On Monday Sky Sports viewers learned, if they hadn’t already known, why Jamie Carragher had been enlisted as a pundit to work alongside Gary Neville, who joined the outlet in 2011.
During Sky’s Monday Night Football program—the centrepiece of which was the evening’s Swansea-Liverpool match at Liberty Stadium—Carragher, the former Liverpool defender, and Neville, the ex-Manchester United right-back, locked horns over the ranking of a trio of England midfielders past and present: Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes.
It was a tiresome, predictable debate, illuminating no one and reinforcing the notion that television networks are more beholden to partisanal commentary conducted by retired players than the smart, nuanced punditry of professional neutrals.
That the question was even put forward to the two was ridiculous.
Scholes, who called time on a 19-year playing career in the spring, hasn’t represented England since 2004; Gerrard and Lampard, meanwhile, are 33 and 35-years of age, respectively, and won’t be involved in a World Cup cycle beyond the current one.
Carragher: "Gerrard & Lampard are better than Scholes" Neville's reaction sums that ridiculous statement up! pic.twitter.com/P7wTHiMQBP— ManUnitedTalk (@ManUnitedTalk) September 17, 2013
It was a tedious, age-old argument dreamed up by television producers, and it should have left fans of both of the clubs in question—Liverpool and United—feeling embarrassed.
Carragher, for his part, seemed unable to differentiate between three very different footballers—revealing a lack of nuance even casual fans have little trouble grasping. Neville, meanwhile, perhaps overstepped the bounds of reality when he compared Scholes to Barcelona’s Xavi.
Carragher: "No one wants to grow up and be a Gary Neville" hahahaha— Billy Liddell (@Liddellpool) September 17, 2013
As a whole, the discussion was an insult to the good sense of viewers who had tuned in for what became, and was always going to be, an extremely entertaining match of football. Not that anyone will have flipped the channel.
But they should have.
Football fans deserve better than what Sky served them on Monday. But instead of interesting, insightful punditry they got a line-in-the-sand scrap between the Liverpool and United alumni.
Liverpool and Manchester United having a go at one another. Imagine that.