Gloves off as Prince takes Ingle on


The initial image on Sky TV was shocking. It seemed that Prince Naseem, facing an opponent of roughly similar height, was taking verbal taunting to new extremes, making faces and talking gibberish and, at one point, even tickling his hapless opponent, who was struggling in a curiously bulky and ill-fitting pair of shorts.

It took several moments before you realised that the Prince was just spending some quality time with his young kid, presenting a patriarchal and sensible front as he lamented the fact that his celebrated working relationship with trainer Brendan Ingle had gone west.

After a time, the youngster came around and smiled delightfully and earlier foreboding gave way to the hope that you might be about to witness the nipper's first word (the smart money is on "gaa-gaa, wick'd"). But the wain couldn't so much as get a gurgle in edgeways, so flowing was his old man's testimony.

"I don't know any person at all who can be with a man 17 years and carry on like that. I made him a millionaire. It's really surprising," said the Prince solemnly, referring to Ingle's book of revelations which has cast the boxer in a less than flattering light. Cut to Ingle, sitting cross-legged in the ring with Sky's Adam Smith.

"De truth was in de buke. De buke summed him up. Others might see it differently," protested Ingle.

"Answer the question now. Are you a Judas?" demanded Smith in a tone which would have done a vexed Jeremy Paxman proud.

"Never have been. I'm the straightest man in boxing," responded Brendan in a soft brogue.

Their fallout, he explained, was natural, part of the racket. His precise relationship with Naseem, as he prepares for his fight with Wayne McCullough in Atlantic City, remains hazy, but, he insisted, the current row is no big deal.

"You're used to get your wisdom and knowledge and then you're given the elbow," said Ingle on the role of the trainer.

Back in studio, Barry McGuigan cut to the core of the matter. "When you scrape though all the bullshit on the top, it's money," he declared as he identified the root of the argument. The old Cyclone, above anyone, should know. But it was a sorry state of affairs, presented with a rare touch of understatement by the boys at Sky. Nothing, though, that a resounding KO in NJ wouldn't probably heal.

Meanwhile, the old soccer management game is becoming an ever more cut-throat and bizarre business. Mick McCarthy is wisely remaining as stoic in the wake of a few wins as he was back in the dark days when we stumbled in Macedonia. And he must be grateful that he is still answering questions directly relating to matters which concern him. Welsh manager Bobby Gould, meanwhile, found himself elaborating on minor cult figures from that country's pop canon.

It seems that high-flying Welsh crooners the Manic Street Preachers had been composing ditties to the effect that Bobby Gould should go. This drastic state of affairs was put to Bobby as he wallowed in the luxury of two wins in a week.

"I saw a documentary about that band which frightened me," he said in a dramatic turn which clearly startled interviewer John Motson.

"It showed one of their lads cutting his arm at a concert just to get attention and then later, he just disappeared."

It wasn't your usual footie response. Bobby was talking about the band's former singer Richie, em, Manic, who, perhaps disillusioned with the flagging state of Welsh rugby and soccer, took it upon himself to disappear - with great effect. If Motty is a Manic's fan, he hid it well.

You hoped that he might make a comparison between the pressures on pop stars and soccer managers or reveal that during Premiership commentaries, he often found himself idly speculating on the whereabouts of Richie. But no. Motty had nothing to say and he steered the discourse back to familiar straits of the European Championships. Tut.

There must be times when Glenn Hoddle feels like following in old Richie's path. Every morning, the man wakes up to find himself in the middle of a new storm. The guy has taken more batterings than the Florida coast. Over the weekend, rumours of a bitter dressingroom feud between himself and Alan Shearer filled the pages at Fleet Street.

"Vicious lies. There's no truth in it. Them conversations, they happen in every dressingroom around the country. It's a sad reflection on some of those people," he said wearily. He went on to suggest that there was a concerted media conspiracy against him, that there were people disappointed by England's relatively successful World Cup because they couldn't take a pop at him. It would have sounded like paranoia had it not had a rotten ring of truth about it.

That the media heat has been deflected away from Hoddle by Paul Gascoigne's latest trauma is an irony that cannot have escaped the England boss. With Bryan Robson declaring that Gazza was now subject to the sort of intense scrutiny comparable only to that heaped upon the late Princess Diana, we were invited to consider the Middlesbrough footballer sympathetically.

A BBC clip showed that Robson had long been a hero to Gazza. "Ohh, he's phenomenal. A guy that can sup 16 pints and then go owt 'n run all day, like," marvelled Gazza last year.

The examples of Paul Merson and Tony Adams were dragged out by the Beeb and Sky to show the rehabilitative possibilities ahead for Gazza. And inspiration was offered from unlikely sources. Jimmy Nail showed up on the loathsome Chris Evans show to reveal that he had faxed Gazza a note of hope. A poem? An appropriate quote?

"I just, said, pull yourself together, like," offered Nail. Evans purports to be a "mate" of Gascoigne's but didn't seem to have any difficulty with discussing his breakdown in his crass studio filled with crass people.

"Maybe he should stop hanging around with me," grinned Chris, in a "sure who could keep pace with me tone?" Jimmy Nail, to his credit, didn't disagree.