In the foreword of John Giles’s book The Great And The Good, Eamon Dunphy told us: “John is undemonstrative by nature. But his passion for the game is real and deeply felt.”
In the aftermath of an embarrassing Champions League exit for Chelsea, many people have wondered if it is time to reassess Jose Mourinho and his unique methods.
However, even those of us slow to warm to the specialist in 'controvassy' must concede this much: Anyone who can get Gilesy that animated can’t be all bad.
It was one of those marvellous nights for the RTÉ panel on Wednesday; the kind of night we must remember when we crib about small things, such as the scarcity of facts at the lads’ disposal these days. There had been a tendency, over the years, to give Bill O’Herlihy too much credit for provoking them into the big performances.
However, Gilesy can only be truly provoked by an affront to the game; by what he regards as nonsense.
Eamo kicked this one off like he has most of their finest hours.
From there, most of the greatest hits rolled. Coward. Bully. Shameful. Wrong. Cancer. The odd trademark U-turn and outlandishly incorrect statement thrown in, for authenticity.
The only real surprise, in the week that was; no recitation of the Litany of Saints. Willie Mullins... Ruby Walsh... The Bar is Here.
Didi Hamann is a tidy foil for them, supplying a few well-judged jibes, as well as the little details, like the right names of the players.
However, the highlight of the night came off screen. We were told that Gilesy leapt out of his seat at the final whistle to celebrate PSG’s win. If there are television producers out there able to bring us unguarded footage of men like Richard Keys being themselves, surely the good people in their ranks will eventually oblige and show us this.
Thus far, we must content ourselves with Gilesy at his most demonstrative in years.
Just as you were having to concede that Mourinho can’t be all bad, having treated us to this, Gilesy called him “an evil presence, in many ways”.
If he ever has to answer that charge, Jose might dig a little, and find that Gilesy himself has often admitted he had to find his devil inside to get the most from his career.
However, across the networks, the consensus was that Chelsea and PSG had brought us to a fresh nadir in the way the game is played.
If Twain once told us that lack of money is the root of all evil, his modern counterpart, Lawro, disagrees, suggesting on BBC 5Live that “the more money that comes into football the more dishonest players get”.
It was, certainly, a non-stop festival of antics and shenanigans from almost everyone involved. Afterwards, John Terry allowed us a rare insight into the tactical nuances, explaining that if he runs 20 or 30 yards, how four or five players will automatically go with him, in support. He was talking about charging the referee in protest.
However, maybe it was Cesc Fabregas who best showcased the finely-tuned roguery of the modern footballer — able to switch, in an instant, from demanding a red card for Ibrahimovic to consoling Ibra on this terrible injustice.
For all of that, was it wrong to find the match absolutely compelling? Again, Mourinho must take much of the credit for this, in the way he has energised most right-thinking people into willing his men nothing but misfortune.
However, there was a bit more to it and maybe Dunphy summed up the night’s contradictions best.
“It was a terrible spectacle… it was a game full of amazing things.”
Most amazing and compelling was the resolve and composure of PSG, in adversity. As George Hamilton raised their win bonuses, Ray Houghton nailed another of the night’s truths: “I don’t think it’s about money. It’s about desire and determination.”
If anything, the supposed scourge of big money in football is more keenly felt in the creeping civility of the Premier League, where everyone is hugging in the tunnel and picking each other up after every tackle.
Sure, they will cheat too, when necessary, but it’s often difficult to escape the impression the 22 on the pitch more easily find common cause with one another than with anyone else in the stadium.
On Wednesday night, when the chips were down for PSG, you couldn’t accuse anyone of consoling himself with his bank account. Many were ready to make a show of themselves, if that’s what it took. Mourinho has always been prepared to do it and demands it from his men.
Sometimes we are all drawn to the dark side. Even Gilesy.
Odds-on racing pundits will never lose
For all that money is supposed to dominate the upper echelons of European football, the guys who write the cheques must be a little nonplussed if they tune into Cheltenham and see Michael O’Leary or Rich Ricci or whoever it is holding court after a win in their colours. Might it be time that Geoff Shreeves started nabbing Nasser Al-Khelaïfi or one of the lads from Qatar Sports Investments after a Stamford Bridge glory night?
Whatever about the interviews, football could take a close look at the punditry and the approach these brave people take to the inevitable need to be wrong many, many times in the space of a few days.
In fairness, a lot of them have been more right than ever this year. All the same, lesser mortals might grow demoralised or lose confidence as the bad calls pile up.
However, even when they call it, these guys make it crystal clear that they are not calling the race that we will see on our televisions, but a race that they will only see in their heads.
So, they will assure us that if he gets over the first three and the last three, and if he gets the trip, and if he quickens at the right time, anyone who finishes in front of him will probably win this one.
So, in a way, they are never wrong at all. It is us that are wrong, for putting our money where their mouths are.
And the bookies for refusing to take hypothetical cash.
HEROES & VILLAINS
Danny Welbeck: Deserves an MBE for bucking the non-celebration trend at Old Trafford. Honourable mention to David Luiz.
Didi Hamann: Lack of money is the root of other necessarily evils too. Admitted frankly to Darragh Maloney that if he’d enjoyed win bonuses like PSG, he “wouldn’t be here”.
HELL IN A HANDCART
George and Razor: Another European week, another impossible struggle with the mysteries of the away goal rule.
Michael Oliver: They are all brave now that Fergie’s gone.
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