I do my utmost to avoid watching those pundits hired to offer alleged analysis on football matches, writes Vernon Grant. This past weekend was the first time in years that I had seen any Match of the Day output from the BBC. I was reminded of why I ceased watching. I stopped tuning in long ago. Not only because of the old pals act of Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer droning on. A more effective sleep aid than mogadon.
I used to fast forward through the boring bits and only watch the action. Last Sunday, I wanted to tune in to watch the FA Cup upsets but I also caught the analysis, if that you can call it, from Paul Ince. One of those hired to impart their views because football has run out of club owners desperate enough to hire him as a manager. At least for now.
Ince is also one of those who has been caught patronising female pundit, Alex Scott. Live on television. In the world of Ince, she only played women’s football. That doesn’t qualify her to speak on the man’s game.
Misogyny is alive and well in football. It may not be as bad as when I witnessed a famous football manager refuse to be interviewed by a female television reporter (which spawned this Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse sketch). But you only have to watch or listen to the usual suspects wheeled out on Sky Sports and BBC football programmes to know that retired male footballers are, in the main, still living in the dark ages.
I know for a fact that there are football managers working in the Premier League today who believe no woman should be allowed to be in close proximity to the tunnel at a football match. As one said to me back in the 90’s: “They should be hoovering inside the dressing room, not hovering outside with a micophone.”
On social media, ex players have expressed their dismay that the fairer sex are now allowed to commentate on matches. Whatever next?
When BBC Sport first hired the former England defender Alex Scott to be a pundit on Match of the Day, all hell broke loose in certain quarters. The abuse she received on Twitter was another depressing reflection of how many misogynists are out there, many of them younger than I would have anticipated.
Alex was up against it again when sat between Ruud Gullit and Danny Murphy for the live coverage of the Chelsea versus Sheffield Wednesday FA Cup tie.
To say Gullit was patronising towards her would be an understatement. He talked down to her. Sneered down his nose as though she had no right to talk in a compassionate and empathetic way towards Steve Bruce.
The Sheffield Wednesday manager was hired by the club in January but, in agreement with the Buddhist owner of the Owls, would take some time out before meeting up with the squad in early February.
Gullit kept badgering Alex Scott on whether Bruce would have gone to watch the England cricket team play in Barbados if he’d been asked to manage Manchester United and not Sheffield Wednesday. The words “sunning himself” were used more than once during the discussion. Alex Scott fought to get a word in edgeways and smiled despite the sarcastic manner in which the former Dutch International footballer addressed her.
The experienced sports journalist Vikki Orvice tweeted me to say: “She (Alex) does her research and prep too instead of rocking up and taking the money. (She) knew when certain players were under contract until as well – much to Gullit’s surprise!”
Gullit used to manage Newcastle United. When club officials could not find him, they knew to call the Malmaison Hotel to persuade him to kiss goodbye to his latest conquest. He was needed at training. Yet here he was pouring scorn on Steve Bruce, a man who has been managing at the coalface of football for decades, for needing to take a recuperative break from the game.
Firstly, Manchester United were never about to appoint Steve Bruce. Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge of that decision and he chose Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Secondly, as I revealed as long ago as November 27th 2018 via one of my Twitter feeds @VGTIPS1 – Bruce had been approached by Sheffield Wednesday prior to the club sacking the dismal incumbent manager who was fast taking Wednesday towards the relegation zone. Bruce was being sounded out to see if, having been dismissed by Aston Villa, he was willing and able to manage the Owls should a vacancy become available.
Bruce was tired, weary of the management game he has been in for twenty one years, a career about which I write via this link. He’d had a tough year at Aston Villa and also personally. Both his parents passed away in quick succession. He was not sure if he ever wanted to manage another football club and the terms of his severance agreement with Villa meant that he couldn’t actively manage another club for a few weeks.
The owner of Sheffield Wednesday, Mr. Chansiri, is a gentle man and a gentleman. He didn’t put undue pressure on Bruce and was understanding. The men met up in Thailand and Chansiri gave Steve Bruce time to decide on his next move.
The Sheffield Wednesday chairman deserves praise for the empathy he displayed towards a man who simply needed a holiday and who first wanted to spend Christmas and New Year with his family.
Footballer Alex Bruce, son of the new Wednesday manager and in 2004 himself on the books at Hillsborough, responded to the comments made by Gullit and Murphy. On Twitter Alex said: “Maybe if Ruud and Danny had been managing since 1998, lost a father, a mother, a job, had health issues of his own to to cope with all in the space of around six months they and others would understand why he needed a short break from football.”
Danny Murphy, who clearly had not done any research on this managerial appointment, added insult to injury by claiming that if Bruce got off to a bad start as Owls manager, the supporters would turn on him. This shows how little he knows of the psyche of Sheffield Wednesday fans (6000 of them were within sight of Murphy at Stamford Bridge). If anything, the snide comments made by Murphy and Gullit will only ensure there is more love and patience for Bruce among Wednesdayites, not less.
By far the majority of them are sensible and will give Bruce time in what is going to be a very difficult job. Bruce will be forced to make some unpopular decisions when it comes to which players are sold by a club that is under financial scrutiny by the authorities.
As was evident in the FA Cup tie at Chelsea last Sunday, the Wednesday side that made it to that 2016 play off final is past its best before date. Some popular players from that time will have to be moved on if the club is to progress towards the play off places next season, or automatic promotion the season after that.
Last Sunday Alex Scott was the only panellist to display empathy for what Bruce had been through and understanding of why he needed to take a break. Scott rightly expressed the feelings of many watching Match of the Day. Judging from the support she received on Twitter, the opinions of Ruud Gullit and Danny Murphy are both out of date and unwelcome.
Louis tweeted Monday: “Credit to Steve Bruce for keeping a promise. Credit to Sheffield Wednesday for accompanying his commitments. Finally, credit to Alex Scott for her compassion and understanding of more important matters, best pundit on the telly. Family before football, always.”
David tweeted: “This is the second time in a space of a few weeks I’ve seen Alex Scott being talked over by a colleague! She seems to be far more educated than the rest of the dross the BBC keep inviting on MOTD yet these morons are making complete assumptions about someone private life.”
Matty tweeted: “Alex Scott shouted down once again…. please show more of her and less of the other two dinosaurs in this clip. Clueless punditry on their behalf.”
@FarzK12 tweeted: “Watching Alex Scott on MOTD and similar recently, she’s well researched, articulate and intelligent when voicing her opinion; whereas nitwits like Merson, Murphy and Ince repeatedly get away without. Why is that? Just because they’re men?”
All these tweets (chosen from countless more) are from men. Hallelujah!
They clearly realise there is more to life than football. For her part, Alex Scott is fast becoming the only TV football pundit with anything new or interesting to say.