I started out in journalism presenting programmes about financial matters. I tried to take this often complicated subject matter and make it as simple as possible. When I moved into presenting football on television, it often felt as if we were endeavouring to do the opposite – take something as simple as football and make it as complicated as possible. Don’t get me wrong: the analysis of the best ex-footballers in the business, as long as they use the most accessible language, can be fascinating. My favourite to work with was the former Arsenal and England player Lee Dixon. To make sure what he was saying was intelligible, he used to run it past me first. He called me, very few might say unkindly, his idiot filter. But I was very proud to perform this function for him because I was very good at it.
Working Lunch was the business programme I co-presented with Adam Shaw, who was as expert on matters financial as Lee was on football. And, like Lee, Adam used me as a bit of an idiot filter, too. Interestingly, Adam used to say of football that he’d like to be more into it but found a lot of the language around it baffling. This made him feel excluded, as if he was a guest at the wrong party.
I think about this a lot, especially at World Cups, when many non-fans may engage with football. I hope they fall in love with this simple, beautiful game, but we don’t make it easy for them. Straining the rivers of football talk through my expert-approved idiot filter, I find a good deal of guff stuck in the mesh. What is a casual viewer to make of a team described as being “good in the transition”? Or a team needing to, in the words of England’s captain, Harry Kane, “play better with the ball in the attacking third”? And how about a player described as “more of an 8 than a 10”? The uninitiated will assume they are being judged, unfavourably, as more of an 8 out of 10 than a 10 out of 10. It doesn’t mean that. As for what it does mean, I’m afraid that this idiot isn’t quite sure.
• Adrian Chiles is a broadcaster, writer and Guardian columnist