I love football. I enjoy playing, watching & reading about football. I have recently added a love of writing about football to the list of things I enjoy. Of all these, I probably enjoy watching live football more. Watching over the ‘telly’ can be deceptive, you can’t see all the off - the - ball movements, you can’t share in the atmosphere and the unique camaraderie of fans.
Reading about football or listening to knowledgeable people talk about football is also a delight. Often these are people who have had some long standing and constructive involvement in the game. They offer uncommon insight, some nuances, some unspoken tricks of the trade that sometimes broaden the understanding of those of us who are observers.
My favourite section of newspapers has always been the sports pages and I have had a love for newspapers from a very young age. Reading match reports from renowned writers was a joy. Their writing took you right into the stadium. You could visualise what they were writing.
But the world has changed a bit. News is instant, as the Internet has helped the speed at which it is transmitted. Another good or maybe bad thing is that everybody has an opinion and they want you to hear that opinion. Some are subtle about it but others are quite narcissistic about their opinions and will insist on shoving it down your throat even if you are suffering from Dysphagia.
Because of the immediacy of news and what appears the short attention span of news consumers nowadays, many media houses have gone to what appears to be extremes in capturing the attention of their audience. This has unfortunately seeped into football punditry.
As I said before, football pundits generally offer an insight; they might perhaps explain why certain moves are made on the pitch, why certain substitutions are made, the state of mind of players, that elusive thing that produces winners etc.
All of that appears to have disappeared and is more about opinions. Things they potentially know nothing about. Things to make them sound knowledgeable and get people 'yakking' away on social media platforms. A few examples will potentially suffice:
“Wales players are more than happy to play with each other”
“Chris Coleman should tell Wales not to concede”
“England were perfect last night” (against Russia at Euros 2016)
“England shouldn’t have gone for 2 nil against Russia” (same game)
“In a final, you either pick up the trophy or you don’t”
“Teams that play 2 up front and 5 in the middle do tend to ply 3 at the back”
“If Man City don’t score, they hardly ever win”
Just put his name in a search engine on Twitter. Remember not to choke or get upset
It’s amazing. These guys are paid for these insightful comments. People actually sit on their backsides and consider these ‘pundits’ knowledgeable. I get it. They are richer than me. They have had very successful football careers, some playing at the highest level.
They are celebrities. Very popular. If I saw one of them on the street, I will probably want to take a picture. But are these quotes of any use to me as a fan eager to learn from these guys experiences? Do these quotes add anything to my knowledge of football? NO IT DOESN’T.
I therefore struggle to see what value some of these ex footballers add as pundits. If their addition is simply for box office reasons i.e. attract the dumb celebrity obsessed punters. Fine. Let us know.
However the media networks owe those of us searching for deeper understanding our own program. If it means waking up at silly o’clock to listen to knowledgeable & sensible talk about football, so be it. It is a sacrifice I am willing to make. But spare us these drones with nothing comprehensive to say.
The fact that a player had a distinguished football career at the very top does not miraculously turn him into a knowledgeable person. He doesn’t all of a sudden know all aspect of football. Rio was a defender, so was Lee Dixon. Owen was an attacker, fantastic players all of them. But they were told at every point in their career what to do. None of them has ever taken a day’s coaching session in competitive football.
Why should we trust anything they then say about a manager’s tactics, about setting out teams, about managerial philosophies, about transfer policies, about football pricing. Does anybody think that Sir Alex consulted Rio Ferdinand when he was planning to purchase Cristiano Ronaldo or the Da Silva Twins?
If the media networks are going to continue with the same format of analysing football games, I will recommend that they seriously consider adding a manager to their panel of pundits. I get that the managers will be loath to criticise a fellow manager but he will definitely offer more & probably better insight into games. If they are able to attract successful manager perhaps as successful as some of the players gracing the pundit chair now, even better. We will have more confidence in their assertions. Slaven Bilic is getting rave reviews on the BBC Euros coverage at this rime and i think its the way to go.
To the pundits on TV, please help us. Step up. Perhaps like Gary Neville and Alan Shearer, you might want to take up management. I can assure you, if the experience of Gary & Alan are anything to go by, your managerial experience is likely to be short and sharp. You might then come out of the experience, hopefully not too scarred like Gary but sufficiently well rounded in your knowledge of football for the advantage of those of us lapping up your every word.