Sport on TV: Bland ambitions of the boys with everything
Sunday 21 March 1999
Kinnock walked along a clifftop hand-in-hand with Glenys, pointing at seagulls. Beckham was surrounded by adoring children or - quite ludicrously - interviewed in soft focus with the sun turning his floppy hairdo into a halo, while Hansen sent down long-hops. "Do you think you were treated unfairly [after the World Cup]?" he probed daringly. "Personally, yeah," came the simpering reply.
It didn't work for Kinnock, and it didn't work for Beckham either. It's not that what he did to Argentina's Diego Simeone necessarily cost England the game, because we will never know, or even that it was incredibly stupid, although it was. After the bedlam in Marseilles last summer, some England fans can hardly jib when one of their players does something dimwitted.
But any team's supporters do have a right to expect professionalism at all times, and that little kick was the most unprofessional thing anyone in an England shirt has ever done. It was an insult to the efforts of 10 other players who had until then been a very fair match for Argentina.
Beckham said that Tony Adams "sat down with me and he was brilliant" when the team-mates he had let down so badly returned to the dressing- room. "I'll remember that, and I needed that at the time." Glenn Hoddle, on the other hand, "didn't speak to me after the game", something which both Hansen and Beckham seemed to find surprising. In fact, it simply says a great deal for the generosity of Adams, who will not, unlike Beckham, get another chance at the World Cup. You might think that since forgiveness is divine, the Christian in Hoddle would have insisted on a similar gesture, but for once he simply did what any normal person would have done.
Hansen, of course, was a model professional, so you have to wonder what he was doing getting involved in this project in the first place. Drowning would be the obvious answer, so alien was the concept of Football Millionaires to the Hansen way of doing things. Alan Hansen's Favourite Hardnut Defenders would have been a better idea, or Hansen's Top 10 Goalless Draws. Instead, he spent time with a series of young, fabulously wealthy men - Beckham, Michael Owen, David Ginola and Dwight Yorke among them - who track back about as often as they pay for their own drinks.
Most of them never talk to anyone except Hello! and OK! these days, so Football Millionaires decided to adopt the same tone. We joined David Ginola at a film premiere, and Michael Owen on the golf course and at his snooker club, while Jamie Redknapp, bless 'im, was going home with a takeaway to look after Louise, because her teeth were playing her up.
But what was that constant, annoying whine in the background? Ah yes, it was Alan, rubbing it in at every opportunity that they weren't paid daft money in his day. He started on pounds 12 a week up at Partick Thistle (and at the end of the show, we even got to see him mournfully kicking a ball against the same brick wall he kicked a ball against as a kid). His boot sponsorship was worth pounds 600 a year. Beckham gets pounds 600,000. "So what would be the difference between you and me?" Hansen asked him. "Different times?" Yes, Alan, different times. And the small matter of those 30-yard curlers into the top corner.
Football Millionaires was not entirely without its revealing moments. It was interesting, for instance, to find that while Manchester United's megastore makes them pounds 24m a year, they are apparently happy to let Dwight Yorke spend three months living in a single room in a hotel. They might at least have found him somewhere decent to rent. The wild extravagance of one of Stamford Bridge's three restaurants also came as something of a shock, although on reflection, Ken Bates has rarely come across as a disciple of minimalism.
But a few mild surprises hardly justifies the publicity push which Football Millionaires received (Hansen even turned up to talk about it on TFI Friday, 48 hours after it went out). All it revealed was that fabulously well paid and athletic young men will tend to drive big cars and date actresses and pop stars, which is not worth a penny of anyone's licence fee.
Had it been a team on Match of the Day, Hansen would have slated it for lack of ideas. "What the future holds for football, nobody knows," was his parting shot. "But one thing is certain. Wherever there are heroes, there will always be football." And wherever there is football, there will always be ten-a-penny documentaries.
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