Robin Scott-Elliot: With a song and a dancing goal, Villa left legacy money can't buy

View From The Sofa: From Pampas to The Lane/Superagents, ESPN CLASSIC/BBC 2
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The Independent Football

The next time you catch Ricky Villa's trademark goal for Spurs in the 1981 Cup final, ignore the Argentine's slalom run and instead concentrate on Garth Crooks. As Villa jinks through the Manchester City box, Crooks remains rooted to the spot as if hypnotised by Villa's busy feet. While team-mates and opponents dart around, Crooks stands rock still. Then, as Villa creates the opening for a shot, Crooks jerks his right foot as if saying, "Now, Ricky, my son". Ricky does as bidden and sets off in celebration, whereupon Crooks comes alive and tears off after him displaying a turn of pace that will stun those used to his interminable questioning of England managers.



It's a touchingly human moment in what was for many of the players on the Wembley pitch the highpoint of their careers. "It was even better than winning the World Cup," asserted Villa in an enchanting but brief documentary charting his and Ossie Ardiles' time at Tottingham.

In 1978 they were World Cup winners and ready to join one of Europe's great clubs. Instead up popped Keith Burkinshaw in Buenos Aires - tipped off by an Argentine coach working for Sheffield United - and next thing they knew they were on the Seven Sisters Road. "We knew virtually nothing about English football apart from Manchester and Liverpool," said Villa. "Tottingham"; it was pretty much the first time we'd heard of it."

In the build-up to the big day Spurs recorded the Cup final song, one made seminal by Ossie's solo line. Ardiles hadn't been so keen beforehand; a few beers later - "They fitted in so well," mused Steve Perryman - and his inhibitions were gone. Has there ever been a more universally liked foreigner in the English game than Ardiles?

At less than half an hour this was far too short to do justice to one of English football's more remarkable tales - just as 30 minutes was far too long for the latest addition to the reality genre. Superagents went out at the same time as Football Focus and Aston Villa v Chelsea which comes across as a clumsy bit of scheduling. On a Saturday afternoon any yoof, the programme's target audience, with an interest in sport is, hopefully, watching the real thing on telly or out on the playing fields of Britain preparing to win the next Waterloo, or Champions League as it's now called.

But then this is not a programme about sport, and to borrow again from the Iron Duke - the Alex Ferguson of his day - it's time to put the boot in. It's a wannabe Apprentice except it's cheap, rubbish, dull and depressing. There are the shots of London, except they obviously couldn't afford to borrow the Apprentice's helicopter, and there are the desperate, nasty candidates, except they don't seem that desperate and they are not that nasty, although there's always Ashley.

Ashley wants to be an agent because he desires "flashy clothes and haircuts - all the nice things in life". "You need to be trustworthy and honourable," says Tahli Grobelaar, displaying the chutzpah expected in a daughter of Bruce. She is the "commercial and lifestyle director" of a new sports agency offering a job to the winner. She must be rubbing her trustworthy hands over the free publicity provided by the BBC.

Whoever commissioned this crass piece of television should be locked in a dressing room with Ferguson and a hairdryer - perhaps Ashley could lend his. Give me Crooks, Villa and Ardiles (and my rose-tinted glasses) any day. Here's Villa summing up his time in the UK, a stay that spanned the Falklands War. "Friendship is an asset that bears no comparison with money. It's something intimate, personal and very gratifying over time." Go on, Ricky, my son.

Silence still speaks volumes for Benaud

One more Australian season is all we have left of Richie "Deus" Benaud in the commentary box. He is a television great, but is often wasted Down Under as Channel 9's irritating habit of using three commentators at once renders Benaud's mastery of when to say nothing redundant.

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