WC TV Pundits Review: The Old Hands

This World Cup has made our goggle-eyed pair too soft - they've even got nice things to say about Andy Townsend and Robbie Savage. And Gary Lineker is king...

Last Updated: 03/07/14 at 15:17 Post Comment

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Last week it was the new boys, and now in their third analysis of the pundits and co-commentators working in this World Cup, John Nicholson and Alan Tyers check in on the regulars...

Gary Lineker
We know Gary has his critics but we ask you this: can you imagine anyone more at ease in this context? His ability to keep things relaxed and comfortable may not appeal to those seeking a more punk rock approach to football presenting, but that's surely not a realistic wish in the first place. Being self-effacing and warm to order is not an easy gig and Gary manages to be intelligent without seeming aloof.

As confidence has grown, he has added the occasional sharp interjection to his hosting role - for instance, pulling Danny Murphy up for his copybook-blotting "you see Costa Rica and Greece in the quarters and you just think, if only England..." Lineker correctly called bullsh*t on this, noting sharply, "Well, England would have had to win at least one game, you know" or words to that effect.

Clearly a decent man and almost entirely without side, he also engages with the public via social media with good grace. This has been his best tournament so far.

Alan Shearer
He's given us some of his greatest hits: the squinting, the grinning, the sitting with legs apart, the shiny shirts. To this, he has added clearly having a bloody good time. We think this is important. The last thing we want to see is someone straining over their art form as though it is an especially compacted stool. Football is a laugh, it's fun and here it's also been bloody great.

He's done a couple of 'Alan walks around in slow-motion wearing sunglasses' film clips but none has made us want to bite our own feet in embarrassment. In his opportunities for analysis (which we typed as Alanysis and think that's much better) the feeling that "this is just bloody great fun, this" pervades and we really like that.

Also, credit it where it is due: has clearly upped his game and done work on the players on display. Still very prone to say over-worked, self-evident guff such as "they lack quality in the final third" but live football TV isn't the place for more profound statements of human existence.

Alan Hansen
Feels like last tour of duty for the Scotsman and as such we might have expected him to pull out some of his early hit singles "pace...power...", but actually, like a grizzled old rocker bowing out from the stage, he's rediscovered his passion for the gig.

Mark Lawrenson
For a while we thought he must be being a miserablist on purpose. Then we realised it's just how he is. He won't change. He can't change. And while it's quite admirable that he doesn't get with the happy-clappy thing, sounding like you're fed up all the time has a limited aesthetic appeal. But we know Mark won't care about this because we are on the internet and we know that this means he thinks we're nebbish, nerdy virgins. And he is right.

Glenn Hoddle
We'd like Glenn so much more if only he'd have a laugh more often. When he does you feel a lot more happy to hear him mangle the English language and find places for verbs where no verb ever expected to be placed. A bit of joy is a powerful brew and goes a long way, Glenn. Grotesque, testicle/trouser interface incidents aside, he looks like someone's well-off dad abroad wearing his holiday clothes, which is as it should be. Calling Algeria 'Al Jazeera' was excellent. Saying that "African teams need to have a free spirit about themselves; they were shackled in that game" perhaps less so.

Alarmingly, we now notice at least a few calls each week in the press for Glenn to be given some sort of coaching/tactics overlord role within English football. Cos he's dead clever, people now seem to have decided. Strikes us that Glenn is the sort of intellectual whom only the thick consider an intellectual. Speaking of which...

Robbie Savage
Another of the 'having a great time on my holidays' brigade, we've enjoyed watching Robbie fill a seat on the studio. He's not without his distinctive qualities, nor, we're sure without his fans. He brings genuine enthusiasm, a quality that is sometimes lacking in the TV studio. Some may feel he's a little too aware of this fact. Anyone expecting advanced verbal extemporisations will be disappointed, but that would be to misunderstand why he's there. And we feel there are few better at expressing what goes through an unpretentious, simple football mind.

Ian Wright
We've watched Wrighty trying to do serious analysis and it usually isn't much to look at. In fact, despite years of cringing at the wriggling, twisting, hyperactive Wrighty, we've settled on the view that if he has to be there, better he be there as a jester than as an analyst. His persistent reference to Hoddle as 'gaffer' has gone from being amusing to vaguely sinister, the repetition giving it an almost ironic quality.

Martin Keown
Half of this column recently looked at its school report from third year. For chemistry it said 'no obvious aptitude in this subject'. That.

Lee Dixon
ITV's little bit of quality and a man who we feel wants to do more serious work but is hampered by ITV's lack of desire to allow him. Still, it remains a relief to see him there because you know he won't deliver any stupids.

Gordon Strachan
For a man who has spent a lot of his career being a tad fractious with interviewers and the media in general, the wee banana man has never looked more comfortable in his own skin. Doing live TV clearly offers no fears and he brings an almost casual but nonetheless gimlet eye to proceedings. We especially enjoyed his suggestion that hirsute Greek striker Georgie Samaras, whom he managed at Celtic, was "almost too good" and didn't want to show others up with his talent, which we assumed was an extended joke on his part. Excellent realpolitik assessment of the Suarez situation and the rank hypocrisy of players, owners, managers and fans alike, in which Gordon basically argued that a brilliant player will be forgiven literally anything, whereas a youth player would have been sacked for the same crime.

Patrick Vieira
Not our cup of tea. Not terrible or anything. Just don't really see the point.

Chris Waddle
Got off another excellent rant about England, which is becoming something of a party piece for him at tournaments. We like his line in withering disgust, and we also greatly enjoy that he just looks so unglamorous, so unmetrosexual, so un-TV. If the Waddler had a tattoo, we're pretty sure it wouldn't be of Armani, it would be of 'Mam' or maybe a brand of cigarettes.

Sam Matterface

Clarke Carlisle
Michael the Travel Tavern handyman.

Jonathan Pearce
Made early claim for the strangest commentary stint of the tournament by having bizarre tantrum about goal-line technology during France v Honduras, seemingly unable to grasp that the ball wasn't over the line (event A) and then a little bit later it was (event B). Fair enough, everyone makes mistakes - just stop yelling about it.

Matt Smith
ITV number two presenter who really should be number one. We love his relaxed style and the rapport he strikes up with his guests. While surely being grateful for the work, it must grate that he is regarded by ITV as the man who does it if Adrian doesn't. Technically, we feel he is just really on top of his game. Doesn't do that blank stare accompanied with halting.speech.because.someone.is.counting.in.his.ear that is often a weak spot for commercial TV broadcasters. Also has a nice spark to his eyes which hints at a man who has an interesting hinterland.

Adrian Chiles
We don't ride the train to Chiles Town with any great passion but we also don't join in the vicious bashing he gets. You can't say he's not distinctive, but he has that lugubrious thing going on which is very much all his own. All you can do is be yourself and we're sure he's being that. He can be funny too and at least he's not an out-of-the-box talking head. Our only real critique is that technically, he seems to struggle sometimes - umming and ahhing his way to ad breaks and film clips.

Tim Vickery
To the mainstream football watcher, The Vickery will not be a familiar sight, indeed his work often happens on the World Service. However, as a South American football analyst, he is peerless. For us, he has been the star of the whole of the BBC output. Firstly, he speaks on radio and TV with a confident but not strident authority; he knows his gig inside and out with a calm confidence. We especially love how he has put the tournament into a cultural and political context. We just wish he was used as a regular mainstream guy and not as a purveyor of exotica from distant lands.

Clive Tyldesley
He's consistent is Clive. Never has a bad gig. If you like him, you'll have enjoyed his World Cup, if you don't, you won't. Has given us all his classics.

Andy Townsend
Somehow, nothing gives us more joy than an really good AT co-comm. By good we mean, one which he gets his first "that's better", "in and around" and a "not for me Clive" all in within 15 minutes. We may have gone through the looking glass with Andy. All the things that used to annoy us we now find curiously endearing. We were once told by a very good guitarist that if you played a few notes out of key, you should make sure you did it over and over again so that people think you meant it and thus transforming a mistake into a creative expression. Andy is like that. And y'know, God bless him for it.

John Nicholson and Alan Tyers

Check out John's new series of crime novels about life, death, sex and UEFA Cup football.

Or Alan's illustrated sports books here.

Follow Johnny on Twitter here or Alan here.

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