As we move into the latter stages of a tournament, for us, there is always a sense of melancholy. The early days when all was still possible and two games a day were on telly. A distant memory of a better time. Now, we have one a day and next week, not even that. It's all over too soon. We know when it comes to football some believe in quality over quantity however, we believe this is madness. More football is always better.
The same cannot always be said of football pundits though. The proliferation of punditry rarely adds to our enjoyment because one good pundit is really all we need but instead we are usually presented with three or more, often wearing unpleasant trousers in some fashion-massacring formation.
We've watched and listened to them all. Not a minute has been missed. So who have been our star performers so far?
On the BBC Lee Dixon performs consistently well and he gets our first gong. He can do tactics as well as anyone, especially on defending. If the BBC knew what they were doing, he could be their Gary Neville. But too often he has to share time with less interesting people and thus does not get a chance to be more expansive. He has the command and the common touch. In fact, we often feel as though he would actually like more to be demanded on him. He's an unusual football media type is Lee. Plain and somewhat unassuming and not especially alpha-male, he isn't yer typical sofa-based, legs apart, thigh squeezing ex-pro. This is probably why we've been enjoying his work.
ITV, always hampered by the on-rushing ad breaks, have had the greatest breadth of football characters on their sofa but rarely have enough time to use them all properly before the f*****g meerkat is back in our faces. We don't even know what the f*****g meerkat is selling, in fact, we're very confused about this whole f*****g meerkat bollix but we do know we want it to f**k right off.
This, we imagine, is pretty similar to what Roy Keane might say about almost everyone and everything in football and also about the f*****g meerkat. It is impossible not to enjoy his scowling presence on TV just as Gordon Strachan can also lighten a dull game, but it is Roberto Martinez who picks up our ITV pundit gong. He is an interesting position as both an insider - as a Premier League manager - and an outsider, as a foreigner. He hasn't always gone down the default routes - for example, he suggested Rooney should start on the bench in order to be inclusive and to protect a winning team spirit. The fact he conducts his business in fluent, sharp and expressive English only adds to his impressiveness. His has been a creative and pleasingly unusual inclusion.
Over on the radio, 5live have had the always enjoyable Waddler who seems genuinely confused as to how and why England have progressed despite being a bit rubbish at football. David Pleat is also often on hand like some old musical hall character. Many others come and go but it is over on Talksport where we are awarding our third pundit gong. It goes to Stan Collymore who isn't just a pundit, he's a co-commentator and a presenter all rolled into one, and he'd probably do a bit of tap-dancing while making an origami depiction of the female reproduction organs too if you asked him.
Stan's greatest asset is an almost limitless amount of energy combined by an ability to combine passion with analysis. In short, he works damn hard and it really shows. His research is comprehensive, so he'll know who plays for which club, his goals record in Europe this season and he'll top it off with his own opinion of the players' qualities and weaknesses. He does this pre-game, post-game and during the game. He's a football media machine that puts some other less committed and motivated participants to shame. Indeed, we have often felt he is palpably trying to show some others in his profession up. He's a massive asset to the hugely improved football coverage on Talksport and has rapidly become an important and hugely enjoyable force.
Overall, with the obvious exceptions of whom we're all aware, the quality of coverage on all outlets has been rather enjoyable and our carpet has remained largely unbitten. Are we mellowing, is our medicine just stronger these days, or have games been raised in the TV studios and commentary boxes?
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
Alan's book is called 'Gin And Juice: The Victorian Guide To Parenting' and you can check it out here.
And read John's book, 'The Meat Fix.'