Wednesday 21 February 2018

Giles makes a call for the ages, but he's still leaving

Review: Champions League RTE2

Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

John Giles was on the RTE Champions League panel on Wednesday, calling it. He felt that Atletico Madrid would win one-nil against Bayern Munich, which they did. And that Bayern had erred in leaving out Tomas Muller, which, as it turned out, they had.

Not that it's all about "calling it", right or otherwise. There are analysts who are quite good at calling it, who even have a pleasant way about them on TV - you could call them "gentleman callers" - yet they are so one-dimensional it all seems a bit unsatisfactory.

With Giles there is a hinterland, a clarity of thought which makes the process interesting in itself. When you see him de-constructing the game, you know that you are in the presence of a first-rate mind.

So there is a kind of a grandeur to his "calling", which goes beyond that of the pundit who can see that the full-backs are getting forward too much. And in this year of his compulsory "retirement" from RTE, he made a call for the ages.

Around the start of the year, everybody loved Mezut Ozil. He was going to drive the Arsenal to win the Premier League, for sure. He was going to be the Footballer of the Year. He was Mezut Ozil, and he was the main man.

Giles wasn't buying it. He has never believed in Ozil. In fact earlier in the season he was suggesting that the best thing the Arsenal could do with Ozil was to sell him, if they could find anyone who wanted to pay a lot of money for a gifted player who will usually let you down in the end. You don't want to be depending on Mezut Ozil, he insisted.

For this he was mocked by many experts in the game and on social media who called him a "dinosaur", just an old man out of touch. Indeed it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that members of the RTE executive class were connecting with the Ozil issue around this time, seeing it as confirmation of what they were thinking anyway - that with the deepest regret, it was time for the venerable Giles to move on.

Yes he was in a lonely place, at that time, but that has never mattered to Giles. His views on football are derived not from some desperate need for attention, but from a deeply-felt belief system which he is not going to abandon for the sake of a few lads on Twitter.

Within a few weeks, as Ozil "disappeared" from games when he was most badly needed, it was clear that Giles had been right about him. He had been more than right, he had been right when just about everyone else in the world of football had been wrong, he had been stunningly, magnificently right.

But nobody talks about that any more, partly I guess because nobody talks about Ozil any more. Arsenal didn't win the league, Ozil wasn't within a hundred miles of being Footballer of the Year, and one man called it but his services are no long required by RTE Sport.

So we are left with quite a narrow range of possibilities here, as we seek to understand this decision to "retire" John Giles. It could be a kind of a Civil Service impulse, whereby a person must stop working when he hits a certain number - in this case 75 - regardless of the quality of his work or anything else.

Strangely at the BBC they have people such as David Attenborough and Peter Alliss who are much older than that, but who are still great, their greatness if anything enhanced by the enormity of their experience.

Or it could just be that RTE Sport doesn't actually know how good Giles is, that they are not equipped to understand such things.

But since we don't want to think too hard about that, we've got to lean towards the theory that this is mainly about age-ism.

Are we OK about that now? Is age-ism a reasonable enough position to take? And if we're fine about age-ism, is it now the situation that a bit of sexism is also fine? While we're at it, how are we doing on racism?

When they announced the TV "retirement" of Giles, you felt there should be a law against it. Maybe there is.

Champions League RTE2

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