Getting a good pundit for football can be a tricky job for a tv producer and as Sportscene makes way for MOTD2 on a Sunday evening we can often see the stark contrast between those ex-pros able to be provide insight and forthright opinions with those who can’t. BBC Scotland’s propensity to chose their pundits from a pool of current players and coaches compounds this problem due to their inability to say anything controversial which may fall foul of SFA rules and the simple fact that they will be facing any player they criticse very shortly (indeed the necessity to comment on their own teams game) makes their ability to contribute nil. In American sports broadcasting the pundit is referred to as the “Color commentator”, their role to provide added insight for the casual sports fan and therefore enhancing the viewing experience – adding colour to the coverage.
In all sports it can be a difficult job, especially for the newly retired pro – potentially criticizing former colleagues who may still be friends. Cricket relies heavily on former players and we have recently seen England captain Alistair Cook fall out with friend Graeme Swann over comments about his captaincy. Whilst there is no value to the Mark Hately style of punditry where every incident at Ibrox must have a positive spin (the new signing phenomenon) equally a pundit who only criticizes may get attention but is rarely listened to.
And so onto Sunday. I recall hearing at the time that Gordon Strachan arrived at Celtic Park with a new broom strategy. The players had become stale and unfit. He was going to shake things up and people would either change or move on. Alan Thompson and Chris Sutton were two who decided that moving on was the best option. It was no surprise therefore that during the BT coverage of the Dundee v Celtic game if WGS said Black Chris Sutton said white however the recent criticism of Deila by some pundits – and Sutton on Sunday has really surprised me.
Don’t get me wrong I get it. I understand that in the modern world pundits and the press are under pressure to say something controversial , grab attention. As I state above however if it adds no value and has no merit it is worthless. I mentioned cricket and perhaps the most famous pundit there is Geoff Boycott. He loves making references about how is mum could have done better, hit a better shot with a stick of rhubarb etc, but behind the bluster there is always an understanding, always a constructive element to the criticism. Geoffrey will make the controversial critical comment, but immediately follow up with a comment about having been in that situation, he will then offer up what the player could/should have done, even offer a reason for the mistake. Despite first impressions he does not criticise and slaughter the player for effect or due to personal dislike and his comments have merit because he’s been there and done it.
Sutton on Sunday (and over the recent weeks) along with other former players appears to be criticizing with no construction. Granted the lack of support the board have so far shown deserves criticism, but the speed with which they have slaughtered the manager has really taken me aback. Indeed Sutton in particular should know better as he has given management a try. It didn’t go well and eventually Sutton stepped away but he gave it a shot for more than 3 or 4 competitive games. Sutton was manager of Lincoln City for 50 games, winning 14. Sutton had a win rate of 28%. I therefore find it peculiar that Chris Sutton, who did not succeed as a manager but was given time to do so, should be so severe with the new Celtic manager who is patently trying to implement something new.
Deila hopefully will, but possibly won’t, succeed as Celtic manager. It is to all of our benefits if he does. The team wins and the team will win with an attacking brand of football. Either way I want to know the manager was given sufficient time. Of all the people who should know that managers need time it should be Chris with his 28%. I just hope that Chris, big John and others aren’t letting personal feelings over the departure of Neil Lennon cloud their judgment.
As I say, punditry without substance has no value.