Robin Scott-Elliot: Savage's strange line of punditry is consumed by flames

The View From The Sofa: Premier League, ESPN/Sheepdog Trials, More 4
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The Independent Online

It's not easy to see the point of Robbie Savage. So perhaps it's better to acknowledge that here is a man who has made the utmost of what he has to consistently get to places ahead of those better able, although there is the hope that he will one day prove to be a British Joaquin Phoenix conducting a hirsute hoax at the expense of the punderati and those who select them.

Savage does have lovely hair and it must take an awful lot of grooming before he slips between the satin sheets in Savage Hall each night, hairnet carefully in place. The former midfield dymano has to be careful of his hair – without it he wouldn't be a character, as I am obliged to call him now he's to appear on the dancing programme. He's like Samson, only with a marginally better first touch.

Savage has become a ubiquitous member of the pundits union (the pooh as they're known in the business), promoted as a man never afraid to speak his mind. The flaw in the plan is that it requires a mind worth speaking, although that is probably why he is considered a hit as presenter of Radio 5 Live's football phone-in.

Back on the telly, on Saturday he suggested Nani was on fire against Stoke. It was a line he liked so much he used it again and it wasn't long before the flames spread. "He's on fire," agreed Ray Stubbs, although Kevin Keegan cautioned "he hadn't set the world on fire" in his first couple of seasons at Old Trafford. But in the end Keegan had to agree. "Like Robbie said, he's on fire," nodded the former England manager. Somewhere Alan Shearer, pooh's chief spokesperson, nodded sagely at his TV and made a note.

More 4 could not use Savage for their highlights of the World Sheepdog Championship in Cumbria as there was a concern the dogs would spend the entire time trying to shepherd him into a pen, or a man in sensible clothing and sturdy boots would try to shear the former Leicester City star. Which is a shame as it denied Savage the chance to say the word bitch justifiably and repeatedly on TV.

Instead that was left to the great Barry Davies, a commentator who is always meticulously researched so knew his bitches from his dogs and could tell his Belgium national champion from Serge van der Zweep, not a Dutch version of Shaun the Sheep but a genuine contender to take the Golden Whistle back home.

The presenters, one of whom had sideburns to make Savage look twice, were keen to sell the event as sport. It was given the full sports show treatment and rather more successfully so than Channel 4's recent athletic efforts. Davies had a co-commentator, who remained nameless but produced such telling lines as "this bitch has got what I call quiet power" (is it wrong to snigger?). There was dogcam and there was graphic breakdown of how dog and sheep got from start to finish.

It offered a soothing antidote to the savage world. What's not to like about an enthusiastic professor from Swansea University (there's a joke in there somewhere about Welsh educational establishments and the study of sheep if you don't mind becoming the next Ann Robinson) sitting in a TV truck saying "let's analyse the movement of the sheep" and calculating the average speed of the sheep to be 2mph?

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