THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

25 July ~ Cast your minds back a month or so and you may recall that the BBC's coverage of the Spain v Portugal World Cup second round match was notable for something. The game was followed directly by Mark Lawrenson's historical documentary on the Battle of Spion Kop. The fear, on seeing that our guide to this tragic military miscalculation was to be Lawro, was that perhaps he might sit in front of the battlefield on a comfortable sofa, joking gloomily on the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers' shocking defence against the set-piece snipe.

And yet he crawled and yomped and spread his palms over the rocky landscape like a method-actor protégé of Simon Schama, accomplishing the tricky feat of imparting information without coming across like a Blue Peter presenter or someone fulfilling a contractual obligation to the BBC. If a DVD called Lawro's Fairly Serious Military Gaffes and Cock-Ups appears in the shops this Christmas one wouldn't be at all surprised.

To see Lawrenson transformed into a competent and enthusiastic television presenter was quite a shock because, by common consent, the BBC had a dreadful World Cup. Most of their panellists, with the exception of Clarence Seedorf, scarcely bothered to even feign interest in many of the games, for which they were roundly criticised by TV reviewers and bloggers throughout the tournament. In fact, as with the England team, this mostly embarrassing set of performances felt like the culmination of years of neglect.

Hansen, Lawrenson and co stopped trying a long while ago and have instead settled for repeating what they see as their defining characteristics: Hansen – terse and dismissive; Lawrenson – sardonic and world-weary; Shearer – well, it's difficult to know quite what is going on there. All we can safely say is that he is bullishly convinced that every single time someone gets a head on the ball in the penalty area, "he should score that". He seems to be waiting for Lineker or Hansen to say "You would have scored that wouldn't you, Alan", but they rarely give him the satisfaction.

We see the effects of this general torpor every week on Match of the Day, and occasionally on the Sunday version whenever one of the big guns drops in to accompany the far more engaged Lee Dixon. In between rounds of golf and drinks on the hotel veranda, the Beeb's A team may have been made aware of the flak they were receiving back home a few days into the tournament. Why else would Gary Lineker have introduced New Zealand v Slovakia by saying "You can't accuse us of underselling this game. This is what the World Cup is about"?

Now is the the test – the new season is nearly here. Do the main players have it in them to change or are they too set in their ways? I think I know the answer. Lineker will begin the first programme of the season with a dreadful pun devised for him by one of the failed comedy writers who seems to be regularly employed by BBC Sport. Hansen will lean back and recite a list of adjectives and Shearer will look as though he's about to thump someone. Carl Gordon

Comments (9)
Comment by hallicks 2010-07-25 13:25:22

I can feel Alan Shearer draining the life out of the soul of the universe every time he's on MOTD.

Comment by Tomazao 2010-07-25 14:27:41

great comment from hallicks,

on a side note what is going on with Hansen's face? he's started wearing so much make up he looks like coco the clown, but they still always leave his turkey neck flapping about. age gracefully please.

also agree about Dixon a million times better than Shearer. sorry SHEAAAAARER!

Comment by The Exploding Vole 2010-07-26 12:02:52

The frustrating thing is that there are hundreds - hundreds! - of people who could provide greater intelligence, insight and wit than the current MOTD crew. It's just that they don't have names like Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer.

Comment by onedeadbudgie 2010-07-26 13:48:35

Personally I thought the pundits on both channels were poor. Mostly there was a clear lack of interest. And when Alan Green said after the Final that travelling around SA had been a massive chore I hoped (no doubt in vain) that this might be an excuse to finally dispense with him.

Just before the Finals Ipswich Town announced that Roy Keane might be doing some punditry. This seemed like blatant puffery (if he has no idea about management how could he be a pundit?) but after we were told the inevitable and the Finals started I was disappointed.

He would probably have been angry and offensive and hinted at the sort of behaviour that Town players now have to put up with. But what was the point of the pundits anyway? Aside from the likes of Claridge and Waddle on the radio one missed nothing by watching in a pub with the sound off or (hooray) the vuvuzelas up.

Rather like the England team isn't everyone becoming a bit bored with football in England? I don't go to Portman Road for the entertainment these days because there is none. There is misery and the hardcore fans are resigned to it.

It is time surely for MOTD to clear the slate and bring in some new blood. If the Prem is predictable and boring we need someone who is happy to say so.

Comment by Dalef65 2010-07-26 16:57:49

Yes granted get rid of Alan Shearer,But I do look forward to Alan Hansens terse and dissmissive weekly lists of adjectives.
Coupled with phrases such as
"Hes got to play the percentages here....."
and
"Indecision is final"
You gotta love the guy,you cant get rid of all that.....

Comment by Lincoln 2010-07-26 17:22:53

Strachan and O'Neil were fascinating to listen to as they told you things you couldn't see. Tim Flowers on the radio was telling the listeners about players altering positions during corners and how this was effecting the outcome. What we normally have to put up with though are the same old faces saying the same old things that we can all see for ourselves. I think a big part of it is the all consuming quest for INCIDENT. A penalty that might have been or is, a sending off or not, these are the things that take up the "analysis" of the game. Little time is spent on tactics, or changing of tactics etc. Unfortunately it is a product of the game going main stream. The proverbial discussion down the pub is not Wenger's adjustment in tactics when they lose a centre point striker, but of whether the ref got any decisions right in the game.

Comment by densityofsound 2010-07-26 23:52:30

My team have just got into the premiership, but there is no way I'm stopping listening to the games on local radio because the cynical misery of some of the bigger pundits and commentators depresses me. Says something that I prefer tinpot local radio to national radio or tv.

Comment by innocent bystander 2010-07-27 13:42:40

In my humble opinion Adrian Chiles and Lee Dixon were miles better than Gary "Walkers" Lineker and Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson. Hansen and Lawrenson simply said the same every week as long as was able to watch it. And it never crossed my mind what kind of footballing wisdom Alan Shearer could bring to MOTD.

Comment by revolver9 2010-07-29 15:15:44

When talking about a team playing well, Alan Hansen finds it impossible not to use the phrase "pass and move".

However, the BBC pundits at the World Cup were positively God-like when compared to the shower they had on ITV.

Adrian Chiles couldn't complete a sentence without looking at his notes and why on earth did they drag Keegan out of retirement?! He has the knack of using lots of words to say absolutely nothing.

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