Brian Viner: Paint stripper, pink champagne and tea - enough to test any manager's bottle

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Last week in this space I raised the interesting topic of the Sky Sports camera work during South Africa v England cricket matches. Just as there are heat-seeking missiles, so there seem to be cleavage-seeking cameras; at Centurion Park, there was more chance of television viewers missing a Jacques Kallis boundary than there was of us missing the young woman in the skimpy bikini lolling insouciantly on the hill. And yet, as I wrote, the commentators have somehow disciplined themselves not to comment. One unguarded, "you don't get many of those to the rand, Bob", and the forces of political correctness, which last week propelled Rodney Marsh into the broadcasting cold where he is destined to wander forlornly with Ron Atkinson, would be savagely unleashed.

Last week in this space I raised the interesting topic of the Sky Sports camera work during South Africa v England cricket matches. Just as there are heat-seeking missiles, so there seem to be cleavage-seeking cameras; at Centurion Park, there was more chance of television viewers missing a Jacques Kallis boundary than there was of us missing the young woman in the skimpy bikini lolling insouciantly on the hill. And yet, as I wrote, the commentators have somehow disciplined themselves not to comment. One unguarded, "you don't get many of those to the rand, Bob", and the forces of political correctness, which last week propelled Rodney Marsh into the broadcasting cold where he is destined to wander forlornly with Ron Atkinson, would be savagely unleashed.

Not, of course, that it was mere political correctness that did for Big Ron. You can't say what he said and expect to keep your job in a civilised society. As for Marsh's crack about the Asian tsunami disaster which earned him a straight red card from Sky, I didn't hear it so I can't comment. I don't think he'll be a catastrophic loss to Soccer Saturday where the reputation of office wag seemed to be going to his head.

Anyway, what brings me back to the issue of broadcasting sensibilities is an e-mail I received from a reader, Bruce McLaren, who tells me that during last year's All-Ireland football final between Kerry and Mayo, when the camera dwelt on some attractive females in the crowd, commentator Joe Brolly said: "Jaysus, there are some fine-looking women out there." "I nearly choked on my cabbage and bacon, cooked by my Irish wife in honour of the occasion," wrote Bruce.

Botham and Willis, red-blooded males both, might think the same as Joe Brolly but they can't say it. Not least, in the former's case, for fear of antagonising his wife, Kath. I once crossed Botham and just about lived to tell the tale, but I would not want to cross Mrs B. Not if the furious expression she wore to last year's BBC Sports Personality of the Year bash was anything to go by.

For Sky, the only time Botham is able to give vent to his feelings on subjects other than cricket is during those odd little travelogues when he gets to enthuse about South African wine. And wine, in fact, is what I really wanted to write about this week, because there was an intriguing sub-text to the Manchester United v Chelsea Carling Cup semi-final on Wednesday. Sir Alex Ferguson had apparently complained that on his last visit to Stamford Bridge he was served "paint stripper" - actually, it was an Argentinian Shiraz - so on Wednesday Jose Mourinho rose to the challenge and took along a bottle of 1964 Barca Velha, a classic Portuguese red reportedly worth £260.

Wine evidently matters even more to Sir Alex now that he has had his ardour for horse racing dampened by John Magnier and J P McManus. But he has been passionate about it for quite some time. I remember reading an interview with him a few years ago in which the journalist cleverly took a fabulous claret as a gift, thus putting Fergie into such a good mood that he talked expansively for much longer than the allotted time. I have sometimes wondered whether, if I got the chance to interview Fergie, I would do the same. The trouble is that once it's been done, you run the risk of looking both unoriginal and sycophantic. Besides, it doesn't always guarantee the subject's cooperation. The day I provoked the ire of Botham, with a question that infuriated him, I had earlier handed him a decent bottle of Puligny-Montrachet in a transparent attempt to get on his good side. Afterwards, I felt like asking for it back.

Now, whether the quality of Mourinho's wine helped to ease Fergie's pain at losing his first semi-final as Manchester United manager, I don't know.

Possibly not if the Chelsea manager, whose 42nd birthday it was, had casually pointed out that he was in nappies when the Barca Velha was bottled. Certainly, the convention of managers sharing a drink at matches can sometimes be deployed tactically. To return to Big Ron, it is said that he liked to invite the opposing manager into his office for a glass of pink champagne before rather than after the match, just to show how laid-back and unworried he was feeling. I can believe it. His protégé Gordon Strachan, on the other hand, is teetotal. As Coventry City and then Southampton manager the wee fellow's choice of beverage before the match and afterwards was never anything racier than a cup of tea. For opposing managers fond of the hard stuff, I'm sure that could be disconcerting too.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

Comments