“The band,” Premier Sports had revealed last week, “is back together!”
And there they were come Tuesday evening, on our telly screens all over again, like an amalgamation of Last of the Summer Wine, Reeling in the Years and a Rolling Stones reunion.
But it was, in truth, much more akin to a reuniting of Keith Richards (Eamon Dunphy), Charlie Watts (John Giles) and Bill Wyman (Liam Brady) than Compo, Cleggy and Foggy, although there was a different front man this time around in the shape of Ivan Yates, more Ozzy Osbourne than Mick Jagger.
The band is back, baby!— Premier Sports (@PremierSportsTV) December 3, 2019
Ivan Yates is joined by John Giles, Liam Brady, and Eamon Dunphy for live coverage of Burnley v Man City
"These are two of the best players ever to play the game, and I'm one of the worst! But we get on!" pic.twitter.com/d0ARZzrfQl
Manchester City get back on track with a 4-1 win over Burnley!— Premier Sports (@PremierSportsTV) December 3, 2019
Ivan: Is this not a bit of a game-changer for Pep? A confidence booster?
Eamon: Give me a break, baby! pic.twitter.com/6IJSUkFHi5
It was very much like stepping in to a Tardis, and the set was probably quite similar to the one the trio first shared on RTÉ back in the day, three swingy chairs and a knee-high coffee table littered with glasses of water and hastily scribbled notes (eg “we’re back, baby!”).
Ivan's Newstalk show had ended at 7.0 so he only had 45 minutes to be in his Premier Sports seat, so you can only assume he traversed the city by rickshaw to make it on time, otherwise he'd have been as late to the proceedings as Manchester United's Fred oft is to a tackle. And seeing as the programme wasn't going to end until 10.30 you could only trust that he didn't have to be in the Virgin Media studio for The Tonight Show for 11.0. Even Dara Murphy has fewer jobs.
Little wonder, then, that he hadn’t time to shave, instead sporting some sensual stubble, although he might have been going for the Ozzy circa 1976 hirsute look.
He was chuffed, though, to welcome the three lads to the Premier Sports studio, and they were no less chuffed to be there. Well, apart from Liam who, unlike his two mates, is still punditing for RTÉ so he doesn’t get too excited about these things, having the look of a man anticipating watching Burnley at home, even if their visitors were Manchester City, as much as Prince Andrew might welcome a visit from the FBI. Or, as Ivan reminded us of Pep Guardiola’s feelings about visiting Turf Moor, “it’s like a trip to the dentist”.
Gilesie, though, was well up for it. “I heard you were in at 9.0 this morning looking at video clips,” Ivan said to him. “I was,” he confirmed. “It’s great to be back with the lads, it’s two and a half years since I’ve done it, if I don’t do so well the viewers will understand, but hopefully it’ll be okay, I’m sure once I’m with the lads I’ll be okay.”
Ah lads, the telly nearly suffocated from the hugging, Gilesie reappearing on our screens a warm, comforting hug in itself.
Eamon, meanwhile, told Ivan that he was delighted to be working with him too, “a former cabinet minister, an ardent Fine Gaeler as well . . . we might talk about the byelections”.
So Ivan moved swiftly on to ask Liam about Arsenal's gafferless situation, and much as Liam might have been tempted to say "could I first address the issue of Dara Murphy and his expenses?", he resisted and talked Mikel Arteta instead and his desire for the fella to take over the Gooners' job.
Over to Turf Moor for a quick chat with Pep. “What are you seeing in your players’ eyes about the need to make a statement and move forward?” he was asked. Pep mustered that withering look that he quite often musters. “It’s not necessary to see the eyes . . .” he said, delivering a rather menacing stare in return. “Ah, I just love him,” said Ivan, hearts popping out of his own eyes, light blue blood coursing through his veins.
Then there was a bit of debate about the form of De Broyne, De Broy-na, De Broone, De Bri-na, when the lads should really have just said 'We Need to Talk About Kevin', before Ivan expressed his concern about the absence of the injured Sergio Agüero, unconvinced by his understudy Gabriel Jesus.
Liam did nothing to allay his fretting, doubting Jesus was the real deal. “You know what’ll happen now, Ivan, after what I said – Jaysus will get a hat-trick.”
But Jaysus had to settle for just the two in the end, the first of the peachy variety. “This is the guy you said was no Agüero,” said Ivan. Liam repented. “I’m having to eat my words.”
Ivan: “The Blues are back!”
Gilesie: “I think you’re getting carried away there, Ivan.”
Ivan: “Liverpool will be looking over their shoulder now!”
Eamon: “Give me a break, baby.”
The band is back. Playing all the hits. And sure Jaysus, who doesn’t love some nostalgia?