MICHAEL PEARLMAN SAYS: Phil Neville and Co are no Muppets
7:51am Tuesday 17th June 2014 in Sport
IT’S not easy being green, according to Kermit the Frog, but if you’re a World Cup pundit, it’s not easy being seen.
Green, seen, even heard, the World Cup pundits are getting an extremely raw deal, irrespective of whether they are the experienced sort (Mark Lawrenson) or the new kid on the block (Phil Neville).
And if the BBC guys are getting it bad, imagine being Andy Townsend. The World Cup was barely started before our own Goldie Lookin Chain lampooned him so badly I’ve had the phrase “not for me Clive,” seemingly tattooed to my grey matter ever since.
Yes, the World Cup is in full swing only this time it’s different, because this time, the entire world is comprised of social media users and trust me, you won’t like us when we’re angry.*
* People online are ALWAYS angry. Anger and indignation are the currency of Twitter.
It was all going well enough. The World Cup started and though it started with the famous combination of Clive Tyldesley and Townsend, there was no cause for our righteous indignation, because that was reserved for Brazil and the referee. The first game was a total joke and there was plenty to complain about. #Blatterout.
However, after a couple of ludicrous offside decisions against Giovani Dos Santos in the second game, we, the angry masses of Twitter and Facebook, found a massive issue to deal with, which was fabulous football across the board.
Every game since Mexico v Cameroon has been a minimum of 7/10 as a spectacle and after the turgid fare in South Africa four years ago, that’s a) fantastic and b) a little unexpected. Isn’t it supposed to be too hot to play high tempo football?
That memo seemingly hasn’t been received, so thus far we’ve witnessed high quality contest after high quality contest, since the tournament exploded into life with the Netherlands’ destruction of the World and European champions Spain.
So where to take our indignation? The rage we’ve become accustomed to sharing with the rest of the world in 140 pithy characters or less.
It’s pretty simple really; we savage the pundits, the commentators, basically anyone being paid to pontificate about football.
Apparently, most people would just like to stare at a blank screen for 35 minutes before the game and at half time as they produce their own analysis, because apparently the great and the good of world football can teach us nothing.
I was especially surprised by the approaching toxic levels of vitriol fired at Phil Neville after his debut in the hotseat for the England v Italy game, the younger Neville brother, to my knowledge, making his bow as an analyst.
I bet he wishes he’d never said yes. Neville was absolutely annihilated on social media, trending in the UK above and beyond those who actually featured in the match.
The main criticism wasn’t that he was lacking in eloquence (Ian Wright), that there was little substance to what he was actually saying (Robbie Savage) or that he looked uncomfortable and unable to voluntarily control his own limbs (Glenn Hoddle), no, no, no, Phil’s crime against football was far more serious.
People don’t like his voice. He sounded ‘boring.’ 445 people made an actual complaint to the BBC. Within 15 minutes of kick-off a ‘Boring Phil Neville’ spoof account had been created.
But he’s not there to entertain you is he? That’s the job of the footballers. He’s there to inform you. And on that, for a first ever attempt, he did absolutely fine. Like his older brother, Phil Neville has a vast tactical understanding and the experience of representing England at a major tournament.
Now, I’m not defending pundits and summarisers across the board, I like you, have my favourites and those I rate less highly.
However, having done what they do on occasion, I know it’s an extremely tough job.
Answering a specific question with a 15 second limit before it is someone else’s turn to talk, is tricky. Avoiding the temptation to talk over a clip by describing exactly what we are seeing; is not easy.
However, most of the pundits at the World Cup are very, very good at doing it and the BBC coverage, especially, has been excellent so far.
Who honestly cares if Phil Neville doesn’t sound like he’s permanently trying to sell you something, like Andy Gray used to on Sky Sports? 445 sad people, that’s who.
I’ll take understated analysis any day. It was a promising start by Neville and if he works hard enough, soon enough he’ll be able to ‘take a bow son.’
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