Time for a tactical one-one formation

Ralph Mellon
Ralph Mellon

I’m not fanatical about football any more but I quite enjoy watching it – most of the time.

The World Cup was good – a plentiful supply of matches on at handy times of the day and the usual mix of the unexpected.

And while it may be true that Germany deserved it for being the most consistent and emerging from the toughest group, that Brazil’s meltdown left us all bewildered, and Suarez is the apex carnivore, it’s legacy above all is this.

It’s time to ditch TV pundits, studio discussions and co-commentators.

Having said I enjoy watching games some of the time, that’s because I’m very selective about what I’ll tolerate – more often than not, the mute button goes on at the first sign of the hackneyed dronings from Chiles, Wright, Hansen, Shearer, Lawrenson, and the lot of them.

Presentation style, demeanour, repetitive regional accents and/ or appalling command of the English language can all unfortunately end up colouring your judgement. It’s difficult not to get personal, which is probably wrong, but I really can’t stand them – even the good ones.

In the earlier days, they were kind of worth it – the likes of Brian Clough was always provocative, while Jimmy Hill could incite levels of hatred which even the most mild-mannered viewers didn’t realise they had in them .

Mike Channon, the ex-Southampton, Manchester City and England striker, used to get very animated and repeat some memorable phrases – “Oi can’t see ‘em gettin’ beat,” “Fur me, loike” and “They’ve got great playurz,” among them.

But we’ve just had too much of the cliched claptrap, mangled grammar and, above all, that horribly self-indulgent and utterly pointless video graphic analysis.

There are too many talking heads in the studio now as well – it might, stress might, be a shade more tolerable if there was only one, but ITV had about five of them squeezed around that wee garden table on Copacabana Beach.

And too many of them have just been doing it for too long. Lawrenson, Shearer, Townsend and a few others have been heard so often that, however perceptive their observations might be, the very sound of them just wraps you in a cloak of boredom.

That’s why Alan Hansen is making a move better than any he ever made on the field – retiring.

Adrian Chiles – overpaid and over-exposed, with his blokey, unassuming attempts at humour long having lost any appeal, if they ever had any. Gordon Strachan, almost unintelligible, even to Scottish listeners. And perhaps the worst of the lot – Ian Wright, brash, unrestrained and insufferable.

On the co-commentating side, Mark Lawrenson just abuses the privelege, while Andy Townsend scarcely lets the viewer appreciate a single incident before he’s galloping ahead with a description of what we’ve all just seen.

Knowing when to shut up is a vital part of the commentator’s art – so let’s have only one disembodied voice in the commentary box and cut the pre and post-match talk to a minimum, with as few people as possible.

The fact is very little of what the ‘expert analysts’ say before the game matters, and even less matters afterwards.

All that playing with the computer graphics, hurtling players around the screen, shining heavenly spotlights on them from above and pointing out what they should have done during a split second does NOT change the result, or anything that led up to it.

On the bright side, about the only reference I heard crowbarred in about 1966 was qualified with a reminder that England had lost to Scotland in their first international after winning the World Cup.

Sitting around talking about a game of football should strictly be the domain of fans and viewers and their friends up and down the country.

People should not have it pumped into their homes via a bunch of blokes in a TV studio.