- Pundit: noun – An expert in a particular subject or field who is frequently called upon to give their opinions to the public
- Poster Boy: noun – A poster boy is a usually famous person who is heavily associated with and/or generally found to represent a given movement, subculture, religious group, fandom, etc
Sunday the 18th of January was billed by many as a milestone in this season’s Barclay’s Premier League. Not only were Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal pitting their wits against the current champions Manchester City, but Thierry Henry was providing his brand of Va Va Voom to Sky Sports’ match analysis for the very first time.
Henry is a legend in his own right, a player who amassed 581 appearances and 284 goals in a career that took him from Monaco to New York Red Bulls via league titles at Arsenal and Barcelona not to mention a Champions League winner’s medal. He has put smiles on the faces of football fans across the globe, apart from the Irish circa 2009. And with his love for the sport and his infectious smile he also seemingly has the exact ingredients required by Sky Sports to bolster their roster of match analysts.
Monsieur Henry, like many before him, arrived with a fanfare of excitement and promises of ‘insight’ and ‘giving back’ to the sport that made them famous. We have seen the same from the likes of the BBC, ITV and BT Sport when broadcasting live fixtures and tournaments. He was the face of a new all singing, all dancing campaign and his new employers were happy to pay him a footballers wage. The Frenchman shelved his coaching ambitions (many would call that a better way of ‘giving back’) to accept a six-year deal worth £4m a year, making him the highest paid pundit on the team.
However do these ‘pundits’ actually give insight beyond what the average fan can obtain through a combination of social media and pub discussion? Are they being paid the big bucks for their ability to expertly analyse football or are they just guns for hire in an ongoing battle between broadcasters attempting to sell more subscription packages?
Well, most are analysing in a way that, technology aside, has been common place for years – the media reaction to Gary Neville’s “refreshing approach” to punditry bearing testament to that. Many would consider Neville more ‘Pundit’ than ‘Poster Boy’. Others are clearly more’ Poster Boy’ than ‘Pundit’ (see Jimmy Bullard’s recent BBC debut), some fit nicely into both categories (Mcmanaman, Carragher, Redknapp), while worryingly there’s a large number who you’d struggle to put into either category. Alan Shearer was an England legend on the pitch, but off it he offers little more than post match commentary – surely a fine example of someone who would be giving far more back to football by being involved in England’s youth system as a coach.
It will be interesting to see Henry analysing clubs again this weekend. Will a schedule that sees him commenting on teams other than his former club mean his ability to offer insight wears off, or will we see him grow into his own?
The verdict’s out, but whatever happens to Henry’s punditry career, I’m sure broadcasters will continue to sign high profile ‘Pundits’, ‘Poster Boys’ and everything in between as the battle for subscriptions and the subsequent ability to buy more broadcast rights hots up….
…Let’s just hope some former footballers can resist the £ signs and put their energies back into bringing on the next generation of football legends.
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