Simon Tyers watches Sky's top pundit at work
Nearly two years into his time as Sky’s Super Sunday expert-in-residence, it’s hard to pin down what exactly Jamie Redknapp has brought to television punditry. He has simply made an art form out of being there, telling us exactly what we’ve just seen and how both teams might be trying something different in the second half. The conviction with which he relays his beliefs is such that Richard Keys and the other guest often seem overawed by the rapid flow of homilies and overuse of the descriptive phrase “top, top”.
Occasionally he just boils over and mixes up his words mid-flow while suggesting Andy Gray should take over the FA or something similar. His declaration that the Spurs fan who took a swing at Frank Lampard should be imprisoned suggested he was either overreacting for effect in the heat of the moment or believes in hanging and flogging, and I’m not sure which is more likely or more worrying. Redknapp and his colleagues have had an odd month, ending with Jamie in Israel dressed as if for a funeral alongside a chippy Glenn Hoddle, castigating “diving foreigners” apropos of very little. This was the culmination of the build-up to a game that, if you only had Sky Sports News to go on, was against a team whose prestige is soon to overtake that of Brazil 1970 so little was the possibility that England might win entertained.
A month earlier, Jamie was in Cardiff to witness the Carling Cup final brawl. While Graham Taylor told Radio Five Live that the three red cards so devalued the game that the trophy shouldn’t have been handed over, Sky only reran the clip once. Even then, Redknapp hadn’t so much as waited for the pulling and pushing to conclude before suggesting all school coaches get a copy of the game to study Arsenal’s patterns and standard of play, apparently oblivious to where it had actually got them. Maybe the shock of the handbags affected such hardy men as interviewer Geoff Shreeves, who listened to Didier Drogba express his feelings about seeing John Terry stricken before asking him how he felt when he saw that Terry was injured.
A week-and-a-half later and a different set of pundits had a different brawl to comment on and did so in a markedly different manner, Ruud Gullit openly laughing at the replays of the Valencia v Inter set-to. Eventually everyone remembered their place and declared anyone and everyone should be slung out of Europe, Graeme Souness getting to use a currently modish phrase when continental types start playing up, “if an English team had done that...” Which English teams have been thrown out of European competition in recent seasons he neglected to mention, especially as his old employers Tottenham had just been on the grateful end of such an expulsion. Souness also averred that it “was like something out of South American football, and those involved are South Americans” as we again saw Valencia-born David Navarro land the one true punch of the encounter.
Host on all these occasions has been Richard Keys, who reacted to the spread of high-definition TV by having electrolysis to remove the hair from his hands, presumably in the belief nobody had ever noticed it before. While everyone seems excited by the prospect of HD somehow changing the very way we watch football, it’s doing nothing for analysis of the action, as any viewing of the Match of the Day pundits will confirm. More alarming is how badly it reproduces footage more than a handful of years old. The recent rerun of The Premiership Years on Sky Sports 3 showed even mid-1990s footage to be grainier than most might remember, and when the MOTD team dug out Pat Jennings’ 1967 Charity Shield goal to compare it to Paul Robinson’s against Watford, Gary Lineker had to apologise for it being so out of focus.
Granted, a check of the MOTD Sixties video reveals that game looked more like it had been filmed through gauze than most of the BBC’s contemporary footage, but there might be a serviceable parable in the fact that videotape of top-class English football from the pre-Sky era is now fading badly.
From WSC 243 May 2007. What was happening this month