For a long time now I’ve been disillusioned by the overt and glittery presentation of our beautiful game on the nations TV channels. From the brash appearance to the distinctly unnecessary taglines (Grand Slam Sunday?! Honestly?!) the game itself has almost become an after thought.
Big games are built up to such an extent that you often feel cheated, sold down the river by the abundance of OTT advertising and hype that dwarf the match it was publicising in the first place.
Sky Sports are obviously the biggest offenders in the case of football vs. theatrical nonsense but that’s not to say the BBC, ITV and Setanta Sports are cleared of any wrong doings either.
All compete to create the biggest showpiece events and in doing so add, ironically, to the disenchantment of fans who feel their game is becoming tainted by ridiculous amounts of money.
And the stars of these over hyped, bloated showpiece events are the players of yesteryear, former professionals paid to analyse games using their wealth of experience in the game.
These puppets unfortunately only serve to add to the pantomime that is modern day football television.
Any sort of experience in the game takes priority over having two brain cells to rub together, though of course this isn’t true in all cases. There are some very good ex pros who lend their understanding and personality very well to punditry.
There are though unfortunately pundits who in many respects have no greater perspective than that of the armchair fan at home.
Moreso than ever, pundits are trying to embrace celebrity as opposed to focusing on the job at hand, for example Alan Hansen and those horrific Morrisons adverts. Alan Hansen himself had a hugely successful career at Liverpool and carries a lot of respect amongst fans for his honest and forthright views but the supermarket ads do remove a level of credibility from his work.
Roy Keane has blasted television pundits for the way they impact the game as a whole, referring specifically to the treatment of Arsene Wenger over the past week:
“Because of the industry now and the way it is, there are knee-jerk reactions and there seems to be a crisis at some sort of club every week. It’s crazy.
“A lot of punters are being brainwashed by what’s real and what’s not real and that gets to the players sometimes.”
A great deal is blown out of proportion by pundits when they second guess situations (and are often wrong), undermine player and managerial positions with their comments and add to fan hysteria at clubs in difficulty.
“There was a debate this week about Arsene Wenger. How crazy is that? What that man’s done for the game – and we’re giving these people air time. I wouldn’t listen to these people in the pub, and yet they’re on television constantly, ex-players, ex-referees getting interviewed giving out their opinions. I wouldn’t trust these people to walk my dog.
“I was asked by ITV to do the Celtic-Man U game but never again unless I fall on hard times. I think I’ve done it once for Sky but I’d rather go to the dentist.
“You’re sitting there with people like Richard Keys and they’re trying to sell something that’s not there. I tell people any time they watch a game to switch the commentators off, don’t listen to experts, gather your own opinion.”
Roy has hit the nail on the head with his comments this past week.
Arsene Wenger’s position has never been under threat and despite the teams inconsistency the club are still in a great position to press on for honours this season.
The backlash against Wenger following the Stoke game was really unjustified when you consider, as Keane did, the input the Frenchman has had on our game. As such, pundits are happy to stick the knife in when things aren’t going so well but are more than happy to praise the same man/team struggling not long before.
Since the defeats of Manchester United and Wigan, Arsene and Arsenal are the highlight of Sky Sports News and this only a week after his future in the job and title credentials were being dismissed.
All quite illogical and hence why the majority of pundits and their opinions only pass me by.
Here then, in my opinion, are the biggest offending football pundits on TV today and why:
1. Jamie Redknapp: Former floppy haired spice boy Redknapp was poached by Sky Sports not long into the start of his punditry career at the BBC. Whilst you cannot fault the enthusiasm of the ex Liverpool and Spurs midfielder, his drawn out tirades often serve only to portray him as over excited and rather directionless. Add a chronic misunderstanding of the word ‘literally’ and you have a recipe for frustration. Literally.
2. Paul Merson: Now, don’t get me wrong Paul Merson the player I adored. Somebody who has overcome adversity in the form of his addictive gambling and drug habits and continued playing at the highest level deserves a lot of credit. That said, great pundit this man will never be. A bumbling and ungainly presence in front of the TV cameras, Merson provides laughs, albeit often for the wrong reasons:
“The big oxygen thing is out for Benni McCarthy … he’s got a lot of medical round him.”
3. Garth Crooks: A Football Focus regular for the BBC, Crooks takes the crown for being the most conceited, narcissistic and uptight of the punditry world today. A former Spurs, Charlton and West Brom striker, Crooks holds his own opinion in far greater regard than anyone else. His mannerisms serve only to attract more derision, with a holier than thou attitude and delivery befitting someone who once was rumoured to be running for a seat in parliament. I personally wish he had gone for it – would’ve made Final Score a lot more bearable on Saturday evenings.
4. Andy Gray: Andy Gray is probably the best analyst in the country. Always concise, wonderfully eloquent and with passion to spare, he and Tyler provide the best commentary pairing in the country. So why is he so annoying? Andy Gray has started to believe his own hype. From the cringe worthy repetition of “take a boo son” and his vociferous defence of Javier Mascherano at Old Trafford last season, proclaiming the referee had bottled it, when the world and his wife could see what the Liverpool man had done wrong. Andy Gray has perfected the art of second guessing the referee and in doing so has cheapened his image and blunted his opinion.
5. David Pleat: – I hope for ITV’s sake that this man isn’t being paid. If they are I imagine its in crowns and shillings, as a reflection of the era in which Pleat was last of any use. Constantly mispronouncing names or getting them wrong all together and using archaic terminologies are all staple features of Pleats. In fact its safe to say there isn’t a more infuriating commentator in the game:
“We are now in the middle of the centre of the first half.”
There is however a solution to the nonsensical mumblings of the old man of punditry. Its called the mute button.
This is the tip of what is a large iceberg but who do you consider to be the worst pundit in the game? Is it a pair or a team? A presenter (Colin Murray??!!!) or a specific program’s format