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Pundits caught out by mix-up in defence

THE pressure of the football transfer window can cause confusion among everyone involved in the game. Players don't know if they're on the move or not, managers don't know if they're going to get who they want and fans can be so driven to distraction that they can cheer in hysterical delight at the news that their club has just signed Peter Crouch.

Pundits, too, can get caught up in the rush and last week both Robbie Savage (on BBC 5 live) and John Giles (on Newstalk) made the same mistake of confusing Arsenal's new centre-half Per Mertsacker with his fellow German defender, Christoph Metzelder.

Savage was, well, savage about Mertsacker's poor spell at Real Madrid, while Giles insisted that "he was a total failure there." Metzelder is the one who played in Madrid, not Mertsacker.

Giles then added that "I didn't even fancy him in the German team," although when Newstalk's Eoin McDevitt, who seemed a little confused about the Real Madrid connection but went along with it anyway, pointed out that he must be of some use to have been capped 68 or 69 times for Germany (Mertsacker has 75 caps) Giles did concede that he was okay.

All that Gunners' fans can hope for is that Arsene Wenger was better informed and that he has signed the player he wanted. After all, he doesn't want to end up like Mike Bassett in the ITV series who signed Dutchman Ronnie van Needlemans on the basis of a video of several spectacular goals sent by his agent.

When Van Needlemans arrives at Wirral County, it soon becomes apparent that he can't kick his way out of a paper bag. In frustration, Bassett brings the player inside to show him the video and the bewildered Dutchman explains that he is not the striker in the clips -- he is the goalkeeper.

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AND staying with punditry, it never ceases to amaze how Sky can get it so wrong with football when they excel at so many other sports. Last Wednesday, we tuned into Old Trafford for a thrilling Twenty20 international between England and India and were instantly assuaged by the mellifluous tones of Nasser Hussain and David 'Bumble' Lloyd, two important cogs in an expert team who rarely fail to locate the correct balance between incisive analysis and sheer entertaining commentary.

One major gripe, though. As legendary Indian batsman Rahul Dravid was making his international debut in this format, Hussain and Lloyd played the statistic up to a ludicrous degree, portraying the 38-year-old as a ham-fisted novice who hadn't a clue what he was doing. It was all harmless fun, of course, but the pair hammered it to the point where the joke lost whatever tiny edge it had and began to sound grating and horribly patronising. Worst of all, the fact that Dravid had played four seasons of Twenty20 in the Indian Premier League as well as two seasons in the Champions League seemed, somehow, to have escaped their notice completely.

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In advance of today's All-Ireland final, From the Stands reckons that Denis Byrne received more requests for tickets than most. Byrne played championship hurling with both counties in the past -- the Graigue-Ballycallan man captained Kilkenny to the 1999 Leinster title and changed club and allegiance in 2003, joining Tipp's Mullinahone. He made his championship debut for Tipperary against Laois, at Portlaoise, in a qualifier game on June 14. Denis lined out at full-forward, scored 0-6 and won man of the match in many quarters. He also played against Galway in the next round and came on as a substitute against Offaly in the quarter-final victory at Croke Park. Maybe it's no bad thing that he didn't play against Kilkenny in the semi-final.

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After a series of blunders Ortis Deley was dropped as the main presenter of the World Athletics Championships on Channel Four but he popped up again in the stands interviewing fans yesterday. At least there he can't ask Michael Johnson if he has ever done the pole vault or forget the names of some of the biggest names in athletics or his fellow presenters.

Fergus McDonnell, John O'Brien, and Damian Lawlor


Sunday Indo Sport