A cub reporter for BT (always Be prepared to serve your country and your Tan) allegedly (we are still waiting for TV replays) cornered Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson where the corner flag once stood in Brighton’s AMEX Stadium on Monday evening.
Roy was in an unexpectedly futuristic mood after Crystal Palace had been knocked out by Brighton and most of Hove.
“This match represented something of a first for me,” he announced, proudly, after teams, fans, cleaners and all the other reporters had left the ground which had now been locked up, “you see, I have an earpiece which enables me to plug into the transistor radio in the inside pocket of my overcoat. In that way, I can tune into the BBC and listen to the commentary without having to take my hands out of my pockets.”
Reiterating the fact that he worked for BT and not the BBC (whose reporting team had simultaneously beamed their story back to the BBC News studios in London, Manchester and, unofficially, Isleworth, before managing to catch the last train away from the south coast, apart from that rattler to Hayward’s Heath) the reporter pressed on, anxiously wondering why Glenn Murray – Brighton’s Head of Handicrafts – was looming over him, and Chris Hughton – Brighton’s manager – was looming over a nearby puddle.
“BT. Well, you’ll know all about technology then! I remember when the Post Office engineers would dig big holes in the streets of Croydon and then suddenly disappear. Fortunately, we were one of the only families in the area at the time with a telephone, so we were able to phone up to find out what was happening.”
“Not like in January 2018, when everything is available at the flick of a switch then, Roy! What do you make of the new video assistant?”
As Murray began to make heading actions, ominously, and Hughton stared into the middle distance of West Sussex, menacingly chewing his ‘lucky gum,’ Roy seemed to be surprisingly relaxed.
“I think it’s a wonderful development,” he grinned, inanely but in an organised fashion, “fiddling with those tiny buttons and then still getting the start time wrong used to make me very angry, I can tell you. I first used VideoPlus when I was managing in Sweden, and the only thing those new codes seemed unable to do was melt the ice between me and the players …”
“So, you don’t think the winning goal this evening was controversial?”
Simultaneously, as though choreographed by the ‘Standing on the Spot’ team from Channel 5 (now sponsored by Dulux, incidentally), Murray stopped heading and Hughton stopped chewing. Both leaned forward slightly, careful not to move into offside positions before receiving Roy’s latest words of wisdom.
“Disallowing the goal would have been very harsh, I think. I’ll have to check the tape when I get home but, of course, sometimes there can be white spots – and I’m not just talking about penalties here – and the picture is not as clear-cut as the new DVD players are promising to give us. No doubt Chris already has one of those, living in Bohemian Brighton! For me, it was a genuine goal because 5 live said it was – and you would never argue with the BBC would you? I can’t say that I’m totally happy with football commentaries being broadcast on that channel, though, what was wrong with ‘Soccer Special’ on Radio 2? Still, I wouldn’t want to be the one to stand in the way of technological progress.”
As seagulls swooped, quietly and a bit eerily, over the otherwise deserted ground, now that Glenn and Chris had jogged off for hot chocolate and one, maybe two of Chris’s ‘lucky digestives,’ the reporter braved one final question:
“You’ve always been one of football’s great communicators, Roy; how do you feel about referees being wired up to split screens?”
“For me, it all began with Marvel milk powder tins, joined together by pieces of string. How long were they? Well, I suppose up to a hundred yards – but, even then, you tended to shout to get your message across, which may not have been the right way to do it. As for split screens, there is no question in my mind that there comes a time for replacements but only if things aren’t working properly.”