Robin Scott-Elliot: Ferguson is a rare ray of sunshine amid Scottish gloom

View From The Sofa: Match of the Day/Final Score/Rugby World Cup, BBC/ITV
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The Independent Online

For a Scot, a heatwave in October is more confusing than the West Lothian question, although not quite as muddling as the headline sequence on BBC's Final Score. Forcing us to scramble for the factor 50 when we should be happily unrolling the woollen undies is fiddling with our minds. As Sir Alex Ferguson nearly said, heatwaves – bloody hot.

Ferguson, as is Fergie's wont, was the exception that proved he writes the rules on Saturday. On Match of the Day there was a procession of grumbling Scottish managers, slightly red-faced from leaping around in the sun; Paul Lambert on missed chances, David Moyes on referees and red cards and, best of all, the victorious Kenny Dalglish on the line of questioning. "It's a figment of your imagination," he said in reply to a query about Andy Carroll, or "Big Yin" as Dalglish calls him. If you draw a messy perm and a purple goatee on to your Panini sticker of the lumbering Geordie, you can see why.

Ferguson though couldn't have looked perkier when he made what still has the air of a novelty appearance on MOTD. John Motson was making almost as rare an appearance as questioner – Motty normally has a flunky to ask the questions – and the veterans joshed amiably over who would retire first.

It was the 40th anniversary of Motson's BBC debut and he remains in perky form, still able to get over-excited when someone wins a corner, the voice rising to an unexpected pitch. After Anders Lindegaard made one save, Motson noted: "He did say he hasn't come here to pick his nose," although given the size of goalkeepers' gloves these days, nose-picking was never an option for the Dane.

There were more grumbling Scots on ITV. "The boys in blue have been here again," rued Scott Hastings at the end in Auckland and you knew what he meant. It was the night of the long sighs for Scotland as they blew a second match in succession, but at least they did not have to cancel the coach (as in bus rather than Andy Robinson) booked to take them to the airport the next day, thereby saving any possible lost deposit.

Scotland's exit schedule was a tit-bit passed on by Nick Mullins, who continues to have a better tournament than either of the old enemy. He also revealed players from both sides had done their present shopping just in case, which shows the level of optimism coursing through both camps.

How many times does it take England failing to hit their stride for someone to suggest they might not have a stride to hit? They are the power walkers of international rugby – it gets them there eventually but who can be bothered to watch week after week of it? There was, though, a crushing tension to the match to give viewers something to cling on to. "Absolutely loved it," said Hastings' co-co-commentator Phil Vickery – ITV's ploy of having a Scot and an Englishman alongside Mullins worked well – and in a muddy way he had a point. "Ugly but epic," suggested Mullins, which felt right at the time if less so now.

Mullins' summary works as a headline, which is something Final Score, seeking to ape their superior rivals on Sky, could never be accused of. The pick of Saturday's stream of unconsciousness at full-time was this for Sunderland's draw with West Brom: "St Elmer fires Brucie's bonus." Nonsense.

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