Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Billy on the Box: A whole new box of delights over on ESPN

Roberto Mancini

The knackering (a technical term) of my Sky+ HD box and the subsequent loss of 19 episodes of Time Team, two series of QI and some particularly memorable Final Score moments, did have an unusual benefit — the arrival of ESPN into my life.

Previously I had merely caught glimpses but now a whole new sporting world has been opened before me, albeit for three months and then negotiations will re-open.

I was never sure what ESPN meant, but I think it’s safe to say it’s not Extra Sensitivity Politically Nowadays as Craig Burley and Rangers chairman Charles Green showed this weekend.

Burley, discussing Manchester City’s purchase of Julio Cesar from Inter ahead of City’s game with QPR, said he was unavailable as ‘he’s back in Italy to do a bit of business — probably having a plate of pasta and a glass of wine’.

Indeed, and as Craig was returning to Glasgow to watch Rangers’ massive game with Elgin City, he probably stopped off for a plate of haggis, with tatties, neeps and a battered Irn-Bru.

Before that though there was dessert as Ray Stubbs — and how nice it is to see him again, even with a funny wee beard — was joined by Robbie Fowler and Kevin Keegan who were both heard off camera talking to a man called Brendan about whether they fancied a game.

“It looks like polo mints,” said Ray as he handed back to commentator Jon Champion as Roberto Mancini offered a sweet to a kid, Brian Kidd.

“I believe it’s Fruit Pastilles, Ray. It’s a bit of tradition from last season when he’d dole them out at the start of the second-half.”

Craig probably thought they were Ferrero Rocher.

After the game, Burley had scarpered, probably being hunted by the mafia, although a special slo-mo replay had ESPN Axis written on it, but I’m guessing there was a ‘T’ missing and there was a cab for Govan on its way. And so next stop was indeed Glasgow and the visit of Elgin City.

I’ve been to Elgin, it’s a bit like Newtownards without the glitz and glamour, so thank goodness that Stephen Craigan had been sent to keep us right.

Northern Ireland legend Craigan is very good, insightful and knowledgeable but judging by the speed he speaks he must be getting paid by the word.

Although chairman Green may make someone pay for his words after hearing that Ally McCoist was less than enamoured at only being able to bring in a couple of players in the transfer window.

“Football managers never have enough players. It’s like asking a woman if she’s got enough shoes,” he said, but given the level Rangers are playing at they could take to the field wearing stilettos and still win.

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