The strangest of things has broken out on a rooftop in Warsaw…… passionate punditry! A rarity on British footballing tv, particularly at the mutual back-slapping fests that tournament football punditry can so often be. Roy Keane and Jamie Carragher actually seem to care about and genuinely enjoy the football on show in Poland and Ukraine past week! They are providing a hugely refreshing contrast with the bland ill-informed forced-mateyness of the BBC’s coverage.
Roy Keane’s glowering aggression seems to have lifted a little for this tournament (maybe it’s the Polish sunshine) to allow a slightly more relaxed and carefree approach to his opinion-gabbling, though with the unmistakeable undercurrent of possible violence toward Chiles. Jamie Carragher has had brief glimpses of punditing before, never to any great acclaim, too often it has been incomprehensible / bland / Liverpool-biased. This week Carragher is speaking real sense and defying the conventions of the careful pundit by actually saying what he thinks (and maybe slowing his Mersey accent ever so slightly).
It’s wonderful to see that when a team is performing badly they get angry and frustrated, and then launch into tirades on what the team or manager needs to do to fix it. The two bounce off one another with a raft of solutions and tweaks that would improve the performance of a team or a player. It puts to shame the unending lethargy and apathy of the BBC pundit panel, who always seem to want a game to end before it’s even started.
Adrian Chiles has also hence been forced to visibly up his game. Carragher often doesn’t quite “get” the game of punditry, to get an answer from him you need to ask him a straight question. On the few occasions Chiles has tried to pass a puffy pleasantry in his direction in the assumption that he’ll get some bland soccer chat back, Carragher challenges and asks Chiles to pin down what his actual question is. This has led to Chiles consciously thinking about questions and discussions topics, looking for tangible points of tactics and assessment, rather than just ‘banter’. A refreshing development and an offshoot of Keane and Carragher’s passion.
Sometimes it’s such thickly-accented animated invective that you almost think they might be swearing. Keane’s “football” can often sound dangerously close to “fuck all”. It’s a world away from the banality of Lineker and Hansen, and puts to shame the bare-faced idiocy of Savage and Quinn.
Quite often a game will get to half time and you’ll be able to see Keane and Carragher have been chomping at the bit with a welter of detailed subjects of analysis they want to get through. A world away from Lee Dixon and Alan Shearer making ‘jokes’ about not knowing any of the players’ names, or some irrelevant predictions Hansen made two weeks ago.
It’s pleasing to see that Chiles and ITV are doing nothing to rein in Keane and Carragher’s forthright opinions and passion. They are making a fitting companion to Gary Neville’s great punditry on Sky throughout the season.
The punditry bar has been raised.
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