Are we being cheated out of good TV punditry?

Sky SportsWhat do you expect from a TV pundit? Tactical insight, honesty, experience and impartiality are traits we should expect to find in pundits across TV’s most popular football shows. So why  why are TV licence payers and Sky Sports subscribers paying for nothing more than half hearted punditry with a clear lack of detail behind their analysis.

Gary Neville has surprised many with his brilliant punditry on Sky Sports. No one can question his impressive punditry skills on Sky Sports. It is evident that his precise research, attention to detail, experience as a player (and now a coach with England) and his ability to remain impartial gives us all a fascinating insight in to a team’s tactics, defensive errors, player movement and decision making, give Sky Sports viewers great value for money every other Monday night. But, aside from that, we’re not really spoilt for choice are we?

There seems to be a distinct lack of any of the above from the majority of Neville’s colleagues, with the likes of Alan Shearer and Alan Hansen (Match of the Day), Andy Townsend (ITV) and Jamie Redknapp (Sky Sports) regularly giving us their drab, half-hearted and, sometimes, poor opinions on  Premier League highlights or on games we are watching each week.

Football fans, like you and I, are always in search of that deeper look into what we have just seen and we expect a more elaborate analysis to a games’ incidents that comments like, for example, “Well you can see he knew where the player was without having to look up.”

Why did that player make that decision? What makes him one of the best players around at the moment? What is the manager’s thinking behind that line-up? Very rarely are we given good enough answers to what intrigues us most in the modern game by those that are paid to ‘tell us more’ and those who should know better than anyone else, while we are paying to listen to the thoughts of the men TV bosses deem qualified enough to speak about the game in such a thorough context.

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One example of how poor football punditry has become in this country is when Alan Hansen tipped Spain, Germany, Holland and Portugal all to reach the last four of Euro 2012 on the BBC Sport website, despite the latter three teams all being in the same group. Also, Hansen’s regular use of the words ‘shocking’, ‘diabolical’ and ‘mediocre’ are not really the opinions of a so-called football expert we should be expecting to hear.

The current lack of decent punditry is surprising considering the dross we have had to listen to in the past, especially with the likes of David Pleat educating us with comments such as “A game is not won until it is lost” and “Eighty per cent of teams who score first in matches go on to win them, but they may draw some or occasionally lose.”

Many football channels or programmes have tried to bring in current footballers or managers to spice up their punditry line-up and and some further experience to the conversation, but that has regularly failed to give us the fans their money’s worth.

For example, Steve Lomas once told us that Germany would be a very hard side to beat because they had eleven internationals playing for them, while we’ve previously heard Andy Townsend wow us with his geographical expertise by claiming “The Belgians will play like their fellow Scandinavians, Denmark and Sweden.”

A lot of this is down to a sheer lack of preparation and research from pundits alike. Before going on air, pundits should  spend time doing their research so that they have everything at hand to engage us with proper footballing knowledge and expertise. But, these days, they  seem to just go with what comes to mind after seeing the highlights a couple of times and attempt to sell us a dummy by using cliches way too often (see what I did there?). It’s not proper analysis, not proper punditry and not value for money.

So how should viewers expect to get their money’s worth? Obviously experience is key, which begs the question why experienced former footballers like Alan Shearer, Alan Hansen and Jamie Redknapp regularly fail to dazzle us with their footballing knowledge.

If a pundit knows the background of a specific team, player or club inside and out, ranging from tactics to decision making and beyond, then he is in a better position to give the viewers a more in-depth observation in to a football match.

What we want to see is pundits offering us a fair balance between, say, experience, knowledge and tactical insight, which would then steer shows like Match of the Day and Football Focus et al away from losing their loyal, but extremely valuable, viewers from switching over to Casualty on a Saturday night instead.

The reality is that fans are increasingly being cheated out of good, insightful, educational punditry in return for their hard earned cash for TV licenses or Sky Sports subscriptions. Football fans want to be educated every time they listen to pundits talk about football, but at the moment they just same old stuff re-worded every week with a few cliches thrown in for good measure. Not good enough.

What do you think? Are we being cheated out of good punditry by the likes of Match of the Day and Sky Sports? Leave your thoughts below.

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