Mary Hannigan's TV View: Shackles and irons discarded, the Lions rose
Visiting Alien: Are there two Wayne Rooneys? Fair question.
Wayne Rooney of England: pundits had varying opinions as to his worth as a midfielder. Photograph: Dan Mullan/Getty Images
It was only Day Seven but already the discombobulation was setting in, like with Dean Saunders when he was trying to preview Bale v England for the BBC. “Gareth is as close as there is to having a one man team,” he said, “we scored 11 goals in the qualifying campaign - he got seven and made the other two.”
Happily no one whipped out a calculator to figure-check Dean because that would have been petty, and any way, they were all probably too emotional after the BBC’s montage intro thingie which Gary Lineker presented to us after insisting “this is a game that needs no hype”.
The clip featured castles and mountains and rivers and lions and dragons and the like, and what looked like Scholesie, Gary Neville and Daniel O’Donnell chiselled in stone. The first half was accompanied by a gentleman talking about shackles and irons and beseeching England to free itself and “rise like Lions”, which might have had Nigel Farage howling ‘GO ON MY SON!’ at his telly. The second bit was narrated by a menacing sounding Welsh lady: “England? What will you do when the dragon comes…….?” And then we saw the shadow of a fire-breather hovering over an English suburb, the montage ending just before it was incinerated.
It was quite a start, then, although they were considerably less up for it over on RTE where Peter Collins’ mind was entirely elsewhere, appealing to the France-based Tony O’Donoghue to allay the nation’s fears by confirming that “Wessie” would be grand for Belgium. Has anyone done a PhD yet on this phenomenon, ie the more we love a sporting person, the more we feel the need to ie the end of his name?
Any way, having played for Roy Hodgson at Fulham and Blackburn, Damien Duffieieie (Whole Lotta Love) couldn’t help but wish the fella well, which had Eamon accusing him of having a Union Jack tattoo on his ankle, before telling us that Dele Alli was a bunch of overrated junk, so to speak.
Back on the Beeb, Rio was telling us that Dele Alli is the future of English football and that he thought he’d get a move to a “huge” club soon, which means the next time he visits White Hart Lane he’ll need police protection.
Tunnel time and Guy Mowbray had to apologise for Joe Hart using a rude word after he howled “move that ****ing ball!”. Three minutes before half-time and England was howling “move your ****ing feet” to the goalie after he was Bale-ised.
By then Martin Keown had declared Bale to be the very best player in Europe, before pausing, having a quiet think, then suggesting he’d catch up with Ronaldo some day soon. Which reminded us of our very favourite Kevin Keegan quote: “England have the best fans in the world - and Scotland’s fans are second-to-none.”
Back on RTÉ. Jim Beglin was suggesting that England’s biggest problem was that “Kane is not able” (in fairness, he immediately apologised), Hodgson evidently agreeing, removing said Spurs man from the fray, along with poor young Raheem, Vardy and Sturridge and, later, Rashford, coming on, meaning England ended up playing kind of a 0-3-1-6 formation. Revolutionary.
It worked. Shackles and irons discarded. The Lions rose.
Ashen-faced Hartson and Saunders had to sit there quietly while Gary, Rio and Al emoted, the chief target of their lust the Rooney man.
“It looks like he’s played there [midfield]all his life,” Gary swooned, “he ran the show Alan, didn’t he?”
Alan agreed, passionately, reckoning he was the man of the match. “He dictated play, grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half, drove everyone forward.” Rio nodded. “World class.”
Over to RTE. Eamon thought Rooney was muck, not remotely a midfielder and with him stationed there, “England won’t go anywhere in this tournament”.
Over to TV3. “I don’t see Wayne Rooney contributing at all, he’s NOT a midfield player,” said Graeme Souness. “All the stats will tell you he’s a fabulous player, but that was a LOOOOOOOOONG time ago.”
Back to RTE. “I think Rooney could become a problem in that position, I don’t think he’s a centre midfielder,” said Didi Hamman.
“I disagree,” said Gilesie, “I think Rooney is by far the best midfield player they have.”
Visiting alien: “Are there two Rooneys?”
But, a good day for England, Duffieieie confident enough to “put his house” on them beating Slovakia and topping the group.
“Which of your houses are you putting on,” asked Eamon, but Damo was too humble to reply.
Northern Ireland time and there was Norman Whiteside on ITV duty alongside Christian Karembeu, both men working under the assumption they were speaking different languages for the duration of the broadcast, Lee Dixon still speaking a language with which no footballing devotee on earth could ever possibly understand.
The heavens opened, in a rather angry fashion, and forever more that slo-mo replay of Gareth McAuley heading home in the hail will be the loveliest of things. As will Michael O’Neill’s celebration. Tardelli? Who are ya?
And Niall McGinn. Iain Dowie’s ‘yes’ was as lengthy and lusty as you’ll hear from any Brazilian.
Go on my son.