Sport on TV: Dream still a long way away for Redknapp's special little ones

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The Independent Online

Jamie Redknapp has achieved the seemingly impossible. No, not squeezing into an even tighter pair of shiney silver trousers, but making himself even more annoying. It's that Thomas Cook advert, in which he and his wife Louise cavort in cringeworthy fashion around sun-drenched beaches in a far-flung land while the rest of us freeze our coconuts off. Waves of loathing drench the shoreline. Yet it appears that arguably football's worst pundit is a long way from being all washed up.

Instead he's presenting Football's Next Star (Sky One, Sunday), looking to give one young player from Britain and Ireland "the opportunity of a lifetime", namely to join Jose Mourinho's Internazionale in Milan. Never mind the other 6,999 applicants whose "dream come true" didn't come true. And then there's the wise warning of narrator Seb Fontaine that even giants of the British game have failed to make it in Italy, where the style of play is more technical and the cultural differences and language barriers can overwhelm your average bladder-hacking Brit.

"Jamie is on the hunt for a special player," we are told. But it's Inter's youth coaches, Paolo Migliavacca and Marco Monti, who are calling the shots. It's no great surprise that they should disagree with Redknapp's choices. Their English is not great, but even we struggle to understand what he's going on about.

Redknapp admits: "When it comes down to it, in football you haven't got any friends." Speak for yourself, Jamie. "It's dog eat dog." But he's right, of course. An earlier incarnation of this talent contest was called 'Football Icon', in which players vied to be taken on to Chelsea's books when the Special One was at the Bridge.

The first winner, Chelsea fan Sam Hurrell, spent two years in the youth team before being quietly released, and then plied his trade in the Blue Square South after a spell coaching kids from 18 months to five years old. Now that's really scouting for young talent; they make Gaël Kakuta look like Stanley Matthews.

The second winner, Carl Magnay, is still on Chelsea's books and has appeared for Northern Ireland Under-21s. He's obviously a professional in the making: during the summer his Chelsea reserves squad were involved in a mass brawl with the United Arab Emirates side Al-Ahli.

The road to the top is going to be tough, even in a society that can't get enough of the instant gratification of the talent show. The road seemed very daunting when the first boy on to the bus tripped over the steps. Not very fancy footwork. And what of Hicham Abdullah, the bespectacled striker who firmly believes he will be "the best player in the world"? Migliavacca says straightaway: "If you wear glasses, you are not going to be a football player." Still, myopia can still bring you a successful career as a pundit.

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