Tag Archives: pundits

6 Nations: Alex Goode says England are always pantomime villains

The Six Nations has so much history… but England are always the pantomime villains

Alex Goode


01:57 GMT, 2 February 2013



01:57 GMT, 2 February 2013

This is my first appearance in the Six Nations and I’m very excited to be involved in it at last.

The tournament has so much history and for as long as I can remember England have been seen as pantomime villains.

Part of the tradition seems to be for pundits from other nations to talk about how much they dislike the English and accuse us of arrogance, and that has happened again this week. I’m not sure why but it occurs in lots of sports. In football, everyone wants to beat Manchester United, for example.

Breakthrough: Alex Goode is getting ready to play in his first Six Nations

Breakthrough: Alex Goode is getting ready to play in his first Six Nations

It often comes across as if all the passion in these games comes from the other side, not England. People talk about all this passion Scotland have, but the English are passionate too. When we play against the Scots, of course we want to beat them. We would hate to lose against them. It’s not something we ever want to deal with. It’s the same with every team we play against.

I don’t have hatred for any other countries, but I definitely hate losing. I would hate to be involved in a game that led to stories in years to come when people talk about a famous Scottish victory against England. That would wind me up.

No-one likes losing and that can be what produces the passion. I know that me and Owen (Farrell), for example, are extremely competitive, whether it’s in training or playing for Saracens or England. We both hate to lose. We want to be the best and that drives us to try to get to the top.

Preparation: Goode (right) trains with debutant Billy Twelvetrees ahead of the Six Nations opener against Scotland

Preparation: Goode (right) trains with debutant Billy Twelvetrees ahead of the Six Nations opener against Scotland

We needed a bit of passion to beat New Zealand. I just remember how loud the crowd was that day, and I have never been part of a team that was more fired up. That showed we can be a passionate people too. That win against New Zealand was great, but we can’t make too big a deal of it.

As players, we would rather there wasn’t such a fuss because we want that standard to be our norm. We can only achieve that if we bring the same level of intensity to our performance against Scotland – an intensity they will struggle to match.

I’m relieved that I recovered from a shoulder injury to play. I was out for more than a month and the first reaction from the boys was that I had become ‘big-time’ and didn’t fancy playing in winter. When I used to play with Thomas Castaignede at Saracens, he would come out on a wintry day and say: ‘No electricity. No electrics in Thomas. Thomas don’t train!’ Then he’d walk back inside. So the lads said that about me and how I have changed!

Famous: Goode impressed during England's 38-21 win over New Zealand

Famous: Goode impressed during England's 38-21 win over New Zealand

It was tough when I realised the injury was worse than expected. It knocked me a bit, then it was a race against time, putting the hours in. Luckily, I came through a game for Saracens to prove my fitness.

You know there are always going to be people pushing you for that shirt. I’d had to wait longer than most to get my shot, before I made my Test debut in South Africa last summer, so I didn’t want to let it go. A year ago, I wouldn’t have imagined starting a Calcutta Cup game at Twickenham, but now I’m raring to go.

We have gone from being underdogs against New Zealand to favourites for this game. Everyone expects us to win – pundits and the public, but Scotland are bouncing back from a bad loss and they’ve got new coaches in Scott Johnson and Dean Ryan and they’ll be fired up to impress, which makes them dangerous.

This will be a dog-fight, but I’m hopeful we can win.

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

Karl Henry blasts referees after red card decisions

They have zero understanding of the game! Henry slams red-card refs who need to be 'exposed'



11:38 GMT, 23 December 2012

Wolves midfielder Karl Henry has blasted Premier League referees and says some have 'zero understanding' of football.

Henry, known for his combative nature on the pitch, said he was appalled by some of the red cards produced this weekend.

He said that bad referees need to be 'exposed' and questioned whether the tests required to be an official were stringent enough.

Ranting: Karl Henry complained about referees' decisions this weekend

Ranting: Karl Henry complained about referees' decisions this weekend

'Some of the red cards i've seen this weekend are an absolute joke!! Some referees have zero understanding of the game of football,' he tweeted.

'Important matches are ruined when under-qualified refs make game changing WRONG decisions. What is the criteria to become a top level ref

'To make it worse, tv pundits sit on the fence saying things that like, “That was harsh' or 'It's a controversial one”.

'You're on tv to give football fans your expert views. Bad refs need to be exposed and pundits that sit on the fence should be fired!!'

Henry has been sent off once and booked five times this season, in 18 games.

It is likely Henry is referring to the two red cards shown by Anthony Taylor in the West Ham v Everton match on Saturday.

Carlton Cole and Darron Gibson were both dismissed for offences which the clubs' managers Sam Allardyce and David Moyes both agreed did not merit red cards.

The players were sent off for dangerous play after catching opponents while raising their legs in respective attempts to control and win the ball.

Allardyce and his opposite number Moyes each confronted Taylor after the final whistle, confirming they would appeal the dismissals.

The West Ham boss accused Taylor of being trigger-happy, saying: 'It is how quickly the referee got the red card out, he couldn't wait, he didn't deliberate over the decision or anything.

You're gone: Anthony Taylor sends off Carlton Cole controversially

You're gone: Anthony Taylor sends off Carlton Cole controversially

'There is nothing much we can do about the result but we can appeal the decision and hopefully we can get Carlton down to a yellow card and get him off.'

Moyes added: 'I will appeal it. I'll have a word with Sam as well, because I don't think you could put the word frivolous next to that appeal.

'Because I think you would say there was genuine reason why maybe you could appeal that.

Unhappy: Both Sam Allardyce and David Moyes will appeal the cards

Unhappy: Both Sam Allardyce and David Moyes will appeal the cards

'Now, you don't want to go and appeal and find out that maybe you get an extra game on it. That's what you don't want to do.'

Allardyce was planning more than an appeal, however.

'I spoke to the ref but that is between me and him,' he said.

'We will go through the channels of 'reporting' that the system has in place and I will take that up and pursue it quite vigorously.

'If he is not getting the right feedback or coaching and is told it was okay and 'Carry on' then we have got a big problem.'

Sir Clive Woodward says Stuart Lancaster should pick tougher players

Woodward: Lancaster needs to toughen England up rather than worrying about World Cup seedings



22:35 GMT, 18 November 2012

Sir Clive Woodward has told England rugby head coach Stuart Lancaster to stop worrying about the World Cup and to start toughening up his players instead.

Lancaster's team have been widely criticised after losing 20-14 to Australia on Saturday and Woodward, the man who led England to World Cup victory in 2003, joined the disparaging voices.

'He's (Lancaster) got to pick a tougher team. International rugby is a tough, tough game,' insisted Woodward, who believes that England are worrying too much about the seedings for the 2015 World Cup.

Toughen them up: Stuart Lancaster (left) needs to stop worrying about World Cup seedings, according to Sir Clive Woodward

Toughen them up: Stuart Lancaster (left) needs to stop worrying about World Cup seedings, according to Sir Clive Woodward

'I don't give a monkey's about World Cup seedings. You just have to win your next game. This is a bit of a problem.

'We keep talking about World Cups. The World Cup is three years away. It doesn't matter. You have to talk about winning your game Saturday.

'The mindset of the coach and players has got to be, “If we don't win on Saturday then we lose our jobs on Monday”.'

England must pick up the pieces for South Africa and then New Zealand but Woodward still has grounds for optimism.

Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek, he added: 'The good thing now is that we (England) have two games where we won't be favourites.

'This will be a big reality check for the team and they have a big chance of bouncing back.'

Lancaster is scheduled to announce his team on Thursday. Fans and pundits left Twickenham questioning England's pack, especially prop Joe Marler, lock Tom Palmer and flanker Tom Johnson, plus wing Charlie Sharples.

Not today: Toby Flood (left) and his team-mates suffered defeat against Australia

Not today: Toby Flood (left) and his team-mates suffered defeat against Australia

England have a number of options including giving starting places to substitutes in lock Joe Launchbury, flanker Tom Wood and prop Mako Vunipola.

Three other players, who turned out for their clubs at the weekend, are also in the mix.

They are Gloucester No 8 Ben Morgan and the London Irish pair of centre Jonathan Joseph and prop Alex Corbisiero.

Woodward was furious that England had ignored a kickable penalty 10 minutes from time which, if successful, would have cut the lead to 20-17 and he questioned whether England had sufficiently discussed what options they had in the course of a match.

Speaking from experience: Sir Clive Woodward led England to World Cup glory in 2003

Speaking from experience: Sir Clive Woodward led England to World Cup glory in 2003

'The key thing is to get these things in players' heads before you go on to the pitch. So they know what's going to happen at every single situation,' he said.

'There's no point in reviewing the video after the game when you have lost. You have got to review things before you go in and that's the secret of coaching.'

Sir Clive was disappointed that substitute scrum-half Ben Youngs opted to take a tapped penalty rather than the penalty kick at goal in the 70th minute.

He said: 'In the cold light of day the right decision was to kick for goal and to reduce the margin to just three. If you go for the line-out or go for the try you have to score.

'If you don't score then you just give huge momentum back to the defending team.'

Harry Redknapp to be Match of the Day pundit

Former Spurs boss Redknapp swaps touchline for place on Match of the Day sofa



10:02 GMT, 17 August 2012

Wasn't he supposed to be the England manager

It's certainly been an incredible year already for Harry Redknapp, and the next step is a regular place on the Match of the Day sofa.

Redknapp, who left as Tottenham boss at the end of last season, will appear on football's fabled programme over the coming months.

Taking an interest: Redknapp watches Bournemouth play Reading in a pre-season friendly earlier this month

Taking an interest: Redknapp watches Bournemouth play Reading in a pre-season friendly earlier this month

It seemed at one time that Redknapp might replace Fabio Capello as England manager, but the job went to Roy Hodgson instead.

Redknapp was expected to work for the BBC during Euro 2012, but pulled out just before the tournament.

Mick McCarthy, who has been used by the BBC at big international tournaments in the past, will also be airing his views on Saturday and Sunday nights.

New direction: Redknapp was Spurs manager last season

New direction: Redknapp was Spurs manager last season

As for the top team Well, there's no change there.

Gary Lineker will present the Saturday version of the show, with Colin Murray the front man on Sunday evenings.

The two top pundits are Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer. It's safe to say we'll be hearing the words 'shocking defending' more than once or twice.

The BBC came under fire from many fans in the summer for their laborious coverage of Euro 2012. It isn't often that ITV win nearly all the plaudits during a big event.

All eyes will be on the BBC once again in the new domestic season, to see if they can provide viewers with something a little more inspired.

Michael Laudrup vows to keep Swansea in the Premier League

Laudrup vows to silence cynics and keep Swansea in the Premier League



16:26 GMT, 16 August 2012

Fantasy football 2012

Swansea manager Michael Laudrup has
challenged his side to once again prove the pundits wrong as they
prepare for Saturday's Barclays Premier League opener at QPR.

The Swans confounded expectations of a
rapid return to the Championship by finishing 11th in their maiden
Premier League campaign.

Big challenge: New Swansea manager Michael Laudrup

Big challenge: New Swansea manager Michael Laudrup

The Welsh club won plenty of plaudits for their attractive passing style but have had an unsettling summer with Brendan Rodgers and Joe Allen departing for Liverpool.

Laudrup is the man tasked with carrying on the Northern Irishman's good work and has strengthened his squad with the arrivals of Michu, Chico Flores, Jonathan de Guzman and Itay Shechter.

But the loss of Rodgers and the dreaded 'second season syndrome' mean many are again tipping Swansea for relegation.

Laudrup said: 'I have read in the last couple of weeks a lot of experts saying Swansea are one of the favourites to be relegated, because the second season is more difficult than the first.

'I agree that the second season is more difficult but we have to prove these experts wrong. We have a good team, we have brought in players with experience of the highest level and we just have to show that they are wrong.

'We want to show everybody that Swansea is not just a club passing by, it's a club that wants to stay at the highest level for many years and that's a huge ambition to have.

Big loss: Swansea sold Joe Allen to Liverpool

Big loss: Swansea sold Joe Allen to Liverpool

'There are clubs in the divisions below us who want our place, we know it's a huge challenge but we are ready for it.'

The Dane has been linked with further additions to his squad, including Valencia winger Pablo Hernandez and Preston's Jamie Proctor.

But Laudrup, as he has through the summer, remained tight-lipped on whether he had made bids for either player.

'I will say what I have said already, when things are done one way or the other then we can discuss it,' he said.

'We are still on the rumour level, sometimes there are talks and we want to strengthen, but until things are certain we can only talk about players that are here now as they are the most important, they are the players we can count on.'

Swansea head to Loftus Road having never won a league game there, and they have suffered heavy defeats on their previous two trips to face the Rs.

But Laudrup feels that will have little meaning come kick-off.

'I don't pay attention to statistics,' he said. 'I have seen that we do not do that well when we play at QPR but statistics; they are only numbers on a piece of paper.'

Lee Dixon quits BBC

Dixon quits BBC with ITV lining up former Arsenal defender to replace Southgate



07:45 GMT, 19 July 2012

Moving on: Dixon has left the BBC

Moving on: Dixon has left the BBC

Lee Dixon has announced he's quitting the BBC, with rivals ITV readying a deal to land the highly-rated football pundit.

The former Arsenal and England defender, 48, is being lined up to replace Gareth Southgate when he is appointed FA technical director.

Another pull for Dixon is his friendship with ITV football presenter Adrian Chiles.

Dixon revealed on Twitter that he wouldn't be renewing his deal with the Beeb.

'Sad to be leaving BBC,' he wrote. 'Nothing lasts forever. New challenges ahead. Loved my time there. Wonderful people… Just time to move on.'

Dixon has emerged as one of the leading pundits on the BBC's football coverage and will end an eight-year association with the corporation.

While ITV remain the frontrunners to sign Dixon, BT are also said to be interested in his services when they gain rights to the Barclays Premier League next season.

Euro 2012: Spain compare to 1970 Brazil – Jamie Redknapp

Final file: Spain deserve to be compared with 1970 Brazil



22:47 GMT, 1 July 2012

I don't know if Arsene Wenger is suffering from sitting in the pundits’ chair. It does happen.

Working for Eurosport, Wenger said that Spain had ‘betrayed their philosophy and turned into something more negative’. Has he been watching the same team as the rest of us

When you watch Spain play football of such beauty and control, you have to admire their mastery of the ball. I thought Wenger would understand that better than anyone with the way his Arsenal team try to play.

Main man: Andres Iniesta was influential in Spain's Euro 2012 success

Main man: Andres Iniesta was influential in Spain's Euro 2012 success

We can rave about Spain’s passing but it is the touch to set up a pass. You can press them, get after them, try to close them down and it seems the opponent almost gets there. Then the next opponent almost gets there and then, before you know it, they are into your back four.

It reminds me of what it was like to play against Paul Scholes, who, I am convinced, would not have looked out of place in this Spain team at the peak of his powers.

Every one of the Italian players looked like they needed oxygen at the end while the Spanish players looked as if they had not played a game.

Midfield maestro: Xavi controlled the midfield as Spain ran riot in Kiev

Midfield maestro: Xavi controlled the midfield as Spain ran riot in Kiev

Touch, pass, balance and a group of footballers who trust each other with the football. This is a team who deserve to be compared with the magical Brazil side of 1970.

When you watch England playing with two midfielders and then Spain with six last night, it is like wearing flares when everyone else is wearing drainpipes. England are well out of fashion.

And to think Spain did it without record scorer David Villa, who would have played if fit. So it is not the death of the centre forward.

Still to come: David Villa (centre) missed the tournament through injury

Still to come: David Villa (centre) missed the tournament through injury

For the European champions, it is now three successive tournament triumphs and not a goal conceded in knockout football since France’s Zinedine Zidane scored against them in 2006.

There is a reason why you cannot score against them — you cannot get the ball.

FA forced Daniel Levy to do dirty on Harry Redknapp – Des Kelly

Des Kelly: FA forced Levy to do the dirty on Harry… and Redknapp deserved better



23:41 GMT, 15 June 2012

It’s all the fault of the Football Association, muttered Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy as he jabbed a sharp pin into the voodoo doll of Sir Trevor Brooking stashed in his office drawer especially for moments like this.

If it wasn't for those pesky FA meddlers, Harry Redknapp would have led the national side out against Sweden, not Roy Hodgson, and what a different story it would be now. Not necessarily for England, but certainly for Spurs, grumbled Levy as he selected a spot high on Brooking’s forehead and inserted another needle.

The Spurs chief had his ideal scenario mapped out: Euro 2012 would rid Levy of a manager he had never truly seen eye to eye with, allow him to play the unfortunate 'victim' of the FA’s headhunting raid and still reward him with a handsome compensation cheque for ‘reluctantly’ allowing Redknapp to go.

Axed: Harry Redknapp has waved goodbye to Tottenham despite his success

Axed: Harry Redknapp has waved goodbye to Tottenham despite his success

It was a win-win scenario, which was not something Spurs were able to say very often during their end-of-season stagger to the line.

Instead, thanks to Brooking, David Bernstein and Co at FA headquarters, Levy had to fork out 3million to sack a guy he thought was leaving anyway and, in return, he has collected nothing but blame and contempt.

Famous ex-players like Gary Lineker called his decision ‘unbelievable idiocy’, pundits lined up to kick Levy from pillar to post and if Spurs finish below the fourth place that Redknapp achieved before he was removed, the new boss won’t get the blame but the chairman most certainly will.

Nobody is even mentioning how Redknapp brought in Wayne Rooney’s ‘controversial’ agent Paul Stretford to handle contract negotiations, a baffling move that was always likely to become a mess. Instead, they keep talking about how ‘’Arry got the cockerel crowing again’.

Because he did. That’s the trouble for Spurs and Levy now. And, if Redknapp was such a liability as manager, why were the club demanding around 10m in compensation from the FA to let him go

Credibility at risk: Spurs chairman Daniel Levy (right) has made a huge call

Credibility at risk: Spurs chairman Daniel Levy (right) has made a huge call

Levy has to do something to rescue his credibility here. The board must have had contingency measures in place to deal with Redknapp’s anticipated departure to England, so it would be quite ridiculous to believe the chairman doesn’t have a plan drawn up.

That is why the stories claiming that the likes of Andre Villas-Boas, Rafael Benitez, Roberto Martinez, Alan Pardew, Fabio Capello and whoever else is flavour of the month are on an extended shopping list of candidates don’t quite ring true to me.

The word was an unofficial deal for David Moyes had already been discussed some time back with Levy’s boss, Joe Lewis, the Bahamas-based British billionaire who bankrolls Spurs.

So maybe the current speculation is a smokescreen or perhaps the Moyes switch has hit a snag because of Levy’s love of installing a director of football above the manager. But I’m not buying into the idea Spurs are on some blind fishing exercise right now.

Remeber this Spurs beat Wigan 9-1 at White Hart Lane in November 2009

Remeber this Spurs beat Wigan 9-1 at White Hart Lane in November 2009

I certainly fail to see how Martinez can be Redknapp’s successor. That’s really going to win the dressing room over, isn’t it Hello gentlemen, here’s your new boss. He’s the guy who was in charge of Wigan Athletic when you beat them 9-1. I can see the sneers now.

Back in 2001, Levy’s board announced a five-year plan that involved regular European football. That sounded a pipe dream when Spurs were languishing in 14th in 2004 or finishing a mediocre 11th in 2008, but Redknapp helped turn that ambition into a reality.

And, whatever the deposed boss says, he would still be in the job had the Germans not lost that penalty shootout to Chelsea in Munich. Levy would not have had the balls to remove a boss who had delivered Champions League football for the second time in three seasons.

Redknapp deserved better in return. His only error was to believe what he read in the papers, heard on the radio and saw on TV — that he was about to be handed the most important football job in the country. It’s hard to blame him for that and it certainly doesn’t justify Spurs doing the dirty on Harry.

Time for fans to blow their own trumpet

According to a recent survey of, er… me, nobody likes the England band.
The fact that the brass ensemble had their instruments taken away before the first Euro 2012 match against France was the most welcomed silence since Sir Cliff Richard’s off-key warbling during the Jubilee concert came to a merciful end.

Now the England band are probably charming lads and they’ve certainly milked this ploy to wangle free tickets but I had the misfortune to sit in front of them and endure their deafening, phony ‘atmosphere’ throughout one England international.

The banned: England's 'musicians' with their instruments

The banned: England's 'musicians' with their instruments

Midway through their 49th rendition of
The Great Escape I was quite willing to conduct an experiment into
whether an entire trumpet could pass through a musician’s digestive
system, in reverse.

Of course, it is easy to forget why the band were wheeled out in the first place during the mid 90s.

In other news…

Manchester City are to launch a new
club aftershave. It’s made entirely from the most expensive ingredients
of rival aftershaves.

Kevin Pietersen has retired from one-day duty for England. I can’t wait to hear what country he wants to play for next.

It is somewhat ironic, as someone pointed out to me this week, to see Rangers being ruined by men called Green and Whyte.

It was a clever ploy to drown out the moronic chants of ‘No Surrender’ from England’s knuckle-dragging followers prior to Euro ’96.

But times change and, thankfully, the band’s services aren’t required any more. It’s time to let the audience sing their own songs.

It’s what the Irish do. Despite an undercurrent of racism, monkey chants and overt hooliganism in Eastern Europe, the Republic’s good-natured, happy supporters have lifted the roof of every stadium without a brass band accompaniment parping throughout the game.

The Irish team might not have been up to much, but their fans head home with honour. They proved they can blow their own trumpet.

Prepare for the m-a-week deal

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore has been a busy man of late, securing an astonishing, new 3,018,000,000 deal for the game’s domestic television rights for the next three years.

I’ve used the figure in full, complete with all the required noughts, because it is a mind-boggling sum, the magnitude of which just isn’t captured by skipping over the seven-letter word ‘billion’. This deal is up 71 per cent on the current contract at a time of global austerity.


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To put Scudamore’s work into context, the team who finish bottom of the Premier League at the end of the 2013-14 season will now collect more than the 60million Manchester City banked for winning the title in May.

Those so-called financial fair play laws look somewhat less restrictive all of a sudden. Scudamore suggested clubs use their new money for ‘sustainability’. But he can’t tell them how to spend the cash — and they’ll do no such thing, of course.

This jackpot means one thing to you and me. We’ll be watching players earn even more extraordinary sums of money than they do right now. Ticket prices won’t come down. Despite the presence of sheiks and oligarchs and this windfall, an average seat costs 1,100 per cent more than when the League was introduced 20 years ago.

This is why: already there are agents out there tearing up their 200,000-a-week deals and scribbling 350,000 on the bottom line, with the 500,000-a-week payday just around the corner.

As things stand, 7 of every 10 the Premier League earn passes straight out of the club accounts and into the pockets of the players and their agents.

But the men who kick a ball about will argue that, if the Premier League are 71 per cent more valuable to BSkyB and the new broadcast partner, British Telecom, then the people putting on the show deserve their reward, too.

BSkyB and BT might have paid 71 per cent more, yet they will not be able to hike prices by 71 per cent. And 71 per cent more people are not going to tune in. So something’s got to give, which is going to be difficult in a game where everybody takes.

There's a trick up Danny's sleeve

Film maker Danny Boyle played a delightful con trick on the world this week when he revealed the supposed details of the Olympic Opening Ceremony.

The director sold a line that his vision of Britain for the 2012 games would consist of the traditional British countryside complete with cows, 70 sheep, cricket and simulated rain all in a tellytubby-style arena.

Columnists fell over one another in the rush to spoof this seemingly nave vision, adding travellers’ caravan sites, hunt saboteurs and traffic cones to the pastoral scene.

Model pro: How the Olympic opening ceremony will look, as designed by artistic director Danny Boyle (centre), famous for films such as Trainspotting

Model pro: How the Olympic opening ceremony will look, as designed by artistic director Danny Boyle (centre), famous for films such as Trainspotting

‘We’re bound to fail,’ said Boyle on the level of expectation that awaits. But that was why he was revealing only a part of the plan and it was possible to catch the whiff of manure on the breeze.

This is the bloke who recently directed a stage version of Frankenstein. He made his name with Shallow Grave, a film about three people who dismember their dead flatmate. He followed it up with Trainspotting, a movie about heroin addiction, while 28 Days Later imagined the horror of a post-apocalyptic London.

So he’s not about to create a Cotswolds Lite for one of the biggest global TV audiences in history. I’ll bet half the spoofs are in his Opening Ceremony script already. Anyone who actually believes Boyle intends to present a ‘green and pleasant land’ will surely find the joke is on them.

Euro 2012: BBC"s Alan Hansen mocked for tournament picks

It doesn't work like that, Alan: BBC pundit Hansen mocked as he picks three teams from same group to make Euro semis



11:04 GMT, 6 June 2012

Alan Hansen has been mocked by fans after picking three teams from the same group among his tips for the Euro 2012 semi-finals.

The Match of the Day regular joined other BBC pundits in revealing their tips for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine.

But Hansen found himself on the end of a string of jibes after selecting Germany, Holland and Portugal as semi-finalists along with champions Spain.

Are you sure Alan Hansen picked Germany, Holland and Portugal to make the semi final despite them all being in Group B

Are you sure Alan Hansen picked Germany, Holland and Portugal to make the semi final despite them all being in Group B

That is impossible as only the top two teams from each group can qualify for the knockout stages.

The article on the BBC Sport website was later amended to show just three tips for the semi-finals, while the others – such as Alan Shearer – all had four picks.

One fan took to Twitter, to have a pop at Hansen, saying: 'The Alan Hansen quote just reinforces the shared view of the over-paid, over-comfortable, under-researched & downright lazy BBC Sport team'

Are you sure Alan Hansen's original picks for the semi finals

Are you sure Alan Hansen's original picks for the semi finals

Changing his mind Hansen only has three picks for the semi finals as his original picks were not possible

Changing his mind Hansen only has three picks for the semi finals as his original picks were not possible

Hansen has come in for criticism for his lack of insight on Match of the Day, particularly after details of his huge salary emerged.

The former Liverpool star earns around 1.5million per year from the corporation – around 40,000 per MOTD episode.

Top tips: Hansen expects Robin van Persie's Holland to make the semi finals

Top tips: Hansen expects Robin van Persie's Holland to make the semi finals

Hansen will be part of the BBC team for Euro 2012 studio team who will broadcast from their base in Salford during the finals.