Time For Giles To Step Aside And Let Sadlier Star
When one of the veteran stars of the team is dropped, it always causes a bit of a furore. It’s particularly odd, however, when there’s uproar over a change on a football punditry panel.
RTE’s decision to replace John Giles with Richie Sadlier ahead of the big clash with Scotland on Saturday raised eyebrows on Wednesday morning. The word “axed” was used. It was all very dramatic.
The outrage was such that the national broadcaster was forced to issue a statement to deny his absence was down to him being omitted: “John Giles has not been dropped from the RTÉ panel,” a spokesperson insisted.
“It’s quite normal that the composition of the panel changes for scheduling and availability reasons.”
Giles himself is reported to have been surprised with the decision and was said to be desperate to work on the vital Euro 2016 qualifier. The general reaction to the decision has been unfavourable.
People in general don’t particularly like change; they enjoy normality, the status quo. Any attempt to shake up the order or infuse it with youth is met with resistance.
It seems there’s not much difference when it comes to the famous panel of Giles, Brady & Dunphy – the three wise men of Irish football.
The trio have been the established order on our screens for years now, Giles & Dunphy veterans of over two decades of TV discussion. They have provided us with countless moments of wonderful insight, witty conversation and woeful rows.
Between them and the late, great Bill O’Herlihy, they helped create an atmosphere whereby people watching felt as if they were in a pub with their friends, discussing the game over a pint – the antidote to the banal, cliché-ridden coverage in the UK.
That formula has been the blueprint for RTE’s success over a long period of time but there feels like a change in the tides of how sport, and football in particular, is covered in the new age.
Sky Sports have upped their game. Gary Neville, and now Jamie Carragher, have created a new wave of football punditry. Their cutting edge analysis, the modern day insight of professional football, their forthright views and playful sneering has forged a fantastic brand of advanced discussion.
Whilst RTE have denied any “axing” of Giles, it certainly feels like his benching for the Scotland game – just like last November – in favour of the younger, fresher, sharper Sadlier is a direct reaction to Monday Night Football’s two star pupils raising the bar.
An injection of modernity and freshness is needed.
Whilst Sadlier is mocked for that unfortunate caption, his forthright style, articulacy and contemporary opinion is a welcome addition to a panel that, while still fun, is a little set in its ways.
With Sadlier, though, you lose nothing. His ability to draw an unfavourable reaction from the older, less tolerant Brady and Dunphy provides the extra spark to light a barrel-load of fireworks – a bit like an overly liberal youngster getting in a ding-a-ling of a row with his more traditional, more belligerent elders – and his modern style of analysis and reasoning provides spades of watchable education and entertainment.
Modern football needs modern pundits who are incisively attuned to how the world views the beautiful game. Richie Sadlier might not enjoy being thrust into this position of usurping a personality such as Giles and the negative publicity it will draw but he must embrace it. RTE clearly have confidence in the former Millwall midfielder’s ability to hold a nation’s attention.
Every dog has his day and, at 74, Johnny Giles – a national treasure – has had more than his fair share of great ones. It’s hard not to feel like now is his time to step aside and let the new kid on the block take centre stage.