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So the World Cup is showing signs of kicking off its comfy slippers of mediocrity and providing the gawping masses with some actual football. Now the responsibility is on the attendant pundits and commentators to raise their games and shake off their collective torpor.
The worst culprit is Alan Hansen, who has been revelling in his ignorance of the participating squads like a recalcitrant schoolboy in double chemistry. Slipping negligently down his chair, you suspect that his slovenly aspect is borne of latent Scotch vexation, being the lone soldier of the Tartan Army stationed in South Africa this summer.
Hansen only appears energised in the presence of Clarence Seedorf, constantly pawing at him and bringing him into the fold of conversation. In fact, everyone likes to touch Clarence. He is a beatific presence to be fair, beaming through every comment. He could be employed to inform people they are terminally ill. One flash of the Seedorf grin, and we can forget all this unpleasantness and go for a coffee.
Mick McCarthy is the anti-Seedorf, seeding his comments with the sort of bluff Northern depression that makes you think every sentence he utters is going to be capped off with long dolorous ‘oh bugger’. One wonders what happened when Seedorf and McCarthy met at the BBC pre-World Cup disco, just sizing each other up like two entirely distinct species.
Over on ITV, it’s the usual parade of platitudes, some of which are served up by Gareth Southgate. It’s hardly any surprise that Middlesbrough were relegated with teamtalks delivered by Southgate. When Iain Dowie complained of the Ipod culture among modern footballers, he should have pointed the finger at Southgate, whose monotone delivery compels the listener to jam anything in their ears. Southgate is the man at the party that you excuse yourself from to go and a pay a visit to the dips table. In fact, they only invented hummus as a means of escape from the Southgate conversation.