15 MAY 1993, Page 63


In need of a large Scotch

Frank Keating

FOR CERTAIN, Cup Final weekend will be invested with one particular image, on the pitch or off it, which will log it indelibly for the legend. Since the 'White Horse final' — the very first at Wembley, 70 years ago this spring — most of us remotely interested can, off the top of our heads, rat- tle through any amount of chronological Cup Final incidents, in the ensuing three- score-and-ten, which have punctuated the annual fiesta in a stream of consciousness which resembles the platforms being passed in that speeded-up film of the Brighton Belle taking 90 seconds to reach Victoria . .

. . . The Arsenal goalie's oily sweater in 1927, Much's penalty, Jack Tinn's spats, Bert Turner's one at each end, Taylor-to- Matthews-to-Perry, McParland's shoulder charges, an ambulance full of pre-substitute injuries (studs stuck in 'the velvet turf), Trebilcock's brace, Chelsea's equaliser, Charlie George's scoring swoon, and Mont- gomery's save, right up to Gascoigne's idio- cy, and Clough's dottiness before extra- time . . . Further lists, just as evocative, on demand.

Whatever happens on London's lush green pasture just off the North Circular this Saturday, the quiz question 70 years hence, could well be: 'In which year was the final's immediate post-mortem BBC broad- cast conducted by a man who, less than a year before, had been a senior member of Her Majesty's Government?'

For the past few months, David Mellor has been continuing his rudely aborted promise over all aspects of British Heritage with an early evening, Saturday phone-in programme on Radio 5 — cringingly over- matey footer chitchat for the full 90 min- utes, speckled occasionally by popular gramophone records chosen (he says) by his 12-year-old son.

`Er, is that you, Dave?'

`Hearing you loud and clear, Gary. Where you phoning from?' `Er, I'm in the motor, Dave — 'alfway dahn the Ml after the Peterborough game, Dave.'

`How did "the Posh" get on today then, Gary?' . . . and so on. To be honest, on second thoughts — and readily admitting it is all too easy to send up a Conservative minister fallen from grace as he contrives to earn a crust in endeavouring not to talk down BT's proles in their shoals — Dave makes a fair fist of it in the circumstances, in spite of giving the impression that he considers himself right up there at the top of the Premier Division with Nick Ross.

He has the clout that is not afraid to air such matters as boardroom chicanery in football, black market, corporate hospitali- ty ticket allocation, dud refereeing, and racism — all of which most routine sports hacks steer well clear of on their back pages or at their microphones. 'So keep the phone calls coming, Gary. Right, next caller. Hi there, Wayne in Plymouth, good game at Home Park, eh? . . . ' Perhaps one hoped for so much more when Mellor was hired. He seems over-preeningly delighted to be on trivial nudge-nudge-know-what-I- mean first name terms with erks from the terraces — and totally unaware that six months ago, dammit, he was minister in charge of the whole shooting match. His hour-and-a-half could be so much more valuable a forum for sporting matters.

The fellow even sighed audibly with frus- tration two Saturdays ago when he had to cut short some mutual inanities with Darryl of Doncaster or whoever to allow the conti- nuity announcer to give the close-of-play cricket scores. I was so furious at his atti- tude that it needed a large Scotch to stop me ringing him up myself.