World Cup TV viewers: do adjust your set

NORMAN GILLER was yesterday watching England’s “glorious” World Cup triumph over a nation that has has more brown bears than professional footballers. But he doesn’t like what he’s seen off the pitch

Maybe it is my Tottenham bias coming out, but I thought Spurs stole the BBC television show yesteday — Jermain Defoe with his winning goal, and Harry Redknapp with his summarising

Harry’s pre-match tactical breakdown and then his surgical appraisal afterwards put in the shade the Beeb’s resident experts Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer, who are like the Three Scrooges with their miserly offerings of any praise..

I am a former television sports critic of some infamy — infamy, infamy, they all had it in for me during my 12 years of sniping with the London Evening News, Sunday Express and The Sun. So I feel qualified to pass judgement on the World Cup battle to date between the BBC and ITV.

My verdict at just past the halfway point (40 of 64 matches played) is that the BBC is winning by the length of a football pitch. There is only one area where ITV is coming out on top, and that is in the vital field of interviewing.

Gabby Logan, who has the prestige job of on-the-spot England camp reporter for the BBC, brings out the best in her subjects with her interviews. But, as any hard-nosed news journalist will tell you, that is not her job. We viewers want to hear the worst, not cosy interviews that could have come from the pages of Woman’s Own.

While on Monday, in the fall-out from the Algeria match, Gabby had Fabio Cappello purring like a pussy cat in one of her soft-focus interviews, over on ITV Gabriel Clarke had him coming across as if impersonating of Don Corleone in The Godfather — “John Terry, he makea da b-i-g meestake…”

I was half expecting Terry to wake up the next morning with the head of a Subbuteo footballer in his bed.

Even Sky Sports News, without any coverage rights so supposedly on the periphery of the World Cup, is getting better informed interviews from the England camp than BBC Sport, who need a battle-hardened news reporter in there.

In part, this may be the result of the split at the BBC between the Sport division (which hires Logan, Lineker & Co, and delivers the coverage of the matches) and BBC News, who provide reports for the Ten O’Clock News and other TV bulletins as well as much of the BBC’s radio network, for whom reporter James Pearce and the new BBC Sports Editor, David Bond, have had a quiet tournament as far as news stories are concerned.

BBC Sport’s argument is that Gabby, pictured right, is said to be “very popular” with the England players. Of course she is, because she asks them the soft questions they want asked. She is more like Gloria Hunniford when a Jeremy Paxman is required.

ITV’s World Cup coverage is in the capable hands of the hugely respected head of sport Niall Sloane, who used to be a powerhouse at the BBC. He knows better than anybody what makes a winning team for the cameras, although too often the selection of ITV’s World Cup panels seem to have been dictated by “Politically Correct” considerations.

It’s as if at their focus group meetings somebody has said, “We must have someone black, of African descent, in the line-up.” While I applaud the sentiment, for such appointments to be more than mere tokenism the first question that those hiring the panellists should have been asking is: “Can they speak understandable English?”

Perhaps it’s because my ears are getting ancient, but I have struggled to make out what at least three of ITV’s pundits have had to say. While the BBC has hit the gold seam with the engaging and informed Clarence Seedorf, over on ITV, the barely intelligible Edgar Davids has looked like an Formula 1 racing driver with all his commercial logos. I know Davids was ordered to tone down the ads on his shirts, maybe because viewers might have thought they had switched on to another unscheduled commercial break.

Perhaps “commercial break” should not be mentioned in Niall Sloane’s hearing following the massive cock-up in the first England match, when high-definition viewers missed Steven Gerrard’s goal because an advertisement was filling the screen after just three minutes of the game.

The jury is still out on Adrian Chiles. I have already stated that he is not in the same league as Des Lynam for laid-back delivery, and — as he continually points out — he is not an authority on the game.

He will be perfect when back in his comfort zone on the GMTV sofa alongside Christine Bleakley, but I continue to believe that had this been a task on The Apprentice, he would have been fired for not being a dynamic enough salesman.

Another ITV failure has been James Corden. It is well over a year since the public’s general view was “James Corden’s not funny any more”, so it must be just the right time for him to be signed up by ITV…

His World Cup Live show is worth watching only to see how bad television can get. The producers seem to think that by making it ALL, VERY, LOUD, the viewers will not notice that it really is not very entertaining. I would prefer to listen to the vuvuzelas.

SO NOW WE come to Dejavuvu. England against Germany on Sunday for a place in the quarter-finals.

I remember writing a piece in the Daily Express in 1966 when England were preparing to play West Germany in the final. I likened Alf Ramsey to Montgomery and German team manager Helmut Schoen to Rommel.

At a press conference at the German headquarters the next day, Schoen, a courteous and charming man, asked: “Is there a Mr Giller here from the Daily Express?”

I held up my hand. “It was a very interesting article you wrote about Mr Ramsey and I,” he said, speaking perfect English. “But, please, no more of these war analogies. Football is a game, it is not a war …”

Let’s see on Sunday. Uh, don’t mention the war (with a bow in the direction of Basil Fawlty). Anyone for penalties?

Read previous Norman Giller columns by clicking here.

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