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Richard Keys' Exchange With Michael Cox Highlights A Growing Issue Within Football

01/11/2016 18:21

If you missed it, an unlikely exchange took place on Twitter yesterday between the former Sky Sports presented Richard Keys and Zonal Marking man Michael Cox. The exchange occurred after Cox wrote a piece in the Guardian on Jürgen Klopp's Liverpool and how the German has taught his side to make the most of the space on the pitch.

Few can argue with Cox's article. Klopp's Liverpool have been the most scintillating, entertaining side of this Premier League season so far. The attacking quartet of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Adam Lallana has been unstoppable; interchanging effectively to disrupt opposition defences.

Keys, who you'll remember famously resigned from Sky Sports alongside Andy Gray following derogatory remarks about female linesman Sian Massey, tweeted that this is something teams have always done.

The beIN Sports anchor later replied 'correct' to a Tweet saying "filling space dynamically what a load of bollocks (sic)."

Keys' reasons for mocking Cox's piece are invalid, in my opinon. Few fans respect his opinion these days, but it does point to a wider issue within football writing and punditry.

Firstly, it shows the ignorant and oblivious standpoint from which people like Keys view the game and its fans. The majority of pundits on television are there purely for their name and what they've achieved during their career. Thierry Henry, Jamie Redknapp and co is all great players, but their analysis of matches is lacking to say the least. Their breakdown of players, their explanation of moves, tactics and mentality is basic at best.

Yes, these people should be the best to comment on football matches; they've played thousands of matches between them throughout their career.

Yet their analysis isn't up to scratch. There's a reason Sky's Monday Night Football is incredibly popular; the extended analysis. It's giving fans what they want - a comprehensive breakdown and analysis of the important moments during key matches. Gary Neville is better than any in focusing on the detail of how and why things happened. Too few pundits do this these days. We can all see how a great long range effort was scored; you don't need to explain it to us. Pundits, though, get too caught up on the detail of the obvious.

Key's comments point to a lack of exclusivity in football. Fans? We want your money, we want your bums on seats and we want you to pay to watch our programmes. Your opinions? Well, they couldn't possibly be as good as ours - you haven't been involved in the game professionally.

Whilst there is undoubtedly a problem of exclusivity within football itself, there's also a problem with the fans. Too many fickle football fans view the pundits on television as the 'experts' and nobody else is allowed their say.

One Tweeter supported Keys, posting "Who do you expect us to believe - Richard Keys, who knows the game better than anyone, or some nobody on Twtr?' It sums up the fickle nature of fans in 140 characters.

In reality, fan writers are providing the best football content we've seen in years. Fans, who've never played the game professionally, are breaking down the game better than anyone in the professional game.

The fans are getting what they want, but it's not Sky, it's not BT and it's not the Premier League that's providing it, it's us - the fans.

Sites like In Bed With Maradona, These Football Times and more are telling football stories like nobody has before. The IBWM 00 and blogs like Scouted Football are providing fans with more knowledge on the unknown young talents around the world than any pundit does.

Michael Cox's blog Zonal Marking is one of the greatest assets any football fan trying to understand the beautiful game could need. His analysis of systems, of managers, of plays and of games is better than anyone on television; Gary Neville included.

It's not just Cox, others are doing it too. Lee Scott (@FMAnalysis) is one of the finest football writers around at the moment, bringing a new level of understanding to tactical analysis.

These people haven't played the game professionally, but their understanding and breakdown of the game is of the highest quality.

There is a widespread issue in football and one that needs to change. Pundits don't know everything, their word is not gospel and they aren't always right. Likewise fans don't know everything, but it's time to change the way we as a fan base think.

If Cox's piece was written by Gary Neville, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

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