Football: Why Keys should be locked up

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The Independent Online
When football was Sky-jacked a few years ago, though we all squealed we did admit that at least they could devote more time to it than the terrestrials. Too much time, if you ask me. With nearly two hours to fill before the match on Saturday, there was inevitably going to quite a bit of nonsense.

To be fair, there was some interesting stuff, particularly interviews with the heroes of the 4-0 tonking England handed out in Turin in 1948 (including Sir Stanley Matthews wearing a Boston Red Sox baseball cap, somewhat incongruously).

With anchor man Richard Keys were Bobby Robson and Roy Hodgson, both of whom talked sense, as you'd expect them to. But Keys himself was a liability. There was once a Two Ronnies sketch conducted entirely in cliches. That's what listening to Keys is like.

I will concede that Keys did make one mildly amusing remark. Referring to the Lions of 1948 he said, "If my history books are right, the lion always wins in Rome." That apart, it was cliches all the way.

The atmosphere was "electric"; England were "gladiators"; and, of course, when it was all over, they had done "the Italian Job" - this after Martin Tyler had used the same phrase 10 seconds previously. If I'd heard it once more, I would have been ready to trash the telly. In fact, if I'd had the proverbial pound for every time it was uttered, I'd have been able to do precisely that and buy a new one, one of those big-screen jobs with sensurround-stereo.

Which brings me to Michael Caine. Presumably, if England had been playing Russia, they'd have got Sean Connery (as someone who was once offered a trial by Manchester United, at least he'd have known what he was talking about).

Instead, there were such nuggets of wisdom as "they're both excellent footballing nations", and "Gazza is a great, great footballer," and, "I've got the feeling we can go all the way with this." So Caine's a football fan. Not a lot of people know that. And not a lot of people care.

ITV had less time to fill, for which we could be grateful. Their half- time analysis lasted precisely one minute and 38 seconds, which was fine by me.

Having already watched the match once, I could sit back and enjoy Ron Atkinson's performance. Sky's Andy Gray is the best summariser in the business, but he doesn't have Big Ron's way with words. I particularly liked, "these opening stages [of the second half] determine whether a team's slept in at half-time." And when David Beckham went down on the edge of the area, he described it as "a stumble job." The man's a poet.

In the tunnel afterwards, captain Ince, bloodied and bandaged, was not going to be brought down to earth by the like of ITV's Gary Newbon, who has made a career out of post-match churlishness. "Some anxious moments towards the end there," he said in a tone of voice that suggested England were a little lucky. `I don't care," Ince replied. And quite right too.

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