Sport on TV: Glenn Hoddle reminds us of the ghosts of failures past


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Not surprisingly, the pundits are getting very good at describing England defeats at World Cups. “How miserably, excruciatingly disappointing,” said Adrian Chiles after the defeat to Uruguay (ITV1, Thursday). He was clearly intent on using up all his syllables before England were booted out of the tournament for good. “An absolutely disconsolate Phil Jagielka.” But whichever way you dress it up, the reality is rather different. “You are out. Go home” are very simple phrases that even footballers can comprehend. There are plenty of four-letter words you could add on the end too.

How appropriate, then, that England should crash out because of a ridiculously simplistic mistake – the expression “schoolboy error” was used over and over again, as if the pundits were writing it 50 times on the blackboard. Glenn Hoddle described it to us in simple terms: “Both teams haven’t really played fantastic.”

When ruminating on why the England players didn’t harangue the referee to send off Diego Godin for an obvious second bookable offence, Hoddle said: “It’s not in our DNA,” and fortunately no one asked him to expand on his views about genetic inheritance. The one characteristic that is being handed down through the generations is being a born loser. Like the Great War, it won’t be long before no one alive can remember the 1966 World Cup.

One day, too, we will have forgotten Hoddle’s views about disability being some kind of punishment inflicted in reincarnation – sadly, that’s one long word he does know – and the man himself was curiously fading into the background in the studio against the backdrop of Copacabana beach, his beige shirt merging with the sand, the waves of his hair dissolving into the sea.

Sitting next to him, Gus Poyet was extremely even-handed as he watched his countrymen dispatch England. “There are 120 people of us here working for ITV,” said Chiles afterwards, “and the bad news for Gus Poyet is he’s taking us all out to dinner.” At last Poyet could break into the big grin that he had been holding back all game. But telling us how many of these media types are out in Brazil swanning around felt like the final insult really. Send them home on the same plane as England.

Clive Tyldesley revealed Uruguay has the smallest population of any country at the World Cup. Frankly, they could have just had one, Luis Suarez, and that would have been more than enough to beat England.

How appropriate that on the day that France showed the Swiss defence was full of holes, the Second Test at Headingley (Sky Sports 2, Friday) provided surely the first incidence in the history of cricket when cheese stopped play.

The old sporting cliché “a game of cat and mouse” sprung to mind but there was no sign of the Sri Lankan tail wagging, they just kept nibbling at the ball outside off stump.

It recalled a long day in the field for England against Pakistan at Lord’s in 1996 when Inzamam-ul-Haq, known as “saag aloo” because of his fondness for food, was piling on the runs. A bored section of supporters hurled Scotch eggs on to the pitch to try and distract Inzi.

The ploy didn’t work but when Dominic Cork came to field on the boundary he was hit by an apple, which he duly picked up and ate. Throw in a nice cut of ham and you would have a nice Ploughman’s – though it wouldn’t do the outfield much good.