MNF and the old-school centre-backs


John Terry was the special guest on Monday Night Football as Sam Allardyce’s revitalised Everton slapped down a miserable-looking Swansea side. Jamie Carragher featured alongside Terry and Allardyce – a rare evening where old-fashioned centre-backs provided the key focal point.

After missing a first-half penalty, Rooney shone as Everton came from behind to seal a 3-1 home victory. Bafflingly, having been in the relegation zone a matter of weeks ago, Everton now sit in the top half of the league table. The Everton boss Sam Allardyce beamed:

“From a tactical point of view, I’ve just simplified the game…what looked like a desperate situation is becoming a comfortable one”

Last week, Allardyce, himself a former central defender, made a playful dig at Sky Sports, Jamie Carragher in particular. After Carragher criticised Everton’s lack of ambition in the Merseyside derby, Allardyce said in the post-match interview:

“Jamie, if you’re listening to this. You get forced back by two things. One is the talent of the opposition, and two is the failure of your players to play out correctly when they’ve got possession. So, next time I see Jamie I will give him a lesson in coaching so he can understand it better next time he’s commentating”

Carragher was excitable and took the comments in good spirits, although he unknowingly dominated Monday night’s show. When Sky have offered a high-calibre guest pundit such as Terry for the evening, for god’s sake, let the man talk.

Unsurprisingly, Terry showed a keen eye for defensive detail and offered true insight into the modern game. He claimed that his Chelsea team from the 2004/05 season would beat the current Manchester City side. By virtue of playing the long ball to Didier Drogba, with support from Arjen Robben and Damien Duff, he claimed his Blues defence would also comfortably nullify the key threats of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva.

MNF and the punditry revolution

Since its recent resurgence, Monday Night Football has become the go-to show for interesting and insightful analysis of the beautiful game. The main criticism levelled at former footballers in a pundit capacity used to be a reluctance to comprehensively critique their former colleagues for fear of burning bridges (no pun intended).

With MNF as their platform, “failed centre-back” Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher have changed the game. Not only have Neville and Carragher provided the benchmark across the punditry landscape, they also show a diligence which few others possess.

You simply can’t imagine Thierry Henry or Mark Lawrenson worrying about the apparent drawbacks of the zonal marking system or how best to counteract the gegenpress. Neville and Carragher have notched up the analysis to a level of forensic examination, making some of their rivals’ work look vague and outdated.

Of course, Terry fell into well-worn phrases about footballers needing confidence etc. but in the coruscating heat of the Sky Sports studio, he was critical when necessary and he was a decent addition to the team. Not least for his confident use of the mind-boggling, giant touchscreen which Andy Gray used to tinker about with like your Grandad in possession of your new iPad Air 2.

As Terry heads towards hanging up his boots in the next couple of seasons, it’s likely he’ll become more of a presence across the Sky Sports coverage. Meanwhile, Allardyce and Carragher will no doubt continue to exchange playful digs as the season progresses, with Everton undoubtedly being steered towards safety and even a top half finish.

Sky Sports will be at the forefront of the Christmas footballing calendar. The bustling festive fixture list is nearly upon us, and the heart glows anew. A Scrooge-like cynicism of the ‘commercialisation of an ancient religion’ melts away like the January patch of snow on the MNF logo.

Chris Henderson

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