When Chris Sutton made his first appearance on Match of the Day this season, we found his hyperbole strangely refreshing. From his first utterance on the programme onwards, it became clear that he would be cultivating a brand of punditry so fervent, so impassioned, that it would be impossible not to find it compelling, even if only on the level of: 'Christ, this guy is fucking intense'. He took the same approach to talking about football as ideological insurgents take to guerrilla warfare, namely taking no prisoners, attacking unsuspecting targets with merciless brutality and treating innocent bystanders as little more than collateral damage. It was as if he saw himself as a footballing freedom fighter, rebelling against the inoffensive chumminess and unprovocative platitudes of the BBC studio and, more broadly, the modern game.
Like with so many other freedom fighters, Sutton has had much initial success against the establishment. His fellow pundits cannot keep up with him, so quick is he to leap to extreme moral and ethical conclusions regarding incidents that seem otherwise relatively mundane. Recalled to MOTD this Saturday, brought back by popular demand, he proceeded to analyse Manchester City's game against Chelsea in a manner we can only paraphrase thus: Anthony Taylor is an enemy of the people, Cesc Fabregas must be locked up immediately, and Sergio Aguero's red card challenge on David Luiz was a crime not only against football, not only against humanity, but the world. Was this Chris Sutton we saw before us, or the punditry equivalent of Che Guevara, storming the barricades and sweeping away the corruption of the system? Viva la revolución! No pasarán, Gary Lineker! All that Match of the Day viewers have to lose is their chains!
With Sutton issuing these rallying cries to the people, it is only a matter of time before he becomes too powerful for the establishment to suppress any longer. He has already initiated a creeping takeover, appearing not only on MOTD itself but also its Sunday morning round up, MOTD Extra, where he continued to espouse his radical views. As with the West's other populist movements, we must be wary of the rise of Chris Sutton, and what it means for our national discourse. He has wrested some of the apparatus of British punditry away from its traditional custodians, leaving Danny Murphy, Robbie Savage and Alan Shearer to take pause, and wonder what this worrying usurpation means.
Having forcibly seized two thirds of the BBC's football highlights shows this weekend, Sutton has his hands on the levers of power at this point. Should things carry on as they are, he will end up on Match of the Day, Match of the Day Extra and Match of the Day 2, week in and week out. Soon enough, Murphy, Savage, Shearer and co. will be quietly disappeared, never again to appear on television. It will just be Chris Sutton and a pale, sweating, nervous-looking Lineker, the latter asking questions in a wavering voice and the former hissing things like: "I thought that tackle was morally reprehensible" and "We've spoken about this, Gary – Shearer was a traitor to the state."
Eventually, Match of the Day's format will be more like that of a one-party political broadcast. In the timeworn fashion of the erstwhile freedom fighter, Sutton will have become a terrifying, totalitarian despot, beaming his eviscerating honesty into our living rooms for a mandatory 24 hours a day. Some people will remember Gary Lineker, but not many, and those who do will find themselves looking over their shoulders with permanent unease. The old will speak in hushed tones about their terrible remorse for the way things are, and fondly remember the happier, chummier days of Shearer, and Savage, and a society in which sitting on the fence about a penalty incident didn't constitute a thought crime punishable by death.