Football’s 10 most offensive pundits
TOM Cowan and Robbie Fowler are the latest pundits to find that a casual remark or a casual prejudice can get you into hot water.
‘Banter’ is no longer an acceptable excuse for inappropriate sentiments however lightly expressed, and woe betide anyone who steps over the line into heartfelt abusive opinion.
BBC pundit Cowan’s crime was to make disparaging comments about women’s football in a column for the Daily Record, headed ‘And Now A Message From the Dark Ages’. In it, he remarked that “Fir Park should have been torched on Thursday in order to cleanse the stadium after it played host to women’s football”.For this, he has been suspended by the Beeb.
Fowler appears to have escaped Auntie’s wrath, having apologised for remarks made about the Tottenham v Chelsea game on Final Score.
‘Torres and Vertonghen were at each other’s throats all game, like a couple of girls, pulling each other’s shirts and pushing each other,” he opined. Shortly afterwards he changed his tune: “I made a comment about women’s football. I do apologise. I’m a big, big fan of Liverpool Ladies actually, who have a chance of winning the league tomorrow. I’ll be watching that. Anyone at home who was offended – I’m deeply sorry. I hope that’s the end of that.”
Back in the day such behaviour wouldn’t have got you a booking, let alone a suspension. If you want to really ruffle feathers, these are the pundits who knew how to do it…
The ITV World Cup panels of 1970 and 1974 were no place for shrinking violets, comprising as they did such opinionated characters as Derek Dougan and Pat Crerand, neither of whom were averse to ripping off their jackets and continuing the debate by other means. But pulling the strings was Big Mal. Fuelled by champagne he would casually toss a grenade and sit back, puffing on his cigar. Sample quote: ‘Why are we technically better in Europe? Because we’re playing against peasants, teams who play in primitive ways.’
Here England international Alan Mullery, stung by Allison’s criticism, has it out with the great man after the event…
Where do you start with Ireland’s most plain-speaking talking head?
As a player, he rocked the cosy football family boat in the seventies with Only A Game?, his warts-and-all account of playing second division football with Millwall. After retiring as a player he became a journalist and then a pundit for RTE, Ireland’s national TV station.
To say he divides opinion in his native land is to understate matters. His notoriety is based on his criticism of Jack Charlton, who famously took Ireland to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 1990. Early in the tournament he labeled the team “a disgrace” for playing “ugly football“. He topped this off by saying he was “ashamed to be Irish”. In 2002 he backed Roy Keane in the Mick McCarthy affair, and withdrew his support from the Irish team, wearing the colours of their opponents Cameroon during the first game and vowing that “I will be supporting Germany and Saudi Arabia in the contests ahead”.
He subsequently went off Keane, labelling him “a bullshitter”.
Big Ron’s opinion of Marcel Desailly is well known and led to his swift downfall.
In an eerily similar moment during the 1990 he criticised a Cameroon player, adding “I’ll only get into trouble if his mother’s back home watching the game sitting up a tree”.
Less well known is his view of Chines women, reportedly expressed at a fund-raising event at Hillsborough: ‘The Chinese people have the best contraception in the world – but I can’t understand why there’s so many of them because their women are so ugly.”
When the shit hit the fan, he argued that he was referring to an incident during West Brom’s tour of China in the 1970s, and stated (of the Sheffield Wednesday event): “I went there to help them out and to raise money. I stayed for ages and did photographs. I can’t believe this – I just can’t believe this. I can’t say anything now. I’ve been ultra-careful about everything. It was an easy evening and everyone enjoyed themselves.”
Crackpot? Visonary? A bit of both. Chinny Jim was responsible for many innovations that made football what it is today – including inventing the ‘panel’ and playing the role of ringmaster in the World Cup bear pits mentioned earlier.
He was also the first TV pundit, and managed to infuriate and entertain in equal measure. In 1982 he outraged the whole of Scotland by dismissing David Nary’s spectacular goal against Brazil in th World Cup as ‘a toe-poke’. This earned him his own tribute song from the Tartan Army: ‘We hate Jimmy Hill, he’s a poof.’
He later attracted ire of a different level from the world of politics after supporting Ron Atkinson, arguing that it was “the language of the football field”.
“In that context, you wouldn’t think that words like nigger were particularly insulting: it would be funny,” he argued. “Without meaning to insult any black men, it’s us having fun. What about jokes about my long chin? I mean, nigger is black – so we have jokes where we call them niggers because they’re black. Why should that be any more of an offence than someone calling me chinny?”
Oh dear. Sad in so many ways.
The former international referee is now a controversial pundit on Turkish TV. Here he demonstrates how (he claims) draws are rigged for the Champions League. The demonstration took place following disquiet at Galatasaray’s unfortunate pairing with Real Madrid…
The king of the pundits.
Yes, he called Poland goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski ‘clown’ after his brilliant performance against England.
But he also fronted up to Don Revie…
…and monstered the appalling John Motson in this strange interview, which rings truer than ever today…