We’re, rather obviously, talking about Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville.
Sky Sports’ Monday Night Football’s new duo made their competitive debut yesterday, as Manchester City put four past Alan Pardew’s Newcastle in the first Monday night game of the season.
After years of dominating the Premier League’s broadcasting scene, Sky has come under intense pressure of the summer to raise to the challenge poised by BT Sport, and after the usual pre-season shenanigans – broadcasters and football clubs are more alike than they would care to admit – the gloves were finally off at the weekend.
BT might have snatched the season’s first kick-off – even though Liverpool vs Stoke is not a what one would call a “glamorous encounter”, by any stretch of imagination – while Sky had to wait until last night to unveil the latest addition to their team.
Sky’s decision to hire Carragher to partner Gary Neville was a rather surprising one, and not just because both men embodied the spirit of England’s two most successful clubs and arch-rivals but also because, when compared to BT’s acquisitions, it felt, well, underwhelming.
To extend the metaphor, Carragher joining Sky was the equivalent of a team looking to retain the title and buying a no non-sense defender, while their main rivals set on a summer spending spree.
Based on what we’ve seen on the weekend, however, Sky’s choice was an extremely inspired one, for the former Liverpool defender slotted in almost seamlessly alongside Neville, MNF’s undiscussed star.
Granted, Carragher will need some time to master the touch-screen technology the show so heavily relies upon and while Neville already looks an accomplished host, the former Liverpool man still betrayed tension at times, but his debut was extremely positive.
Carragher and Neville might not have the same flair and charme of Jake Humphrey, Owen Hargreaves and, ehm, Michael Owen, but they come across as football men in the strictest of meanings.
While many pundits nowadays give the impression of having ended up in a TV studio purely on the basis that they used to be rather good at what they’re now asked to talk about, Neville and Carragher genuinely look interested to share their knowledge with the viewers at home.
One of the most common criticism aimed at football pundits is that they fail to deliver the main aspect of their job, which is telling the viewers something they don’t know or they can’t figure out by watching the game.
On Saturday, BT’s informal approach to Liverpool vs Stoke was so watered down than it felt more like customers were eavesdropping on a conversation between David James and Steve McManaman, than a piece of broadcasting.
In contrast, last night, Carragher was as opinionated and insightful as his Mancunian counterpart and even when the duo shared the odd joke, it didn’t disrupt the flow of the show at all.
BT executive producer Grant Best claims his company “are building something that is re-imagining how you can watch sport on television” but those who tuned in last night on MNF, will be more than happy with the slightly older, more traditional, format.