Belfast Telegraph

Messenger Gabriel gets frosty Wembley reception from wee Gord

I have knowledge of three Gabriels. One, as legend would have it, was despatched by God to pass on messages (Tesco didn't deliver in those days), another was the banjo-playing toad on Bagpuss and the other is Mr Clarke, ITV's roving football reporter.

The latter wasn't sent by God, but he did go to see Gord, Scotland manager Gordon Strachan, the unwanted offshoot of a strange coming together of Nicola Sturgeon and wee Jimmy Krankie, ahead of his nation's clash with the Auld Enemy, England, on Friday night.

At the start, presenter Mark Pougatch pondered as to "what will the 113th meeting of England and Scotland be remembered for?" before, as is the way of any big game, he was replaced by a booming actor and archive footage with earnest words aplenty.

It was such a big game that Pougatch was joined by no fewer than four experts, two Englishmen (Lee Dixon and a huge poppy who turned out to be wearing Ian Wright), a Scotsman (Ally McCoist) and, strangely, a Welshman (Ryan Giggs, the only neutral in the village). We were only an Irishman away from things becoming a joke.

McCoist can always be relied on for some japes and so it was as he admitted that he was 'pleasantly staggered' by Strachan's team selection, meaning he was in the same condition as the 14,000 members of the Tartan Army.

"For Scotland to have any chance of getting a result tonight they have to be in England's face," he continued and, as is always the case, they did get a result - England 3 Scotland 0.

But it was Gabriel who was in wee Gord's face, pushing him on his eight changes.

"What do you hope this team has?" probed Gabriel.

"You're right in there right away, aren't you? This is the scariest part of the night, by the way, talking to you," came the answer, although that was to be replaced later by Grant Hanley's header and some cataclysmic defending.

"In your time as Scotland manager where do you place this one?" he was then asked.

"This is the one we're playing now so we deal with this," was the terse response.

"Is there a fragility about this English team you can maybe exploit?" asked a peeved Gabriel.

"Ohhh Gabriel, that's not for me to talk about England, I'm just here to talk about my team," answered Gordon, becoming more slippery than an eel on a curling rink.

"Do you not sense that?" he was further pushed.

"As I said, Gabriel, I'm just here to talk about my team," was the final word from Strachan and with that Gabriel was sent back to his maker.

"Well that was a good batting and bowling performance from those two, wasn't it?" chortled Pougatch.

"Listen, I hope the team is up for it as much as Gordon was," said McCoist, but, sadly for him and most of the universe, it wasn't to be as the crushed Scots were sent homeward, although wee Nicola has refused to acknowledge the result.

Belfast Telegraph


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