The curious case of Rio Ferdinand's alleged impending retirement to follow a career in punditry reminds this onlooker of the problem Andy Gray was forced to confront around 1997. The former Scotland forward was poised to be paraded as manager of Everton, a club where he won the English title, FA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup in the 1980s.
Gray was supposed to depart his role with Sky TV to take up the manager's job at Goodison Park. A press conference had been organised to announce the appointment only for Gray to change his mind at the last minute.
It was a decision that stunned followers of Everton at the time after Gray had apparently accepted the post while leaking a list of his targets that he wanted to sign, including the then Aston Villa forward Dwight Yorke.
"In my heart I wanted to manage Everton, in many ways it would have been the realisation of a dream," said Gray. "But increasingly, over the weekend, my head has been telling me different things."
"Maybe I got a little carried away with all the speculation, and to take the job and then let the supporters down would have been too much to bear."
The Everton chairman Peter Johnson was far from happy with Gray's conduct. "I am aghast that the man has behaved like this. It is quite difficult to believe and to take in," he said. " We have been nothing other than the totally wronged party in this episode. What has happened has shocked me. You can gather I'm very upset."
Who knows how Gray would have fared in the Everton job, but history suggests he should at least have given it a try. There are those that say in football, and those that do. Gray has plenty to say about managers without ever doing.
Gray was part of a set up that probably thought they were infallible at Sky Sports, that his days would end after commenting on some match for the satellite channel.
People remember Gray more these days for being sacked by Sky a few years ago amid allegations of sexism. Who knows what his legacy would have been if he had opted to join Everton.
Rio Ferdinand will work for the BBC commenting on matches at next summer's World Cup finals, but has apparently come to a similar juncture in his career in facing punditry over football, according to reports in today's national press.
The difference being Gray was already well gone from football when he had the chance to return. Ferdinand can perhaps learn a lesson from his former England companion Jamie Carragher.
The former Liverpool defender is another figure who probably quit too soon. He was in outstanding form at Liverpool last season.
Could you imagine the thrill he would have gleaned from being part of Brendan Rodgers's exciting young side this season?
That rush of adrenaline can never be found in a dreary TV studio. At least Carragher is working for a renowned brand in the form of Sky.
Why would Ferdinand accept the job of a TV pundit with BT Sport, a channel nobody really watches beyond their coverage of the English Premier League? And even then, it is only the small percentage of the population who can afford the luxury of two television packages.
Ferdinand is only 35. Defenders can continue longer than any other player on the park because positional sense is more important than pace. He could play on until he is 40. Perhaps beyond when you consider Ryan Giggs at 40 remains a dynamic contributor for United from midfield.
Under the Manchester United manager David Moyes, he has the chance to play his role in a new era for the club that could lead to a potential coaching role. If he is rested, that is only to his benefit.
There is also the problem of leaving the game he has played for so long for no particular reason. Once you are out of football, it is hard to get back in.
"You’re just going round in circles in your head and turning into a madman," Ferdinand apparently said about the time David Moyes takes to announce his teams. It could be worse, he could be sitting alongside David James, Michael Owen and Robbie Savage at BT Sport.
Those who can play, play. Those who can't play, manage. Those who can't play or manage become pundits. Being the best pundit will come nowhere near to being a player or manager.
Just ask Andy Gray. Pundits are as expendable as players and managers.
- Sports & Recreation
- Rio Ferdinand
- David Moyes