Let's be bloont Geoffrey, just get a round

Ian Wooldridge

Last updated at 00:00 05 November 1997


IT may not initially strike you as sensational sports news when I report that down in my home town of Bournemouth, my wife's sister-in-law's mother, Vera, a glamorous grandmother who drives snazzy cars, paints her fingernails to coalesce with her latest outfit and from time to time sends me jars of incomparable home-made marmalade, is about to have a new neighbour.

However, the identity of the newcomer to probably the balmiest and certainly the most expensive strip of coastline in Britain may cause you to sit up.

He is none other than Mr Geoffrey Boycott, batsman, commentator and professional bloont-speakin' Yorkshireman.

Fifty-seven years after his birth in the Yorkshire mining village of Fitzwilliam, 19 years after being not only sacked as Yorkshire's cricket captain but grossly insulted in the process, Boycott has decided to desert his quarrelsome native tribelands and throw in his lot with us down here in the soft, decadent but rather more sophisticated south.

As one who has long advocated independence for Yorkshire - let them raise their own air force and finance their own nuclear deterrent - I welcome Geoffrey to my relaxed corner of the world.

I am surprised he didn't make the move in 1978 when, in firing him as Yorkshire captain, the bloontly speakin' county chairman at the time, Arthur Connell, said: 'It is not for what you have done, it is because of what you are.' Seriously, they speak about one another like that all the time up there in Yorkshire whereas, down south, we would have thanked him for his services and presented his lady with a few carnations.

We may be devious but we're polite.

I have known Boycott since his first overseas tour to South Africa in 1964. It has not always been a benign relationship, particularly after I had written a fierce condemnation in this space of his early TV commentating efforts, which were bombastic and cruel to young batsmen striving to emulate his standards.

But this much I must say for Geoffrey Boycott: he never bears a grudge and faced with the choice of naming a batsman to play for my life, given that his own were at stake as well, I would look no further in the entire history of cricket.

Welcome, Geoffrey, to the south. A few hints: throw away that purse, stuff a few notes in your pocket and break the habit of a lifetime by being the first to buy a round. Continue to vote Tory.

Throw a bridge party with plenty of drink. Never wear sandals. Be seen only to take the Daily Mail and the Telegraph for its crossword. Support hunting and drop in and say hello to the local boys' clubs.

Mr Boycott was not available for comment yesterday.

He was commentating on cricket from Pakistan. Nor was his new neighbour, Vera, who was probably lunching.

Gunning for the Minister

WITH such a huge majority in the House of Commons, New Labour can force anything from stripping students of university grants to blowing up Buckingham Palace on to the statute book.

Their latest effort on Monday evening was, by 291 votes to 155, to ban all disabled shooters from continuing in their sport and, by 292 votes to 160, stop Britain's top marksmen from practising, thus guaranteeing that for the unforseeable future Britain will have no chance of hosting an Olympic Games.

Last Saturday, in this space, I was wondering which way our Sports Minister, Tony Banks, would vote on these issues.

He voted on neither motion.

Gor blimey, Tone, the sooner you get rid of a man of such conviction the better.

No prizes for ITV on this night of tack

I HAVE never met Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchester United, and we probably wouldn't hit it off if I did. On television he strikes me as a man who enjoys obeisance.

Nonetheless it was absurd that he didn't come down the catwalk at Wembley to collect the Manager-of-the-Year award at the televised ITV investitures.

Like him, loathe him or be as utterly indifferent as I am, Ferguson is without parallel in this nation at his job: consistently winning.

But, then, what else could you expect of such a hapless ITV production?

Its temerity in claiming continuity with the great ITV sports traditions of old was blown away when winners of various categories failed to turn up, winners who did turn up found they had no trophy to receive and Miss Ulrika Jonsson, one of the co-presenters, kept leaning sideways as if to dissociate herself from a total shambles.

Clearly sports fans were held in such low intellectual esteem that pop bands and singers had to be brought on to sustain the attention of the totally witless.

The most inane thing of all was an announcement, at 9.11pm precisely, that one of ITV's distinguished panel of judges, Hugh McIlvanney, had failed to show up because he was still writing his column for the Sunday Times.

If Mr McIlvanney were still writing his column for the Sunday Times at 9.10 on a Saturday evening, it would never have been published. I assume, as with me a couple of years ago, that he may no longer have wished to be associated with a televised event which is technically inept.

Frightfully tough at the top

OH GORSH, Lady Celes-tria Noel, daughter of the Earl of Gainsborough, is packing in journalism.

After five years as Jennifer, the in-house by-line for Harper and Queen's celebrated society column, she is up to the gunnels with champagne, caviar and smoked salmon, tired of indexing big-noters at Royal Ascot and Goodwood and shudders at the thought of hopping on another plane to such disgusting outposts as Dubai or Australia.

'Nor,' she laments, 'do you always get the red carpet treatment. Sometimes you are placed next door to the loo and the royal detective.' Heavens, how I wish she'd had a few weeks' indoctrination with us at the Daily Mail. Our football writers tear up and down

motorways, leapon already-moving trains, catch planes at the last second.

Some of us have been away from home for five months at a stretch.

This game is called journalism and there's no job to beat it.

Sometimes the deadline for delivery is 30 seconds. Lady Celestria Noel always had a month and every time it had the whopping impact of a page from the Gloucestershire telephone directory.

Gunning for the Minister

WITH such a huge majority in the House of Commons, New Labour can force anything from stripping students of university grants to blowing up Buckingham Palace on to the statute book.

Their latest effort on Monday evening was, by 291 votes to 155, to ban all disabled shooters from continuing in their sport and, by 292 votes to 160, stop Britain's top marksmen from practising, thus guaranteeing that for the unforseeable future Britain will have no chance of hosting an Olympic Games.

Last Saturday, in this space, I was wondering which way our Sports Minister, Tony Banks, would vote on these issues.

He voted on neither motion.

Gor blimey, Tone, the sooner you get rid of a man of such conviction the better.

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