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ESPN Makes Smart Move With Andy Gray Hiring

Andy GrayAndy Gray, one of the top football co-commentators and pundits in the world, made his appearance this afternoon not on Sky Sports but instead on ESPN. What Gray gives ESPN is instant credibility, which the network desperately needs if it’s to establish itself as an authority on soccer coverage both in the United States and around the world.

ESPN must have paid a hefty fee to convince the world’s number co-commentator to leave his home in the United Kingdom and work the summer at ESPN’s studios in Bristol, Connecticut. For ESPN, it’s a gamble. Paying a high salary for Gray’s expertise is ESPN rolling the dice. With an authority figure like Gray in a pivotal role at ESPN this June, the network will be hoping for increased viewing figures in return as well as satisfied advertisers. The two go hand in hand.

Gray’s knowledge of the game was quickly evident during the opening matches of Euro 2008 today. For the Switzerland against Czech Republic opener, Gray took his seat as a pundit and offered his input regarding the match from Basel. But where Gray truly shown was when he switched seats and became co-commentator for the Turkey against Portugal match.

The difference between Tommy Smyth and Andy Gray is immense. While Smyth seems to contradict himself during controversial moments in matches where we’re seeking his insight, Gray on the other hand is direct and decisive, and tells it like it is. With Gray, he points out things that we, the viewers, don’t see the first time. Plus the Scotsman does it in such a confident and authoritative manner that it’s hard to ignore.

A perfect example of this was the disallowed goal during the first 15 minutes of Portugal against Turkey. Gray spotted the incident and called it as he saw it — offside. If that was Smyth, he would have sounded hesitant, made a call and probably changed his mind when viewing the TV replay.

ESPN’s decision to hire Gray as the expert for this summer’s tournament is a shrewd move. Casual sports fans who may not know Gray as intimately as we do will find themselves absorbed by his analysis of the game. Home teams have the fans as their 12th man. ESPN has Andy Gray.

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  1. yuck

    December 18, 2008 at 9:21 pm

    andy gray is a moron in my opinion…he never offers any real insight that you haven't heard a thousand times before

  2. DELF Hater

    June 29, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    Obviously an Englishman or just envious of Andy Gray’s brilliance. Its hard to take when the only great advances in the world by the British in the last hundred years have all been by Scots. Andy Gray changed sports broadcasting in the UK and has the awards for it.

  3. Canadian legend

    June 29, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Andy Gray was fantastic. As a player for Scotland and Everton and Aston Villa. His knowledge of the game is immense and his Drumchapel sense of humor and wit is obvious. Andrew made Euro 2008 for me. I turned it up and watched ABC instead of TSN in Canada.

  4. simon grant

    June 22, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    English, lived in the states for 20 years. May not agree with everything Andy Gray says, but at least it’s like listening and talking to someone intelligent and funny. Tommy Smyth, meanwhile, is a moron,and couldn’t get a soccer job anywhere else in the world.

  5. tim

    June 22, 2008 at 8:05 pm

    class act! that’s riotous. this guy has a terrible reputation in the uk. just becauae he has an accent doesn’t make him an expert. here’s a hint about his relevance. any tv hack that waits until slow motion replay to be critical of players and referees isn’t worth listening to. we want analysis at full speed, not criticism in slow motion. this game is fluid so save the whining at slow speed levels it just makes it a critical farce and hardly worth listening to….rather have silence, he’s almost as bad as tommy smyth. edgar davids had a brief moment in the sun for a recent match u.s. v england, he was painful to listen to but he made a few very astute player points you would never hear from a 60 yr old that played another type of football.

  6. jm

    June 22, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Is only Andy Gray open to charges of immaturity for name-calling? It is a standard we should all hold ourselves too.

    I was a neutral watching the match, and I think there is merit to both sides here. Many of Gray’s criticisms I did find accurate – namely the defensive nature of Italy’s play and the poor work by the officiating crew (particularly in stopping play twice for injuries which did not merit such a stop). He was also, however, exhibiting a bias in his calls – particularly noteworthy was his “good luck Cesc” immediately before Fabregas’ took the final spot-kick.

  7. t

    June 22, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Andy Gray was only stating the facts of the match. Well done Andy! It’s good to have a commentator that has the balls to tell it like it is. Italy were horrendous in their anti-play and their making a meal out of every tackle. Congrats Spain, you deserve it.

  8. Jennifer

    June 22, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Hudsonland….you’re a dick too! There, feel better? Now I’m taking it out on both of you…..what? Are you a wee bit Scottish?

  9. Hudsonland

    June 22, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    Italy lose after making no attempt to win the game for 120 minutes and you take it out on a Scottish commentator? Stay classy…

  10. Gary

    June 22, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    There is no question that Andy Gray showed immense immituraty and a total lack of anything positive to say during the Italy/Spain match. It wasn’t bad enough that he berated the officials constantly. His chiding of the Italian team and their tactics was unprofessional.

    Then…he got worse! When an announcer offers biased opinion they are usually demoted or fired. When one flagrently berates one team versus another (such as he berated Italy) they are surely sacked.

    Therefore, I suggest that based upon Gray’s infantile actions of purposly calling Gianluigi Buffon “buffoon”, he be immediatly fired, and suit be levied against him for slander, and potentially by ESPN for lost revenue.

    Go pick a bar fight, Andy. But don’t air your hatred of Italians on National TV. SHAME ESPN if he ever announces again.

  11. Soccer Fan

    June 22, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    I agree completely with your post. Andy Gray has made the watching soccer in the U.S. enjoyable for most knowledgeable fans for the first time.
    Now if we can just get him to do MLS games

  12. Hudsonland

    June 22, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    I’ve agreed with every criticism of the spineless referee, but then I am wearing a Spain jersey right now. I suspect you might be wearing blue, Delf.

  13. Delf

    June 22, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Andy Gray is a biased Scot who adds nothing but his bad accent to the broadcast. ESPN wants credit for hiring this crooked guy who obviously has money on Spain in this game versus Italty. Another embarassment for this former great network. Shameful!!!

  14. Delf

    June 22, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    I’m watching Euro 2008 and I have to vent … Following Italy vs. Spain on ESPN, I am really shocked about how overrated Andy Gray is in the public eye. I have a hard time believing he’s been an ex player and a famous co-commentator given some of his comments. Yes, he may sound very decisive when he opens his mouth, but he’s wrong so often in judging referees’ decisions that I don’t know whether I’m supposed to laugh or cry. He’s the reason why I turn off the sound on ESPN and turn on the sound of the internet stream… why can’t ESPN hire someone competent for this a (excluding Julie Foudy, she makes all the men on that channel sound like beginners)? Get a professional coach and/or a professional referee who are on summer break to comment on the games… at least you know that they know what they are talking about and could provide some interesting insight into referees’ decisions.

  15. John

    June 19, 2008 at 7:56 am

    Things must be pretty bad in TV land in the US if ye are hailing Andy” let’s go around in circles and get really excited but never actually say anything worthwhile” Gray

  16. Aaron

    June 18, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    I have NEVER been a Soccer fan until this “Absolutely Top Drawer!” broadcast… Andy rules! and so do the production team of EURO 2008 Soccer on ESPHD! I am a long time NFL football fan and I NEVER thought I would ever watch a soccer game. I haven’t missed a minute of broadcasting since this tourney started. Kudos to ESPN and Andy Gray.

  17. Mac

    June 13, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    Andy Gray was the first player to win young player of the year and player of the year in the same season. The second was Christiano Ronaldo. The guy has been a class act since he first played at 16.

  18. philip

    June 9, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    andy gray is like a puppy that a friend of yours has given you to look after for a for three weeks , after a week you fall in love with the mutt . when the time is up you give the dog back with a tear in your eye , how can you go back into that empty house . all that house has now is the old onion bag! and it smells .

  19. chuck

    June 7, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    A no brainer , Andy`s an ex player, been a colour announcer for years and in general just knows the game.
    He can also be a homer and at times a bit overbearing.
    However Tommy Smythe, knows little about the game, in fact is annoyingly ignorant and tends to irritate the audience with his attempts to appear knowledgable.
    Finally someone at ESPN wised up.

  20. betsy's bolton bum baster

    June 7, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    The difference b/w this presentation and WC06 is HUGE. Even the graphics, no adverts on the screen during the game, and a small score board. This is wonderful….I feel like I’m watching in Europe!

  21. Kartik

    June 7, 2008 at 2:22 pm

    I was told today that ESPN is looking into taking him “on loan” if you want to call it that from Sky during South Africa 2010. That would be again an outstanding move.

    ESPN also needs to hire someone who actually speaks Spanish and understands it to do US National Team and MLS matches. So much of the game in this country is becoming latinized. They need to look at more British and Latin commentators depending on the event.

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