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Thursday, 19 October 2006

3780: England: Ian Wright, Tigger an

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by : Jeff Gold

I like Ian Wright. There, I’ve said it, or written it at least, and not without trepidation. I haven’t so exposed myself to scorn and ridicule since I suggested that sleeping with a seventy-eight year old might not be an entirely unattractive proposition, especially if you are seventy-eight.

For Wright is not universally revered and it’s easy to see why. He lacks certain qualities that we can reasonably expect to find in an international football pundit. He is the epitome of the “banal, lazy, utterly unfunny, self-satisfied, Anglocentric” analyst that I usually revile, and while the objectivity of many of his colleagues is affected by having friends in the England squad, Wright goes one step further, having family there too. The presence of his stepson, Shaun Wright-Phillips, gives him an interest that isn’t just vested but is shirted, tank-topped and anoraked as well.

For the game against Macedonia, Wright, not unusually, looked to have arrived at 4.46 for a 4.45 start, Gary Lineker setting the scene while Wright was brushed, dressed and rammed into his seat. Lineker, possibly mischievously, turned to him first for comment. This resulted in a flustered and uncomfortable Wright launching into his standard response: a barely penetrable fuzz of noise. Its general thrust, conveyed by the constant repetition of a single word, was that “we”, England, were “confident”.

This confidence was dented somewhat by a first half in which an unheralded Macedonia team were largely untroubled. However, this was no disaster for Wright, not with young Shaun on the bench. In a manner befitting a true professional, Wright refrained from demanding the immediate inclusion of his stepson, content instead to compile a lowlights package illustrating the shortcomings of his rivals.

It is not clear if this had any direct influence on the decision-making of England coach Ginger ‘The Cat’ McClaren, but Wright-Phillips took to the field for the last twenty minutes, bringing to the team verve and enthusiasm that had previously been missing. It was a decent result for Wright, although the score remained 0-0.

It is that same enthusiasm and bounce that I admire in Wright. Despite his various weaknesses, it’s difficult to be angry with him and, somehow, this Tigger of the airwaves always makes me smile. Whether intentionally or not, he is entertaining and that is more than can be said for the team.

So yes, I like Ian Wright and I can’t be alone, for he is undoubtedly part of the BBC’s A team. I refer, of course, to its first choice line-up rather than some licence fee-squandering gang who cruise the country helping weak and defenceless members of the football community, like Ashley Cole. Although I may be on to something there. With his smooth talking style, you could slap some highlights in Alan Hansen’s hair and create something not totally unlike Face; Gary Lineker is a natural Hannibal; and Wright, the loon of the group, is clearly Captain “Howlin’ Mad” Murdock.

That leaves Alan Shearer as B.A. Baracus which is where the whole thing slightly falls apart. Mind you, he does have in his suitably limited repertoire that humourless, quizzical look that says “Shut up, fool” or the Geordie equivalent. So, sling him some bling, get Wright to annoy him and, voila, if not quite Mr T then maybe Mr Y.I.

Now that really would be entertaining. It could almost make England worth watching. Imagine: after a crucial and dramatic late victory, Lineker could chew on a cigar and utter the immortal line “I love it when a plan comes together”. It’s a shame he will never get the chance.

After Match of the Day, the BBC invited me to watch some gyrating dancers ejaculate. Amazing. I’m all for testing the boundaries of the televisual experience, but the idea of come, dancing, has to be a two-step too far, certainly before the watershed. It is surely a case of taking the television barrel and not only scraping its bottom but stroking its prostate as well.

Intrigued by the technical demands of this jis-jiggling genre, I concluded that some form of weightlessness would be required. I therefore braced myself for a medley of scenes from classic sci-fi porn flicks, some examples of genuinely seminal film-making. Battlestar Erotica, for instance, or Star Whores featuring Hands Solo, followed by Tom Yanks in Apollo 69. Perhaps they would even show that deeply unpleasant clip from Star Feck where Bones pinned down Lieutenant Uhura, and William Shatner. But just as I was coming round to the idea, I learned that Bruce Forsyth would be involved. Bruce is seventy-eight. I swallowed hard and resolved to stick to football.

Jeff Gold
16 October 2006

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