Robin Scott-Elliot: Goatee-free Neville is undisputed pundit of the month for Movember

View From The Sofa: Monday Night Football, Sky / Football Focus, BBC1

Click to follow
The Independent Football

One thing Gary Neville has never done well is facial hair. There have been moments when he has sought to nurture some sort of mangled goatee but ends up resembling a character from a Graham Greene script, one of those petty, twisted crooks, full of spite and pent up hatred at the world. Which is pretty much how Liverpool fans see him.

In the modern game grooming is everything, and we are not talking the time the Football Association has devoted preparing Stuart Pearce to be something terribly important. The FA are well aware of its relevance (grooming that is, not Stuart Pearce) which is why there is an official England moisturiser (maybe there's the role for Pearce... "JT, get back here and rub that in properly"). In a couple of days the supplier of the England team's skin-care cream – no commercial stone can be left unturned – will be expecting bumper sales as all those beards and moustaches grown for Movember disappear down plugholes.

Neville, wisely, has stayed smooth and concentrated on mastering the buttons Sky make him fiddle with during his Monday night analysis. I like Neville as a pundit – he has settled much more into the role than former team-mate Roy Keane, who talks too quickly on ITV (and no doubt on any other channel) which means he swallows his words. Neville has a nice turn of phrase – see last Sunday's one-liner about David Luiz defending like a "10-year-old on a Playstation" – and is able to translate his obvious knowledge of the game to the viewer.

Neville's increasing ubiquity on Sky's best football is in part down to Andygrayisahorriblesexistgate, but they have a winner on their hands and they know it. Neville is how Alan Hansen once was. Meanwhile, the BBC persevere with Alan Shearer and consign better pundits to suffer Colin Murray on a Sunday night.

There is more hair on Match of the Day though. Gary Lineker has gone down the salt and pepper goatee route. Lineker knows how to groom, unlike Mark Lawrenson. Dear old Lawro becomes ever more world weary with each programme and his beard now lends him the air of an ageing thespian who has played his last Lear. On Saturday night Lawro described himself as looking like Dick van Dyke as he tried on Shearer's hat. Lineker suggested he would have a better cockney accent. Shearer, the man once described as football's Mary Poppins, said nothing.

Like Match of the Day, Football Focus has moved to Manchester and they have employed the same set designer/primary school class to create something yellow and horrible. Dan Walker, the presenter, has caught this column's eye in the past for his puppyish enthusiasm but he has calmed down. Perhaps Lawro has had him seen to. The well-scrubbed up Walker, not a wisp of hair on his happy face, has become a good presenter, if you don't get distracted by the busy hands, and a likeable one too, although like Lineker his script is clearly written by the BBC pun department/primary school class.