When Wayne Rooney scored against Chelsea to win the first leg of the Champions' League quarter-final (ITV1, Wednesday), there was no turning the air blue. He tumbled over, headbutted the ground and then just sat there, legs splayed like a little baby on the hearth rug, a picture of innocence, his arms held aloft as if waiting for grandma to pick him up. Any granny would do.
If that was child's play, then in the Bernabeu the night before it was men against boys as Tottenham's big adventure came to an end like a loss of innocence. Peter Crouch didn't hang around to witness it. He lost his innocence years ago, and seemingly had places to go, people to see – leggy, blonde, good-looking people.
Or maybe 15 minutes with Ray Wilkins on your back was enough – especially if you're 14ft tall. Up in the commentary box for a change rather than in the studio, "Butch" started on Spurs' side, every exhortation began with "we this" and "we that" – until the second Real Madrid goal went in and suddenly it was "they".
It was as if he was on the touchline barking orders at the players: "Keep the ball, enjoy the ball and have fun with it;" "It's ball retention, you must retain possession of the ball." And then: "The important part is to stay on your feet;" "Stay on your feet!;" "You must stay on your feet." So to play against one of the best teams on the planet, you should stay on your feet and keep the ball. If you play against a team of Martians, these are still sound principles.
Wilkins likes to preface his piercing insights with the phrase "My word" but in fact it was "my seven words", including "keep", "ball", "stay" and "feet". To be fair to the lad, there was "period" as well: "big periods", "tough periods", "difficult periods". And, for Spurs fans, very painful periods.
Playing against Jose Mourinho at the Bernabeu with a man sent off was never going to be easy. "I've got to say that to get away with that in such a hostile environment, you've got to count your chickens." That's bad advice, though; we all know you shouldn't count them, especially not after Crouch's brace of fouls. Poor Butch was getting in such a tizz that he was contradicting himself five times in every sentence. No wonder all his hair fell out. And those chickens will be coming home to roost at White Hart Lane this week.
It seemed cruel for ITV to haul Harry Redknapp into the studio the next night but it made a nice change from listening to his son. At half-time Sir Alex Ferguson seemed content, though it was hard to tell because he had his mouth full – with his habitual chewing gum or, according to Adrian Chiles, a lozenge. That must have been quite a half-time team talk.
Perhaps this is the reason why Fergie doesn't talk to broadcasters much. He's chewing so violently that you can't make out a word he says. Shame the same doesn't apply to Rooney. Give the boy some gum.
* Sky's coverage of the Masters was heralded with the usual fanfare but seeing Colin Montgomerie in 3D seems rather over the top, if not spilling out the sides. And sadly there was no sign of that legendary short temper rearing its ugly head in the heat of a Georgia afternoon. If we're going to have three dimensions, then in this post-Gray/Keys world shouldn't we be shown all sides of our pundits' characters?Reuse content