Turn on a football related programme this weekend and you can expect to find a former player having his say about the sport we all love. With Robbie Savage working for the BBC and ESPN, Gary Neville for SKY and former Arsenal defenders, Lee Dixon and Martin Keown both on the BBC, the question has to be asked why football pundits must be formers players who were the most irritating of their time?
The simple answer is that we appear to live in a world where people who are most controversial succeed and these former players who have already established a reputation in the game use this to grind out a career in media after they have retired. By deliberately being controversial they guarantee a reaction from a viewer or reader, something that outside of football, comedians like Frankie Boyle and shock writers like Richard Littlejohn have realised to their advantage
With the added competition that showing football has, I think the media organisations like BBC and Sky are competing against each other to find the most controversial pundit who will ensure people tune into their coverage and not their rivals. The problem for footballers who are have a decent reputation in the game is that they struggle to gain controversy. A fine example is BBC pundit Alan Shearer who just seems to states the obvious every week on MOTD to everyone’s general annoyance and also Steve Claridge who does quite similar on the Football League Show. From the reaction when these two are on our screens it is obvious that football fans do not want to watch dullards discussing football and would rather someone who can keep them entertained, whether that is through intensive football knowledge or by making controversial statements that these supporters react to.
Gary Neville has been one of football most controversial and divisive figures for years during his illustrious playing career at Old Trafford. When Sky appointed him a pundit at the start of the new season they knew what they doing as Neville is never short of an opinion or two. I have actually been surprised by Neville’s intelligent and amiable punditry so far and he actually seems to think about the game. While soon to be dancer, Robbie Savage clearly has a bright future in the media profession as after hanging up his boots last season he won the Sony DAB Rising Star Award for his work on BBC Radio Five Live. Although I was not his biggest fan as a player he has carried through the controversial aspects of his game into his media career and he can certainly bring extra life to a mundane phone call during his 606 show. I actually think Lee Dixon is one of the best pundits around, his views on the MOTD2 sofa are normally well-thought out and balanced but he still maintains the ability to entertain, he is someone that pundits in better jobs like Shearer could learn from.
I think these newly retired players are freshening up the football media landscape after it had stagnated in recent year with many pundits who had been out of the game for many years falling out of touch with the game. Some of these younger pundits were involved in the game just last seasons so will have some idea what the manager is saying at half time or what players think of a certain referee, so their words carry more weight. This new breed of football pundit in the competitive world of football looks to continue and if this trend does carry as as it has I wouldn’t at all surprised to see in the future, pundits Joey Barton and El Hadj Diouf discussing the game on a Saturday night.