England’s Dream Team

Saturday, June 5, 2004 by

We have a saying in our house; every day’s a school day. And, thanks to England’s Dream Team, we learned that, but for the bizarre combination of the Munich Air Disaster and a dodgy enchilada, England would have won the World Cup in 1958, 1962 and 1970. And they say the English media are arrogant? Fancy that! This was a dismal programme, falling into the trap of the eventual “winners” saying more about those who voted for them than the actual reality itself. Few talking heads came out of it with a shred of dignity intact and Vernon Kay proved once and for all that on a show like this, his chirpy, cheeky cocky persona is entirely vacuous and he wasn’t so much out of his depth but out of his league. All 20,000 of them.

As an avowed Anglophile, even I found this one hard to swallow. The concept seems to be that to be nominated meant that the player was one of the greatest ever. Thus, immediately we had the quite brilliant Gordon Banks all but canonised. Other faults included the laughable notion (from various participants) that players from the “black and white” era wouldn’t have been able to cut it in today’s fast-paced, Predator booted modern environment. It’s a fair point but totally ignores the conditions that the Raich Carters and Stan Mortensens of yesterday coped with – a wet ball heavier than Jordan’s boobs and defenders intent on scything your legs from your body. Let’s be perfectly blunt here – one fair tackle from Dave McKay or Corky Young and the likes of Beckham, Neville and Owen would be crying uncontrollably for their mammies. This pathetic, platitudinous argument was advanced again and again by the likes of Helen Chamberlain and Stuart Cosgrove (who, really, should know better) and displayed their ignorance and arrogance to perfection.

Of course, this was reflected in the voting patterns. That the likes of Ashley Cole and Gary Neville were through to the final cut was a savage indictment of the relative lack of choice, maybe, but the inclusion in the final line-up of Tony Adams and David Beckham at the expense of Duncan Edwards and Stanley Matthews was an equally savage indictment of the lack of genuine football knowledge of those who voted. This atrophied ignorance permeated the entire show and added a sad gloss to proceedings. Not that this was the programme’s only fault. They were, indeed, many. The host was lamentable, the jokey script was dreadful, the length was absurdly long and the overall tone ignorantly flippant. The concept of England’s Dream Team is interesting and potentially brilliant but the execution was shoddy, mercilessly irreverent and, ultimately, a dog’s dinner.

The talking heads were, with a few honourable exceptions, dull and uninformed to a man jack. Alyson Rudd’s chip on the shoulder regarding Gazza was pathetic, Dominik Diamond came across as a man without humour or intelligence (not the prophet without honour that he imagines himself to be) and Roddy Forsyth is an embarrassment to Scotland. Jimmy Greaves was one of the few to emerge with credit as was Bobby Charlton. (Greave’s comment regarding Tom Finney was the sublime highlight of the show, neatly deconstructing the then/now argument).

The only worthwhile contributions came from former players on the whole. It’s no secret that I’m no fan of talking-head syndrome. For me, there’s nothing worse than a succession of second-rate critics and cut-price cultural commentators pontificating on a subject matter that they themselves have never truly experienced. It’s like listening to the pub bore talking to you – you want to smack him but the politics of polite society dictate that slapping a wanker on the chops is a no-no. After being forced to listen to the likes of Helen Chamberlain, Alyson Rudd, Danny Kelly and Bob Mills spout their banal nonsense, it’s about time polite society extracted its’ middle-class finger from its cellulite ridden arse and re-thought that particular dictum.

This was three hours plus of unrelenting tedium. Too often Channel 4 give over vast chunks of their schedule to chunderous, second-rate rubbish such as this. This, surely, represents the nadir of Saturday night programming on the channel. It could, and should, have been condensed into a 90 minute slot with someone like Pat Nevin or Gary Lineker hosting.

Mind you, on the plus side it could have been Scotland’s Dream Team – that, truly, would have been so much better. You see that’s the joy of being Scottish; the show would have been over in half an hour and you could pad out the remaining time with repeats of Desmond’s. And Porkpie could have got a game for Scotland.


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