x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

A team effort for celebrity mascots in the English Premier League

While the English Premier League retains huge global audiences, it will attract the attention of even more global icons.

The A-Team could support clubs in the Premier League.
The A-Team could support clubs in the Premier League.

I wonder if anyone else shared my disquiet at seeing the actor David Hasselhoff visit Etihad Stadium, larking around with the Manchester City players as they celebrated a New Year's Day thumping of Stoke City.

Nothing wrong with that in itself, of course. Hasselhoff is in Manchester for a lucrative pantomime season (he is Captain Hook in Peter Pan), so why wouldn't he want to take in a visit to the Premier League champions?

"There is nothing better than to go and watch City win on your day off," he said, arguably summoning all of the acting skill for which he is famous.

"I'm torn between the two clubs [City and Manchester United] and I'd like to wish everyone a Hoffy New Year," he added hastily, presumably after a sharp nudge in the ribs from the PR manager of the Manchester Opera House, which still has to fill seats until next Sunday.

Perhaps my unease has something to do with being a child of the 1980s, when joyful Saturdays revolved around those twin passions of any boy: football and imported US television dramas featuring Hasselhoff or other impossibly glamorous men of his ilk.

To younger people, who have grown up understanding that football is now a branch of the showbiz industry, the collision of these two worlds may seem perfectly natural - just as it did when Tom Cruise and Robert Duvall watched the Manchester derby last month, or Sylvester Stallone turned up at Everton in 2006, or Michael Jackson cheered on Fulham at Craven Cottage in 1999.

But to me it remains bizarre and unsettling, like a side order of caviar on a plate of pie and chips.

Still, no point fretting over progress. While the English Premier League retains huge global audiences, it will attract the attention of even more global icons.

And, as it happens, Manchester City are a pretty good fit for Hasselhoff. Both were essentially comedic institutions - figures of fun, affectionately mocked by all but a few die-hard fans - until they found renewed success beneath the wing of a serious benefactor (it was Simon Cowell, remember, who resurrected Hasselhoff).

So if other 1980s television legends decide to follow the trail blazed by Hasselhoff, all I ask is that they choose an appropriate club.

Richard Dean Anderson, of MacGyver fame, for example, should probably opt for a Norwich City or Aston Villa, plucky little clubs which also make the most of scant resources.

Lee Majors, on the other hand, would be better at Chelsea, where he could talk to their latest manager about being The Fall Guy.

As the helicopter ace Stringfellow Hawke in Airwolf, Jan-Michael Vincent might appreciate the virtues of another brutal machine which is good in the air: Stoke City.

A gentler chap such as Fred Savage, however, may prefer to join the misty-eyed nostalgia merchants of West Ham United, who love nothing more than remembering The Wonder Years. They won the World Cup for England, you know.

As arguably the greatest of all Saturday afternoon television, The A-Team actors should probably divide themselves between the traditional big hitters.

So Mr T, who played a character called "Bad Attitude" would go to Manchester United. He could stand alongside Sir Alex during discussions with the referee.

Dwight Schultz, meanwhile, could go to Arsenal to try to make sense of Arsene Wenger's howling mad transfer policy.

Dirk Benedict, aka "Face", played a smooth operator who looked great but had little stomach for a fight. So, Tottenham Hotspur then.

And for the late George Peppard, if only he could, it would be Liverpool: the undisputed boss of 1980s television and the undisputed boss of 1980s football.

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