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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 pwoper football man in the scrotum-crunching pants, Mr Jamie Redknapp.
Wears clothes that are modish and slim-fit to the point of looking like they might have been designed for a man who is one size smaller. Often favours the black suit, white shirt and black tie. But rather than being a ZZ Top-style Sharp Dressed Man, he looks like he's on his way to a funeral; the funeral of punditry, perhaps? Sports what used to be known in the 80s, for reasons we never understood, as 'designer' stubble. Often appears rather tired these days, as if all that sitting in a chair and talking is taking it out of him. His voice is Cockney-lite, with all the colourful idiosyncrasies of an East End accent stripped out and replaced with estuary tones.
Fings what are top. Spurs, Liverpool, West Ham (and close family).
Strengths and Weaknesses
He's celebrating ten years as a pundit now. Ten years, dude, in a highly paid job which lots of other former footballers would love to get. So, you know, some people at the top in TV land must perceive him to have significant strengths.
Jamie is a good-looking man. He is young, or at least youthful enough to be considered young by a TV executive, which is probably not the same thing at all. For a lot of the key target audience, your Soueys and your Hodds are not just older than their dads, they're getting up there to grandpa age. Jamie's handsome, he's charismatic, he dresses fashionably, he has a pop star wife, or at least a wife who used to be a pop star. You cannot, in all fairness, say that about Bryan Robson. The again, he'll be 41 this year, so if you're 18, he must look quite old. In other words, he can't play the youth card any more.
As regular readers know, we try not to be beastly in this column. We want to see what those who like the pundit see. But we're struggling to find any strengths to Jamie's game other than the fact that he doesn't frighten the horses.
He seems too obviously pampered to be a man of the people. Even his staunchest supporters would have to concede that he has had a leg up the TV tree due to his family name. He doesn't seem to be required to do much work in terms of prep, and we generally don't find him saying things beyond the obvious.
But it gets worse. He is either related to, or friends with, quite a few players and managers and thus we think the viewer can justifiably ask whether he has a conflict of interest when discussing them. In most other walks of life where careers and huge sums of money are at stake, it surely wouldn't be allowed. You don't turn on the BBC News to hear David Cameron's brother Allen discussing how Dave got on in Question Time, do you?
This was never more apparent than when he punted his good pal Tim Sherwood for the Spurs job as a "proper football man". He treated his role on live TV as little more than being a ra-ra merchant for his mate. Maybe we'd all do the same if allowed, but it is fundamentally wrong.
We would be able to tolerate this 'insider' type of behaviour just fine if it came with some level of real insight as to what, say, Sherwood does or is as a coach, or person. Just going basically "he's a top bloke he's my mate" is not that thing.
This degree of nepotism goes largely uncommented on and unchallenged and, actually, the victim ends up being Jamie, in a sense: how can your credibility as an analyst not be harmed when you're bigging up your pals without challenge?
Tactical genius or tactics truck?
Frankly we wish he'd sit in a darkened tactics truck peering out of the gloom, his face only illuminated by the glare from a VT machine, as it might inject some gravitas into what he says. Especially on Champions League nights, sitting next to giants of the game like Ruud Gullit and Graeme Souness, he feels lightweight, although this may partly to pretty up proceedings and lower the average age/intimidation level. Souey has sometimes been seen to flinch at Jamie's words, and give a Fulton Mackay in Porridge-style twist of the neck as some inanity rubs him up the wrong way.
Leg squeezer geezer?
Yeah yeah, he likes a good slap on an ex-pro knee, does Jamie. We imagine his life is conducted as though he is forever in a TV studio with a footballer. Was probably taught how to do it at the breakfast table by 'Arry and Frank Snr. Joshing about haircuts and a tie with a garish stripe before he was out of short pants. We long to see him lean out of a car window to give an interview and thus establish if this is a genetically inherited skill.
His blameless bystander's role in the Andy Grey/Richard Keys unpleasantness (a classic bit of banter from master Bantersauruses) revealed a chap who wasn't at all from that nasty old school. There is no doubt that Jamie is a nice lad and that is worth celebrating. We're of the view that he'd like to do top, top banter but is probably a little too nice. Does adverts with his dad. Well, who doesn't?
Many moons ago now, we were among the first to point out that 'top top' was his default prefix for any critique. We did this so often and with such witheringly devastating wit (erm...obviously) that it has stuck as his unofficial nickname, even though he has long since exorcised it from his canon of personal clichés. However, Jamie is not an orator, nor does he glory in language, nor in originality of thought, so inevitably most of his work is a string of well-worn expressions and comments strung together with as few conjunctives as possible.
Why does he get gigs?
The yoof vote, maybe, as mentioned above. We're sure he's very personable and nice to have around the place. Reliable too. This must count for a lot because if you're shut up in a TV studio for five hours looking at a TV screen, it'd get wearing if everyone was like, say, Geoff Boycott (though much better TV viewing, obviously) Those awful soft focus ads he did with Louise for whatever holiday company it was suggest he's seen as appealing to the surely ever-shrinking demographic who just can't book their own flights and hotels and inexplicably prefer to have someone in a cramped, over-heated office do it for them while wearing a red polyester jacket like it's still 1985. Are these also his TV fans? We don't know but ten years man, ten years. It's a long time.
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.