View from the sofa: How pork scratchings can open new curtains on watching England

England v Slovenia, ITV

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The Independent Football

You can keep your pomegranate power bars, beetroot juice and chia seeds: pork scratchings are set to be the new superfood. The facts stand for themselves: they are low in sugar, high in protein and made from totally natural sources – all the factors that are “on-trend”, as the marketing folk say, when it comes to food fads.

Or is it proof that you can make any argument stick if you bamboozle the listener by only telling half the story? Heck, even uranium is gluten-free, but you are unlikely to see Gwyneth Paltrow chomping down on a radioactive snack stick.

There was a similar economy with the truth in the build-up to England’s slog past Slovenia on Saturday night. The ITV pundits, Lee Dixon, Ian Wright and Glenn Hoddle, were trying to convince us that watching the national team is “exciting”. Spare us. San Marino was not that long ago – let alone the three depressing matches that comprised England’s 2014 World Cup.

Wayne Rooney occupied much of the pre-match chat and the trio with Adrian Chiles argued where the striker stands in the world. Between them they said the word “great” 10 times in 90 seconds. Hoddle said it three times in a single sentence.

“If you look at the stats – caps and goals – he’s had a great, great career, it’s been great,” Hoddle mused. “Whether he is up there with the greatest players, like Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, we will see.”

As he continued, we got a sense that Hoddle was trying to sell snake oil to us all. 

“At 28 or 29 years old, Rooney is hitting his peak,” he said. “As I say, new sets of curtains open up for you as a player.”

As Wright’s brow creased in reaction to the strange metaphor, it was up to Dixon to pop Hoddle’s balloon. “The blinds were always down for me when I was playing,” he remarked.

At half-time, with the score at 0-0, reality had hit the pundits with a hard slap to the face. Dixon attempted to be the most positive, talking of the chances the team had had, but the others were scathing. 

Hoddle, never a shrinking violet when it comes to making his own opinions sound like gospel, painted an interesting mental image when he talked about sitting next to Chiles while watching the game in the stands. “It’s what I told you when we were watching out there,” he said as he prefaced another coaching module.

 

You could imagine the scene: Hoddle pontificating on what England are doing wrong and Chiles attempting to sound interested, nodding convincingly, while wondering whether he would be missed if he nipped out for a pie.

By the end, with England having come from behind to win 3-1, everyone’s tune had changed. “Nicely done, England,” Chiles beamed. “It’s a perfect record,” the commentator, Clive Tyldesley, said. “Jack was brilliant,” Wright – presumably talking about Jack Wilshere – deadpanned.

It was easy to get caught up in the hoop-la. But by way of perspective, just look at pork scratchings. For all the apparent benefits, they are at least 50 per cent fat. It’s worth remembering next time we watch England.

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