Robin Scott-Elliot: Doyle's sleight of hand no match for Sheringham's Lord Flashheart
View From The Sofa: FA Cup Live and Highlights, ITV1, Saturday
Monday 26 January 2009
ITV, By all accounts, had a stinker of a third round. By all accounts that is except here. On that Saturday night this column had abandoned its sofa and retired to bed with an improving book – "Stop it! I'm blushing: The Life of a Modest Man" by Silvio Berlusconi – so missing a highlights programme that was apparently as well thought through as Manchester City's transfer policy. Consequently this Saturday, in a display of commitment worthy of Craig "Commitment's my middle name" Bellamy, the sofa was manned from the moment Matt Smith welcomed viewers to Hartlepool until the time Craig "Jazz Hands" Doyle bade us a cheery good night at the close of the highlights.
ITV's titles revolve around a giant FA Cup being built in a green and pleasant land accompanied by "Abide With Me". Winston Churchill even pops up. In other words: you can trust us. Poor old ITV, no one likes them and they do care. At one stage the Cup is surrounded by scaffolding – an apt image for their coverage a cynic might suggest. But since President Obama outlawed cynicism, let's instead see a work in progress. The live games were as slickly covered, presented and commentated as befits a station that has long been home to the Champions League. A gold star to Peter "Brains" Drury for quoting Lord Nelson during the Hartlepool match, although he did struggle with his list of illustrious natives of the town – Peter Mandelson and Andy Capp is nobody's idea of an A-list. But then that's Hartlepool's fault, not Drury's. The game never came close to delivering the required upset, with the highlight – and one curiously lacking from the later highlights – being a camera picking out a young native displaying immense concentration as he tried to spit over the advertising hoardings. Great expectorations often end in disappointment. Old Trafford didn't deliver much of a game either – Tottenham were unable to grasp the idea that if the opposition have scored two and you one, then you lose – but there was always David Pleat and Teddy Sheringham's groin to act as distractions.
Sheringham slouched, legs confidently ajar, in his studio chair like a pundit version of Lord Flashheart from Blackadder. "Nice for you to see me – woof!" he almost said. Instead he offered: "I can't tell you how good that goal was." And he was right.
Pleat is a quirky gem. He insists on calling United Manchester – and probably would call them United Manchester if using their full title. The words don't always come out right but he knows his subject. Long before Paul Scholes equalised he was warning Hotspur Tottenham of the danger of the Manchester man lurking outside the box at corners. While Pleat's knowledge of football would fill several volumes (and be about as easy to read as Crime and Punishment – in Russian), Craig Doyle's might struggle to outlast a Christmas thank you letter to a distant aunt – you're happy to call it a day at the top of page two.
Doyle makes up for it with enthusiasm. What we wanted, he said, were upset applecarts, what we wanted was – it had to come – the magic of the Cup. And all the time his hands were on the move, creating his own magic. Robbie Earle, sitting opposite, struggled to avoid being hypnotised.
Meanwhile, on Channel 4 (Torquay v Coventry is a Pleatian anagram for channel hop now), Walsingham was telling Queen Elizabeth that "all men need something to look up to and worship". But then he'd never met Teddy Sheringham.
Droy fits Chelsea bottom line
For those of a certain age, ITV's The Big Match Revisited is compulsory viewing. Last week it featured Manchester City against Chelsea on a snow-covered Maine Road with an orange ball and Micky Droy at the heart of the visitors' defence. Has football ever seen a larger behind than that sported by Droy?
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