By Iain Macintosh
LOOK, let me make one thing clear. I don’t want this to get nasty. We can all start with the best of intentions, with lofty ideals of objectivity and balance, but there’s a high risk that before long we’ll be circled around his prostrate body, boots flying in, veins popping out of our foreheads, screaming, “Say NOT again! SAY IT! I DARE YOU!”
Nobody wants to see that.
If we’re going to assess Mark Lawrenson and his contribution to British broadcasting, I think we should do it as rational adults. We’re not animals now, are we?
The people of Liverpool, more than anyone, owe Lawrenson a great debt. A five time winner of the First Division, he served his club to great effect during the 1980s. It has been said that his failure as a manager should preclude him from criticising others, but to ignore the fact that his ill-fated Oxford United side were asset-stripped by the nefarious Maxwell family would be an act of gross revisionism. He had no chance of success there and so he fulfilled all expectations. Besides, a lack of relevant experience has never stopped me from opening my mouth. As a player then, he was a legend. As a coach, he was unfortunate. As a man, he is known to be entertaining, affable company and a loyal friend. It is as a pundit that he really boils my piss.
I genuinely don’t understand what purpose he serves on television. Traditionally, the commentator tells us what is happening and the pundit explains why it is happening. If the pundit is Lawrenson, however, both roles fall to the commentator. Lawro just sits quietly, occasionally moaning, occasionally asking questions you might expect from an eager nine year old at his first live game. “Do England have an U20 team?” he asked Jonathan Pearce during the Olympics. Yes, Lawro. Yes, they do. And you should know a little about international youth football, given that the Olympics is essentially an INTERNATIONAL YOUTH TOURNAMENT!
It’s not the ignorance that gets me. It’s the wilful ignorance. He doesn’t seem to do any research and that’s inexcusable. Jeff Stelling will sit in a service station all day on Monday, reading and digesting every report he can find, compiling data in his own hand-written charts, refusing to leave until he can name the top scorer at every club in England and Scotland. Stan Collymore is the first into the press lounge every match day, hunched over his laptop scouring stats. Gary Neville crams for hours, reviewing games, refining his demeanour, looking for angles. We have satellite television, foreign newspapers, the internet, Twitter, live streams, You can’t wing it anymore! DO YOU HEAR ME?
Sorry, sorry. Deep breaths.
If Lawro was working for ITV, it wouldn’t be a problem. ITV pay their pundits out of their advertising revenue. The BBC, on the other hand, pay them out of a mandatory national telly-tax. Essentially, we’re paying Lawro and I want my money back. He’s got one job and that’s to know about the football we’re paying him to watch so that he can tell us about it.
But Lawro doesn’t tell us anything. He just sits there making stupid jokes. He’s like a slightly tipsy uncle at a barbeque, glugging the good wine, convinced that he’s ‘holding court’, unaware that most of the court have fled to the sanctuary of the kitchen. We ask for analysis and he brings us low-level wordplay. We ask for answers and he has to first ask Jonathan Pearce. His English football knowledge has holes in it, his European football knowledge is negligible, his global football knowledge is non-existent, WHAT THE HELL WERE THE BBC PLAYING AT PUTTING HIM ON A U23 INTERNATIONAL TOURNAMENT?!
Sorry. Please…Let me stay. I’ll be good
Most offensive of all is his attitude. He is doing a job that we would all kill for and he acts like he’s been forced to flip burgers at the back of a motorway McDonalds on a sunny August afternoon. It’s bad enough when Alan Hansen implies that he’d rather be somewhere else, but at least he occasionally tells us something useful. Lawro just whines.
“It’s a cracking game isn’t it, Jonathan?” he’ll say slowly. “Not.”
It’s ok. I can do this.
Steve Martin first showcased the ‘Not’ gag on Saturday Night Live in 1978. Fourteen years later, it was re-popularised by Mike Myers in his film ‘Wayne’s World’. We are, therefore, 34 years on from its original usage and 20 years away from the last time it was in popular circulation. During those 20 years, the ‘Not’ gag has been annoying me for about 19 years and eleven months. It is not funny. I’m not sure if it was ever funny. I want bad things to happen to anyone who says it. Really bad things.
DO YOU HEAR ME, LAWRO? DO YOU F**KING HEAR ME? SAY ‘NOT’ AGAIN! SAY IT! SAY IT! I DARE YOU! I F**KING DOUBLE-DARE….
Aw, bugger. I was doing so well….
Iain Macintosh is the co-author of ‘Football Manager Stole My Life’ available now here
The author neglects to mention the short revival the not-gag saw with the release of ‘Borat’ around 2006 which Mr.Lawrenson was undoubtedly modeling his own approach on.
Lovely piece, and an exact summation of my feelings on the ‘subject’.
Go on Iain, I’ll hold your coat. And there isn’t a jury in the world would convict you.
The last bit of the 4th paragraph actually made me spit my drink out. Brilliant
Great piece Iain. I remember watching Lawro’s preview of the Euro’s. Systematically going through each nation attempting to give the viewer an insight into what to expect from each of them. It was pathetic. He only name checked players that had played in the premier league and even at that you could tell he didn’t know what role they played for their national teams. It was insulting. And his hair was shit.
Well said that man! Absolutely spot on..
What annoys me is the insistence of the BBC in employing ex players as pundits. There is an assumption that because they played the game they must be good at analysing it; its nonsense.
I would much rather they tried to find someone from a slightly different background. Say a retired coach or scout. At least they would offer something different and a scout would know how to do the sodding research and put in the hours for their pay check.
I couldn’t agree with this more, please please please send it to someone at the BBC. The guys attitude is a disgrace
Re BBC Licence fee, can I also have my money back for John Motson, David Pleat, Graham Taylor, Ian Payne-in the fuckin arse and many many more.
Re ‘Lawro’ wouldn’t we all accept the wages if we’re not being challenged on it by our employers ?
Granted he is a twat but sure aren’t most in the media the same ?
Great piece.Lawro is without doubt the worst pundit on Tv and no better when on a commercial station ( he’s a pundit for TV3 here in Ireland) Bored and uninterested, he mumbles through the games. This is an issue on our national broadcaster too. Pundits paid from taxpayers money who are no more knowledgable about the game than the viewers. The Euro’s were particularly frustrating with none of the panel seeming to anything about any of the teams who didnt have Champions League or premier league regulars. No research done and no shame in admitting it. We all deserve better
I always remember in my ‘Team of the Decade’ video I had as a kid the micro-second shot of Lawro after one of the Steve Nicol hat-trick goals at Newcastle. Everyone was really happy and then suddenly Lawro almost lunges at Barnes, in a kind of a ‘hey! you didn’t shake my hand!’ method of admonishment. He looked like a man who had just come home to discover someone had nailed his cat to the mailbox. His naff wordplay is inexcusable, but it’s of a piece with the Beeb’s woeful locker room patter. None of this is surprising given the main man is chief pun-taster Lineker, which I think points at a wider problem across much of broadcast media in the Uk and here in Ireland. Despite hundreds of graduates, and people with a natural affinity to a particular medium who never went to college but make it into the profession, it seems the best way to land a TV gig is to have been something else entirely – like a footballer. I take Baz’s point on the lack of research on RTE but at least trained journalists are presenting the bloody programmes. At this rate Robbie Savage will be presenting Newsnight in a few years.
Back to Lawro: he may be a human mudslide of pure cynicism, a stagnating pool of complacency, but at least he’s not Alan Shearer. Don’t get me started….
I in particular liked your opening few sentences, you could of thought it was a love story of a man and his dog then you just systematically ripped the heart and lungs out of the subject, the one constant is Jonathan Pearce must have the toughest job in broadcasting, toughest since Rodney Marsh was at Sky. Lawro must have very very very high standards of football because he is rarely pleased with anything, I’m surely privately he’s a stand up guy but this job just isn’t for him. He makes Hansen look positive, enough said!!!