Mid-table obscurity looms for Match Of The Day

ImageThese are troubled times for Match Of The Day.

The BBC’s flagship football programme has, in recent years, attracted a steady drip of criticism: too cosy, too cliquey, too complacent. A haven of hackneyed cliché, lazy punditry, and bar room banality.

These rumblings of dissent suddenly registered much higher on the Richter scale last season with the biggest earthquake in punditry since Andy Townsend’s tactics truck last parked at the back of a stadium: the arrival of Gary Neville as a Sky Sports pundit.

His impact, in the cosseted sofas of football guff was like the colossal Chiccxulub asteroid which wiped out the dinosaurs. In one short season he laid waste to the ‘say what you see’ school of punditry, all through the revolutionary concept of providing actual analysis.

Against this backdrop, shell-shocked Match Of The Day producers have responded with what they no doubt consider heretical radicalism, but what to the rest of us looks like fiddling around at the edges.

Mark Lawrenson, whose sour, world weary jibes made him sound like a embittered spinster, has had his role on the programme “reduced“. A decision, that with delicious irony, he has taken in typical lemon-sucking, ill-temper.

In has come Danny Murphy another in the long line of ex-Liverpool players who enjoy a handsome, superannuated retirement on the programme. In place of Lawro’s dour drollery, Murphy gave us a furious, knitted brow concentration, like a commuter trying to focus on a Sudoku whilst failing to hide their irritation at the sound of the latest Rhianna album leaking from the headphones of the passenger next to him.

Unaccountably, Alan Shearer has been retained. Throughout his time on the programme he has specialised in a peculiar form of emphatic blandness, which is perhaps to be expected from a man who celebrated winning the Premier League by creosoting his fence.

Shearer was in doggedly flavourless form, sharing with us the wisdom accumulated through 313 career goals, that strikers need to have a desire to “get in the box”, illustrating the point with a series of clips of Danny Welbeck running in a straight line towards this footballing Shangri-La.

Murphy chipped in to attribute this new, snorting, ‘British Bulldog’ aspect to Welbeck’s game to Roy Hodgson. The England manager, Murphy informed us, does a lot of drills aimed at getting strikers into the box – raising the interesting question as to where, left to their own devices, untutored forwards would choose to run.

The other innovations saw Gary Lineker interviewing the new Everton manager Roberto Martinez via satellite link. A gimmick which offered almost as little as the twitter poll of controversial incidents and the inclusion of the back page headlines at the end of the programme.

On the basis of their 2013/14 season debut, were I to liken MOTD to a Premier League team it would be Arsenal. Myopically unaware of their own failings, and with no significant signings, the gradual decline looks set to continue. And like Arsene Wenger you have to wonder how much longer it’ll be before new management is brought in.

Written by James Albion

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