Tag Archives: Punditry

What is wrong with the BBC?

 

Another match and another two hours of the BBC moaning about the World Cup.

They would no doubt defend themselves by saying they are simply calling it as they see it. Unfortunately, it is looking more like they are hardly bothering to watch. Whether it be Alan Hansen seemingly disgusted about having to cover New Zealand vs Slovakia on his birthday, or Alan Shearer quipping that he’d prefer to be on the treadmill than have to sit through Brazil vs Portugal, the BBC pundits have the demeanor of grumpy old men having their jolly-up spoiled by the inconvenience of having to watch some football.

If the complaint was just that they are grumpy then that would simply be a matter of taste. However, the case against is somewhat stronger than that:

Lack of Research

Nobody is expecting the BBC’s punditry team to have an in-depth knowledge of every player at the tournament, that would be ludicrous. Is it unreasonable though to expect some sort of basic googling to have gone on? A few well-placed sources tapped for information before appearing on screen in front of millions? To feel it is acceptable to simply turn up at the studio and shamelessly announce ‘we don’t know much about the x, y or z”, as Shearer has on countless occasions, just smacks of arrogance. There’s been a few well-documented low points. Hansen mocking Lee Dixon and Gary Lineker for being fed the name of Marek Hamsik before Slovakia’s opening game implied that not only was knowing the identity of a highly-rated Napoli midfielder a level of knowledge that was just not cool but was also deriding their attempts to ascertain a bit of basic information. Things were little better in the commentary booth as Mick McCarthy appeared shocked to discover that Juan Veron was the same Veron who used to play for Manchester United. Mark Bright revealing he had never seen Lionel Messi play well was probably the final straw. Revelling in their own ignorance.

Lack of Expertise

As is often the way, the desperate state of affairs can pass you by until you see the alternative. Harry Redknapp has been much derided for his one-dimensional analysis of teams at the World Cup in his Sun guide but perhaps we can forgive him on the grounds he was playing down to his target audience. When on the BBC his sprinkling of knowledge has stood-out like he was showing off. It hasn’t been ground-breaking stuff – knowing that Kesuike Honda played for CSKA Moscow for example – but it has added to the coverage. Likewise Roy Hodgson, who was the only member of the team who questioned the possibility that BBC’s information about England playing a diamond formation against Slovenia was in fact the total rubbish it turned out to be. Unfortunately, he and Redknapp have stood out like sore thumbs and any attempts to engage with the rest of the panel have often just been uncomfortable: Hodgson turning to McCarthy to ask what he thought of Cardozo’s role when he came on for Paraguay vs Italy was met with embarrassing silence as it became clear that Mick had not the slightest idea who he was talking about let alone where he had played. McCarthy covered the game live for the BBC. As for the foreign pundits, Clarence Seedorf has been a welcome addition, Jurgen Klinsmann under-used, whilst the less said about the incomprehensible Emmanuel Adebayor the better.

Both Too Much Experience, and yet, Not Enough?

Ok, you’ll have to bear with me here. The point is, some of these guys seem intent on mixing the worst of all worlds. Many of Hansen’s offerings give the impression of a man a little too long in the tooth – how many times can he solemnly declare that defenders hate pace before it loses resonance? His alliterations of presence, power & pace sound good but isn’t he simply saying big, strong & quick which we’ve heard from him many times before? When it is coupled with Mark Lawrenson in the commentary booth, a man apparently begging to be put out of his misery and never asked to watch a football match again, then it creates a world-weary mood a million miles away from the hyperbole of Sky Sports.

Aahh Sky Sports. Now you may say that a thousand miles away from Sky would be appropriate but a million just feels a bit too downbeat for me. I’m no fan of Jamie Redknapp and Andy Gray. I mean, I’m seriously not. But Sky do know how to cover football, which brings me to the BBC’s lack of experience. It is really starting to feel as though the punditry team do not remember what it is like to broadcast live matches. Sky, helped by the experience of covering multiple live games week-in week-out, understand how to handle a game that is 0-0 at half-time – remain upbeat, show a few of the chances and discuss which side needs to change it and why. Maybe it is simplistic to say so but the BBC team are used to producing 10 minute highlights packages of the best Premiership games with a passing look at the goals from the less interesting contests and this would appear to be what they are more comfortable with. When faced with 45 whole minutes of goalless football they are unable to find the positives, their whole faith in the game seems to have disappeared. Odd.

Conclusion

There are lots of things the BBC do well. Recent features on Robben Island and Sir Stanley Matthews have added interesting background and colour to the coverage. Sadly, when it comes to the football at this World Cup, the commentary and punditry teams just seem unable to reflect both the enthusiasm and the knowledge of their audience.

Oh well, at least they’re not ITV..

Time for a Balanced Assessment of Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

Emirates Stadium, 31st March 2010. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scores a brace to net his first goals against English opposition.

You might argue that Zlatan had already ‘made it’..  2 Dutch titles, 5 Serie A titles (Calciopoli scandal aside),  Serie A top scorer, 2 time Serie A footballer of the year and now at Barcelona, the record signing at the finest team in the world, a UEFA Super Cup and a World Club Championship.

No. In the eyes of England it was 2 one-on-ones with Manuel Almunia that sealed the deal. Andy Townsend had asked in 2009 after Inter vs Man Utd ”What, we ask again, is all the fuss about Zlatan Ibrahimovic?” Now he seems slightly more satisfied. At least until the 2nd leg.

A quick thought though:

1987/88: Panathanaikos (h). 1990/91: Dinamo Tirana (h). 1992/93: Stuttgart (h). 1993/94: Honved (a). Galatasaray (h). 1996/97: Fenerbahce (a), Rapid Vienna (h), Porto (h).

Listed above are the 8 European goals scored by Eric Cantona in his career.. one can only speculate how the English media might react to any suggestions from Spain and Italy as to ”What is all the fuss about Eric Cantona?”.

Take a Bow Son

Sky consistently peddles the Premier League as the best league that has ever existed, anywhere in the world, ever. Yet the standard of punditry has arguably never been worse.

The analysis of games on Sky is becoming increasingly difficult to watch. The nadir undoubtedly being The Final Word With Andy Gray, which is often deemed more important than the first half of a live game from La Liga. Much of the discussion is at worst racist and at best jingoistic, “Is it a foreign problem?” is a question repeated time and time again by Richard Keys. In the recent Everton vs. Man U game, Andy Gray referred to Gary and Phil Neville as “proper footballers, not like these foreigners giving each other kisses”, because they didn’t look at each other in the tunnel. The nonsense oft spouted about diving is already well documented, and even when it is acknowledged that English players dive as much as the continentals, they are blamed for bringing it into our game, as if this is justification. What next? “I was just following orders”?

Champions League coverage is slightly more bearable with Souness and Gullit, often acting as if Redknapp is not even there, which can only be applauded. However, Keys still does his level best to ruin it. The Chelsea vs. Inter game was particularly harrowing. Before the game Sky showed a documentary entitled ‘The Special One’, then when the coverage began they spent about 30 minutes discussing the return of Mourinho, to which Keys’ quipped ‘How does he make it all about him?”. To his eternal credit, Souness chastised Keys and actually requested to talk about the game.

It’s hardly surprising that after nearly 20 years Keys and Gray are running out of things to say. So much so that Gray now feels the need to say “and I really mean that” after a lot of his points, does he not mean the other things? Or my personal favourite, a relatively new phenomenon I think “and I say that’s a great (blank), because that’s what it is”. Cheers Andy. Jamie Redknapp has no such excuse, specialising in banal hyperbole and supporting Spurs, with a vocabulary seemingly consisting of only “top, top” and “literally”. There is also no need for Tyler to scream “IT’S LIVE” before every game.

It’s not that Sky are any worse than ITV, BBC or ESPN, just that we get to witness their flaws far more frequently. Jamie Redknapp would be far less annoying if he was on once, rather than three times a week. Radio and Press coverage is also just as bad, but the collective musings of Alan Green and Martin Samuel should never be repeated.