Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the Box: No need for a Pep talk, he’s Mour than happy

There are times in the past when I may have accused Sky of trying to flog a dead horse, but I never actually thought it would happen for real.

“Okay, so it’s a two-horse race, but if Arkle took on Dessie, you’d watch, wouldn’t you?,” said Mark Bolton as the Spanish football returned to our screens on Sunday evening.

There was almost a hint of desperation in his voice to try and convince us that it wouldn’t be just about Barcelona and Real Madrid this season, and after the opening night he could be right — it’s just about Barca.

I say ‘opening’ night but in reality it was the second evening but the Saturday games didn’t really matter as there was only show in town. No, not Gerry Arconada-Armstrong, an even bigger import — Jose Mourinho.

First though it was another footballing legend — Birtles — co-commentator for Barca’s game with Racing (see, it’s all horses).

When we joined the game some wee cherubic chappy was taking centre stage while a man called Francis was gadding about and making a nuisance of himself. On closer inspection it wasn’t an old episode of Crackerjack, there wasn’t a wee Jimmy Krankie or a Stu crushing a grape in anger, just Lionel Messi taking the hand.

Francis pushed Iniesta and in Incredible Hulk fashion, you wouldn’t like him if he’s angry, as he lobbed the ball in from a ridiculous position to leave Birtles speechless.

Only he wasn’t.

“You just run out of superlatives when you try to describe what happens on a football pitch when Barcelona play,” he said. Fair point, well made.

“I mean the first goal from Messi was an absolute classic,” he continued, clearly finding another superlative in a plate of paella.

And then when Francis tumbled down in the box like a dropped cabbage on a Friday tea-time, keeper Victor Valdes was at it too, pulling off a great save to deny what looked like Wyclef Jean, a goal back. They’re no fun at all.

David Villa added another ridiculously good goal in the second-half and, as Pep Guardiola trooped off, the gauntlet had been thrown down to Jose Mourinho over in Mallorca to take on Michael Laudrup’s men.

They don’t really do ugly coaches in Spain, do they?

“It’s the first time a Galactico has been a manager, the chosen one has landed,” added commentator Rob Palmer, but while Jose may be the matinee idol, his football is more Pop Idol with all the grace and beauty of the unwanted child of Ric Waller and Michelle McManus.

But if it’s style you want, then Gerry’s yer man, as we went down memory lane with Palmer, talking about a player born in 1987.

“His father could tell him about Gerry Armstrong’s great exploits on the holiday island in the mid-eighties,” he said, as Gerry’s lawyers got on the phone.

“Gerry was here in 1983-84, they were relegated but he still made a massive impact,” said Palmer as he continued to dig out the hole he had started, as the game petered out into a scoreless draw.

And then with the last rites being given to the steaming equines, Bolton returned sullen-faced at the end of it all.

“Being special is one thing, being especial is another,” he concluded.

Indeed, no Pep talk needed, Jose, just let the footy speak.

Belfast Telegraph


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