Belfast Telegraph

Billy on the Box: The ultimate in weekend sport

By Billy Weir

When Sky have very little to show they can't half make a song and dance about it but when they have quite a lot to put on, then it's best just to accept it, lie down in a darkened room and hope that Jim White's voice stops haunting you eventually.

No hype was needed for the Ultimate Weekend, with something for everyone or everything for someone if you were a fan of darts, golf, football, rugby (both codes), cricket and Formula One.

Most of those will be dealt with elsewhere, apart from the cricket as the only 'ultimate' about England at the moment should be accompanied by 'disappointment' but the headliners at the Ultimate Weekender were the Champions League from Lisbon and the Monaco Grand Prix from, errr, Monte Carlo.

Wishing to save my seething feuds and angry glare quotient for this weekend's boxing, I quickly left Roy Keane and Steven Gerrard to it on ITV, and moved quickly to Sky where, at least, there would be no Scousers to annoy me. Ahhhh.

It was like Scallies Reunited as Graeme Souness was the meat in a Jamie sandwich. That is Graeme Souness the 'three-time European Cup winner' as his caption read, and Jamie Carragher 'Champions League winner 2005', while Jamie Redknapp's caption read 'Jamie Redknapp'. Still, he did win Thomas Cook Rep of the Year.

But this was no holiday. Jeff Stelling, once he eventually stopped talking, got his pundits to do some punditry as Madrid took on Atletico or Real took on Madrid, or Madrid took on Madrid. You can only imagine how confused the better dressed Jamie could get.

Jeff was on hand to differentiate.

"Real Madrid – European football aristocrats, affluent, big-spending, a side full of individual brilliance and flair.

"Atletico Madrid – artisans rather than aristocrats, thrifty, they sell to survive but they have the twin attributes of hard work and team work. Geographically neighbours, but in footballing terms, they are on different planets." Or, loosely translated, Real will get the big decisions when they need them.

Redknapp started in ebullient fashion, confidently predicting that 'Diego Simeone is on the brink of being one of the greatest managers ever.'

That copybook may be slightly blotted now after being on the brink of losing the plot completely later in the evening.

The early attacks, of the verbal variety, came, unsurprisingly from Souness, who, it transpires finds Luka Modric so irksome he can't even remember his name.

"Jamie is a big fan of the little guy they got from Tottenham," he began as Redknapp, all pleased with himself, butted in with 'Modric', before Souness continued to tear him apart.

"I think he's bordering on being a five-a-side player, doesn't score any goals," he continued before Redknapp, bravely or foolishly, butted in 'I can't agree with you there'.

"Well that's why I've said it," growled Graeme, as Jeff and the other Jamie dived for cover.

"He keeps the ball, does he deliver the killer ball, does he score goals? Most definitely not. Does he get the ball back for you? Most definitely not. Does he look good at times? Yes." He may as well have been describing Redknapp.

It wasn't long though until the Simeone smooch-in continued.

"I don't think I've ever seen someone who is such box office. He pulls, he pushes, he cajoles, it's not an act with him. I look at some managers and they look like they do their preparations in the mirror – he's raw, he knows exactly what he's doing." Indeed Jamie, even when he's looking to maul an official.

With so much time to fill in the build-up there was time for plenty of guests, including the obligatory piece with Sky ambassador, Lord David Beckham, but the star of the show had, fittingly for Saturday night, the X Factor, which was handy because Britain has precious little talent for reaching football finals.

Xabi Alonso, yet another one with Scouse links, was so good he even argued with Souness about Modric and won. Spanish Police are currently seeking the whereabouts on a Snr Alonso, last seen, every two minutes on TV, in Lisbon on Saturday evening.

Another soon to be missing person was another Diego, this time Costa, who was another of Redknapp's favourites.

"He looks like an absolute Bond villain – he just loves aggro, he wants to bash into people, he's a monster," although he was more off to the doctor than Dr No as his dodgy hamstring went after 10 minutes.

His team-mate, Koke, first name Hoke, was still okay, and as commentator Martin Tyler, mischievously said he 'left his right leg in.' No mention of the whereabouts of his left leg or whether anything was being shaken all about.

Real were shaken soon after as Godin got in to score for Atletico and all was well with Diego the manager and continued to be until injury-time when Sergio Ramos scored an equaliser, bringing a yelp of 'yessssss' from Tyler and a pained moan of 'awwwwwww' from Gary Neville beside him.

But then Sky got what they wanted, a winning goal from Gareth Bale. Okay, technically there were two more goals after his, but his was the crucial one as it gave them someone with a grasp of English to speak to afterwards.

Neville wasn't so taken with Simeone, who, had decided to move away from the touchline and join in on the fun on the pitch, as a Lord Beckham sniggered in Miami.

"Simeone's gone, his head's gone. He's going to punch someone," he shouted, but he didn't, although he did offer some players into the tunnel, as Tyler said 'in life you have to win with dignity and lose with dignity' but you get the feeling Simeone may put the 'dig' in dignity.

It was a bit like that in Monaco as duelling Mercedes drivers, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, got on as well as, well, Redknapp and Souness, the evil German beating the plucky Brit to the chequered flag by not cheating in practice, nudge, nudge, wink, wink and then shamefully not letting our brave boy past him.

And huffy Hamilton reacted by chucking the champers out of the pram and blanked Rosberg.

Come on, Lewis, lose with dignity.

What's that I hear, someone called Diego still hammering at a door in Lisbon? Oh, okay then.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

THE GOOD: In the battle of the initials it was RVB who got the better of MVG in a PL final that was VG on Sky. Or, in words, Raymond van Barneveld defeated Michael Van Gerwen in a cracking Premier League Darts final on Thursday night. This is a worrying trend where triple-barrelled names are reduced to initials, with AVB, RVP and now LVG in football, but much to Niall O’Brien’s relief it seems to have avoided cricket.

THE BAD: Toulon were just a step too far for Mark McCall’s Saracens in the Heineken Cup where they weren’t so much dancing on the streets of the French city, as doing a hornpipe of hurrah in the harbour according to Sky’s Stuart Barnes. “Can you imagine the scenes right now in that naval city,” he pondered. “They’ll be going ballistic.” Health and safety won’t be happy about that.

THE UGLY: Can’t imagine Rory McIlroy will be heading to Denmark anytime soon, first breaking up with Caroline Wozniacki and then breaking the heart of Thomas Bjorn at the BMW PGA Championship on Sunday. The last people to be so hated in Copenhagen were Take That who knocked Whigfield off No.1 spot back in 1994. Still, at least the French Open will take her mind off things. Oh…

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