Early Doors

Nearly men

Early Doors

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As befits a sporting non-event of gargantuan proportions,
there were plenty of England
nearly-greats on show at the Andorra
game last night.

The members of the 1966 squad who did not play the final
showed off their newly-received World Cup winners'
medals in an act of recognition for fringe players that must have been
especially poignant for Scott Carson.

Earlier, the nearly-man theme was hammered home when Jimmy
Greaves posed for photos with Gordon Brown. In a parallel universe, Tony Blair
and Geoff Hurst embraced.

Back at Wembley, touchline reporter Gabriel Clarke collared Greaves
at half-time, and quickly wished he hadn't.

Greavesie pretended(?) not to know who the opposition were,
and declared himself flabbergasted that any sane person would want to watch
this rubbish.

This would not have pleased ITV bosses, who shunted The Bill
out of the way to accommodate a mismatch that was now being ridiculed on their
own air time.

Still, it is nothing new for Greaves to embarrass ITV; he
did it on a weekly basis as one half of an excruciating double-act in the late 80s
and early 90s.

This clip from Saint and Greavsie
is well worth watching for Greaves's
complete refusal to take seriously an apology for a cock-up in last week's competition.

Greaves heckles Ian St John's
admission that ITV got the answer to their own question wrong, then, when
prompted to draw some winners out of what looks like a wicker bin, announces
the first winner as 'A. Pillock'.

The sequence is even better in light of TV's new po-faced approach to competitions in the wake
of all those scandals.

The outrage at Blue Peter giving their cat a
non-viewer-approved name all seems a bit overblown what with the global economy
on its knees and Susan Boyle in the Priory.

Clarke swiftly ended the Greavsie interview and handed back
to the studio, where Steve Ryder attempted to drum up excitement by wondering
whether Wayne Rooney could score five.

The tension did not last long, as Rooney was immediately substituted.

- - -

Apparently, there were a few travel problems around Wembley yesterday. We know
this because people (ED included) have talked about little else since the tube
strike became a reality.

Apparently, the same fans who have just got back from a
7,000-mile round trip to Central Asia were
unable to make it to North-West London.

That, obviously, was the reason for the empty seats against Andorra. Not
the shoddy calibre of the opposition.

This morning Sky Sports News is running an absurd feature, filmed
almost entirely from the inside of a mini, in which an intrepid reporter drives
from Osterley to Wembley.

Obviously it takes a while, and the reporter seems genuinely
surprised that she should encounter traffic while driving through London during rush hour.

She gets to the ground and parks up in a suspiciously conveniently-located
space. Two-and-a-half hours to do six miles. Should have walked it, missy.

Then, just when you think the feature is over, we see the
journey home. As anyone who has ever been to a major sporting event will tell
you, it is slow going, yet she is astonished that it would take 25 minutes to
get out of a packed car park.

As investigative journalism goes, it is hardly Woodward and
Bernstein. They're the blokes who exposed
the Watergate scandal, by the way, not the ones who did all those Broadway

- - -

Given Diego Maradona's
pharmaceutical history, it is probably fair to say he is no stranger to the odd
nosebleed. Which may explain why he is so rubbish at managing teams at

Earlier this year Argentina were tonked 6-1 away to Bolivia, and last night
they went down 2-0 in Ecuador after a match that saw Carlos Tevez miss a penalty
and Leo Messi miss a sitter.

Never the most gracious loser, Maradona insisted his side had deserved to

didn't do anything in the first
half," he said. "In the second half, they got a couple of rebounds
and they scored two goals.

"If we had scored a goal, it would have finished the game off."

Probably not at 2-0 though, eh?

Rather excitingly, Maradona's men
are now in genuine danger of not qualifying. They are in the fourth and final
automatic qualifying position, two points ahead of Ecuador
and another two ahead of Uruguay.

Their next game is a nice, easy one against group leaders Brazil, and even in
Argentina questions are being asked over the managerial credentials of somebody
who is considered half-man, half-deity.

have failed to qualify only once in their history, and there would be a neat
symmetry if the man who won the World Cup almost by himself manages to lose it
just as single-handedly.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Real Madrid director Jorge Valdano: "I can only talk
about players who are on their way here, not about those we are in negotiations
over. He is a great professional, he dedicates a very great deal of time to his
work. He is a great footballer and a very good professional. According to the
information we have managed to obtain, he is an excellent professional. You don't get the player's
body he has, which is a footballing advertisement, without working a great
deal. Another thing is that his reputation as an officially good-looking guy,
and a social or advertising model, blurs his image a bit. He is a great
footballer." Thought you said you couldn't
talk about... oh, never mind.

FOREIGN VIEW: 'Cristiano will
fulfil his life's dream, he will play
in Madrid' - Marca also give Ronaldo the Photoshop treatment,
putting him in a Real shirt. Fergie won't
be best pleased.

There's more tennis from
and the Twenty20 Super Eights
start today. And stay abreast of all the transfer news with our lovely ticker

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