The football furniture is changing. Sir Alex Ferguson, the most dominant man of his generation, is stepping down and will leave a very present absence behind. And it has emerged this morning in the Daily Mail that he may be followed at the end of next season by Alan Hansen.
Hansen’s achievements may not quite rival Ferguson’s but to the regular television viewer he is a reference point, a resilient weathervane who has been observing a changing game from the Match of the Day studio for 20 years.
Saturday night football has always been picked apart by Hansen, as he reclines on his sofa, waits for the mistakes and then dissects them with merciless disdain, like a smart-casual vulture who preyed only slack marking, miscommunication and a lack of pace on the turn.
But it was a fairly inflexible art and there has been a growing sense that the old Match of the Day way is now so set and so comfortable in its routine that it is vulnerable to new ideas.
And so it has proved with Gary Neville on Monday Night Football on Sky Sports, far less laconic than Hansen but far more engaging and enthusiastic, able and willing to dart around the studio to demonstrate body positions, to describe players’ on-pitch discussions – his last game was just over two years ago – as well as to get the most out of new studio technology.
Next season, when Sky add Jamie Carragher as well, they will almost have a monopoly on youth on screen. Alan Shearer is the youngest Match of the Day regular at 42 – five years older than Neville – but BBC desperately need an injection of energy from somewhere. Hansen’s departure, as unfamiliar as it might be, would give them the space for that.