Did we like it?
ITV1, for all their faults, have gone about this in the correct manner – get as many of the world’s greatest footballers and a reasonably talented bunch of celebrities, toss them on to a football pitch and observe for one week.
What as good about it?
• The number of genuine football legends that are playing is quite astonishing. There are the World Cup-winning captains from 1986 (Diego Maradona), 1990 (Lothar Matthaus), 1994 (Dunga) and the vice-captain of the 1998 winners and 2000 European Champions (Marcel Desailly). Plus, the captain of the 1988 Euro Champs (Ruud Gullit), a 1992 Euro Champ (Peter Schmeichel), and then you throw in the little magician Gianfranco Zola and the man whose most significant contribution to the World Cup was to be blamed for his country’s failure to qualify for the 1994 finals (David Ginola). Bloody hell!
• The England ex-pros are quite decent too. David Seaman, Tony Adams, Jamie Redknapp, Les Ferdinand, Gazza and John Barnes – a number of whom have only been retired a few seasons ago and so probably have a fitness advantage over ex-cocaine addicts who almost died of heart failure two years’ back.
• Ant and Dec’s presentation.
• The quite impressive line up of celebrities. We would not normally be astonished by this sort of thing but having been irradiated with disgust at the “celebrities” pulled from the oceans of obscurity for Sky’s heinous Soccer Six, we were quite relieved that people who have genuine talent were taking part and not single-celled parasites hoping to maintain their exposure until the next doomed Celebrity… show.
• The most renowned are Damian Lewis (the “Ginger Prince”), Ronnie O’Sullivan, Angus Deayton, Dean Lennox Kelly, Gordon Ramsay (injured), Eddie Irvine, Alessando Nivola, David Campese and Sergei Fedorov.
• No-one from Hollyoaks or any of those juvenile skin rashes from Coronation Street, Emmerdale or EastEnders.
• Terry Venables’ damning faint praise: “David Gray is a whole-hearted player.” His “charismatic” eyebrows. And his perfect impersonation of Professor Yaffle from Bagpuss when he wore glasses.
• Gazza’s career stooping to a new ignoble low when he was dropped for the practice match in favour of Dean Lennox Kelly.
• Peter Bonnetti, 79, playing in goal for the ex-England legends against Robbie Williams’ Soccer Aid England. The 86-year-old custodian let in a late goal from a Jamie Redknapp volley. A couple of years ago the 94-year-old let in a similarly late goal from Robbie Williams’ friend Jonathan Wilkes in Sky’s The Match.
What was bad about it?
• The constant reference to Old Trafford as “The Theatre of Dreams”. This is such a pompous name for a football stadium and its incessant repetition almost suggests that it would only be available for use if everyone was contractually obliged to refer to it by that vile name at least once during the week. Although, the name is more appropriate now more so than ever as since Chelsea sold their souls to Mammonski, all the Red Devils will be able to do is dream of success.
• Soccer Aid, like every charity show in the past decade that’s been slightly embarrassed about its rapacious appetite to plaster minor celebrities all over the screen for something they’re not known for, heralded that the whole event was to “raise money for charity”, thus awarding its advocates the moral high ground.
• Diego Maradona being unequivocally referred to as “the greatest player of all time” simply because he has agreed to play. We’re not disputing the authenticity of the claim, more the mercenary way in which it has been enforced. Of course, when Pele gave an interview to ITN this week, he was now “the greatest player”.
• Robbie Williams. If he had just appeared on the programme and been as witty and amusing as he was, he would probably be in the “good” section, but Angels leaves such a deep wound that a few pithy jokes cannot heal.
• Robbie Williams’ friend Jonathan Wilkes, like a Robbie Williams-built snowman left out in the sun, his celebrity is melting with each passing day.
• David Gray. If you own one of his records, hand yourself over to the relevant authorities for summary liquidation.
• Brian McFadden. Was Fran Cosgrave busy?
• Ben Johnson. When his profile was shown it was the 1988 Olympic Final, in which he crossed the line first but was later disqualified for because of drug taking. Of course, in the profile the disqualification was omitted.
• Alastair Campbell will be a bad thing unless this poisonous little man is used as a kicking bag by Tony Adams or a stud-scraper by Bryan Robson. His football observations are as unremarkable as his artistic talents. “I really admired Ruud Gullit as a player,” said Tony Blair’s former henchman of the ex-European footballer of the year who won a Euro Championship with Holland and three European Cups with AC Milan.
How the teams rated:
David Seaman (position: goalkeeper): With England dominating the first half, Seaman did little else than audition for the next celebrity football match show. 7
Jamie Theakston (goalkeeper): Was almost beaten by Zola from the half-way line, but also made a good save from the same player. At no point during a lull in the action was he seen to tether himself to the goal net and get Diego Maradona to run his razor-sharp studs across his back. 7
David Gray (right back): Ambled about the pitch like a man desperately searching for a place to take a leak in a rather large park. Gave away the handball for Maradona’s penalty. Deducted two marks for White Ladder and other heinous crimes against music. 3
Robbie Williams (left back): The co-architect of the whole event had a steady game, but was the focus of the irritant of thousands of screaming girls whenever he touched the ball. Two marks deducted for Angels, but two added on for his role in the organisation. 7
Tony Adams (centre back): The main reason why almost all of the RoW attacks floundered on the edge of England’s 18-yard box. Man-of-the-match. 9
Ben Shephard (centre back): Was involved in the most surreal moment of the match which came when a TV presenter on a second-rate breakfast show broke up an attack orchestrated by three of the greatest football players of the past 20 years in Gullit, Maradona and Zola. One mark added on for having the patience of a saint and being available for the match and not rotting in a jail cell for attempting to stifle the inane ramblings of GMTV showbiz witch Carla Romano with a cushion, a plastic bag and some CS gas. 8
Dean ‘Lennox’ Kelly (midfield): Since realising the ‘Lennox’ was not a reference to the boxing champ but a thespian affectation, we’ve warmed to the hardworking midfielder-cum-Shameles star. 7
Robbie Williams’ Friend Jonathan Wilkes (left midfield): Ran Adams close for the man-of-the-match which was capped by a brilliant winning goal in which he outpaced human tugboat Craig Doyle, before cutting inside thundering inedible beef substitute Gareth Thomas and clipping the ball over Schmeichel. Can now dispense with the vague, and frankly ludicrous, job title of ‘Entertainer’ on his CV and replace it with ‘Celebrity Footballer’. 8
Bradley Walsh (midfield): Had a shot saved by Schmeichel before slicing one effort wide of the corner flag. 7
Damian Lewis (right midfield): The ‘Ginger Prince’ seemed to want to dance between defenders like a fairy amid the shafts of moonlight. But at half-time the trollish Terry Venables came out from beneath his bridge and threatened to eat him alive if he kept playing for himself. 7
Paul Gascoigne (midfield): On his 39th birthday, the Englishman who has wasted more talent than any of his countrymen other than Duncan From Blue (if he wanted, he could have been a parasite sucking blood from cattle in Zambia, but he threw it all away to be in a boyband), set up a goal for Les Ferdinand. 7
Les Ferdinand (centre forward): Had a field day in the first half as he kept pulling on to the RoW’s full backs, who were the worst players on the pitch. Had two chances before ramming home a trademark diving header. 8
Jamie Redknapp (midfield): Played in midfield and did what he always did in his professional career – passed neatly, organised, closed down. The only difference was, unlike just about everyone else in what became a sporting version of the Somme, he managed to escape injury. 6
Graeme Le Saux (left midfield): After a special police request was made for spectators to remove all prams and toys from the vicinity of Old Trafford, it was safe for the ex-BBC stooge to strip off his romper suit and be lifted out of his playpen. Two marks deducted for that pathetic moment in the 1998 World Cup when he feigned injury against Romania and held the side of his face while Dan Petrescu scored. 4
Angus Deayton (right midfield): Remember when you went for a kick about in the park and a mate blasted it miles away only for a kindly old bloke walking his dog to boot it back to you, that’s how Angus played. 5
Bryan Robson (midfield): His legs now seem to be permanently bent at the same angle as a boomerang. 5
John Barnes (left wing): The lame TV presenter hobbled about and showed why the phrase “I wanna be John Barnes!” now ranks below “I wanna be Tim Vincent!” on teenagers’ list of career ambitions. 4
Rest of the World
Peter Schmeichel (goalkeeper): Made three brilliant saves before succumbing to a Les Ferdinand header and a cheeky shot from Robbie Williams’ Friend Jonathan Wilkes. 8
Patrick Kielty (goalkeeper): Had almost nothing to do, but would have conceded about six if he had played the first half. 6
Craig Doyle (right back): If he had been carved from wood and snapped into his constitute limbs, head and torso and then scattered randomly in the right hand corner of the pitch, the dismembered remains would have defended better. 2
Marcel Desailly (centre back): Charged around with gusto but seemed resigned to his fate after training with Craig Doyle and Alastair Campbell all week in the same way a man makes peace with God when his neck rests below the guillotine. 6
“Beppe” (left back): The bloke who used to be in EastEnders was swamped in the first half as he had only Alastair Campbell to help him. Better in the second half. 5
Sergei Fedorov (midfield): Did so little, commentator Clive Tyldesley was almost reduced to breathlessly fantasising about being a fly-on-the-wall in Fedorov’s bedroom during his relationship with Anna Kournikova. 5
Lothar Matthaus (midfield): Started out at centre-back but moved into midfield after McFadden went off. And that was pretty much the last we saw of him. Clive cruelly used him as a prop to crowbar in his obligatory mention of the 1999 Champions League final. Did you know Matthaus was subbed when Bayern were leading 1-0? Yes, we did Clive. 5
Brian McFadden (sympathy vote): Ever seen those fish that are hauled from the sea, dumped on board the trawler and then who thrash around for a bit knowing their doom was upon them? That’s what the crippled McFadden’s display was like, only he was too injured to thrash around. Deducted one point for every year that Westlife have been polluting the charts with their fetid fare. -14
Alessandro Nivola (right midfield): Ran up and down the right wing like a drill frenetically boring into a sturdy tree trunk before being slowly withdrawn and then having another go. 7
Gordon Ramsay (left wing): If this had been a professional match, the ex-Rangers milk monitor would have received a year’s ban for shoving referee Pierluigi Collina after he claimed he should have had a penalty for a David Gray foul outside the box. It was only because his torso has a permanent film of grease on it from working in a kitchen that he slid into the area. And it’s hypocritical, for if his claim had been a meal served in his restaurant he would have tasted it, spat it out and apoplectically charged towards the perpetrator before tipping a vat of boiling fat over their head and then making them clean up their own badly burned corpse. 5
Diego Maradona (midfield): Scored the penalty, and lasted the whole 90 minutes. But was constantly jeered by an audience who weren’t even born when he scored against England in 1986, and as such serves as an object warning as to the perils of poisoning the next generation’s minds with myopic, ignorant propaganda. 7
Alastair Campbell (God knows): And speaking of poison and myopic, ignorant propaganda, here’s Alastair Campbell. Will need a skilful spin doctor who could convince the public the sinking of the Titanic was in fact an exploration of the deep ocean by a bunch of suicidal socialites to glean any kudos from his display. He had less impact on the match than would have the nauseous fumes emanating from the charred cadaver of a thwarted pitch invader fried by a Ken Bates-style electric fence. 0
Ben Johnson (the 1988 Olympic 100m final): Looked like he was playing football for the very first time in his life. Launched into one challenge with Ben Shephard as if he was doing the long jump. 1
David Ginola (the Fancy Dan School of Pointless Flicks): After missing an open goal, the ex-French international, who is now so grey he looks like he’s fading into the background, pulled up injured as he tried to dribble past David Gray. 3
Gianfranco Zola (forward): Inexplicably left on the bench for the first half, the Italian magician could never have imagined all those years ago when he was Maradona’s understudy at Napoli that one day he would be kicking off with him faced by the combined might of two MOR singers, a celebrity charlatan and a breakfast TV presenter. Almost scored from the half-way line, but did miss an easy chance to equalise late on. 8
Dunga (midfield): Came on at half-time, got injured, went off. 5
Gus Poyet (a swimming pool with a diving board): Dived about a bit when the RoW were pressing for a leveller. 5
Gareth Thomas (centre back): Moved about the pitch with same gargantuan force and limited mobility as that boulder that chases Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. 7
Ruud Gullit (left wing): Spotted that David Gray was the weak link in the England team and enjoyed a few dazzling dribbles. However, wily Terry Venables saw what was going on and tempted Graeme Le Saux over to the right back position by waving a dummy and rattle in the air. 7