Football pundits have undergone a strange transformation over time.
In a previous generation, it was the domain of respected, giant-chinned ex-pros who would offer genuine insight on the game. Once the coverage wrapped, nothing more was thought of it.
Now, however, pundits attract almost as much attention as the match itself – even if what they said was “just banter”.
So as we’re flooded with more and more live football, and with the pool of pundits growing ever larger, it got us thinking: what separates the wheat from the chaff and makes a great pundit these days?
What do they have to do to guarantee a space on one of those uncomfortable-looking spinning chairs for all the big games? Well, you’re about to find out…
Fail as a manager
The bread and butter of the punditry world are made up of former stars who are out of managerial work – and for very good reasons.
Think Messrs Shearer, Kamara, Quinn, Scholes… the list is endless. After all, as social media aficionados are well aware, it’s far easier to sit on the sidelines and slag people off for doing a bad job than actually going and doing a worse one yourself.
There is an elite level in this discipline, too: being a great pundit but a truly pony manager before you’ve even given the latter a go.
Just look at Gary Neville and Thierry Henry. It’s harder than it looks, eh boys?
Appear on other programmes with the broadcaster
We can think of absolutely no reason why the nation is subjected to Jamie “literally” Redknapp on 99% of Sky Sports’ live coverage, other than the fact it’s written into his contract as a team captain on A League Of Their Own.
He must have the best agent in showbiz.
Laugh off getting soaked on the job
Modern pundits must be prepared to do their thing wherever needed, whether it’s in a bizarre BT Sport warehouse in Stratford or on a pitch side podium.
Ergo, they must also be equipped with a good sense of humour if it goes awry in the stadium, such as having an impromptu shower when the sprinklers come out to play.
Control your emotions when put off your stride
And by “put off your stride”, we, of course, mean getting absolutely whacked by a stray football during a warm-up.
Shouting obscenities at the perpetrator will inevitably lead to an immediate sacking, so they must keep their composure – particularly when it occurs right in front of a baying away end at the ground of the team you used to play for.
Now you know how Martin Keown gets such regular work because it’s clearly nothing to do with his (in)ability to talk sense when on co-commentary duty.
Use your platform for revenge
The punditry arena is built on strong footballing opinions which grab fans’ attention: think of when Roy Keane’s scathing view about Paul Pogba’s commitment, or the time Michael Owen sensationally revealed that if it’s raining, the pitch would be wet. Genuinely.
But, nothing is as entertaining for viewers as watching stars use their live platform for some good old-fashioned axe grinding. It’s a skill Jose Mourinho is adept at (who’d have thought?) and makes for guaranteed quality viewing.
As the brand-new punditry adage, we have just this second made up goes: revenge is a dish best served on live TV by bitter former managers.
Unleash grossly misplaced anger
Watching this unfold is strangely addictive viewing, and it’s something football’s favourite perma-miserable Scotsman Graeme Souness has got down to an art form.
It’s the sort of personality trait that would lead to – and this is a completely, 100% hypothetical situation plucked out of thin air – a random, unwarranted rant about the poor attitude of a teenage Everton striker who has scored for Juventus and Italy and is gradually adapting to a new lifestyle after just two games.
It certainly keeps him in a job. Somehow.
Know what makes viral content
At the end of the day, broadcasters want eyeballs on their matchday coverage and pundits play an integral part in that. Whether it’s impassioned rants, astute analysis, or sharing shocking stories from their playing days, a clip going viral is what they’re after.
And this is why Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville are at the top of the punditry pyramid. Because having completed all of the above, last season they decided to bizarrely answer a question from presenter Kelly Cates whilst suddenly walking away from her. Cue countless retweets and shares.
Whatever next? Smashing Monday Night Football’s giant iPad? We’d tune in for sure.