The traditional post-football career for any soccer player at the end of their career was to retire quietly to a quaint country village somewhere and run a pub. These days, thanks to the plethora of available media channels, it seems that every ex-pro instantly turns into a media pundit.
It never used to be that way – on the BBC you had Jimmy Hill on Match of the Day and on ITV Brian Moore on The Big Match, and that was it. If you wanted expert analysis on Manchester United v Manchester City and the latest Arsenal match report you read the national newspapers.
In the last couple of years or so the football pundit seems to be being increasingly replaced by the people on the grass roots side of things, namely the fans themselves.
Getting news and views about your own team was always easy enough, and post-game there was nothing better than a bit of cheery banter down the pub with your mates, your fellow supporters and maybe the odd away fan thrown in too (and sometimes quite literally). Keeping abreast of the views of the fans of the rival teams in your division was not so easy, though.
In the mid-to-late eighties while football was still in its post-Heysel death throes and before the creation of the all-powerful Premier League, the voice of the fans first became much louder with the fanzine movement. These home-produced periodicals sold in their droves, before a sizeable bubble burst and the commercial aspect of football largely became an all-encompassing one.
Now a new movement seems to be springing forth, and the days of the ex-footballer pundit could be under threat. Thanks to the internet and modern audio and video-capture equipment fan-created content is gaining traction when compared to the appeal of traditional media outlets.
This should not come as any kind of surprise. Your modern tech-savvy football fan typically chooses to get his football news via Facebook and Twitter these days, and the continual decline in the sales of printed media is stark evidence that online content is king as far as the footie-mad are concerned.
Therefore, a ‘guerilla-style’ takeover of football punditry by the fans should come as no surprise either. If you were an Arsenal supporter, whom would you rather hear from about Arsene Wenger’s latest selection woes – an ex-pro who never even turned out for the Gunners, or someone who’s been watching the boys in red and white since they were six years old?
Typically, the internet is full of poorly-constructed, advert-choked sites when it comes to some aspects of fan-driven content, but there are some real diamonds in the rough too if you search diligently enough. It’s a truism to say that with so much money in football these days the concept of the fan has been pushed into the background. The plethora of excellent, fan-generated content on the internet has truly given the fans a voice again, and it’s a voice that’s thankfully becoming increasingly loud.