Richard Bath: The BBC licence fee? It pays for a bunch of Crooks

When there was a huge outcry over the vast amounts paid to BBC football presenters – especially to Alan Hansen – one of the justifications provided for their excessive pay was the searing insight which could only be provided by the serried ranks of ex-pros. For anyone who has ever struggled to reconcile that argument with the turgid clichés pumped out each week by Shearer, Lawrenson and Co, this week’s scribblings by Garth Crooks, right, were proof positive that heading a ball for a living doesn’t always sharpen the critical faculties.

I refer to Crooks’ team of Euro 2012, one of the most ridiculous, one-eyed space-fillers ever to appear in print. Or, more specifically, the fact that he had two Englishmen – Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson – in his team of the tournament, and would have included Ashley Cole had the Chelsea defender not missed a penalty.

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Nor is it just the absurdity of the Englishmen whom Crooks has included which grates, but who he left out. There’s no Ronaldo – arguably the single most impressive player in the tournament – Fabio Coentrao, Nani, Philipp Lahm, Luca Modric, Mario Mandzukic, Sebastian Schweinsteiger or Xabi Alonso. There is, however, room for Mario Balotelli, who plays in the English Premier League, but who, with the notable exception of a dazzling semi-final appearance against Germany, was as ordinary as he was petulant.

And that’s without even starting on the fact that Crooks chose a central defender whose team conceded as many goals as all three of the other semi-finalists put together, or that he selected a goalkeeper who had fewer saves to make per game than any other ’keeper in the tournament.

Compared to ITV, for whom current managers such as Jurgen Klinsmann and Roberto Martinez provided some genuinely interesting insight, the BBC were shockingly off the pace. It’s time they started treating well-paid pundits on the basis of what comes out of their mouth rather than how many medals they have in the attic.