Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Billy on the Box: They came, they saw, and then went home

WARSAW, POLAND - JUNE 21: BBC pundit Alan Shearer and BBC TV presenter Jake Humphrey ahead of the UEFA EURO 2012 quarter final match between Czech Republic and Portugal at The National Stadium on June 21, 2012 in Warsaw, Poland. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

You had to feel a little tinge of sympathy for the plight of the foreign visitors in eastern Europe, didn’t you?

No, I don’t mean the football team but the three lions, one Welsh lioness, a Scottish growling thing and a gloating German who had eventually turned up for the party only to find themselves dumped.

The BBC, who displayed much more confidence for England’s pre-tournament chances than England, finally arrived in Ukraine for the quarter-final with Italy, with the promise of more to come with both semis and the final live on the Beeb.

No doubt there were uproarious guffaws coming from a balcony in Warsaw with Adrian Chiles and co chortling, looking at their watches and saying ‘we told you so’ after football’s fathers were sent home.

“Good evening, welcome to Kiev, we’re here for an England quarter-final and in recent times they haven’t gone well, but it is has to happen for us some time, hasn’t it?” implored Gary Lineker. That would be, no.

“Feel the weight of history, but do not fear it. Dare we start to believe?” he continued as again we all shook our heads and then did it again as Alan Shearer appeared not with three lions on his shirt, but two collars.

These were to come in handy to partially shield his brass neck after saying of Mario Balotelli ‘he hasn't achieved anything in his career yet.’

This coming from the man, who hardly keeps Brasso in business, was hard to take, especially as Balotelli has more medals than were pinned on Uncle Alberto’s chest and he’s only 21.

In the studio, Jurgen Klinsmann was replaced by Lee Dixon, the kind of negative substitution that really summed up Roy Hodgson’s policy and along with Shearer and a now Anglicised Alan Hansen and inspired by Lineker’s musings all shouted for England, but not for Harry. A Mr Redknapp nodded knowingly in a jellied eel shop far away.

“Will the fickle finger of fate finally point England’s way?” continued Gary in his on-screen audition for the Royal Shakespeare Company and by half-time his words of it being ‘exquisitively painful to watch’ were echoed across the land while other digits were raised at the same time.

Mainly in the direction of Mark Lawrenson, who gets more like Droopy by the minute, and tries to bring a touch of levity to proceedings by cracking ‘jokes’ with sidekick, Guy Mowbray.

So, one unfunny man in a double act with an unfunny man. Anyone who grew up with Les Dennis and Dustin Gee will have unwanted memories flooding back.

And so onto the penalties, a phrase that must be accompanied by ‘the dreaded’ as Shearer and Lineker, two men who could thwack a ball with aplomb from 12 yards, urged today’s brave lions to ‘stay strong’ and ‘make it happen’. Oh, and don’t let anyone called Ashley take a penaltytoo late.

As Messrs Cole (pictured) and Young fluffed their lines, there was no need to think it was all over, because it was and just as a young squeaky lad in a butcher’s apron was stepping up, I say, stepping up for the sixth penalty too.

Although Lineker felt ‘in a football sense, justice has been done, but it’s cruel on England.”

No it wasn’t, they would have had to show the highlights on Crimewatch had they managed to win, so Gary and co, don’t have nightmares, penalty crimes only occur every two years or so.

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