Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the Box: Beware Garth Crooks

A word of warning to everyone out there, in these festive times I have noticed a worrying rise in appearances by crooks — that's Garth Crooks.

The pontificating pundit is now a regular fixture on the Final Score sofa of a Saturday afternoon, where he is joined by other striking legends such as Steve Claridge and Mark ‘thankfully not Ian Wright' Bright.

On Saturday he also appeared to be joined by Andy Pandy, but on closer inspection it turned out that Gabby Logan had just turned up in fancy dress before switching sofas to Match of the Day later in the evening and donning a fancy frock the following evening for the Sports Personality of the Year nonsense.

I didn't see Garth in Sheffield but he was probably there, more than likely being used by the South Yorkshire Constabulary to direct traffic, but not before he astounded us with his verbal dexterity on Final Score.

And then high drama as Gabby informed us there was a goal for Everton at Stamford Bridge.

“That would have rattled Chelsea, Garth,” she said, nicely stating the obvious, and while we awaited a pearl of wisdom I had to look twice to check Alan Freeman or Smashie and Nicey hadn’t taken over on the sofa as the incisive retort 'not half' was delivered.

Still time to redeem himself as while Andy, sorry, Gabby was in full flow and off camera Garth excitedly blurted out 'there's a goal' but we had to wait as we went off for a plug for the Sports Personality awards again.

But while he had to play second fiddle in 2009, on ESPN Classic, the former Spurs striker was one of the more surprising choices to appear on an old ITV programme ‘Soccer Superstars of the 80s'.

Now while we had the likes of Kenny Dalglish and Bryan Robson, Garth's appearance was more of a shock, especially those of us who remember his mercifully brief spell at Old Trafford, but I'm sure Ossie Ardiles or Steve Perryman would have been less than impressed to be ignored while Crooks starred.

And while he now struggles to get a word in with Gabby around, there was proof that things were better in the 80s, as Garth latched onto a pass from none other than Terry Yorath, who at least gave Crooks more to play with than his daughter.

But the show itself was great, some cracking action and hairdos, but even better was hearing the old ITV commentators who were the real superstars.

I was just longing for Brian Moore to say ‘and our second game today is at Ipswich Town, the pictures are from Anglia Television and the commentator is Gerry Harrison', as John Wark hammered home the Mitre ball with the red stripe on it, but it wasn't to be.

Jim Rosenthal was in charge, and as they ran out of superstars in the last few minutes, he told us 'to enjoy more of the names from a golden decade' only for Neil Webb and Garry Birtles to appear (pictures by Granada, commentary by Martin Tyler).

Please come back Garth, all is forgiven.

Belfast Telegraph

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