by Mark Webster.
I suppose you could call it good preparation, in the end. Not necessarily for the England team, but for ITV Sport. Because the team’s second friendly in Miami provided the channel with the kind of challenges they are going to have to deal with in Brazil if things don’t go exactly to plan.
Of course, Adrian Chiles and the team have had previous in these matters. A couple of years ago in Poland, rain also stopped play. A situation that, among other things, exposed Andy Townsend as something of a trendsetter. Forced into action on camera, he introduced the football world to the pitchside gilet. And just two years later, there was Jose and Tim Sherwood following suit. As it were.
Not much call for extra layers in Miami, though. Although Adrian had decided to go with a jacket that he would very soon be regretting as something of a fashion faux pas. Speaking of which, perhaps it was his geographical gaff of welcoming us ‘to Rio’ that caused all the problems? Because the Floridian branch of the weather gods certainly took their wrath out on the stadium. Causing fans to flee to the inner concourse, and the fun to begin with over half an hour of ITV tunnel vision.
Clive Tyldesley told us Chiles, with Lee Dixon, Ian Wright and Glenn Hoddle, had been ‘forced to abandon their pitchside presentation position’. Which is long-winded speak for ‘legged it’. And in doing so, had little to fill the time with other than their wits, and two mics between four men.
Adrian quickly grabbed the opportunity to test out both of these by introducing us to ‘a fella here who looks like he’s in charge’. That fella, wearing a referee’s kit, being, well, the referee. We saw from a caption he was one Ricardo Salazar, but clearly that information hadn’t filtered down to Adrian. His body swerving of his name, coupled with that jacket in rocketing temperatures, had the Chiles brow visibly caking with sweat.
Then came the mic delegation between our four ITV men. First up, Glenn Hoddle made a grab for the one Ian Wright was holding, but he was having none of it. Giving his old Arsenal pal Lee a little wink, Wrighty went on to prove himself quite the expert at mic management.
And so they pressed on, with Glenn looking nearly as uncomfortable as Adrian in the conditions. He also didn’t know what to do with his hands, and even occasionally opted for a bit of ‘air mic’ – clasping his left hand into a fist as if he were holding one. Nevertheless, he still managed to get his point across of where he thought we were losing the battle in midfield.
At one point, Chiles had even resorted to telling everyone ‘the key thing to do – talk as slowly as possible. (We) could be filling for hours’ before Wrighty cheered ‘there’s the gaffer’ and Roy Hodgson enter the frame to save the, well, next five minutes.
And in spite of the presenter insisting on asking the manager to express more ‘despair’ while Dixon was trying desperately to ask him something about football, Hodgson was a steady hand on the tiller. Roy calmly told us he’d ‘encountered it here on golf courses’. And he was equally as sanguin when Glenn could resist it no longer and decided to tell the England manager exactly what he should be doing!
Adrian was equally as zealous about telling someone how they should do their business when the ‘stadium manager’ joined them. Who promptly pointed out he wasn’t but did, in fact, ‘handle soccer game operations’, had lived in the area many years, and that they were experiencing ‘what we call thunderstorms’.
The presenter, quite rightly, didn’t blame him for these ‘thunderstorms’. But he was rather taken aback by the fact that the stadium didn’t have a roof on it? The head of ‘soccer game operations’ smiled benignly and mumbled about the prospect of a roof. But the subtext seemed to be, ‘oh ok. I’ll just nip off and get my tool bag, shall I?’
But he didn’t need to defend himself. Because Wrighty was on hand to do that! ‘What we’ve done with Wimbledon, and you’re going to cane the geezer for not having a roof’, railed Wrighty, as Adrian mopped his brow with a tiny, sodden piece of tissue. ‘And you want one in 35minutes!’.
Luckily there was no need to get the builders in as the game was now set to get under way. Giving Gabriel Clarke the chance to come in and steal the whole rain-soaked show. With the ongoingly affable ‘fella’, referee Salazar, alongside him he asked in his classically earnest style ‘I saw you in the radar room. Just describe what you were doing in there?’. Somewhat breathless from clearly running around in humid conditions, Ricardo took a beat and replied ‘we were tracking the radar’.
And so we got back to the football. And I bet the boys at ITV could only have been happier if they were actually on the road to Rio. Weather permitting, of course.
(First published at MailOnline)