Brian Viner: Sir Bobby fails to hit target as substitute for Big Ron

In a long afternoon of televised sport yesterday, celebrations provided the two most memorable moments; Frankie Dettori's dismount from Papineau after winning the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, and Wayne Rooney's acrobatics after scoring England's opening goal against Switzerland. Which doesn't say much for the quality of the football. For extensive periods, what fluency there was came from the Swiss.

That exquisitely English brand of condescension, that it is impossible to name more than three famous Belgians, has been thoroughly undermined by the rise of tennis stars Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne. What with Audrey Hepburn, Eddy Merckx, Georges Simenon, Hergé of Tintin fame and a couple of Breughels, there must be getting on for 10 at least.

It is now the Swiss, I hear, who must fight off the "three famous people" calumny. Before yesterday evening, at any rate, it was hard for the man in the street to name more than Roger Federer and Martina Hingis. The chocolatier Toby Le Rone doesn't count, as he doesn't exist.

But now there are 11 famous Swiss, just for starters, and they are all footballers, Switzerland having given the English such a difficult time in Coimbra, at least for the first 75 minutes.

And that's quite aside from the problems faced by commentator Clive Tyldesley, who must have dreaded anyone tracking the attacking Hakan Yakin.

There are two dimensions to following international football tournaments in Britain. There is the football, and there is the television. You can have a vehement argument with someone about Euro 2004 before you've even started on the football, if they think that Ian Wright has raised the BBC's game to exciting new levels and you think he's a prat.

Some remember the 1998 World Cup for David Beckham's sending-off against Argentina, others for Jimmy Hill's excruciating St George's cross bow-tie. Dreadful errors both.

I sometimes wonder whether football fans in other countries get so exercised over the TV coverage. Is there a French or German version of Garth Crooks, perhaps, earnestly asking questions five paragraphs long? For their sakes, you have to hope not.

But what of ITV's coverage yesterday? It is obligatory for journalists to write about the performances of presenters and pundits by cleverly deploying football terminology; it's practically a law, as they say in that annoying advert about the topless women.

So here goes. In Portugal, the BBC and ITV have adopted different tactics. The BBC's front line of pundits are men who have no connection with the present England team, indeed who are not even English in the case of Alan Hansen, Gordon Strachan and Peter Schmeichel. Which is fine, of course, but in the coverage of England matches it hands the advantage to ITV, who in the articulate Gareth Southgate have a man who but for injury would have been in the squad, and in Terry Venables, the man who managed England to the semi-final of Euro '96.

Mind you, the only ITV man to correctly predict the 3-0 scoreline was Des Lynam, playing and managerial experience nil. Wherein, perhaps, lies a truth. That in punditry, nobody knows everything and everybody knows something.

As for the business at the sharp end, in the commentary box, Sir Bobby Robson is a fellow of many talents but knowing when to stop talking is not among them. Inclined also to get verbally tangled, there were times when he didn't let Tyldesley get an edge in wordways. To express it in football language, Big Ron Atkinson had to be taken off, but I'm still not convinced that Robson was the right man to bring on.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect