The European Championship of Punditry

The teams have been announced and the line-ups are being finalised, now it's time to separate which pundits will deliver the killer commentary and who will kill us with their commentary.
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The teams have been announced and the line-ups are being finalised, now it's time to separate which pundits will deliver the killer commentary and who will kill us with their commentary.

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So the squads have been revealed and as usual there’s surprises all over the place.

Former nailed on bookies favourite ‘Arry Redknapp is going to the Euros after all. As part of the BBC analysis team. They’ve set up a special corner of the MOTD studio where ‘Arry’s going to be ‘anging out of a car windah to offer up his opinions to any passing microphone.

In stark contrast, the expert analyser himself will be in Poland in a staff role, as Gary Neville becomes Woy’s shrewdest squad choice. What a debut season for Red Nev. With his balanced opinions, involuntary orgasms and mastery of the touchscreen, he’s effortlessly consigned Andy Gray to history like a young Alexei Sayle burying Jim Davidson, and he’s somehow managed to extract a grudging kind of respect from Liverpool and Citeh fans along the way. And now he’s talked his way into Hodgson’s set-up. Wemarkable.

So who’s left on the punditry bench? Tragic news from the ITV camp that Peter Drury and Jim Beglin will have droned their last after the Warsaw final, as their contracts are not being renewed. That’s not a guarantee that Beglin won’t be turning up and hanging around “on the off chance” in the future however.

What a debut season for Red Nev. With his balanced opinions, involuntary orgasms and mastery of the touchscreen, he’s effortlessly consigned Andy Gray to history

Martin O’Neill won’t be there either, the brightest spark on the BBC team in previous tournaments somehow left at home. Jurgen Klinsman should provide the wide-eyed intelligence that MON leaves behind, but worryingly he also has the potential to join the Shearer/Lineker “you would have finished that/I tell you what they all count at this level” tedium. In fact the O’Neill role will probably be filled by David James, who like GNev demonstrates a worrying amount of smarts and self-awareness. At least Robbie Savage is there to level the playing field.

As one Irish voice departs the stage, Roy Keane will have his sweet revenge on Niall Quinn though. Big Niall on the Beeb is no match for his former employee on the other side. Adrian Chiles must be rubbing his hands together and rehearsing in the mirror - he’s got a sustained three weeks in the hotel bars of Donetsk and Krakow to try and make Roy like him. So far we’ve seen their relationship blossom from contempt to pity, but as Keano and his Medusa eyes pack their sports holdalls for the Euros, perhaps the Cork maniac is actually starting to look upon Chilesy more favourably. He could be a stand-in Triggs for the summer - a loveable companion, who shares similar traits of excessive saliva and a propensity to shit on the carpet in front of everyone.

Of course the main event, as true for the commentary tournament as it is for the playing-version, is spotting the emergence of that fancy foreign star. The Leonardo role. It’s a crucial position, lifting the tone from the Southgate/Shearer monotony, bringing a touch of the continentals to the front room. The smart money’s on BBC’s Clarence Seedorf over ITV’s Edgar Davids, but as the Dutch always choke on the biggest stage, it could be Patrick Viera adding the Punditry Euros to the trophy he lifted as a player.

The Leonardo role. It’s a crucial position, lifting the tone from the Southgate/Shearer monotony, bringing a touch of the continentals to the front room.

It all feels too familiar though.

That’s the real problem with the globalization of football. We know too much now. We literally had no idea who Schillaci was in 1990. We’d heard rumours of Batistuta, whispers of Zamorano. Now we know about Neymar while he’s still playing 37 a side on Ipenema beach.

The same is true in post match analysis – the most exotic players in the world rub punditry shoulders with your Lee Dixons and your Andy Townsends. Ruud Gullit has a twice-weekly slot on a bar stool looking down on Jamie Redknapp, literally. There have been no real surprises since Leonardo.

What we need is a last minute call up to the punditry squad.

A man to set the studio on fire. With real fire.

Get on the plane, @Joey7Barton. Your country needs you.

This Article also appeared in The Rig Out Fanzine Euro 2012 Edition: Pazport. Available in all Oi Polloi and Present stores.

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