The pointless tale of the reign of King Terry

Andrew Baker
Saturday 28 September 1996 23:02

If you tuned in to The Man Who Would Be King (BBC2) expecting an update on the royal succession controversy, you were quickly disabused. "My name is Terry Venables" said a stocky, greying man in a tracksuit. Then he said it again. And again. Danny Baker appeared, and yelled "Oh, giant awake, it's Terry Venables!" Terry Wogan announced "It's Terry Venables!" and finally the narrator, John Inverdale, solemnly proclaimed: "This is the Terry Venables story." Attention viewers: this is not a programme about Prince Charles. It's TV TV.

That story in full. Boy footballer joins Chelsea, quickly becomes man and captain. Swings in Sixties. Invents silly wig. Swings too far, and gets boot. Joins Spurs, wins cup. Joins QPR. Buys shop for in-laws. Buys pub for dad. Writes novel. Croons. Writes TV series. Joins Crystal Palace as player, becomes coach, then manager. Manages QPR, then Barcelona. More crooning. Manages Spurs. Opens nightclub. Buys chunk of Spurs. Sells chunk of Spurs. Leaves Spurs. Manages England. Crooning opportunities reduced. Miffed by Germans. And FA. Goes to court. Becomes, for some reason, Director of Football at Portsmouth.

That's it. And that is about as informative as the BBC's documentary got. Assorted luminaries lined up to say how nice Terry was. Harry Harris of the Daily Mirror lined up to say how nasty he was. There was a lot of mildly interesting archive footage and an irritating gimmick whereby each interviewee had a little framed photograph of Terry sitting next to them in case they forgot who they were supposed to be talking about. Terry, who needed no reminding, sat in front of a portrait of an 18th- century monarch, who was presumably there to justify the programme's feeble title.

Since the documentary failed to reveal any ambitions its subject might have regarding the throne, or indeed in any other direction, you had to wonder what the point of it all was. Right at the very end, Inverdale said: "But the question remains, why did the most gifted footballing strategist of his generation have to go?" John, you pillock, don't ask the viewers, ask the man himself.

The final edition this year of Gower's Cricket Monthly (BBC2) saw the presenter make a sentimental journey to Grace Road, home of champions Leicestershire. The year Gower joined the club, 1975, was also the last time they had won the County Championship, and there was a priceless snatch of film of the players celebrating, led by the then county captain, Raymond Illingworth. In the background, waving a champagne glass as if unsure what to do with it, was young Gower. He soon learned.

Fiona Stephenson presented a report on the One Test Wonders club, a charity side consisting of those on whom the selectors smiled but once. The moving force behind the club is Fiona's husband John (although she did not disclose their connection to the viewers), who told her - not for the first time, one would guess - of an unnerving experience before his only Test. He turned up early for practice, and in the pavilion bumped into Ted Dexter, the chairman of selectors. Dexter gave him a blank look, and asked: "What are you doing here, lad?" Wasting his time, as things turned out.

The single-testers had many sorry tales to tell, of which the oddest was certainly that of Norman Mitchell-Innes, who played for England against South Africa at Trent Bridge in 1935, but whose subsequent international career was terminated by hay fever. Apparently his incessant sneezing in the outfield used to drive his team-mates barmy. Snot Out?

Simon Hughes was dispatched to Durham to find out what was wrong at the wooden spoon county. His conclusions - not enough runs or wickets - were not as gripping as his appearance. Hughes is still pretty new to the reporting game, and none of his colleagues has yet seen fit to take him aside and warn him about the various ways in which film crews will try to make him look silly. So he fell for an old favourite, attempting to present the first part of his report from a moving bicycle wearing dark glasses and carrying the aforementioned spoon. Big Mig? No. Big mistake.

The highlight of the show was Geoffrey Boycott's end-of-season address, cricket's equivalent of the Queen's Christmas Day speech. Like Her Majesty, Geoffrey had paid careful attention to his costume: he was wearing a tie patterned with giraffes, appropriate to one addicted to sticking his neck out.

Sitting on a stone wall in a parkland setting (the landscaped grounds of Chateau Boycott?) he rubbished England's performances with his traditional relish, his triangular mouth twisting in disdain like an animated Dairylea cheese segment. For his closing remarks he moved, presumably to avoid getting his trousers damp. But there was something amiss as he dismissed England's chances of beating Australia next year. What was wrong? Boycs was sitting on the fence.

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