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While the Scottish Premiership representatives at this year’s World Cup have been enjoying mixed fortunes thus far, another ambassador for the Scottish game is proving to be one of the undoubted stars of the tournament.
He may not be part of the SPFL – for now at least – and he’s long since retired as a player, but Ally McCoist has been one of the stand-out performers of the UK coverage being beamed into our living rooms from Russia.
Over on the BBC, when they’re not playing cringeworthy mock-ups of what it would be like if England won the tournament, or saying things like “Expectations have never been lower” while in the same breath talking about the Three Lions as potential champions, we are made to put up with some of the worst co-commentary around.
People who dislike Ally McCoist settling in for another 90 minutes of refusing to accept that he’s comfortably the most entertaining co-commentator at the World Cup
— Oldfirmfacts (@Oldfirmfacts1) June 24, 2018
While say-what-you-see summarising can be an inane listen, Martin Keown appears incapable of even that, bemoaning the fact that Uruguay had taken the lead “against the run of play” after battering Egypt’s goal for the majority of the 90 minutes, to pick just one example. A few days later he was blaming the heat for England appearing to run out of ideas against a stubborn Tunisia defence.
Then there’s the likes of Mark Lawrenson, who not only admitted that the statspack sent to him by his commentator had put him “to sleep”, he routinely sounds like he can’t be arsed and is resentful of doing a well-paid job that many of us would do for free. And that’s not to mention Phil Neville, who in his put-on, husky summariser voice – which can only be inferred as an attempt to sound more authoritative – ruins it all by saying that Uruguay will be looking to go further in the tournament than they ever have before.
How do you go further than winning a tournament? Twice.
“It’s come a long way since falling to Ivan the Terrible.” Ally McCoist is having an excellent World Cup
— Jack Lang (@jacklang) June 24, 2018
It’s not all been terrible on the BBC, far from it. Kevin Kilbane does an excellent job on the co-comms no matter which two obscure nations are playing, while Gary Lineker remains one of the best in the business in his presenting role.
Their punditry game remains strong as well. The likes of Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard continue to talk a good game, while the addition of Alex Scott has left us all wondering why it has taken this long to give female voices a more prominent position in the analysis.
Scott has perhaps been the best pundit on the UK coverage so far, putting a few of her male counterparts – those who that think being an ex-player and just turning up is enough – to shame.
Over on ITV there has been another female voice stealing the limelight. Eni Aluko, when she’s not being applauded by Patrice Evra for doing some research and putting coherent thoughts about football into sentences – the former Manchester United full-back seemingly astounded that a woman would be capable of such a thing – has risen from her bit-part role in recent years to become another force to be reckoned with on the punditry scene.
— Jon Champion (@JonChampionJC) June 25, 2018
Though despite this being a breakout tournament for female voices – the BBC has also introduced Vicki Sparks as the first female commentator at a major tournament – the undoubted star of the show has been a Scotsman.
Providing the perfect antidote to the bores and moaners on the BBC, Ally McCoist has built up excellent chemistry with ITV commentator Jon Champion, delivering an entertaining listen with equal measures of wit, insight, and light-hearted anecdotes and cultural lessons from his time in Russia.
Ally McCoist back on comms. We are living in #blessed times.
— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) June 16, 2018
While the BBC commentators sometimes sound embarrassed by the performance of their sidekick, McCoist and Champion genuinely sound delighted to have each other’s company. They naturally bounce off each other and even sound like they are bonding outwith their professional roles as they, for example, reference and critique what they managed to find for breakfast that morning.
Of course, we are well aware of McCoist’s ability from his role covering Scottish football on BT Sport, but he perhaps hasn’t been fully appreciated up until this point, now that he is being compared and contrasted with some of the others covering Russia 2018. He’s an infectious personality who knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the on-field action and genuinely sounds like he’s loving every moment of it.