Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Finally, a countdown with Jeff that is truly unbelievable

Unbelievable: Paul Merson and Phil Thompson, joint winners of Britain's Most Excitable Men Contest 2012

You knew you were onto a winner when Gillette Soccer Special kicked off on Sunday afternoon with a blast of Wilson Phillips.

Ironically, given what was about to unfold in the next three hours, the choice of ‘Hold On’ couldn’t have been better as the bridesmaids finally became the brides as City edged out United to clinch the Premier League title.

Here’s how it all unfolded and hopefully Paul Merson is recovering well to treatment now.

2.00pm: “We love a bit of alliteration here,” said Jeff Stelling. “Last week it was Significant Sunday, welcome along to Squeaky Bum Sunday.”

2.03pm: Jeff introduces his colleagues for the roller-coaster ride — Matt Le Tissier, Merse, Phil Thompson and Charlie Nicholas, adding that City are within ‘spitting distance’ of the title. The only thing Joey Barton wasn’t charged with later.

2.08pm: Dr Stelling explains the condition of Cityitis — ‘a disease of self-doubt, pessimism and living in the shadow of Manchester United. Matt, are they cured?’ “It looks like it, Jeff,” came the reply; “You’ve seen it a million times (twice to be exact), you just never know,” added Merse.

2.47pm: “It’s do or die for Bolton,” said Jeff turning his attention to matters at the other end of the table as producers no doubt swooned behind the scenes praying that Fabrice Muamba wasn’t watching.

3.02pm: Off to the Etihad Stadium with Merse, or City of Manchester Stadium as Jeff kept insisting on calling it, which was ‘absolutely rocking’. That would be Liam Gallagher or maybe a pie too many for Ricky Hatton.

3.02pm: First pained shout of the day as Merse is interrupted by Thommo screaming ‘It’s a goal’. “Are you watching, Arsenal?” he asks as Spurs take the lead.

3.03pm: Yes they are as Tiss utters his first ‘it’s a shocker’ of the day as the Gunners take the lead at West Brom.

3.12pm: “It’s a goal at the Britannia Stadium (I’m surprised he didn’t insist Stoke were still at the Victoria Ground),” said Jeff. “Is it a Premier League lifeline for Bolton or are hopes fading fast?” Repeat swooning producers. “They’re fading fast,” came the reply no-one wanted from Iain Dowie.

3.16pm: Back to the Etihad City of Maine Road Manchester Stadium and Merse: “You’d think there were playing on a slope it’s so one-sided. It’s one-way traffic all the time.” Given his driving record, we’ll take that with a pinch of salt.

3.20pm: “Thousands of Swansea fans are dressed as Elvis Presley but a little less conversation from me said a far from shook-up Jeff but the guffaws were rudely interrupted by Charlie who confirmed ‘squeaky bum Sunday had come alive’ with United taking the lead.

3.29pm: Tiss in a tizz as it’s now ‘Desmond’ at the Hawthorns. That’s 2-2 to those not in the know.

3.33pm: The first, but not last, ‘unbelievable’ of the day, with Merse describing QPR’s heroic defending.

3.40pm: Iain Dowie rudely interrupted by Merse’s moans of ‘it’s a goal, oh nooooo,” which Jeff said could mean only one thing. No, not the traffic police arriving, a goal at City. “Kenny makes an absolute shocker and it’s Blue Moon, you saw me standing alone,” he began to croon as we moved hastily on.

3.41pm: Dowie rudely interrupted by natural forces. “There’s a lot of wind — and not from Iain Dowie,” chortled Jeff to the braying approval of his fellow third years in the class. Perhaps it really was squeaky bum time?

3.50pm: Time for us all to take a breather and have a quick rub down with a damp lettuce for the madness to ensue.

4.07pm: “Chance, chance, chance,” shouts Merse. No, not an impromptu game of Monopoly, something’s happened in Manchester. “Goalllllllllll, oh it’s game on.”

4.13pm: “Oh, oh, we’ve got a problem, a big problem, a major problem. They’re all going mad at Barton, there’s mayhem now,” hinted Merse. “Oh my God, Joey Barton’s just walked off, he’s kneed Nasri (Aguero), he’s threw a head into De Jong (Kompany) he’s gone, he’s completely lost the plot.” Pot, kettle and black spring to mind. “Unbelievable, I can’t believe it, unbelievable. Joey Barton wants to fight the world,” he added. Only Argentina and Belgium to be fair. And Italy.

4.14pm: Joey Barton spotted heading to Portsmouth muttering something about a flotilla accompanied by Simon Weston, Prince Andrew and Jim Davidson.

4.21pm: Jeff has another pop at Joey: “Outrageously ludicrous behaviour. Violent conduct, it should say extremely violent conduct, there was barely a player on the field he didn’t assault in the end.”

4.25pm: QPR score again, Merse is now so high-pitched he’s only intelligible to dogs and dolphins. “Errol Brown’s got to come on here, I believe in miracles.” Nurse for Merse!

4.32pm: “This is the siege of Mafeking, it’s the Alamo, it’s Rorke’s Drift and it’s all taking place at the City of Manchester Stadium,” said Professor Stelling, History department, University of Etihad.

4.44pm: “Unbelievable defending, it’s like Platoon,” said Merse with a less cerebral reference to sieges.

4.51pm: Merse explodes as Dzeko scores. He couldn’t be more excited if Jacko had walked into the studio, with Errol Brown.

4.53pm: “It’s a chance, it’s a chance, Aguerrrrrrooooooo,” as City win it and Merse combusts and starts banging on the desk. “Oh my God, I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s gone mad. Mancini is giving love bites and everything.”

4.55pm: It’s all over. “I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. As long as I've been watching football, this is the most unbelievable thing I have ever seen, unbelievable,” he concluded and you know, he was right, it was, errr, unbelievable.