Sky Sports pundits face the media: ‘We’re better than BT Sport’

Gary Neville, Jamie Carragher and co take questions from an audience, with Roy Keane vowing to be fair to Erling Haaland

Sitting side by side on high stools in the Monday Night Football studio in front of an invited audience fielding questions from the presenter Dave Jones, the pundits Roy Keane, Micah Richards, Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville do not so much resemble a crack team of in-house analysts assembled to publicise Sky Sports’ coverage of the imminent Premier League season as a has-been boy band announcing a comeback tour prompted by multiple mid-life crises or a large bill from HMRC.

With Kelly Cates, Emma Saunders and the Guardian columnist Karen Carney unavailable due to prior engagements, the empty stool at one end is reserved for one of the original Spice Boys, Jamie Redknapp, who is running late in a state of affairs unlikely to please his bearded Irish bandmate. To be fair, Keane seems in good spirits and is looking fit, tanned and extremely lean.

Indeed, so jovial does he appear to be, that when questions are opened to the floor it seems as good a time as any to inquire whether his well-documented, violent, on-field “previous” with Alfie Haaland could in any way cloud his judgment when at some point in the very near future he is called upon to lavish praise or criticism on Erling, the former Manchester City midfielder’s son. As that famous tackle on Haaland the elder demonstrated, Keane is after all a man who clearly knows how to hold a grudge.

During a previous group discussion on City’s new star signing, Keane had remained silent as his colleagues took turns debating the pros and precious few cons of the club’s decision to sign the superstar striker from Borussia Dortmund but he was quick, at first with a conspicuous narrowing of the eyes, to rubbish the notion that he might be anything other than scrupulously fair in future assessments of the player’s Premier League performances.

“I’ll judge on what I see,” he said. “In the game last week, Jamie mentioned he missed one or two chances but I thought his movement was absolutely fantastic. He’s absolutely an amazing player; there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be a success at Man City and he’ll score bags of goals. When Phil Foden had the shot last week, if you look at his reactions he was way ahead of everybody else. So it’s no issue for me talking about a player because I might have had history with his dad. I’ll just hopefully give him a fair assessment, like I do with all my comments.”

The eventual arrival of an apologetic Redknapp (airport issues) coincides with a discussion about the future whereabouts of Cristiano Ronaldo, with nobody on the panel seeming any wiser than the rest of us regarding the player’s short- or long-term future. To a man they expect him to get regular game time for United if he is unable to force a move. Curiously, the issue of the undeniably gifted but ageing and increasingly immobile striker’s complete unsuitability for Erik ten Hag’s high-intensity style of pressing went resolutely unraised.

With Keane, Richards and Redknapp excused, the remaining trio stay behind to discuss the Sky Sports institution that is Monday Night Football. The difficulties of coming up with fresh themes to espouse or pick apart in their post-weekend slot is raised. In an age where there is an often overwhelming amount of forensic analysis of the game’s often excruciating minutiae available on multiple platforms, coming up with new topics to discuss can be tough.

Neville explains that the opening hour of tactical discussion on the first episode of Monday Night Football in a little over two weeks will be devoted to Manchester United’s new manager and cannot stress enough that it is imperative he and Carragher do it better than anyone else.

Micah Richards and Roy Keane have an excellent on-screen chemistry.
Micah Richards and Roy Keane have an excellent on-screen chemistry. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/NMC Pool / the Guardian

During a cost of living crisis when many are struggling to make ends meet, I ask what they might say to somebody – with apologies to those in far more dire financial straits – who can no longer afford two overpriced TV subscriptions and is forced to choose between Sky and BT Sport.

“We’re better than BT Sport,” says Carragher, matter-of-factly. Perhaps, but you don’t have the Champions League, comes the counter. “You can watch that in the pub,” says Neville, apparently oblivious to the fact that particular option will no longer be affordable to many when those energy bills for multiple thousands of pounds start arriving in the post.

“To be fair, this shouldn’t be about BT or Sky,” says Neville. “What they’ve done over the last seven or eight years is fantastic. They have great pundits but so do we. I look at Super Sunday on Sky when I’m at home and I just think: ‘Wow!’ We’ve got 128 Premier League games, and I know I’m sounding like a corporate now, but you have to watch the Premier League. You have to watch it.

The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.

“It’s every week, it’s at home, so you’d always choose Sky Sports because of that. And that’s not me being anti-BT because I’m not anti-BT.”

His comment prompts a risque off-the-cuff quip from the decidedly uncorporate Carragher, which prompts loud laughter, the intervention of one of Sky’s PR folk and the extraction of a reluctant but solemn promise from the Guardian that it would not be reproduced here. “You can quote me on that – isn’t that what Fergie said?” insists Carragher, prompting one of the gag’s two subjects, the MNF ringmaster Jones, to stress that he’d really prefer it if we did not.

Sky Sports is broadcasting 128 Premier League matches exclusively live, starting on Friday


Barry Glendenning

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville set for United v Liverpool rematch

Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville will lock horns again when they appear as Sky pundits for next Wednesday's Capital One Cup tie

Guardian staff

18, Sep, 2013 @9:37 AM

Article image
Who should replace Gary Neville on Sky Sports as he takes Valencia job?
Valencia’s managerial appointment has created a vacancy at Sky Sports. Which insightful former footballer should step up and fill Gary Neville’s polished shoes?

Guardian sport

02, Dec, 2015 @2:14 PM

Article image
Gary Neville’s eye for detail rules MNF’s world of the sonic screwdriver | Barry Glendenning
Barry Glendenning: The former Manchester United full-back runs the discussion and makes sure Sky’s big football night does not miss a beat

Barry Glendenning

23, Aug, 2014 @9:00 PM

Article image
Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher aiming for accuracy and honesty
Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher have accepted it can be difficult to criticise old colleagues and friends but insist it is part of the job

Barry Glendenning

23, Aug, 2014 @9:00 PM

Article image
Premier League fixtures: BT Sport and Sky Sports' key matches
See which of the channels will be airing key fixtures this autumn

11, Jul, 2013 @2:33 PM

Article image
The real Premier League rivalry kicks off: Sky Sports v BT Sport
Sky has a game on its hands as BT poaches viewers but it is the telecom giant's broadband strategy that's hit the back of the net

Simon Goodley

14, Aug, 2014 @1:12 PM

Article image
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville to feature at Edinburgh TV Festival
Ex-Manchester United and England player will discuss what can be applied from his time in football to his role in television. By Mark Sweney

Mark Sweney

07, Aug, 2013 @4:54 PM

Article image
Sky dominance of sports rights could harm competition, says media regulator
Ofcom publishes initial assessment as it launches public consultation on review of decision to force Sky to offer sports channels to rivals such as BT

John Plunkett

19, Dec, 2014 @10:13 AM

Article image
Sky Sports' Gary Neville vows not to hold back in criticism of top footballers

Former Manchester United player says he will not con his audience with false praise but will never attack fellow TV pundits. By Josh Halliday

Josh Halliday

22, Aug, 2013 @4:39 PM

Article image
BBC v ITV: who is winning the Euro 2012 battle?

Martin Kelner: Which broadcaster is delivering the best Euro 2012 coverage – the BBC with its usual Match of the Day pundits, or ITV with the refreshingly outspoken Jamie Carragher?

Martin Kelner

14, Jun, 2012 @11:36 AM