Although Roy Hodgson was right to point out that many positives could be drawn from England’s startlingly impressive and unlucky defeat to Italy in Manaus, the England manager overlooked potentially the most important of them all. This was understandable. Stuck in a dugout 200 miles from the Equator as he necessarily was, Roy was spared the ordeal of the BBC’s coverage, and, specifically, the co-commentary of Philip Neville.
While there is a rebuttal to the received wisdom that Philip Neville is the worst pundit in the entire history of televised football (if that doesn’t unfairly limit his range), “have you not heard Andy Townsend over on ITV?” is no stronger a defence than England’s when leaving Mario Balotelli free to head the Italian winner. Our Phil analysed an electrifying game with half the vocal variety and emotional engagement of Stephen Hawking’s computerised voice.
Advocates of the Double Namer Theory, which contends that no good can emerge from those given the same name twice (Bobby Kennedy assassin Sirhan Sirhan, Lolita paedophile Humbert Humbert, etc), will not be surprised that this son of Neville Neville revealed himself to be a viciously soporific dullard.
Yet while it would be remarkable if even the complacency of BBC Sport extended to retaining him, he deserves a bright oratorical future. After her embarrassing squabble with Michael Gove over “Trojan Horse” schools in Birmingham, Theresa May will want to avoid further internecine skirmishing with Conservative colleagues. So to the Home Secretary we suggest this obvious solution to her battle of wills with the Mayor of London.
She should inform Boris that the advent of Philip Neville as an effective, side-effect-free anaesthetic means that his purchase of three second-hand water cannons from Germany can no longer be justified, but that her department will fund the dozen powerful speaker systems through which Our Phil will be broadcast in the event of future rioting on London’s streets.
AFM Aaronovitch seems to be in retreat
Events in Iraq raise concerns among fans of the most widely respected military leader the world has known since the stricken Colonel Sanders licked his fingers for the final time and expired. Armchair Field Marshal (AFM) the Lord David Aaronovitch, the bellicose Times columnist whose recent oeuvre offers such cheery headlines as 2010’s “Iraq has moved forward, it’s time we did too” – and last year’s “Now we know why we invaded Iraq” – seems to be in retreat.
Although hopes of a full recantation proved naive, on Friday the AFM revealed that he declined an offer to explain the war’s transcendent success on a TV show, positing that further discussion of the matter would be “self-indulgent”, and citing his “straightforward lack of expertise”. However refreshing, this denial of his own omniscience comes a little late in the day, and the least this tenacious warmonger should do is debate in public. Perhaps George Galloway would care to test the limits of David’s courage under fire with an invitation. If the AFM vacated his trusty armchair for that, I believe the self-indulgence would be forgiven.
Let uncensored joy abound: Gaunty is back
Prepare to read the words for which you have yearned for far too long. Gaunty’s back! The erstwhile sage of TalkSport, has resurfaced as host of No Nonsense With Jon Gaunt on Fubar Live, an “uncensored” internet radio station which features such other broadcasting Goliaths as The Only Way Is Essex’s Amy Childs, and The Barry and Angelos Show (“Angelos Epithemiou joins potty-mouthed octogenarian Barry from Watford as they spin their favourite tunes”).
Indeed, I had the pleasure of joining Gaunty by phone on Saturday, albeit as a late replacement for my colleague Mark Steel, who had been invited on to discuss Sepp Blatter but found himself unavoidably detained by the boiling of a kettle.
Unfortunately, the arrival of a pizza curtailed our chat in its infancy, but I hope to return to discuss Gaunty’s masterminding of the Police Federation’s campaign against Andrew Mitchell, and (when the sub judice rules no longer apply) the inclusion among his Top Ten Greatest Living Brits of Rolf Harris.
In a seismic political upset, a leading US Republican, the House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, has been defeated in a primary by a Tea Party candidate with a Martin Amis character name. We wish Dave Brat all the best in November’s election, and congratulate the theory of nominative determinism on its most significant success since the revelation that Durex’s marketing chief in France was a certain Mlle Cecile Hardon.
Clarkson’s analysis would drive you to drink
In his latest foray into cultural analysis, Jeremy Clarkson focuses his mind on comparing the impact on the creative juices of cannabis and alcohol.
Although no fan of weed, which he informs Sunday Times readers entices smokers to “sprinkle frozen peas on a sherry trifle” at the dinner parties he attends (such a cliché, the munchies-driven dash to the garage for a bag of Bird’s Eye petit pois), he points out that while many artistic talents have been stoners, “nothing tremendous or brilliant has even been created by a drunk”.
Once again, Jeremy dips a finger into the pea-garnished trifle of human existence, and plucks out an unarguable truth. Vincent Van Gogh never so much as looked at a bottle of absinthe, while such literary titans as James Joyce, Dylan Thomas and Ernest Hemingway (“Write drunk”, as a Hemingway doctrine had it, “edit sober”) were also fabled abstainers. Jim Morrison, Francis Bacon, Amy Winehouse, Truman Capote… I could go on and on.
The list of those who built their artistic brilliance on sobriety is, as Jeremy knows, virtually endless.