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