Belfast Telegraph

All the Barkers are out in force at Wimbledon again

By Billy Weir

If sport has shown anything this week then it has proven that there are two very different Wimbledons. One is all summer dresses, strawberries and cream, posh types quaffing lashings of Pimms, tennis and occasional outpourings of nationalistic fervour and the other is a very different beast. Literally.

It is men in badly fitting suits, women in next to nothing, cockles and mussels (alive, alive, o), lashings of lager, the dogs and occasional outpourings of rude words and general drunken debauchery.

First up on Saturday night in SW17 was the Greyhound Derby on Sky Sports, who had decamped to Plough Lane for, we were told by presenter Tony Ennis, the "world's greatest greyhound race, worth a quarter of a million pounds". Not to be barked at.

"They tell me Wimbledon starts on Monday, I think it pretty well starts tonight," added resident doggy expert Jonathan Hobbs, also resplendent in dickie bow.

"We're a stone's throw away from the All England Club and we're going to serve up a treat," he continued, although surely we should have been a stick's throw away to stay with the canine capers theme.

Not content with hammering home references to one of the weekend's other highlights, Hobbs was in his element.

"Looking around, young and old, I thought it was rocking down at Glastonbury but I tell you it's rocking here tonight," he said, although that may have been the lager.

But the rock started the ball rolling on a musical interlude as roving - or should that be raving - reporter Matt Chapman excitedly told us that "this isn't about money, it's about the X Factor" as he startled a young lady sitting with legs akimbo, which isn't a dance troupe, on the terraces.

She was called Stephanie and had, apparently, appeared on the X Factor, although not accompanied by legs akimbo that time.

She came 14th in the final, but if you haven't heard of her don't worry, our intrepid reporter soon found us someone else you'd never heard of moments later as he bounced into the commentary box promising us another rock god. Who would it be? Bonio perhaps given the night, but no, this was Errol Blyth.

"It wasn't a top band, I'm afraid," admitted Errol.

"Well, was it known by anyone?" begged a crestfallen Matt.

"It was known by a few people in the independent charts at the time," came the haughty reply.

"Oh, very Smiths and aren't I trendy, what was the name of your band?" retorted Matt.

"Ritual. And I was in another band afterwards called In Excelsis, you can find us on Youtube if you want." Do you mind if I don't?

And if that wasn't enough then who should pop up but Pharrell Williams, looking very happy to be there. What's that? Oh, Darrell Williams, Sky's post-race interrogator, who was joined by fellow reporter Julie Collier as we wondered did one race merit five presenters, especially when you can't interview the competitors.

A pre-race lunch gave us the chance to find out a bit more about the backroom teams, including one trainer who put things into perspective.

"People have walked on the moon, if we win the derby just put me down as one of those people who walked on the moon," he said. I've checked, Neil Armstrong did not have a dog floating on a lead, although the wee car he had was called the rover so he's maybe not as mad as I thought.

Paul Young was up next. No not the popular crooner of the Eighties, but another trainer, who didn't break into a rendition of 'Wherever I lay my trap, that's my kennel', and it was perhaps fitting then that given all the rock-based fun and frolics that the winner was called Rio Quattro.

It certainly didn't dance on the sand as the Womble came past the trap and they were off, leaving red-hot favourite Farloe Blitz from Derry in his wake to romp home and prompt possibly the best opening question ever asked to a trainer.

"Eighteen months ago you nearly died, how do you feel now?" Collier asked Danny Riordan, who said he was 'bubbling' but thankfully was able to join his canine chum for a lap of honour.

"Once again it's Quattro (not pictured) who tops the charts at Wimbledon," concluded Ennis, thankfully stopping short of a Canine the Canine joke, but over at SW19 it was all our yesterdays as well as we began proceedings, appropriately with another Barker.

Yes, simpering Sue is back, giggling like a schoolgirl at whatever John McEnroe says, who assured us that the greatest show on earth was back and we wouldn't miss a thing.

Now that isn't strictly true, is it Sue?

For as is the BBC way, while a match may start on BBC2, it could flit over midway through to BBC1 and even disappear behind the red button or even more alarmingly, online where 13 matches are available.

"We're amongst the crowd and amongst friends here, with two Wimbledon champions," she began, but no sign of Rio Quattro drinking Pimms from a bowl, just McEnroe with Lindsay Davenport and Tim Henman or Tim Henman four-time semi-finalist to give him his full name at Wimbers.

McEnroe has been around this particular posh block enough to know how to keep the crowd happy, tipping Andy Murray to lift the trophy to much hurrahs from the great washed surrounding him.

"I'm picking an American when I go downstairs," he chortled as Sue went on to reveal the results of a pointless 'who will win the tournament' online poll and admitted that "everyone is confident about Murray but they're probably a little bit biased". How dare you.

My money is on Novak Djokovic as he looked really good in his opening match. Well, he did for as long as I had recorded, as Barker butted in.

"Here on BBC2 we're going to leave Centre Court but if you want to watch the match you can on BBC1," she said, as I looked in vain for a time machine to allow me this facility when I was watching after work.

Still, at least it did give me time to go on Youtube and catch up with Stephanie and Errol Blyth's greatest hits... I think I'd rather listen to a girl named Sue.

Belfast Telegraph


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