Are pundits above scrutiny?

“You’re sitting there with people like Richard Keys and they’re trying to sell something that’s not there. Anytime I watch a game on television, I have to turn the commentators off. They say ‘he’s playing well’ and I’m thinking ‘no, he’s not’. My advice to anyone is don’t listen to the experts, Just watch the game and gather your own opinions.”

Last week Roy Keane publicly verbalised a conversation that every football fan has when the football is rolling on the box. Every household echoes screams of “shut it” or “what crap” as the commentators try to explain the action on the field. But the papers milked the story, the headline writers having a field day, from “Keane savages ‘brainwashing’ television pundits” in the Telegraph to “I hate all TV footie pundits” in The Sun. But after the buzz relented, the question of accountability in the media is a subject which remains virtually taboo.

Every aspect of football nowadays gets subjected to analysis, more analysis, criticism and then usually a P45. Whether that relates to under-performing big time charlies whose own fans start turning on them for their perceived lack of effort, or luckless managers who are heckled with a chorus of boos after a poor run of results. And the spotlight shines further, catching directors of football, board members, chairmen, the governing bodies and even the fans themselves.

The one group of people who appear draped in a blanket of immunity is the football media. It is inconceivable that a group of fans who are sick and tired of the same clap-trap, clichéd-nonsense could protest outside Sky towers looking for the head of the chairmen of the network. These personalities, however dull and wooden, seem appointed to a job for life when they get on the telly. It was be glorious if for once, one of these criminals who make our ears bleed every week got fired.

I have suggestions of the first people to go. David Pleat poisons the atmosphere whenever he opens his mouth, always bringing up tales of his days at Spurs when blah blah, yawn yawn happened. Poor Pleat cannot even hold back his Tottenham turrets when in print, as his tactical analysis of Hull v Man City in today’s Guardian remarked “After the interval, the Brazilian tracked wide whenever Garrido had the ball to stifle his threat. Brown instigated a similar tactical switch last month at Tottenham.”

How the English-Irishman, Mr. Tactics Truck himself, Andy Townsend is still on TV remains a mystery. And we can add to that list a host of new media personalities including Tim Sherwood, Jamie Redknapp and bore-me-to-death Alan Shearer.

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But perhaps the worst pundit of them all is the Old Onion Bag, Tommy Smyth. The ESPN loudmouth has a ploy as cunning as Baldrick to pull off the greatest con in the world of football, managing to pull a salary as a commentator. Adopting the common tactic of spouting total tripe, Tommy injects his own twist by wrapping up his verbal bile in an Irish accent. Walla! It’s genius.

There are some gems who should be treasured. Andy Gray remains a top analyst, as does Alan Hansen. And perhaps the best commentators are now found on the airwaves alone, with the Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast an essential listen every Monday and Thursday, spearheaded by the evergreen James Richardson and the matter-of-fact sourpuss, Barry Glendenning.

In the current climate, where many travel into work unsure of whether they will have a job at the end of the day, it would be welcomed if the standards of footballing punditry were held up to scrutiny. There needs to be more Eamon Dunphys, Gabriele Marcottis, Martin Samuels, Soccer Saturdays. Roy Keane is not alone in switching off the sound, and those who cannot deliver should be cast aside.

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