THE BLOG
18/02/2015 12:06 GMT | Updated 20/04/2015 06:59 BST

Why New Pundits Are Causing More Harm Than Good to English Football

In January, ​ITV revealed they would not renew the contract of co-commentator and football pundit Andy Townsend.

The reaction was one of celebration. While rejoicing in a man's misfortune may be in bad taste, many saw it as a victory for ITV's football coverage, the sport in general - and both their ears and minds.

The former Republic of Ireland international has been a part of the channel's football furniture for 15 years. But something had to change. His incessant mutterings have continually driven football fans to the verge of insanity, or at least to the mute button on their television remote.

Townsend has voiced over World Cup, European Championship, FA Cup and Champions League finals. It's not a bad CV and word is he's already got other work lined up. But historically, the 51-year-old has drawn the ire of fans across the country for his exclamations of alarmingly obvious bias and 'cutting-edge' insight.

We've all heard him 'whisper' "GO ON!" under his breath on our telly. While some of his classic one-liners - "I think one of these teams could win this" and "in the end, Rosicky initially did well" won't be forgotten in a hurry. But pairing him with Clive "that night in Barcelona" Tyldesley and the face of Adrian Chiles as ITV's anchor has just been too much to bare.

Telegraph journalist Michael Deacon declared that ​'there'll never be another Andy Townsend' shortly after ITV's announcement, but unfortunately, his claim has already been proven wrong.

And just why is that?

Well, there's a new wave of stupidity making its mark on football coverage. Far be it for some humble-wannabe-from-Cardiff to make such a claim, but Martin Keown and Robbie Savage have shown us since the turn of the year that football programming is doomed if it's not being broadcast on Sky Sports.

Sky is as close as we'll get to a football haven. For all of its recent criticism for ploughing far too much money into Premier League football, at least the coverage stands up to the test (for the most part). The Andy Gray/Richard Keys debacle is long gone in the memory and punditry has its new king. Name: Gary Neville.

He's come a long way from his voice-crackling scream of joy at Fernando Torres' goal in Barcelona's Camp Nou in 2012. Neville is educated, eloquent and doesn't pull his punches. Jamie Carragher is his foil. He's still learning, but even the most hardened Manchester United fans will have warmed to him a little by now.

To boot, Sky have just added Thierry Henry, who's voice can help us blank out the fact that Niall Quinn makes the odd appearance.

Savage though - taking his spot for both the BBC and BT Sport - is just as annoying now as he was in his days on the pitch. Just ask Paul Scholes.

It was only just over a month ago that Savage was berating Vanarama Conference side Dover Athletic for not running around like headless chickens in their FA Cup third round defeat to Crystal Palace.

They lost 4-0, but Savage rubber-stamped his verbal version of a two-footed tackle on the poor minnows by expressing "that's why you're in the Conference" as Palace netted their second. Perhaps that's one of the contributing factors to why Alan Sugar's blatant ignorance of a Savage 'joke' following Tottenham's recent 3-2 defeat to Liverpool was just so pleasurable to watch.

That of course came just minutes before former Manchester United midfielder Scholes muttered his own expletive (in reference to Savage) under his breath live on television. Joy.

Since we've been moving chronologically, that's how we'll continue.

Manchester United - though their struggles have been obvious if you've seen essentially any of their games this season - overcame Preston North End on Monday night to book an FA Cup quarter final date with Arsenal at Old Trafford.

But former Arsenal defender Martin Keown showed exactly why the art of football punditry and co-commentary is fast becoming a laughable quantity, dependent on where you watch it.

He set himself up for an almighty fall, uttering: "You wonder if you'll see (Radamel Falcao) in a Manchester United shirt again, because he's offered nothing to the team". The Colombian may leave in the summer, but he WILL play again for United - it's sheerly ludicrous to suggest otherwise.

And Keown's bias against United and general lack of understanding of football's rules were evidenced across the entire 90 minutes. His remarks bordered on asinine and even pushed his recent comment that Chris Smalling was one of Manchester United's best players down a peg or two.

Co-commentators are meant to offer intelligent insights into football, with the aim to embellish and enlighten the people who watch. But at the moment, there's a host of former players out there making us seem like we're the smart ones.

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