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John Nicholson and Alan Tyers look at pundits and commentators and pin down what makes them good, what makes them bad, and what makes them ugly. This week, it's Twitter's Stanley Victor Collymore...
Stan's work is almost wholly on the radio now, but we suspect we're not missing any especial dedication to sartorial elegance. File under 'expensive but plain clothes'. Seems a very long time since he had hair. Has endearing Staffordshire accent which invests his words with a slight air of melancholy.
Racism and depression (anti). No-one provokes the idiot Twitterati into inappropriate guffs of outrage more. Was probably the first and certainly the most prominent footballer to mention the big D word and as such, he is rightly seen as a brave opinion-former. Has done superb work in outing online hate-mongers and abuse perps. Uses his profile to actually try to change things rather than accept the status quo. We think this is little short of noble because we're damn sure he's not paid extra for his time and trouble and trauma in acting as a sponge for online hate.
Strengths and Weaknesses
He's good at talking is Stan, which is essential when you work on the radio where dead air is everyone's enemy. He has a distinct voice, and is unmistakable for anyone else. A fearless user of social media, despite regularly being subject to some of the most vile abuse, has allowed him to grow a profile far beyond the actual kicking of footballs and talking about the kicking of footballs.
Clearly does a lot of work and preparation. Very good at delivering energy, excitement and emotion in commentaries. Seems genuinely caught up in the action but without losing focus on analysis. Can do a good elongated throaty bellow when a spectacular goal goes in.
It has to be said we feel he's not stretched by the quality of phone-ins he does. As we know, the phone-in has largely been abandoned by anyone with a little bit of erudition and, not to be too unkind, seems now to belong to rather dazed people who have possibly just been hit by a speeding truck. Stan would never be so rude as to suggest this, of course. The air of "oh God, not another idiot who knows nothing" is perhaps all in our head but is inescapable nonetheless.
We're firm believers that the past is the past and that anyone deserves a second chance but there are some who contend that Stan's past poor behaviour, especially with reference Ulrika, compromises his moral authority. Whether they actually believe this or merely use it as a stick with which to beat him, as it were, is debatable.
Tactical genius or tactics truck?
We've listened to Stan quite a bit and feel he is always quick to spot tactical development in-game. He is also prepared to back up his assertions with facts - often tweeted during the action. We're not sure that many pundits could do this and actually get anything right. Given he's often required to talk to the public directly after the game he's working on, he has to grasp what is happening quickly and convey it accurately.
Leg squeezer geezer?
Previous well-documented, in-car extra-curricular activities suggest a chap whose idea of a good time goes quite a long way above and beyond guffawing when someone at the golf club trips over the carpet. And why not? Unlike a lot of the biggest name pundits, does not seem entertained in the slightest by mispronouncing foreign names, nor the embracing of stupidity as a noble manly art. Has done some time on the sofa with the jobs-for-the-boys, golfing-with-Kenny brigade but never looked overly comfortable there, which is a good thing. If Stan is going to squeeze anything, it won't be your leg.
His regular enunciations on depression and racism automatically take SVC out of the Bantersaurus's natural environment of emotional retardation and repression, as does his open support of the Labour Party - not usually the Proper Football Man's choice of politics. However, keen not to be seen as po-faced, he does encourage banter via social media and seems to take ribbing and criticism in good humour as long as it doesn't cross the line into abuse, which seems an entirely grown-up position to take. It's almost as if he's a rounded member of society and not an airhead ex-player, scamming a living by sporting an expensive haircut and wearing a tight shirt.
Considering he works in an unashamedly populist context, he walks a well-judged line between accessible, familiar football language and tired stock phrases.
Why does he get gigs?
One of the few ex-players who doesn't go on all the time about being an ex-player. Indeed, some weeks you could be forgiven, if you didn't know, for thinking he hadn't played at the highest level. Seems keen not to jam this down our throats and we really like that.
As a broadcaster he has set about equipping himself with the assets a broadcaster needs: expression, clarity of thought and wisdom of experience, rather than merely relying on having played the game to suggest his words would have any insight. Others with more blow-hard tendencies should take note.
Enthusiasm and fearless engagement with his public through phone-ins and social media is above and beyond the call of duty (not least because the football public has amongst its ranks some out-and-out dopes and rotters) and should be rightly acknowledged as an important quality in his palette of punditry. When the muck hits the fan, Stan is usually to be found in the trenches and not in some tinted-windowed, ivory tower with some of the less cerebral ex-player pundits.
As a guy who has had mental health problems and, as he himself would no doubt acknowledge, done some stupid things in the past, he has lived a rich life and learned from his mistakes. He's an articulate black voice in football media and carries weight as a media personality beyond football. He has shown leadership on issues including depression, racism, societal perception of young black men, online abuse and the police, and the correct technique for using chocolate fingers.
Persuasive, erudite and passionate, modern-day football media would be a much worse, more base environment without his work and we don't think we could say that about many others in the profession.
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 life, death, sex and UEFA Cup football, here.