NORMAN GILLER took to the airwaves this week, alongside the man he regards as the best sports broadcaster of his generation
Just spent a couple of enjoyable hours in a BBC studio with Des Lynam, and watching The Master at work at a microphone reinforced my view that the Euro 2012 performance by both BBC and ITV has been – like England against Italy – distinctly average.
Des and I joined the erudite Matthew Parris to discuss the life and times of Henry Cooper on Great Lives, coming soon to a radio near you on Radio 4. The focal point of the programme is my biography on Henry, published this month and a personal tribute to one of my great heroes.
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And talking of heroes, Des comes into that category as one of the finest broadcasters of our generation. He is always kind enough to point out that I “discovered” him when he was tucked out of sight on radio, a youngster in the great Angus Mackay BBC wireless team then headed by Eamonn Andrews, Brian Moore and Peter Jones.
In that earlier life I was the television sports columnist for the London Evening News – a pioneering column, I’ll have you know – and I wrote in 1979 that the Beeb should make Des its face of sport for the 1980s. He surpassed himself by being the No1 on the heels of David Coleman and Frank Bough for the next two decades.
Gary Lineker and Adrian Chiles, the anchormen for the BBC and ITV Euro2012 teams, in my opinion are not in the Lynam league as presenters. They are strictly Second Division by comparison.
In fairness, Lineker was not helped by being buried in the Salford studio for the opening games of the remarkably entertaining tournament. It must have been surreal for him to wake up in his Manchester hotel each morning and get his BBC car to Media City in the Broadway at downtown Salford, while all the action was happening thousands of miles away in eastern Europe.
Meantime, ITV spared neither expense nor embarrassment by constructing a glass-walled studio in Warsaw that appeared to have been designed for a 1970s garden furniture shop window. Chiles and his panel of pundits were perched on wicker chairs that looked like they had been half-inched from a Surrey conservatory.
Once you cut through the Mersey-fog thick Jamie Carragher Scouse accent you will find he is speaking most sense on ITV, while the now veteran Alan Hansen continues to bring the most telling thoughts to the BBC team.
But we had to wait until last night for the finest punditry, when ex-Chelsea player-boss Gianluca Vialli and former Tottenham striker Jurgen Klinsmann made Alan Shearer seem about as articulate as a tongue-tied toddler. I know lots of Spurs fans who would love to see either Vialli or Klinsmann taking over the Lane reins from Harry Redknapp, but as I understand it, that other one-time Bridge boss Andre Villas-Boas will be announced as the new Spurs manager next week.
I look forward to hearing Vialli’s rational views during Sunday’s final as BBC and ITV go head to head. Lineker v Chiles? My bet is that the Beeb will win the viewer count by at least three to one.
Adrian Chiles is a poor imitation of Des Lynam as the main ITV conductor. There is a far better presenter on their substitute’s bench in Matt Smith, who got his grounding with the BBC and deserves instant promotion to the top job.
Chiles must feel haunted by the ghost of Lynam. He pops up continually through the Euro coverage as the tweed-suited Football Academy Professor in the Carlsberg commercial, probably the greatest football advertisement ever made.
It must make Adrian feel in need of a drink.
ENGLAND’s exposure as being light years behind with their technique and tactics is where I came in. The situation was exactly the same in 1953-54 when the Hungarians humiliated us with 13 goals in two games.
I was just a schoolkid then and can remember all the inquests as to what could and should be done to improve our basic skills. It was several years before all teams finally ditched our outdated 2-3-5 style and introduced 4-2-4. Then came our winning of the World Cup in 1966 with Alf Ramsey’s 4-3-3, which set the game back as a spectacle.
I pass on the advice that wise old Arthur Rowe gave when I interviewed him on the 20th anniversary of him steering his push-and-run Spurs to the League championship in 1951: “You cannot win without the ball, and once you have it keep it with simple passes. When not in possession get into position. Always be ready to receive the ball and then have a clear picture in your mind what you are going to do with it the moment you get it. Don’t make a simple game complicated.”
I have never seen an England team surrender the ball as often as in the performance against Italy. It has got to be back to basics. As dear old Shanks used to say: “The best way to make progress is to pass the ball to a player wearing the same colour shirt as yourself.”
The fans need to be educated as much as our players. They have to learn patience and not to scream for the ball to be hoofed up the field.
Our footballers need some of the Des Lynam laid-back approach … and then matching his always-accurate delivery.
Otherwise we’ll all be in need of a drink.
SO ITALY HAVE put Germany out of the Euro finals and Lukas Rosol (of whom Who’s Who says Who?) removed Rafa Nadal from the Wimbledon championships. In our wonderful world of sport, anything is possible.
That’s what makes it so compelling and why writing about sport for all SJA members will always be more a privilege than a duty. I am still scratching away after 55 years and never cease to be amazed and in awe of sport at its most absorbing. What a great way to make a living. Sure beats working.
By the way, who was the idiot who said put your money on Germany for the World Cup in 2014? Uh, it may have been me. All that time in the business and I am none the wiser. There’s nothing like sport to make you look foolish.
UPCOMING SJA EVENTS
Tue July 24: Olympic media service and reception, St Bride’s Church. For more details click here.
Thu Dec 6: 2012 SJA British Sports Awards. An Olympic year extravaganza. Note the date in your diary now. Details to be announced soon.