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The art of punditry is one that has become instrumental in how we view the beautiful game. It’s a beauty in itself.
The set-up is simple. An anchor pulling the strings with questions, with pundits bantering, providing insight and occasionally disputing what each other has to say with scoffs, laughter and the Roy Keane death stare.
But boy has it changed. Just as the game itself has gone tika-taka, away from the direct approach, removed the hard tackles and garish uniforms of the 90s, it’s now stylish, sophisticated and built on fact, opinion and valuable insight from the modern footballer. Keys and Gray it is not.
The arrival of the likes of Gary Neville, Jermaine Jenas and Rio Ferdinand to the studio has not only upped the game of mainstays such as Alan Shearer and Graeme Souness, it’s also banished the likes of Andy Gray and Mark Lawrenson to obscurity, or at the very least Saudi TV.
Punditry is now in a new age. It’s as inclusive as it’s ever been with the likes of Laura Woods, Alex Scott and Jacqui Oatley now staples of our viewing, while Ferdinand, Jenas and Neville are definitions of the modern man.
Outside of the studio you’ll find Neville opening universities and adapting the skyline of Manchester. Ferdinand is breaking ground when it comes to opening up about grief.
And Jenas is becoming a hit on panel shows and has even followed the Jamie Redknapp route of stepping into fashion, becoming an ambassador for Jacamo and modelling their latest lines. This is all leading to a different way of punditry.
All of the above suggests a more rounded opinion. Intelligence and insight in comparison to after-dinner speaker banter.
Monday Night Football has undoubtedly been the catalyst that’s made football punditry more sophisticated. The gadgetry is backed up by the knowledge of Neville and Carragher who both have an in-depth knowledge of the modern game.
Guests are hand-picked to compliment that, all of which have a recent knowledge of what the game is like today, not between 1980 and 1991.
That’s spilled over into the likes of Football Focus, the Premier League Show and BT Sport, while the World Cup welcomed more women to coverage than ever before.
That’s continued into this season where Alex Scott became the first female pundit on Super Sunday earning widespread praise, in comparison to the dour old-school Graeme Souness.
The times are certainly a changing when it comes to tuning in before a game. Analysis has always been a major part of how we consume football on TV, from the early days of the FA Cup Final beginning at 9am, but it’s moving away from the machismo of yesteryear and into a bright new future where insight and knowledge is key, no matter what the pundit’s gender is, no matter who they played for and no matter what their nationality.