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What's on the box: It's Baku to basics from Azerbaijan for World politics


Glee for Leigh: Scotland’s two-goal hero Leigh Griffiths will go down in folklore as will Craig Gordon too. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

Glee for Leigh: Scotland’s two-goal hero Leigh Griffiths will go down in folklore as will Craig Gordon too. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA


Glee for Leigh: Scotland’s two-goal hero Leigh Griffiths will go down in folklore as will Craig Gordon too. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

It was an unusual day on Saturday for, as we all emerged from our post-election hangovers, there was the small matter of worrying about the world again, the World Cup that is.

In far-flung Azerbaijan, or oil-rich Azerbaijan as it must now always be referred to, Northern Ireland were in action, while closer to home once oil-rich Scotland were entertaining their less noisy neighbours in the shape of England, no oil to speak of, but if America is invading somewhere with it they'll be there like a shot.

At this stage I have a confession to make. I had settled down to enjoy the action from Baku but the effects of two late nights working in the office dealing with the election coverage (this nonsense isn't all I do in the week, I promise) made me about as useful as Ukip, and that's what happened.

My kip ended with a bizarre jolt, a sudden need to wake up and drink some coffee, and as I awoke I had what I can only describe as a Bobby Ewing moment and suddenly all talk turned to a shot and Dallas.

Thankfully there were no grassy knolls in oil-rich Azerbaijan and this shot had a happy ending as Stuarty's effort rattled into the back of the net and kept Norn Iron on the road to Russia, lots of oil and don't ask us about it or else.

The fire in Glasgow was expected to be just as warm as two Auld enemies locked horns.

Before entering my Ewing state I had the presence of mind to record this game, or rather, twice, as watching this game wasn't just as simple as putting an X in a box, there was a first past the post system available.

This was one of those rare moments in TV where contracts collide, ITV's tie-up with England meaning they could march northwards with rebellious Sky sorts to crush, who had thrown their lot in with the rest of the UK and were able to show the game too.

As expected segregation was key at Hampden Park, although somewhat surprisingly this applied to the two broadcasters as well, with one of them showing the match from one side and the other from, well, the other side, and who knew that relations between ITV and Sky were about as good as the DUP and Jeremy Corbyn. ITV presenter Mark Pougatch had also noticed that there had been something going on last week.

"Good afternoon, as the country catches its breath after the General Election there will be no coalition between these two, it's time for Scotland against England," he said, and he was joined by his own gang of four, Ally McCoist (SNP, Sadly Not Playing), Lee Dixon (Laboured), Ryan Giggs (Played Cymru, unless it was a friendly) and Ian Wright (Monster Raving Loony Party).

McCoist made an early attempt at reconciliation, mentioning a member of the opposition in Sky pundit Graeme Souness (much more of him later), whose hardline approach to international affairs was just what was needed on a day like this.

Wright was already making a ridiculous number-crunching prediction that Leigh Griffiths could have a big say on the result, while Giggs was saying precious little that anyone was taking notice of and considering a move to the SDLP - left wing and delivers very rarely.

After the anthems, which were greeted with more boos than a ghost train convention, commentator Clive Tyldesley, not known from his impartiality, revealed his own unlikely alliance.

"The score at kick-off is Scotland 41 England 48, the score at full-time will spoil a few Saturday nights. My wife's Scottish, I tell you there's an awful lot at stake here," he revealed.

In ITV's appeasement policy he was joined by Glenn Hoddle in the white corner and Kevin Gallagher in the blue, who was keen to start his own movement involving Adam Lallana.

"There he's moving, he's got beautiful movement and he moves and slides," he told us, movingly, but by half-time there was little to move backsides from seats as precious little happened.

Not so in the second period, where the blue touch paper was lit by a man called Alex. No, not Ferguson, this one was Oxlade-Chamberlain, who fired England in front, and just as the Scots were about to head homeward to think again lamenting about hyphens, up stepped Griffiths.

"It's hit by Leigh Griffiths and it's in," roared Tyldesley, as his missus scraped his neeps and tatties back out of the dog's dish.

Three minutes later another free-kick.

"It's Griffiths again, he's scored again, lightning strikes twice in no time at all, Leigh Griffiths has written himself into Scottish football folklore," said Tyldesley, as his missus, who once wrote Clive a song about Barcelona he always uses for Man Utd matches, started writing again. Not so fast, Mrs T.

On the touchline wee Gordon Strachan was dancing about like a Labour politician who had just lost an election when another Gordon was to cost him as goalkeeper Craig voted not to catch a floating cross and Harry Kane made it 2-2.

"Ally McCoist has been to heaven and back again," revealed Pougatch in the studio, Heaven being a nightclub probably, and concluded that it was 'another draw in the week of no clear winners.'

Try telling that to Souness, who, very unlike him, had been spoiling for a fight all day, but then again close proximity to Jamie Redknapp for any length of time would make even the Lib Dems a bit tetchy.

It wasn't helped by Sky opening their coverage pitch-side, and boy had they made a song and dance about having the longest build-up ahead of the game.

This was probably because Redknapp was on board, a man whose only known forward pass was to ask Louise out, while Souness was growling as dancing girls unfurled a giant England flag right beside him.

"Can you make them move up a bit?" he growled at presenter David Jones, and once they did, Souness (above) did his part for bridge-building.

"I shared a dressing room with English players and they don't like us as much as we don't like them," he hinted, and even Jamie caught on.

"You're right up for this today, I can tell," he said as the build-up finally ended and we handed over to commentator Martin Tyler, who crammed another election reference in, just in case you hadn't been paying attention.

"At the end of a week where the United Kingdom has counted its votes, there's one result still outstanding," he said, and 90 minutes later we were back where we started and everyone could go home happy. Well, almost everyone.

"If you could see Graeme Souness' face," said Jones, as we did, and Jamie poked him further with 'we are still going out tonight, aren't we, you'll be alright, come on' and patted Graeme's thigh and pollsters predicted a 100% swing to his right.

"I feel as if we've been beaten and beaten badly," he whimpered, but not as much as Jamie was going to be.

"We don't beat England very much, that will haunt us for generations, for decades," he ended, as Mrs Tyldesley started penning a very sad song about two Gordons who were far from gay and one called Graeme introducing Jamie to a claymore.

Meanwhile, over in Baku, the Green Party in full swing, which was something of a turn up given we were in the middle of oil-rich Azerbaijan.

The good, the bad and the ugly

THE GOOD: The fairy story of all fairy stories came at the French Open as unseeded Jelena Ostapenko won the women’s final in surely the most shocking clay-based jaw-dropper since Tony Hart came back into the studio to find Mr Bennett the caretaker moulding Morph into all sorts of shapes.

THE BAD: Well done to Wasps on being crowned Netball Superleague champions, beating Loughborough Lightning in the final on Sunday on Sky, but it is sad that neither Team Bath nor Hertfordshire Mavericks made it to the last two thus depriving me of two of my stock jokes. Damn you, Wasps, damn you, let’s see how clever you are when I set a giant half-empty jam jar beside the court next season.

THE UGLY: And congratulations to Ryan Burnett on his IBF World Bantamweight title triumph at the weekend, despite the best efforts of a doddery old judge who couldn’t tell one fighter from the other and has duly been shown the door. In better news though, he has got a job in Foyle electoral office.

Belfast Telegraph