Sport on TV: Le banter and les beans win over French foreign legion

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The Independent Football

It's a moot point whether our dislike for the French is exceeded by theirs for us. Gooners might adore their Gallic contingent, and Eric Cantona was famously voted the best Manchester United player of all time ahead of a certain Belfast boy. But by and large, holiday homes and a few fetching actresses notwithstanding, we don't like them and ils ne nous aiment pas. "Don't let's be beastly to the Germans", Noel Coward sang. He didn't say anything about the French.

Still, 70 footballers have overcome their own xenophobia in order to brave ours, and French Exchange (BBC4, Wednesday) tracked one of them as he attempted to combine sport with cycling round the country in a stripy sweater selling onions.

Having spent a productive (and much-loved) few years as one of the prime movers in Plymouth Argyle's upward trajectory, David Friio is now a squad player at Nottingham Forest, where the manager, Gary Megson, sang his praises as an attacking midfielder. "At times he may be a little bit too intense," Megson said. "He just needs to loosen up a little bit." He giggled. "It's these French people, you see - they're not relaxed like us."

Friio came towards him. "Parlez-vous avec le telly," Megson ordered. "Bit of French as well for you there, you see," he told the interviewer. "That's another reason why we brought him in - my French is impeccable."

Friio likes the football here, he said, and when he goes home, "I will miss the banter in the dressing-room". Cut to said dressing-room, and his ethereally witty team-mate Danny Cullip. "You got to stop using that garlic toothpaste," the no-nonsense defender told Friio. "It's no good for you." Then, more pointedly: "Any danger of you pulling your finger out or what? You scored plenty of goals for Plymouth and you ain't scored anything for us." Friio laughed sheepishly.

Though he'll go home when his two-year deal is up - to be an agent recruiting his compatriots to play here - part of him will be forever English. "I said I would never eat beans on toast," he told his old Plymouth team-mate, Romain Larrieu. "I did not know it was possible. And now? It's good." What've you got to say to that, Egon Ronay?

The programme concluded that, mostly, the French come here to take advantage of opportunities not available to them there, then they go back home. Pas de merdre, Sherlock!

As you can see, apart from the cricket, which I can't keep writing about, it's been a quiet week. Which is why I found myself gripped, kind of, by Round Three of the British Quad Bike Championships (Sky Sports 2, Wednesday), racing at Workington on a peat bed made boggy by rain.

If nothing else, it demonstrated that there are some universal verities in sport. Quad-bike racing has the bloke who wins everything, Paul Winrow - "he's a robot!" - and John Mitchell, "who's been the bridesmaid for far too long"; plus the plucky northern lad who's always there or thereabouts, Ricky Tordoff.

If the cast of character types looks familiar, so does the narrative arc. Race One: Winrow took the lead at the first bend and kept it. Mitchell was second, despite having to use a standard engine (more hard-luck stories for the lad from Stornaway!). And Tordoff was there or thereabouts.

Race Two, and first to the corner was ... Paul Winrow! There was a charge from Jason Macbeth (doing it all for his very ambitious girlfriend), and he came third (Wayne Hamlet was last, unable to decide on tactics).

The Race Three start was a cliffhanger. For about 0.7sec. "Let's see who gets the all-important start!" the commentator roared. "On the outside Leon Bagel [that's what it sounded like] has a chance to take the lead!" [Pause] "But it's Winrow!"

Winrow held on for his third win in a row (crazy name...), with Mitchell, who's been the bridesmaid for far too long, in second. Macbeth was nowhere, having become embroiled in a tragic spat with Darren MacDuff.

As for Wayne Hamlet, he was last seen quad-biking it back to Denmark.

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