Absolutely no doubt who was the top pundit of Euro 2020
"Don't forget to win."
At Euro 2020 they learned, if you come at the Keane, you best not miss.
Three years removed from our top pundits ranking from the World Cup, there are some movers and shakers. We had a handful of new contenders stepping up to the plate and some of the old favourites fall back.
Euro 2020 may not have hit the overall heights of the last World Cup, but it was hard to do so with Uefa plastering the games all over the continent and Covid restrictions seeing many stadiums only half, or less, full.
16 of the 24 teams qualifying to the knock-outs diluted the group stage somewhat, but Group F was still entertaining as hell. The second round was one of the most entertaining in the past two decades, too.
The pundits had a lot to get stuck into - the Christian Eriksen heart scare, positive Covid tests, rampaging fans, strange tactics, England leaving so many attacking talents on the bench, and whatever was either enthralling or annoying Roy Keane on certain days.
We saw a lot more female pundits deployed on ITV, BBC and RTÉ over the tournament. Ainé O'Gorman, Stephanie Roche and Lisa Fallon provided insight and opinion for Irish viewers, the BBC used Alex Scott and Eni Aluko, while ITV had a gem in Chelsea boss Emma Hayes. When it got to the business end of the tournament [semis and final], it was disappointing to see all other female pundits, bar Hayes, were not used.
Before we deliver our Top 10 of pundits, across the three stations, a reminder of our Top 8 from the last World Cup:
- Roy Keane
- Didi Hamann
- Damien Duff
- Gary Neville
- Richie Sadlier
- Frank Lampard
- Slaven Bilic
- Liam Brady & Eamon Dunphy
There was no Eamon Dunphy for Euro 2020 and, maddening as he could so often be, many of us did miss his presence. He was still doing his thing on his podcast The Stand and you could get your John Giles fix on Off The Ball, but we had Liam Brady flying the flag for old-school Irish football.
Brady had his moments - talking about Oliver Cromwell and imploring Richie Sadlier to 'JUST TALK ABOUT FOOTBALL' - but admitting he had little to no knowledge or research done on certain teams and players means he does not feature in our Top 10.
Now, after much debate and in reverse order, our Top 10
10. IAN WRIGHT
Makes the Top 10 down to his sheer enthusiasm and ability to get a rise out of Roy Keane. Had some good insights into his playing days with England, and the pressure that came with it.
9. ASHLEY WILLIAMS
Very personable and engaging, and flew the flag for Wales. Did so well that was called upon, as the tournament progressed. Not shy of offering up on opinion or two.
8. ANDROS TOWNSEND
Ditto this guy. For a current player, Townsend was not shy about being critical, but it was never personal. Constructive in his takes on tactics or what was going through players' heads.
7. MICAH RICHARDS
Livened up the BBC crew no end and loved nothing better than sparking a debate or winding up a fellow pundit.
6. ALAN SHEARER
Really growing on us as the years go on, and that unflappable front comes down. Found himself getting carried away by some of the 'It's Coming Home' talk, but the best of the BBC panel and remembered it was not all about cheer-leading.
5. RICHIE SADLIER
Sometimes you would find yourself agreeing with Brady and wish he just focused on the football, but he did speak very well on larger issues within the game. High points were castigating Uefa for their pandering to Hungary over LGBT+ views and the V.I.Ps being flown into London for the last four and final.
4. EMMA HAYES
Came in with reams and reams of research done and explained it in an easy to understand manner. Want to know the completion rate for corner-kicks to headed chances? Hayes was your pundit for that. Great sense of humour too.
3. DIDI HAMANN
Carrying the Dunphy torch and getting stuck into lads with abandon. His high point was slamming Raheem Sterling and the England squad for doing down far too easy under contact. RTE used him as their continental Europe expert. Spoke an awful lot about Jadon Sancho and other lads plying their trade in the Bundesliga.
2. DAMIEN DUFF
Really growing into the role. Has a glint in his eye and it is not all just criticising teams and tactics. Has come across as dour in the past, but settled into the chair by now and cracked a few jokes. Strong again on some Uefa shenanigans and liked sticking the boot to England, even if he did sometimes go too far [poor Jordan Pickford!].
1. ROY KEANE
Pure gold again. We had a Keane who, like Duff, is more comfortable in his punditry skin by now. Spent as much time praising ballers - Modric, Ronaldo, De Bruyne - as stripping the lads who he thought were not stepping up or, like Joao Felix, imposters! His Sweet Caroline story, ribbing the excitable English and mopping up the spilt tea were all classic moments.
No Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand or Frank Lampard in our Top 10, or anywhere close. All three lads clear lost their mind with England - or 'our boys' - and their trip to the final.
All three - and many others - lost sight of reality and objectivity as they fan-boyed Gareth Southgate's talented team.