It takes something pretty special for the average soccer supporter to look forward to Monday nights.
With post-weekend blues settling in and the majority of games completed, the working week stands between another chance to sample some domestic action at the weekend. A tough slog indeed.
It’s what makes Monday Night Football—the Sky Sports show for the final games of the round—such a brilliant program. From this standpoint, there’s even a tinge of disappointment when there’s no Monday fixture and we’re deprived of the four-hour slot that makes the first day of the week a lot more tolerable.
The games themselves are never usually major clashes between two juggernauts, with the broadcasters naturally booking them for the prime-time weekend slots. But the level of analysis and exploration into the minutiae of the modern game makes it must-watch.
For those unfamiliar with the format, former Manchester United full-back Gary Neville and ex-Liverpool center-back Jamie Carragher flank presenter Ed Chamberlain. There’s roughly an hour of analysis from the weekend’s previous games to begin, the feature fixture takes focus for the next two-and-a-half hours and in the final 30 minutes sees the two former players answer viewers’ questions.
Often, for those who love to immerse themselves in every facet of this fascinating sport, it’s a disappointment when the game actually comes. That’s because Neville and Carragher both speak about soccer with such an infectious vim, with each offering a unique insight into today’s game on a week-by-week basis.
Neville is the more meticulous and articulate in his analysis; so often the former Red Devil will touch upon a new angle that leave’s viewers enlightened. Carragher is a little more raw, but mixes a clear football intellect with the type of points that opinionated bloke in the pub would make pre-match.
Neither will shy away from criticizing their former clubs or teammates either, as is often the case with a lot of pundits on the box, who clearly consider the manner in which throwaway quips can be pounced upon by the press and blown up into a story. Neville has been scathing of the Red Devils at times throughout the campaign, while Carragher’s assessments of Liverpool often seem to be a little more ruthless because he has a passion for the Merseyside club.
The statistics used to back up the points made is both insightful and relevant too. Again, the stuff is fresh, not just goals or assists, but facts and figures which add credence to arguments which are put forward.
Chamberlain is also a brilliant foil for the former rivals. As you would expect of any United and Liverpool fans discussing football, things can occasionally get a little bit heated. But the presenter knows when to wade in and move the discussion on.
There’s even been a few cracking guests on the show this season. Often we’re treated to familiar faces and tired cliches from pundits on these kinds of programs, but former referee Howard Webb and Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe have each been absorbing additions. Again, they’re bespoke facets of the show which sets it apart.
As aforementioned, from a football supporter’s perspective, it’s just a shame when there’s no show to look forward to. Earlier in the campaign the two put on a one-hour special on Monday without a game, reviewing a match between Chelsea and Manchester United. Going forward, there’d be few who’d complain if such a slot was made standard.
Because you come away feeling illuminated after watching. Speaking with Jeremy Wilson of The Daily Telegraph last season, Neville admitted that’s exactly what the show is hoping to achieve:
Five, six, seven years ago you had either impact punditry or pundits who will repeat a commentator which is a waste of time.
We are more of a teaching show. I think fans want to learn more. I think you can push them. You are insulting them if you think they can’t understand. If they don’t, they will try and work it out.
The addition of Carragher from the beginning of the 2013/14 campaign and the introduction of quality guests in the studio points towards a team that are keen on improving too. For those of us whose Mondays are perked up by the sharp analytics of these former Premier League icons, that can only be a positive.
At this juncture, there’s no soccer show on television that offers such a varied and enriching insight into the game. While it would be foolish to deviate too much away from the current format, it’s going to be exciting to see exactly what Monday Night Football has in store for us all again in the 2015/16 campaign.
Follow Matt on Twitter @MattJFootball
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