Sport on TV; Flamboyant Fergie eclipses Ilie's odyssey

THE BBC has a great deal riding on the broad shoulders of John Inverdale, and you need only look at the colour of Desmond Lynam's hair to see why. It did not get that grey merely as the result of decades spent supporting Brighton and Hove Albion (although that, undoubtedly, has played its part), and as if to underline the point, he has even taken to wearing specs during Match of the Day.

Many will agree that Des is irreplaceable, but one day the Beeb will at least have to try, and Inverdale is by some distance their most promising candidate.

The hunt for the next great communicator is all the more important given that, if current trends persist, talking about sport will soon be all that the terrestrial channels can manage. Last week, for instance, while Sky offered top-of-the-table Premiership football and the latest Test match from the West Indies, their competitors - if that is the word - were all talk. On Side (BBC1), the chat show which Des apparently turned down before Inverdale got the nod, was back for a second run, while over on Carlton, Eamonn Holmes and Will Carling plugged on gamely in The Sports Show. Inverdale was the winner, but only on points.

As anyone who ever listened to his drivetime slot on Radio Five Live will testify, the host of On Side is a rare broadcasting talent, with the ability to switch from grave affairs of state to, say, lawnmower racing in Somerset without breaking stride. The breezy Five Live format suited him ideally, however, and the rather different demands of On Side, which is painfully desperate to be taken seriously, are not quite the same snug fit.

On paper, Monday's opening show had the makings of a half-decent group- therapy session, and not just because Paul Merson was at the top of the guest list. First up, after all, was Ilie Nastase - "Hello, my name is Ilie. I am full of anger" - but it did not quite work out that way, since the older Nastase is relaxed to the point of meditative torpor. He seemed a little miffed, it's true, that his campaign to become mayor of Bucharest had floundered, but then, he had made the crucial mistake of accepting the endorsement of Sting. The long-suffering citizens of Romania, clearly, are just as reluctant as everyone else to forgive him for his post-Police career.

Still, it was worth having Nastase on if only for the brief clip of his Wimbledon final with Stan Smith, which must have mystified younger viewers no end. "What are the funny men doing, Daddy?" countless parents will have been asked. "It's called having a rally, dear. Used to be quite popular once upon a long time ago."

Inverdale's main problem was that, for one reason or another, most of his guests could hardly be described as natural interviewees, including Merson, who has simply done so many that he now trots out the answers on auto-pilot. It was also a little unfair to ask Merson to open the programme trying to look relaxed while standing alone at a bar with a glass of mineral water. This is difficult enough for anyone to carry off but particularly so, you suspect, for him.

In the end, though, Inverdale was the one who really deserved better - someone, for example, like Alex Ferguson, who was on the other side later in the week with Holmes and Carling, and doing wonders for his image in the process. Post-match interviews tend to portray him as a sour-faced whinger (unless, of course, United have lost, in which case you probably won't see him at all). Yet here he was all smiles, and thoughtful, clever and entertaining too - in short, the perfect guest.

The questions were not bad either, although it has to be said that most of the best ones arrived from the audience. Fergie took it all in exceptionally good humour, even the deeply embarrassing interruptions of Shane Richie, whose qualifications to take an active part in a sporting debate are about as credible as ... well, a Daz commercial. Still, his presence did at least show a little imagination on the part of the producers.

Most talk shows have an irritating prat in the audience, but here they had one on the panel instead.

Less amused by the proceedings was Ramon Vega, who must have drawn a very short straw indeed in the White Hart Lane dressing-room to find himself thrust before a deeply sceptical crowd, attempting to explain the goings- on at Tottenham. You could only admire him for trying, and Holmes deserves some credit too, for managing to resist making the obvious comparison between the Spurs back four and a Swiss cheese.

Out on the field of play, meanwhile, the achievement of the week was undoubtedly Mark Ramprakash's century and a half in Barbados. This received the ultimate accolade from the Sky producers, who normally cut away to adverts before the umpire's index finger is even halfway vertical.

For Ramprakash, though, they kept the cameras rolling throughout the weary trudge back to the pavilion, meaning that he not only saved the game for England, but picked Rupert Murdoch's pocket too. Bear that in mind when it comes to the vote for the Sports Personality of 1998.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager - Events, Digital, Offline

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: B2B Marketing Manager (Events, Digit...

Day In a Page

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?
Season's finale brings the end of an era for top coaches and players across the continent

The end of an era across the continent

It's time to say farewell to Klopp, Clement, Casillas and Xavi this weekend as they move on to pastures new, reports Pete Jenson
Bin Laden documents released: Papers reveal his obsession with attacking the US and how his failure to keep up with modern jihad led to Isis

'Focus on killing American people'

Released Bin Laden documents reveal obsession with attacking United States
Life hacks: The innovations of volunteers and medical workers are helping Medécins Sans Frontières save people around the world

Medécins Sans Frontières's life hacks

The innovations of volunteers and medical workers around the world are helping the charity save people
Ireland's same-sex marriage vote: As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?

Same-sex marriage

As date looms, the Irish ask - how would God vote?
The underworld is going freelance: Why The Godfather's Mafia model is no longer viable

The Mafia is going freelance

Why the underworld model depicted in The Godfather is no longer viable