“As Humprey Bogart said in, what was the picture Eamon, of all the places, in all the world…” Oh Gilesy, of all the gin joints, in all the towns, thank goodness you walked into ours. Now help yourself. The Bacardi and Cokes are on us tonight.
His movie reveries might be as sharp as Emile Heskey’s finishing, but you know Gilesy is up for it when he’s quoting Bogie instead of Bremner during the opening ceremony. Big tournaments are for big analysts.
And dare we say, whisper it, that Johnny needs a big tournament. A Champions League winter marked by Jose Mourinho’s tactical acumen was pockmarked by Gilesy’s insistence that there was no such thing as tactics at all.
It brought tears to our eyes to think it, but would Johnny soon be as relevant as the “personal stereos and that” he once blamed for the decline of international football?
But Gilesy’s performance in the aftermath of England’s defeat (ask George Hamilton) on Saturday night made us realise we had begun to ask too much from the Cabra magician. It’s not Gilesy’s role to know, ahhh, anything about the Uruguayans, Bill. It is not even Gilesy’s remit to wonder about the narrowness of South Africa’s 4-2-3-1.
Just as Gilesy the player was born to pull the strings, Gilesy the pundit was delivered fully formed in 1986, sporting a fetching golf shirt, to analyse the subject closest to his heart; midfield play.
A deliciously insightful 30-second clip cut through all the “shambles” rhetoric right to the heart of England’s struggles. Taking charge, Gilesy leaned forward in his pew as if to shake off his marker and make a couple of yards of space for himself.
Stevie Gerrard was the main target. “He’s walking around,” roared Johnny as a succession of England defenders gazed upfield in varying states of panic, wondering if there was anyone, anywhere willing to take delivery of the hot potatoes boiling over on their toes.
“No interest in making himself available to receive the ball,” damned Gilesy as both Stevie and Frank Lampard remained as oblivious to their rearguard’s needs as James Corden seems to be to the growing tide of public revulsion.
“I don’t think it’s that they don’t want to do it,” observed Gilesy almost kindly, “I think it’s that they don’t know how to do it.”
He could, of course, just as easily have been talking about his punditry counterparts across the water. At times you wonder if RTE would have any viewers left at all if it wasn’t for Gilesy, Eamo and Bill.
The lines to South Africa keep breaking down and RTE’s commentaries have invariably been a split second ahead of the action, allowing George Hamilton to intercept every moment of excitement just before a defender does.
And the Montrose response to the vuvuzela din typified the can-do spirit that has made this nation great. By Argentina-Nigeria on Saturday, BBC had adjusted the crowd and commentary levels to make things bearable. It was left to Billo to deliver the RTE solution: “Get used to it!”
One thing the BBC seems unlikely to fix is the Adebayor factor. Manu, as they have taken to calling him, might well be the most informative pundit of them all, but since he last took a breath after that dash towards the Arsenal fans, we’ll probably never find out.
“AssoonasyouhaveyournationalcountrytshirtonyouforgetaboutwholeWorldCup,” was an opening gambit. Hansen, naturally, is reacting like he walked into the one place in Lanzarote where they have no English. YOU. LIKE. FRANCE. YEAH? CHIPS. WITH. THAT. MERCI.
In fairness, there was one beautiful moment on Saturday afternoon, courtesy of Shearer, of all people. “The likes of Messi would play the game for nothing.” Manu’s quizzical glance was a picture.
At least with Jurgen Klinsmann – and occasionally Lee Dixon – trying bravely to inject sense, the Beeb are well ahead of ITV. Whatever about RTE’s technical issues, at least they are showing us the goals. While Adrian Chiles looks a disastrous signing, by turns patronising and cheerleading like a mean girl on Glee.
Flicking between RTE and ITV on Saturday night was like umpiring a tennis match between players in adjacent realities.
“I can’t believe England have played that badly,” volleyed Souness. “I thought we played well,” came Southgate’s weak backhand. 15-Love.
Dunphy: “Astonishingly inept.” Paddy Vieira, out of pure politeness surely: “They dominated the game from start to finish.” 30-Love.
Gilesy: “By far the worst performance of the tournament.” Keegan: “Good enough to win any game, including this one.” Chiles could at least have told him the score.
Chiles reassured his people that the 2006 winners drew with USA in their first assignment. But Billo is usually quick to sense blood on these occasions and this was no different. “So are we writing off England, lads?” Gilesy, on his toes now, was first into the net. “Yes!” Game, set and match.
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.