Chris Maume: Waddle sees bigger picture as England's landscape improves
View From the Sofa: Belarus v England world cup qualifier; Setanta Sports, ITV1 15 Oct
Monday 20 October 2008
A few weeks ago, when England sleepwalked to a heavy-weather win over Andorra, I must admit I joined the boo-boys in Barcelona from the comfort of this column, and I also castigated Setanta's summariser Chris Waddle for the positive spin he managed to put on the evening. "A professional job," he purred, and I sneered. "Emile Heskey, for me, is what we've been looking for," he ventured, and I fell off the sofa giggling.
Well, it may be time to acknowledge, however reluctantly, that as a football analyst I may possibly leave something to be desired. As Wednesday night in Belarus demonstrated, that Capello bloke – "the square-jawed authoritarian" as Jon Champion called him – seems to know what he's doing; and Heskey the space creator was pure Minsk magic.
But whereas Waddle found nice things to say about England against Andorra, on Wednesday he was wielding a big stick until they started motoring in the second half. "They've stopped working, Jon," he chastised at 1-1. "England are not working hard enough as a four in midfield."
Towards the end of the first half, Disgusted of Tyne and Wear was at it again. "The four midfield players do nothing when Belarus have the ball – nothing. Belarus have played the way they've wanted to do." Thankfully things got better, and he ended the second half a far happier man than he had the first. I suppose we all did.
Champion, meanwhile, was displaying his credentials to take over as Factmeister General when Motty finally hangs up his sheepskin (which he's probably not actually worn since about 1975). He kept them coming: BATE, as in FC BATE, the current Belarus champions, stands for "Borisov Automobile Tractor Electrical Equipment Team" or something (Motty would be proud of that one); Heskey is the eighth England striker to win 50 caps, and the one of those eight with the fewest goals; Peter Crouch is the tallest player in English international football history (get away); oh yes, and David Beckham has reacted with great dignity to his demotion to the bench (he's probably just relieved to be associated with a half-decent side for a change).
Champion, in fact, is a perfectly good commentator, a satellite version of Clive Tyldesley. In the studio, however, Steve McManaman, Sam Allardyce and Terry Venables are up to the usual standard of TV football punditry: which is to say that, like Sybil Fawlty, they've all got degrees in the bleedin' obvious.
It's the same on ITV1, with Andy Townsend, Tony Adams and Graeme Le Saux, the poor man's Hansen, Lawro and Shearer. "Wayne needs to be playing with us," said Adams, in case we're all terminally stupid and hadn't noticed. "Gerrard and Lampard both like to break forward," reported Le Saux from somewhere far beyond the boundaries of Insight City. And none of them, not even "Tactics Truck" Townsend, mentioned that one of the big second-half changes was Steven Gerrard being told to cut off the supply line from Alex Kulchy (Waddle was on to it straight away).
It's a nice touch, by ITV, however, having "Bitter Sweet Symphony" as their theme tune, though watching England until the last few weeks has tended to be more bitter than sweet, more "Road to Nowhere" than "We are the Champions". And a big hand, too, to the Belarus mascots. They showed the watching world that the future of the mullet is secure.
Versatile Stelling the man to count on
When Richard Whiteley died, Des Lynam took over on Countdown, though he didn't last. One of the candidates was Jeff Stelling, Lord of Soccer Saturday and peerless in his realm. Disgraceful. The makers can now put that right with Des O'Connor giving up. Stelling should be a shoo-in. He could do anything, from Newsnight to Blue Peter. From Paxman to Purves, Stelling's your man.
Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts
Follow the latest updates from the Monday night Premier League fixture
Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and no-one was arrested
George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios
Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?
Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets
Concerns raised phenomenon is threatening resort's image as a family destination
I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title
Peter Biaksangzuala died from his injuries in hospital on Sunday
Latest in Sport
'Adel Taarabt is about three stone overweight. I can't pick him' - Harry Redknapp
Indian footballer Peter Biaksangzuala dies after injuring spine doing somersault celebration
QPR vs Liverpool match report: Liverpool snatch victory in seven late minutes of madness
West Ham manager Sam Allardyce calm over lack of new contract
QPR vs Liverpool player ratings: Who was the star man? And did Mario Balotelli emerge with any credit?
- 1 Indian footballer Peter Biaksangzuala dies after injuring spine doing somersault celebration
- 3 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 5 Lynda Bellingham dead: Loose Women presenter dies after battle with colon cancer
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'