Alan Hansen has announced that he will retire from the pundits couch following the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Having been a fixture on the Match of The Day couch since 1992 many football fans out there will not remember a time before Hansen.
The former Liverpool defender, who famously commented that you’ll never win anything with kids, has given the impression in the last few years that his heart isn’t in the job. Match of The Day has in recent years given off the impression of a cosy golf club bar where ex pros gather and fail to give any genuine insight or analysis into the game. It has been all tight fitting shirts and knee grabbing banter.
Players such as Alan Shearer, Robbie Savage and Michael Owen have appeared recently and displayed a level of analysis which extends to saying what you see before you. The reason these men get the job is because they should have a particular insight having played the game at the top level for the best past of 20 years each.But their closeness to the game and its players means they are reluctant to critique at a deeper level. The distance both geographically and in terms of years out of the game has always worked to the advantage of RTE, there is of course an exception witness Liam Brady’s sensitivity when dealing with Arsenal for an example of a pundit too close to the club. The level of analysis has improved with Gary Neville’s work on Sky Sports, now having been joined by Jamie Carragher we have a hilarious Scouse-Manc double act, which has forced Shearer to up his game this season.
The issue with Match of The Day is who exactly it is aimed at. Its air time on Saturday night, post pub, means that the majority of its audience just want to see the goals and a few familiar faces. It is purely an entertainment show rather than a show for the football nerds. There are plenty of excellent analysts who are not former pros such as Michael Cox and journalists like Philippe Auclair and who speak with an expertise that is not clouded by a closeness to the game but would it work in the Match of the Day format? Probably not but the explosion of podcasts in the last few years means there is a forum for that type of discussion.
Despite my moaning about Match of The Day, Hansen’s retirement following so soon after Fergie’s it seems like a chapter of my just finished. Never more shall we see Fergie furiously pointing at his watch and giving a death stare to the 4th official. And never more more will we hear Hansen utter his favourite plaudit ‘Power, Pace, Technique’ or criticism ‘Shocking defending’