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SIDELINES

TV WATCH Review of the month on screen

Roy Keane does have a sense of humour. It flashes sometimes, like a light on a vehicle’s dashboard foreshadowing a level of jeopardy difficult to gauge without recourse to the maker’s manual. In the company of Mark Pougatch, Ian Wright and Lee Dixon (UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier Live, ITV1, October 11), Keane mainly operated on his default setting of simmering resentment, with just one moment when he teetered on the brink of a damaging group laugh. Following a short film of Mason Mount and Declan Rice socialising naturally, Pougatch decried the young men’s spinning of the bars while playing table football. Wright and Dixon recognised the tentative injection of humour and reacted in orthodox fashion, laughing and throwing in an inessential comment of their own. Keane’s expression, meanwhile, suggested that more levity had been introduced into the room than a man of his temperament can reasonably bear. Pougatch, with the courage of a blind man rambling through an MoD firing range, continued trying to involve Keane in the joke: “They wouldn’t allow that at Carrington, would they, Roy?” Just for an instant it seemed that Roy Keane’s anger would let him out, if but momentarily, to play with the others. But no, the impulse was restrained and an unintelligible verbal response, much like the sound made by a brown bear worrying for grubs, was all that emerged by way of reply.

More badinage later over footage of Wright’s last game for England was halted by Keane pointing out that Wright’s contribution to the two goals shown were not actually assists. The laughter in the studio died away as quickly as possible. Sometimes you will hear pundits tell us that they do not want to take anything away from so-and-so, usually as a polite disclaimer when praising someone else entirely. Keane, on the other hand, nearly always does want to take something away from so-and-so, because he knows with certainty that praise is what turns strong, upright professional individuals into street-prowling junkies.

Three days later, Pougatch and co showed up in Bulgaria (UEFA Euro 2020 Qualifier Live, ITV1, October 14). The first 20 minutes of the programme were consumed by a discussion of England’s recent form and defensive weaknesses. Finally, a graphic of Bulgaria’s starting XI was briefly displayed, unaccompanied by comment other than two damning statistics from Pougatch concerning the host country’s lack of success in recent

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competition. Then it was straight back to the studio shot for more England talk until the game started. It might be nice if the TV people recognised that some viewers would welcome a more international approach, possibly incorporating an acknowledgement that even unfamiliar opposition consist of more than just a list of names for the commentator to learn.

Clive Tyldesley’s words midway through the first half – “The atmosphere seems reasonably good-natured” – feel, in retrospect, like the only verbal contribution of the first character to die in a horror film. Ten minutes later the first racist chants were reported and it is these and the response from players and officials that the game will be remembered for. UEFA’s ponderous three-step procedure, heralded and partly activated this evening, is an unconscious parallel of the institution’s grindingly slow and inadequate response to racism historically. Despite this, most of those discussing the events of the night felt that something powerful had happened as a result of a PA announcement and a brief huddle of players and officials. The following Saturday, the FA Cup tie between Haringey Borough and Yeovil Town was abandoned after racist chants were allegedly directed at Haringey players and their manager took them off the pitch. This was reported on the news for a period of ten seconds. Abandoning a much bigger game, properly, immediately, would be something worth shaking each other’s hand about.

“We’ll come on to the Virgin Whores in a second” is a sentence you will not hear on MOTDx. This is despite the fact that Jermaine Jenas’s new show seems keen to duplicate the insouciant expertise of A View From The Terrace (BBC Scotland, October 11), now, to the apparent surprise of its presenting team, well into its second season. While the content and presentation of MOTDx is studiedly informal, the presenters of A View From The Terrace continue to be funny and well-informed. The “virgin whores” remark occurred during a discussion of St Johnstone’s cult hero Nick Dasovic (who once played in a grunge band of that name), while forensic analysis centred on Brechin’s overblown marketing graphics (“it looks both futuristic and dated”) and Ross County not altering the height of their camera tripod, so that some of the squad appear in website images cropped cruelly at the crown or chin.

If there is one way in which Scottish football leads the world, it is in the production of this programme. Roy Keane, it goes without saying, would hate it.

Cameron Carter

NUMBERS GAME The figures behind the facts

£36,000

£36,000

3,000

3,000

46

46

The money made by Chichester City, the

The money made by Chichester City, the lowest-ranked club left in the FA Cup, when they received a bye to the second round.

Food parcels donated to a homeless charity by Nottingham Forest after their match with

Reading was called off.

The number of years it has been since Granada last topped La Liga, which they did after a 1-0

win over Real Betis on October 27.

PHOTOS

(2), PA

IMAGES

GETTY

6 WSC

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