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Some pointers for Steve McManaman and Tony Gale ahead of the new season

The season is about to kick off, and that's always exciting. One thing I'm not excited for, however, is being subject to the ramblings of Steve McManaman and Tony Gale thanks to decisions made by ESPN and FSC (compliments of IMG) respectively. When watching the broadcasts, I almost always find myself pulling my hair out at the sheer idiocy of some of their comments. Oddly enough, I almost never find myself doing the same with the person they get partnered with.

So what is my issue with these two in particular? Both are former professional players, and as such have an interesting perspective to share on the game, but frankly I don't think either is well suited to the role in which they have been placed by their respective networks. Both of these gentleman have taken over the role of "analyst" for their respective broadcasts, likely due in large part to name recognition. Unfortunately for us, the listeners, being a former player doesn't necessarily qualify them for the job of analyzing what is going on.

So why don't I feel that being a former player qualifies one to be an analyst? Well, for starters the job itself is just too all-inclusive. The network has the commentator describe the action, and the analyst is responsible for basically everything else. There is just no way that you can reasonably expect a single person to be a qualified ref, a brilliant tactician, quick to identify what is happening on the pitch, and easy to listen to. I'm sure there are a few of those guys (or gals) out there, but most of them are likely employed with a club. So what would I do to make the quality of their analysis better? Here's a few suggestions for these particular analysts to make them more tolerable:

  • Stick to what is actually happening. Both clubs involved in the game are doing things tactically that we can actually see. Break that down. Don't start passing out advice as to how the teams should be playing or what subs need to be made, just stick to what they are actually doing. Leave the alternatives to the post game analysis and focus on the game being played live. If we had decided to make a Tony Gale "CHELSEA NEED TO PRESS!!!" drinking game last season, my liver would have failed within the first week.
  • Don't speculate on the "why" factor. Players will have bad games. Managers will make seemingly odd decisions. Don't make assumptions that they might be tired, hurt, or unhappy about something off the pitch. Don't get into their mental state. Don't try to gauge relationships between player and manager. Don't delve into why, just stick to the action on the pitch. Again, there is all sorts of chance to analyse the "why" factor after the game has been played (and rest assured, it will be done). There's even a chance to ask questions and do it in a more informed manner. Leave "why" for after the game.
  • Beg your employer to take a page from NFL broadcasts on officiating. Recently, NFL broadcasts started having a qualified official standing by in their studio. One qualified official is on hand to break down any close decisions from any of the games being played, and frankly that's an easy idea to copy. I don't know how many times I've heard some idiot analyst claim "It's either a yellow for a dive or a penalty" and just been pulling my hair out wondering how that particular idiot ever got his job. The rule book is very complex, but having one qualified guy on standby (not even in the stadium) could give a much more informative opinion. If there's a penalty shout, show the replay on the broadcast (you will anyway), and let the official break down what he sees from the studio. The technology exists to do that.
  • Keep the focus on the game. Try to stay away from the tabloid gossip. John Terry's court case, Ashley Cole and his pellet rifle, and other things of this nature likely have an effect off the pitch. The media has all week to run with those stories (and they will). For the 90 minutes the game is actually being played, there is plenty going on to talk about without delving into tabloid fodder. Macca is particularly bad about this, often going on for minutes at a time without once mentioning the action happening on the pitch. If I wanted to watch a gossip talk show, I'd switch channels and find one.

With the advent of the internet and television networks that follow football 24/7, there are always going to be plenty of ways to find out what is going on off the pitch and why things were done on it. Because of this, television broadcasts of games really need to adapt their coverage accordingly. What was the job of the "analyst" included in 1990 really shouldn't be applicable today. Keep the focus on the game...for the 90 minutes the players are on the pitch, talk about what is actually happening on the pitch.

When looking for analysts now, hire guys with management experience, push former players you have hired to get their coaching badges so they are better suited to tactical analysis, get an actual official in the studio. These types of things will improve the quality of your broadcast, and they will keep the off field stories fresher for your other programs as well. Maybe this is just a selfish rant, but I'm tired of watching games with the TV muted because of the infuriating "analysis" of Tony Gale. The fact that he played for Blackburn when they won a Premier League title doesn't make him a good analyst, and he proves it every time he's given him a microphone.

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