Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Billy on the Box: A lot of Gallics

Scots taking over world of pundits

Scotland. Home of the majestic roaming haggis, men in skirts, chronic heart disease, ginger beards and wee Jimmy Krankie.

But there's much more to it than that with shortbread recently overtaken as Caledonia's biggest export- and we're not talking McEwan's here - by football pundits.

You can't switch on the box these days without an overwhelming whiff of Irn Bru coming off your telly.

The first to clamber over Hadrian's Wall many moons ago was Alan Hansen, blazing a trail that many others have followed since.

Graeme Souness is the king of roam, dandering across 500 miles of gloamin' to be the ultimate proclaimer.

One night RTE, the next Sky, the only difference being he's stuck between Richard Keys and Glenn Hoddle on the latter, while it's Johnny Giles and Eamon Dunphy on the former.

Souness is Mr. Smooth, all Italian suits, stashed since his time at Sampdoria, but menacing with it. Mind you, stuck between Giles and Dunphy, Shrek would be a looker.

On Sky's Champions' League coverage on Wednesday, Hoddle was sandwiched between Souness and Gary McAllister, just two of the 1,314 people being linked with the vacant Scotland job.

There was the usual rubbish about the Liverpool crowd putting the wind up the kilts of foreign invaders, Gary and Graeme saying how scary it was and Richard looking for backing from fellow sassenach Hoddle.

His view on whether it had teams knee deep in jobbies - no.

It was then off to Parkhead where the atmosphere was not so much spine-tingling as ankle wetting.

The sight of Charlie Nicholas hammering the walls of the studio like Rab C Nesbitt trying to get into an offy was fantastic, with bluenose Jim White forcing himself to applaud.

No such problems for Alan McInally the previous night when Rangers lost to Stuttgart who was getting his sporran in a right old twist.

First off he kept referring to that new French player, Marcus De Beasley, and then when Stuttgart scored, begrudgingly said 'they maybe deserved it'.

They certainly did. It had been like Culloden at the back up until that point.

And I haven't even mentioned Andy Gray, Pat Nevin, Gordon McQueen, Billy Dodds, Craig Burley or Davie Provan.

Thank goodness then for David Pleat to redress the balance, who told us during Spurs' game on Thursday that Juande Ramos had a pulled a rabbit out of the bag.

Just send him homeward to think again - please.

The wacky world of being whacked

You knew it was going to be a bizarre week in boxing when both UTVLive and Newsline took each other on for the World Catchyourselfonweight title.

Firstly we had Neil Brittain strolling around the streets of east Belfast with Wayne McCullough and family looking for chips.

Given his reaction after the weigh-in fiasco, a glance at an odd shoulder or two might have been in order.

There was to be no battering done anywhere, but there was a hot dog to be found on BBC as resident newshound Mark Sidebottom, acting on a lead, followed Brian Magee and his dog into the ring.

And no, it wasn't a boxer before you ask.

Poor old Sidebottom was running around the gym like Ricky Hatton's sparring partner and just about got out of the way to allow Kyron and the Strangels to get into the ring to play a song about walking a dog. Bizarre.

And it does make me growl that the sports bulletin on our news programmes is becoming an endangered species, often sandwiched between Brian Black telling us about the lesser-spotted whelk in Whitehead, or Martin Cassidy doing things with bullocks in Ballymoney.

It seems the more wacky the better, when all we really want is someone to sit and tell us in a normal, grown-up way that there might be a local football match on tonight, or Ulster might be looking for a new coach.

Even visitors from foreign shores aren't safe from this wacky world.

The 'Belfast' Giants were featured this week giving blood when even I would have been quite happy to see Gary Gillespie telling us that they were playing the Basingstoke Buffalos.

At least the Beeb will redeem itself this weekend with coverage of the John Duddy fight and the CIS Cup Final. That's next week's column sorted then.

Can't beat a bit of bull

Blackpool is not the first location that springs to mind when you think of beach volleyball, but Sky gave it a bash this week.

Funnily enough, as the wind whipped in from the Irish Sea and the brave souls gathered to watch huddled under duvets for warmth, there were not many bikinis on show.

It also featured 'athletes' from those sun-kissed shores of places like Switzerland and Finland, who must have thought it was positively tropical.

There were no Americans, as the good ol' boys were all busy in Atlanta at the Pro Bull Riding on the home of the daft - Extreme Sports.

The first piece of very rare and exceptionally angry steak to bound out of its pen with some poor cowboy on top of it was called California Dreaming.

And once it had danced all over his southern regions you just knew there was no way that he was going to play mamas and papas for a day or two.

Poles take the piste

I wouldn't do an awful lot of ski jumping, having the aerodynamic qualities of a buffalo on a skateboard, but I do know something - you need snow.

Or so I thought.

Eurosport knew differently with coverage of a competition from Poland that saw strangely dressed creatures landing with legs apart onto something green.

Any reference to Miss Piggy at this stage will not be allowed.

It turns out that it was some form of astro-turf, but thank goodness Eddie the Eagle is no longer around.

You can picture the scene. He turns up, surveys the sparkling green slopes and whips out his specially elongated wellies for the job.

This is good news for us and I look forward to our bid for the Winter Olympics, now that it is no longer the preserve of places where Pingu needs a pair of leg warmers.

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