From The Guardian online (http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/sport/2007/02/22/the_irish_eyes_who_will_not_ha.html):
The Irish eyes who will not have left Ronaldo smiling
by Alan Ruddock
February 22, 2007 2:29 AM
RTE's John Giles, Eamon Dunphy and Liam Brady have no peers when it comes to football punditry.
At what point did television producers decide that football fans were to be treated with contempt? Was Jimmy Hill too abrasive for the modern age, too likely to upset fragile egos (though, in fairness, it could have been the beard)? Blandness is now almost universal on British TV, whether it's the crafted dialogue on Gary Lineker's Match of the Day, Steve Ryder's obeisance at the feet of sporting gods or Jim Rosenthal's - well, better to let that one lie. On Sky, where Andy Gray and Richard Keys at least attempt analysis, the surface is barely scratched and conventional wisdoms go unchallenged. "The lad will be disappointed with himself for that performance" now comes at the top end of the most stinging rebukes and most of what passes for television analysis would not pass muster in a pub. With few alternatives on offer we mutely accept it, nodding sagely that the lad could, indeed, have done better. There is, however, a better way.
In a brief clip on Tuesday night John Giles, Eamon Dunphy and Liam Brady demonstrated that they have no peers in the business of football punditry. Two great players and a former journeyman player turned great controversialist were dissecting Manchester United's win against Lille. They didn't dwell for long on the referee (two correct decisions, one goal disallowed, one awarded) or get overly excited by Lille's foot-stomping childishness but focused on analysing different elements of the game.
Brady and Dunphy had prepared a package of Cristiano Ronaldo's entire contribution - completing, to memory, one pass out of 10, while losing possession or fluffing scoring chances every other time he received the ball. The clip concluded with Ronaldo's substitution, head shaking at the injustice of it all, spitting in disgust and shrugging his way past Sir Alex Ferguson, his manager.
Giles, Brady and Dunphy - along with Bill O'Herlihy, their host and interrogator - are brought together by RTE, the state-owned Irish broadcaster, to analyse football. They do not hold their punches. Brady and Dunphy have little time for the hype that surrounds Ronaldo, while Giles's scepticism is slightly more restrained.
For all three, Ronaldo is talented but well short of the greatness that has been bestowed on him by his manager and the British media. They see his flaws, his petulance, his failure to deliver on the biggest European occasions but they also see deep cynicism at work.
The hyping of Ronaldo, in their eyes, is about inflating his value for the balance sheet, and has little or no connection with reality. Ronaldo is a commodity rather than a footballer, a player measured not by his contribution on the field but by his potential contribution to the bottom line, so long as the marketing of him can deliver a profitable transfer.
Agree or disagree, but it is an analysis that demands a response and cuts through the hyperbole that usually gushes forth from British TV studios. Critically, RTE's gang of four treat their viewers as intelligent and informed fans and approach each match they review with a determination to provide insight and provoke response.
Their approach is in stark and dismal contrast to what passes for analysis on British television. There are rare exceptions - Martin O'Neill was a breath of fresh air during the World Cup and Graeme Souness occasionally punctures the mood of celebration - but for too much of the time producers and pundits appear to treat viewers with contempt.
It is not beyond the wit of the BBC, ITV, Sky or Setanta to recognise one simple fact: fans are not morons. They deserve better than pap and I am convinced they would respond enthusiastically if treated with respect. It might, however, knock a few million off Ronaldo's asking price.