The FA Cup Fourth Round was largely free of upsets, but that didn’t stop us from consuming six matches of live football to bring you our inaugural domestic pundit ranking.
Our mission started on Friday night, eschewing drinks and socialising with other human beings to watch ITV’s coverage of Manchester City against Arsenal.
Saturday was similar; who needs fresh air when you’ve got offerings from Accrington, Walsall, Preston and Manchester United for sustenance?
The final day of our footballing marathon was thankfully limited to just two matches, as Brighton dumped holders Liverpool out and Wrexham were minutes away from knocking out Championship high-flyers Sheffield United.
But, with the majority of eyes concentrated on the pitch, we focused our attention towards those paid to talk about football and ranked their offerings this weekend from worst to best.
15. Martin Keown
Keown helped narrate Leeds’ banana-skin-side-stepping at Accrington Stanley, but sounded like he was stuck at the in-laws without WiFi throughout.
He’s definitely taken Lawrenson’s place as the ‘grumpy old man who gets most things wrong’ on the BBC, without any of Lawro’s strangely endearing dad jokes.
@FootballCliches I mae be being overly pedantic in my criticism of Martin Keown, but surely you can't hit something like an arrow. You can "fire it in like an arrow", but you don't hit arrows. Am I reading too much into this? pic.twitter.com/8xGuM4LJqM
— Darren J (@CountingSheep5) January 28, 2023
14. Danny Gabbidon
His analysis was fine, but we cannot forgive Gabbidon for calling Paul Mullin’s strike for Wrexham against Sheffield United the ‘winner’.
There were 10 minutes left. The United equaliser was inevitable and it was all Gabbidon’s fault. Boo.
13. Jermaine Jenas
Taken off co-comms and placed in the studio for Tottenham’s trip to Preston, Jenas offered little to make us rue his absence from the gantry.
We have the same issue with Jenas as we did during the World Cup; he generally speaks with more authority than his playing career should allow him.
Watching him explain the wing-back role to former wing-back Micah Richards was the footballing equivalent of giving Frank Sinatra singing lessons. The viewer deserves better.
12. Jermaine Beckford
Beckford wasn’t bad, despite Leeds supporters routinely describing him as a ‘company man’ on Twitter, and we were tickled by his description of ‘Accy Stanley’.
But we can’t imagine Pep Guardiola grabbing his notepad and furiously jotting down the former striker’s tactical analysis any time soon.
11. Lee Dixon
We’re on the fence with Dixon.
On one hand, his glass-half-empty demeanour makes Eeyore seem like a ray of sunshine and we suspect his partnership with Sam Matterface hinders both parties.
But he does offer nuggets of defensive wisdom and we’re thankful he didn’t spoil Matterface’s description of Reading’s climate-inspired kit with his own global warming scepticism.
Imagine the conversations Sam Matterface and Lee Dixon have off air. Bet they just sit there flicking through Tag Heur catalogues saying stuff like “oooo look at the dial on that little beauty”
— GeorgeWeahsCousin (@WeahsCousin) January 28, 2023
10. Mark Hughes
Hughes’ presence at Wrexham was refreshing and, while he looks more like your nan with each passing year, the Bradford City manager hardly disgraced himself.
Never the most extroverted of personalities, Hughes still managed some textbook conspiracy theorising when suggesting Daniel Jebbison had been sent off because the fourth official was ‘looking to make a name for himself’.
9. Micah Richards
We particularly enjoyed Richards’ explanation of the differences between playing at full-back and wing-back at Deepdale on Saturday, a reminder he has more to offer than forced banter.
But our attention was mainly drawn to the struggle between his torso and his shirt; the guy must be breakfasting with Thomas Skinner on a daily basis.
8. Stephen Warnock
Shunted onto iPlayer’s coverage of Walsall against Leicester, Warnock was perfectly serviceable as the Premier League side narrowly avoided an upset.
It’s a shame there were no drones in the vicinity of the Bescot, though. We’d have seen the former Liverpool defender come into his own…
Enjoyed Stephen Warnock’s reaction to the drone at St Mary’s as “a new one to write home about” and “tick of the list” like he was either an explorer encountering something in the jungle or an experience on his gap year. Also, pondering how these things get in there… pic.twitter.com/wSmPEA153F
— CollinsBeans (@CollinsBeans) January 22, 2023
7. Jobi McAnuff
Nestled alongside Roy Keane and Ian Wright for ITV’s dispiriting choice of Manchester United against Reading, McAnuff clearly belongs in the tiny minority of middle-aged men going grey with dignity.
Taking good sense in measured tones, a skill honed in the hipster underworld of The Football League Show, we could see him becoming a future housewife’s favourite if he gets more mainstream exposure.
6. Karen Carney
Carney gets more hate than she deserves; while the former England midfielder’s punditry doesn’t represent the invention of the wheel, she offers good analysis and has the ability to get her point across in a down-to-earth manner.
She also suggested that one look at Fabinho’s face was enough to suggest the decision not to send him off at Brighton was incorrect, which was bang on.
5. Glenn Murray
The only pundit to appear on BBC & ITV this weekend, Murray put in decent shifts on both channels.
Despite claiming Liverpool deserved to beat Brighton, and referencing ‘the termination of the rules of the game’, the former striker was scathing over Fabinho’s non-red and correctly directed his anger at VAR.
His Cumbrian tones are also incredibly soothing and the perfect way to ease into the afternoon after a hungover morning. Murray also feels very FA Cup, which isn’t a bad thing.
4. Ian Wright
We saw both sides of Wright’s engaging punditry on ITV this weekend, putting up a spirited defence of Albert Sambi Lokonga after Arsenal’s defeat at City and reminiscing over playing Tomb Raider with Paul Ince just 24 hours later.
It’s hard to recall his early days in the studio – raw, lacking insight and powered by cheap supermarket batteries – when presented with the current mature version.
👏 "I thought he was a brilliant teammate and a real good character in the dressing room"
😂 "We used to play Tomb Raider until four in the morning"
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) January 28, 2023
3. Ally McCoist
One of the many reasons McCoist is the perfect co-comms is that he appreciates the difficulty of elite football and is more forgiving of player errors because of it.
His presence in the commentary box elevates any game to must-watch status and simply listening to him enjoy a game of football, as he did at Brighton on Sunday, remains a treat.
2. Roy Keane
We’re fully paid-up members of the Keane fan club and him telling Pep Guardiola to smile more was our moment of the weekend; it married a tinder-dry wit and perfect delivery with an admirable self-awareness.
🗣 “I think Pep should smile a bit more – and that’s coming from me!”
💬 Roy Keane 😆 pic.twitter.com/iNhxGXtlFO
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) January 27, 2023
1. Alan Shearer
Shearer has come on leaps and bounds since admitting he sacked off research for the golf course at the 2010 World Cup, and his guise as the BBC’s newest co-comms is inspired.
Complimentary without being over-bearing, like the footballing equivalent of a bay leaf, the former England captain performed well during Tottenham’s win at Preston, albeit without the opportunity to goof on Danny Murphy.
And we enjoyed his praise of Wrexham boss Phil Parkinson, which sounded uncannily like calling him a ‘prick of a midfielder’.
We don’t think Shearer gets enough credit for his punditry, so congratulations on topping this ranking Al.
By Michael Lee