The Observer’s Will Buckley might think he’s got it bad, but I’d like to meet the guy who told Eric Wynalda “you could be the next Craig Kilborn.”
On Thursday matters were complicated by the usual cliche being in competition with another cliche. The Law of Cup Football states that the muttiness of the underdog must be stressed and a commentator as literal as Clive Tyldesley was duty-bound to mention Gillingham, Preston, Coventry and ‘Denzil Theobald WHO CANNOT GET IN THE FALKIRK TEAM.’ Having patronised the team, he saw off their manager, Leo Beenhakker, with a ‘yeah, yeah’ and concluded by asking rhetorically: ‘Who would have thought it, Trinidad & Tobago standing side-by- side with England?’ Anyone with a wall-chart, Clive, but no matter.
Now, all this would have been more acceptable if it hadn’t been combined with Tyldesley, given the responsibility of commentating on the nation for the nation, becoming bullishly patriotic. Before the players had even left the tunnel he had talked about being united under one flag, exhorted ‘Come on England’ and described the 1966 World Cup winners as ‘immortal’. The last observation raising the boring prospect of the Boys of ’66 many millennia from now trolling around the studios saying ‘We’ve had our moment. It’s time for someone else to have a go.’
Before a ball had been kicked the group game had been transformed into England v Falkirk or rather England v The Nearly Men of Falkirk – an anticipated mismatch that soon became a battle of equals. So much so that Gareth Southgate was saying: ‘We’ll be relieved to get in 0- 0.’ The problem being that T&T were finding that their experience gleaned in lower league football was invaluable when confronting a national team playing like England.
The experts were bemused. Sam Allardyce and Terry Venables referring to the England captain as ‘Dave Beckham’, the missing syllable denoting his diminished influence, and Stuart Pearce saying in no particular order ‘We’re looking at getting qualified’, ‘Terry rekindled me’ and ‘It’s a wake-up call before we needed a wake-up call.’ The last apparently being a bonus although I suspect Pearce never sleeps because there is little more irritating than being rung at 4am when you have specifically requested 4pm.
(Kaka manuevers around the Socceroos’ Vince Grella. Not shown : anyone remotely tubby or goo-ish)
After witnessing a sluggish Ronaldo squander a fairly clear-cut scoring chance this morning during Brazil’s Group F clash with Australia, I’m afraid Carlos Alberto Parreira has no other option but to bring on Terry Forster as a sub.