Pull Up To The Bumper, Andy
Musical chairs is an boisterous game mainly played at children’s parties. And, in the recent weeks, the ITV studio. It seems that Steve Rider and Andy Townsend have swapped seats, eschewing the traditional anchor-pundit line-up. During the coverage of Saturday’s Cup Final, Townsend was pushed to operate wide out on the right with Rider taking up a more central role. Which meant that when Rider addressed the other guests on the left of the screen, he could not help but turn his back on his faithful colleague.
Now there was a echo to this unusual tableau, the origins of which became clear to me some time after the final whistle. It resonated with the memories of an infamous occasion in 1981 on the Russell Harty Show, during which the host was attacked by the terrifying disco diva Grace Jones. She complained that he was ignoring her as he swivelled his seat to face his other guest.
I am not suggesting that Townsend was about to start slapping at Rider’s back like a deranged kitten, but I did feel a little sympathy for him: I half-expected him to raise his hand and cough loudly when he wanted to wrestle the easy Rider’s attention back from the other pundits. And it seems unfair on the Rider, a man whose politeness has ascended to legendary status, to force him into the invidious position of freezing out his cohort from the conversation.
Townsend probably doesn’t give a crap: anywhere, including the cobwebbed extremeties of the commentary box, is better than the blessed Tactics Truck. If Townsend was the guinea pig in this hideous football punditry experiment, then the Tactics Truck was his grotty undersized cage.
A rumour went round in television circles that Townsend refused to leave the truck and at one point locked himself in. When worried producers managed to prise the door open they discovered him hiding under his desk, blinking at the natural light. They concluded that he had turned slightly feral and allowed him to stay there, but not before putting old newspaper down on the floor of the truck. Wierdly, the punditry improved.