The 12 Days of Football: Eleven Punters Punting
On the 11th day of football, the media gave to me eleven punters punting,
Welcome to the eleventh segment in It’s Round & It’s White’s 12 Days of Football. We've paid a great deal of attention to players, managers, and referees. One group key to your enjoyment has been overlooked until now. Let's turn the camera eye back on itself, critiquing the critics, the so-called experts on our screens, pundits and commentators, seasoned professionals, and mediocre pretenders.
Perhaps English football's most well-known broadcaster, Motson, aided by his sheepskin coat, became a distinguished figure. He was almost royalty. Motty's effortless turn of phrase kept him at the top for close to half a century.
In September, he drew the curtain on his 49-year career at the BBC, having brought us more than 2000 games. Football will inevitably move on, but Motson remains irreplaceable.
Some jobs are more difficult than they look. Stelling is the man tasked with keeping Paul Merson, Phil Thompson, Charlie Nicholas, and Matt Le Tissier in check. Not to mention Chris Kamara. Leader of the pack on Soccer Saturday for almost two decades, his humour, passion, and cheesy jokes transported football directly into our living rooms.
With his suave, chappy demeanour ever ready to sprinkle in a bit of cheek, Stelling is a master at finding the perfect balance between professionalism and entertainment. Long may it continue.
One of England’s most decorated strikers made an easy transition into presenting. Lineker’s likeable character enabled him to reach the top of his profession, with both the BBC and BT Sport. He continues to fill our screens in 2017 on Match of the Day, a show he’s fronted since 1999. He's also an entertaining presence on social media.
The undisputed voice of Sky Sports football. Having presided over the Premier League’s biggest games since the network's introduction, Tyler remains among the English game's best commentators. His ability to relay the tension building on the pitch is unrivaled. The 2011-12 title was decided by Sergio Aguero’s dramatic winner, yet Tyler’s skills on the microphone immortalised the moment. The 72-year old’s enthusiasm ensures he will contribute many more historic moments in the future.
Pioneers can be young, too. The most revered Neville brother forms an unlikely, yet highly regarded, Manchester United/Liverpool duo with Jamie Carragher on Monday nights. Neville’s ability to analyse games helped bring football up to speed with modern-day techniques.
His outstanding playing career and excellent punditry should keep him at Sky Sports as long as he pleases. Though he can be overly critical, particularly towards goalkeepers, GNev's opinions are usually on point.
The former Liverpool defender offers little apart from outdated opinions and false outrage. His position on Soccer Saturday should be in jeopardy. Thompson began 2017 with disrespectful comments directed at Marco Silva.
He has not got a clue. He’s received manna from heaven to be given this job (Hull City) on his CV. He doesn’t know what’s required here.
The Portuguese has since flourished in the Premier League, especially this season at Watford.
Another man involved in bashing Silva prematurely.
I could win the league with Olympiakos (Silva’s former club). What does he know about Hull? What does he know about the Premier League? What does he know?
This from a man whose entire managerial career would have been guiding Walsall to successive relegations had he not been saved by the sack.
Merson’s instinctive reaction to dismiss foreign managers is unappealing. Admittedly, he is a love/hate character as, if we're being honest, everyone on this list is. He provides a few laughs, yet his constant state of bewilderment and struggle to correctly pronounce names grates on the ear. If I wanted the game explained to me by a clueless oaf, I'd watch it at the pub (with Chris Kamara).
Accomplished player, dreadful pundit. There have been dozens, but Lawrenson is one of the few to continually be handed a microphone and paycheque. The man (thankfully) offers viewers long periods of silence, occasionally interrupted by strange humming noises. When he does decide to enunciate, little of significance is ever revealed.
Lawrenson delivered weekly Premier League predictions for the BBC during 2017, competing against well-known celebrities. It could be time for him to follow his friend Alan Hansen into retirement, however.
The inferior Neville brother both on the pitch and in the booth. Phil is proof representing a big club will land a top job in the TV studio. He follows the status quo, never offering any valuable insight.
Among his many shortcomings is rudimentary maths. Rambling on about former teammate Ross Barkley, Neville took a curious route to four.
He so desperately wanted to...one, score goals, one, play well, one, be the star, two-erm-four, play for England...
Just give it up, Phil.
There is nothing wrong with a controversial pundit. Chris Sutton does it with passion. Keane’s surly attitude while giving his insights on ITV’s Champions League highlight show can be extremely off-putting, though. He rarely ever gives credit where it’s due.
Would I be brave enough to say all that to his face? Probably not. Which makes it hard to find fault with ITV's producers.
Owen's other sporting interest, well known, is horse racing. From his broadcasting, you might imagine it to be American baseball. His nonsensical remarks emulate the late, great Yogi Berra. The Hall-of-Fame NY Yankees catcher is famous for such sayings as "Baseball is 90% mental; the other half is physical," and "If you don't know where you're going, you might wind up somewhere else." Berra's leadership as both player and manager commanded a respect that transformed his confusing remarks into wisdom beyond the average person's understanding.
Owen hasn't achieved that level of reverence. Thus, he comes off as ridiculous when he makes statements such as:
Whichever team scores more goals usually wins.
What a shot! That’s completely unstoppable, but the keeper’s got to do better for me.
When they don’t score, they hardly ever win.
If there’s a bit of rain about, it makes the surface wet.
Listening to the former Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle, and Manchester United poacher talk leaves the brain in similar condition. But let's leave you with his attempt to better Phil Neville in arithmetic, when comparing himself to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whom, it's important to remember, came to Manchester United on a free. Happy New Year!