Where are Kenneth Wolstenholme and George Taylor when you most need them? Luke Harvey spent months looking forward to the World Cup only to find it marred (so far) by indifferent football and (probably for the duration) poor punditry.Of course, Ken and Goerge did the commentary and the punditry without help …
Imagine the scene: George Osborne – Chancellor of the Exchequer and a man whose stiff upper lip is matched by his even stiffer looking hair – is on Question Time about to face a fierce interrogation from the fearsome Jeremy Paxman.
Paxman strikes first, quickly questioning Osborne on the proposed budget cuts and if they truly are feasible. Osborne reclines in his seat, clasps his hands together and with a smirk and a chuckle pronounces: “I don’t really know much about the numbers side of things, to be honest.”
The majority of the country would grind to a standstill, except the media, of course, which would work themselves into a frenzy of disapproval, with witty headlines and column inches to deliver damning verdicts. Our own Chancellor has no idea what his job seems to be, what’s going on?
Cut to the BBC studio. Slovenia and Algeria are due to take each other on in what would turn out to be a rather tepid and dull World Cup match. Prior to kick-off, discussion about either side is rather vague. Why so? Well it’s no hidden secret really, as all the pundits seem happy to agree that they have very little knowledge on either country.
Names of players unheard of outside the Premiership were minimal, facts about either country’s qualification success were scarce and a general understanding of how either team would play was simply non-existent.
It’s true that the BBC and ITV perceive a need to cater for the lowest common denominator of viewer – which in the case of the World Cup is a pretty low level of IQ. Nonetheless, the blatant disregard by the pundits of the need to do their jobs with a degree of professionalism is astounding, nearly as astounding as the fact that they get away with it day-in, day-out.
It isn’t just the punditry that is sub-par either; the commentary is flawed from beginning to end too.
A lack of imagination from the men in the booth is evident, they are more than content to let the television pictures do the talking for them, which they occasionally punctuate with the name of the player currently on the ball – but nothing more. They spew the same regurgitated facts over and over: for those who didn’t know – Slovenia’s population is just two million; you may have missed that nugget on one of its seven mentions during the game.
There was no mention of domestic football in Slovenia, and the commentators seemed oblivious to the fact that the north eastern club Maribor are the country’s most successful, with six league titles. The homework, perhaps overlooked in favour of cocktails by the pool, leaves me in no doubt that most pundits and commentators would struggle to locate Slovenia or Algeria on a world map if asked.
Back in the studio Alan Hansen is trotting out his same old clichés while dubbing the match boring.
Perhaps the match was of a lower standard than we would hope for – although it is a mystery quite how explosive people thought this fixture might be – but what he fails to analyse is why the match is like that. Are the teams cancelling each other out? Are their styles of play too predictable and without a back-up plan?
We can forget the possibility of such intelligent discussion in a heartbeat. Instead we’ll just call their players rubbish, after all we haven’t heard of many of them so they can’t be very good, and we’ll be on our merry way. That seems to be how it goes.
Following the Italy v Paraguay match, Messrs Davids, Dixon and Hansen’s inability to name the 28-goal Serie A striker Antonio Di Natale was another display of inexcusable amateurism. Imagine similar flaws being highlighted in your ability to do your own job, and then imagine how long you’d last.
Unfortunately, my solution would most likely be scoffed at by many football fans. I would like to see a journalist with good football knowledge brought in as each game’s third pundit. Who better to give viewers an idea of a team’s dangerous players or style of football than a person whose job is to conduct thorough research before typing a single word? However, I fear that my idea would fall foul to dismissive comments such as “what do they know about football?”.
Instead we’ll stick with the tried and tested. Who, despite having a range of contacts, videos and the use of the internet at their fingertips, clearly just can’t be bothered to do the job for which they are so well paid.