5 Famous Football Pundit Gaffes, Mistakes & Shocking Blunders
Brian Clough: Tomaszewski Gaffe
In a must win World Cup Qualifier at Wembley in October 1973, England played Poland. Only a win for England would see them through to the World Cup finals in Germany the next year. Brian Clough was a pundit on ITV working on the match. Before the game he insisted the Poland goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski, was hopeless. He called him a clown. The first of our Famous Football Pundit Gaffes.
On a frustrating night for England who completely dominated the game, Tomaszewski was outstanding. Making save upon save, continually denying England’s attackers. After the match Clough still wouldn’t back down. Even at half-time when pointed out to him by TV presenter Brian Moore the saves he’d made, Clough was having none of it.
Video: Mick Channon recalls England v Poland 1973 with Cloughies ‘Clown’ Comment.
Despite Tomaszewski’s performance, Clough still called him a clown when they met some years later. After the match Brian made his way to the England dressing room to commiserate with Alf Ramsey. In later years Clough remarked on Jan Tomaszewski performance. ‘Clown or no clown .. he knocked England out of the World cup that night.’
Alan Hansen: Footy In Mouth
At the start of the 1995-96 Premier League season, Man Utd were playing Aston Villa at Villa Park. Alex Ferguson had introduced a number of youngsters into the side including; David Beckham, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, Gary Neville and Phil Neville among them. The team were heavily beaten 3-1.
In the ‘Match of the Day’ studio, Alan Hansen criticised the United manager exclaiming – ‘You can’t win anything with Kids.’ Manchester United went on to do the double that season. Wining the Premier league championship and FA cup. Only the fourth team in the twentieth century to accomplish the feat (at that time).
Rodney Marsh: Bradford Blunder
Rodney Marsh was a former football star of Queens Park Rangers & Manchester City, now turned football pundit. He became a regular on Sky Sports football shows and phone in’s from its inception in 1992. He was out spoken and highly opinionated which was part of his appeal. When he got things wrong, he joined in the humour.
Rodney was so confident Bradford City would be relegated in their first season in the Premier league, he said on air ‘he would shave the hair off his head if they stayed up.’ At the end of the season Bradford City avoided relegation. Marsh was publicly marched out onto the Valley Parade pitch, in front of the fans, to have his head shaved. All good fun.
But in 2005 a joke on-air in a Sky Sports phone-in confirmed his place on our list of Famous Football Pundit Gaffes, when he made light of a devastating tsunami in Asia, saying ‘David Beckham has turned down a move to Newcastle United because of trouble with the Toon Army in Asia’. Despite apologising he was sacked by Sky. He went on to work for ‘Talksport’ but it never was the same. Rodney, eventually leaving for America where he had previously played out his footballing career with Tampa Bay Rowdies in the seventies, going on to manage them in the mid-eighties.
Andy Gray & Richard Keys: Famous Football Pundit Gaffes
Former Breakfast TV presenter Richard Keys and Scottish ex-footballer turned pundit Andy Gray, joined Sky almost from its inception. Long before the company acquired the TV rights to Premier League Live football. The two formed a successful double act on the Sky’s flagship ‘Super Sunday’ live coverage as well as Sky’s Monday Night Football programme. They became synonymous with Sky Sports football output. This grew even further when the company gained the rights for the UEFA Champions League.
Gray’s performance as a pundit plus the use of increased digital technology took punditry and TV coverage of football to a new level. His excitement as a co-commentator was part of Sky’s glitzy appeal, as was his cutting-edge analysis. The two were powerful characters around the Sky building.
In January 2011, the pair were caught making derogatory off-air comments, between themselves about female assistant referee Sian Massey. Gray: “Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don’t know the offside rule.” Keys replied “Course they don’t.” The comments were criticised by Sky Sports, football fans and the Football Association.
Although both apologised the remarks were considered ‘sexist.’ Typical of the stereo-type male attitudes towards women, the game was trying to eradicate. Further off-air film clips began to circulate of other comments each of them had made separately concerning other females. Keys describing this activity as ‘dark forces.’ This put Sky under tremendous pressure to act with Gray being the first to be sacked closely followed by Keys.
Video: Richard Keys explains his actions
Ron Atkinson: Big Ron Blunder
The former West Bromwich Albion, Manchester United and Aston Villa manager, known for his larger-than-life persona and bling jewellery. He was knowledgeable and entertaining as part of ITV’s Champions League coverage as a pundit and co-commentator from the late 1990s to 2004.
However, he made a grossly offensive racist comment about Chelsea’s Marcel Desailly, becoming one of the most Famous Football Pundit Gaffes. When supposedly off mic during Chelsea’s 2004 Champions League semi-final defeat in Monaco. He did apologise. But was dismissed immediately. Atkinson also lost his job at ‘The Guardian’ newspaper.
This extremely offensive comment was shocking. What was completely surprising and contradictory was Ron Atkinson had been the manager at West Bromwich Albion in the seventies. Developing an exciting team with three highly talented ethnic players in Cyril Regis, Laurie Cunningham and Brendan Bateson.
Video: Ron Atkinson – Big Ron – Am I A Racist? – BBC documentary
Sport Pundits After Dinner
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Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.