Saturday, June 14, 2008

We think it's all over

The football has been fantastic at Euro 2008. Last night's game between Holland and France was the most fun I've had watching an international match since that game between Argentina and Holland in the 98 World Cup. There's ten minutes of highlights here if you're interested.

But every time the BBC go back to the studio my ardour is dimmed by the dullness and complacency of the punditry the Corporation has seen fit to put there. The energy drops immediately Lineker fills the screen with "What a thoroughly entertaining forty-five minutes", uttered like a man called upon to enthuse about attending speech day when none of his children have won anything. He tosses up a soft ball to Alan Hansen who then makes an observation of such plinking obviousness that your attention immediately wanders to the subject of how they arrive at a dress code for these occasions. What does this particular encounter call for, boys? Smart suits or light-coloured shirts with huge collars? But even Hansen's insight is piercing compared to the one which inevitably comes next. Alan Shearer has apparently passed up the manager's job at Blackburn because he feels duty-bound to treat the nation to his views about international football. Maybe we should get up a petition assuring him that we'll muddle through somehow. Martin O'Neill is obviously worlds better but he's shrewd enough to have read the situation and realised that trying to raise the game of this particular bunch of log-rollers would be like trying to bring up the subject of the crisis in Zimbabwe in the golf club bar.

And thus it continues, nudged along by some leaden banter, until it's time to go back to the live commentary. The nation long ago Dolbied out the actual words employed by John Motson, reserving its amusement for the nervous laughs that follow his attempts at a joke and the involuntary barks of excitement which accompany anything that occurs in the goalmouth, but occasionally he makes a pronouncement of such monumental, transcendental fatuity that you can distinctly hear the shades of John Arlott and Peter Jones muttering darkly into their ambrosia from the depth of their leather chairs in the commentators' Valhalla.

He'd already shown himself equal to the lyricism that the occasion called for by making the observation "good skill" when Thierry Henry twisted the Dutch full-back's blood but he saved his best for last when Sneijder made it four with a looping shot from outside the area. "The Dutch have gone goal crazy!"

Dear God.


  1. Martin O'Neill is undoubtedly the most shrewd of the four, but his inability to cope when the inane banter starts is so cringeworthy I have to turn over. He fixes a stare at the glass table, utters some truisms he hopes will fit in with those already produced, and his personality generally seems to scurry away to take refuge in the further reaches of the autistic spectrum.

  2. It's strange that some enterprising comedian has not yet sensed the opportunity to do to these guys what Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield did to the old Radio 1 DJs with Smashie & Nicey.

  3. Paul Whitehouse (and Simon Day and Mark Williams) got pretty close with the Ron the Manager sketches on "The Fast Show":

  4. It was a super Friday night special. In the studio though, it's almost like Lineker has a bet on to see how still he can be whilst speaking as softly as possible whilst using no inflection whatsoever. If we need a commentator for major state funerals etc he's the man.
    Hanson is either sorrowfully dismissive or indignantly scathing which has always been his act but now he seems to leave out the analysis.
    Shearer though, is a class apart in inanity. His final, killer, take this home with you summing up insight last night that "The Dutch have some players who can definitely score goals" after we'd all seen a boisterous 4-1 dismantling of the French will take some beating. Martin O'Neill will do well to stick this one out.
    We wondered about the dress code and concluded that Alan S had probably copied Alan H.

    Still better than ITV's dismal efforts though, but really - the bar needs raising all round.

    They've all gone cliche crazy!

    Anyway, what do you reckon - having qualified, will the Dutch legitimately rest their key players against Romania, and if the Romanians win it's c'set la vie, ciao and au revoir to Italy and France..?

  5. Anonymous5:40 pm

    We want Eamon Dunphy!

  6. Anonymous7:06 pm

    To be fair to ITV (words I have never actually uttered before), their punditry at least has a bit of life about it when Andy Townsend is on. He is enthusiastic and actually makes some reasonably intelligent observations at times.

    Also, Steve Rider is a classy presenter. Sadly, the rest of the team matches the beeb for inanity.

    At times, Bolo Zenden seems to need prodding just to remember to respond to questions.

  7. I see the deification of Martin O'Neill continues apace. I must declare an interest as a Rangers fan but I find his elevation into a kind of Stephen Fry of football baffling. He is a decent manager who is good at getting the best out of limited resources, and making players play to their potential. You could say the same about countless other relatively unsung figures. He's not some latterday Rinus Michels (or even Clough), come to spread his wisdom among the masses.

  8. Don't diss Motters. He's a national treasure - Clare Grogan in a car coat.

  9. Anonymous1:13 pm

    hilarious stuff mr hepworth. i do believe youve done it again.

  10. Don‘t really care much about pundits. Time to nip out and make the tea as far as I’m concerned.
    I know the Dutch are lighting up the tournament but what’s with the light blue socks? Since when?

  11. Andy Gray has cropped up here in the USA doing commentary on the games for ESPN.

    Not that I've seen the BBC coverage but Martin O'Neill might be better off doing a Cloughie and challenging the dullards around him the way our Brian used to berate Mick Channon for his plodding cliches.

  12. Anonymous10:04 am

    Agree that the old guard should be put out to grass and replaced with Adrian Chiles' lot. Gavin Peacock and Mark Bright aren't miles ahead of Shearer et al, but at least communicate genuine enthusiasm. This is probably down to Chiles' proper-fan line of questioning, such as 'OK, how rubbish were Greece, lads?'
    I watch nothing Apprentice-related, so don't think he's on the telly too much.


  13. I really don't mind Motson, but Lawrenson is such a wet blanket. Someone sometime must have told him he was funny, but they were wrong!
    I'd love Strachan to be in the studio - he's wasted at pitch-side. He's always got good insight and there's always a good line there if the occasion calls for it:
    But how come football commentators are so much worse than ones used for other sports? The rugby guys - both League and Union - and the commentators for the cricket know their stuff and have a way of rising to the drama they are annotating.

  14. anonymous #1 makes a good point. In Ireland, we have Eamon Dunphy, John Giles and Liam Brady doing the punditry on RTE and none of them feel that they have to kowtow to the players. If Dunphy thinks Ronaldo couldn't hit a cows arse with a banjo, he'll say it. Just go to Youtube and type in 'Dunphy rant' and see what you get. Including him having a go at BBC pundits.