Empty vessels …

I’m in seventh heaven right now with wall-to-wall coverage of Euro 2012. The first week of twice-nightly helpings of action from the group stages has been fantastic with barely a dull game and hunnerza goals.

What’s not to love?

I’ll tell you what’s not to love – the inanity, idiocy and overwhelming vacuousness of the commentators, that’s what.

Now, I know this is nothing new. For decades we’ve been irritated and irked by the guys (and they are always guys, the BBC’s Jacqui Oatley aside – and she’s nowhere to be seen in this tourney) with the mic.

But Euro 2012 has seen the commentary, punditry and analysis plumb new depths. BBC and ITV are equally culpable in assaulting our ears.

For obvious reasons, any commentary of an England game will generally have me climbing the walls within seconds – 1966 and all that. Like all non-England fans, I amuse myself by playing 1966 bingo and ticking off the clichés and patronisingly jingoistic remarks that invariably accompany the Three Lions and their media cheerleaders – you know the script, “England expects”, “the Premier League”, “Hand of God” etc etc.

However, what’s grinding my gears so much this time round is not the waffle and triteness of the commentary but the overwhelming negativity of everyone involved in the TV coverage.

And for me it reached its nadir yesterday with Craig Burley on ITV and Mark Lawrenson on the BBC.

Lawrenson, in fact, achieved what I would once have considered the impossible and actually made me cheer an England goal. Now, that is unforgivable.

I don’t know what Lawro’s problem is either, Theo

The job of a co-commentator is to offer analysis for the viewing public, to enlighten us as to the intricacies of the game from the point of view of someone who played at the highest level – he’s there to explain about formations and tactics, to analyse changes made by the manager and to add colour to the action that we see unfolding in front of us.

If only, if only.

For the last couple of seasons, Burley has been making the ears of ESPN viewers and 5Live listeners bleed with a relentless stream of cynical and snide comments about EVERY game he watches.

The man has nothing positive to say about the game that gave him a bloody good living as a player and is now providing him with a new career. Instead he offers only invective.

Why he’s used by TV and radio producers is beyond me because I cannot recall a single match in which he’s offered any kind of insight or refreshing view of a player or passage of play.

Burley’s other big bugbear is Celtic FC. He played for the club and was part of a team considered legends because they stopped Rangers doing 10 in a row in 1998. Despite that, Burley has nothing good to say about Celtic or any Celtic players and while he’s entitled to his opinion, his job as a match analyst is to be objective about what’s happening right here, right now.

Yesterday his agenda against Celtic was laughingly exposed during coverage of France-Ukraine. Discussing the French midfielder Yann M’Villa who plays his club football with Rennes, Burley claimed M’Vila had bossed Rennes’ Europe League game against Celtic, then sneered “not that that’s hard to do” before then going on to disparage Scottish teams’ performances in Europe.

M’Vila bossing the game all the way to an early bath

Ahem. M’Vila played for Rennes against Celtic in Glasgow. The French lost 3-1 and M’Vila was sent off. The second tie ended in a 1-1 draw in France with Rennes scoring through a comedy own goal by Celtic defender Cha du Ri. Not much evidence of bossing a game going on there, eh Craig?

See what I mean about adding nothing to a game while belittling the sport that made him? Craig Burley is an ignorant arse with zero charm, wit or intelligence. And I’d like him to go away and stop spoiling the game I love.

And now to Mr Lawrenson. Along with his equally negative Match of the Day buddy Alan Hansen, Lawrenson reduces even the most exciting match to coma-inducing dullness.

Like Burley, he has nothing positive to say about any player or goal or tackle or pass – he’s another who is happy to ridicule and belittle what has made him fabulously wealthy. They say empty vessels make the most noise – ain’t that the truth?

Last night Lawrenson had me apoplectic with rage while watching Sweden take on England. I’ve toned down my Anyone But England zeal since getting hitched to one of them* but was (quietly) cheering on Sweden.

Until Lawro – and isn’t that a pathetic nickname for a man in his 50s? – intervened as Theo Walcott came on. His bitter remarks about how Walcott was only there on reputation because of one game a few years ago was the nastiest thing I’ve ever heard from any pundit.

So when Walcott scored a cracking equaliser a couple of minutes later, I let out a roar and bellowed “get it right up ye, Mark Lawrenson!”.

I’m not proud of myself – that kind of language isn’t good in any company – and I’m even less proud of cheering a goal for them but that’s what Lawro provoked in me!

So here’s a suggestion for the blokes (and invariably it will be blokes) who hire these guys. How about using pundits or journalists who might actually like the game of football? Who might actually have something insightful and interesting to say about the matches they’re watching without resorting to tired and lazy clichés?

It’s radical, I know, but it just might work. Sky Sports’ relentless cheerleading and unbridled enthusiasm for football goes over the top in the other direction but there has to be a happy medium.

Check out the wonderfully entertaining podcasts posted weekly by our national newspapers and you’ll find a dozen guys (and gals) there who clearly love and know the game but aren’t afraid to ridicule or criticise when it’s called for.

For now the mute button is firmly on for the rest of Euro 2012 …

*NB this is irony, not racism. And even if it’s not irony, it’s xenophobia, not racism, right? And anyway it’s a joke!

3 thoughts on “Empty vessels …

  1. you’re bang on the money here. Lawrenson’s comment was appalling and totally untrue. Walcott hasn’t been able to build on his hat-trick against Croatia because he wasn’t selected for the World Cup squad, a decision that even Capello now admits was a mistake. The hat-trick did more than anything to get England to qualify – and Walcott’s reward was to be dropped. Too many of these pundits, like Waddle, are just brimming with bitterness.
    Burley’s hatred of Celtic is beyond parody. Like Alan Green’s love of Liverpool.

    1. John, I would still be writing this blog 24 hours on if I’d listed every pundit that I consider useless! And Hansen is right down there with the worst – I read somewhere that his Beeb contract effectively pays him 50k per show. Disgraceful if it’s even half that fee. The man is contempible.

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