It’s a wonder that Sky Sports haven’t turned the studio into a full-blown wrestling ring. In the red corner, one former professional, snarling about mentality and bottle, while in the blue, someone else discusses the stats of the situation.
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Football has the capacity to enrage as much as it does entertain - and so do the pundits employed to talk about it. It’s as much as fans can do not to swear at the TV some days, so imagine how the guys in the studio feel.
Every now and then, tensions do come to the boil. It’s not often that you see fan channel-style bickering on national television but these examples do come pretty close.
Honourable mention: Roy Hodgson’s F-word tirade on Match of the Day
It’s become iconic for all the wrong reasons. Although never broadcast on television - obviously - the usually genial Roy became incensed in a post-match interview despite having won the game in question.
“What decision are we talking about? Let's not take the piss here,” Hodgson asks in response to a question he believes to be “tricky”, continuing, “Well I won't mention it then. There wasn't a f***ing penalty in the game.” Unsurprisingly, the interview was restarted.
1. Roy Keane vs Jamie Redknapp: Average Tottenham
Roy Keane is exactly the kind of man who looks in the mirror and asks, “What are you looking at?” It’s no surprise that he’s not impressed how many caps Hugo Lloris or Toby Alderweireld has.
In a recent Super Sunday, the cantankerous Corkonian took a pop at Tottenham Hotspur, calling them “midtable” and arguing that “If you can trap the ball these days, you play for your country”. As Redknapp rattled through the Spurs starters, making a breathless case for each, Keane couldn’t resist a dig at Sergio Reguilon. “That’s why Real Madrid let him go,” he growled.
“Does that matter?” Redknapp shouts. “Because Real Madrid let him go, that doesn’t make him a good player? So you’re saying Reguilon is not a good player, now, Roy? He’s a fantastic left-back!”
“Take a breath, Jamie,” presenter David Jones chips in. It’s possibly the angriest we’ve ever seen Redknapp - which is testament to Keane, given that the former Spurs midfielder has managed 15 seasons as a team captain on A League of Their Own with James Corden.
2. Jamie Carragher vs Gary Neville: Can Tottenham compete for trophies?
Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville could fill this list on their own. Every week seems to bring a new debate with the pair continuing their on-field rivalry into the Sky studio. Spurs were again the focus for this particular discussion, in which Carragher suggests Tottenham are content not trying to win a title.
Gary Neville explains how Tottenham are trying to secure a future, calling them the best Spurs team for 30 years and saying “we shouldn’t get tired of them” just because they’re not competing for a league title.
“Well give them a bit of help!” says an exasperated Carra, claiming that they need key signings to compete. He had a point. Mauricio Pochettino, indeed, left the club without a trophy.
3. Don Revie vs Brian Clough: How to manage Leeds
Brian Clough seemed to have nothing but disdain for Leeds United boss Don Revie and what he saw as his “dirty” tactics. So to see him take over at Leeds in 1974 was quite a surprise.
When Clough was sacked 44 days into his tenure, ITV Yorkshire invited Old Big ‘Ead in for an interview with an added twist: Revie was by his side to discuss management. Clough told his predecessor he wanted to win the league “better” than Revie, to which Revie retorted, “There’s no way you can win it better. We only lost four matches.”
“Well, I can only lose three!” Clough cried. “No, no, no, no,” came the reply, Revie shaking his head with a smile. It was like a married couple on the edge.
4. Jurgen Klopp vs Roy Keane: “A sloppy performance”
Plenty of pundits have found themselves in hot water for saying something they shouldn’t have when their mic was left on - only one has found himself in trouble with Jurgen Klopp though, when the perma-grinning German dropped his friendly demeanour to rip Keane’s “sloppy” comments about Liverpool to shreds.
“Did I hear right that Mr Keane said it was a sloppy performance?” asked Klopp “How can he say that? I’m not sure I heard it right, it cannot be this game. Sorry! That’s an incredible description of this game, it was absolutely exceptional.”
“Very sensitive, Jesus,” Keane smiled after Klopp had finished his tirade and headed back to the dressing room. “Imagine if he’d lost…”
5. Patrice Evra vs Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink: “You’re telling me they’re scared?”
Perhaps it’s lockdown getting to us all but here’s another dispute from this season. In the red corner, Manchester United legend Patrice Evra, “bored” by a 0-0 and seemingly cheesed off. In the blue corner, Chelsea icon Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who could understand a conservative approach from both sides.
With Chelsea on a poor run of form, Evra asked Hasselbaink if he was happy with a draw. The Dutchman replied that he wanted to win. Evra smiled, responding “Well now I understand the Chelsea fans will enjoy a clean sheet,” as the topic then shifted to United, who the Dutchman also suggested would also be happy with gaining a point at the risk of losing three.
“So now you’re telling that United are scared of playing at home?” the former left-back enquired, as Hasselbaink tried to contextualise the result. It’s no good, Jimmy. Patrice wants goals: just nod and move on.
6. Jermaine Jenas vs Alan Shearer: Spurs did not deserve to lose that game
It’s not often a team concedes four goals and deserves to win the game - but when Jermaine Jenas tried to put forward the case for Tottenham deserving to progress from an FA Cup semi-final after losing 4-2 to Chelsea, Alan Shearer is having none of it.
“You don’t win games by having possession,” the Geordie replied.
“Listen, Spurs have dominated that game,” Jenas insisted, though. “Possession-wise,” came the response. Jenas was right in a way - Pochettino’s side had played well and the scoreline didn’t reflect the result. They’d have been gutted to have lost that game with such control.
“When you think you’ve played really well and you get beat 4-2 - that’s when I’d be upset,” offered Frank Lampard - sat between the two former Newcastle United players - perhaps as a compromise between the two. Yeah, that doesn’t really soften the blow for Spurs, Frank.
7. Piers Morgan vs Martin Keown: Wenger in or out
Arsenal fan Piers Morgan was front and centre of the club’s “Wenger Out” campaign for years. Here, he discusses what he believes to be the Frenchman’s lost touch with former defender Martin Keown, who very clearly isn’t going to dig out his former boss and doesn’t want to argue with the former newspaper editor - instead, politely responding to his criticisms, as Morgan gets more and more irate.
“Why does Wenger get such a free pass from the media?” Morgan enquires. “You’re sitting in the stadium he built today,” Keown responds, before the ITV presenter unloads his disgust for the manager who sold Robin van Persie and only delivered “one second-rate trophy” in ten years at the club - while also comparing Arsenal’s stadium build to Old Trafford’s increase in capacity for good effect.
While Piers’s concerns are legitimate, it’s interesting to look back and consider what Arsenal fans were worried about back then. Champions League football every season? An outside shot at a title? Hmmm…
8. Roy Keane vs Gary Neville: “Gary, it’s two years, man”
“If that’s a player giving it their all, then Man United are in bigger trouble than even I think,” opens Roy Keane, in the aftermath of another United defeat, “and I think they’re in ‘uge trouble!”
We’re back here: the eternal carousel of Manchester United’s ‘90s legends discussing post-Fergie form, with Gary Neville sticking up for Matteo Darmian and Luke Shaw, to tell his former captain that their legs have been run into the ground. As you may imagine, that doesn’t wash with Raging Roy.
“Gary, it’s two years man,” says Keane. “I guarantee if you’d have done the same, do you think we’d be telling you off?”
Neville just laughs, replying, “You’d have told me off, anyway.” He definitely would have.
9. Paul Merson vs Craig Bellamy: Tottenham’s fitness
It’s funny how many former professionals have sympathy when it comes to current players’ fitness - while others dismiss the idea of match sharpness entirely. When Craig Bellamy joined Paul Merson for Sky Sports’ The Debate to talk about Tottenham’s inconsistency - yep, them again - there were differing opinions on how fresh the North Londoners were.
“You’re telling me they’re in top condition?” asks Bellamy, after Spurs have dropped points to Watford. “Nah, this is where it gets carried away in football,” says Merson, “It’s rubbish, what about all the other players who have come back from the World Cup?”
It’s perhaps ironic that the two brought to the table - Moura and Hazard - have had rest, proving Bellamy right. Tottenham did secure top four, too - as the Welshman predicted.
10. Roy Keane vs Jamie Carragher: Give Ole time
Roy Keane really does have a love/hate relationship with United, doesn’t he? Here he is comparing his former club to their bitter rivals, sat opposite Reds legend Jamie Carragher.
“Since Sir Alex Ferguson left, have Man United had the right manager to get the best out of these players that came in?” asks Carra to the table, making the point that no one seems to slate Man United’s signings when they’re made.
“What about Man United’s managers over the past few years?” asks Keane. “Are you saying they’re all bad managers?” Carragher turns the question back to ask Keane if he thinks they’ve done good jobs. “You slaughtered Mourinho when he was in the job,” he says.
“He needed more time,” says Keane. “He needed more time!?” Carragher repeats, stunned. Perhaps this is the only way to argue with Keane is to hold a mirror up and let him argue with his own words.
11. Chris Sutton vs Joleon Lescott: Brendan Rodgers leaving Celtic
“Celtic’s reserves are bigger than Leicester,” Chris Sutton famously said during a debate on BT Sport, following Brendan Rodgers leaving the Bhoys midseason for a Premier League return - with many Foxes fans understandably annoyed at such a dismissive statement.
Joleon Lescott disagreed with the former striker, shaking his head and calling the comments “childish”. The debate is a fascinating one though, with Sutton providing a level of passion that we rarely see from pundits. He’s clearly a Celtic fan, questioning why a fellow Celtic fan would leave the club in the lurch without completing his job.
By the time he utters the immortal words about Leicester’s stature, he knows what he’s doing, doesn’t he? He likes a controversial comment, does Sutton.
12. Jurgen Klopp vs Des Kelly: Playing on Saturday
Another from Klopp: this time a quite extraordinary conversation with BT Sport’s Des Kelly. The interview starts off on the wrong foot when Kelly tells Klopp his players disagreed with him on Brighton profiting from VAR, to which the Liverpool manager suggests Kelly just wants a “headline” - the discussion really explodes, however, when the topic turns to the Reds playing at Saturday lunchtime after a midweek game.
“Congratulations,” Klopp says, when confirming James Milner has a hamstring injury. “Not me personally,” Kelly retorts, before Klopp says, “Oh but you work for them,” suggesting that it’s BT Sport’s fault that his team have had such a quick turnaround before this game - which has led to this injury.
“Maybe you’re firing at the wrong target,” says Kelly, “We’re broadcasters, we work within the Premier League’s rules, so shouldn’t you be talking to Premier League clubs?” Klopp listens before telling Kelly, “You picked the 12:30 kick-off,” pointing at him, explaining the fixture pile-up, as Kelly’s voice becomes a little more agitated at the suggestion that it’s the broadcasters’ fault.
Klopp smiles throughout, perhaps regretting such an aggressive tone at the start of the interview, as Kelly asks why five substitutes were blocked, too. Perhaps the Liverpool manager will think twice before opening such a can of worms, next time.
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