Steve Ryder must know how Jimmy Greaves feels. There he was happily playing up front for ITV, leading the line-up, playing in all the friendlies, fit and firing and looking forward to a starring role in the World Cup.
Then, with just two warm-up matches to go before the tournament proper gets going, Ryder opens the changing-room door, heads for his favourite corner and there's Adrian Chiles slumped in his spot, tracksuit top hanging on his peg. Ryder looks at the teamsheet pinned on the wall and, sure enough, he's not on it. Chiles is the new No 1. His shot at World Cup glory gone.
At least Greaves could point to an injury that so famously cleared the way for Geoff Hurst in 1966. Ryder, although no young dasher any more, was probably feeling as flexible as ever and would doubtless have backed himself to beat Chiles, who never looks in the best of shape, over a 100 metres dash. (Maybe ITV could set that up?) But such is life in international football. When the gaffer's made his mind up...
So, with Ryder elbowed to the dug-out, Chiles made his debut on Monday night as England took on Mexico at Wembley and then followed it up with yesterday's Japan match from Austria. And, as Steve had probably feared, he did a fine job, apart from the odd misplaced pass, in his understated way we're so used to from his Match of the Day Two days.
Although it can obviously do nothing about the Chiles slouch, ITV has tried to tidy him up. The slightly crumpled shirt from MOTD2 has been thrown into the corner of the bedroom and replaced by an ironed one with tie and jacket, although somehow Chiles still looks uncomfortable with his top button done up. But the low-key demeanour remains. Happily, and maybe deliberately, it seems to mirror the Fabio Capello-engendered mood of the England players who normally, about this time before a World Cup, are talking of winning the thing and whipping the nation's St George's flag wavers into a frenzy.
If only Peter Drury in the commentary box could be similarly calm. England had barely been swamped by the first Mexican wave before he was talking of Capello's boys lifting the trophy. With Andy Townsend at his side they make a slightly uncomfortable pair. It feels a bit like ITV's version of playing Emile Heskey and Wayne Rooney up front – it worked in qualifying so stick with it.
Townsend, though, does have a marvellous ability to mix his past and present tenses, which is not easy if you try it yourself. "Ledley King too easy got beat there as well," was just one example from Monday.
The pair also let themselves down when Mexico scored (so they know how Leighton Baines feels). It was obviously a goal but seemed to dumbfound the commentary box boys. Mind you, Guillermo Franco notched, which, as West Ham fans would attest, is a rare sight so maybe that explains the confusion.
Drury: "Marquez... off the line... and again. Leighton Baines."
A long delay. Townsend:
"He's give it." (There he goes again with his tense thing).
Drury: "He's given a goal. From Franco. Well, this is a tight, tight call. [No it's not, Peter, it's clearly gone in.] Leighton Baines was the man on the line, Guillermo Franco of West Ham is claiming it... [He's claiming it because he's scored it, Peter]."
Drury and Townsend want to be careful. As Ryder and Greaves will tell them, it doesn't take much for your parking spot to be handed to another.Reuse content