Robin Scott-Elliot: ITV's apprentices more than a match for rivals

View From The Sofa: International Football/Arsenal v Spurs, ITV 1/SKY SPORTS 2
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The Independent Culture

TV viewers in this country, if you are to be guided by the figures, seem to enjoy nothing more than watching people unwittingly making complete fools of themselves in an attempt to make it to the top of a profession they believe they are your deity of choice's gift to. Which makes the mass switch to The Apprentice from England's friendly on Wednesday night something of a surprise.

International friendlies do require a level of commitment from the viewer that appears sadly lacking among the next generation of viewers. Fabio Capello's problem is that, for the all the hirsute throwback bluster of Andy Carroll, his England have nothing to match the sheer entertainment value of Stuart Baggs over on The Apprentice.

Here is a man who combines the wit of Robbie Savage, the charm of a Metropolitan Police riot squad officer with toothache, the managerial ability of Avram Grant and all wrapped in thicker skin than David Brent chairing an equal opportunities think tank. England being outpassed and out-thought by a French side supposed to be in a similar state of flux were no match for the world of Baggs. Which was a shame for ITV, who made a pretty good job of putting on the game. In Danny Murphy they look to have themselves a decent pundit in the making.

With the earnest Gareth Southgate also continuing to grow into the role – a demanding one on commercial TV where the next break is always looming – and Marcel Desailly offering a quirky twist to Adrian Chiles' occasionally quirky direction, the channel nobody loves now has a better line-up than the BBC, certainly when compared to the efforts of Match of the Day on Saturday. Alan Shearer had a go at Capello on the radio yesterday morning – maybe he is not a morning person and is much more forthright on the MOTD Sunday morning repeat, where he has built up a cult following among toddlers and bleary-eyed parents. And maybe Baggs, given Lord Sugar's Spurs connections, will be parachuted in as director of football at White Hart Lane.

On Saturday we were treated to the suggestion that "Wolves need a win", while Alan Hansen provided food for thought with the suggestion that a team failing to score goals while letting them in at the other end will be in trouble.

At the risk of sounding like an '80s car sticker, Tottenham do it at both ends with aplomb. They have become the best footballing thing on TV this season and ruined a quiet Saturday lunchtime viewing attempting to come up with the perfect title for Gaël Clichy's autobiography (A la Fin du Jour?).

"They always say 2-0 is a dangerous score in the Premier League," pondered Andy Gray as the second half began. I didn't know they did (or is this Gray's way of talking in the third person?) but there was no time to chew over who they are and when and why they say these things before back came Tottenham, proving that 2-0 was a very dangerous score. By the time Sky's pundits were back on our screen, Ian Wright had his pork-pie hat over his face. Alongside him Terry Venables grinned. Sartorially they were head and shoulders – or Peter Crouch – above their rivals on the terrestrial channel, although the tanned, relaxed Venables does increasingly resemble the Ben Kingsley character in Sexy Beast, which at least makes him worth watching.