Robin Scott-Elliot: Colossus' bare-faced cheek helps ubiquitous Stelling to live large
View From The Sofa: Time of our lives: Shankly years, Sky Sports 1, Sunday
Monday 12 January 2009
During the official Fifa film of the 1974 World Cup the narrator explores the reasons behind Gerd Müller's success in front of goal. "Das Bomber", he opined, was ubiquitous and blessed with a low centre of gravity, two elements that apparently combined to create a goal-poacher extraordinaire. Which is not good news if you're Peter Crouch, whose centre of gravity hovers somewhere above the north stand at Fratton Park. If the Müller formula were to be applied today, the standout target this transfer window has to be Verne Troyer. Mini-me is all over the papers and television and as centres of gravity go, well, you do the maths.
Jeff Stelling's centre of gravity is unknown, but when it comes to ubiquity this is a man who is here, there and everywhere and, from this afternoon, on Countdown too, although he will not have to do the maths.
In the build-up to his debut on Channel 4 this afternoon, Stelling has not been taking it easy. Last week he was on Carling Cup duty as well as the usual Saturday afternoon stint, having kicked it off by hosting the Time of Our Lives, the first of a new series that relives great sides from the long forgotten depths of footballing history, ie before the Premier League.
The programme is something of a departure for Sky, although they did use their usual pretend room for a studio that featured an imitation imitation fire. The set was supposed to resemble a fashionable high-rise apartment, with a night-time cityscape background and a table that looked like breakfast had still to be cleared, but then Jeff is such a busy man.
It consists of our host and three players sitting around chatting about the old days. Over the hour it did not feature a single goal or second of archive footage. That may be to do with rights, but it did take something away from what was otherwise an enjoyable ramble through the Shankly years at Anfield. Ron Yeats, Ian St John and Chris Lawler were the guests and the lack of footage of them in their playing days was the elephant in the room. Or that might have just been Yeats, the man Shankly branded the "Colossus".
Soon after the amiable Scot first arrived in Liverpool, Shankly ushered a dozen reporters into the shower to see the Colossus with their own eyes. "I had nothing on," said Yeats, eyes twinkling as St John and Lawler fell about. Anecdote after anecdote followed, all obviously repeated time after time down the years and now well polished. Stelling needed to do little other than dangle the occasional carrot before they were off again.
In 1965 Liverpool won the FA Cup for the first time. It was the start of an extraordinary time for Lawler.
They returned to the city the following day to be greeted by thousands; on the Monday Lawler trained in the morning, got married in the afternoon, cut the cake and then jumped into a taxi which took him to Blackpool to join the rest of the team; on Tuesday he played in the European Cup semi-final against Internazionale, a 3-1 victory on one of the greatest nights Anfield has witnessed.
It was a week rich in nostalgia. On Wednesday it was off to Derby, in the company of Stelling of course, and the return of the Cloughs.
As a manager, Nigel will never escape his father's shadow, but, from the easy manner in which he handled the inevitable questions, that did not seem a problem to him.
He looked comfortable with his surroundings. Perhaps he's had lessons from the constant Stelling. Or should that be consonant?
Hit and giggle seems finger-licking good
Twenty20 cricket is the most lung-busting version of the game, which makes the fact that Australia, who beat South Africa yesterday, play it in shirts bearing the logo of a fast-food company that specialises in buckets somewhat disconcerting.
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