If Chris Waddle ever tires of his work as a pundit there will surely be a job waiting for him as a New Labour spin doctor – or perhaps a Geordie version of Jacques Vergès, the French lawyer who forged a career out of defending the indefensible.
Even Vergès, whose clients have included Carlos the Jackal, Klaus Barbie, Saddam Hussein and possibly Joey Barton, would have been hard-pressed to extract much joy from England's pathetic performance against Andorra (Setanta Sports 1, Saturday). But Waddle was there for Fabio and the boys when they needed him most. Is he on the Capello payroll?
He got the excuses in early when the match commentator Jon Champion wondered whether it would be an easy game against what he described as "a rag, tag and bobtail bunch of rugged amateurs representing a principality with the same population as Barrow-in-Furness".
"It should be, but it'll not be," Waddle warned (no easy games and all that – which is nonsense: there should be easy games for multimillionaires). And after a first half that was, for any England fan, all too typically depressing, he ventured: "They did everything right bar score a goal." Isn't that the point? That for an entire 45 minutes a team of poxy part-timers had kept them at bay with a minimum of fuss? At least Champion kept a grip on reality, remarking of a grim-faced Capello: "This might be enough to turn even his hair grey."
As the lads with lions on their shirts and who-knows-what in their hearts trooped out for the second half, Waddle was upbeat and chirpy. "Emile Heskey, for me, is what we've been looking for"– which just about says it all, really. When a nation turns its lonely eyes to Emile Heskey, we might as well give up.
At the end, after Joe Cole had done his Thunderbirds trick (international rescue), Waddle was almost purring. "They've done a job," he enthused. "They've come here to do a professional job and they've done it very well."
Again, it was left to Champion to speak for us all. "Yes, it's been efficient in the end, and they've won three points, but there'll be people at home scratching their heads and saying, 'Andorra are a bunch of part-timers that no one's ever heard of, they're 171 places below England in the world rankings, and yet England have only won 2-0.'"
In the studio, Steve MacManaman was firmly in the Waddle camp. "No one got injured," he said, "a lot of people had a run-around – it was just like a glorified training session, which is fine." No it's not. It's not fine. It's rubbish. And as long as former players carry on making excuses for their modern counterparts, we might as well turn the sound down.Reuse content