Is football being catered to dummies?

Shaunvdl Roar Rookie

By Shaunvdl, Shaunvdl is a Roar Rookie


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    Central Coast Mariners goal keeper Mark Bosnich fails to stop a direct penalty. AAP Image/Dave Hunt

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    Watch the post match analysis of any game and you are guaranteed to hear the same spiel regurgitated from the “experts” on the game.

    Phrases like “a great keeper can make an important save after long periods of inactivity” or “he needs time to adjust to the physicality of the game” and “there’s contact” as they slowdown the video to see a player acclimatise a foul.

    In England I had to endure Gary Lineker & Co every Sunday at ten. Since my move to Australia it’s been worse. I’ve been forced (although I now mute it) to listen to Mark Bosnich, Andy Harper and some bloke not even worth mentioning.

    There are a few qualities that viewers looks for in a pundit- background, knowledge/preparation, communication and likeability. If a pundit has any two of these, the chances are that they can do their job adequately.

    A good footballer via proxy does not make you a good pundit. However, performing and experiencing the game at the highest level could help. From what Sir Alex Ferguson or Mourinho says at half time, to the training regimes or contacts still in the game (inside information). These can all add depth of understanding when watching a game of football, making your analysis more incisive and believable than your competitors.

    Mark Bosnich is marketed as one of Australia’s best exports. On paper this may be true, but the reality is somewhat different.

    After signing on a free in 1999 to Manchester United, he miraculously made it through one season as the first choice keeper. This was not through ability but as a consequence of the poor performances of Massimo Taibi dubbed “The Venetian Blind”.

    The following summer his contract was unceremoniously terminated and he was replaced by Fabien Barthez. He then went onto Chelsea where he was infamously sacked for cocaine abuse and managed a mere five appearances in three years.

    His best season was the 1995-1996 season where he helped Aston Villa to a top four finish. However the lasting memory of that season was Bosnich insulting the Tottenham fans with a Nazi salute, knowing full well they had a large Jewish following.

    Andy Harper plied his trade in Australian football, with a career total of one hundred and eighty games and thirty nine goals but he seems to be more famous for his biography on Jonny Warren entitled Sheila’s, Wogs and Poofters.

    He has also hosted/commentated on a series of international tournaments and was incorrectly credited as being a capped Socceroo while hosting the 2002 world cup for Channel Nine.

    His highest profile job to date was as the CEO of Sydney FC but resigned a year into the job after being “laughed out of the boardroom”.

    To clarify, my aim is not to belittle Bosnich and Harper but to highlight how Fox Sports falsely implies that these gentlemen are the esteemed experts for their elite profile.

    When Bosnich is introduced on the show, it is as an ex Man United player. It is Fox Sports who subtlety insinuates that because he is ex Manchester United player, he is a better commentator.

    This is the same reason Harper was incorrectly credited with being a Socceroo in 2002.

    This in essence gives them false credence for their views, when it hasn’t been earnt.

    Given their respective backgrounds it’s hardly surprising that they make a dull and ill informed duo. Fox Sports preferring to play up their disagreements to add depth to a shallow and characterless show.

    The producer no doubt hoping that the audience will find their arguments endearing. It’s not.

    In addition a lack of knowledge is forgivable, however this can be easily remedied with good preparation, which they still don’t seem prepared to do.

    The least important of the four is likability. Gary Neville’s behaviour as a Manchester United player is the very definition of what is wrong with footballers. Rough all over, loud and obnoxious. The exact opposite of Thierry Henry.

    However, since joining the Sky Sports team his transformation as a pundit has been exemplary. The combination of a love for the game, experience at the top level and straight talking approach is exactly what the game needs more of. Even his orgasm during the Barcelona-Chelsea Champions League game was a season highlight and a throwback to fanzone on Sky sports where opposing fans commentate on games.

    So, why do they still have their jobs? Are there are no better alternatives? Are those in charge of the show are happy?

    I suspect the latter to be true. Football is reaching a larger audience, many whom have never watched or even played the game. This has had a variety of contrasting consequences.

    On the positive side more money has been made available with EPL clubs now receiving $40 million more each per season due to TV deals which are broadcast globally, including Australia.

    In addition the popularity of football in Australia on the up (to the dismay of some) and one would expect to see more football pitches and staff available which, in time will see the quality of the A league and National team improve as the grassroots of the game are strengthened.

    However, the flip side is that with increased popularity comes increased risk. We live in a world where being politically correct and appealing to the masses is key.

    There are a few reasons why the current situation is so infuriating. Firstly, there are no alternative shows. By virtue of this monopoly, competition is low suppressing change.

    Secondly, this is a job they are paid to do, indirectly through the viewer’s subscription fees. When you pay for a service, you expect to get their money’s worth. When you don’t, the feeling is one of frustration and a desire for change.

    Finally, the longer Bosnich and Harper are on the air the more acclimatised the viewers become and the more secure they are in their roles.

    The sad truth is if Fox Sports/Sky Sports did have someone who was knowledgeable, likeable, of good football pedigree and was able to communicate that, some viewers may be alienated and the current crop of pundits would look bad.

    Is football being catered for dummies or are we dummies for letting it happen?

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    The Crowd Says (57)

    • Roar Guru

      March 1st 2013 @ 3:04pm
      dinoweb said | March 1st 2013 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

      First up, Shielas, Wogs and Pofters was famously written by Johnny Warren , and to the best of my knowledge had nothing to do with Andy Happer.

      Harper made 180 NSL appearances over 13 years. I would think that he has a certian credibility regarding the local game.

      Mark Bosnich made over 250 EPL appearances, and had 17 caps for the national team.I think that he would come fairly close to fullfilling the “expert” criteria.

      While I don’t particularly rate Harper as being a great commentator, I think your argument that neither of them is qualified doesn’t really hold water.

    • Roar Guru

      March 1st 2013 @ 3:04pm
      Fussball ist unser leben said | March 1st 2013 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

      I totally agree that Andy Harper adds little insights.

      But, Bozza is superb. He is as qualified as anyone in AUS to provide deep insights about what’s happening on the pitch, what the coaches are likely to be saying in the change rooms & what’s likely going through players’ minds.

      FoxSports has started using guys like Ned Zelic & Craig Moore on their Sunday roundup show “Shootout” & they’re brilliant.

      And, finally, no comment about FoxSports can go without making a remark about Mel McLauglin .. she leaves me speechless!

      • March 1st 2013 @ 5:34pm
        fadida said | March 1st 2013 @ 5:34pm | ! Report

        Disagree. Bosnich is clueless, despite playing pedigree (see also Ian Ferguson and Robbie “gave that some violence” Slater). Classic Bozza includes when asked why teams play from the back “to give the forwards a breather”. What???? Shows his background is English football. He always believed the keeper should do better and is full of cliches. He can’t analyse a game. His solution is always to give the players a rocket. Tactically he offers no insight.

        Harper on the other hand can nail down the 2-3 major points at half time and is generally spot on eg fullbacks aren’t high enough, defensive line too deep. Anyone can watch a replay and offer solutions 3 days later. Sometimes I think it’s that cultural cringe of an Australian accent/euro snobs that stops people listening.

        On the other hand Neville is excellent but messrs Shearer, Townsend, Lineker etc offer zero insight despite having played at “the highest level”. They are (Neville aside) insular , thick and offer nothing than cliches “he’ll be happy with that” etc.

        Rudan can analyse a game ok

        Mel is whoar!

        • March 1st 2013 @ 6:00pm
          fadida said | March 1st 2013 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

          BTW two players who played for England at world cups, plus Liverpool Ipswich and Rangers. I give you Terry Butcher and Steve McMahon. Anyone want them as their clubs coaches to offer their tactical insight? Maradonna?

          Playing pedigree means nothing when it comes to knowledge. Arsene Wenger, AVB and Mourinho alternatively have little or no pedigree but great tactical minds. The same applies to commentary. James Richardson is a great Uk commentator but would not play for your local league side

          • March 1st 2013 @ 9:35pm
            WSW77 said | March 1st 2013 @ 9:35pm | ! Report


            May I also add the majority of Football commentators in Portugal are Journalists dedicated to Sport. They do a Magnificent job of commentating and analysing tactically the teams and then there is always one ex-player/coach invited to give that more profound analyses.

            Very different than the English way that Australia follows, ex players usually become youth coaches, major team coaches and some just disappear.

            What is starting to appear in Portugal allot are very talented Coaches without any Football career what so ever.

            • Roar Rookie

              March 1st 2013 @ 9:59pm
              Shaunvdl said | March 1st 2013 @ 9:59pm | ! Report

              that’s interesting- good to know. Could explain the rapid rises of Mourinho and Villas Boas

        • Roar Rookie

          March 1st 2013 @ 9:36pm
          Shaunvdl said | March 1st 2013 @ 9:36pm | ! Report

          Well put fadida. I remember the forwards need a rest comment, only cementing my opinion that he is incompetent. Was it in the Melbourne-Sydney game last weekend?

        • Roar Guru

          March 1st 2013 @ 9:54pm
          Fussball ist unser leben said | March 1st 2013 @ 9:54pm | ! Report

          Come on, lads … “forwards needing a rest” was a joke. I take my football seriously but, even I have no problem with Bozza “taking the urine”.

          Bozza has played under the world’s most successful club manager in the history of football .. I can’t think of anyone in AUS. who can claim to have better practical training than that.

          • March 2nd 2013 @ 8:09am
            fadida said | March 2nd 2013 @ 8:09am | ! Report

            So wrong. His reply was no joke. Let’s face it, he’s not an intelligent man. Bryan Robson was a player under Fergie, and tactically he was woefull. You’ve fallen for the old “they played at such and such under such and such” therefore know their stuff. Butcher played under Bobby Robson but his clueless, McMahon under dalglish.

            I like Bozza, but his role as a player, and his role was catching and kicking a ball. Nothing else.The latter he struggled with. By your logic every man utd player should be tactically savvy?

            This is why coaches who haven’t played professionally at a “big” club struggle for a gig, meanwhile clubs hire poorly educated, tactically naked coaches. Harper > Bosnich

            • March 2nd 2013 @ 12:16pm
              Minister for Information for the Democratic People's Republic of Football said | March 2nd 2013 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

              But he’s entertaining and the show as a whole is fun because of the banter between the lads. This is television not a Uni lecture. Imagine if it were hosted by Paul Okon and Craig Foster? Insightful ,yes, but wouldn’t that be a laugh a minute?!
              That “B-League” segment has to go though. They try hard those two but they’re rubbish.

              • March 2nd 2013 @ 3:57pm
                fadida said | March 2nd 2013 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

                He’s very entertaining I agree, that laugh, last years “hair”, but that wasn’t the point of this article. It is a discussion around his perceived knowledge. Or was it? Football for dummies?

            • Roar Guru

              March 2nd 2013 @ 1:12pm
              Fussball ist unser leben said | March 2nd 2013 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

              “By your logic every man utd player should be tactically savvy?”

              No, but every ManU player from the past 20 years has invaluable knowledge about how the best club coach in history operates. So, if Bozza says “this is what the manager should tell them at HT” I’ll pay more attention than if Harper – or any AUS ex-player – offers their insights.

              GKs are in the perfect position to view the structure & movement of the team. It’s one of the reasons so many GKs are captains of their team.

              Harper is not fit to clean Bozza’s boots. When Harper talks, I mute the TV.

              • March 2nd 2013 @ 4:11pm
                fadida said | March 2nd 2013 @ 4:11pm | ! Report

                Who would have known that fuss is a “euro snob”?

                Yes he’d know what Ferguson would say, but by that logic every player at a top club would be a great source of knowledge, and as evidenced by previous names I have mentioned this is not the case. So you’d listen to Bosnich over a younger AVB or Wenger? One of them played at a big club. You’d have employed Bosnich at Roar rather than Ange, based on the same logic. By that same logic you’d employ Steve Mcmahon and Terry Butcher as they played at bigger clubs and under better managers than poppa and Ange, and Arnie for that matter. Oh wait, someone’s tried that……

                Bosnich cannot analyse a game. All he can do is offer insight into the inner sanctum. Interesting, but, not the point.

                I suggest we all unmute and listen to Harper. Can you pick out key tactical points as a game unfolds? He can read a game. Not enough “passion” isn’t a tactical insight.

                Try imagining Harper’s voice with the accent of someone who’d played at “a big” club

          • Roar Rookie

            March 2nd 2013 @ 3:02pm
            Shaunvdl said | March 2nd 2013 @ 3:02pm | ! Report

            yes he did, and Fergie judged him to not be good enough in terms of his ability and mentality

    • March 1st 2013 @ 3:27pm
      nickoldschool said | March 1st 2013 @ 3:27pm | ! Report

      Harsh words imo shaunvdl.

      I have never seen a duo of commentators being appreciated by a majority of viewers, not only in Oz, so far. It is a tough gig and it’s not easy to always be knowledgeable, insightful without sounding like a broken record. IMO, they do a decent job on fox.

      One last remark about one of your sentence: “Gary Neville’s behaviour as a Manchester United player is the very definition of what is wrong with footballers. Rough all over, loud and obnoxious. The exact opposite of Thierry Henry.”. I don’t particularly disagree with the first part of your sentence but I do about Thierry Henry. He might not be loud or a bore but I do think that he has been obnoxious and acted like a petulant kid on some occasions.

      • Roar Rookie

        March 1st 2013 @ 4:38pm
        Shaunvdl said | March 1st 2013 @ 4:38pm | ! Report

        You’re right. It’s definitely not an easy gig as a pundit and not everyone is ever going to be happy. As for Thierry, nobody is perfect but he’s a great ambassador for the game and 99% of the time handled himself well on the pitch.

        • March 2nd 2013 @ 10:30am
          Damiano said | March 2nd 2013 @ 10:30am | ! Report

          Have you forgotten “the hand of frog” incident against Republic Of Ireland. Forever soured my view of the player.
          He was a favourite of mine, I was disappointed when Juve sold him to Arsenal, as i thought they missed his potential. He went on to be world class at Arsenal, but I can’t get past that incident, and I’m not even Irish.

          • Roar Rookie

            March 2nd 2013 @ 7:10pm
            Shaunvdl said | March 2nd 2013 @ 7:10pm | ! Report

            Everyone would do what he did in that game.

      • March 2nd 2013 @ 8:17pm
        fernanda soares said | March 2nd 2013 @ 8:17pm | ! Report

        Don’t you dare say anything about Henry – He is the one player I always thought belonged on the golf course and not on the football field – he was almost always a gentleman and that is difficult to say about almost any football player

    • Roar Rookie

      March 1st 2013 @ 4:00pm
      Victorioso said | March 1st 2013 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

      Craig Foster is guilty of this “catering to dummies”, his insights on football now consist only of Barca this Barca that and Messi this Iniesta that.

      • March 1st 2013 @ 9:38pm
        WSW77 said | March 1st 2013 @ 9:38pm | ! Report

        Ohhh common mate Craig is a legend!

    • Roar Guru

      March 1st 2013 @ 4:13pm
      langou said | March 1st 2013 @ 4:13pm | ! Report

      “Given their respective backgrounds it’s hardly surprising that they make a dull and ill-informed duo”

      The obvious question. What is your background Shaunvdl ?
      Your argument is that playing only one season for Man-U or playing only 180 games of football isn’t sufficient enough for them to be fully informed. On that basis you would want to have a fairly rich football background yourself to accurately recognise who is and who isn’t “ill-informed”?

      • Roar Rookie

        March 1st 2013 @ 4:56pm
        Shaunvdl said | March 1st 2013 @ 4:56pm | ! Report

        When I referred to their respective backgrounds I was not simply implying their playing careers but their off the pitch achievements and behaviour. So while my football pedigree has a lot left to be desired, my passion, knowledge and intelligence goes some way to bridging that handicap (I hope).
        Secondly, I also make the point later in the article that Bosnich and Harper are paid to do their job and and such should perform to a certain level.
        Do you feel that Fox Sports have the best pundits that football has to offer??

        • Roar Guru

          March 1st 2013 @ 5:06pm
          langou said | March 1st 2013 @ 5:06pm | ! Report

          So Bosnich off-field behaviour has been questionable but what about Andy Harper? What is it about his off-field behaviour?

          I think Fox Sports have assembled a good mix of soccer experts

          • Roar Rookie

            March 1st 2013 @ 9:40pm
            Shaunvdl said | March 1st 2013 @ 9:40pm | ! Report

            I think that as Fadida says above “Sometimes I think it’s that cultural cringe of an Australian accent/euro snobs that stops people listening”- I may be guilty of that and will endevour to listen to him more carefully from now on. My opinion on Bosnich is very unlikely to change. Last week he said that teams play from the back “to give the forwards a breather”- Really?

            • March 2nd 2013 @ 8:20am
              fadida said | March 2nd 2013 @ 8:20am | ! Report

              That’s what he said. His co-commentator asked the question. It was during a recent Mariners game. He honestly didn’t know why a team would play out exclusively.

    • March 1st 2013 @ 4:30pm
      Titus said | March 1st 2013 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

      It’s a bit harsh but I guess I agree with it in part. Bozza is there to lighten the mood a bit and he is a bit of a cult figure, but he also lends some pretty insightful commentary. Harper, I guess he appeals to a large proportion of everyday Aussie’s. Mel does alright and it is good to have a female in the team. Mark Rudan is actually one of my favourites, has some really clever and accurate summations.

      All in all, not terrible but could be a lot better.