- Walsh is an emblem of the modern day pundit, no corners cut and good research
- We will be at Cheltenham for three days next weekend and will be preparing now
- AP McCoy, however, is more of an in-the-moment man, ready for any scenario
The changing of the seasons, from Flat to jumps, comes with a guarantee for me: Monday morning phone calls from Ruby Walsh.
Ruby is an emblem for the modern day pundit. Relentless in his quest for the right information and unyielding in how much time he will devote to being correct, you can see why his first career as a jockey was so successful. No corners are cut, every little bit of attention to detail matters.
So that’s why I know he will ring at the start of a week when we are working together. We will be at Cheltenham for three days next weekend and Ruby will be getting things in his mind already — he’s the closest thing to Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher I’ve seen in terms of his forensic approach. Punditry is one of the hottest topics of debate on social media. Thanks to men such as Ruby and my old Monday Night Football colleagues Gary and Carra, what gets said after the action, in some respects, is almost as important as the action.
I’ve seen it all through my career. I covered rugby union with Sean Fitzpatrick and Zinzan Brooke — there was nothing they could not tell you about the game but they were so confident in what they were doing, they would hop on to trade on eBay if the match they were covering was drab.
This never stopped them coming up with something interesting to say at half-time, in the same way I remember David Ginola spending one match at Newcastle puffing away on a cigarette during the first 45 minutes, barely watching a kick, before turning on his Gallic charm through the break.
Ruby Walsh is the emblem of a modern pundit, paying attention to every little bit of detail
We will be at Cheltenham for three days next weekend and Ruby will already be getting things in his mind for his work
He is the closest thing I have seen to Gary Neville (left) and Jamie Carragher (right) when it comes to forensic approach
It’s why everyone feels compelled to have an opinion about pundits. They are able to stir such feelings and emotions that viewers will tune in, even if they don’t necessarily like who they are watching. Roy Keane would be prime evidence of that point.
The thing about punditry is there is no set of rules in terms of how you do it, as everything is subjective. Ruby, Gary and Carra have one way of doing things and that would be different to, for instance, Graeme Souness or Sir Anthony McCoy.
You wouldn’t go to Souey for in-depth analysis on Hull’s left back. You also had to ask him good questions or the stare you’d get back would leave you trembling, but some of my favourite times in a studio were with him and the great Ray Wilkins, who loved telling you he was ‘dangerously well’.
It was an education working with them both — I miss Ray, dearly — and the same is true with AP: you wouldn’t go to him for the form lines of the 3.25 at Wincanton. But you most certainly would in the aftermath of something momentous.
AP is at his very best in those circumstances, for instance when sparing no fury for the protesters who tried to cause havoc on the day of the Randox Grand National in April or describing Paul Townend’s winning ride on Galopin Des Champs as ‘the best I’ve seen in a Cheltenham Gold Cup’.
AP McCoy is at his best when something momentous happens – such as when protesters tried to cause havoc on the day of the Randox Grand National
Punditry can be done in a number of ways – David Ginola’s laidback style works well on TV
The late great Ray Wilkins also thrived as a pundit whenever he was in the studio
Johnny Murtagh is another cut from AP’s cloth. He will turn up at Royal Ascot and be armed and ready for the controversial moments, not flinching in what he says. When I work alongside these people, I try to set them a challenge of scoring a goal every time they speak: Murtagh and AP never miss.
But, then again, nor does Jason Weaver — such an important and respected team player at ITV — Adele Mulrennan, who is always telling viewers things they don’t know, Mick Fitzgerald and Luke Harvey, the first name I would have on a team sheet.
Luke wasn’t a high-achiever, like Ruby or Gary Neville, but what he adds through his knowledge of racing and his on-screen demeanour is priceless. And that is the point: for programmes to work and viewers to be entertained, you need different qualities running through.
And the different qualities you are seeing each time you tune in, whether it is to racing or football, rugby or netball with the exceptional Tamsin Greenway, you are being entertained and educated. This is punditry’s golden age.