Tottenham Hotspur 1-3 Manchester United

ESPN experts strike the right note

September 13, 2009
By Harry Harris

Ok, Guus Hiddink didn't know his Robbie from his Roy. But I have got to say I enjoyed the knowledgeable ESPN panel of Kevin Keegan and Guus Hiddink during the live coverage of Manchester United's 3-1 win at Tottenham Hotspur.

Guus Hiddink and Kevin Keegan
GettyImagesESPN experts: Guus Hiddink and Kevin Keegan

The Russian coach made Kevin smile when he once talked about 'Roy' Keane in the Spurs midfield instead of Robbie. But then again he only had a part of a season with Chelsea - yet, his only defeat in the league was against Spurs, so perhaps he should have spotted the difference between the two Irishmen.

The point is, though, I liked Hiddink and Keegan. They worked well together. Combined they possess a vast amount of experience at club and international level, and it shows, in their incisive analysis.

This was my first viewing of ESPN's live Premier League coverage, and I am quite prepared to tread on very dangerous ground by passing judgement of their coverage. And before you jump to any conclusions, I paid my £9 subscription fee. So, I feel entitled to my view.

The Spurs-Manchester United game was one I did not intent to miss, and like many others wasn't let down by the quality of the game, and the brilliance of Wayne Rooney.

So, to all those who gave me stick about Fabio Capello's reliance on Rooney, when I ventured that opinion after the England-Croatia World Cup qualifier, and expressed the worry about whether England have a Plan B... in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo, United boss Sir Alex Ferguson is relying more and more on the talents and goalscoring prowess of Rooney.

Yes, I might be passing judgement for their internet arm, ESPN Soccernet, but reaching for the highest possible ground, by declaring the best intentions of journalistic principles and attempting to remain unbiased, I actually preferred the Keegan-Hiddink duo than most of the other punditry we have become used to as armchair viewers.

Personally, I feel the BBC's big name pundits such as Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson have become too familiar, and while Gary Lineker has become one of the best ever former footballers to become a TV anchor man, this is a task best served by a proper professional. Hence, I actually prefer Ray Stubbs asking the studio panel more piercing questions, than the half jovial approach from Gary.

I have expressed this opinion many times in the past, that TV needs more of a cutting edge journalistic presence to sharpen up opinion.

Too often the managers 'union' on TV are loathe to say what they really think about managers currently in the dug out. They always leave themselves open to attack from the managers in employment who feel that they deserve protection from such sniping.

While I do like the wisdom of Glenn Hoddle, Graeme Souness and Ruud Gullit on Sky, sometimes Jamie Redknapp rabbits on a touch too long - although there is room for improvement there, as he is not afraid to voice strong opinions.

And who says women cannot make good reporters?

The interviews by Rebecca Lowe with club staff and players after the match, notably Sir Alex Ferguson, were first rate.

Ray Stubbs ventured to attempt to illicit a good 'story' from Hiddink by probing him about how much he misses the Premier League, and how much the general public warmed to him when he was boss at the Bridge, albeit in a temporary role

Would he be returning? Hiddink was impressively vague, but clearly his answers and body language suggested that he would.

I would have loved Ray to have asked Kevin Keegan the same question about a return to the Premier League, just loved it, loved it!

• Harry Harris has twice won the British Sports Journalist of the Year award. His book Down Memory Lane is now available.