The Week In Weird TV: Keane, Viera And Lord Lucan

Two greats of modern football went head to head across a desk, and we got an insight into the mystery surrounding Britain's most famous missing aristocrat...
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Two greats of modern football went head to head across a desk, and we got an insight into the mystery surrounding Britain's most famous missing aristocrat...

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When the history of our age is written two leaders will stand out from the rest, like diamonds in a coal mine. Yes, you guessed it, those sparkling jewels are Patrick Vieira and Roy Keane. These two were the big beasts of English football, leading the most powerful clubs into battle like imperial warlords. And so it was almost inevitable that someone from ITV 4 would one day bring them together for the footballing equivalent of the Yalta conference – except without a maniac sporting a risible moustache (I don’t mean Graeme Souness).

Keane and Vieira: Best of Enemies was a short programme pretending to be a long one. The idea – essentially two footballers sitting at a desk – really only deserves half an hour but this was given double that, presumably to allow the taciturn Keane time to actually say something. What he did eventually say was not very nice things about his old boss, Alex Ferguson.

He had no hesitation in naming Brian Clough the better manager and when asked what Ferguson’s best quality was he went for “ruthless.” Not so much a backhanded compliment as toe-punt straight to the groin. It’s like saying the best thing about the Pope is his big imagination. But then Keano has never been one for subtlety. In fact, he has been one for stamping on people’s legs in pathetic acts of revenge – just ask Alf-Inge Håland.

Keane went on to say that he didn’t regret the incident but it’s quite clear the man is full of regret, which has turned to bitterness. He can’t let things go, which is probably what made him such an effective player. But what’s effective on the pitch might not be so useful off it. In life, revenge is a dish best served never at all.

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But Keane was at least grudgingly respectful to Vieira. The exchanges between them were actually quite friendly. Nostalgia can often give a warm glow to cold memories. And what memories they were. Two brilliant players, in brilliant teams playing at the very peak of the sport. So who was the best? Keane won more Premier leagues but Vieira won a World Cup and the Euros. I’d take Patrick Vieira any day.

What would have made this programme great would have been if they had replaced Vieira with Alex Ferguson. You could call it ‘Keane and Ferguson: Best of Enemas.’ Alex and Roy would be rigged up to an enema machine (I don’t think they actually exist) and then given control of the each other’s, like in that episode of the Simpsons, where the family are given the power to electrocute one another until they (don’t) sort out their issues. Now that would be worth at least an hour.

One man who has been given far too much time for the last forty years is Lord Lucan. Everyone’s favourite disappearing earl, Lucan is the man who vanished after his children’s nanny was bludgeoned to death at their home. His ‘picture’ occasionally reappears in the tabloids, always from some exotic location and usually alongside Elvis, Jim Morrison and Donald Duck. He reappeared again on ITV last week in the form of Rory Kinnear for the two part series Lucan.

Lucan was part of a high-born low-grade gambling set, who occupied themselves by throwing away their money to casino and zoo owner John Aspinall. Christopher Ecclestone plays Aspinall as an arch villain who bears a double taking resemblance to Iago (who Ecclestone played a few years ago), filling Lucan’s empty head with mad ideas of social Darwinism and order.

In the years since Lucan’s disappearance a sort of romantic mystique has grown up around him, obscuring the decidedly horrible reality. Kinnear plays him as a blank. A man without personality who is easily swayed by appeals to his selfishness and ego.

It is an interesting drama about an uninteresting man who probably murdered a young woman in cold blood. It’s not romantic or mysterious – just very, very sad.