What a joy to go to bed with David Gower and wake up with Shane Warne.
One of the things I do in my professional life is preparing people in business to appear on the television. It isn’t easy. I’ve seen some formidable business brains grind to a halt under the scrutiny of a television camera. Some of the wittiest, most eloquent and engaging sales people become mono-syllable, robot like, shadows of their former selves if a microphone is thrust in front of them. I know it isn’t easy, so appreciate when it is done well.
As a viewer you want people on the television to be experts, to give you a new view of life, to analyse events in a clever way that you may not have considered. Watching the coverage of the Ashes you get this. A bevy of former England captains are ably supported by some of the finest cricketers in the history of the game. Thankfully they are able to use their experiences and knowledge for the benefit of the viewer. The silver fox Gower also has a silver tongue, Mike Atherton may have teeth like Austin Powers but, as a history graduate from Cambridge, knows how to construct an argument, and even glamour boy Shane Warne – all dazzling teeth and bleached blonde locks – delivers consistently excellent punditry and analysis.
What is it then with football coverage? Instead of a sharp suited Mark Nicholas we are presented on Match of The Day with a procession of ill-fitting grey shirted former footballers who generally don’t have an opinion between them. At half-time, during Sky’s coverage of the Premier League, Jamie Redknapp, Terry Venables or Glen Hoddle spend so long sitting on the fence it is a wonder Sky has time to squeeze in all their adverts.
Then there are the players themselves. Generally cricketers have been educated to a higher level than footballers but this isn’t always the case. Yesterday’s Australian hero, Peter Siddle, comes from a humble background including spending time as a wood-chopper. He can still string a few words together and give an honest and interesting assessment of the day’s events. In football we have Wayne Rooney et al falling back on tired old clichés riddled with ‘you knows’ while using ‘erms’ and ‘ers’ as punctuation.
If one of these footballers came to me for some training it would be a huge challenge to pull them up to a standard I would deem acceptable. One of the ways I might start getting them into shape would be recommending the footballers, past and present, start watching a bit more cricket.