Sport on TV: Forty years of hurt never had Sir Alf allowing swimming

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The Independent Football

The BBC weighed in this week with a late but two-barrelled assault. The six-part World Cup Stories (BBC2, Sunday) kicked off with England, while one of our greatest heroes got his own tribute in the feature-length Bobby Moore (BBC2, Saturday).

World Cup Stories covered such familiar territory it was always going to be a struggle to avoid dull retreads. Solution? Make sure you've got an interview slot with Jack Charlton booked.

The big man was predictably good value, especially on the metronomic relaxation regime imposed by Sir Alf Ramsey at the Mexico World Cup.

"We weren't allowed to swim," he said, and delivered a bang-on Alf impersonation: "'No, no, we don't go swimming. Swimming's bad for football.' We could lie in the sun for 15 minutes. After seven and a half minutes one of the docs would blow his whistle and we would turn over." He cackled anew at the memory. "We'd turn over, and then he'd blow his whistle again and we could dive into the pool. But we weren't allowed to swim up and down the pool. We could splash about and enjoy the water but we couldn't swim in it."

Even brother Bobby had a good line - though the humour was probably unintentional - talking about the murderous heat of the 1970 quarter-final in Leon. "It was hard for me," he said. "I had no hair."

Bobby Moore had some good talkers, too, the star being Rob Jenkins, West Ham's physio in the 1960s. He was good on the sides of Moore you never hear about. "He was in coats, manufacture of leather coats," Jenkins said with a rueful smile. "I know 'cause I bought one off him."

Moore's friend, Jimmy Tarbuck, described him as "the worst businessman in the world, listening to the wrong people." There was a disastrous country club venture that ended with a mysterious fire, and Moore was blackballed by his local golf club, Chigwell, because of the dubious company he was fond of keeping.

"Bobby wasn't a criminal himself," Jenkins laughed. "But he was friends with lots of them - or they were friends with him. That's what I know, anyway. I'll probably wake up with a fucking bullet in my head."

Which is how the parties responsible for All In The Game (Channel 4, Thursday) would end up if TV critics were armed.

The story of a Premiership manager on the take and cracking up as the club he loves slides towards the Championship, it was utterly dominated by Ray Winstone as said gaffer, Frankie. His performance started out as demonic and gradually upped hysteria levels to screaming point (for the viewer, that is).

It desperately wanted to be brutal, grimly realistic. Grim it was, and this viewer, for one, felt thoroughly brutalised. What an unrelentingly joyless game it made football out to be. It's one thing fictionalising the bad stuff we all know goes on. But not once was there a hint of why football means so much to huge swathes of the world's population. Just one scene that hinted at the beauty and joy of football, would have lightened the ordeal.

And as for the fackin' dialogue, it was fackin' risible, my son. Fackin' full of every Cockerney bruiser/geezer cliché in the fackin' book. There were two decent lines: Frankie prefaced calling the chairman a Roger Hunt (my use of rhyming slang, not his) with "I don't often use this word" - which, given the previous 90 minutes, was fackin' hilarious. And shortly before that he saw the director of football coming out of the dressing room, and bawled, "You're always lurking - like a fackin' lurker!"

I'm not sure how Frankie would have reacted at losing the Uefa Cup final 4-0. Blown somebody's fackin' head off, probably. In fact there may have been some confusion for viewers on Wednesday evening. On BBC2: Eating With... Malcolm McLaren. Simultaneously on ITV1, Beating... Steve McClaren.

Can I be the first to point out the fact that Middlesbrough took a Sevilla mauling? Thanks. And can I also point out a great "literally" after the game? According to Andy Townsend, Theo Walcott "has literally got the whole nation on his shoulders". It's just a fackin' good thing he's not got Frankie looking after him.