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Soccer Saturday and the problem with ex-pro pundits in England

It’s true that the average punter enjoys the childish and often very, very basic “banter” involved with soccer Saturday, but Paul Merson and Phil Thompson’s latest blunder has shown how outdated and obsolete most of their work now is. To go through their entire repertoire of missed points, obvious analysis and wrong predictions would take years so let’s concentrate on their latest and show why they and others like them are still shaping the views of a vast majority of the footballing public, for the worse. Marco Silva wasn’t the first name on the bookies or fans list of potential replacements for Mike Phelan at Hull, neither was Gary Rowatt, except of course for Paul Merson. At this stage everyone will probably have seen his video in where he and Thompson deride the Portuguese cup winning manager as not having credentials to aid Hulls chances of relegation.Noting his perceived knowledge that Olympiakos had won 107 Greek league titles (they haven’t) and that he would have won the league with said team (he wouldn’t). Merson’s view was that Silva had no knowledge of the Premier league and that other British managers such as Rowatt and bizarrely Thierry Henry, neither managing a premier league club and neither with a managerial pedigree such as Silva’s, would be a better choice.

Silva started out at Estoril leading them back into the Primeira Liga after seven years in the second division and continued his success leading them to their best ever finishes of 5th and 4th place in his two seasons in the top division. One of the top three, Sporting Lisbon, came calling and although he couldn’t overthrow the regular top two finisher in Benfica and Porto, he did manage a Portuguese cup win, Lisbon’s first trophy in seven years. He was sacked in remarkable circumstances within the next week after he refused to wear the club suit. He moved to Olympiakos in 2015 and along with a record 17 league wins on the bounce they also defeated Arsenal in the champions league. He left that summer sighting personal reasons. Gary Rowatt has managed Burton Albion to two play off places and did a very commendable job in saving his former club Birmingham City from the drop in his first season in charge. He was sacked last December after falling out with the clubs owners. Its not fair to say that because of this example all foreign managers are better than British ones but a simple barometer of English managerial talent is the severe lack of any all across Europe.

Two young and promising managers each with their pros and cons for the job. However, reading the two managers Cvs and it becomes clear that it was not simply the fascination with foreign managers that landed Silva the job. Merson was pressed to name other British managers deserving of the chance and it’s of no surprise that he simply couldn’t. Two who could have been considered, Garry Monk and Chris Hughton, would never have left their two promotion pushing teams to join a Hull team, which at the time had fifteen fit senior players. Silva has done a remarkable job so far and though there is still a strong chance he may still be relegated, it has again showed up Soccer Saturdays facile predictions for what they are.

How can this possible effect a large quantity of the football supporting public you ask? It’s simple really, ask yourself how many former footballers and managers have you seen on TV stations across Britain in the last year? And how many of those ex-pros (Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher aside) have given you a snippet of information to which your immediate thought wasn’t “well yes of course, you say that every week Mr. Shearer you collosul bore”. Paid for their opinion and never once giving us something they haven’t said before. Their impulsion to deride Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp upon sticky patches having been weeks before their number one fans clearly shows that these pundits are not even listening to the words they say. And that’s fine, for years this has happened, one week its excessively hyperbolic while the next week there is calls for managers heads.

What’s changed then? Well anyone familiar with Arsenal fan TV may notice a distinct lack of consistency in a number of their views and visits to a majority of fan sites of other clubs also shows, along with conflicting views depending on a teams previous result, that fans are not interested in a reasonable debate/conversation about football anymore. Everyone and anyone now has a voice and on the internet there is rarely any context used or looked for. Fans are simply copying what they hear every Saturday from the same voices they have always heard them from, but now they get to air these thoughts on the internet and flood sites with obvious and mostly pointless analysis. A large portion of these fans bring these purposeless views to the stadium on a Saturday and as soon as things turn remotely against them there off on one. Fans such as those who regularly appear on arsenal fan TV and various other web outlets are usual the loudest and often drown out the regular supporter who will have a more balanced and measured view.

Many followers are increasingly interested in instant gratification and have been told for years by these ex-pros that the problems with their teams are easily solved. There is no quick fixes and, amazingly, sometimes time is needed to rectify mistakes. Antonio Conte was rumoured by the tabloid press to be on his way out of Stamford Bridge after the 3-0 loss to Arsenal in September and if he had been it would have been instantly backed up by most pundits saying “he just doesn’t get the Premier League”. Its time pundits changed their ways and properly inform the public and stop hiding behind their clichés and BS.

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