The Last Word: A dummy run for football's very own reality TV
Last Sunday, in our sister newspaper, Hugh Godwin broke the news that BT plans to introduce an “access-all-areas” revolution to its coverage of rugby union. Training ground and dressing-room confidences will be shared with viewers, and measured by studio experts against the match-day realities.
Today we can disclose that a similar experiment is already under way in football. The following excerpts have been obtained from a "dummy run" filmed through the past week.
White Hart Lane
Away dressing room
"Don't mind the camera, boys. It's just an experiment the new TV people are doing. Nobody will see it."
"Are you really going to wear that hat, guvnor?"
"Today it's all about the flanks. It's about their wide men. I'm talking about Bale, I'm talking about Lennon, and I'm talking about Beck."
"I thought he was going to China."
"I need you doubling up on the Welsh boy. I need you showing Lennon inside. Beck you leave to me."
Studio trial voice-over, post-match:
"And you'll see here, after the flag goes up, what has set the man apart for the past quarter of a century. The flap of the arms, like an affronted pheasant. The mastication, it's magnificent. 'I'm chewing faster on this gum, sonny, because I need to move on to your head!' And now we cut to his interview. This upstart foreign coach has just done a Fergie on Fergie. Taken two points off him with the last kick. And he's mad because he knows that Carrick and Jones did their job, on Bale and Lennon. And that the game plan has actually foundered on his own failure to deal with Simon Beck. That's why we don't hear anything about Tottenham's 22 shots against their seven. It's all about the linesman. That's the Ferguson way – taking responsibility, being accountable for your mistakes. No wonder they all revere him."
Southampton training ground
Two jogging players are murmuring so that Mauricio Pochettino, hands under his armpits in the snowy background, cannot hear. But they have been wired up for the broadcast of tonight's game.
"What's this bloke ever done in his career?"
"Never been Scunthorpe physio, has he?"
"Yeah, but he wasn't good enough for Espanyol, was he? Bottom of the table when they got rid."
"Longest-serving manager in La Liga at the time… A broke club, cashing in any decent players, still finishing 11th, eighth, 13th? You're not going to get any 4-4-2 with this lad."
"Hmm. Maybe. Still, very tough on Nige. Typical, that message he left us. 'Keep smiling.' Typical Nige."
"Sure was. And good to see Gaston taking the advice to heart. Can't take the grin off his face."
Villa Park. Home dressing room
Paul Lambert is pointing to a whiteboard.
"Right, lads. We all know what went wrong at their place. So I have a plan."
"Does it involve bringing Martin Laursen out of retirement? Or just wheeling Richard Dunne out of hip surgery at half-time?"
"We all know we can't defend corners. So we're not going to concede any. Simples. Think about it. Where are you most likely to give away a corner? In the box. Any time the ball is in the area, I don't want to see any messing around. Row Z, or give the pen. Shay's a great shot-stopper. Crosses, on the other hand…"
"True enough, boss… That's why we call him The Vampire."
Chelsea team coach, the M4
John Terry is counselling Oscar and Eden Hazard in their responsibilities against Swansea.
Terry: "Got that? De Guzman. We have to track him, he's key."
Oscar: "De Guzman no Ki, JT. Ki is Ki."
Hazard: "Qui est Ki?"
Terry: "No, no, no. Forget Ki. Well, no, don't forget him. But I'm talking about De Guzman. You must track his runs. You know the guy? Just had most of his hair cut off."
Oscar: "Bald guy?"
Terry: "No. Young guy. He has hair, it's just shorter now."
Hazard: "Is young. Is boy."
Terry: "Fine, whatever. Bald. Boy. Just make sure you go in hard."
Hazard is seen frowning, mouthing the words to himself.
From Thursday and Friday
Still in the edit suite
Steven Taylor discusses Proust with his new French team-mates at Newcastle United. Roberto Mancini telephones Silvio Berlusconi and offers to alter terms for Mario Balotelli, from euros to lire. And Roman Abramovich rings Pep Guardiola and tells him the least he could do is explain one more time exactly what he is supposed to do with "a false nine" – because he thinks he might inadvertently have bought one for £50m.
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