Belfast Telegraph

Mark Lawrenson's misery makes it hard to keep focus

By Billy Weir

Football Focus was once compulsory viewing for the fan starved of gossip and features in a time when Sky Sports News and the like were but a glint in the eye of Jim White.

No plate of Super Noodles (flavour optional) and minced beef Crispy Pancakes (options not up for consideration) of a Saturday lunchtime would have been complete without sitting down for a tasty bite of Bob Wilson.

It also filled a bit of time before Saint and Greavise came on, the Tiswas to Football Focus' Swap Shop, but there's a sense now that FF, as it has to be known in the BBC's new initially-dominated world, has really passed its sell-by date.

Either that or you're left with an unpleasant after taste and an overwhelming feeling that there should be another 'F' inserted to encapsulate our true feelings about what we are about to be receive.

Of course this may be to do with the fact that Mark Lawrenson may just have appeared on the screen looking like he's sucked on a lemon-flavoured Crispy Pancake.

It didn't help on Saturday that technically FF was served AM and not at lunch-time, with Lawro squeezed in between James Martin and Suzi Perry – there's an image – and you just knew that he was going to serve up noodles that were super or pancakes, crispy or otherwise.

Presenter Dan Walker seems a nice chap, and has a natty line in sensible knitwear, but he's not Bob Wilson . I know, I've checked.

"We have a shortened, but sharpened, Football Focus for you this week, plenty to pack into our power half hour," he promised, but as we panned on to Lawro joined by fellow former Irish international, Kevin Kilbane, who both hail from the 33rd county – Preston – you didn't really believe him.

First course was the catch of the day in Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet, the new hero of the Kop after keeping a clean sheet against Stoke. It doesn't make him Ray Clemence but after another shut-out against Aston Villa later that day, planning permission has probably been lodged for a statue at Anfield.

Back to the studio and Lawro, looking more and more like Frank from Shameless by the day, was at least a bit chirpier that he had something to moan about rather than stew in his displeasure at being moved aside in Match of the Day.

"Look at how many keepers Man Utd had after Schmeichel left – it must have been 10," he said, as Dan promised to get him the answer before the end of the show after perusing his Big Boy's Book of Massimo Taibi and friends.

The main course was a healthy serving of football's tastiest dish, Jose Mourinho, back on the menu again after dabbling with a bit of Italian and some Spanish, and it hasn't taken him long to make his mark.

A dig at Paul Lambert and nicking Willian from out of Spurs' hands led Kilbane to accuse Chelsea of lacking 'a little bit of class and dignity.' Hold Maxine Mawhinney, there's bigger news breaking here at FF.

Then came a piece on the sacking of Hope Powell as manager of the England women's side which appeared only to be on to allow Dan to declare that 'England are officially Hope-less.' Ker-boom!

From there it was off to Man City and the arrival of Fernandinho where Damian Johnson explained that "Portuguese became the latest language in a multi-cultural dressing room that at times must feel like a language school." Indeed, so unlike any other Premier League team then.

The Brazilian promised to try and speak the local lingo as he slipped on a cloth cap and tucked into a steaming bowl of Betty's Hotpot. This will work, I mean look at Lawro and Kilbane, two Irish lads but you'd think they'd lived in Lancashire all their lives.

Fernandinho vowed that he would give '200 per cent' to the club, so never mind your language, I'd find a maths class, but thinking of a number, Dan came up with the answer that we were all waiting for, there has indeed been 10 keepers at Old Trafford since the great Dane left and this cheered Lawro up no end.

The thoughts of Lawro and 10 in the same sentence are not good, the image of him running up a beach in a camel-coloured bathing suit enough to put anyone off their Crispy Pancakes.

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