Manchester United is in a familiar position, sat atop of the league standings looking down on everyone else. I’m not on about any false dawns in the league proper that have come about after a mere seven games. The table I refer to is the pundit league table, comprised of former players that turned into “experts” on various television platforms.
It is with a great debt to Gary Neville that United lead the way. As a player he was an easy target for hatred. He epitomised all the values and characteristics that fans of rival clubs hated about United. His swagger and focus seen as arrogance.
He always appeared to be running his mouth, and so many took great pleasure in his apparent demise against Stoke in October 2010. He was lucky to remain on the pitch and was duly substituted. It was clear his body could no longer perform the tasks requested from his mind.
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At that point it was inconceivable such a brain and overactive gob could provide detailed analysis. What followed was a transformation on camera. The steely focus in the eyes replaced by good natured banter with his co-hosts. More importantly than this, he filled the Andy Gray void on Sky Sports. Worries technical analysis would suffer were quickly eased. If anything, Neville evolved the standard of coverage.
Such is a testament to his skills, even his brother playing in the league doesn’t take points away from United. Phil was always seen as the weaker of the two on the field and the trend continues on the TV. His World Cup performances brought about a Twitter backlash. He took it with a smile on his face and has slowly improved. His points also have to be shared with Everton, he was their club captain.
Another pundit sharing out points to Everton is the aforementioned Andy Gray. While being a Marmite character it can’t be denied he moved coverage of football forward. After a few years of what were fancy tools for the time, but now commonplace, and a more relaxed approach to analysis, he left the traditional Match of the Day style reporting looking very antiquated. He continues to flourish abroad and would be a strong addition to any network. His points have to be spread with Aston Villa.
They can’t benefit from Gray’s helping hand because they have Andy Townsend pulling them down. Quite how he survived the chop for 15 years in the ITV hot seat is a mystery. Clive Tyldesley undoubted helped matters. When the lead commentator is so annoying and poor it masks the inadequacies of his junior partner. To show he’s keeping his eye in, he appeared on last week’s Sunday Supplement and claimed Villa know how to rub it with the big clubs because they have won the European Cup. Yes, Andy, I’m sure that 1982 triumph helps the current setup every single day.
Liverpool should have a strong standing in the league. They certainly have thrown enough pundits at the campaign. Retired Alan Hansen was a strong performer. His only defect was sticking in the comfort zone of the BBC. By the end his style had become dated. Many found Mark Lawrenson boring but his dry sense of humour was lost on the Beeb.
Graeme Souness has done a better job scoring points for the Reds in this league than he did as manager, but sometimes there’s a fear he just says something – anything – to be different than his younger panel, in an attempt to remain relevant. Liverpool’s big guns come in the guise of Jamie Redknapp and Jamie Carragher. Redknapp the more seasoned of the two and originally the flamboyant sparkle to Sky’s coverage. Sadly he’s gone from an intoxicating cocktail to something resembling your mum’s weak cordial. Carragher speaks so little sense it sounds like he’s been drinking lots of the former.
Special mentions go to Alan Shearer who has done the reverse of Gary Neville. He’s gone from hero to zero. What makes his incorrect assumptions about the game worse is the smug face he uses when delivering them. Whenever he annoys just remind yourself he did get his beloved Newcastle relegated.
Lee Dixon collects heavily for Arsenal. It’s a shame he left BBC for ITV, he’d have been better served performing on Sky each week. He has a form of delivery and clear understanding of the game matched only by Gary Neville.
Some will argue that Roy Keane should be the cause of a Manchester United deduction. But it’s good to have a guy playing devil’s advocate while sounding like Satan. And while Paul Scholes may cause upset, I overlook this because for years I assumed he shared his voice with Sooty, the famous teddy bear puppet. It’s nice to know he has functioning speech.
All pundits above can be rest assured they will never be at the bottom of the table. Well, not as long as Michael Owen graces our airwaves.
— Titanbet (@TitanBet) September 30, 2015