Sportsmen struggle to stay afloat in anchor role

Sport On TV

You can see why television companies do it - it's the famous- face principle, nothing more - but turning retired sports people into presenters has never been a good idea. It's like, say, a TV sports columnist taking up opera singing. It's just possible that a new Pavarotti might be uncovered; but it's highly unlikely.

Punditry is one thing - when the in-house experts are free to be themselves and give us the benefits of their accumulated insights and wisdom (stop that derisive giggling at the back), bringing to bear on proceedings the fruits of their hard-won experience.

However, anchoring a programme is another matter entirely. Just as a football manager stamps his own character on team and club, so the presenter dictates the mood of the programme. If they are stilted and ill at ease, the whole show will feel that way.

Essentially, an anchorman is playing a part, the part of him or herself (I bet even Des Lynam works hard at being Des Lynam), and as Escape to Victory showed us for all time, sportsmen cannot act - repeat after me, sportsmen cannot act (with one recent God-given exception, naturellement).

We've probably got Ian St John to blame. In 1969 he took part in a Sportsnight With Coleman competition to find a new commentator for the 1970 World Cup. St John and Idwal Robling could not be separated by the judges, and the casting vote was left to Alf Ramsey.

Unsurprisingly, give Sir Alf's celebrated Caledonian antipathy he set the Welshman Robling to Mexico, but undeterred, Saint forced his way on to the small screen and became a master exponent of the classic "I'm-reading- from-the-autocue-in-case-you-haven't- noticed" monotone. He was, of course, hampered by being the straight man to another former footballer, thereby breaking the golden rule of showbiz: never work with kids, animals, or Jimmy Greaves.

The likes of Bob Wilson followed on, ITV making a big mistake when they poached him from the BBC and let him loose presenting programmes of his own. It was Sue Barker who broke the mould, though. Her first efforts were all rabbits and headlights, but somebody obviously got hold of her early on and gave her some media training.

The secret is simple. All you have to do is forget proper pronunciation and break up your sentences with lots of arbitrary stresses and pauses, rolling your voice up and down for no apparent reason like a hovercraft in rough seas.

Gary Lineker has a stab at it, but has never quite managed to sound like anything other than someone reading a part from an am-dram audition, or an Arran-sweatered Open University presenter.

Will Carling, enlisted by ITV to anchor their coverage of England v Australia last weekend, obviously came prepared, flaunting his pauses like an old pro (though he could have thrown a few stresses in too): "Good afternoon. And welcome to Twickenham. For the first. Of our big. Rugby internationals. Here on ITV. There's a new order in the game. Facing a massive challenge. And it all begins today. It's England. Against Australia."

He'd got his presenter's facial expression worked out too, though only one unfortunately - rather wry, deliberately casual and only marginally ill at ease. He's got that slightly bland, slightly detached "this isn't really me, even if it is a nice little earner as I come to the end of my playing days" sort of look. But he's OK. There's no reason why he couldn't be the new Lineker, though you can't quite imagine him saying "twat" on They Think It's All Over. You can imagine him thinking it, but not saying it.

As for the rest of ITV's coverage of the game, it was, like Carling himself, perfectly acceptable. After all, it's not as if they haven't done this sort of thing before (as they reminded us with the World Cup "World in Unison" theme tune lifted from Holst's The Planets).

The studio though, looked a mite claustrophobic, with Carling plonked in front of a big bank of screens that brought to mind David Bowie in The Man Who Fell To Earth - "all of you! Get out of my mind!"

After the game they quickly got the England coach, Clive Woodward, into the studio. I've never looked at him closely before, but his face is clearly a homage to the round in They Think It's All Over where they combine the faces of three different people. His top bit is William Hague; the bottom is - what was his name? Oh yes, John Major; while the middle bit is Herr Flick the bespectacled Gestapo officer from 'Allo, 'Allo. And while we're on the subject of passing resemblances, Bob Dwyer, one of Carling's guests, appears to be the result of a gene splice of Roy Strong and Yosser Hughes.

Appropriate really, except it was Carling who said "Gizza job. I could do that." And I suppose he can...at least as well as Ian St John and no, you're right, that isn't saying much.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Nursery Assistant/Nurse all cheshire areas

£7 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: We are a large and successful recrui...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Qualified Nursery Nurse for Bury Nu...

Maths Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Full time key stage 2 teacher job at ...

Day In a Page

Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor