Robin Scott-Elliot: This is no witch-hunt, but Robbie Savage needs to study McCarthyism
View From The Sofa: Euro 2012 BBC/ITV
Monday 18 June 2012
Here's a question – Robbie Savage: why? I cannot come up with a reason for the presence of the Noel Edmonds of football punditry in the BBC's team for Euro 2012.
There is no blame attached to Savage here. He made the absolute best of himself as a player, putting plenty with greater abilities to shame, and if anything he has done even better off the field. He may be just what the BBC want when it comes to light entertainment but as a football pundit his speciality is the blindingly obvious and that's a niche Alan Shearer has long since cornered.
On Saturday Savage was on BBC3 with Manish Bhasin and Lee Dixon for Greece against Russia. Poor Dixon; he remains comfortably the best pundit on the BBC and they keep him in the B team. Savage clearly appreciates Dixon's know-how as he kept handing over his bits of analysis: "That's terrible defending – what do you think, Lee?"
It was as if Dixon was the only well-drilled member of a back three, taking a step forward, raising his arm confidently in the air and glancing at the linesman for confirmation only to see Savage and Bhasin playing an entire strike force onside some distance behind.
The painful studio exchanges were best captured when conversation moved on to England. Bhasin informed Savage that Sir Dave "Splash" Richards, vice-chairman of the Football Association, had suggested Hodgson had "the Midas touch". In reply Savage suggested that was typical of the media to build someone up and then knock them down. "Rubbish," he said, neatly summarising his own contribution.
If Savage wants to see himself as a forthright, no-nonsense pundit he could do worse than spend some time with Mick McCarthy, who has got the whole gruff Yorkshireman act up to Truemanesque heights. That's Fred, not Harry.
There were a couple of cracking McCarthyisms – that's Mick, not Joseph – during Poland's game with the Czechs. "He's uncompromising," he said of a Czech defender after a Pole was axed, then paused and added: "It's another word for dirty." Later, as the Czechs picked off another Polish attack and broke away, McCarthy labelled it "parasite football".
But the broadcast moment of last week belongs to McCarthy's bête noire, Roy Keane, for his dismantling of his own country's efforts and a side-swipe at their supporters for daring to enjoy themselves. Adrian Chiles, too, deserves a best supporting award – and probably some sort of bravery one too – for prodding Keane until he want bang.
ITV are having a good tournament in the studio, so far bettering their opponents. Roberto Martinez and Jamie Carragher are refreshing and interesting, Keane and Gordon Strachan are nicely unpredictable and the setting in Warsaw helps bring the sense of a tournament. The problem is, if England progress, the BBC will have first pick for the knock-out stages and so demand centre stage again.
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