This is part of a series that looks at the greats (and goods) of the beautiful game that went on to sully the ears of footy fans around the world in the cushy confines of the commentary booth. Today’s victim: he once was in central defense, and now he’s middle-of-the-road and defensive. Come on down, Alan Hansen!
You knew this one was coming. Alan Hansen is known for being football punditry’s anti-Cassandra. If he says something, you can be pretty sure of a windfall should you bet on the opposite occurring.
But let’s look at the player first. Alan Hansen had an 18-year senior career as a central defender, starting with Partick Thistle in 1974. Hansen was purchased by Bob Paisely to play for Liverpool in 1977, and it was there Hansen would stay until his retirement in 1991. Hansen went on to make 434 appearances for the club, during which time he claimed 8 First Division championships, 6 Charity Shields, 3 European Cups, 3 League Cups, 2 FA Cups, and a partridge in a pear tree. Yet despite being one of three Scots on, and indeed captain of, one of Europe’s most decorated sides, Hansen was largely frozen out by the Scottish national side due to Alex Ferguson’s influence, and the partnership that he as Aberdeen manager had built between Alex McLeish and Willie Miller.
There’s no doubting, though, that Hansen was still a proper player. Great at reading play, excellent in the air, and really, really exceptional on the ball.
Hansen went quickly into the punditry business, and his career in media has been marked by a series of statements that are idiotic either for their general wrongness, or for their complete and utter lack of humanity. Most famous of these was his appraisal of Manchester United’s “Golden generation” opening the 1995 season with a loss to Aston Villa:
Manchester United, of course, went on to win the league and the FA Cup that season.
When covering the 1994 World Cup, Hansen once complained that an Argentine defender’s play “warrant[ed] shooting.” That comment was made the day after Andres Escobar was, himself, shot to death for scoring an own-goal against the United States in the group stages.
Then, there was his trip back to 1960 when discussing race relations in 2011. Following the John Terry-Anton Ferdinand incident, Hansen went on to describe how much better things had gotten for the, ahem, “colored” players in the Premier League:
When he’s not making wildly inaccurate predictions or sounding like someone’s grandfather when discussing race relations, Hansen’s punditry is pocked with repetitive analysis. Watch the following clip, and drink every time you hear him use the word “pace” or “ability” when describing Theo Walcott’s play. On second thought, don’t. I don’t want someone else’s alcohol poisoning on my conscience: