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Why You Can’t Always Trust The Opinions Of Soccer Experts In England

espn3 mosaic soccer Why You Cant Always Trust The Opinions Of Soccer Experts In England

Early in the 1990′s, when we were deprived of being able to watch a lot of live Premier League matches on television in the United States, many of us (myself included) would look up to the journalists, football supporters and pundits in the United Kingdom as a valuable source of knowledge, expertise and perspective on the beautiful game.

While there are still some well-respected experts in ‘ol Blighty, a lot has changed in two years. Since 2010, soccer fans in the United States have been able to watch every single Premier League match live through a combination of FOX Soccer, FOX Soccer Plus (or FOX Soccer 2GO), ESPN2 and ESPN3.com. Now contrast that with the average diet of someone living in the United Kingdom, whether the person is a journalist, supporter or pundit. There is no comparison. The limited number of live matches shown on UK television means that we, in the United States and overseas, have more access to seeing the games first-hand than anyone in England has.

So in the past year, especially, what I’ve tended to notice is that some of the opinions expressed by co-commentators, pundits, football fans and the like are not well informed. A perfect example of this is Blackburn Rovers. Unless you’re a Blackburn supporter who can afford to attend every single home match as well as travel with the supporters to see all of the away matches, you can’t be as well-informed as someone living in America who has watched every single match on television or the Internet.

So when I hear pundits and even Blackburn supporters commenting about how poor the club has been, I completely disagree with them. They’re only basing their opinion on the amount of Blackburn matches they’ve actually watched. And much of that is framed by what they see on BBC’s Match Of The Day television program, every Saturday night. Yes, there are a few times during the season when Blackburn is live on television, but the majority of times they are practically invisible to TV viewers in England. And highlights from MOTD often give a distorted view of how well or poor a team played a match.

It’s not that the fault of residents in England who are unable to watch as many matches on TV as those overseas. But I’ve learned to rely on their opinions far less than I used to. For example, take The Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast, remove the humor and you’ll find that you have very little substance left in terms of real analysis of football matches (unless the journalists watched the game on television for a minute-by-minute text commentary, or were fortunate enough to attend the game in person).

Just because we have access to every single live Premier League match via US TV and Internet doesn’t make us experts. But it does give us the opportunity to form an opinion based on far more intelligence than what our counterparts in the United Kingdom get to see. It’s quite surreal to me that we here in the United States have a better lens on how well a team is performing than its own supporters in England. While Blackburn Rovers is still in relegation trouble, I think that many of you will agree that they’re actually playing quite well as a football team. That’s just one example of many, but you get the point.

This entry was posted in ESPN, FOX Soccer, FOX Soccer Plus, FOXSoccer.tv, Leagues: EPL. Bookmark the permalink.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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40 Responses to Why You Can’t Always Trust The Opinions Of Soccer Experts In England

  1. OLIE says:

    you are wrong people who have sky have the chance to watch every single game in full on the matchchoice service on a Saturday night so either get your facts right or shut up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11

  2. Drew says:

    Man, that guy really likes exclamation points.

  3. Why? says:

    Gaffer you don’t seem to know that probably around 90% of the pubs in England show every game through the Greek or Arabic channels which costs a fraction of what SKY charge. Sky did to try stop this but they lost a court case against a pub landlady some time ago this has been the case for years. For about $500 a year you can get the system fitted and watch every game at home if you don’t want to go down the local or you could watch any game if you want on the net. So I can’t say I agree one bit. I go to every City home game and re-watch most of them later I go to about 5 away games a season and watch the rest with zero problems at all either at home or in the pub (depends if the Mrs is peckin ed). On the Blackburn thing, mate the fans always know best when it come to what is happening at there club your TV give the opinion of the pundits that are in no way experts most don’t have a clue of the rules etc. Many fans have meetings go to AGMs and know much more then you seem to give credit for.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Good point about AGMs. I’m aware of the EU ruling (see my piece at http://epltalk.com/7-ways-that-the-eu-ruling-against-premier-league-may-impact-you-35888). But how many British football supporters show up at a pub every other weekend to watch an away match? I didn’t think it was that many, and as far as I know, not too many people have bought the $500 a year equipment which is pretty dear.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • dan says:

        All the fans who can’t afford travel like myself? You do a massive disservice to the very much alive-and-kicking pub football culture!

        My local near Newcastle is a godawful pub but it’s packed on matchday. If a pub has any business sense, 500 squid is a small fee to pay for a guaranteed packed pub. The bar I work in Edinbugh is dead (in all seriousness, dead) every weekday until football time, where it’s 4 hours of non stop chips and keg changing, even in Edinburgh we were full of Gooners and Citizens. Betting culture has added to this, with many Scots putting on an accumulator and coming for a pint.

        I live in Edinburgh, but as Newcastle fans we have our new designated local that is more than happy to switch to the game on another channel. The University also has great football societies than go out to watch the game in groups.

        If all else fails, we all love watching Gillette soccer saturday with Jeff Stelling and Chris Kamara.

        • The Gaffer says:

          Dan and others, thanks for the info. I’m interested in learning more. In the pubs, do they show just one game live, or do they show them all live on different TVs? Here in the US we can typically watch four matches live at the same time on our laptops for the 3pm GMT kickoff and all of the other matches are live on TV.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

      • IanCransonsKnees says:

        I’m sorry but you’ve scored a massive own goal with the article from this POV like other people have said. Promotion to the Premier League has sent the pub trade booming around Stoke, and the screens showing it will be arabic or european feeds. You can get any match you want and the pubs are rammed whether Stoke are at home or away.

        We can watch any match we want just not through the typical channels.

        Your point about the pundits isn’t bad. MOTD aren’t interested about anyone outside the top 4, but then neither are most of the press journos either. They haven’t got the inclination to do anything other than regurgitate each others POV, the worst radio show over here by far is the ‘Press Pass’ on Talksport with a bunch of mealy mouthed, brown nosing journos.

        The best radio shows here tend to be the national after match phone ins in my opinion. 5 Live/606 with Robbie Savage (Alan Green is a turd who is happy to admit on air he’s not interested in anything outside the Premier League), the Talksport Phone In with Stan Collymore. Both have been a breath of fresh precisely because they don’t sit on the fence for fear of upsetting the applecart and falling off the gravy train.

        How on earth watching four games at any one time can be interesting or fun is beyond me. From the POV of in pubs you’ll get whichever match the crown want to watch, we generally couldn’t give a toss if it’s not out team. I’ll watch Stoke but will not go out of my way to watch anyone else, it just doesn’t interest me when that personal connection through the passion I have for my team isn’t involved.

        The big difference between pro sport in the US and UK from this POV is despite the ‘glory hunting bastard’ phenomenon people generally still choose to attend and follow their local team. It’s relatively affordable, travel isn’t so much of an issue and their are 92 teams to pick from. Watching your sport on TV in America seems the norm due to distance or cost so far as I can tell from what I’ve learnt from this site. In this country I’d say that it runs parallel. I think it’s just different cultures really that neither of us will really ‘get’ until we have the opportunity to immerse ourselves in both for any length of time.

        As for occasional live games, look at the attendance levels in the Premier League and Championship. Most fans who want to be there will be there, there’s little question of missing matches for most people unless work or family commitments cannot be juggled. I think you underestimate experience of fandom over here in the flesh, it’s a religion to some people that everything else has to revolve around. I’ll be honest and admit that in the past I’ve got up and walked out of job interviews when I found out I’d have to work on Saturdays! People work second jobs to pay for European trips. There’s plenty of fans who do every match home and away every season, it’s a badge of honour thing. The most I’ve managed in one season was 23 home games and 18 away. It all boils down to priorities. Valencia for example is costing me £350 so far (for two of us) that’s travel and hotels for 5 days in Spain. It’s the cost of my season ticket next year, it just means I’ll have to sacrifice something else along the way. I’m by no means the only one, there will be people who’ve racked up huge credit card bills to fund Europe this year just to experience it.

        Until you spend a season or two living here and immersing yourself in it’s difficult to understand I guess, and vice verse for myself. I’d have to find a local team, whatever the level, and follow them whilst getting my potters fix on the box. I guess I’d have to get a good alarm clock!

        • The Gaffer says:

          Good feedback IDK, but how many football supporters go to the pubs to watch the matches from Arabic and European feeds? What percentage of supporters are doing this when their team isn’t live on telly?

          I think the bandwagoner phenomenon is something that’s happening all over the world, not just in America. I would argue that it’s also happening a lot in the UK. Maybe not as much in the football hotbeds of the north of England. But in other parts of England and Wales, absolutely.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

          • IanCransonsKnees says:

            So you’re saying watching another team, going out of your way to watch Chelsea vs Spurs when you support Arsenal or Liverpool vs Man City when you support Man Utd? If I’ve got you’re question right not many is my guess. Pub culture is still a part of British society and any match that is televised is usually on.

            I’ll take a few photos of the pubs around SOT when I’m on my travels and show you how they market themselves, even though there’s a legal grey area over what they do. I can think of ten pubs in spitting distance from me that all show live football, either Premier League or specifically Stoke.

            I think another difference is there isn’t this burning desire to learn about or associate yourself with the sport as their seems to be in America. We grow up with it, playing it at school, reading about it, watching it, listening to it so perhaps we have been over exposed. It’s normal and accessible to us so there’s no real need to immerse yourelf in it. There are other things to distract yourself with too. The non-league scene is huge over here with people playing and coaching in it. It’s become a decent breeding ground for younger english players to work their way back up into the league system.

            I think there are subtle differences between the cultures too, generally stats, and to a degree tactics, count for nought over here. particularly now there’s more of a tabloid/scandal culture. The media are always looking for the next controversy to fill their pages/airtime with.

            One of the big differences is we really don’t care about the next team, so it makes it difficult to bother wasting your time watching it. Another factor that prevents this would be actually going to the game. When you’re travelling to the match, at home and partcularly away it’s difficult to see other matches because you miss the early and late KOs usually due to travelling. You might catch a few minutes in the ground or a pub you get into or on the radio, but generally people are more interested in teh day out, drinking, and having a laugh.

          • The Gaffer says:

            If you could send over some photos of the pubs, that would be fantastic. I’d like to post some on the site (I can block out the name of the pub, if needed). The pub culture is one of those things that I don’t think any British newspapers have written extensively about (regarding fans watching matches on telly).

            For the most part, there’s a big difference between how people in the United States consume Premier League matches compared to the United Kingdom. I would agree that there are more people in the States who watch matches involving teams that they don’t even support because they’re watching the matches for the love of the game instead of Brits who mostly watch matches involving their team.

            Cheers,
            The Gaffer

  4. Why? says:

    Believe me most don’t need much of a reason to be at the pub anytime never mind when the match is on! lol. SKY with the sports package cost more for the year.

  5. Mark says:

    It’s the same reason why it’s often better to watch BBC and other foreign news outlets when it comes to news about the U.S. They often offer a non biased perspective.

  6. Dust says:

    Gaffer has done a great job with this site but misses the mark with the assertion that u don’t have access to the same amount of live football in the UK, or that in the UK not many people go to the pub for away games if they can’t go…that just isn’t true, I have to agree with Dan.

    There is an effort by the EPL to encourage people to attend games instead of watching on TV in the UK (like the NFL does in america) plus, watching games on TV with no one in the crowd sucks as a viewing experience and helps to sell the product and makes the EPL the most watched league of any sport in the world by a length.

  7. Purdman says:

    It is pretty crazy that we in the US can watch all these games live in HD, but in the UK the options are (apparently) more limited. Imagine the NBA, NFL, or MLB being shown more easily on English TV…

    So let me get this straight, if you are a City fan, you can’t watch every single game live? Each team doesn’t have a dedicated local television channel or something?

    • Why? says:

      You can get these games easier in the US because Football isn’t as popular there making the rights for the games much cheaper, the TV companies don’t have to spend the same amount as say SKY I would imagine any way. Yes a City fan can watch every game as can most others the Arabic, Greek, and others cover them all this really annoys SKY as you can imagine as they pay a fortune for the rights.

      LOL ‘peckin ed’. Ed is how the word head sounds with a Mancunian (Manchester) accent. So Pecking head like a woodpecker sat on your shoulder, it would be f**kin well annoying just like the Mrs moaning. Only I think I’d prefer the woodpecker!

  8. Purdman says:

    Also, what does “Peckin Ed” mean?

  9. S04th says:

    So when I hear pundits and even Blackburn supporters commenting about how poor the club has been, I completely disagree with them.

    Why? Your reasoning needs to be more than “I’ve seen every game they’ve played”. What are the locals and pundits missing that you have observed?

    They’re only basing their opinion on the amount of Blackburn matches they’ve actually watched.

    You can make a fairly good argument that Blackburn is playing poorly simply by referencing the table. I mean, you can not argue that 4 wins in 22 games is playing well can you?

    • The Gaffer says:

      Good points. If you look at the form table, Blackburn is in ninth position right now, so they’re making good ground on their very poor start to the season. They’re playing very well and they will fight themselves out of this hole as long as they can keep their spirit up (and as long as Christopher Samba stays with this team).

      What locals and pundits are missing is that they haven’t seen every minute of Blackburn play this season. Watching the highlights on MOTD and the occasional live match gives them a distorted view of how Rovers is doing.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • dust says:

        Hey Gaffer,

        So what pundits are you referring to that appear they do not watch the games? All T.V pundits from all bbc channels thru ITV, Channel 5 and cable (espn, and sky) have access to every game.

        For example, sky sports team on game days especially in particular Saturday all sit and watch the games as they happen live and in fact comment on each incident and goal as they happen, like NFL redzone but not just goals.

        If you like me for a while use the internet to view broadcasts of each game that wasn’t available in the US at the time. For example espn india (and just about every other country with a sports network) that cover the EPL, (even the french canal sports ;) ) to highlight a few all had people like Andy Townsend or others on those broadcasts that would then be on the english post game shows for any channel.

        I think in america its easy to forget how small the uk and in particular england is (uk is smaller than California) but densely populated it is very easy to go to away games, part of the issue is away ticket allocations.

        Damn have to run..cant finish the thought..agggh..

        • The Gaffer says:

          Excellent question Dust.

          The experts I’m referring to that don’t seem to have a very well-rounded knowledge or opinion based on seeing only a certain percentage of games are the crew from The Guardian Football Weekly podcast, many of the co-commentators that we get to hear on the international feed (Garry Birtles, Paul Walsh, David Pleat, Craig Burley, etc) and the crew on the MOTD show.

          I don’t rate the pundits on Sky Sports. Most of them are hacks, but the ones I do think are good are Gary Neville and, umm, that’s about it.

          Good debate!

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

          • Dust says:

            Hmm…. I would imagine that with most of the people at Sky being former players at pretty high levels with a very high understanding of the game (Charlie Nicolas, Paul Merson, Matt Letissier). I’m not sure you can say that David Pleat doesn’t have a well rounded knowledge of the game either. I do agree that Paul Walsh is terrible.

            For the BBC Alan Hansen, Gary Liniker, Mark Lawrence, also have a high pedigree of play behind them as well a high level of understanding of the game, perhaps Nevile resonates more with you because he has come from the modern game with alan and marc from the 80′s.

            The fact is that blackburn are where they are for a reason, they do not finish and give the ball away cheaply and defend poorly, injuries or not, this does not matter, they are what they are. Personally I find the most annoying / clueless commentators and analysts to be Steve McManoman and Alan Smith, they really do seem to be incorrect in most of their observations.

            I think Ray Wilkins does a great job, a great upgrade from Andy Gray, he was a peanut. Terry Venables, Andy Townsend, Glen Hoddle all are very good and have a great understanding of the game an doffer great insight. Should the american market have access to better pundits…yes, but to say that you can’t trust English pundits, they don’t know what they are doing is not accurate for most people.

            Who do you trust? what about lLniker do you not like? who would you have ?
            .

          • The Gaffer says:

            Dust, I’m not saying they don’t know much about the game, because I know most of them do. But what I’m saying is that they’re not watching as many games as we are in the States (full 90 minutes), so when they provide analysis and opinions, what they say is sometimes inadequate or they keep on repeating cliches instead of saying something new or informative.

            Lineker is a pretty face who reads autocue/teleprompters. He does not have a football brain. Meanwhile, Wilkins has improved a lot in a short amount of time.

            Cheers,
            The Gaffer

  10. Rich says:

    Wow, The Gaffer not acting Eurosnobbish?

    There must be something to this 2012 being the end of the world thing.

  11. scrumper says:

    You say the pundits don’t watch as many games as somebody in the US? that’s a ridiculous statement unless you know it’s absolutely true. What you fail to recognise Gaffer, in the UK football information is flooded every day through other TV programming, newspapers, magazines etc. It rules the country. Watching 4-5 games a week is the culmination of the whole experience. You may watch a dozen games over a weekend but then it goes dead in the US until the next weekend. No offence but I would rather listen to a analyst like Andy Robson who knows the game and is not afraid to critise players than yourself.

    And to your statement “So when I hear pundits and even Blackburn supporters commenting about how poor the club has been, I completely disagree with them” in fact all I’ve ever heard is the analysts supporting Steve Kean, and then you say

    “ They’re only basing their opinion on the amount of Blackburn matches they’ve actually watched. And much of that is framed by what they see on BBC’s Match Of The Day television program, every Saturday night”

    Is hilarious and uniformed.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Scrumper, good feedback. It’s clear that many of the pundits in the UK don’t watch a lot of the games of the teams outside the top 6. For example, the number of times I’ve heard co-commentators make ridiculous statements that are just repeating things that other pundits have been said, which are not true, happens all the time. Yes, there is more coverage of the Premier League in the papers, on TV and in the media in the UK, but that doesn’t mean that these pundits are actually watching 90 minutes of most games.

      Who is Andy Robson?

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • The Gaffer says:

        BTW Scrumper, I’m not saying that I’m better or know more than the UK pundits. What I’m saying is that the die-hard soccer fans in the United States who watch more of the matches involving their teams are often better informed than many of the so-called experts in the UK.

        Cheers,
        The Gaffer

        • IanCransonsKnees says:

          Many of the ‘experts’ are tossers on the gravy train. I read an interesting piece in 442 by the secret footbar, he was saying that ex-players who become pundits are generally thought badly of by their ex-colleagues. A bit like poacher turning gamekeeper I suppose. They don’t like them making aliving picking fault are criticising them when they know the stresses and the difficulties of the game at that level. I suppose it is a little bit traitorous. It’s the self-appointed journo-tits like Barclay, Thompson, Kelly, Dennis, Durham, Green et al over here who I despise.

          • The Gaffer says:

            Patrick Barclay, I like, but he’s been practically invisible to us in America for the past 1-2 years ever since The Times went behind a paywall. He’s now going to be writing an occasional column for The Independent. But I agree with you about all of the pther journos/pundits mentioned, but I do have a soft spot for Alan Green because — while I don’t always agree with him — he’s entertaining.

            Cheers,
            The Gaffer

  12. Dust says:

    With all due respect you are way off base. Firstly to say Liniker is a pretty face implies he has a pretty face, this is quite ridiculous, those ears are massive ;) . If you mean he has a watchable quality because the English audience associate him with a more successful time in english football…then sure. Secondly, and more seriously, to say that Liniker has no footballing brain is absolutely wrong, you can not play at the level he has and for the managers he has in the games he has, with the success he has had, and not have a great footballing brain.

    That is just plain wrong, you don’t have to agree with his points but to say he does not have a football brain/understanding of the game is crazy.

    Again, I like the site, but have to confess that while it’s always great to have a debate. However, this for me with the statements being made is damaging the credibility of the gaffer, but that’s just me.

    An example I will give is Tom Jackson from NFL Sunday countdown, he makes moronic statements…a lot, that however does not mean that he does not understand the game. As an integral part of the denver bronco’s orange crush defense and professional NFL player he has a high level understanding of the the game, he still says moronic things, as does , Ditka and Johnson, and Chris carter for that matter.

    I would maybe look to reach out to the members of the English football punditry and do a real article of what there preparation is, this way you can find out if your assertions are true. With this site having over 400,000 unique visitors, I’m sure you could gain access to various personalities and write a story on it?

    • IanCransonsKnees says:

      “I would maybe look to reach out to the members of the English football punditry and do a real article of what there preparation is, this way you can find out if your assertions are true. With this site having over 400,000 unique visitors, I’m sure you could gain access to various personalities and write a story on it?”

      I like that idea. Ray Stubbs from ESPN UK I think would be a good one as he’s been around for years and has tended to do football or darts. James Richardson (of Football Italia fame) would be a good one too, how he hasn’t fronted for one of the big channels over here I don’t know.

      Radio wise like I’ve said I enjoy Stan Collymore and Robbie Savage because they’re pretty honest. It’d be interested to see if they feel freer with their opinion on radio rather than telly?

      Can you hear Alan Green over there then Gaffer?

      • The Gaffer says:

        If the readers go back to the old episodes of the EPL Talk Podcast, there are at least 20-30 interviews with football commentators and pundits. Some of the interviews dive into research and planning involved.

        We have a couple of interviews lined up with some top-level pundits in the next month so we’ll include some of these questions.

        Cheers,
        The Gaffer

  13. Pietro Romeo says:

    Interesting article. I was on a flight recently and was seated next to Yank from Chicago. He followed La Liga and the man new his football.

    Have to agree with your comments about the Guardian podcast. BUT, when they have Raphael Honigstein on the show and the French pundit, who’s name escapes me, there is much better analysis. And as a matter of fact, when I talk to football fans from the continent, I find they generally talk football.

    I find English fans are more informed about football gossip- hair styles, girl friends and all that. But I best not generalize because I reckon Tim Vickery is one of the best pundits on the planet. My point would be that perhaps English supporters just enjoy more chat about the spectacle of football- So that is what the market gives them?

    • Pietro Romeo says:

      Make that “knew” his football and obviously much better than I know my spelling!

    • The Gaffer says:

      Agreed regarding Honigstein and the French chap. When those two aren’t on and Jonathan Wilson is missing, the podcast is only good for tired humor. It’s gotten stale over the past six months IMHO.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

  14. CFC_Kris says:

    I agree with the sentiment that non UK fans tend to watch more football than UK fans who like me take it for granted.

    With wall to wall football, fans overseas (from UK) tend to watch leagues across Europe and even South America giving a more diverse experience and a different perspective.

    This doesnt make the English fans ignorant, but certainly gives the overseas fan a leg up on the tactical and transfer side.

  15. Jean says:

    Ye, mate. All viewpoints are biased, the obvious have been stated with this article. Kinda like ESPN over here in the states and their “analysts” and “writers”

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