Tag Archives: World Cup

Snoozefests and stalemates: the perverse appeal of the 0-0

December 2003, Finn Park, Ballybofey. The light rain cascades against the beaming haze of the floodlights. The winter wind chills to the bone.

On a pitch that is more mud than grass, Finn Harps and Derry City attempt to play something loosely resembling ‘the beautiful game’. Wayward pass follows wayward pass, foul follows foul.

I’m six years old, huddled in a coat that is too big for me, hand-me-down hat and gloves, longing for the sweet release of the final whistle. This is my first experience of live football.

My dad has told me that when the clock on the electronic scoreboard at the far side of the ground hits 90, the game will be over and we can go home. And so I stand transfixed upon it.

In giant green letters it reads FINN HARPS 0-0 DERRY CITY. The two large zeroes loom over the old ground, over the rusting corrugated metal and cracked blue paint, like the painted eyes of Doctor TJ Eckleburg surveying the grim spectacle beneath — the League of Ireland’s own ‘valley of ashes’.

Thirty minutes gone. 0-0. The rain pours. 45 gone. 0-0. The wind howls. 60 gone. 0-0. A supporter curses. And at last 90. 0-0. It’s over.

The scoreless draw in football is a curious phenomenon. It has few equivalents in other sports, a match taking place without a single instance of that which the game is played for, in this case scoring goals.

And yet there is something unifying about a good old 0-0. Fans of rival footballing creeds and colours can bond over their disgust of what has played out, over the sheer tedium they’ve been forced to endure throughout the preceding 90 minutes.

‘The dullest game in World Cup history’

A 0-0 can take many forms. Perhaps the most traditional is that of the ‘borefest’, a game so bereft of clear-cut chances and attacking competence that it becomes a wonder how football ever became so popular in the first place.

An example that immediately springs to mind is the 2006 World Cup second-round clash between Switzerland and Ukraine, a match so devoid of drama and incident that the Guardian has since labelled it ‘the dullest game in World Cup history’.

‘The failure of two teams to present any kind of a spectacle is a reminder that these talented players are not so unlike ourselves — flawed and liable to underperform’

Such was the punishing nature of the spectacle, ITV’s highlights programme skipped straight to the resultant penalty shootout in a bid to prevent its viewership from slipping into a coma.

These are the matches that lead one to question the very nature of why we enjoy football. How can a sport which at its best is so enthralling be so abjectly terrible?

How can a sport which has gifted us Liverpool 4-3 Newcastle in 1996 also subject us to Ireland 0-0 England on a beautiful, primed-for-football, sunny Sunday in Dublin. There’s a cruelty to it all, but still we watch.

Indeed, perhaps the opportunity to moan and quip about such dire games supersedes the actual drudgery of witnessing it in the first place.

There’s usually more of a thrill to be found in discussing the faults of an event rather than its merits, and this often rings true when it comes to football matches. In the absence of jaw-dropping skill, we zone in on the blunders, on the general ineptitude of what we’ve seen.

In the case of a 0-0, the profligacy of an attacker, the dour, defensive tactics of the coaches, or the whistle-happy referee can become the fall-guy for our disgust.

In many ways, there is more to joy be found in assessing the shortcomings of professional athletes than the strengths. The failure of two teams to present any kind of a spectacle is a reminder that these talented players are not so unlike ourselves — flawed and liable to underperform.

The rare jewel

In contrast to the borefests, there is a unique kind of goalless draw whereby all aspects of the match seem geared towards a thrilling scoreline. There are chances aplenty, defensive mistakes in abundance, scintillating attacking movement, and yet the net never bulges.

Crossbars and posts are cannoned, side-netting is rippled, wonder saves performed, but the promised reward of a goal is never delivered upon.

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of John Candy
Cardiff City 0-0 Ipswich Town. In the pouring rain. How long to go? Really…?

A memorable example is Manchester United’s stalemate with Real Madrid in the Champions League in April 2000. Ronaldo and his fellow galacticos peppered the United goal with joyful abandon but could not breach the resolve of goalkeeper Mark Bosnich.

Madrid advanced on aggregate anyway to knock out the defending champions, but many were left scratching their heads as to how the game had remained scoreless.

Perhaps the most memorable instance of a riveting 0-0 was the Euro 2000 semi-final between Holland and Italy.

The great driving force of Bergkamp, Kluivert and Overmars, who had crushed Yugoslavia in the previous round, pitted against the stern and stoic Italian rearguard, featuring such iconic names as Maldini, Cannavaro, and Nesta.

It was a game the Dutch largely dominated, but profligate finishing and a Kluivert missed penalty allowed Italy to cling on and snatch victory in the penalty shoot-out.

The pleasure in this kind of scoreless draw is derived from its rarity. For every thrilling 0-0, there are innumerable desperately awful 0-0s. The scoreline itself is inscrutable when taken at face value without having seen the action.

It displays only the finality of the result, and to assume all goalless draws are dull and insipid is an insult to the great 0-0s of the past. The thrill is in the journey to the final score, rather than the score itself.

Fear of the fall

So what is the root cause of a 0-0? Is it simply a failure on the part of two teams to deliver upon their talents? In many cases it could be view that way, but often a stalemate can arise from the mere ramifications of a result — what’s at stake.

Time and again, we see fixtures billed as the match to end all matches, the culmination of football’s historical journey, and yet they deliver a damp squib.

The World Cup final in 1994 had all the makings of a classic. The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Los Angeles — a veritable behemoth of a stadium, full to the brim with supporters salivating at the prospect of Brazil vs Italy.

‘Those afraid to tread the precipice for fear of the fall. It all breeds a grim pageant of tedium’

And yet as the baking sun sapped the energy of the players, inflicting upon them the jelly-leggedness with which anyone who has exercised in such heat can relate to, so the game descended into drudgery, an endless toil towards the final whistle and the ultimate relief of a penalty shoot-out.

The magnitude of the occasion, combined with the conditions, had suddenly rendered these two great teams impotent, a nervous husk of the sides which had swept away the rest of the competition.

A similar occurrence took place in the Champions League final in 2003 at Old Trafford, as Juventus and AC Milan played out arguably the least memorable major final in modern football history.

While it may seem unsurprising that an all-Italian final in the early 2000s finished scoreless, the reality is that these showpiece events are the games that fans and pundits look to to provide the season’s defining moments.

This undoubtedly contributes to such stalemates, the fear of being the player remembered for a mistake, or the coach lambasted for his tactical naivety — those afraid to tread the precipice for fear of the fall. It all breeds a grim pageant of tedium.

Indeed, a match with very little at stake can yield a similar cocktail of excruciating boredom and blithering ineptitude. France 0-0 Denmark, one of the lowlights of the 2018 World Cup in Russia is a prime example.

Two teams, safe in the knowledge of their progression to the next round, simply going through the motions — an insult to the fans who spent fortunes to be there, but the sad inevitable consequence of a game with nothing on the line.

Enshrined

Like it or loathe it, the 0-0 is firmly rooted in the fabric of football. Ideas to introduce rules to discourage such scorelines have been bandied around, but have usually floated away on the breeze.

Some have suggested awarding no points to either team for a goalless draw, or even settling a stalemate with a penalty-shootout to at least salvage some vestige of entertainment from a match.

But those who would seek to outlaw the 0-0 are neglecting a key truth. The joy of a good-old fashioned snoozefest is that it accentuates the thrill of the really great games. It amplifies the true wonder of football at its finest, at its most gripping.

The reason we revel in the excitement of Istanbul ’05 is because we have endured Manchester ’03. The reason I now bask in the glory of a seven-goal thriller between Finn Harps and Bohemians is because I have withstood the bleak despair of that 0-0 against Derry.

It’s the same reason we celebrate the highs of life, because they are offset against the lows that we’ve felt in the past and know will come rumbling around the corner again in due time.

The same reason we lounge in the sun on a summer’s day, because we still recall the chilling claws of the previous winter. The 0-0 helps us to appreciate and savour the good days in football, and for that it deserves our respect, if maybe not our love.

Feature image courtesy of Matthew Wilkinson via Flickr Creative Commons under licence Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Cardiff-Ipswich photo courtesy of Jon Candy via Flickr Creative Commons under licence Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Vladimir Putin posters

Doping claims won’t go away as Russia prepares to host World Cup

Russian sport right now has a struggle for power. A struggle between  legitimate sport and sport controlled by President Putin.

With a Russian-hosted World Cup in June, recent news of further Russian controversies should have FIFA doing more.

Firstly, let’s look at the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), Russia’s premier ice hockey league. The team Vladimir Putin supports, SKA St Petersburg, are reportedly winning Russia’s Premier Ice Hockey League by default.

This can be paired with claims by a whistle-blower that Russia has already doped at a previous football World Cup. A Russian-hosted World Cup this summer, much like in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, could present a much greater threat to the legitimacy of the tournament.

Putin will be desperate for at least a knockout phase performance from Russia’s footballers in an election year, despite their current lowly world ranking of 61st.

Putin’s team win gold

At this year’s Winter Games, a team of Russians competing as ‘Olympic Athletes from Russia’ won ice hockey gold in Pyeongchang. The OAR tag had to be used because of Russia’s ongoing doping suspension from the Olympics, with only clean individual athletes allowed to take part.

It just so happens that many of those gold medal-winning OAR players also play for SKA St Petersburg.

Russian sports writer Slava Malamud posted a thread on Twitter that went viral within the North American ice hockey community.

Malamud expressed his distaste for the state of Russian domestic hockey and Putin’s grip on the league.

“SKA is allowed to ignore the salary cap, its payroll is six times that of an average team, it has dibs on every star who considers the KHL. Most of its players are rabid Putin supporters who took part in his campaign rally last week. I repeat: SKA must win. It’s not an option.”

The KHL league has offered an official explanation that for many within the Russian sporting media that doesn’t exactly allay suspicions, claims Malamud.

‘Everyone in Russia knows what’s going on. The fans, the officials, the media’

It goes like this: ‘Allowing all the best players to concentrate in one team has created unique chemistry that transitioned seamlessly to the Olympic squad. Making the KHL season easy for them has safeguarded against injuries and bad morale. This is why we won the gold.’

“Everyone in Russia knows what’s going on. The fans, the officials, the media. It’s out in the open. And the people who have made it happen (all KHL bosses are Putin’s close friends) have already announced that the system has proven effective and should continue.”

Given what Malamud says, it would appear that Putin remains unconcerned by any sanctions or investigations that continue within the international governing bodies of sport.

Flying too close to the sun

Even more timely is the recent victory of Icarus at the Oscars. Directed by Bryan Fogel, the documentary inadvertently charted the fall from grace of the head of Russia’s anti-doping lab, Grigory Rodchenkov. The film also covers his subsequent flight to the United States, where he testified under a newly-assumed name and identity.

Though it may not sound like fun having Putin and his special agents allegedly hunting you down, Rodchenkov has been the lucky one so far.

Two former colleagues died in mysterious circumstances following the revelations of the fleeing Russian.

In Icarus Bryan Fogel met the murky world of Russian doping  Photo: @bannabaynard

Although ice hockey and hootball are not directly connected, they are inexplicably connected by Rodchenkov.

The former Russian lab director who now has taken asylum in the US, claimed he was ordered to apply the same kind of doping craft to all Russian sport.

Vitaliy Mutko, who was Russian sport minister during Sochi, was promoted to deputy prime minister after he and Putin were implicated by Rodchenkov.

Just a couple of weeks ago Rodchenkov told Associated Press: “Russian footballers were immune from doping-control actions or sanctions.”

He also told AP that while Mutko was president of the Russian Football Union he was ordered to provide “protection for Russian footballers.”

Rodchenkov claimed: “He [Mutko] told me directly to ‘avoid any scandal by hiding positive results’ and ‘doping would be handled internally,’ meaning that those doping irresponsibly or without protocols could be disciplined or reported.”

Give ’em enough dope

Rodchenkov moved to the US two years ago and the state-sponsored doping began to be uncovered in 2014. Yet, only in the past few months has FIFA reportedly attempted to gather evidence from his claims.

‘Two former colleagues of Rodchenkov died in mysterious circumstances’

Though Mutko was subsequently banned from the Olympics due to his involvement in Sochi, he is yet to face any footballing sanctions. With Mutko recently departing from his roles as head of Russia’s Football Federation and the World Cup organising committee, it will be interesting to see how FIFA responds.

There are 34 historical cases of doping identified by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which are said to include members of the 2014 Russian World Cup squad.

It has been a sluggish investigation by FIFA. You would have assumed that the federation, recently embroiled in corruption itself, would be making larger efforts to resolve such a situation.

Gianni Infantino and his media team tried to pre-empt criticism with a comment: “If there was a big issue regarding Russian players who would be doped, we would by now already know it.”

However from the evidence gathered, it appears many may have known for some time.

The chances of this being a deliberate delay could be high given the World Cup time-frame. Saudia Arabia kick off against the hosts at the beginning of June and any delay could be disastrous.

Timid response

FIFA responded to these allegations in a bizarre question and answer session in which they both asked and answered their own questions.

“There has not been any delay in our investigation,” stated FIFA. “Since the very first moment, FIFA has undertaken comprehensive action to determine whether football players were involved.

“We have been regularly informing and exchanging information with WADA about our progress and they have agreed to our approach. It is obviously in FIFA’s interest that the investigations are finalised as soon as possible.”

When asked about Infantino’s comment on Russian players, Rodchenkov told  Associated Press: “This is more burying heads in the sand.”

A slap on the wrist by the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and a turbulent investigation from FIFA ahead; there is still yet to be a proper and effective response to all of Russia’s sporting misdemeanours.

@SlavaMalamud on Twitter for more on Russian Ice Hockey

Vladimir Putin posters photo by Antjeverena via Flickr Creative Commons under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

‘Too dangerous’ – fans fear 2018 World Cup trouble

Fears are growing that the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia will be marred by hooliganism.

Hardcore thugs from Russia went on the rampage during Euro 2016, with England fans the victims in Marseille.

One Russian MP even went so far recently as to suggest that fighting among supporters should be a sport in itself.

With such worrying pronouncements coming from establishment figures, will fearful English football fans opt to stay away from the 2018 tournament?

Crystal Davis, Mike Newell and Lucas Chomicki spoke to supporters on their way to the London Stadium for the West Ham v Chelsea match in the Premier League to gauge their opinions.

 

Give England job to the ‘Anti-Sam’

The ever-increasing probability of Gareth Southgate’s promotion to permanent England manager faces its final obstacle when Scotland visit Wembley.

As Matt Law reported earlier this week, barring a first defeat to the ‘auld enemy’ since 1999, The FA plans to formally appoint Southgate after the latest international break concludes with England’s friendly against Spain.

southgate-training
Southgate watches over England training at St. George’s Park. Pic. The Guardian.

The former central defender’s elevation has been met with scoffs and wry smiles alike throughout certain areas of the media.

Likewise, England supporters have been quick to display their lack of faith, through radio phone-ins, in the 46-year-old’s character.

Yet for every claim of Southgate serving only as an FA puppet, put in place as a PR move to calm the choppy waters created by Sam Allardyce’s dismissal, the former Middlesbrough manager can prove otherwise.

Southgate’s public persona is different to that of other managers.

His measured approach to reporter’s questions and intelligent manner whilst working as a pundit, breaks the mold of bashful characters such as Allardyce. In this respect Southgate is the Anti-Sam.

Intelligence within football has often been misconstrued as softness. Someone who dances to their own beat and displays a hint of quirkiness will, wrongly, raise eyebrows.

Strength of mind

Yet no player can survive in professional football having played upwards of 500 senior games, by being a soft touch. This insinuation about the former Crystal Palace defender simply isn’t true.

His decision to drop (or protect) captain Wayne Rooney for the World Cup qualifier in Slovenia, served to confirm Southgate’s strength of mind.

Steve McClaren had attempted the same tactic in 2006, by not picking David Beckham in his first squad as England manager. But the current England manager’s decision to address the media head on, sitting alongside Rooney, also demonstrated class and consideration for his players’ state of mind.

Modern players at the highest level will respond positively to a manager who shows they care about them, and Southgate clearly understands this. Rooney, who has many years of big-game experience, has been assured of his starting place against the Scots, another indication of his manager’s ability to ‘know his players’.

southgate-rooney
Wayne Rooney will start tonight’s game, Southgate has confirmed. Pic. The Guardian.

Gaining such knowledge around the mindset of young people, some of who are 20 years his junior, comes as a bi-product of years of experience within The FA’s infrastructure.

Appointed as Head of Elite Development in 2011, the man who represented his country 57 times would later become England Under 21s manager in 2013.

Southgate’s reign saw the development and progression of players such as John Stones, Marcus Rashford and Harry Kane into the full squad, as well as a tournament victory in Toulon during the summer; the first for 22 years.

Euro 2016 proved that England are a long way from winning a major tournament.

The FA’s mission of reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2020, followed by the aim of becoming World Champions in 2022 appeared in tatters as Roy Hodgson’s team lay dejected amongst the Viking-clapping Icelandic team.

But the mission still has six years until completion, so why stop now? And who better to take the reigns than someone who understands from top to bottom, exactly what the aim is and the process in place to achieve it.

A long list of clubs and national federations have successfully promoted from within in recent years, creating a pathway for former players to learn their trade within age-group football, before stepping into first-team management.

That is by no means to suggest that herein lays the magic formula to success; there are many variables that determine the outcome of any appointment.

But as an intelligent, media-savvy, strong-minded and experienced coach with a working knowledge of young players, England should look no further than Southgate.

Why are so many ex-footballers taking to our screens?

Since leaving Manchester United in the summer, Ryan Giggs has become the latest high profile ex-player to step into a TV studio and chance his arm at punditry.

The Welshman’s transition from Old Trafford’s left wing, to the ITV sofa, (via the dugout), is a path trodden by many in recent years. Tune in to football coverage, be it on TV, radio or the internet, and you’ll struggle to not find the opinions of a former player.

So why exactly are so many ex-pros finding their second careers within the media?

Peter Lovenkrands played at the highest level for clubs such as Rangers, Schalke and Newcastle United, and also represented Denmark in two major tournaments.

As is the case for many an ex-sportsperson, replacing the buzz of competition proved difficult following his retirement.

Struggle

Yet, while nothing can ever replicate the feeling of 90 minutes on a football pitch, for Lovenkrands, media work provides the perfect way to remain closely involved in the sport.

“I don’t think you’ll see many more now going from punditry to coaching”

“For me, it’s the closest thing to playing. When I stopped playing, [punditry] was the thing that helped me get over missing it,” said Lovenkrands, who co-commentates on German Bundesliga games.

He explained: “There’s a thing in the football world, people who don’t have anything to go into after playing kind of struggle, and some people get depression, even.

“It’s something that a lot of players find hard. I even find it hard still sometimes when I’m sitting in commentary, you think ‘I want to be out there, I want to be playing’.

“But by sitting watching and talking about it, that’s the closest thing to getting the atmosphere in the stadium and being [out] there. I really enjoy it and that’s what helps me get over  retirement.”

Enhanced

Lovenkrands working as a summariser. Pic @lovenkrands11

Giggs may believe that coaching or management is the closest thing to playing.

After the disappointment of being overlooked for the United hotseat, some might argue that his regular appearances on our TV screens serve only to keep him ‘relevant’ in the eyes of fans and club owners alike, reminding us of his suitability for a role in management.

In his excellent book, Living On The Volcano, Michael Calvin discusses the way in which Tony Pulis left his post at Crystal Palace, only to find himself the new manager of West Brom, thanks to a little help from the media.

Wrote Calvin: “He maintained his profile as a media pundit, refused to enlarge on the circumstances which led to him leaving Palace by ‘mutual consent’, and watched the stakes rise. He would join West Bromwich Albion almost as soon as his gardening leave ended.”

Gary Neville, of course, is a fine example of an excellent pundit who enhanced opinions of his highly thought-of coaching ability, by educating (rather than patrionising) us on screen.

“I think these days you’re one or the other; you’re either a pundit, or you’re a coach”

Neville provides no catchphrases, no clichés and certainly none of the ‘faux-intelligence’ displayed by many of his peers on alternative channels.

However after three tournaments with England as part of Roy Hodgson’s backroom staff and a short-lived spell as Valencia manager, Neville himself feels it will be difficult for him to step from commentary box into the dugout once again.

But what about everybody else? Jamie Carragher once joked on Sky’s Monday Night Football that “no pundit on TV will ever get a job again, he’s [Neville] ruined it for us all”.

Praise

Lovenkrands, who now works for Rangers TV, makes the point that the demands and differences between working ‘on-pitch’ and working ‘on-screen’, may make it difficult for others to follow in Neville’s footsteps.

“I think these days you’re one or the other; you’re either a pundit, or you’re a coach,” said the 36 year old.

“He [Neville] was kind of the first one to go from being a proper Sky pundit, to go and take the Valencia job. Even though he was a pundit, he had the England job, but that’s not full-time.

“I praise him for taking the chance and trying to go and do his thing. I love him as a pundit, I think he’s fantastic. Him and Jamie Redknapp are two of my favourites.

“But I don’t think you’ll see many more now going from punditry to coaching.”

Caution

Neville’s success as a pundit can be attributed to his obvious desire for hard work, his undoubted knowledge for the world of football from training ground to boardroom and, quite simply, his knack for talking honestly and passionately on air.

Lovenkrands takes on Chris Sutton during an Old Firm Game
Lovenkrands takes on Chris Sutton during an Old Firm game

Other pundits choose to go down a different route, offering controversy and sparking vicious debate amongst viewers, listeners and people within the football industry alike.

Neither approach is wrong or right; success for Neville could look different to success for Robbie Savage. Either way, they are both successful.

For Lovenkrands, controversy should come with a hint of caution.

“I’ve spoken about that with people before and a lot of people say you can go two ways. One is knowledge, knowing so many things. And then there’s the controversial side of it,” said the Dane, who still holds a close affinity with the fans of many of his former clubs.

“Chris Sutton, for example, has been quite controversial with a lot of things, especially up here in Scotland. He’s had a lot of criticism because of the controversial way he’s been talking about the game.

“But for me that becomes a little bit like the X Factor and Simon Cowell, where somebody’s being negative. The same as Strictly Come Dancing where one of the judges will be negative, it creates a lot of interest for people watching it because they’re thinking ‘what’s he going to say next?’.

Controversial

“I feel like you have to be careful when you’re going down that road because I don’t like being hated. I like to be positive, but of course you have to be honest if certain things don’t happen right.

“A lot of people don’t care about being controversial and that seems to have helped them in getting more jobs because people want to hear what they have to say, even if they maybe don’t like what they’re saying.

“My view on it is you can be negative and controversial, but try to put a positive spin on it and not upset too many people.”

The reality is that football is a sport in which no matter how positive one may be, someone will always be upset.

Like anyone, footballers can be sensitive to the comments of others; they are human beings after all.

Criticism

John Terry has been the captain of his club and country, played in major games in front of some of the most hostile supporters, and faced public disgrace over his racist comments to a fellow professional.

Yet for Terry, receiving criticism from Robbie Savage over his form last season was not something he planned on taking lightly.

He responded by comparing his own successful career to Savage’s, and insinuating that criticism offered by a less successful player was not welcome.

“You try not to be too controversial and there’s a limit, I feel. You can be critical, but about football and not being personal at all”

Lovenkrands however believes that criticism is to be expected as a footballer, as long as opinions never become personal.

Having played with Joey Barton at Newcastle, the Liverpudlian’s current situation with Rangers could potentially have put Lovenkrands in a tricky situation.

“Sometimes it’s something you need to think twice about. But if you want to be in that kind of business you have to just say what you feel because you get paid to be honest and talk about what you see,” said Lovenkrands, who finished his playing career in the Championship with Birmingham City.

“If I feel like there’s certain things that have happened that I feel are negative, I have to say it and I have to just deal with it. To be fair, most people in the football world would understand.

“You try not to be too controversial and there’s a limit, I feel. You can be critical, but about football and not being personal at all.

“I think that’s the fine line I’m finding as a commentator.”

Lovenkrands (right) prior to co-commentating on a Champions League match. Pic @lovenkrands11.

Allegiances

Carragher and Neville hold the prestige of being one-club defenders who gave everything for Liverpool and Manchester United respectively.

Whilst their rivalry on the pitch has turned to admiration in the studio, the passion they have for their old clubs still remains.

Yet a major strength of both, is that through their media work you would struggle to work out their allegiances.

Being fair and balanced is a must for any journalist, however, were the ex-defenders to work for their club’s own TV channel, would their approach be encouraged to change?

Shedding some light on the subject of bias, Lovenkrands said: “The Rangers commentary that I do, it’s for Rangers TV, so I don’t need to be biased in any way.

“I really enjoy that because I’m a Rangers fan as well so when they score I can celebrate and be part of it in that way. That’s really exciting.

“But when I do the German football, or sometimes when I’ve done Premier League games, or Scottish football for radio, then of course you have to make sure you commentate on both teams and be professional about it.

“I like that as well, that I have to be that aware.”

So to revisit the original question as to why football coverage is now saturated with former pros, each individual will have their reasons. Some will say the salary appeals, whilst the job security far outweighs that in management or coaching.

Others may see it as a profile booster, a public job interview every time the ‘ON AIR’ light is switched on. For those who have no interest in coaching, media work provides a no-pressure involvement with the game.

But for Lovenkrands, his reasons are far simpler. “I just love football,” summed up the former striker.

“I get carried away when I commentate so when a goal happens, no matter what team it’s for, in the Bundesliga for example, I get carried away and start celebrating.

“That’s the way it should be. It should be coming across for people to listen to that you’re excited about your job and what you’re doing.”