3 November ~ This may sound alarming, but Harry Redknapp this week got me fantasising about an old girlfriend. She was the kind of girl who thought that if you weren’t talking all the time, then the relationship must be in crisis. While travelling around central Europe, we had a huge row at Prague station about which train we were supposed to catch, and she took the huff. “What did you like best about the Czech Republic?” a friend asked me upon my return. “That’s easy,” I replied. “The three hours of peace and quiet on the train from Prague to Marienbad.”
Redknapp was not fined by the FA for his post-match comments about the Nani-Gomes-Clattenburg scandal, and so his threat to withdraw from media interviews is now redundant. What a relief, for how on earth would we have coped with the ensuing peace and quiet? How would fans have properly been able to analyse Tottenham Hotspur games without first hearing Redknapp’s concise and objective slant on what had just happened? Just the other week, for example, after a draw against Everton, Redknapp threw open a whole new world of tactical complexity when he opined that Spurs had “stayed solid and the centre-backs were top class. We've always showed good spirit and a never-say-die attitude.”
A mute Redknapp would have been hard to take on top of Lord Alex of Trafford’s long-term boycott of speaking to the BBC, the reasons for which no one can remember. Massive disrespect, no doubt. Whatever it was, Match of the Day has been like a caravan without a cludgie ever since. All the goals and all the action and all that controversy, real or imagined, can not make up for the lack of a rubescent old man’s 30-second monologue whining at the referee and the mishaps of Providence. If you’d taken away grudgeful Harry’s potted wheeze too, you might as well have scrapped the show altogether. We’d have been left with little more than the football itself and Sam Allardyce’s blazer blacking out the screen.
Sunshine Harry actually made a fair point about being obliged to stand in front of the cameras right at the end of the game, and then having to refrain from saying what he considers to be the truth. He added that he’d rather be on the coach home already. What a shame he didn’t take a stand on that point alone, for everyone’s sake, preferably to be followed with a solidarity walkout by every other manager in the country. I can’t be the only viewer who groans at the end of every highlights segment when another wrinkled, weary face explains that he’s either happy or disappointed with that afternoon’s result. They clearly don’t want to be bothered, and we genuinely don’t want to hear them. Get on with the next game.
Those games, though, play an increasingly minor role in The Event, which starts with the necessarily speculative and inane void of the build-up, and culminates in the hysterical flogging of the aftermath that sometimes lasts for several days beyond the final whistle. In between come 90 minutes of sport, the only part you can watch in relative peace and quiet. But that’s still my favourite bit, my spectating equivalent of the Prague to Marienbad train ride. The rest is just a nagging blather. Ian Plenderleith