So here we are, eleven months after the last time fans were allowed into stadiums, and what have we learnt? That football is really boring without fans in the stadium, that’s what. Pre-empty stadiums I would have been all over a game like Cardiff City Vs Swansea City, settling in on the sofa to watch a packed stadium of angry Welshmen scream at each other as two bang-average teams kick lumps out of each other, while listening to pundits and commentators chat actual uninformed shit at each other.
Am I missing football – proper football – so much that I’m dreaming about the Welsh? No doubt my Wales-dwelling, Villa-supporting (everyone makes mistakes) cousin is already firing up his phone to poke fun in the group WhatsApp (appropriately named Villa vs Wolves – clearly no brain cells were strained that day).
I digress. What I really want to talk about is what we all have had to suffer, more than in these strange times than ever: crap commentators and pundits.
Now, not all are crap. Some are great, like Gary Lineker, Gary Neville (I suppose I should say Carrager as well), Alex Scott, Gabby Logan and Micah Richards. But for that handful of insightful experts, you also get some utter garbage: Steve McManaman, Jermaine Jenas, literally everybody at TalkSport (anyone who hires Gabby Agbonlhor and Jamie O’Hara should reassess their business model), Chris Sutton, oh, and did I mention Steve Mcmanaman? And there are countless others.
So why are we subjected to so many appalling pundits? It almost feels that to get on the telly talking about football you just have to had kicked a football about for a period of time – any time at all. This is mainly a TV and radio problem. Yes, there are columnists out there talking bollocks as well, but it’s the pundits on the television who we have to listen to in the throes of an actual football match.
I am of the opinion that it should take a bit more than a touch of on-pitch experience before you’re allowed to spaff your opinions out in front of a camera. By all means, go into football punditry if you want, but why should you immediately get put on Premier League of Champions League games just because you were Billy Big-Bollocks back in the nineties, or because you’re a regular fixture on the red carpet, where O’Hara seemed to spend most of his time. You should have to start at the bottom and work your way up, gaining the knowledge and skills to be a worthwhile pundit. I didn’t see Matt Murray or Don Goodman propelled onto the big stage from the off. Murray started off on Soccer Saturday and worked his way up, while the likes of Merson and Le Tissier got to enjoy life in the studio spouting actual crap. (We all know Le Tiss went off the deep end a bit though, and has since been rightly removed from Sky Sports for some of his views.)
And this I feel is the crux of this piece: commentary and punditry has gotten so bland, so boring and so full of just unchecked views that it’s leaving a bitter taste in the mouth. I spend most of my time watching live football at the moment rolling my eyes at the appalling level of refereeing (more on that soon), or at the terrible “insight” of those reporting on the games. It’s bad enough not being able to go to games, but having to listen to made-up dross is starting to become unbearable. I don’t expect Sky or BT to change their business model, but wouldn’t it be good if they did? They could hire people who have actually spent time studying football and have some sort of valid experience in the world of commentary, not just some random ex-football who fancies a go. Wouldn’t that be nice?!