Match of the Day debate – what needs to change to close the gap on Sky Sports

Colin Murray has gone… but does Match of the Day need a proper shake-up to close the gap on the champions at Sky Sports


But pillorying MOTD is no fun. For many of us, it was the football programme to watch when we were growing up; the first show of each new season was eagerly anticipated and some of the analysis and comment provided has stood the test of time.

Remember when Alan Hansen famously declared that 'you will win nothing with kids' back in August 1995 about Manchester United Hansen may have been proven wrong but that is exactly the type of thought-provoking, headline grabbing conjecture it needs to regain.

So after jettisoning Murray how does the BBC, whose first live football commentary – a game between Arsenal and Sheffield United at Highbury – was broadcast 86 years ago today, continue to make the improvements required that will get the MOTD brand back to the required standard

Flagship: Jimmy Hill presented Match of the Day when it was THE show to watch

Flagship: Jimmy Hill presented Match of the Day when it was THE show to watch

Flagship: Jimmy Hill presented Match of the Day when it was THE show to watch

For starters, let the pundits argue. It is tedious letting a presenter ask questions to one man; let the pundits ask questions of each other, let them get wound up. It will show the audience they care and are taking their duties seriously. Nobody ever wants to hear one side of the story.

How about actually sending one of the pundits to a game and doing a brief video diary, getting their reaction immediately after a goal has been scored or a red card has been shown The footage could then be shown after the highlights on MotD and debated accordingly.

Biggest of all, though, why not have a proper shake up of the pundits Some, plainly, are not doing enough. Others state the obvious and making banal observations. If they are not taking their role seriously, find someone who will – and there will be fresh options available next summer.

Leading the way: Gary Neville, Graeme Souness and Jamie Redknapp are key to Sky's success

Leading the way: Gary Neville, Graeme Souness and Jamie Redknapp are key to Sky's success

Another idea would to bring the time the show starts forward; why not aim for 9pm or earlier Let’s be honest, losing Casualty from a prime time slot would not be greeted with dismay – seeing Match of the Day continue to dwindle, however, would be cause for sorrow.

At least in wielding the axe on Murray, a man for whom the mute button was invented, the BBC have recognised that a revamp is required and Chapman, who has a great sporting knowledge and is a journalist, will ask proper questions.

But if the questions that are being aimed at MOTD are to go away, losing Murray cannot be the only change.

So, how would you fix Match of the Day Sportsmail's experts give their verdict…

Charles Sale

a big need for BBC to freshen up the pundits on both Match of the Day
shows . If Liverpool’s insightful Jamie Carragher decides to retire at
the end of the season, he would be an excellent signing for the Beeb but Sky, BT Sport and ITV will also be chasing him.

Follow Charles Sale on Twitter @charliesale

Matt Barlow

Never mind the face for radio and nasal northern tones, Mark Chapman's direct style is the perfect antidote to the failed Murray experiment. He will not sneer and swerve the news issues in an effort to ingratiate himself to famous people on the sofa and he chairs Five Live's Monday Night Club superbly, balancing the weekend issues with the week ahead.

Support him with stronger pundits, pitch for topical guests and generate proper debate. Assuming they can't poach Gary Neville or Graeme Souness from Sky, at least try to bring back Lee Dixon from ITV.

Maybe give Jamie Carragher a whirl. Drop the goofy cartoons and the obsession with big names with bland opinions and dull delivery like Alan Shearer and Michael Owen.

Follow Matt Barlow on Twitter @Matt_Barlow_DM

Insight: Jamie Carragher

Legend: Jamie Carragheris nearing retirement at Liverpool

Insight: Jamie Carragher could fancy a pundit's role when he finally retires at Liverpool

Neil Ashton

Ray Wilkins. Any former player turned professional analyst who takes the time out to go to a match unpaid to watch a player specifically to gen up on them merits a place on the sofa of any football programme.

Wilkins did just that last Saturday, heading to Selhurst Park to watch Wilfried Zaha in action for Crystal Palace against Bolton: 'I've never seen him and when I'm asked about him on Sky I want to be able to be able to talk from a position of strength,' he told me.

It was impressive, if only because it is so rare (Jim White on Sky Sports News is also fanatical about detail and goes to games whenever he can). This should be normal practice for any television football analyst.

Match of the Day could improve their coverage no end by making their analysts go to matches and heading back to the studio full of enthusiasm. It would give them the chance to speak to people at the game from 'their world' – coaches, managers, scourts and former players – and pick up the insight and gold dust that the viewers are begging for in the modern era. Sitting in front of a bank of television screens watching a game does nothing to motivate the guests – get them out there.

Follow Neil Ashton on Twitter @neilashton_

Dedication: Ray Wilkins does his research when it comes to analysing players

Dedication: Ray Wilkins does his research when it comes to analysing players

Talent: BBC's presenter Dan Walker

Talent: BBC's presenter Dan Walker

Laura Williamson

Lighten things up, add a bit of humour and make MOTD2 distinct from Saturday's show by all means, but the programme's aim is to show football highlights, not launch careers in daytime TV.

The excuse for the dire levels of 'analysis' on Match of the Day is the number of games and the lack of time, but there's no such get-out clause on a Sunday night.

A decent pundit like Lee Dixon could really make a name for themselves, but they need a journalist in the presenter's chair to help them do that. Just please, BBC, do not let Robbie 'For me' Savage or Alan 'I'm only here on a Sunday because I went to Anfield yesterday' Hansen anywhere near that studio in Salford. Freshen things up a bit.

Dan Walker would be an ideal presenter but he chooses not to work on Sundays and Jack Humphrey has joined BT, so Mark Chapman does fit the bill.

Less 'Chappers' and more 'Mark' and I might finally be able to stop fast-forwarding the inane chatter between matches.

Follow Laura Williamson on Twitter @laura_mail

Mark Alford

Chiles. There I've typed it. His stint on MOTD2 was arguably the best
broadcasting of his career. He actually challenged those tired old pros
to deliver some proper analysis. And his on-screen chemistry with wee
Gordon Strachan made Sunday nights less sermon, more fun.

also bring back L

ee Dixon – top insight, clever analysis, decent bloke –
and create a special ref's room for Sportsmail's Graham Poll to deliver
his 'official line' on contentious incidents (just keep him focused on
the officials). Oh, and Beckham's free, isn't he I'd be interested to see if there's anything in there…

Follow Mark Alford on Twitter @AlfieDM

Ian Ladyman

My ideal anchor would be Mark Chapman so am delighted to see that he has been given the job. He has the right touch, understands his football and has enough confidence to guide and control his guests rather than indulge and pander to them as others have.

In the experts’ chair I would throw money at Gary Neville and if that didn’t work – which it probably wouldn’t – I would ask Graeme Souness and Lee Dixon if they fancied being the regulars. I would abandon recent attempts to use current players and managers as they rarely say anything of note.

I like Mark Alford’s suggestion of having a referee on hand to explain contentious decisions.

Follow Ian Ladyman on Twitter @Ian_Ladyman_DM

Official line: Graham Poll could offer his expertise on referee decisions

Official line: Graham Poll could offer his expertise on referee decisions

Heads up: Phil Neville has shown potential as a pundit

Heads up: Phil Neville has shown potential as a pundit

Matt Lawton

I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to Match of the Day. For me there’s nobody better than Gary Lineker when it comes to anchoring the show. But I would mix things up a bit on the sofa.

If we accept that Gary Neville, Jamie Redknapp and Graeme Souness are lost to Sky forever, I’d bring in guys like Phil Neville more regularly. Jamie Carragher would be brilliant. You want good talkers with great knowledge and strong opinions.

Follow Matt Lawton on Twitter @Matt_Lawton_DM

Sami Mokbel

Lee Dixon and Ian Wright. Both played for Arsenal, but couldn't be different in terms of their TV personas. Dixon was analysis brilliant during Euro 2012 and he has continued that on ITV this season. But given the channel's lack of live football, he is severely underused. His insight is first class.

Wright, on the other hand, is impulsive, open to snap judgements and uncomfortable to watch at times. But he is compulsive viewing. Together they would be an MOTD match made in heaven.

Follow Colin Young on Twitter @SamiMokbel81_DM

Could you handle it Ian Wright divides opinion on the TV

Could you handle it Ian Wright divides opinion on the TV

Lee Clayton

IS quality in the existing MOTD team, they just need to freshen it up.
How many of its viewers have seen Hansen or Lawrenson play Sky add
Jamie Redknapp then Gary Neville and will freshen it up again this
summer. They have the best live coverage, the best highlights programme
(Goals on Sunday) and the Beeb has been left behind.

More analysis,
insight and use of Prozone or Opta stats to back up their argument. Gary
Lineker is still the No 1 football presenter, but Mark Pougatch from 5 Live would be ahead of 'Chappers' in my line-up. Or if you want a
completely different programme on Sunday nights for the follow-up, how
about Danny Baker Excellent broadcaster, football fan and all-round Mr

Follow Lee Clayton on Twitter @LeeClayton_

Colin Young

Put Goals On Sunday on BBC1 on Sunday night, the programme fronted by Jeff Stelling with his enthusiasm and love of the game alongside Chris Kamara. Kammy's insight and analysis of games and key incidents is always well researched, spot on and interesting.

The array of his Sunday guests would be welcome on the MOTD sofa too but the pick of the pundits right now is definitely Gordon Strachan. Hope he can manage Scotland as well as he can talk.

Follow Colin Young on Twitter @cyoungdailymail

Passion: Danny Baker

Passion: Chris Kamara

Passion: Both Danny Baker (left) and Chris Kamara love the game and have a huge following

Neil Moxley

like to see a former pro in the hot-seat a la Lineker. I think the BBC
should look towards Matt Holland, clearly a little bit above the norm as
far as ex-footballers go. Lee Dixon should be the MOTD2 analyst.

I'd like to see some input from the officials – either a current or
former ref – but only for them to provide insight on refereeing
decisions – any other comments would leave them open to claims of bias.
Finally, get a current manager or player to fill in the line-up.

Follow Neil Moxley on Twitter @Neil_Moxley_DM

Paul Newman

The thing about Match of the Day 2 is
that it dared to be different and certainly should be different to the
Saturday show. The sight of Alan Hansen on there this season has made my
heart sink. Colin Murray might not be everyone's cup of tea but I liked
the irreverence. Adrian Chiles was at his best when he presented the

Follow Paul Newman on Twitter @newman_cricket

Guiding hand: Adrian Chiles (right) was lured to ITV from the BBC

Guiding hand: Adrian Chiles (right) was lured to ITV from the BBC

Les Snowdon

It is time for the Beeb to build this increasingly important programme around a retired pro with genuine insight and opinion.

Step forward Jamie Carragher…the presenter needs to be a journalist who is not afraid to pursue genuine news lines and who can tease the best out of Carragher.

Luke Benedict

Gabby Logan. This is an opportunity to give MOTD2 the makeover it so desperately needs. In the modern Premier League era, Sunday hosts the bigger, better matches yet the flagship highlights show has descended into fluffy guff. Cut the painful, MTV-style build-ups and just show us the highlights. Then talk about it.

The programme needs to be anchored by a specialist broadcast journalist who can bring the expertise out of former players turned pundits – who otherwise revel in banal banter if the studio descends into an old boys' club.

Follow Luke Benedict on Twitter @L_Benedict_DM

Mike Anstead

Match of the Day is stale. Gary Lineker is a good presenter but he is let down by tired, cliched pundits like Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson. They look like they are bored of football. Most viewers are bored of them.

Losing Lee Dixon was a big blow. He brought intelligence analysis and insight. You could tell he had done his research. Perhaps they need to bring him back.

Sky hit a crossroads when Andy Gray and Richard Keys left. But they tackled the problem head-on by going for Gary Neville and promoting bright young talent like Ed Chamberlain. The BBC are also at a similar junction – but they need to attack the root of the problem.

Michael Owen and Phil Neville both have potential, but they'd need tough training and commitment like Neville at Sky. You'v

e got to want to be a pundit. And how about James Richardson as host I last saw him presenting World's Strongest Man. What a waste.

Follow Mike Anstead on Twitter @mike_anstead

Alex Kay

Gary Richardson. He asks probing, intelligent questions every Sunday morning on the radio. It is rare a news line does not come out of his show. We want proper analysis and journalism – not quirky, patronising nonsense.

Follow Alex Kay on Twitter @Alex_Kay_DM

Laurie Whitwell

would probably think it the worst idea initially, but if Paul Scholes
could be convinced how valued his opinion would prove I would switch on
each week. He knows the game inside out, has played in all manner of
situations, and in my eyes is the most talented player Englishman of his

So his
insight and knowledge would prove fascinating. He would be able to
disect match action with precision and perhaps provide dressing room
tidbits. Once he retires for good, of course.

Follow Laurie Whitwell on Twitter @lauriewhitwell

Phil Gradwell

I would get Lee Dixon back. I feel he is marginalised at ITV and is not really suited to the pre-match/half-time/full-time pundit role, especially when ‘straight-talking’ Roy Keane takes over. Dixon is much better when he has had time to analyse a match and can pick out incidents and make you see something slightly differently.

At the moment, I rarely watch the analysis on MOTD as I don’t think they’ll tell me anything I didn’t already know, whereas Dixon does.

Follow Phil Gradwell on Twitter @GraddersOnline

Chris Cutmore

The last thing Match of the Day needs is another matey-matey, back-slapping host to massage the egos of the old boys by bringing up their past glories. It needs someone not afraid to ask real, probing questions, a journalist rather than an ex pro – how about the superb Ian Dennis of 5Live

But, frankly, a new presenter isn’t enough to shake MOTD out of its slumber (Alan Hansen certainly sleepwalks his way through each episode). So let’s take a broom and clear out the tired old pundits and the squeaky, hyperventilating commentators while we’re at it.

Follow Chris Cutmore on Twitter @Chris_Cutmore

James Andrew

James Richardson is the man the BBC need to breath new life into Match of the Day. The presenter was hugely popular as the face of Football Italia in the 90s. His relaxed style of presenting would suit the MOTD2 format yet he is informed enough to ask the key questions.

As for pundits, a younger breed is needed, people who can relate to the game today, not the 1980s. Danny Murphy is being groomed by Sky and is someone who is intelligent and articulate, so if the BBC could poach him he could provide fresh insight.

Follow James Andrew on Twitter @JamesAndrew_

Alex Horlock

I'd give Mark Pougatch a shot at hosting. He's been in the game for years on BBC 5Live and has done a tremendous job time and again. He's been covering the live football to an incredibly high standard with the Beeb and has proven how capable he is to entice listeners. What little he's done on television, he's looked assured. To accompany him, I'd keep Alan Hansen and make sure Pat Nevin was on the panel every week – he's a near-flawless pundit.

Follow Alex Horlock on Twitter @alexhorlock