Andy Robinson endures a month of highly-paid stating of the obvious and yearns for the days of Brian Moore.
For most I would imagine the biggest thrashing they have seen over the past month would have been the demolition of the average Brazilian side by the eventual winners of the World cup the Germans in the most one sided semi final anybody has seen. For me however, it was the BBC’s massacre of the dismal ITV in the presentation and punditry stakes. Unlike the German side though the BBC still have major areas that need to be improved and haven’t really got any laurels to rest on. If the BBC were average then ITV were atrocious.
By and large the football public remains very fond of Gary Lineker. Always stylish and confident this isn’t a man afraid to show his emotions or step in and offer an opinion especially on Roy’s flops as we all know that he shares the hurt with us. He is the ultimate broadcaster in the world of TV sport right now. Adrian Chiles although not quite as polished as saint Gary just about deserves his role as the anchorman for ITV. I like the bumbling and the inane he comes out with in the same way you like someone you work with every now and then but you don’t have to work with them every day. He gets away with an awful lot because the football public know he loves the game every bit as much as they do. This can’t last forever. He needs to step up to the plate reference his subservience to his pundits. When they talk rubbish as they so often did it’s his job to say so. The two deputies, Matt Smith and Mark Chapman have both improved greatly and when called upon they performed well. I don’t see another Brian Moore or a Des Lynam but then again I don’t think of Elton Welsby either.
The less said about the co – commentators at the games the better. An horrendous choice to make for anybody to decide between the incessant monotone ramblings of Mark Lawrenson who should have been shown the exit door years ago and Andy Townsend. It’s now actually possible to play Andy Townsend Bingo on Facebook or Twitter. Every time he utters an often repeated cliché you mark yourselves down for a point. “He’ll be disappointed when he sees that again” and “For me that’s a penalty” being the pick of the bunch.
Phil Neville was so bad that the BBC received 443 complaints about his sheer ineptitude. Allegedly, when he was a coach last year for Manchester United his nickname on the training ground was apparently “F—K O-F” Phil ! – you would have thought that with all our TV License money the BBC would have invested in a screen test. The worst for me though was Danny Murphy and this was for one comment only. In one game, probably featuring Micheal Bradley of the USA or Sammi Khedira as they were the only two players at this tournament capable of such play, a wonderful crossfield pass was knocked out wide. He brought into the nation’s phyche the term “Diag”. He was so impressed with this he used it another four times in ten minutes. Not since Richard Keys coined the phrase “The Theatre of Dreams” years ago has obnoxiousness reached such heights in sports broadcasting. Murphy though didn’t do too badly as a pundit in the studio. With Martin Keown you get the same as what you got when he played for Arsenal and England – common sense and unspectacular and I am possibly the only football fan in the Country who can actually listen to and live with Clark Carlisle without reaching for the off switch.
This war was won with the quality of the pundits or rather the complete lack of it from ITV. With the defection of Lee Dixon to ITV who has always been knowledgeable, witty and never attention seeking the BBC are weaker. Alan Hansen was there for one last time. We had good tactical analysis from Hanson and he goes well with Lineker but he’s been on far too long, we were all sick of him years ago and he isn’t going to be missed. Like many I have never been a fan. Supporting him well were Alan Shearer and Rio Ferdinand. Shearer has improved greatly since the Balotelli incident. As Shearer glibly remarked on one edition of MOTD about “what has he ever done in the game” over some misdemeanour of Mario’s, Lineker set about him with gusto. Gary informed him of the two Serie A titles before the age of Twenty, selected by Ghana when he was 15 but he turned them down and a Man of the Match award in an FA Cup Final and his one man battle against racism in Italian football. Shearer shut his trap and was humiliated so badly it would have seen off lesser men. He has come back strong though.
Alarmingly for me as a City fan, Rio Ferdinand was the star of the show. He was possibly a little too forgiving on England’s ineptitude but tactically he seemed sound and he wasn’t afraid to go against the other pundits. I loved his honesty and I loved the way his face darkened whenever a City player got a mention – it just added to the honesty. His statement about being ripped apart in a game by Arjen Robben which he said was whilst he was close to his peak and not the Rio of the last couple (well six more likely) of seasons. He didn’t pull his punches either in his description of the evil and sadistic Busquets of Spain either.
Backing up they had Robbie Savage, Thierry Henry and Chris Waddle. My favourite England player of the last thirty years has never come across well on the TV and we all know it’s the Geordie accent but with the exception of Dietmar Hamman once on “Talksport” and I would imagine a little seen blog on the ESPN site by former United and England full back Paul Parker, nobody has launched into the England side and mangement team with as much ferociousness as Waddle.
Savage and Henry gave the TV tournament it’s greatest moment. In an aside, Savage mentioned whenever one of his teams played against Henry and the rest of the Arsenal lads they used to get “really stuck in”. Thierry retorted quick as a flash that “somehow we managed”. It was as dry as a James Bond Martini and brought laughter to the studio.
If the BBC were at best a little better than average then ITV were truly woeful. Lee Dixon performed manfully but without the controversial Roy Keane and the witty and always assured Gareth Southgate it was a losing battle. Graeme Souness always seems to get a lot of plaudits from the critics but for me he always comes across as smug and condescending and completely lacking in humour. Considering he was such a thug as a player the lack of humour isn’t suprising. Gordon Strachan has never made any sense and the only good bit of ITV’s entire coverage of the world cup was the complete look of bemusement on Fabio Cannavero every time he had to share a sofa or a bar stool with Jimmy Krankie and listen to him. I still can’t decide about ITV’s beach side bar set though and wonder if it was the idea and work of a budding Tarantino or simply cruel to show the nation Glenn Hoddle’s knees.
Glenn Hoddle didn’t distinguish himself at all. The rarest of beasts – an England manager dismissed too soon, some of his work was simply laughable. The best illustration of this was his half time comments in the Germany v Algeria game. As Manuel Neur came out time after time to play as sweeper and clear danger, Glenn reckoned the Algerians would have been looking to the idea of shooting from their own half. Actually no Glenn ! What the Algerian’s were thinking was that this cocky piece of work is going to slip on his arse and misjudge one or if they just knock a bit out of the pass or if they just time their run a bit better they can do him. No player thinks of shooting from sixty yards. It was simply ludicrous.
Martin O’Neill’s idiocy showed in his comments on Scolari. A man who took Leicester to a League Cup final win and won a lot of one horse races with Celtic aimed criticism’s at a man who has won all their is in South America and the World Cup once on the basis that Big Phil had another thirty or so players to choose from. Well six or seven maybe could have been looked at but nowhere near that many. Get your facts right Martin. As for Ian Wright well Ian Wright jumped about in his chair a lot and called Glenn Hoddle “Gaffer”. If there is any justice left in the world I want to see him locked in a room with Luis Suarez, Roy Hodgson and at least four tigers. I don’t want to leave anything to chance.
If I have spent less time on the ITV lot than I did with the BBC’s then it’s because I probably went off to make a cuppa or get stuff ready for work the following day when the game was on their channel. Still despite many of them I enjoyed the football.