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Pundits and Predictions | @AlexHTheMax

Alex Horsburgh (@AlexHTheMax) takes a look at a hat trick of pundits past and present who might have annoyed or delighted you (depending on where you were in the UK).

Do you think some of the current Euro 2020 pundits of tv should be subbed for the next big tournament (tell us in comments) and what's your views/memories of the three featured in our piece here?

One is an unsung football pioneer, one is a Scot who incurred the dragon's wrath and one is a current Three Lions cheerleader.


The Toe Poke

Jimmy Hill spent much of his wartime service in Scotland near Rosyth Dockyard in Fife, and was as innovative as any Scot in a football sense. With fair wages for players (he helped to abolish the £20-a-week minimum wage), the concept of three points for a league win, all seater stadiums and shirt advertising being some of the things he championed in the 1960s and 1970s before they became the norm.

Hill might have been closer to Scotland than most realised in his life experiences but he was always a proud Englishman on screen when he became one of the first former player/manager analysts/pundits in British football on tv in the early 1970s, first at ITV, and then, more famously, at the BBC.

Hill irked Scots with many of his comments about the Scottish international team at a time when Scotland were qualifying for World Cups and England were staying at home (1974/1978) with the then bearded professor of the game seemingly unable to fathom why Scotland were qualifying and England were not.

This attitude was viewed North of the border as a superior and very 'English" by the emerging Tartan Army especially.

Hill was undeserving of the songs and banners, especially at Hampden, in the 1970s that questioned both his birth and his sexuality but these were different times and Hill was certainly professional enough and robust enough to take it in his stride, in many ways he had no choice in the matter.

He perhaps didn't help his cause however when, after a decade of being the tv bogey man for Scots, he referred to a David Narey screamer v Brazil at the 1982 World Cup in Spain as a "Toe Poke".

Cue more derision from the Tartan Army, not helped by the fact Brazil went onto win the game 4-1,  but Hill will be remembered as the man that maybe formed the persona of the modern day pundit as a forthright but knowledgeable voice on our tv screens.

He did actually play the game to a decent level, most famously at Fulham, and also helped Coventry City become a top level club as a manager and then as a director. 

A penalty, no doubt about it?

From Jimmy Hill to Rio Ferdinand the Scots have a usual suspects line up of pundits the punters North of the border would love to fire free-kicks at but the Welsh could point to a son of Shettleston, Glasgow as the Scot that offended them as much as any English pundit.

Archie MacPherson was a former schoolteacher who rose to become Scotland's top football commentator from the early 1970s until the mid 1990s through his association with BBC Scotland and the need for the corporation to have a Scottish angle (for viewers in Scotland only) at the regular Auld Enemy clashes pre 1990, and indeed at World Cups, at a time when Scotland were largely seen as the British B team by the media in London at World Cups in West Germany and Argentina in the 1970s due to English non qualification.

Scotland were on a wave of patriotic emotion under the guidance of manager Ally Macleod in 1977 and, after a 3-1  win over European Champions Czechoslovakia, they had Wales to beat to qualify for Argentina.

The game was moved to Anfield to accommodate the huge Tartan Army support and with Scotland in the form of their post war history they gained a stroke of luck to go alongside their undoubted skill at the time.

Joe Jordan jumped with Dave Jones in the Welsh 18-yard box following a long throw-in, and the sleeved arm of the Scottish striker rose as if to help the ball on its way. To the amazement of the short-sleeved Jones, the referee awarded a penalty for hands. 

Joe Jordan's handball still gets to the Welsh to this day!

A case of mistaken identity clearly but Archie in the Anfield commentary box uttered the now infamous line "A penalty, no doubt about it" despite the slow motion replay showing otherwise and an outcry for football justice from men in red that could be heard from South Wales to Southport and beyond.

Don Masson netted from the spot and the rest is history, as the award opened the door to Argentina and all that, but if Joe Jordan is still public enemy number one in the land of the dragon the narrator of Welsh pain is undoubtedly a full of hyperbole MacPherson.

His name is Rio

Rio Ferdinand's punditry future might be on the line on Sunday after the bold predictions he has made on the BBC regarding England at the Euros.

Rio had even surpassed Ian Wright now as main Three Lions Cheerleader with his unshakeable belief in Gareth Southgate's team but his trolling of a Scotland fan on twitter after the England v Ukraine game has shown him up to be a bit of an analogue man in a digital world.

The original tweet aimed at Rio accused him of arrogance with his predictions for the auld enemy clash ahead of the 0-0 draw at Wembley and was posted 24 hours after the game in London but the fact Rio sat on it for two weeks before replying has ruffled feathers in some quarters..

Should England beat Italy on Sunday perhaps it could be daid that Rio has won the social media war, but If not, expect him to have a busy comments section on Monday morning.

By Alex Horsburgh, written for @TFHBs

©The Football History Boys, 2021
(All pictures borrowed and not owned in any form by TFHB)

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