Young pup and old hound get collared by Derby's Afghan

Football Focus, BBC1
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The Independent Online

World Cup year is always a relief for BBC Sport as it means they don't have to worry about who is going to take Dan Walker home for the holidays. It was Alan Shearer's turn last summer but that ended badly after an incident with a freshly creosoted fence, and so Walker spent most of the close season in kennels.

Saturday, as Guy Mowbray pointed out, was 27 days since the World Cup final and it was back to the grind of domestic duty with the first day of the Championship and trying to sound excited about Doncaster. Fortunately Walker, equipped with the presenting style of a Blue Peter labrador who has just swallowed a double scoop of chocolate ice cream, could be enthusiastic about walkies around a Leeds housing estate as long as there were things to sniff. Which was just as well as Football Focus opened the new season by going on the road, to a housing estate around Elland Road.

"It's a dog-eat-dog league," said the old hound Lawrenson, stirring himself from his favourite spot beside the fire and scratching carefully behind one ear. He was talking about the Championship and the opinion of everyone canvassed by Focus was that it will be the most competitive division ever in the history of competition since Adam first said to the serpent, "Come on, race you to that apple tree." Which was code for all the teams are a bit rubbish and we're just filling time before the Premier League starts next weekend and we can catch up with all our World Cup flops.

The programme featured a bizarre, in fact unsettling, trailer for the "Best League in the World (never mind what went on in South Africa)", which involved a frightened-looking man in a Chelsea top being stalked through a wood by a posse of men dressed in other football tops. No wonder Ashley Cole wants to move to Madrid.

Robbie Savage, who, as we're on a canine theme, is turning into an Afghan Hound (google them), is obviously angling for a place on the Focus sofa when he stops snapping at people's heels on the pitch. Focus gave him a camera so that "one of football's most colourful characters" could fill us in on his week.

"I'm one of the biggest jokers in the dressing room," barked Robbie as he filmed in the Derby dressing room. "Hey James," he said and pointed the camera at one of his team-mates. "Those teeth are like Shergar's," observed Robbie. "Whoever he is," shot back James.

Back at Elland Road, Walker – after gambolling happily around the ground and pointing out the corner where the managers would be interviewed after the game – cornered a couple of members of Kaiser Chiefs, who were then heckled by an off-camera Lawro.

Perhaps the longest serving member of the Focus pack feels threatened by all this young blood. He shouldn't – as any cricket TV or radio producer knows there is always a place for the Trueman show, the grumpy elder statesman, and as cricket is the best covered sport on TV, football should take note. Besides, Lawrenson provided this column's highlight of the World Cup by panting on all fours up Spion Kop to tell the story of the Boer War battle and how the name ended up attached to Anfield.

Lawro did a grand job, but what made the film was that you could almost hear the voice in his head constantly reminding him to be serious and not, no matter the habitual urgings of a career of hit-and-miss one-liners, make one of his characteristic quips about copping it.

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