City fans have plenty of reasons to have a contemptuous view of football pundits, after all they’ve written us off two seasons in a row before a ball has been kicked, in many cases without making any insightful remarks whatsoever.
Furthermore they insist, even now, that last season’s second half collapse was all because of Phil Brown’s on-pitch half time team talk at Manchester City, even though we’d conceded a hatful of goals in the preceding 45 minutes and had lost 4-1 to Sunderland in the previous game. Even though our performance against Villa days after ‘Eastlandsgate’ was excellent and we were mugged by the Brummie’s late on.
Even though we lost two key players during the transfer window, McShane because Sunderland wanted to put a spoke in our wheels and recalled him, and Marlon King because he behaved like a tosser, they fail to remark on those losses when they assess our form in the second half of the season.
They do this out of sheer laziness, they can’t be bothered to pay full attention to our games, to know our squad and injury issues, they’d rather fawn over the top four and talk about who’s got the most money as if they are stock market commentators.
Such criticism of the critics could, I suppose, be dismissed as the bug eyed ravings of partisan, and therefore not entirely objective and rational fans. Even taking club allegiance out of the equation though, there is still plenty to bemoan about football commentary in general, like when pundits shamefully duck out of offering clear cut opinion, or conversely, seek to manufacture controversy. Take Sunday’s game between Tottenham v Liverpool, in which Liverpool were given one penalty, and laid claim for two others.
When asked if they thought the ball striking Assou-Ekotto’s hands should have resulted in a penalty being awarded to Liverpool on MOTD2, the question was crudely side-stepped by both Alan Hansen and Lee Dixon with the response “Well, you’ve seen them given”. So what if they’ve been given in previous matches, they may have been given incorrectly, and even then you’re not being asked to weigh up and summarise past decisions, you are being asked if this incident, and this incident alone should mean a penalty is given. “You’ve seen them given” is no answer at all, it just shows a lack of guts on the part of the ‘pundit’, which is a Sandskrit word meaning learned individual, hah!
Numerous replays were shown, each one revealing that as he jumped to block the cross, he turned his head away. The handball law states that in order for such an occurence to be deemed a foul, the player must have intentionally used his hands. Assou-Ekotto clearly did not wilfully handle the ball, despite the commentators assertion that his hands were raised, presumably the mic man can jump with his hands by his side when trampolining. This was a clear cut, yes or no response type question. Was it a penalty? Yes or no? Anyone with just a basic knowledge of the laws of the game should have said no, yet two people paid to offer insight derilicted their responsibility to do so.
Post match interviews are a source of ire too, witness Phil Brown on Saturday (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Neg2cMxwedE) being continually goaded into disparaging the referee, which Brown commendably refused to do, limiting his reaction to “it was a cheaply awarded free kick” when the interviewer hoped he’d say something more caustic.
The press should appreciate Phil Brown’s candour when he’s being interviewed, most managers just trot out bland platitudes, and they do so because the media are quick to create false controversy from something said post match. Instead of being grateful that our manager speaks his mind and therefore watching a five minute interview with him is far more interesting than a full season of Arsene Wenger’s failing eyesite remarks, they seek to trip him up and portray him as a ridiculous figure worthy of mockery.
By doing so they are choosing not to report a story, but instead to create one and to be the story. It’s pathetic. For their part the newspapers, even the supposed ‘quality’ broadsheets, cannot even mention Phil Brown without including a personal attack about his skin colour and choice of clothing, as if those things alone somehow means he’s a bad manager, then of course comes the obligatory “it all went wrong after the on pitch team talk” tedium.
The way football is reported has gone the same way as 24 hour rolling news, where less certainly isn’t more. Because there is only so many stories at any one time and yet an unquenchable amount of pages and airtime to fill, the real stories are padded with hyperbole, meaningless bluster, feigned controversy and outrage. It’s like trying to share one slice of wafer thin ham between 20 breadcakes, realising you must use more content, and using sawdust to make up the meaty shortfall.
Even when there are plenty of genuine talking points, great goals or saves for example, they still feel the need to shoehorn in a bit of contention for the sake of it. Andy Gray delights in manufacturing controversy, and when assessing a challenge in the box will utter the ludicrous phrase “he [the attacking player] went inside the box looking for any kind of contact” and will then pronounce, after watching several replays, whether there was contact or not and if a penalty should be given, implying that “any kind of contact” automatically equates to a foul. Andy Dawson made contact with Didier Drogba on Saturday as he slid to poke the ball away from the striker’s feet, was it a penalty? No. “Any kind of contact” offers no insight at all and is designed to create controversy where none exists.
Another favourite of Gray’s is to say a player was “only just offside” when a linesman has called a close line call, he can’t bring himself to say an official made a correct decision, instead he undermines the call made, as if it was luck and not good judgement. You cannot be ‘just’ offside any more than you can be a little bit pregnant, you either are, or you are not.
Such behaviours, copping out of giving firm opinion, making controversy out of little and undermining correct refereering decisions is nothing short of cowardly, and gives the paying viewer disrespectfully poor service. In the final analysis, the analysis just isn’t good enough.