One of my least favourite aspects of football broadcasting in Britain is the willingness to accept mediocrity when it comes to football punditry.
My main gripe is that broadcasters like Sky can continue to give the same people opportunities to showcase their ignorance.
Jamie Redknapp has been with Sky for well over five years and continues to under-research the teams he’s covering and offer little insight on the teams or the scenario’s that arise in football matches.
He infamously praised Xabi Alonso for “bossing” a game Sky covered that the Spaniard wasn’t even playing in. But while that incident was a few years ago more recent examples are readily available, on the last day of the season last year, on the eve Manchester City’s first ever Premier League championship. The ex England international was trying to make a point about the good players Roberto Mancini inherited at the Etihad, “Vincent Kompany, Joe Hart gotta credit Mark Hughes he signed some great players here.” Admittedly I am paraphrasing but nothing sums up the former Liverpool man’s sub-par football knowledge more than his willingness to credit a manager for signing a player who’d been at the club two years prior to his arrival (Hart). I’d also comment on Mark Hughes’s misuse of Vincent Kompany in greater detail but that’s an argument for another time.
The other main company who provide regular football coverage are the BBC who are by no means different to their rivals, when it comes to accepting bad punditry. One of the main pleasures from seeing Gary Neville come into his own as Sky’s main pundit is he offers fresh perspective on the beautiful game. While nothing is fresh about the BBC’s football presentation, rotating a two of three men: Alan Hansen, Mark Lawrenson and Alan Shearer in their marquee highlights show, Match of the Day, this offers the viewer a familiar but tiresome analysis of football highlights.
Hansen has been integral to BBC’s coverage for as long as I’ve been following football, the decorated ex Liverpool defender has the ability to spot defensive errors and read the game in a way, which at one point had me gutted he’ll never go into management. But more so than any other pundit he seems to be losing his touch and becoming a parody of his former self. The Scot seems to have developed snide arrogance which makes him somewhat unbearable. He mocked Colin Murray for saying it was a shame Croatia were in the same group as Spain and Italy. Dismissing Slaven Bilic’s men as “ordinary” when in reality few could argue they weren’t among the top eight teams to qualify for Euro 2012. His anaylsis of Mats Hummels against Portugal was among the best of the tournament but this has become a rarity rather than normality. He remains one of the best if he can continue to explain the finer side of defending rather than making sweeping statements loaded with arrogance. His co-workers are not better if not worse; Alan Shearer has become synonymous with stating the obvious and under-preparation in his match of the day role. While Lawrenson seems more content using sarcasm to create a miserable television persona, than he does informing the viewer as a pundit.
This year I’ve enjoyed Match of the Days coverage more due to their new studio guests. Still active, seeking-work managers Mick McCarthy and Harry Redknapp have joined the team. Knowing both men have prepared teams to negate and deal with those sides we’re watching in the Premier League, gives greater authority to what they say. Hearing Harry Redknapp highlight the importance of Jonas Olsson to West Brom or Mick McCarthy talk about how important Ashley Williams was in possession for Brendan Rodgers last year is a great pleasure. It opened my eyes to just how little the most popular football programming in the nation concerns itself with clubs outside the top six though. I get the impression the MOTD regulars are far more concerned with only offering sparse patronising pats on the back for the likes of Fulham and Sunderland before returning to a ten minute dissection of what went wrong for Liverpool or Arsenal.
To finish Gary Neville has raised and exposed the standards of punditry in this nation, the former England right back rarely leaves you unsatisfied on Monday nights. Whether it’s offering an excellent explanation into the diving culture in the Premier League. Or offering new found insight into the Premier League, with his recent clarification of the “one-second rule” that in his opinion should apply to full-backs at the top level. I gained a new found understanding and insight into a position I’ve been trying and failing to play since I was big enough to kick a ball.
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