Football pundits have been around for a long time, even if they weren’t called pundits back then. However, the nature of the role has changed immensely over the years, where now one almost has to be an analyst to some degree to be taken seriously by fans and viewers.
The catalyst for this change was undoubtedly Gary Neville at Sky Sports. His appearances on Monday Night Football from the 2011-12 season onwards completely revolutionised the football punditry business in England. Fans were now being told how and why certain teams did well and won their matches, what tactics were used and why they did and did not work, and why some players played well and others did not. It was a welcome change from the days when all a former player had to do was to show up and talk about mentality and teamwork and determination, and that would be enough. As this Betway video shows, football pundits nowadays have to be spot-on in terms of their knowledge and their research. While a large part of this is down to Neville’s work at Sky, a lot of it also has to do with the way in which the internet has made football a lot more accessible. Fans now have the ability to find statistics and information about players, teams and individual matches at the click of a button or a tap of a screen, making it more difficult for a pundit to hide behind those old tropes.
Earlier, it would be enough for a pundit to have had a career in the game upon which he would base his statements for him to be considered credible. Not anymore; just having played the game is not enough for fans today to be convinced by a pundit’s statements. Look at the punditry lineups across broadcasters – the likes of Neville, Jamie Carragher, Roy Keane, Jamie Redknapp, Graeme Sounness, Rio Ferdinand, Steve McManaman, Alan Shearer, Paul Scholes and Ian Wright, to name just a few, grace our screens every weekend, but almost all of them know their facts and support their arguments with data and numbers. It is also telling that of these names, one can probably easily recognize the pundits who are known for still sticking to the ‘old ways’ and are ridiculed for it on social media. This illustrates just why being well-researched and knowledgeable is vitally important to have a career as a pundit in football today; perhaps almost as important as having played the game at a high level.