Eamo and the boys positively negative about Kerr's tactics

 

TV View: Cheer up, it could be worse. We could, for example, be Scotland. As George the Hook put it on Saturday, "Scotland have now been overtaken in the world rankings by . . ." . . . hold on, that was last week's column.

Groundhog Day? A bit, yeah. But while Scotland have been overtaken in the rugby rankings by Fiji, their footballing brothers now trail Guinea, Togo and Burkina Faso in the FIFA list. So, while that Israeli equaliser - which was scored after precisely 89 minutes and 59 seconds, not that we were keeping an eye on the clock - was somewhat dispiriting there's always someone worse off than ourselves. Like Scotland. Like Northern Ireland.

Above them in the rankings are Botswana, Rwanda, Turkmenistan and, perhaps most humiliatingly of all, Scotland. But Football Focus presenter Manish Bhasin felt Norn Iron were heading in the right direction (that'd be up) and believed this was all down to "Brian Kerr, the quiet man, quietly effective".

Silence.

"Lawrie Sanchez, you mean," corrected Mark Lawrenson, while Gordon Strachan had a good look at his shoelaces.

"Oh, yeah," said Manish, who was having one of those days where you need to check your birth cert to confirm your own name. We know the feeling Manish, we know the feeling.

And Garth Crooks was having, well, a Garth Crooks kind of day. You know yourself. Strachan noted the peculiar looking raincoat Old Trafford-based Garth was sporting and told us that he's "seen better-dressed wounds". Indeed.

Fast forward to England v Northern Ireland. BBC NI thought it might be a good idea to send reporter Austin O'Callaghan to The Bot, a Belfast drinking establishment where many of the football fans he chose to interview were evidently established drinkers. "Afsjguyw Norn hkhdyioye Iron lkahjsyw, that there," said one, his head resting on Austin's microphone as he gave his pre-match prediction. He was spot on, Norn Iron did well in the first half but the ceiling caved in early in the second.

On to Tel Aviv, via Montrose. "Is Shay Given the best goalkeeper in the Premiership?" asked Bill O'Herlihy. "He's the least worst," Eamon Dunphy gushed. We were up and running.

Hands up who knows anything about Israeli football, Billo asked.

Dunphy: "I know quite a lot about Israeli football because I've done my homework, that's what I'm paid for." Liam Brady: "I know quite a bit about them too." Bill: "You obviously know a lot about them, John?" Johnny Gilesie: "I don't know a lot about them, Bill. I watched them this morning for the first time."

A gold star to Eamo and Liamo, then, while Gilesie was made stand in the corner of the studio wearing a big pointy hat with a "D" on it. But before he went he concurred with his fellow panellists' doubts about the selection of Clinton Morrison.

Three minutes, four seconds into the game Morrison scored. Jim Beglin blamed the Israeli goalie (as Granny used always say: "never trust a goalie in a polo neck"), which led us to conclude: if his name was Clint van Basten, Beglo would have said something like: "woooooOOOOOOOoooooow".

Half-time. Like the Grand National, long faces all around. "They should take Morrison off, he's contributed nothing except the goal," said Eamo. Fair enough, although you have to say: that's a very big "except". Liamo was fretting about lapses in concentration and the like, but Bill told us "as they say in the classics, it's better to be 1-0 up than 1-0 down". (Merchant of Venice, Act II, Scene III, line 56).

Second half. You could sense it really, couldn't you? "Two points have been thrown in to the Mediterranean," as George Hamilton put it when It happened. The steam was rising back in the studio. Gilesie admitted to getting bored with 20 minutes to go, like Ireland he'd nodded off.

"I'm just getting news from Tel Aviv, the Irish dressingroom is locked," Bill told us. "I could do with a few Bacardi and Cokes meself," said Gilesie's face.

"This is the World Cup, it's not the Leinster League," Eamo informed us, while suggesting the players and their manager had been "mentally lazy". "The performance was very, very poor, we got what we deserved," said Liamo. "Lazy-mindedness, doing nothing," said Eamo. Hold The Back Page: 'Eamo And Liamo In Agreement Shocker'.

Liamo: "Brian Kerr is a very, very defensive coach, a very, very cautious, defensive coach".

Eamo: "His disposition is negative." Billo: "Conservative?" Liamo: "Cautious, defensive." Eamo: "Windy." All: "No, no, NO!" Eamo chuckled a mischievous chuckle. Honeymoon over. Here we go, here we go. Again. Yup, it's Groundhog Day.