David Preece: Ex-Sunderland striker Ally McCoist could yet be the real star of the World Cup!
To VAR, or not to VAR? That is the question that is putting previous levels of our tedium to the test right now.
In an era where we have the capability to analyse the performance of every player, every team, every tactical decision made by each coach to the nth degree, how come we have allowed post match analysis to be completely swamped with discussion, not on whether a refereeing decision was right or wrong, but whether it should have been reviewed to see if it was the correct call?
To borrow a quote from the enlightening Slaven Bilic, tone honest I don’t care about VAR. How about if we treat VAR liker ‘Fight Club’ and ay that the only rule of VAR is that we don’t talk about VAR? Or how about we read the rules surrounding the use of VAR so we’re not sat endlessly discussing the merits of it’s use.
VAR is new to football and there was always going to be teething troubles, not just initially but in the years following its introduction and that’s exactly what we’re seeing. But we should allow it, and give the officials on and off the pitch the breathing space to develop the system so it does improve and becomes as much a part of the game as every other current aspect.
Remember when the back pass rule came in? There was mayhem. I remember playing down at Cambridge United for Darlington and one of our defenders totally sliced a clearance forward from just inside our half, so much so it ran straight through to me from and I picked it up, only for the ref to give a back pass. And that was 5 years after the Back Pass Rule came in.
If you do have a problem with it then it’s tough, because in truth it’s exactly what we deserve. This is where all the furore and questioning of every refereeing decision has lead us too. We didn’t have to have VAR, we could have just accepted the fallibility of the officials and surrender to the fact that errors from them are no different from Spain’s David De Gea’s against Portugal or France’s Samuel Umtiti against Australia. In fact, Umtiti’s is arguably worse than any refereeing decision because whatever contributed to his thought process, his was a conscious decision.
Even some of us who are supposed to be experts on football don’t get it right, even with the luxury of replays in the cooled and calm environment of a TV studio, so why should we expect perfection from elsewhere? Yes, it is their job to get it right but its also our job to give the viewers/listeners the benefit of our experience and knowledge on the game. Mark Clattenberg has added his own area of expertise to the occasion and his word should be final. Although personally, I wouldn’t take advice on waistcoats from him.
The worst thing about the verbal jousting of VAR is that we have, in some cases, four pundits to analyse the football itself rather than the going’s on inside and they are being wasted on being asked “If this was a push and a penalty, why didn’t VAR take a look at this incident?”.
As much as I feel I know about the game, I still want someone to point out something that I was oblivious to before they brought it up or present an angle that made me think differently. Not only that, I want them to be amusing and joyful as Ian Wright or as deadpan as Roy Keane. Basically I want something to stop me going downstairs and putting on the kettle.
It’s not that this is a critique of those giving their opinions, but more about the direction we’ve allowed ourselves to be directed down. Was Harry Kane bundled over more blatantly than Kyle Walker obstructed Ben Youssef? Yes, probably but do we have to labour the point so much at the neglect of something else like why Jordan Pickford should have perhaps saved the resulting penalty?
If you look the movement of Pickford’s right foot, you’ll see it steps inside rather taking a step in the direction of the ball. This is called a ‘negative step’ usually used when getting down low to a ball close to you and you have to sweep the leg away to allow you to collapse quicker. But doing it in this situation meant he didn’t get the distance in hisndive which might have made the difference.
I’m using that as an example because its my area but I just want the analysis to be is interesting as the football. And that brings me to something else along these lines.
Mark Lawrenson has come in for a bit of stick, as do most co-commentators. It isn’t an easy job. You have to be insightful, and if you can’t be that you at least have to be entertaining. In a good way, not in a clownish way. If you can be both insightful and entertaining then you’ve cracked the jackpot and there are few who get them both right. Even then, the very best at the job still can’t appeal to everyone’s tastes.
Whatever you think of Lawro, he has his own brand and character. Think of someone who is similar in style to him and you’ll be left scratching your head for a while. And whilst this is neither a defence or an appraisal of his work, it needed pointing out. Television should be both entertainment and informative, but we need both to come in different shapes and sizes, not uniformly packaged the same.
Patrice Evra hasn’t been my cup of tea but I’m sure he’s kept many people entertained. Insert big shrug of shoulders gif here. That’s just the way it is. And even though Lawro once referred to me as “that bloke off Twitter”, I have had a soft spot for him ever since he presented me with a winners trophy for the Ainsdale Junior Cup in Southport when I was nine years old.
He might sound disinterested at times, and have the demeanour of your Aunt Vera when her bunions are playing up but that’s just him.
Good commentary teams are like good referees. They go through the game largely unnoticed and add to the experience of the game. Guy Mowbray is brilliant at it. The doesn’t try to necessarily dress up a dull game but when the action is great, he makes it just that little bit better. Not trying to hard to be the star, but enhancing it nonetheless.
On that note, Eni Aluko and Alex Scott have impressed. You can really see how much they want do well and I’m pleased the result of their efforts have been appreciated. I’ve also really enjoyed the pairing of Ally McCoist and Peter Drury. Their brand of easy-on-the-ears commentary reminds me very much of Test Match Special, occasionally drifting away from the immediate reaction and offering insights in to their own personalities. They could yet be the real stars of the World Cup.