DRIVING home from the City of Manchester Stadium yesterday evening, I heard Stuart Hall conducting an extraordinary interview with Wigan Athletic chairman Dave Whelan on Radio Five Live.
How to describe it? Well, at one point, Hall suggested that the Latics’ occasionally-absent striker Amr Zaki was “away with the Pharoahs” and that Whelan might want to consider swapping him for two camels.
“Three camels, maybe,” was the opening to Whelan’s response.
(This was fairly tame stuff by Hall’s standards, as will be confirmed by anyone who remembers his notorious appearance on Five Live’s Fighting Talk in 2005, when he reduced his fellow panellists to silence by responding to the question: “Which team would you like to see make a comeback?” by launching into an impassioned rant against Robert Mugabe. Fortunately for all concerned, Mugabe was not a guest on that week’s show.)
Anyway, Hall then stated that it was time for a song, and he and Whelan burst into a rendition of the second movement from Dvorak’s New World Symphony (or the 1970s Hovis ad theme, if you prefer).
What startled me most about the whole episode, which couldn’t have lasted for more than six minutes, was this was, in the words of Sport On Five presenter Mark Pougatch, “a semi-regular feature”.
Hang on. Hall and Whelan have done this before? Yes, apparently so. They carried out a similar interview, which descended into identical musical chaos (with the same performance of the same tune), after a match against West Brom earlier this season.
Regardless of whether you would categorise such a performance as engagingly eccentric or downright frightening, I still feel that Hall and Whelan maybe need to vary their shtick if they are to avoid getting stuck in a creative rut. After all, the days when music hall acts could perform the same routine night after night, give or take the occasional tweak, for 25 years are long gone.
I think, at the very least, they could challenge themselves a little more on the music front. Given that he was raised in Wigan, Whelan must know a few Northern Soul hits – so how about a bit of Tainted Love?
And as a former local TV news contemporary of Tony Wilson, Hall must surely be up to speed with the entire Factory Records back catalogue. So come on, Stuart – let’s have a bit of Joy Division out of you next time.
(I worry, though, that he might take this too much to heart, and respond to the next goalless draw he is sent to cover by producing a match report which consists entirely of the lyrics to Atrocity Exhibition.)
What I’m suggesting, Stuart, is a little less New World Symphony, and a little more New Order. What do you reckon?
Last night’s final match: Wigan 0 Bolton 0
Commentator: John Roder
Hall’s interview with Whelan took place after a mildly entertaining, if inconsequential, goalless draw at the JJB Stadium.
“I was asked by some Wigan fans yesterday why their team has been on last a lot recently,” said Match of the Day host Gary Lineker last night. “The answer is mid-table obscurity and not much to play for.”
Of course, if Lineker were a regular reader of this blog, he would have been able to tell those Wigan fans to stop whinging, as – before last night – their team hadn’t been last on MOTD since February 21.
I did find myself wondering, too, how Lineker had ended up in a conversation with a group of Wigan fans. Had he been up there on a flying visit? Is there a pocket of Wigan fans living near Lineker in London, who are forever haranguing him about the shows running order whenever they bump into him in Waitrose?
I tried to think of any Wigan links in his personal life. He doesn’t live in Wigan, he never played for Wigan. Perhaps his fiancee, Danielle Bux, is a Wigan fan? Unlikely, as she is originally from Cardiff. The best I could come up with was the fact that Bux used to work as an air stewardess for Virgin Atlantic, which sounds a bit like Wigan Athletic if you say it really quickly with a mouthful of peanuts.
The match itself was a bit of a birthday bash. Wigan keeper Chris Kirkland was celebrating his 28th, full-back Maynor Figueroa his 26th, Bolton boss Gary Megson his 50th.
And it was a decent game. Hugo Rodallega hit the post for Wigan and Gary Cahill hit the bar for Bolton, for whom Matt Taylor saw a goal wrongly ruled out for offside.
More significantly, the game has given Wigan a fighting chance of snatching the Gubbometer title from Fulham’s grasp. With three rounds of weekend fixtures to go in the Premier League, Fulham’s lead has been reduced to one point. They do have a superior Gubba difference, but if Wigan can even that up, they have the better Capello difference.
Next Saturday’s MOTD will, I feel, be crucial. Fulham host Aston Villa. Wigan travel to West Brom – who could yet make a late surge themselves. It is all to play for. Could it be that Dave Whelan will be singing again come the end of the season? I really hope not.
1.Fulham: 9 (GD: +1; CD: +1)
2.Wigan: 8 (GD: 0; CD: +2)
3.West Brom: 7 (GD: +1; CD: 0)
4=.Middlesbrough: 7 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
4=. Bolton: 7 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
6.Capello: 5 (GD: +1; CD: +5)
7. West Ham: 5 (GD: +1; CD: +2)
8. Arsenal: 4 (GD: +1; CD: 0)
9. Blackburn: 4 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
10.Gubba: 3 (GD: +3; CD: +1)
11=. Newcastle: 3 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
11=. Hull: 3 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
11=. Stoke: 3 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
14.Tottenham: 2 (GD: +1; CD: 0)
15=. Aston Villa: 2 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
15=. Portsmouth: 2 (GD: 0; CD: +1)
17.Sunderland: 2 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
18. Manchester City: 1 (GD: +1; CD +1)
19.Everton: 1 (GD: 0; CD: 0)
20=. Chelsea: 0
20=. Liverpool: 0
20=. Manchester United: 0
(NB: Teams level on points will be separated by Gubba difference: the number of times a team is last on Match of the Day with Tony Gubba commentating. If they are still level, they will be separated by Capello difference: the number of times a team is last on MOTD with Fabio Capello present.)