Sport on TV: Coddled Delia, caustic Kev and vacuous Vinnie

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The Independent Online
THE JOHN INVERDALE experience is not to everyone's taste but you have to hand it to him, he gets the big names. And this week he had the ultimate biggie, the interview which the Glendas on the middle-market tabloids would give up their next two facelifts to secure. Forget the first guest up, Kev something (he manages England, apparently). He did not even figure next to the star attraction on On Side (BBC1) which was Delia Smith, football fan, major shareholder in Norwich City, and part- time egg-boiler.

Delia gives interviews almost as often as Norwich win the Cup, which must mean that the prospect of being tackled by Inverdale was either too significant to refuse, or too comfy to pass up. The bookies make option two the firm favourite, although Delia did not like being reminded of her estimated worth in the latest Rich List. Twenty-four million pounds they reckon which, as Inverdale helpfully pointed out, could have taken Nicolas Anelka to Carrow Road with maybe a bit left over for his first week's salary.

"We really need a striker," she said, which is probably not what Iwan Roberts was waiting to hear. "If I had pounds 24m we might get one, but it's fiction. I don't know where they get it from." Which, by the by, is pretty much what everyone else says when they try to get hold of the latest exotic root vegetable Delia is turning into soup.

The observation that Dion Dublin, a fellow guest, had slipped through the Canaries' grasp did not slip down too smoothly either. And then there was a rather shifty answer when Inverdale asked if she ever told Bruce Rioch that "I don't think you ought to be playing him".

"No, but I do say, `why aren't you playing him?'," Delia replied. Beside her on the sofa Kevin Keegan and Dion Dublin seemed to wince at the thought of yet another director sticking in an oar or, in this case, a balloon whisk. "I'm a fan first and foremost," she went on. "I happen to be a director and major shareholder, but number one I'm a fan. Fans have their opinions, sometimes they're not always technically right, but I have said sometimes, `are you going to play such-and-such?' "

This is, of course, exactly what we would all do if our team needed us like Norwich need Delia, and she probably cares more about the success of the side than any of the paid employees. But it would still be fascinating to see Delia's reaction if Rioch were to appear at the French windows the next time she is cooking, and tell her to go easy on the flour.

Keegan got a little ratty, too, when it was suggested that he had said he would stay with Fulham "for the rest of your life". "No, hold on, let's correct that," he said, waggling a finger as people tend to do when their rag has been got. "I said I wanted to honour my contract. My contract was three years and I had a year left. Get it right."

The precise details of his Fulham contract are not important. The real point is that this edginess was a running feature of the interview. Keegan looked as if he expected a toothsome predator to leap out from behind every question, even though Inverdale's approach is about as veggie as could be. Paranoia - it seems to get all the England managers in the end. In fact, it seems to get them all in less than three months.

One of the more poignant moments of the week was Bob Wilson's appearance as anchorman on ITV's coverage of Chelsea in the Champions' League qualifier. Des will probably duck the return leg too, now that Chelsea are as good as through, but after that, presumably, it will be bye bye Bob.

So what, you have to wonder, will happen to him then? Will ITV release him on a free, or will they try to get some money for him? If an offer comes in from, say, a minor cable station in southern Italy, should he go immediately, or see out the season with his current side and hope to do much better under Bosman? Or will he find himself marooned in the reserves, with just the occasional run out on a local news bulletin?

There are no such worries about the future for Vinnie Jones, which makes you wonder why he felt the need to do Star Secrets (BBC1). This, in case you are lucky enough to have missed it, is the show which brings minor celebrities into contact with a stranger from their past who knows their "secret", although sadly, this never seems to be that "I knew all along you were carrying on with 'er at No 49".

Vinnie's stranger was an old man called Jimmy. It turned out that at the age of six, Jones had stolen Jimmy's herd of cows and parked them in a field by his house. This bombshell having been duly dropped, Vinnie tried to lasso a pantomime cow.

And that was that: early-evening, public service broadcasting in the late 20th Century. Please feel free to weep.