Richard Keys (RK): Good evening and welcome to a new series called ‘We Know Football’ here on Sky’s brand new Football Channel 24/7. Each week, myself and an array of footbaling talent, a real ‘who’s-who’ of the footballing world, will discuss those issues that are important to you…and indeed, everyone.
Joining me this week is former England manager, Bobby Robson, former manager of every football club in the United Kingdom, Ron Atkinson, manager of the year-elect, Dave O’Leary, and The Greatest Pundit in the WorldTM, Andy Gray.
This broadcast is also being carried on Sky Digital, and for the next fifteen minutes the Sky Pundit Cam will be on Ron Atkinson.
Ron Atkinson (RA): I tell you what, I hope that camera doesn’t catch me scratching me bum.
Andy Gray (AG): What’s that Ron, you mean like it did during your entire managerial career?
RA: I tell you what Gray, you might sit there with your little magic pens and large knobs, but you’ve never managed a successful club in your life so why don’t you shove …
RK: I won’t make the obvious ‘large knob’ joke, but anyway, back to football. As the season draws to a close there are still some huge issues to be ironed out. None more so than the exciting battle at the bottom of the Premiership. Bobby, you are closest to this situation, seeing as how your collection of bargain basement South American imports have ensured a mediocre mid-table finish for the former footballing giants of the North East. How do you see things developing down there in the next two weeks?
Bobby Robson (BR): Yes. Relegation. Eh…Manchester United, I mean City, now there’s a team under pressure. Jackie Royle has done such a great job there in the last few seasons. I mean he came in and took over from Adrian Mole, who then of course went on to manage Port of Midlothian. He’s got them up there, and he’s been unlucky with injuries and injuries. And don’t forget, the club have also had their fair share of injuries.
<the panel look at each other blankly>
BR: But they’ve got two games to get it sorted out and they need to go up to Ajax and get three points. That won’t be easy because Van Basten has been in great form recently, and of course Denis Law and Franny Lee are both suspended due to getting sent off against Bradford Park Avenue. I think they’ll struggle.
RK: Bobby, think you got a mite confused there.
RA: I tell you what, he did for sure. Lee has already served his suspension.
RK: David, Coventry are also looking in all directions for salvation. Do you see much hope for them? Please? I love Coventry, I do.
Dave O’Leary (DOL): As I say, Coventry are a super young team. Any team that’s young deserves a lot of credit, hugs, kisses and general affection. I don’t think they’ll stay up, but as I say, if they do, it’ll be due to being young.
AG: I’ll cut across you there, David. I don’t hold out much hope for Coventry. It’ll be incredible if they manage to stay up. They just don’t have the quality.
DOL: Well as I say Andy, you make a valid point. But being young counts for an awful lot these days. I mean my Leeds team are young, we’re naive, we’re just basically like grown-up babies with mortgages. If Coventry took a leaf out of our book, maybe they wouldn’t be in their position.
RA: I tell you what, which leaf is that, David? Is it the ‘send most of your first XI to prison’ leaf?
RK: Well we are not actually permitted to discuss the case so lets change angles here. Bobby, you’ve been an England manager. You’ve managed in the Premiership. Glenn Hoddle. Has he got his work cut out for him at Tottenham next season?
BR: I don’t know why you’d think that. Glenn Hoddle showed in his time in charge of England that he could handle pressure. The victimisation he received at the hands of the press is par for the course. At Southampton he rejuvenated a tired team, and injected a new enthusiasm into players like Jason Dodd and Francis Benali.
<the panel are open-mouthed in astonishment at Bobby’s seeming coherence>
BR: And since becoming the new Dictator of Cuba, Glenn has instilled a new discipline in his subjects. I really fancy them to win a war against the US under his leadership.
<groans and awkward shifting>
RK: The Sky Pundit Cam has now switched to Bobby. We have a feeling it won’t need to do too much moving around, and of course it will also help in the inevitable psychological evaluation that will take place after the show.
DOL: <yawn> I know we’re only a young, naïve panel, well except for Bobby of course, but this is boring. Can we not, as I say, talk about something a bit more interesting than football.
RA: I tell you what, Dave has a great point. How about we each talk about the bird we’d most like to take out for a slap-up dinner…sorry, no offence to Stan Collymore intended.
DOL: As I say, I was thinking more along the lines of a valuable discussion on the merits of the press. For example, would, as I say, the young players of this country be better able to handle their fame without the extra pressure created by the media.
AG: Aye Richard, David has a great point. When I was a young lad, we didn’t pay any attention to the papers. All that mattered was that you made the keeper work. You got to make the keeper work. Aye.
RK: Look, this isn’t going too well. For a final word, lets go to Bobby. Bobby, where do you see your future next season – will you still be Newcastle manager in August?
BR: I’ve been in this game long enough to know that you can ‘never say never’. But will I be at Newcastle next season? Why would I? I’m very happy at Ipswich.
RK: <sighing> Phew. We’re going to leave it there this week. Next week’s guests are scheduled to be future England manager duo, Nicky Butt and Phil Neville, while our former England manager will be Graham Taylor. We have a feeling that Bobby Robson will be back because you can’t write comedy like that.
Parodies aside, you have to wonder what the point of asking former, and current, players and managers questions where an honest answer could possibly offend a fellow professional. If you ask, say, Alan Hansen what he thought of Gary Neville’s performance against Bayern Munich, there are two possible replies:
The likely answer: Well, Gary will be disappointed with his performance. He’s capable of a lot better than that as he’s shown throughout the Premiership. But that’s been United’s season in Europe, too many unforced errors at the back. But he’ll bounce back.
The correct answer: Why Ferguson picks that useless lump of crap is beyond me. I mean, that is defensive suicide. What is he thinking when he lets Scholl go. Incredible. I reckon if he had any dignity he’d admit he’s rubbish and let someone else have a go, like the Queen Mother or someone else with a bit more ability than himself. Unbelievable.