through my fingers at Coleman and Levein’s laughable attempts to manage what realistically are not bad squads of players. Of course, the two relative nations don’t possess the so-called class and ability of England, but each have a solid base of top-tier players garnished with a smattering of elite level class in the likes of Gareth Bale and Darren Fletcher. Nevertheless, Coleman particularly seems to have poisoned what was a very functional and exciting young squad into the same old plodders the country have had to endure for decades. It must be said of course that the dreadfully tragic circumstances that led him to the job undeniably sent shockwaves through the young players and rendered the job all the more difficult for it’s incumbent. Having said that, Coleman’s CV hardly gleams with a treasure-trove of successes, and anybody who has witnessed his ill-advised stints as a pundit will know he has more gaps in his football knowledge than David Cameron.

As the game was nearing it’s beginning then, the clichés were being spouted by the Sky pundits. The Scottish bravehearts taking on the valiant Welsh dragons; a battle of will between the Celtic cousins. For me though, the prospect was not of a noble dual but instead like watching a scrap between two blind kittens. At least each of the clueless chiefs were going for it with regards to their team selections. Levein especially, deciding to go ‘old school’ and actually choose to play a striker was refreshing I’m sure for all Scottish fans watching on.  And to be fair, the two teams put on a show. The game was certainly an entertaining one, and the 2-1 final scoreline could, and should have been added to with a host of chances for each nation. Bale continued his ascent to greatness with two goals, the second a sublimely spectacular finish whilst the under-fire Scottish team defiantly played their part and were on the wrong end of a couple of poor refereeing decisions. At the end of it all, Coleman bought himself a little more time while Levein’s damn bad luck may have caught up with him again. Still, it could be worse, he could be managing Northern Ireland.

Despite not actually watching the game, I did turn over to Live World Cup Qualifier: England vs. San Marino on ITV for a couple of minutes before kick off. The perfect time to tune in it is too, as you have already missed the dispiriting drudgery of Adrian Chiles’ monotonous drivel, and you can turn it off before England’s routinely shoddy performance kicks in. The short spell I was watching though treated me, and everybody else watching, to one of Clive Tyldesley’s unfortunate soundbites that he presumably spends all day working on beforehand. Describing the gulf in class between England and their minnow opponents he attempted to ‘get down with the kids’ by saying the game would be “like playing Fifa against your dad”. Yes Clive, you’re right; watching England on ITV is like playing a computer game with my dad. It’s a complete waste of time, I have to sit listening to the rambling musings of a middle-aged grouch with crap hair, and it’s something I won’t do again for at least another four months. God bless domestic football.

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