Football: At Wembley the most ardent show of devotion seemed to be to strip to your waist and reveal your spread of patriotic tattoos

After 10 days of early-doors caution, sedate pecks on the cheek and swift slap-downs of hands wandering towards buttons, finally the point of consummation has been reached: television has fallen in love with Euro 96.

The moment came not with John Barnes's audacious campaign to seize the Mickey Skinner Memorial Trophy for over-excited studio wear when he donned a pair of trousers apparently fashioned from a banana skin.

Nor did it come with Ruud Gullit's crisp dismissal of England and English football at half-time during the Scotland match, analysis so forthright you suspect Paul Furlong ought to be spending the summer looking for a new employer. It didn't even come with John Motson's unexpected confession during the Italy versus Russia game. "Albertini," revealed a breathless Mottie, "he's a player I really fancy."

No, it came with Gazza's glorious bid for inclusion in the goal celebration round in "They Think It's All Over".

"So Rory, what was Gazza doing there?" you can imagine Nick of Hancock enquiring as footage plays of the Fat Boy lying back and thinking of England behind the Wembley goal while Teddy Sheringham pours isotonic drink down his ever-open gob.

"Was it a post-modern, ironic riposte to his critics?" poses McGrath. "Was he re-enacting his dentist's-chair-and-tequila-moment on the Hong Kong tour to remind them pointedly that his preparation for the tournament had been more than adequate despite what all that was said and written?" "Not quite," Hancock says. "He was just pissed at the time."

Until that definitive point, it had been, a bit like the games themselves, all flirtation, all empty tricks, all mouth and (particularly in Barnes's case) trousers. In those early matches, the football was lost in the peripheries, taking second place in the coverage to more interesting diversions.

Following the lead set by Sky's coverage of England's cricket tour to South Africa, known in television circles as the bikini trip, the BBC cameramen appeared to be under instruction, during Italian games, for instance, to train their lenses on the decent-looking women in the visitors' crowd.

Indeed, much as there has developed an archetypal fan picked out by the cameras to characterise each Premiership team (for Sheffield Wednesday it's a shaven-headed pie-eater bare-chested in sub-zero temperatures, for Manchester United it's a family burdened with bags from the souvenir shop taking snapshots of the match, for Newcastle it's a librarian in bottle-bottom specs blubbing into his replica shirt) so, in the early days of Euro 96, the cameramen have been directed to reveal national stereotypes lurking in the crowd. Thus we have been treated to mad-eyed Turks with big drums, sombrero-clad Spaniards, thankfully minus their donkeys, and jolly Dutchmen dressed, for no apparent reason, as Indian chiefs.

During the opening exchanges on Saturday, the lenses had a field day in the Scots end picking out crimson-faced men in tartan berets and orange wigs, sweaty specimens swathed in plaid blankets and kilts, an entire nation, on the hottest day of the year, expiring under the burden of Vivian Westwood's new winter collection. By contrast what did the English have to show? There is no history of dressing up in our football culture. We don't turn up to support the national team in Beefeater tunics, busbys or top hat and tails. At Wembley, the most ardent show of devotion seemed to be to strip to the waist and thus reveal your spread of patriotic tattoos. Just as well then, that our favourite lad gave them something to focus on instead.

And now it has taken off, just before half-time in the tournament, you feel the BBC are heading for the dressing-room with a comfortable lead. Their long-term preparation (transferring Bob Wilson was a master-stroke) has paid off, their theme tune has been a yard quicker into the brain box and their panel is running rings round a flat and static ITV back line. Yesterday for the Germany versus Russia game, we saw ITV getting desperate and playing an entirely new system: Ray Wilkins tucking into the space behind Glenn Hoddle. On paper, a strong line-up. But Hoddle proved himself capable of putting more people to sleep than the late-night shipping forecast on Radio 4. And Wilkins (lovely man, lovely suits) really needs to do more than cagey little square responses. "I couldn't agree more with what Glenn's just said," simply does not create audiences at this level.

Compare that with the BBC's Hansen (all world-weary and cynical), Gullit (great hair, great mind) and Hill (giving viewers across the land a bit of much-needed exercise as they rise from their day-beds to punch the screen) and the portents are ominous. Just as Klinsmann is getting into gear for the Germans, you can't help feeling that in the commentary box as on the pitch, there is only going to be one winner of this tournament.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins wins the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
music
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
News
(David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line IT Support / Senior Engineer / Support Analyst

£24000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Recognised as one of the fastes...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager - Refrigeration

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor