You know you’re getting old when the players you remember from your teenage years are now the go-to pundits and big mouths in the press (plus when there’s only one player left in the current squad who’s older than you – thank you Michael Carrick), but am I alone in wishing they’d shut up?
As a sign of both my age and the nature of football, when I was growing up, most of the pundits seemed to be ex-Liverpool players, so it makes sense that the men who knocked them off their perch in the 90s have now taken their jobs in the media (and I’m not even counting Robbie ‘I was in the Class of 92 as well you know’ Savage here).
Of course, back in the day, ex-footballers needed to do something after they retired, because they’d not earned that much from playing and boot deals, so they either needed to go into management, punditry or (horror of horrors) after-dinner speaking. Strangely, even though modern footballers earn a fortune, the same three options seem to be open to them.
Obviously David Beckham represents the other path, by being so rich and famous that he doesn’t even have to do anything in order to carry on being rich and famous, so much so that he’s bypassed management to go straight to club ownership. Or franchise ownership, as I should probably call it.
But it’s hard to ignore the opinions of many other former United players (I suppose I should include Michael Owen here shouldn’t I?), with both Neville brothers having tried their hands at coaching to various degrees but finding themselves firmly in punditville. And then there’s Paul Scholes.
What the hell has happened to him? From being the guy who ran through media zones at stadia throughtout his career so that he could get back to his bedroom and shut the curtains, he’s suddenly everywhere, writing for betting firms and newspapers and even appearing on BT Sport. The Class Of 92 film showed how his quick wit could come out when he was comfortable amongst friends, but you still wouldn’t have expected this.
So far he’s not really said or done anything that’s annoyed me in particular, it’s just how often I’m now seeing his views on pretty much everything. He’s still got the adorable quirk of referring to United as ‘we’, but that closeness isn’t always helpful, as Gary Neville showed last year in his almost comedic unwillingness to criticise the Moyes regime (of which Phil was obviously a part).
Punditry is a thankless task, and largely a pointless one. Football is what we love, and all the chitchat around games is just there to kill time and provide a few more lucrative advert breaks. A good pundit is someone who manages to rise above mundanity to occasionally provide some useful commentry, but when was the last time any of them said anything that challenged the way you think about something?
I’m aware of the irony of a football blogger having a pop at someone doing a pointless job waffling on about a game of people kicking a ball around, of course I am. But part of me is sad to see Scholes not able to use his knowledge and understanding in a more useful way. There must be a reason neither Moyes nor van Gaal got him on-board the coaching staff, but there’s plenty of clubs who’d love to have him.
Of course, in this media-saturated age, there’s always money out there for an ex-footballer who can talk a good game, but with United rebuilding almost from the ground up, the last thing the current team need is a batch of club legends passing comment on everything…