Are you qualified to give an opinion on football?



By Tony Attwood

Many would say that I am most certainly not qualified to give an opinion on football, given that I have neither played for nor managed any football club at any level.

And yet I carry on offering my thoughts on football on this site day by day.  How come?

The answer I would give is that I use research and statistics to draw conclusions and to question the conclusions of others – something that many other writers on the subject of football don’t do.  Indeed as we show each summer, many journalists and bloggers are willing to spend much of their time repeating transfer rumours, and remain happy in the knowledge that 97% of what they predict will never come to pass.

And that’s before we get to the opinions.   For example, as the Sun told us before the season started

“According to former England and Liverpool shot-stopper David James, Saka should up sticks to the Etihad and play for Manchester City amid interest from Pep Guardiola’s side….

“Saka has been crowned as Arsenal’s Player of the Year for two seasons running and ended last term as the Gunners’ top scorer with 12 goals across all competitions.

“However, a lack of Champions League football on offer is likely to soon become something Saka takes real note of. The winger’s contract expires in the summer of 2024 and boss Mikel Arteta is undoubtedly working tirelessly to try and tie the 21-year-old down to a new deal.”

This is the view promulgated in the Mirror under the headline “Bukayo Saka instructed to leave Arsenal if he wants to win trophies.”   The “instruction” for Saka to leave and go to Manchester C comes from David James, the ex-Liverpool goalkeeper who is now, well, to put it bluntly, a person who tells others what to do on Sky.  His last job in football was as an assistant coach to Hermann Hreiðarsson with Icelandic club Þróttur Vogum.   He lasted for … I may have miscounted, but I make it… one game.

So what we have is an ex-Liverpool man who finished playing (for a team in India) in 2014, and who managed to survive one match as a coach, telling an Arsenal player to leave and go to Manchester City.

And while my lack of experience in the game may mean that I am utterly unqualified to suggest to anyone what they should do, I would argue that James’ position in the game doesn’t give him much insight either.  One game as coach and then being moved on… not the best CV in the business.

The point is that there is always something to knock Arsenal with, for those who for various reasons are dedicated to the task.  The latest is that Arsenal might be top of the league now but they haven’t won the league for 18 years (with the implication that because Arsenal haven’t won the league in 18 years, they are unlikely to win it this season).

Last season it was that Arsenal hadn’t been in the top four since coming runners-up in 2016, although they had won the FA Cup twice since then, which is more than (to give an example) Tottenham who haven’t won anything since the League Cup in 2008.

The fact is, employing ex-footballers as opinion givers really is rather pointless if all they do is knock their old rivals and promote their own ex-team.

But what I find particularly annoying is the use of the word “instructed” in the headline “Bukayo Saka instructed to leave”.  Who is David James to “instruct” anyone in terms of their future careers?  After all his career as a manager with Kerala Blasters has hardly been covered in glory.

And indeed the only thing that is worse in his career in football management, is his career as a football pundit.


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