A new Premier League season is upon us and that can only mean one thing…BBC’s Match of the Day is back and this time round we are being treated to a fresh new line-up of pundits. Liverpool legend and MOTD veteran Alan Hansen will not be on the television screen of households and pubs all over the UK on Saturday nights. I for one will miss his unique one word phrases. “Diabolical”, “power”, “pace”, “catastrophic”….words delivered with such enthusiasm by a pundit who more often than not delivered in front of a camera.
Hansen will be remembered for famously saying that nothing can be won with kids as he wrote off Alex Ferguson’s young Manchester United squad just as soon as an era of dominance by the red half of Manchester was about to start. However, this should not leave a blot on his peerless and unique contribution to punditry.
The former Scottish central defender will be replaced by several pundits for the Saturday night show with new QPR recruit Rio Ferdinand, former Chelsea and Newcastle manager Ruud Gullit and Phil Neville all announced alongside last season’s regulars Alan Shearer, Danny Murphy and Robbie Savage.
Alan Shearer has at times come across as a pundit who rarely does any research on players, especially those playing in foreign leagues (he once claimed he didn’t know who Hatem Ben Arfa was before his move to Newcastle). Nevertheless, a couple of impressive showings during the World Cup month have done wonders in eliminating such thoughts about the Newcastle legend and I for one am looking forward to listening to him lambasting a striker for not “wanting the ball enough” or for not going into the box and showing “hunger”.
Danny Murphy and Rio Ferdinand have proved to be solid pundits regularly delivering their point across in a manner easily understood by viewers who may feel alienated by too much talk and emphasis on tactics and different formations. The fact that they have played against (or been/are teammates of) most players they’re commenting on adds significant weight to their remarks.
Ruud Gullit is a bit of an unknown with regards to punditry when compared to the rest of the cast. However, expect blunt remarks from the guy who was the first to coin the phrase “sexy football”. In recent interviews, Gullit has always looked at ease and composed making him ideal for the brief moments during the show in which he’s expected to give his insight.
With regards to the other two pundits, I’m not a fan. Robbie Savage’s main, and possibly only, contribution (apart from an iffy wardrobe) is lambasting football professionals for not doing their work properly. Rarely does he provide any meaningful insight. And unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. Nevertheless, his celebrity status (enhanced by appearing on Strictly) outside football circles may attract viewers not usually accustomed to seeing football shows.
Phil Neville, it’s fair to say, has had a real baptism of fire coming into the punditry world. After commentating on the England-Italy game, he received a terrific backlash all over Twitter as thousands criticized his monotone delivery and lack of insight. While I do believe this backlash was harsh, the younger Neville has a lot of work to do to endear himself to an audience that can be very difficult to please, especially since millions of people from every existing social class tune in. Unfortunately, the brilliance of his brother Gary as a TV pundit with Sky means that Phil has a lot to live up to.
Finally, Gary Lineker will be the presenter of the show for a 16th consecutive year, a role that he does remarkably well and with the minimum amount of fuss, at least in the TV audience’s eyes. He manages to lighten up the mood during intense discussions and appeals to viewers from all walks of life with his quips and insights. His regular use of social media tools ensures that even young audiences are kept in tune with the show.
MOTD2 this season will again feature the brilliant and direct-to-the-point Mark Chapman as presenter. Meanwhile, here’s the line-up of pundits that were announced for MOTD2 for the coming season: Alan Shearer, Phil Neville, Danny Murphy, Neil Lennon, Mark Lawrenson, Jason Roberts, Martin Keown, Kevin Kilbane, Dion Dublin, Les Ferdinand and John Hartson.