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Gary Neville and Steve McClaren Show The Best And Worst of Being a Football Co-Commentator

In the past few weeks, we’ve had the opportunity to hear some new voices as co-commentators on football coverage. There was Danny Mills, who was a surprise inclusion for the Manchester derby earlier this season. But more recently we’ve been hearing two personalities with more regularity: Steve McClaren and Gary Neville.

Both men carry a lot of weight from their previous accomplishments throughout their career. While Neville was a fantastic right back, he often was so full of himself and United that you wanted to see him fail, unless you were a United supporter. As a co-commentator, however, he has been a revelation. He’s intelligent, very listenable and often provides a very salient piece of insight into a game that’s being played. Perhaps his most famous quip thus far was how he described David Luiz as though “he was controlled by a 10-year-old on a PlayStation.” How apt a description for such an erratic footballer.

While Neville has been a surprising delight, Steve McClaren has been tedious. His co-commentary position on Wednesday night’s Basel against Manchester United match was awful. He seemed to be acting like he was auditioning to succeed Sir Alex Ferguson, continually pointing out what Manchester United was doing wrong. And in case we didn’t hear him the second or third time, he continued once more to say the same things over and over again.

Not only that, but McClaren didn’t add much insight other than stating the obvious. It’s no wonder that England didn’t so well under his guidance. If I had to listen to him pontificate like a school headmaster, I would be ready to do my head in.

Last, but not least, I want to point out one more thing about McClaren. To be fair, it’s something that I hate when any commentator does it, and Alan Parry (McClaren’s partner behind the mic was guilty of this too tonight). I hate it when a commentator calls a goal before it’s even happened. For example, Wayne Rooney had a couple of easy chances in front of goal to score. He missed all of them. But before the ball was even hit by Rooney, you had McClaren and Parry saying idiotic comments such as “Could this be their goal?,” “This could be one of them…” and “Wayne Rooney surely must score…”

If we were listening a radio commentary where we couldn’t see what was happening in the game, then those comments would be appropriate. But when we’re watching a television broadcast of a soccer game, Steve McClaren and Alan Parry (or anyone else for that matter) should never “kill” the goal before it’s even happened. Some people may see it as a commentator jinxing a goal. Others may see it as ruining the excitement, the rush of blood coursing through the body as we see a goal being scored, or the sense of disbelief that someone missed it. This was poor form by McClaren and Parry on a disappointing night for Manchester United. The best team won on the night, and United should have nothing to be ashamed of. If anyone should be ashamed, it should be McClaren and Parry for ruining our viewing experience.


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  1. Nonsense

    December 8, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    I enjoyed Gary Neville, had me laughing when he said David Luiz looked like he was being controlled by a 10 year old on a playstation

  2. scrumper

    December 8, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    The best ex footballers who read the game well and can coherently put their thoughts into words (helping I think some inexperienced viewers are: Trevor Francis, Alan Smith, Davie Provan (actually all the Scots), Steve McMahon (who is always looks like he’s about to tell a dirty joke) and my favourite – Tony Gale who I love for his biting criticism.

    The best commentator? one we never hear in the US – the worlds greatest living Englishman – the eternally perky Stuart Hall. He can make a throw in at Workington sound like a last minute penalty in a World Cup Final. His Shakepearian quotes are legendary and of course his local observations “A fabulous night for football the stench of ice cold vinegar hitting steaming bags of chips floods our nostrils” .

  3. Dani

    December 8, 2011 at 8:27 am

    I am a Liverpool fan and I used to loathe Gary Neville. Well I still do, but not as much. I must admit I was a bit worried when I found out he will be doing match analysis on MNF but you gotta give the guy some credit. He shows no hint of bias towards Man U, or any team for that matter, in anyway and he gives a very fair critique of every team he’s analysed. He’s a lot better than those on the Match of the Day panel anyways. What with Mr Alan ‘state the obvious’ Shearer and Alan ‘yea, i agree with what Shearer just said’ Hansen, there probably hasn’t been a worser duo of analysts. With that said, my respect for Gary Neville has gone up a notch. Even if only by moving him from 2nd to 3rd on my list of the people I hate the most, behind Rebecca Black and Justin Bieber.

    • Paul

      December 9, 2011 at 10:11 am

      He’s not allowed to show any bias, he has to remain neutral. You don’t think he drones on when he’s in the studio on MNF? On Super Sunday or the Saturday early kick off he’s not as bad because there’s other people joining in the conversation but on MNF when it’s just Ed Chamberlin asking Neville questions and he’s given the room to just talk… it’s very monotonous to say the least. He doesn’t have the natural fluidity of a broadcaster in my opinion. Saying that though he’s much better than what I initially thought when it was first announced he was joining the team.

  4. Man City

    December 7, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    “If we were listening a radio commentary where we couldn’t see what was happening in the game, then those comments would be appropriate. But when we’re watching a television broadcast of a soccer game, Steve McClaren and Alan Parry (or anyone else for that matter) should never “kill” the goal before it’s even happened”

    I guess the commentator did well except Gary Neville. The comment above is just words for a frustated Man United fan..Let me cheer you up..Glory2 Man Utd..hahah

    • The Gaffer

      December 8, 2011 at 6:34 am

      I’m not a Man United supporter. I’m a City fan. Swansea City.

      The Gaffer

  5. Paul

    December 7, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    Are you referring to commentary on Sky Sports or Fox Sports? If you’re on about Fox then I pity you all for having to put up with Gary Neville like we have to on Sky!

    • The Gaffer

      December 8, 2011 at 6:35 am

      Paul, both. I’ve been listening to Gary Neville’s half-time analysis during the Carling Cup games last week (on Sky) and his commentary on the international feed (and sometimes Sky Sports feed) that FOX Soccer has been picking up.

      Neville hasn’t put a foot wrong yet, in my opinion.

      The Gaffer

  6. el pistolero

    December 7, 2011 at 9:51 pm


  7. Josh

    December 7, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    For whatever its worth, McClaren was trepped in a studio in London while Neville was at the stadium this week. Having said that, McClaren is terrible. Hopefully Sky don’t make him a regular. Neville, Alan Smith, Ray Wilkins, Davie Provan and Alan McInally (among others) are so much better.

    I think Neville is more suited to be a studio analyst. He’s really good at breaking down a play, but doesn’t have enough time while other action is going on sometimes.

  8. SoccerLimey

    December 7, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    I can take McClaren and Parry for a whole lot longer than I can Sullivan

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