Belfast Telegraph

Adrian Chiles vs Gary Lineker... the real match of the day

By Maureen Coleman

It's the penalty shoot-out of television punditry — get it right, you’re onto a winner, get it wrong, you’ll never live it down.

Forget the football, the real match of the day in the 2010 World Cup is between the BBC and ITV as they battle it out in the live punditry stakes.

The goofy gaffes and cringe-worthy cliches can be as entertaining as France’s football, but they’re an integral part of the World Cup package.

At the helm of the BBC team is former England captain and MOTD stalwart Gary Lineker, who is joined by Alan Hansen, Alan Shearer and Lee Dixon.

Gordon Strachan is also on board alongside five special guests, German legend Jurgen Klinsmann, three-times Champions League winner Clarence Seedorf, Emmanuel Adebayor, a former African Footballer of the Year, Spurs manager Harry Redknapp and Fulham boss Roy Hodgson.

BBC ship-jumper Adrian Chiles captains the ITV team as part of his new multi-million pound deal with the channel.

The former One Show co-host is supported by a panel of analysts including French football stars Patrick Viera and Marcel Desailly, ex-England manager Kevin Keegan and former Dutch international Edgar Davids.

But as the tournament approaches its second phase, are Northern Ireland’s football fans over-the-moon with the coverage? Or has the punditry left us all sick as parrots?

Belfast Telegraph group sports editor Jim Gracey reckons RTE is head and shoulders above both the BBC and ITV.

“To be honest, I just don’t get Chiles,” he said. “I don’t know what he’s doing there.

“Lineker is a bit too smug for my liking, but he does know the game.

“The best coverage so far has been RTE’s as the panel has no vested interest whatsoever. Eamonn Dunphy, Johnny Giles and co aren’t afraid to speak their minds and their opinions can sometimes be quite brutal, but refreshingly so.

“I think the BBC is better than ITV, but RTE has outclassed them both.”

Gary McAllister, spokesman for the Northern Ireland Supporters’ Club, said that while he thought Chiles had settled in comfortably to his new role, he preferred the BBC’s coverage.

“I have found the BBC’s features on South Africa itself and the build-up to the matches very interesting,” he said.

“Also, their red button coverage has been excellent, too, and great for people who can’t always watch the matches live.

“I like Chiles — I enjoyed watching him on MOTD2 — but I found ITV’s coverage on Friday, after the England v Algeria game a bit over the top and a bit too depressing.

“However, I like the way both sides have tried to broaden out their punditry this time round, moving away from the usual suspects. In some cases it has worked better than others, though.”

Post-match coverage is being brought to viewers by Belfast’s own Colin Murray on the BBC and funnyman James Corden over on ITV.

Gary said: “I don’t watch Corden, I just switch over, too many people jumping on the World Cup bandwagon for my liking.”

On internet forums fans are divided.

One local fan wrote on Facebook that Colin Murray was better than both Chiles and Lineker put together while another said: “I prefer Chiles, I like his Brummie accent.

“It gives him a rawness, like he’s one of us. Lineker just sounds terribly mundane.”

Sidelined ... why these legends flopped

Football punditry is an art form, mastered by the likes of Lineker and Hansen.

But not every player-turned-pundit has been as successful.

Remember poor Paul Gascoigne in 2002?

He was a sensational flop when signed up by ITV for their World Cup coverage and was axed after a few jittery appearances in which his comments were barely comprehensible.

Cheeky chappie Ian Wright quit the BBC after claiming his punditry made him look like a “court jester”.

His Wrightisms were legendary among football fans.

“It took a lot of bottle for him (Tony Adams) to own up to alcoholism” was just one.

And what about Edgar Davids?

A current panelist on ITV, his analysis is lacking in depth or passion. His analysis is lacking, fullstop.

Then of course, there was Big Ron Atkinson, considered a good pundit by many football fans.

However he was forced to quit the ITV job after making a racist comment about former Chelsea star Marcel Desailly, when he thought his microphone had been switched off.

Unfortunately for Big Ron, he was still on-air and his insult was broadcast around the world.

These days, Big Ron is appearing on Celebrity Wife Swap while Desailly is ... yes, you’ve got it, an ITV pundit.

Football, it’s a funny old game.

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