Belfast Telegraph

What's on the box: A long goodbye to a world-class legend and John Terry

By Billy Weir

Gary Lineker was off and running at the start of the season's final Match of the Day and doing his best to make a lovely handbag out of a porcine listening device as everything had more or less been decided.

"The battle for Champions League football was the day's only real storyline," he ventured, but little did he know that a brief cameo would hog headlines, steal shows and unusually make John Terry a divisive figure.

We started off with someone seemingly revered and reviled in much the same way at the moment with a banner depicting Arsene Wenger with the words 'Football should be an art' written on it, and careers were drawing to a close.

This meant we were kicking off at Arsenal and, it being the last day, hopes were raised of the return of a final day staple, flitting around the grounds like a bluebottle with the runs in highly dramatic fashion, but with Man City, Liverpool and Arsenal up against three dud teams, not even Match of the Day could sell this deceased equine of a season finale.

They did their best, putting the world's most optimistic man, John Motson, in a rare opening slot these days, and he did his best to raise drama levels, albeit in his annoyingly high-pitched whines that make him sound like everyone's John Motson impression.

"And the supporters at the Emirates will be keenly tuned into their transistor radios and earpieces to see what's going on elsewhere," he said, getting down with the kids.

Some would even, and you'll find this hard to believe, have telephones, mobile ones, that not only allow you to talk to people but have access to a thing called the internet that tells you lots of stuff and they fit snugly in the inside pocket of a camel-hair coat.

So Arsenal won, as did City, with a combined score of 8-1, and this was shaping up to be drama at its best on the BBC as we went to see if Liverpool could see off the mighty relegated Middlesbrough, and of course they could as three men and a wee lad could give them a game.

However, clinching fourth sparked the sort of celebrations at Anfield that used to be reserved for winning things, but manager Jurgen Klopp put things in perspective.

"Only three teams could collect more points than we have, so that means we were not perfect," he said, and talking of not perfect, let's get the storyline of the day under way.

It had an understated start, as Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford booted the ball into touch for no apparent reason with 26 minutes on the clock at Chelsea, but Jonathan Pearce revealed all.

"He has played 26 minutes, he is Chelsea's No.26, and this was planned, a final flourish for their captain, their leader, their legend, 717 games, 17 trophies, cheers and tears," he said, conveniently missing out all the sordidness, but typical of the man he was back when there was a trophy to pick up.

"He's been an absolute giant but I'm not sure about this," said Alan Shearer, and I can't believe I'm saying this, I couldn't agree more.

In fact, I would take it even further, if I was David Moyes I would have signed Wayne Bridge for the day and with 26 minutes gone ordered him to take the ball into the corner, but that may have resulted in him getting the shove.

Martin Tyler was even more sickeningly sycophantic on Sky, with a stomach-churning "goodbye JT and well played son" as somewhere in the Bridge household a TV was kicked over.

And talking of kicking things over, a man who is very good at that was the focus of another fond farewell, with BBCNI taking a moving look back on the final sporting days of an Ulster legend in Ruan Pienaar.

"Ruan Pienaar has played his last game for Ulster but he and his family don't want to leave," Stephen Watson told us, with Irish rugby chiefs seemingly deeming that his stay in the country was at an end because he's a foreigner.

It turns out that he grew up in Bloemfontein, the capital of the Free State, which wouldn't normally make you a hero in Ulster but you would have thought would have given him more sway in Dublin, however it was not to be and he's off to France.

His last game was against Leinster, and he was suitably brilliant, and it was a hard watch as he and his family were in floods of tears, but then again I suppose we were lucky that the IRFU didn't order Garry Ringrose to boot the ball out with nine minutes on the clock and Pienaar gagged, hooded and bundled onto a plane.

"Farewell and many, many thanks to the utterly magnificent Ruan Pienaar," concluded Jim Neilly. Indeed, a legend leaves his sport, and some bloke from the Free State calls it a day too.

And it's a lengthy hello as Championship back in style

Clearly a memo had been sent out to the BBCNI Championship team that read thus: 'we're going out on Saturday night, blue suits and brown shoes, see you like clones in Clones'.

And so it came to pass as the team, with Mark Sidebottom (who wore black shoes because he was the groom in the party) at the head of an all-star line-up as Monaghan played host to Fermanagh.

"Hi, the Championship is back, we are back and it is good to be back," he said and pictures then followed of the fans, suitably as the heavens opened, flooding in to the ground.

"So they come, first in a tribute and then a torrent," said Sidebottom as we delved into our Big Boy's Book of Geography to see what a 'tribute' was but at least I now know how an ox-bow lake is formed if he throws that in later in the competition.

"The respective managers are ready, Clones is ready and so too is the BBC's Championship team from Crossmaglen to Kilcar and beyond to the sumptuous Glens of Antrim we have you covered," he said, which, of course, is dominated by tertiary basalts which formed part of a massive lava flow some 55-60 million years ago overlying other older sedimentary rocks including sandstone, shale and limestone.

The problem with the Championship, and it is a common BBC one, is that there is this overwhelming need to get 'YOU' involved, whether it be by social media or as was bizarrely suggested on Saturday night, postcard, or Thomas Kane and his magical levitating left hand pouncing on spectators for their opinions.

We don't care, let us hear what Martin McHugh and Oisin McConville have to say, they know, and don't stop them to pay a visit to a woman barbecuing sausages in Crumlin, let the experts speak and show us the game, that's all we ask, and if you can throw in a bit of geological guff, then all the better.

Equally annoying is that everyone is not just given a name, but it is accompanied by their club and county, I mean Sky don't feel the need to put up 'Martin Tyler, St Terry's, London' and things seem to go ticketyboo.

Remarkably a decent game broke out against all the odds, and at the break this seemed to have discombobulated Sidebottom.

"Before we hear from Jarlath and Martin, and there is much to mull over, a little something to extend you over the half-time break, can you identify our mystery player?" he mused although he seemed to have difficulty identifying who he was sitting beside.

Apology given and accepted afterwards, the second-half was a mundane affair, and by the end there was the air of a man killing time.

"We welcome all your observations and input via your preferred social media avenue but right now from this man from Kilcar and that man from Crossmaglen, I've really enjoyed both your companies this afternoon," concluded Sidebottom, but no goodbye came for Jarlath (Silverbridge, Armagh).

The good, the bad and the ugly

THE GOOD: A fantastic end to the magnificent mayhem that is IPL cricket with Mumbai Indians coming out on top by one run in a thrilling finish to the final at the weekend on Sky. They held on to see off a team with perhaps the worst name in sport, Pune Rising Supergiant, but they are no more, stepping aside to allow Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals to return after their two-year ban for doing bad things. Nice to see the smokers’ teams back.

THE BAD: I know there is a lot at stake for teams in the play-offs, but I think Scott Minto was getting a bit carried away as Millwall took on Bradford on Saturday evening. “We are just moments away from finding out who goes to heaven and who feels like they’ve gone to hell,” he said, and possibly the first time Millwall and heaven have been in such close proximity.

THE GOODBYE: Nothing to do with TV, this is a heartfelt good luck message to Ballymena United legend Allan Jenkins as he calls time on his career at the Showgrounds. A man who served through thin and thinner and has seen the rise of the sleeping dwarf of local football, he will be sadly missed by all of a sky blue hue. I’m filling up here like John Terry…

Belfast Telegraph

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