Earlier this year there was an almighty hoopla over the David Peace novel The Damned United. The book gives a fictional account on Brian Clough’s infamous 44 days in charge of Leeds United. It’s definitely worth a read but be warned it paints Old Big ‘Ed in a less than favouring light. It has also been adapted into an excellent film starring Michael Sheen as the former Nottingham Forest and Derby County manager. ITV have capitalised on Clough fever with their own documentary on him, shown on March 25.
The documentary, which includes interviews with family and ex-players, showed Clough as he really was – arrogant, brilliant and maybe a tiny bit mad. What really struck a chord however was Clough’s appearances as a pundit and a interviewee.
Brave, honest and entertaining and nothing like you would find today on Sky, Match Of The Day or any other football review show of today. To coin an old phrase, Clough meant what he said and said what he meant. Now bear in mind that Clough acted like this despite being employed as a football manager at the time.
Of the fairly limited selection of pundits on BBC’s flagship football program Match Of The Day the true antithesis of Cloughie is former Arsenal right-back Lee Dixon. Whilst he was underrated as a player in his day, his performances on MOTD leave a lot to be desired. Dixon is of the school that the only team that matters is the one you played for, something that to a certain degree, show stalwarts Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson are guilty of as well. There’s a real lack of emotion from Dixon when he speaks, with a delivery almost like he is reading from an autocue. He surely does not need whatever money he earns from the Beeb so perhaps he does the show purely for the love of the game. You would not know this by listening to him, there are times when he makes Alan Shearer seem interesting. Watch this clip of Lee Dixon if you dare. And are not currently tired.
At the other end of the emotional scale is another former Premiership player, Jamie Redknapp who is currently Sky’s main pundit of choice for their Super Sunday shows and as a result is one of the country’s main football pundits. He has made the jump from crocked Spice Boy to television personality with ease. However, there are times that, despite his best efforts in trying to introduce radical new takes on old subjects such as Rafa Benitez’s zonal marking or why Frank Lampard is the best midfield player in the Premier League, the former Liverpool man appears to be on the show for one reason and one reason only – his father is a high-profile Premier League Manager. There is no way Redknapp can give honest and unbiased analysis when discussing a game with his dad involved, and sadly his enthusiasm and lack of objectivity spills over into other games too, as he is unable to keep his opinions level-minded. When did we become an audience reliant on the every word spouted from Messrs Dixon and Redknapp to provide us with analysis on the game?
When it comes to the current climate of personalities talking football on our televisions, our choices are between former footballers and former managers. These guys in theory are the dream ticket for program makers BBC and Sky, with their first-hand experiences in the game coupled with their endless anecdotes of characters in the professional circuit enough to get any football fan through a half-time interval in their arm-chair. But the reality is, footballspeak isn’t just a dirge of the current professional players, as clich