Friday, 25 June 2010

The Ontology of Alan Hansen

Ardent BBC watchers may have noticed that Alan Hansen - always at the forefront of contemporary thought - has developed a new concept in his analyses.

In the buildup to the Greece-Argentina foregone conclusion, having exhausted all possible avenues of conversation relating to Lionel Messi, the panel reluctantly turned their attention to Greece. Hansen, lolling in his usual recumbent position, managed to tip his head forward long enough to drawl 'I saw the Nigeria game... they're officially useless.'

Last night, setting the scene for a competitive all-or-nothing encounter between Denmark and Japan, Hansen commented that the Danes, in their first game against Holland (whose match the panel would clearly rather have been watching), had been 'officially useless'.

What can we learn, then, from Hansen's new construction - 'official uselessness?'

Footballers have long been called 'useless' by their critics. Frank Lampard provides a salutary example of this, and doubtless many other things too. But Hansen's term has connotations beyond the everyday usage of the word. It is not merely a stricter category than 'conventional' uselessness - at times, the two concepts seem to be in complete opposition.

Players who, to laymen, may appear to have served no discernible function in this tournament - Wayne Rooney, most of the French team, several Italians - are not officially useless.

Conversely, players whose utility on the pitch is seemingly obvious (as they, for example, successfully shackle Lionel Messi, or take their unfancied teams beyond the first round) fall into the category of 'officially useless' all the same.

The exact co-ordinates of Hansen Usefulness are difficult to plot, but victory or defeat on the pitch are clearly not relevant to the calculations. Total career transfer value, presence at a top Premier League club, and appearances in sportswear adverts would appear to be the significant factors. We are left to ask ourselves - of the players still competing in the tournament, would Alan Hansen consider more than two dozen or so 'officially useful'? We know that Hansen is difficult to please - a droll Littlewoods Pools advert once played on this fact - but his standards must be becoming more severe than ever.

I think the only conclusion we can draw is that Alan Hansen is capable of perceiving football in dimensions inaccessible to the rest of us, and that if he deems that none of Slovakia's team are worth recalling by name, then he must be correct, regardless of what drab, empirical, unofficial reality suggests.

We can only hope that his Official World Cup has proved as enjoyable as our Apparent one.


  1. hansen's tired post-match review technique of merely listing the attributes why one team has won is really grating, usually because at least two or three of them effectively mean the same thing - 'energy, grit, determination, drive, composure' (usually not skill). And for the losing side Alan?: 'NO energy, grit, determination....'

  2. I particularly enjoyed Harry Redknapp’s anti-Hansen faux-pas in the half time analysis of Greece v Argentine by openly admitting that not only did he know where Messi's man marker played, but he had actually seen him play prior to the world cup. I can only assume he knew this would rile Hansen (so proud of dismissing entire teams as 'officially useless') that he started off by making a joke about being unable to say his name . . . ha ha! Foreigners do have funny names with many syllables! That’s why we love you Harry, your Englishness . . .

    On that note, I’ve always enjoyed Hansen + co’s theory that a footballer is not good until they have put in an exceptional performance either 1) in the premiership 2) against a premiership team 3) against England. Expect the pre-match analysis of Paraguay v Japan to consist of analysis of Roque Santa-Cruz + token Japanese player (plus ‘Honda’ puns), and embrace the Martin Skrtel + 10 others team that have somehow snuck through despite being ‘officially useless’.

  3. Didn't Martin O'Neil and Alan Hanson fall out a few times during TV punditry? I think O'Neil was one of the few people to question Hanson's often bizarre logic? I miss O'Neil during this WC.

  4. O'Neill always tried to elevate the discussion above platitudes and received wisdom, to the utter bewilderment of the two Alans.

    Obviously spending the summer of 2006 stuck in a room with Shearer and Hansen made him reflect that perhaps top-level football management wasn't quite so stressful after all.