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You can dislike the punditry, but Merse is an impossible man to loathe. 'It'd be like hating a shaggy dog that runs up to you and wants you to throw it a stick,' say the boys...
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers look at some of football's pundits and commentators and try to pin down what makes them good, what makes them bad, and what makes them ugly. This week it's the miserable bugger that is Alan Green.
A unique mixture of a disappointed headmaster telling parents that, with the best will in the world, their darling child is simply never going to pass his GCSEs on account of him being thick, and a gleeful delight in generating challenging, provocative or just simply aggro opinions.
The notion that whatever has just happened, or hasn't happened, or might happen, or will never happen, or happens far too often, has made football, life and the universe infinitely less happy than it would have been otherwise.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Has a regional accent which, no kidding, actually makes him stand out a hell of a lot. There seem to be any number of bland men in their late thirties to mid fifties commentating on football, almost all of them with that same neither-posh-nor-common, vaguely south-east but not estuary accent. Actually sounding like yourself can take a man to the very top.
Many people find his style to be little more than simple moaning, or at least that's the bits they remember when they think about him. It was while listening to him do a match the other day with Jimmy Armfield that it struck us: these dudes sound like they are from a different generation to the players and even most of the managers. You know when you watch a match with your dad or granddad and they're all "oooh the players these days, all rubbish, you wouldn't have seen Stanley Matthews give it away like that?" That's basically Alan Green.
To some, this is merely 'telling it like it is' honesty and all the more welcome for that. To others, it's miserablism dressed up as critique.
Tactical genius or tactics truck?
Doesn't have to do much beyond describe what is happening, which is of course at once the easiest and the hardest job in the world. Relies on co-comms to dissect the tactical nuances. Good if it's Pat Nevin, bewildering if it's Mark Lawrenson.
Leg squeezer geezer?
Doubtful. Has fallen out with Fergie and Big Sam before now, and largely for good reasons. Seems to dislike the old boys' act that they represent. Largely manages his shifting cast of experts and ex-pros well, respectful but not too deferential. Quite a skill when instinctively you feel he must dislike some of them, especially Robbie Savage.
Radio banter is different to TV banter. Because, well, it's on the radio and thus lacks the knowing leg squeeze, wink wink, royster doyster physicality which is the modern Bantersaurus's stock in trade.
However, there is a kind of old man's equivalent on the radio when the likes of Green, Mike Ingham, David Pleat and Graham Taylor get together over a rich tea biscuit or two and decide to put the football world right. This mostly involves prefixing every sentence with "in my day" or "back when" or "they made Graham into a turnip".
One of his strongest points is lack of default football expressions beyond what is necessary. He'll also call a spade a sh*t shovel if he's so minded, and that's a good thing.
Why does he get gigs?
Because the BBC get excited by having someone who sounds a bit common and regional and probably can't sack him for fear of some sort of quota scandal. Because he sounds like a grumpy git in the pub moaning about the football. And there's a bit, or a lot, of that in most football fans. Come on: haven't you seen the internet?
Can be nasty, acerbic, cynical, weary, contemptuous or well and truly pished off. But in an era when too many commentators are never any of these things, and are instructed to fellate second-rate product into first-rate wonderment, there's surely room for (at least) one off-message, ornery bugger. Even if you don't like him, Greeny is himself and who can ask more than that?
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
See extracts from Alan's new book 'Tutenkhamen's Tracksuit: The History of Sport in 100ish Objects' here.
Check out John's new series of crime novels about a football fan, set in Middlesbrough, are here.