Turn on your TV to watch a game anywhere in the world and the chances are that you will soon see the face of an ex-footballer attempting to share his knowledge of the game with you. Except that all too often it appears as though that knowledge, or at the very least the ability to express it, is very limited.
Stan Collymore has brought this topic up on Twitter in the past week and it has become fashionable amongst football fans to bemoan the quality of analysis from ex-footballers. But is this a huge generalization? And what do we mean when we say that someone’s analysis has been poor?
Kristan has made the point on the podcast before that as a journalist working on football he spends a large amount of his time doing research. This means looking at players linked to clubs, finding articles about them, looking at match footage and generally improving his knowledge of the game. It appears as though many of the ex-pros on our screens do not engage in this practice.
How many times have you heard the phrase “We don’t know too much about this guy” or similar? My guess is that your answer is somewhere along the lines of “too often.”
Televised football has become such a big industry today that the demand for quality rightly stretches far beyond the on-pitch product. We all expect to see the best use of statistics and graphics. We also expect to have our appreciation of the game enhanced by those paid to watch and analyze it. Too often though the best analysis comes the day after in the newspaper and dare I say it in blogs.
However we should not fall into the trap of lazy analysis of the analysts. Not all ex-pros are bad at being pundits, just as not all those who write about the sport for a living are good at it. Gary Neville has been a breath of fresh air on Sky whilst my personal favourite is Pat Nevin, until recently only used on Radio 5Live but now appearing on Match of the Day 2 occasionally.
Both of these use their years as footballers to offer what even the best writer or broadcaster can not; how a footballer sees events. The best analysis by those who have played the game always enlightens. It gives those of us not good enough to play the game at that level a little bit of insight into the ways that players see the game differently from fans.
As Kristan puts the issue very succinctly, “The problem is not with footballers as pundits … It’s those who believe their esoteric experience is enough to guide them through analysing any situation.”
In essence the problem that many have is I believe in the attitude of entitlement shown by many ex-pros. There seems to be a believe in football that once you have finished playing, you can move straight into the TV or Radio studio, when in fact that is a place that only those capable of fully formed, non-generalising opinions should tread.