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Lesser spotted Superstars without Kevin Keegan's bike

By Billy Weir

Published 08/10/2015

Taking Le Tiss: A bunch of former sportspeople bask in the glory of Matt le Tissier’s athletic prowess
Taking Le Tiss: A bunch of former sportspeople bask in the glory of Matt le Tissier’s athletic prowess

The dilemma of ITV going head to head with Holby City of a Tuesday evening is a tricky one I admit, with whatever they put on an accident waiting to happen.

The best course of action is to get well out of the way, especially nowhere near Holby where disaster lurks around every corner, but going all the way to Croatia seems to be taking it a bit far.

But hope sprang for ITV as their new sports show, Eternal Glory, hit the screens for the first time. Only it didn't. Well, not here anyhow, not until a wee bit later.

No we were off south, UTV refusing to comply with direct rule from London and heading to the sanctuary of the hills, or lakes, as the case may be, of Cork, as we were treated to another of Joe Mahon's Lesser Spotted Journeys.

Here everyone's favourite intrepid explorer fell in with the usual assemblage of odd and interesting folk, many of them very badly dressed and just glad to be on the telly.

And it was much the same in Croatia for after the news and Paul Clark's continuing incarceration around the clock at Havelock House, we finally got to the starting line with the only surprise being that presenter Richard Bacon had managed to shove Gabby Logan out of the way. Probably couldn't get the sheepdog through customs.

Apparently he was to be joined by 'eight heroes from every corner of the sporting world' ready to 'go head to head in a unique competition.' Or put it another way, it's like Superstars, only without Kevin Keegan's pushbike.

But no, this is totally different, because the competitors get to stay together in a nice villa, while Joe is stuck in Skibbereen eating soup made from whatever he and his marine biologist friends can find on the beach.

"World class athletes, competing together, living together and all of them have been champions," added Bacon, which was stretching the truth a tad.

Matt Le Tissier? Great player but not exactly clearing the shelves of Brasso during his time down at Southampton.

But this was the beauty of the competition as Bacon introduced his partner for the trip, Professor Greg Whyte, renowned sports science man and so important that he has 20 initials after his name, who put our mind at rest as to how the hell MLT (just three initials) was going to compete on a level playing field with the likes of James Cracknell, Shane Williams and Jade Johnson.

It was all very scientific and I was desperately searching for a marine biologist to help explain things as the first event, called Flamingo Feet, saw our eight heroes made to stand on one leg on a wooden block in the middle of the sea.

Not as easy as it sounds, Le Tiss lasting 11 seconds although he was distracted by an empty chip wrapper floating past, with annoying badminton person Gail Emms seeing off sprinter Christian Malcolm to win.

The second event was a hurdles race - with a difference. Not only did you have to build your own hurdle you could only move when your heartbeat was below a certain level.

"I had a reputation of being a bit lethargic," said the largely lethargic Le Tissier, but he left the others in his wake, dawdling to victory while the athletes were going mad.

"In football there was definitely a chance to rest during games and I used to take advantage of that," he said as we all nodded, but for another hero, things did not go well, Fatima Whitbread injuring her hamstring trying to hurdle. Should have left the javelin down.

It meant she was destined for the dreaded Night Duel, which isn't Paul Clarke trying to keep two politicians apart on UTV Barely Alive, but as exciting a denouement as Joe's chums finding a whimsical whelk.

It also meant she missed out on the third event, Line of Fire, which was a lot of balls. No, really, 90 tennis balls fired at the contestants who had to keep them out of a big net.

"I didn't want to be one of those guys that just put loads of weight on after he finished and ended up pushing a trolley around Morrisons or Tesco," said Williams, which, ironically, helped Le Tissier no end as he won again.

It wasn't so good for Liz McColgan, built like a razor clam, and she came last to enter the dreaded Night Duel with Whitbread, where in an horrendous thunderstorm the two Olympians of old had to wait for the lights to go out on four out of five cylinders and grab the lit one.

This was high brow stuff, you sensed that the professor could be about to lose a few of those initials, as grabbing something electric that lights up in a thunderstorm was a disaster waiting to happen.

McColgan held her nerve and the final cylinder to send Whitbread home, her quest for Eternal Glory at an end.

The remainder of our lesser spotted superstars have five more weeks of being in the public eye, where Joe goes next is unclear, but if it's the usual assemblage of odd and interesting folk, many of them very badly dressed and just glad to be on the telly, I'd take a journey to Croatia.

Belfast Telegraph

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