10 Perfectly Likeable Former Players Who Ruined It All With Their Punditry

By Chris Wright

Thanks to the “jobs for the boys” policy that seems to be in operation at every single sport broadcasting department in the country, an inordinate number of former professional footballers are now employed to chat about football before, during and after games – with a shocking number of them appearing to have absolutely no understanding of the game that once provided their principle stream of income.

It’s turned us (and we suspect we’re not alone here) staunchly against players we previously had a bit of time for. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who detested Andy Townsend as he jobbed his way around Chelsea, Norwich and Boro in the mid-to-late 1990s; now he’s almost universally derided – and there are many more just like him.

Here we go, hold on to your butts…

Soccer - International Friendly - Brazil v Republic of Ireland - Emirates Stadium

“I dunno Clive, could he not just have done something else other than what he did do there?”

1. Andy Townshend: A decent, nondescript midfielder in his playing days, Townsend is now almost universally loathed by English football fans after polluting ITV’s live coverage for the last 13 years with an endless decade-long dirge of tiresome hypothetical utterances: “I think he maybe should have’s…” and “could he not just have’s…”, contributing precious little of note in his almost impenetrably thick Irish accent.

Alan Shearer waxwork

We know which one we’d rather spend eternity with

2. Alan Shearer: Alan Shearer, a man – a BBC/MotD golf club mainstay; awash with all the personality of a bowl of room-temperature soy curd and all the analytical insight of a long-dead, crudely eviscerated, festering horse carcass. Remember the good old days? When he used to kick Neil Lennon in the temples?

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Manchester City v Manchester United - Etihad Stadium

When the most interesting thing in a photo is creased tarpaulin…

3. Michael Owen: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind Super Value Shades 2010 Campaign

Roy picks one out for his dinner

4. Roy Keane: “Likeable” isn’t really the word when Keane’s in question, but the man at least demanded respect when he was putting it about and dominating lesser midfielders into the ground during his playing days. Sadly, Keane hasn’t tempered the personality traits that made him such a die-hard combatant in the slightest since moving into media, which leaves him looking like a needlessly aggressive, utterly joyless contrarion most of the time.

Soccer - AXA FA Cup - Final - Manchester United v Millwall

“Agent 42, come in. Your time is up”

5. Garth Crooks: Perched on the edge of his seat, watching with wide-eyed intensity, a finger perched on his lower lip to give the air of the footballing intellectual, Garth appears to be labouring under the illusion that him informing Gabby that a goal has gone in at Villa Park counts as serious investigative journalism. It’s a bit of a shame too, as Crooks seems like a thoroughly amiable guy when he relaxes a bit.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Round of 16 - Second Leg - Barcelona v Arsenal - Nou Camp

“The tits on that”

6. Jamie Redknapp: Aside from the fact that, thanks to his fondness for “Medium Boys” size suit trousers, he presents the Sky Sports audience with a clear outline of his genitals every weekend as he sits spread eagled throughout the entire course of Super Sunday, Redknapp is the kind of chirruping Oi Oi laaaaaad that we despise. Triffic Jnr is also a bugger for pluralising the unpluralisable (“your Arsenals, your Chelseas”, etc), which we hate with a searing passion.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Round of 16 - Second Leg - Paris Saint-Germain v Valencia - Parc des Princes

Gareth wears his two medals for ‘flawless attendance’ and ‘good handwriting’ with pride

7. Gareth Southgate: Added to the general prefect-y air of “shirt ironed, teeth cleaned, shoes polished, all his special punditry notes indexed and filed primly in a ring binder and with a fresh apple for teacher in his satchel” that Southgate exudes on screen, he was once rather rude to my Mum at a health spa in Derbyshire – so, for that, f**k him.

Soccer - Charlton Athletic Community Trust Concert - Indig02

Mark struggles without his inhaler

8. Mark Bright: A quick – nay, instant way to ruin a football match before it’s begun is to get ol’ Brighty involved in the coverage in some capacity. The man seemingly can’t piece a thought together in his head before talking and therefore delivers his tedious mouth-chutney in the form of stuttering, asthmatic stanzas which mean absolutely nothing to anybody.

Steve Claridge in court

Steve lets the wife know the bad news after his ‘Batman Begins’ audition

9. Steve Claridge: Like Crooks before him, the BBC’s self-anointed Lower Leagues Expert™ takes himself and his “craft” far too seriously. In an attempt to seem sober, knowledgeable and unpatronising about the lower ebbs of the English football hierarchy, Claridge comes off like a man who’s just awakened from a coma, seen his whole world has fallen apart and would desperately like to go back under.

Soccer - FA Cup - Third Round - Arsenal v Leeds United - Emirates Stadium

Someone left the padlock off the gibbon enclosure again

10. Martin Keown: “Food and drink”. Three little words that make us want to do Keown (and his tawdry, lumpen punditry) an extreme physical discourtesy.

Any more for any more Pies fans? Please bear in mind that Robbie Savage wasn’t included as no-one liked him when he was playing either.

* * * * *

Suggested further reading…

15 Downright Detestable Football Punditry Cliches

Posted in Featured, Media, Newsnow, Opinion, Top 10s & lists

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  1. Rory says:

    He’s typical of the infuriating bloke-ish subtext of ITV’s football coverage.
    During last night’s match Townsend didn’t know who to refer to as ‘we’, ‘them’, and ‘the lads’! I can think of very few Irish players with less credibility than him with Irish fans.

  2. Milos says:

    This was not funny at all, sorry.

  3. Si says:

    Some of the captions were golden. Cheers, Chris!

  4. Anonymouse says:

    Jim Beglin?

  5. Alex says:

    First of all, poor Keown! I think he’s quite nice because of how weirdly relaxed he is compared to his playing career.

    I also find Steve Claridge so boring that it’s quite charming, Leroy Rosenior takes it a step too far however.

    I’ve nenver noticed that about Garth Crooks but it really is true…

    I don’t know how likeable Harry Redknapp was as a player, but his media performances are certainly something. Watching Shearer and Lineker guide him through his sentences on match of the day was one of the most embarrassing things I’ve ever seen.

  6. Eeny says:

    David Platt.

  7. mike says:

    ray wilkins.

  8. Oz says:

    As hilarious as this was, I’d take *any* of these ex footballers doing punditry and/or commentary over the garbage we have to put up with here in the states! You have it really good!

    Watch a match with Gus Johnson, John Harkes, Chris Sullivan, Alexi Lalas, Brian Dunseth, Max Bretos or Rob Stone vomiting college basketball clichés for 90 minutes and tell me how bad Redknapp and Townsend really are!

  9. Rob says:

    Mark Bright’s verbal diarrhea just drives me crazy. It just proves that as players they didn’t watch any football on the tele, in those days there were far less annoying cretins.

  10. JP says:

    @Oz I Concur confidently with your sentiments…throw in Taylor Twellman to that mix as well though, does that list a disservice without him..

  11. Kingsland101 says:

    Garth is utterly clueless. My favorites from him are his praise for the Brazilian 4-2-1-3-1 formation and stating that Roy Hodgson should call up James Morrison, capped 23 times for Scotland.

    No idea why he’s still on TV.

  12. JoeT says:

    Roy Keane redeemed himself through his punditry

  13. Haywired says:

    I love how camp Garth Crooks gets when he’s at his most pompous. He does this little pout after each profound comment.

    I also love the weird juxtaposition of Adrian Chiles’ affable, bumbling “I’m just a fan like you at home” schtick with Roy Keane’s psychotic seriousness.

  14. The Guy says:

    Chris, just a suggestion but possibly 10 not so likeable players or just players who went on to be excellent pundits? Or just an article on Gary Neville? I like him. Yeah, Gary Neville.

  15. John Walker says:

    What about the other two BBC non entity’s Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson? The pair of them have the charisma and personality of a wet dish cloth.

  16. Gareth says:

    Martin Keown is a pretty great pundit in my opinion.

  17. B-tep says:

    Top two, Townsend and Shearer, spot on! Shearer is a cliche ridden bore that’s too scared to have any opinion that isn’t middle of the road.

    At least Crooks, Keane, Southgate put forward opinions that make you think about the game.

    And as for Steve Clarizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…

  18. Lollers says:

    Keano is just hilarious to watch. The man is a joke.

    But I always want him on screen. Particularly when you put Southgate next to him in the studio, who he seems to have no respect or time for…The only saving grace of all round piss poor ITV commentary.

  19. Anon says:

    Ian Wright

  20. Herman says:

    Neither Keane or Townsend were in any way likeable as players.

  21. tipo 00 says:

    i wish they’d just stick a fucking microphone in the stands and leave it at that. why do i need some cretin telling me who’s just kicked the ball or some boring, pointless fact? i don’t. at least give us the option (saying that, i think you can choose five live on bbc live matches. maybe i’m wrong).

  22. Danno says:

    “Mark struggles without his inhaler”! Thats not nice, yet its the funniest thing I’ve seen all week!

    May I pitch the guest pundits during World Cups n that; Martin O’Neill & Peter Schmeichel. Still remember O’Neill in France ’98 being mental!

  23. Dan says:

    add pretty much every ex-footballer who works for sky sports. especially ray wilkins and scott minto

  24. MGJ says:

    David Pleat is worthy of this list, as is Robbie Savage.

  25. RjT says:

    Brilliant, burst out laughing a few times! Top work Chris.

  26. Sjakie Meulemans says:

    Great piece, love the (reason of the) exclusion of Robbie Savage as well.
    Another idea: which of the current active players do you suspect to be bad pundits after they retire?

  27. Milkchew says:

    Paul Parker, not on TV, but his articles on Yahoo Eurosport are eye destroying awful that you actually want to read them to remind you there are worse things than what you may be going through.

    Garth Crooks, like Haywired said, gets all upperty and stroppy when someone has the sheer cheek to disagree with him. Hes like some old woman when he pouts and turns his back on the person. Clearly his glorious football career deserves more respect.

    Mark Bright. Hate him on TV and hate him even more in writing. I honestly believe he cannot put an article together without refering to his glory days at Palace, Wednesday, Chalrton etc or `Wrighty`, who I imagine hates the guy.

    Gareth Southgate. Shit footballer, shit commentator. How the hell has he even got a job at the FA?……oh wait, ive answered my own question before ive even asked it.

  28. ERG1008 says:

    The Redknapp caption has made me laugh more than it should do.
    Great article.

  29. Burnt Kwok says:

    Alan Smith. ALAN BLOODY SMITH!!!!!!!

  30. Joe says:

    You don’t really have an ear for accents, do you? Townsend doesn’t speak with an Irish accent at all, more a sort of high-pitched Danny Dyer.

  31. Joe says:

    Also, Lawrenson every day of the week. He’s got the best job in the world yet he has the demeanor of a 54-year-old divorcee who works in HR and is despised by the entire office.

    I don’t mind Crooks and Southgate so much, at least they make an effort. Shearer and Lawrenson get paid fortunes of license fee money yet never seem to do any sort of research or even take two seconds to think up an insight more interesting than “He’ll be disappointed with that”.

  32. Joe says:

    @Chris: lol, my bad… You were a bit too clever for me there

  33. TravisKOP says:

    Brilliant article, its a pies classic. Throw this one in the vault chris!

  34. James says:

    Did somebody actually just say Gareth Southgate was a shit footballer? 57 England caps in an era when we actually had decent centre backs? Almost signed by Man Utd on numerous occasions.

    He actually isn’t a bad pundit either, just seems a little bit nervous sometimes. Doesn’t help that he mainly works with Roy Keane though.

    Can we add Gordon Strachan to this list? Useless, miserable, condescending, arrogant twat of a man.

    Yeah, obvious I’m a Boro fan isn’t it?

  35. Mikey C says:

    Harsh on Southgate, who comes across as a pundit much as he did as a player, as being more thoughtful than most of his colleagues.

    Keown’s inclusion is surely wrong as well, I suspect he’s liked far MORE now than when he was a player (thinking back to those battles he used to have with Van Nistelroy etc)

  36. C7 says:

    Garth Crooks has no social skills and will ask anyone anything. needs to go back to doing post match interviews. they were brilliant.

  37. Keith S. says:

    I had to make my son play FIFA 13 with the sound off because I could no longer bear to hear Townsends voice. What on Earth were they thinking? Lord knows what ITV pay him but surely they can afford to offer an alternative to switching the bloody sound off. I never watch pre/post match programmes either as they’re too painful to watch. How I yearn for the days of the Wolstenholme.

  38. Charie says:

    Roy Keane shouldn’t be on here. I actually think he’d be excellent on Sky, with Carragher. Peter Schmeichel is also missing. The very worst pundit I have ever seen.

  39. Ibukun Adelekan says:

    Robbie Savage. No one is worse than Robbie Savage.

  40. Stormcock says:

    I,m in the minority and not for the first time. I think Claridge is excellent. He’s not always right but he is entwining. I also rate Brighty and Townsend. The latter has a Kent accent so I wonder if the writer muddled him with Jim Beglin.

  41. John Q Occupier says:

    Peter Beagrie. All I need to say.

  42. Gary Bryan says:

    ALL awful… Wolstenholme and Tyler rule !!!

  43. Big Dee says:

    Shearer has to be the worst of the bunch What a boring miserable git

  44. alan shearer is my rel dad i fand out jade form little mix always tixase himi was like hold on girl he farst hand me

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