The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

The Good, the Bad and the Irrelevant?

Who are the best and the worst of football pundits?

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Over the last decade there has been a gradual increase in the criticism of professional football punditry. There is undoubtedly a much higher demand for top level analysis from each match, but are the viewers getting this? We took a look at some of the best and worst pundits television has to offer.

A recent documentary on Sky — ‘Gary Neville: The Pundit’ — showed how much hard work and dedication the ex-Utd full back puts in to delivering exceptional analysis of games, key moments and individual players. The same goes for Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher; Neville and Carragher were once bitter rivals, but now they come together brilliantly on Monday Night Football (MNF).

The MNF cast have arguably revolutionised punditry: they watch as many games as possible to draw out the most interesting talking points from the week’s features. We asked thirty football fans who they believed to be the best pundits on television, twenty-seven said either Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher or Thierry Henry — all working for Sky. One of the best features is that they answer questions that the public have put forward on Twitter.

However, Sky’s Soccer Saturday is not quite the perfect example of sufficient punditry; it’s more like some middle-aged blokes sat round a table shouting at a match. That isn’t for television — they could do that at the pub. Each week Paul Merson puts forward his predictions for the upcoming Premier League fixtures. More often than not he gets them horrifically wrong. Although he endured a long playing career, Merson still shouldn’t get paid to make such horrendous predictions. He should stick to being a pundit and spend more time thinking about presenting logical viewpoints.

Graeme Souness was a serious player in his day and does, for the most part, come up with some very good suggestions. But at times you can’t help be feel that his views are now outdated. A few weeks ago he said that Manchester City should sign Franz Beckenbauer. Stoke should sign Pele, Everton should sign Diego Maradona and Accrington Stanley should sign Johan Cruyff. To be honest Graeme, Pep Guardiola will probably not pick up the phone anytime soon and persuade the 71-year-old retired German footballing hero to sign a five-year deal. Comments like this may have been acceptable a few years back, but now the punditry bar has been set too high for irrelevance like this.

Michael Owen has been torn to shreds on social media for some of his stupid viewpoints. He once came out with the statement, “When they [Manchester City] don’t score, they hardly ever win.” If you haven’t looked at this article, you probably haven’t read it. Come on Michael, have you ever heard of team winning that hasn’t scored? More recently the former Ballon d’Or winner said: “To stay in the game, you have to stay in game.” It’s actually a miracle that BT Sport, the television channel he works for, don’t pick him up on making such idiotic remarks.

Robbie Savage is a pundit we all love to hate. It’s virtually impossible to watch or listen to a match that doesn’t have his input. He sits there with that absurd quiff looking like an overgrown cockatoo, and says things just to create controversy which sometimes detracts from the proper analysis of the match which he should be discussing. People claim that “he has good charisma” and yes he does, but dolphins have good charisma — it doesn’t mean that we want to hear their views on a football match. Savage spent the majority of his career at Leicester City (when they were bad) and Derby County, not exactly an advert of the most prestigious football teams this country has to offer. Savage proclaiming himself an ‘expert’ is a bit like someone suggesting that they’re the leader of the Green Party for speaking to a hedge.

Match of the Day has been gracing our screens for over fifty years now. Gary Lineker is brilliant at what he does, asking the best questions about the matches in the hope of receiving some good answers: everyone likes Lineker. It’s his colleagues who let the crisp-loving presenter down. Danny Murphy, arguably the most boring man to ever have existed in the world, definitely puts a lot of effort into his analysis, but the way he presents it is so mundane. Instead of counting sheep to get to sleep, listen to Danny Murphy talking about a 0-0 draw between Stoke and Hull.

It’s obvious that punditry does have its faults. It brings a lot of good for the sport on the whole, but pundits should make sure what they are saying is relevant and meaningful in order to avoid mass criticism, especially from the exceptional pundits in The Mancunion office.