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Why it’s time to change football’s pundits

For fans of all ages, watching football is a pleasure, not a chore. However, for those who are forced to sit through the weekend highlight packages on offer, it is fast becoming a tiresome affair, as dreaded as the summer hiatus.

The reason for such a frank assessment is the state of the punditry profession.

Match of the Day may well be a national treasure but for a while now it has been moving away from its centre ground and into dangerous new territory. It can no longer be considered the dominant force it once was.

Part of this can be explained by the huge number of live matches on Sky Sports and the growth in online live streaming. Nevertheless, the BBC and MOTD production team have accelerated the process.

How? The answer can be found on the MOTD sofa. A place that should be reserved for influential figures in the game who have been a success at both player and management level.

Crucially, this is where the BBC have consistently gone wrong, and continue to do so.

Regular pundits Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer (pictured) certainly tick a large proportion of the pundit CV boxes. Hansen won a string of trophies with Liverpool - including eight league championships - and Shearer was the first man to score 200 Premier League goals.

Lack of understanding 

While there is no doubting their understanding and knowledge of what it takes to achieve at the highest level as a player, their lack of understanding of situations in which they have zero experience - such as managing a crumbling side on a tight budget, or leading a nation into a major final - is their downfall.

Hansen's Euro 2012 gaffe, when he predicted that Spain, Germany, Portugal and Holland would be the final four teams despite the latter three being in the same group, showed a tremendous amount of ignorance and lack of research.

To be fair to Hansen, his argument that he was merely offering his predictions as to who were the sides most likely to win the tournament did have some level of credibility, but you got the sense that there was some serious back tracking going on.

Nevertheless, while it was probably not a sacking offence, it should have sent alarm bells ringing.

Chasing a dream of complete satisfaction from viewers is futile and unnecessary. What is needed is a mutual respect between fans and pundits. Gaffes, and Hansen's reported salary (he took a 33% wage cut in February) continually undermine this.

What is needed is someone in the mould of Jurgen Klinsmann. His use as a pundit for Euro 2012 added a previously unseen gravitas, as he brought his experiences as both a player and coach into the dire studio atmosphere.

It would also be a welcome surprise to see a rota system in operation. MOTD 2 has employed it with good success, and a week off for either Hansen or Shearer could see a spike in viewing figures.

Adding a third pundit of management experience is a further option. A Neil Warnock type figure to add bite and charisma.

Highlight shows of all kinds need an injection of new blood to revitalise a format which has been slipping down the pecking order for many years.

By Gary Peters

Follow Total Football on Twitter: @TotalFootball12

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