Tim Vickery makes a strong case for the disruption of player-only punditry 2

Familiar gripe time, I’m afraid.

The BBC re-ran highlights of Brazil vs Chile and Uruguay vs Colombia last night, and it was interesting to see Tim Vickery employed as a pundit alongside Robbie Savage and Phil Neville.  Vickery, as most of you know, is a journalist of the highest standard and his knowledge of the South American game is as good as it gets amongst the English media.

What was novel about his appearance, is that it actually made the between game interludes interesting.  In a highlights show comprising four South-American national teams, what realistically were Savage and Neville ever going to contribute.  Sure, maybe they can manage a few platitudes about rhythm and pressing, but their basic knowledge of the non-European-based players and the two teams’ respective strategies was essentially zero.

Without meaning to sound like one of those perma-negative types who looks to find fault with the broadcasting at every opportunity, it’s fair to say that Vickery’s appearance raised questions about why people of his profession are not used more often in that kind of role.  He understands what he’s watching, has a command of his subject, and is able to communicate that knowledge in an enlightening and interesting manner.

And, as a football-watcher, that’s all I really want from someone in that role.  That he never played the game professionally or has never seen the inside of a Premier League dressing-room is an irrelevance, because those aren’t in fact pre-requisites for punditry.  Can we stop pretending otherwise?

Robbie Savage is obviously a keen reinforcer of the ‘played at the highest level’ fallacy, and so it was ironic to see him playing such an active  – although unwitting – part in rubbishing his own oft-repeated position.  Watching the Vickery/Neville/Savage axis in the BBC studio last night was akin to seeing two work experience boys tagging along to a meeting with a senior member of staff.  Vickery was a proactive part of the BBC’s broadcast, whereas the other two served little purpose beyond making generic noises when prompted.

Punditry should be informative, and every time someone is given camera time by Sky, ITV, BBC or BT Sport, they should be able to teach the watching public something about the game.  That could be a tiny detail or an anecdote, but just something which makes the viewer think ‘ah, that’s interesting’ or ‘ok, I haven’t heard that before’.

It’s staggering how infrequently that actually happens.  Given how fond broadcasters are of employing pundits on a ‘caps and goals’ basis, it’s amazing how little of that experience is translated into worthwhile content.  So with that in mind, why, why, why are Tim Vickery-types still persona non grata on domestic football presentations?

Yes Sky, you can still have Jamie Redknapp looking nice but saying nothing.  You too, BT Sport, keep your David James, Steve McManaman, Michael Owen axis of banality if you must, but let’s start adding to that mix and intersecting the cliches with some actual information.  Just give us one or two guys who can actually tell us things that we don’t already know.

All your broadcasters: watch that BBC segment from last night again and tell me that I’m wrong.

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