OPINION – Pundits fall short in the final analysis

punditsCity 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.

18 replies
  1. Chris
    Chris says:

    Excellent article. In addition to the misinformed and poorly researched comments made against Phil Brown and Hull City generally, I think it is partly down to the focus being so intense on the top clubs in the league so the pundits simply don’t bother actually examining our players, results, transfers, etc. I have read about how Phil Brown has struggled to attract players to Hull this summer. Only once was credit given regarding the quality of player we were trying to sign and no reference made to how Blackburn, Bolton, Wigan, Stoke among others have failed to strengthen. I am still incredibly proud of what the club and Brownie have acheived over the last few years but could gladly live without the quantity of poor opinions that you are exposed to in the Premiership.

  2. Tiger Phil
    Tiger Phil says:

    OH MY GOSH- I cannot remember an artcle where I have agreed so much. So annoyed with the “pundits”. They are a joke. Lawrenson is the worst kind…. As you state he makes massive predictions without even looking at what he is saying- a lot of the time it is the same stuff chucked out over and over again. The rubbish spouted about “eastlandsgate” just makes me laugh. Our biggest problem with the 2nd half of the season was not replacing the tosser- King. We got that Manucho- who was rubbish and Cousin did not step up to the plate…

    This season we are stronger and looked very good against Chelsea- ok they were the better side- but we deserved a pint from the game…. Up the Tigers

  3. suttontiger
    suttontiger says:

    Good God Les – absolutely spot on. Best analysis I’ve read about the lazy London based media’s stereotypical view of our club. As for that muppet Andy Gray – don’t get me going.

  4. TerryDD
    TerryDD says:

    Excellent piece, some very very good points raised, would this be mention in the national media however?

    Brown also pointed out the Tottenham game had youngsters playing… something the national media failed to notice due to lack of interest in anything other than the ‘big four’.

    Haven’t watched MOTD recorded yet, but I’m looking forward to hearing about the new teams in the Premiership especially Burnley which I’m sure they’ll cover with lines such as “thats a terrible kick by… the goalkeeper!”.

    Fans commentating would bring far more enjoyment and interest than these ‘pundits’.

  5. David
    David says:

    Hit the nail right on the head. Unfortunately, these pundits will always be around though so there is no escaping it and it is a shame nothing can be done about it. A great game spoilt by pundits.

  6. C'mon Tiger
    C'mon Tiger says:

    All spot on Les, excellent piece.

    BTW can you look at my username / password on AN because I can’t log in. Ta.

  7. Pete
    Pete says:

    This piece sums up my feelings about pundits and the media in general to perfection, only far more eloquently than I could even dream of. A fine example of the commentator’s failure to perform even the most basic of research on Saturday was when he wondered if the signing of Mouyokolo was made with an eye on the possible exit of Michael Turner in this transfer window.

  8. Martin Sumpton
    Martin Sumpton says:

    Very good article – expressing what I’m sure many City fans feel and believe.
    I also would point out that these self-styled pundits are band-waggon jumpers and have no doubt relished (repeating) the pouring scorn on Hull and its population ; it has become fashionable to do so (remember Jonathan Ross) and they justify the ‘Nobody wants to come and play for Hull City’ – ‘look at the town look at the people, manager’ etc these ‘TV experts’ are patronising as well as unprofessional. Makes me sick. But ….
    City fans do us proud !

  9. HighburyTiger
    HighburyTiger says:

    Les, any chance you could extend this into a season-long column, popping up at appropriate intervals to analyse ‘contentious’ decisions according to the laws of the game (rather than poorly informed media opinion)?

    It would be a great public service. You could even forward your analyses to the BBC and Sky – it might shame them into action.

    One particular incident that still riles from last season is Gallas’ winner at the Emirates. A number of media commentators described it as ‘debatable’. From my reading of law 11, I don’t see how there could be any uncertainty whatsoever! Unless you disagree…

  10. Bazza
    Bazza says:

    Great article. Also saw PB being interviewed by Sky after the Chelsea game. The interviewer did not ask one sensible question, all he was trying to do was wind Brownie up, trying to get him to criticise the referee and officials mostly, which to his credit Brownie did not bite – and about time too!

  11. ross
    ross says:

    nice article, nail on head – the oone thing i don’t get is why is everone banging on about browny’s dress sense – looks proper dapper…
    UTT ^_^

  12. Les
    Les says:

    A season long column noting bad punditry? I’m already on blood pressure tablets, I don’t think I could take the added indignation.

  13. Gromit
    Gromit says:

    Good one. I laughed a lot listening to Alan Green and Robbie Savage commentating on Man Utd v Birmingham. When Owen came off the bench, there was a lot of guff along the lines of why isn’t he in the England squad, just the sort of player you’d want to come off the bench if you need a goal in a tight game etc. 30 seconds later he provided the answer to that question by fluffing a perfectly presentable one-on-one. To state the obvious, wouldn’t the BBC be better off using our licence fee to get some input from somebody who can enhance our understanding and appreciation of the game, rather than one-eyed top four star-gazers Hansen and Lawrence, the totally pointless Shearer, or the above-mentioned droolingly idiotic Savage?

  14. Riochatemyhouse
    Riochatemyhouse says:

    As articles go, this one’s a cracker.

    Andy Gray’s utter ineptitude during Saturday’s game has provoked my dad into e-mailing Sky in complaint. He was THAT bad.

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