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We belong to Jimbo

Cast your eyes skywards on a clear night and, if you’re lucky, you might just catch a glimpse of a small pod circulating in near earth orbit. Contained within that small capsule is a group of people who – twice weekly – produce a master-class in football punditry, namely, The Football Weekly.

Rallying those troops together in an attempt to reawaken Blighty with some European footie news interspersed with the odd welcoming pun is James Richardson, AC Jimbo to his mates. He brought us gold with Football Italia in our teens, delivered frankincense with the aforementioned podcast and European football newspaper round-ups, and completed the hat-trick with a long overdue presenting stint on Match of the Day ITV4 darts.
I wanted to do something special for this: the holy of holies. So, in a nod to Cash for Question in Q Magazine, but without the cash bit, I asked some friends of EFW to pitch the great man a question. Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me no greater pleasure to welcome James Richardson to European Football Weekends:

Sir, as a young(ish) journalist, I was once deployed to ask you questions about the forthcoming World Cup. Instead, we ended up nattering about Serie A for 45 mins and I ended up with a tape full of fascinating, but ultimately useless material. Firstly, does this happen a lot and secondly, how do you maintain your passion for Italian football in the face of so many scandals? (Iain Macintosh,football writer and author) First question; not as often as it should. Second question; if football leagues are like girls, Serie A was, back in the 90’s, the one we all desired but thought was way out of our class. That she then turned out to be a bit of a tart underneath made her, for some of us, all the more intriguing.

How did you pitch up at Football Italia for Channel 4? (Footie and Music)
Funnily enough there was an actual girl involved. I met a young lady from Rome, as the old limerick goes. This lead to me learning Italian, which led to a desperate tv exec calling me in a couple of weeks before the show launched to have a go at being a football reporter. Doesn’t scan very well, does it?

I’ve heard that you didn’t care for football until you got the Football Italia gig, is there any truth in this? How long did it take for you to fall in love with the game, if at all? (Rocco Cammisola, The Football Express) I’m not sure I am ‘in love’ with the game. Sometimes its unpredictability can take your breath away, sometimes it can feel like history unfolding before your eyes, but sometimes it’s FIFA world cup 2010. So I like it – love it on occasions – but not always.

From your time covering Italian football, what was your most memorable match? (Swiss Ramble) Sadly, Genoa – Milan in 1995. A Genoa supporter was murdered, the game was suspended and an angry mob took over the streets around the Marassi. After we filmed a bit of the disturbances we were surrounded by Ultras, causing my film crew to drive off at high speed and me to get a genuine black eye. Jimbo on the front line! However, so abject did I look to the burly fellows responsible that one of them was delegated to escort me out of the area, which he did, conversationally pointing out the fleeing police cars and burning vehicles as we passed. A very singular afternoon.

For on the pitch business, I remember doing a Sampdoria Milan game with Ruud Gullit turning out for ‘Doria that was a bit of a cracker. Then that Milan – Verona match in 90-something when George Weah went off on his pitch-long scoring run, and Inter Brescia at the start of Ronaldo’s first season there, when Alvaro Recoba made his scene-stealing debut in. Plus Roma – Parma, when Roma won the title and Channel 4 cut to a black and white film before the match ended.

In recognition of your legendary “duet” with Elvis Costello on Football Italia, what is your favourite Costello album? Elvis Costello’s Greatest Hits. Failing that, Armed Forces or This Year’s Model.

Is there any chance of a reunion with Elvis Costello on the Football Weekly pod? Elvis, I’m ready to ditch our current grumpy irishman whenever you give the word.

When Gazza moved back to the UK did you think “Well that’s the end of this cushy number?” (Stuart Fuller, The Ball is Round) Actually no; Paul hadn’t been involved too much in the show anyway through his injury-ravaged final season at Lazio. Plus Paul Ince was just arriving.

There are huge cultural differences across Italy, so when you had to present the show outside the northern “heartlands” were you treated with suspicion like us southerners are when we go up north? Not in the least. Almost everyone was very welcoming.

Do you see Serie A having a renaissance period in the UK? Similar to the one we saw from ’92 onwards. Or, what’s stopping that from happening? (Tim Hill, Talking About Football) Not in the next decade. Why? Money.

What’s your favourite cake? (Andrew Gibney, Gib Football Show) A proper home-made Panettone, or anything with chocolate.

Do you ever actually eat the cake/ice cream? (Jacob Steinberg, Guardian, Football Weekly) Do I ever!

What one lesson could the English Premier League learn from Serie A? (Ollie Irish,Who Ate All The Pies) Oh dear. At last a huge opportunity to answer back all those jingoistic premier-centric English clichés about the Italian game. Open net! Must. Not. Miss… Er, home grown owners?

Who are your favourite group of fans in Italy and what sets them apart from English fans? (Andy Hudson, Gannin’ Away) I don’t have one to be sincere. Perugia supporters are a decent bunch, as can Neapolitans. Any support with a healthy dose of self irony, basically.

Do you still get a Christmas card from Gigi Casiraghi after eulogising him on Football Italia? (Andy Brassell, All or Nothing TV) Gigi was my love that dare not speak its name. The time I asked him to rub my face in a plate of cold spaghetti, and he complied! Do it again, Gigi! Do it!

During your time as anchor of Football Italia did you interview anyone who was visibly inebriated? Or did you encounter any particularly annoying/awkward guests? (Rocco Cammisola, The Football Express) In answer to your first question; visibly, no. But I worked with gazza for 3 years. Annoying guests were few and far between, although I remember Alen Boksic being rather difficult. And Christian Vieri used to refuse to speak English to me.

Italy were effectively eliminated from the World Cup by a Marek Hamsik-led Slovakia. I was wondering what that result did to enhance Hamsik’s reputation in Italy and what effect did it have on his popularity throughout the country? And how is he doing at Napoli this season? (Dan Richardson, Britski Belasi) There was no Ahn-type backlash at all that I’m aware of (the south Korean who scored the penalty that put Italy out in ’02). Still, it was an entirely different set of circumstances; Italy were so abject this time that they barely noticed who put them out of their misery. Wasn’t that the best 10 minutes of the Cup though – when Italy suddenly decided to go for it at the end of that game and Quagliarella scored that blinder? Frustrating.

Just how bad is the violence and racism in Italian football? (James Boyes, Lewes Football Club) Ugh. Bad enough. Still waiting for the happy ending on this one.

You continue to be a big influence on The Football Ramble. We all remember your Gazzetta Football Italia stint with great fondness. What we’d most like to know is, which player from your time reporting on Serie A would you most like to share an ice-cream with, and why? (Luke Moore, Football Ramble) Beppe Signori. Just an all-round star, on and off the pitch.

In your opinion who was the better side – Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan ‘Immortals’ of 1989 & 1990, Fabio Capello’s Milan ‘Invincibles’ of 1991 to 1994, or Jose Mourinho’s treble winning Internazionale of last season? Oh, and could you have a look at this? (David Hartrick, I Know Who Cyrille Makanaky Was) Sacchi’s side! Woof!

Why do we see so little of you? Does being so well know as the Football Italia man hamstring you in terms of mainstream presenting gigs? (Dan Brennan; World Soccer magazine, Libero Language Lab) It must be that. It’s really putting my Hollywood career back too.

For many years I’ve considered it one of life’s travesties that you don’t present Match of the Day, and I know I’m not alone in thinking that. Have you been offered the chance to present the show and is it something you’d like to do? (Jeff,In Bed With Maradona) I would absolutely love it. LOVE it!!!

If you got the *whispers* MOTD gig, how would you change it and who would be your wingmen? (Damon Threadgold, The Real FA Cup) Adebayor and Shearer. And it would be all about Serie A.

Were you flattered by the Internet campaign to get you the MotD2 gig earlier this year? (James Maw, Four Four Two magazine) I was very flattered.

What were you thinking letting me in the pod bay doors that time James? Anyway, would you consider giving up waiting on British TV and coming overseas to host a North American targeted show on ESPN? (Richard Whittall, A More Splendid Life) Come back Villasupportgroup, by night known as Richard; you were excellent. All well in Toronto? Give me a bell when this ESPN thing is sorted, it sounds like fun.

Have you ever considered going into radio? Have 5Live or the geezers on Talk Sport ever come knocking? Ok, let’s just simplify this: I’m available and will often work for cake.

You sing (arf!) the praises of some 80’s bands on the pod. Did you ever want to be a music journalist or is football your first and only passion? When I was little, I very much wanted to be a Dee Jay.

Do you have a favourite football league team or any fond memories of watching any football outside of the Premier League? (David Bevan, The Seventy Two) I remember going to see Swansea City at Spurs on – I think – boxing day in 198-whatever it would have been for Swansea to be in the First Division. Not a particularly fond memory though, compared to some I could mention.

The thick end of 10,000 people sign up for your monthly tweet. Twitter is not really for you is it? I genuinely would like to tweet more but I have the twitter version of stage fright.

How do you keep Barry Glendenning awake during your Serie A round-up on the pod and what was it like sharing a room with the ‘rebels choice’ at Euro 2008? Electrical currents. Far be it from me to shatter illusions, but Barry is no rebel in the domestic environment. Despite his punishing schedule of bar-frequenting in Vienna he would squeeze time in between hangovers to keep our apartment spick and span. Until I destroyed the place by accident on our final night, that is.

Have you ever actually seen/met Sid Lowe or does he exist in your world solely as a voice from yonder like Holly (the computer) from Red Dwarf? What a silly idea. That’s Jonathan Wilson.

Why do fingers and toes wrinkle when left in water? (Beat The First Man) Time actually passes faster in water than it does in air, so what you’re actually witnessing is old age in preview. Fact.

Do you?
You’d be mad as a box of frogs not to download the Football Weekly podcast from The Guardian.
Follow James and European Football Weekends on Twitter
Like this? Then you’ll probably like other EFW interviews with; Barry Glendenning, Sid Lowe, John Ashdown, Sean Ingle, Jacob Steinberg and Raphael Honigstein.
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Ingle all the way
Sit up straight, arms folded, behave yourself and no talking at the back. We’ve only got the Guardian.co.uk’s Sports Editor (Editor!) on the line. Sean Ingle, for it is he, has been doing that job for six years, been working there for ten and, furthermore, he’s bloody good at it.
You’ll know by now that I keep going back to the well marked ‘Guardian’ for these interviews. That’s because to my mind, nobody comes close to matching their output. Factor in the Football Weekly podcast and The Fiver and it not only enriches our knowledge and enjoyment of football – it makes us chortle along the way. What’s not to like in that?
If you’re aware of a better career progression than Sean’s – starting with working for Motor Cycle News, Fore! and Total Sport before becoming Guardian Sports Editor and sitting in on Maradona press conferences at World Cup finals – then drop us a line. Anyway, enough of me for now, aside from some mandatory poor questioning, it’ll be Ingle all the way:

Hi Sean, thanks for talking to EFW. Are you looking forward to the new season or do you need a long break after the World Cup? No worries – I am a big fan of the site. When I was younger I travelled as a punter to Milan, Prague, Rome and Madrid to watch games with mates so I know where you’re coming from. We’d always book the most ridiculously cheap and early flight, usually from Stansted, sleep three to a room, walk around a city till our feet were red-raw and blistered and take in a match, on the terraces if possible. Sound familiar? Being pelted with coins and bottles by away fans while watching the likes of Zidane, Nedved and many greats as Lazio took on Juventus in 2001 was one of many, many highlights – and it’s not every day you’re flashed while walking back from the San Siro with Sid Lowe after watching Milan v Juve … but that’s another story for another day.

Regarding the break, I personally think that the one good idea Sepp Blatter has ever had is a global calendar with one month off every year – and I certainly wouldn’t mind a bit more of a break before the new season. This piece written in 2006, sums up how I feel: “Football has become a year-round fandango, the baton passed from one season to the next with the blurring speed of a sprint relay … Football in the summer months used to be anonymous. Players would run hills and shed pounds, amble through a few low-key friendlies and then the season would start. TV companies were rarely interested in pre-season matches. When ITV started showing the Makita International in the late 1980s it was an exotic curiosity, like Andy Cole in an Arsenal shirt … [But] there are better things to do in July. Enjoy the summer sports, go to the seaside, become reacquainted with your family – anything. Because it is only when you are deprived of something you love – and, yes, that includes football – that you truly miss it.”

What was your World Cup highlight both on and off the park? The best game I saw in the flesh was Uruguay v Ghana, although I was also fortunate enough to be at Slovenia v USA, Spain v Chile and Cameroon v Denmark. Of the 13 games I went to, there were only two absolute stinkers – Slovenia v Algeria and Paraguay v Japan – so I was pretty lucky. An off-the-park highlight is trickier, because I only had one day off in four weeks and my routine was basically get up, live blog for a few hours, drive to a press conference/write a preview piece for the paper, report on a match, bed, and repeat. So, from a small list, it’d either be the giddy exuberance in South Africa when Bafana Bafana drew their opening game or visiting the Apartheid museum.

You had a few problems finding your seat at a couple of matches which caused a bit of amusement back here. Was the tournament well organised or organised chaos for the media? Apart from two incidents in Pretoria – being assigned a seat No13 that didn’t exist (there was a 12 and a 14 but no 13!) and being given a ticket in row of seats that just weren’t there – everything went fairly smoothly. The media are spoilt at World Cups: there are TVs on every desk that show highlights and live stats, wifi to research and file, and you even get free bottles of water when its hot, so we can’t complain. But reporting from games is generally much easier than it was when I started out. For evening games back in the day reporters had to phone copytakers – always lovely Northern ladies – before the match with teams and formations, at half-time with half the copy, on 70 minutes with another chunk of text and on 85 minutes with the top and tail. It wasn’t easy doing it from places like Millwall when you could hardly make yourself heard over the din – and it was a nightmare when nothing happened before half-time and then there were lots of late goals.

So how long after a match are you expected to have your report online? We have to file on, or sometimes just before, the final whistle, which is fine for match reports but sometimes trickier for blogs/sidebar pieces when an obvious subject doesn’t suggest itself in the first half. There were a couple of times when I had 400 words still to write with 20 minutes to go and experienced mild panic – until several shots of adrenaline kicked in and everything was suddenly all right. I should also mention that we get an hour after the final whistle for a rewrite, which allows us to bring in managers’ quotes and – hopefully – add a little finesse to the prose.

Move over Paul the octopus, you were the real star of the World Cup predictions weren’t you? I did pretty well tipping Spain to beat Holland in the final, England to be knocked out in the second round, Uruguay to do better than everyone expected, David Villa to be top scorer, and the lack of technology ruining a couple of big games. But while watching a lot of world football certainly helped realistically assess most teams’ chances, I’m not kidding myself: there was a lot of luck involved too.

A lot of the television pundits took a critical kick to the jubulanis. Would you like to exchange your laptop for a place on the Match of the Day sofa? No. Anyone who has seen my infrequent appearances on TV would agree that it’s best that I stick to editing, writing, and occasionally podcasting on Football Weekly.

A recent report in the New York Times suggested online journalists are facing an early burnout becoming frantic and fatigued at the fast moving nature of new media. How is your health old chap? I was a bit frazzled after the World Cup, but that was only to be expected after so many 12-16 hour days. And it’s the World Cup so you’ve got to give it everything. But journalism is changing: there are very few ‘paper’ and ‘online’ journalists at the Guardian any more – most people work for whatever platform needs them. That clearly brings certain challenges, but the Guardian is very conscientious about paying back lieu days and making sure its staff get adequate time off. And it is certainly sounds a nicer place to work than some other publications I know of, where 9am-9pm shifts can be the norm.

Do you have time to read any football blogs? I read several regularly – including yours, Zonal Marking, Arseblog etc – as well as popular club message boards.

The Football Weekly Podcast is an absolute gem. Do you get time to listen to your competition; Football Ramble, Game Podcast, Two Footed Tackle, The Real FA Cup etc and indeed etc? Not as much as I probably should. I usually listen to Football Ramble and the Game podcast most weeks but that’s about it.

Nailing our colours to the mast, we belong to Jimbo here at EFW. Do you? James Richardson is brilliant. He’s knowledgeable, funny, stiletto-heel sharp – and, just as importantly, he’s just like that off screen too. I’m amazed that a mainstream broadcaster isn’t paying him gazillions to front their football coverage. I’ve heard it said he’s too highbrow for the mainstream but that’s surely ridiculous. Do we really want to live in a world where presenters and pundits trade cliches and monosyllables?

I couldn’t agree more. Anyway, hang on a minute – what’s all this about a ‘Pirate Shop’ in Kings Cross that you visit? Is that Glendenning on the wind up or is there something you should be telling us? Barry is definitely winding you up there. What else did he tell you?!

Erm….*thinking quickly* I hear you’re actually quite a handy player yourself? I was decentish when I was a kid. I played in goal for my county from U13 to U19 level and had trials with a couple of league clubs, but ultimately I just wasn’t good enough.

With respect to, ahem, Motor Cycle News, you must be happier covering football nowadays. Do you follow any other sports? I hated living in Kettering and knew nothing about motorbikes, but I learned a hell of a lot at Motor Cycle News. Several of the staff were 30-something blokes who had worked on national newspapers, and so standards were high. I could have done without being ridden around the outskirts of Kettering on a Honda Super Blackbird at 155mph as part of my initiation, mind. As for other sports, I follow pretty much all of them – particularly boxing, tennis and darts – although F1 does nothing for me.

As we speak you’re approaching 10,000 Twitter followers – incidentally, you have 100 more than Barry Glendenning – is the Guardian office a competitive place or do you pretend you’re not too bothered by it all? Is it that many? I use TweetDeck so it’s not immediately apparent. Let me check on Twitter.com now. Ah, you’re spoofing me – it’s not even 9,000! I can honestly say that Barry and I have never discussed our number of Twitter followers. Our betting success, or lack of, come Monday morning on the other hand …

Should we pay to read your online work on The Guardian website? ‘Should we pay’ is less important than ‘Will people pay’. Because the evidence so far suggests they won’t, unless it’s specialised content. I’m not ideologically opposed to the Times’ paywall. It’s just a practical thing: people have got used to getting content for free and I can’t see that changing any time soon. So, we’re left with the billion dollar question: can newspaper websites sites make enough in online advertising and sponsorship to cover the decline in paper sales and classified ads? That’s the road the Guardian has gone down and, for the sake of all of us in the industry, I hope it works. If not, my fear is that there may not be a right way; and that all roads – paywall, free, whatever – will lead to the same ending. Death.

Philosophically I agree with David Mitchell’s recent piece in The Observer that “we have to find a way of continuing to pay journalists and editors for professionally produced content”. Because without adequate recompense, how does David Leigh have the time to expose Jonathan Aitken’s lies? How can David Conn afford to spend days digging through a football club’s accounts to expose wrongdoing? And Jonathan Wilson, good though he is, would not know nearly as much about football tactics if he hadn’t spent years interviewing the likes of Arrigo Saachi and other top coaches across Europe. Good journalism usually costs.

That’s it Sean, thanks again for your time and keep up the splendid work old chap. No worries. But I’m surely not that old – I have a couple of years on Barry Glendenning, Rafa Honigstein and James Richardson!

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You can also read Sean’s rather splendid work HERE.
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Rafa the gaffer
Anglo-German relations are extremely healthy here at European Football Weekends. Germany is unquestionably our favourite country for watching football and we’ve made scores of friends on our many travels there. Now, to further cement that relationship, ta da….Raphael Honigstein has agreed to be the latest star name to talk to us *punches air with delight*.
Honigstein writes about German football here in England and about English football for the German media. His work can be found in The Guardian, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 11 Freunde (influential magazine in the style of WSC) and he not only appears on the fabulous Football Weekly podcast but is also the go to man for German football news for Sky and Setanta.
Mentioning no names *cough* Alan Shearer *splutter* Alan Green, football is awash with awful pundits. You don’t have too delve to deep to find quality elsewhere though. Rafa certainly slips into the quality bracket, he’s one cool cat and, that’s why we’re delighted he agreed to speak to EFW:
Hi Raphael, thanks for talking to EFW, how did you enjoy your time in South Africa? I enjoyed the people (incredibly nice and helpful), the food, a bit of Texas Hold’Em, the stadiums, Cape Town and Durban and most of the football. Didn’t enjoy driving past certified “hijacking hot-spots” on a daily basis, lack of street life, cold evenings and slight sense of isolation.
What was your favourite moment both on and off the pitch? Favourite moment on the pitch was Germany v Argentina. Off the pitch: BBQ in Durban on the eve of Spain v Germany in a beautiful setting.
Sounds splendid, did you learn anything new from this World Cup? Hard pitches, weird ball and altitude make bad teams even worse. Tactical formations expressed solely by numbers are meaningless. Japan can play a bit. England are still England under Capello.
There were expecting 2m fans from overseas but in reality around 400,000 turned up. Did you notice a different class of fan at the tournament? Affluent rather than passionate maybe? I think the real affluent ones stayed away, that’s why there were lots of empty corporate boxes everywhere. I mostly saw South American fans where I was based (Pretoria) but most of the time, you didn’t really see any fans at all because they had nowhere to go apart from the stadiums on match day.
Did you experience a game at any of the fan parks? I’ve heard that they were largely empty. I drove past the one in Sandton (Johannesburg) before the final – 90 per cent empty. The South Africans didn’t really see the point of standing in front of a screen in the freezing cold, apparently, unless SA or Ghana were playing.
Talking of the locals, they were priced out of attending and there were empty seats at every game more or less. FIFA will have learned a few harsh lessons from this right? I’m not sure they’re too bothered. It’s all about TV. A few hundred empty seats don’t make any difference to them. I’m also not quite sure that cheaper tickets would have made that much of a difference. The locals were very proud that the World Cup was there but their interest to see Slovakia v Paraguay live was strictly limited, I felt.
Germany returned from the tournament as both likeable and popular. Who’d have thought? I had a feeling that they would play in a more open, entertaining style but wasn’t quite sure if they could do it successfully. The rapid progress of the team has surprised me along with everybody else, including the players and managers as well, probably.
It’s a shame they were Müller lite (sic) in the semi final though eh? Big shame. And for such a minor offence. The ref in the Argentina game was actually very lenient, a fact that made Müller’s yellow even harsher. He would have made a difference, for sure. But the real problem, if you want to talk individuals, was that Mesut Özil had nothing left in the tank against Spain. He was a virtual passenger. I also think that Löw got the “Trochowski instead of Kroos” bit wrong.
Who is the bigger star in Germany post World Cup: Thomas Müller or that bloody octopus? Müller. Paul the octopus will retire now but Müller could have three (THREE!) more World Cups ahead of him. Frightening.
If Frank Lampard’s ‘goal’ had been awarded in the Germany match, England would have gone on to win the game and the tournament. Agreed? No. I agree that they would have had momentum and that the game could well have finished differently. Where England really went wrong wasn’t Bloemfontein but in the group stage. One shitty little more goal in any of the three games, and they would have muddled through to the semi-final at least, past Ghana and Uruguay. I honestly believe that. But perhaps it’s better for English football in the long run to have failed in this manner rather than to celebrate another false 1990 dawn.
Our ‘root and branch’ reform after not qualifying for Euro 2008 was to blow £6m a year on a foreign manager. Germany promoted from within for a fraction of the price. And he’s wears nice clothes. England really are a sorry state compared to Germany no? I wouldn’t go that far. The main problem is the adversarial nature of English football and culture on a whole – it’s all about fighting it out. It’s club vs country and the media against everyone. There’s very little taste for compromising and doing things for the greater good. The FA alone can’t change too much unless clubs are willing to do their bit, too. Apart from that, it’s obvious that England needs more qualified coaches. They have about a tenth of the numbers that Spain and Germany have. Not good.
EFW is no Zonal Marking. We don’t have a clue about tactics. That said, even we know that Chile did well with their 3-3-1-3 formation and Spain’s two (two!) holding midfielders squeezed the life out of other teams. Is it the case that everybody – Maradonna aside – is so tactically aware now that games cancel themselves out and are becoming *ahem* a bit boring? I’d say that most teams are now fit and tactically astute enough to make life difficult for most teams. Those who practise attacking moves extensively and/or play with a fully functioning team of good to very good individuals will still find a way , generally. It might just take a bit longer.

Even though Germany did well, most fans there would rather see their team win the league than the national team win the World Cup presumably? I’m not sure that’s true, I guess it very much depends on the teams involved. If you asked a Bayern fan, another championship means little. For 1860 supporters though….
Did you return to England with a couple of souvenir vuvuzelas and some oversized comedy spectacles? Certainly not. I was flirting with the idea of bringing home a zebra hide but then thought my two little girls would probably cry. Was not sure about HM Customs’ position on this, either.
Do you prefer covering English football in German or German football in English? I really like both but not at the same time, preferably. England v Germany at the World Cup was a little bit hectic.
A lot of fans I know have turned their back on the Premier League and now watch their football abroad in Germany. Can you get your head around that? Of course. Bratwurst, beer, terraces, cheap tickets… what’s not to like? (Oi, that’s our catchphrase – Ed.) It certainly makes for a very good “second” league.

What do you think is the main difference in fan culture between the English and Germans? I’d say the similarities are bigger than the differences but the whole Ultra thing is getting quite strong in the Bundesliga, with choreography, constant singing etc. Also gentrification and the crowds getting older is less of an issue.
In light of the fans ownership and history of German football, what’s your view on the enormous debts English clubs have saddled themselves with? We’ve had plenty of clubs in Germany who nearly went bust as well over the years. What we don’t have are leveraged buyouts, the worst possible thing that can happen to any club. That should never be allowed. Stadium debt and (merely theoretical) debt to sugar daddies is less problematic in my view.
Do you watch any English and German football other than the Bundesliga or Premiership? You’re always welcome at Lewes FC you know! Thank you for the kind offer. I used to watch the championship (old division one) on the telly when I was at uni, that was a great way to wake up on Sundays. Now it’s strictly Buli and PL.
Which teams do you actually support? Germany, naturally. I’ve never hidden my club affiliation too much but wouldn’t like to repeat it here for fear of losing the last smidgen of my journalistic credibility. I can confirm that I have no team in England though. I like/dislike them all the same. Honestly.
We are unapologetically obsessed with football grounds at EFW. Do you know how many you’ve been to and futhermore what are you favourite stadiums? No idea about numbers, actually. I’d guess about 100? My favourites – in no particular order – are: Old Trafford, Westfalenstadion, St James’ Park, Cape Town, Durban, Soccer City, Bernabeu, Estadio da Luz, Allianz Arena, Anfield (on CL nights), San Siro, Craven Cottage, St Jakobs Park.
Do you just go where you’re sent by editors to football or do you often attend matches just for the fun of it? I’m mostly able to chose the games I go to, or they’re kind of the obvious ones, like Man Utd v Bayern at Old Trafford. I very rarely go without the need to report though.
How much football do you watch a week? If it’s a CL week, it can be easily ten full games. Mostly on the box.
Who is the most famous person in your phonebook? Mila Jovovich. I also have Evil Knievel’s number somewhere but he’s sadly passed away.
Is it difficult to extract award winning copy out of mundane footballers press conferences? Award-winning copy? What award was that? (Oh sorry, that was us, silly me – Ed.) Press conferences are mostly useless, of course, unless Mourinho’s in town or JT gets the hump. I’m lucky because I don’t have to churn out previews and match reports on a weekly basis but can often concentrate on wider themes instead.
Have you had a run in with any footballers? Jens Lehmann was once not very nice to me, but I think he confused me with a colleague at the time. The rest of them have been well behaved. Or simply oblivious.
Always the ones you least expect. Talking of run-ins. What was it like to be patronised by Nicky Campbell live on national radio? I didn’t take any offence and didn’t feel patronised. He obviously didn’t know me so there was no “intent”. It did throw me a bit, however. “When did you move to England?” was the one question I wasn’t prepared for.
Twitter. Useful journalistic tool or hideous time waster? Hideous journalistic tool and useful time waster. And very addictive.
That’s it Raphael. Thanks once more for taking the time to talk to EFW and keep up the very good work old chap.. Thank you, Danny. You too, matey.
Follow Raf and EFW on Twitter
You can read his work HERE and if you haven’t downloaded the excellent and free Football Weekly podcast then you’re a silly goose.
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JACOB’S UPWARD LADDER

Regular readers of these pages will know that we unapologetically like to cock an ear to the Football Weekly podcast. Our heroes reside there; James Richardson, Sid Lowe, Glendenning, Ingle, Doyle, Ashdown., Honigstein, Duarte, Ronay, Dart and too many more cool cats to mention. The newest addition to that illustrious list is Jacob Steinberg who has pitched up in near earth orbit for their World Cup Podcast which they’re spoiling us with on a daily (daily!) basis.

I normally watch my football live but on the *blink* odd occasion I watch it on the box I’ve found that I can no longer just sit and stare gormlessly at the screen. The way I watch football is changing; telly on (tick), mobile in hand to check Twitter (tick), laptop at the ready for the minute-by-minute report (tickity, tick tick tick). Steinberg and his pesky mates have made their Twitter feeds and MBM’s so bloody good that simply watching the action is not longer good enough. Action yes, interaction better.

As he has been responsible for eating up so so much of my time, I thought I’d turn the tables on Mr Steinberg and see how he likes it. Contacting him for an interview was easy – he’s always on Twitter. So, want to read about John Terry’s buffoonery, near misses with Damon Albarn and why James Richardson shot him an odd look on his Football Weekly debut? Of course you do:

Hi Jacob, thanks for talking to EFW. How are you enjoying the World Cup? Hi EFW, good to talk to you. If I had to use one word to describe this World Cup so far, I’d use ‘bipolar’. I can’t remember a tournament which had this much hype leading into it and with that, it was always going to be difficult to live up to the massive expectations. Ok, watching some of the opening games was like being forced to sit through the entire back catalogue of James Corden’s World Cup Live, and we’ve had complaints about empty seats, diving, the Jabulani and the vuvuzelas. Put all that together and you’d have a strong argument that it’s not a great tournament, but even when the games were bad, there were still three of them every day for about ten days. If you can’t enjoy that, you can’t enjoy anything. Not even James Corden’s World Cup Live. Anyway there have already been some memorable moments: Lionel Messi’s performances, Diego Maradona threatening to self-combust, France going on strike, the goals by David Villa and Maicon (he didn’t mean it), New Zealand stunning Italy, Greece going out… It’s been fantastic and it’s only the opening round. I’ve been really impressed by the smaller South American sides. They play a brand of fresh, attacking football that looks painfully modern compared to England’s outdated efforts. At times it feels like they’re playing a different sport. It will be interesting to see how far they can go – I’ve tipped Paraguay and Uruguay to reach the last eight at least. And I tipped Paraguay to win their group. I’m pleased with that one.


Are you an England fanatic or can you take a backward step and laugh at the circus that surrounds the team? One of the first ever games I went to was England v Holland at Euro 96 and I cried when they went out to Germany in the semi-finals. I still get a bit of a lump in the throat if I watch the Argentina match from 1998, and when they were struggling to qualify for Euro 2000, I couldn’t imagine the tournament without them. Cut to 2007 and I was genuinely delighted they weren’t going to Euro 2008. In the last decade the team has become depressingly loathsome and I find it hard to back players who I can’t stand or who play for teams I hate. It would be two-faced to boo Frank Lampard when he plays for Chelsea and to cheer him when he plays for England and I’d rather not see Ashley Cole attain any sort of happiness. I don’t begrudge anyone who wants to support them but it’s not for me. Sometimes I’ve actively supported the opposition, particularly during the last World Cup because they were so mind-numbingly dreadful. I can’t be bothered now and would rather not jump on the bandwagon should a pig fly past my window and England win the World Cup. It’s relaxing to watch the football without having to support anyone in particular, it can make you more objective and level-headed about what you see, although I don’t think you can ever be truly neutral during any game. I usually support the team playing the best football and let’s face it, England don’t fall into that category.
So no England car flag on your motor then? Definitely not, although I do have an England mug, which is currently sitting on my desk with a load of pens in it that are emptier than John Terry’s rhetoric on Sunday.

I didn’t think it would be long before his beak was mentioned. JT, or England’s brave and loyal John Terry as he must now be called: Caged tiger and born leader then or a bit of a knob jockey? I think you know the answer to that question. I am enjoying the buffoon’s self-inflicted demise immensely. I love that he tried to paint himself as some deep-thinking renegade, only to be exposed as utterly out of his depth when he came up against Capello. What did he actually achieve? He secured one beer. I bet the boys were delighted when he told them the good news. It’s like having your union run by Homer Simpson. In fact it reminds me of an episode of Scrubs when the put-upon lawyer, Ted Buckland, tells Dr. Kelso that he’s quitting only to be told that he’s staying to do “busy work”. “Ok, but I’m getting a soda from the vending machine first!” he replied. All that aside, John Terry’s nothing more than a playground bully, to referees, team-mates, managers and opposition players. He’s got the loudest voice, but that just means he talks the most rubbish. For some reason people have followed him blindly but bullies always expose themselves and eventually they get left on their own. More and more people are turning on him now and it would take too long to list all of the reasons why here but two words should suffice: Wayne Bridge. If I was the England manager, I’d get rid of him after the World Cup. He’s not a talented enough footballer to justify the repeated disruptions.
Silly old Fabio eh? Wear red, name the team a bit earlier and we win the World Cup. What was he thinking? When you put it like that it sounds so simple! And what does Fabio Capello know about football anyway? I am amused by the attempt to blame Capello for England’s woes. He’s a serial winner and our players have a proud record of under-achievement. This is the same group that missed out on Euro 2008 remember. It seems that people will use any old excuse to try and escape what is blindingly obvious: England don’t have a very good team and never really have. Individually some of the players might be outstanding but football’s a team game. I don’t think anyone could argue that Italy had the best set of players at the last World Cup – or, indeed, that Germany ever do. But these teams have a plan. England either never do or they are incapable of carrying it out effectively. We focus too much on individuals rather than the whole, and look to scapegoat and deride players who aren’t an instant fit. Capello doesn’t have to prove himself to anyone, not that he cares either way.
You’ve eased yourself seamlessly onto the Football Weekly panel. How are you enjoying that? Well I’ve listened to the podcast for years so to appear on it is – platitude alert – a dream come true. It’s actually quite nerve-wracking to have a microphone plonked in front of you. I can wax lyrical about football as well as the next chancer, but it’s weird to be aware that what you’re saying is being recorded. You’re conscious of making a fool out of yourself, and if you’re a bit nervy it’s definitely easier to do that in speech rather than in print. You can become flustered very quickly. On my debut I said that Robert Green is one of the best goalkeepers in the world which drew an odd look from James Richardson, but what I meant by that was that contextually he’s a member of an elite group, not that he’s the equal of Iker Casillas or Julio Cesar. But when you’re speaking it’s easy to lose the run of yourself, so you have to be careful, especially when there are comments open on the article. I’m still trying to get used to hearing myself talk as well. Apparently I’ve got a lisp. Who knew?
I belong to Jimbo. Do you? Without a doubt. When I was younger I didn’t have Sky and wasn’t allowed to stay up to watch Match of the Day, so I would actually watch very little English football. That meant my football fix would come on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons thanks to Football Italia. So I’m sure James will be delighted to hear that I’ve been a staunch admirer of his work since the grand old age of seven. What a pro.


What’s it like working with people’s champion Barry Glendenning? As Barry is the deputy editor of the site I work for, I don’t think there’s a good answer to this question! I was quite proud to win a fiver off him last week though, especially as he’s The Guardian’s betting ‘expert’ during the World Cup.

Previously on these pages, we’ve established he (Barry) is mates with Dara O Briain whereas John Ashdown and Barry Chuckle are virtually (chuckle) brothers. Which famous punters do you knock about with? Sadly I don’t have anyone too famous on speed dial. I do know a chap who plays for Millwall who goes by the name of Scott Barron. He played in the play-off final recently – a left-footer filling in at right-back at Wembley. And on that pitch too! Damon Albarn goes to my gym and is responsible for the acquisition of a table-tennis table. I’ve never seen him in there though (minor detail – Ed.). But I have seen Jeremy Paxman there. That was an awkward little episode. I’d just arrived and he was getting dressed in the changing room. I sort of knew it was him but couldn’t be sure so I was staring at him quite intently, only for him to clock on and throw me a dirty look. We’re not best mates.
Talking of comedy moments, aren’t you a West Ham fan? Indeed. I’d rather not talk about them now though. We’ve had a thoroughly depressing time of it on and off the pitch and it remains to be seen how things are going to turn out next season. In fact someone asked me the other day and I said it’s too early to tell – we have to wait and see how we do in the transfer market this summer. At least no one’s going to want Robert Green.
Are you an armchair fan or do you pitch up at the Boleyn Ground every now and then? I had a season ticket for seven years before going to university in Manchester. When I was up there I was also able to get to loads of away games, but the most I’ve ever been during a season was when we were in the Championship between 2003 and 2005. I barely missed a match then. It’s tougher now. I’ve got a membership which means I can get tickets easily but work can get in the way. Plus I play football on Saturday afternoons, which makes it even more difficult. You might say I’m not missing much but there’s nothing quite like going to a football match, even if they’re regularly somewhere on the scale between atrocious and dismal.
How did you end up at The Guardian? The usual route. I did some work experience there after I graduated two years ago and I was fortunate enough to be offered shifts on the web’s night team by Gregg Roughley, who was the co-night editor at the time and is now the sports desk’s Official Scouser. You’ve probably heard Gregg more on the podcast recently and if you haven’t you should. So I regularly work until the early hours, which is why people might often see me talking to myself on Twitter at 2am. That works fine for me though, I can cope with the nocturnal lifestyle. It means you can sample the many delights of Kings Cross when your shift ends at 3am.
Should people pay to read your online work? People should definitely pay to read my online work. It’s a tricky subject – the web does seem to be the future but it has to be profitable. But in doing that, you have to ensure you don’t lose your readers if you do set up paywalls. I’m not sure if The Times website will work that well, you have to have something that sets you apart. Currently why would you pay to read what’s on their site when you can read something similar on The Guardian’s for free? Charlie Brooker’s said much the same thing too. I’m not cheerleading on behalf of The Guardian’s content, just offering a realistic perspective. In terms of football coverage, Gabriele Marcotti is excellent, especially on European football, but then so are the likes of Sid Lowe, Paolo Bandini and Raphael Honigstein.
You seem to have embraced Twitter and unlike some, mentioning no names (Henry Winter) you reply to your followers. It’s addictive though isn’t it? It’s remarkably addictive and my output has only increased since I purchased a Blackberry in March. I think that may have been the beginning of the end for me as a functioning socialite. You’ve got to reply to your followers haven’t you? That’s the whole point of it. If you don’t you just make yourself look a bit snobbish. Replying can really boost a writer’s reputation too – I’ve had some illuminating debates with Honigstein and Marcotti recently. Mark Segal wrote a piece in last month’s WSC about journalists on Twitter and pointed to how it’s given more exposure to very good writers who aren’t as well known as the ones on, say, Sunday Supplement. And usually they’re the ones who reply. There are some exceedingly intelligent people on there too, people who know their football inside out. For example I only found out about the sublime Zonal Marking website thanks to Twitter.
Any other sports take the Steinberg fancy? I’m quite obsessed with football and always have been, but I also love tennis. I want to find the person responsible for putting the World Cup and Wimbledon on at the same time. It’s like people who schedule a wedding in August and end up missing the first day of the new season. That’s why God invented July. I’m really into boxing too, particularly since I started putting the gloves on myself.
How much sport do you watch each week? Too much. When we’re at work we have multiple screens so if there are matches on at the same time you can watch them side by side. One weekend I watched a German and Italian game at work on a Friday night, the early Premier League game at home on a Saturday lunchtime, I went to West Ham in the afternoon, then at work I watched the 5.15 game and followed it up with two Spanish games and the Serie A clash, before tuning in to Match of the Day, and polished it off on Sunday with two afternoon Premier League matches before going to work in the evening and watching two Spanish games. (And Match of the Day 2.) I could probably have found a way to fit in more. I think I’d get on well with Marcelo Bielsa.
It must be like ‘living the dream’ getting paid for watching sport? Despite the answer above, sometimes when you’re being paid to watch sport, you’re actually doing the opposite. If you’re in on a busy night, then you’ll actually end up so caught up with the work that you’ll probably only catch bits of the game here and there. The same’s true of the minute-by-minutes. You spend so much time looking at your keyboard, you can’t focus 100% of your attention of the match. So when angry readers email to ask us if we’re even watching, the answer is … well, sort of.

Aren’t you the chap who sets those fiendish sporting questions in The Guardian? Give us a couple that our readers can have a stab at in the comments section (below). As it’s the World Cup, here’s a couple from my World Cup thrashings quiz on Tuesday. By the way someone from When Saturday Comes took the trouble of compiling a graph of all the quizzes we’ve done and apart from Rob Smyth’s, mine are the most difficult. So if you’re struggling, you’re not alone. I’ve also been accused of making them a little too West Ham-centric.
By what score did Scotland lose to Uruguay in 1954?
A) 9-0
B) 6-0
C) 7-0
D) 8-0

How many goals Miroslav Klose score against Saudi Arabia in Germany’s 8-0 win in 2002?

A) Three
B) Four
C) Five
D) Six
So without punching them in Google, have a stab at answering the above in the comments section below. Interaction see. It’s the way forward I’m telling you…..

Money isn’t everything is it. 80 large a week, playing and watching football, darts, snooker, internet and gaming and the England players are still bored. Can you offer any excuses for them? It’s terrible isn’t it? Then again you’d be annoyed if you had to spend your holiday with John Terry, I imagine he might be a keen follower of the ‘What goes on tour stays on tour’ way of life. I suggested on the last pod that maybe the players could read a book in their free time, but that just brought a snort of derision from Paolo Bandini. I don’t know, even if it was just something like the Mr. Men series … I think they might all enjoy that, especially Wayne Rooney. They could race to read all the books. Last one to finish has to issue another public challenge to Capello.
Can you sum up the World Cup so far in a tweet of less than 140 characters? Forget the vuvuzelas, the Jabulani, the diving, the boring opening games and James Corden. It will all be worth it in the end #worldcup

That’s it Jacob, thanks a million for your time and keep up the very good work old chap…Thanks, it’s been a pleasure.
Well, the pleasure was absolutely all ours. I’m doffing my EFW sombrero to Jacob as I type. You can hear more of our new pal on the Football Weekly podcast, read his stuff at The Guardian here and the Daily Mirror there. He’s also minute-by-minuting during the World Cup at the Football Fanhouse and of course he’s written for WSC whose award they dished out to EFW still gets polished on a daily basis.
Follow EFW and Jacob on Twitter
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ASH FOR QUESTIONS
John Ashdown is a burglar. He is in fact part of a sophisticated team of burglars who operate from a Kings Cross hideout in London village. John and his pals use their cunning skills to rob of our time everyday. How many times during your working day have you tried to shield your pc from your boss because instead of rolling the Yen you’re sneaking a look at the sports pages on the Guardian website?
“Everything is hunky dory, Japan can sleep tight” I say to the aforementioned boss whilst trying not to scratch my nose or blink. These lies are for a good reason though. Ashdown has got a shoe in each of the following delights; The knowledge, Today In Sport, The Fiver (of course The Fiver), daily transfer gossip and a plethora of other gubbins and, furthermore, the whole Jewson lot is bloody marvellous.
So clearly, John Ashdown – like Manchester before him – has so much to answer for. So without further ado (get on with it you lemon – Ed.) here’s an EFW exclusive with the man they’re calling John Ashdown:
Here is a little tip for you chaps at The Guardian that you might want to think about covering: the World Cup in South Africa 2010 – starts today. If you take that on board, what are they likely to have you doing for it? They’ve already brought out the manacles. We’ve got reports, blogs, live coverage, podcasts, videos, tweets and news galore. Personally, I’ll be concentrating on perfecting my pretending-to-work-while-surreptitiously-watching-the-football schtick.
Likewise John, likewise. What’s your favourite World Cup memory? David Platt’s goal against Belgium in 1990 ‘in the last minute of extra time’. Nine years old. In the White Hart (with my dad, I should add). Way past my bedtime. And one of the most criminally-underrated goals in World Cup history. Magic.
Do you think En-ger-land will win it?Fraid not. Quarters, probably. Semis, possibly. I have a sneaking suspicion it’ll be Holland’s year.

Enough of the World Cup already. You’ve given EFW some welcome coverage on the Guardian pages. Are there any other football blogs that tickle the Ashdown fancy? Twohundredpercent is a fantastic site, one that gives plenty of exposure to the little guys of the football world. Their series on Chester during the winter was exceptional. One other I have a real soft spot for is Tony kempster – a stats site keeping track of scores, tables and attendances right the way down the league pyramid. If you want to know how many came through the turnstiles for Pease Pottage Village v St Francis Rangers in the Sussex League Division Two in the 2004-05 season (and, let’s face it, who doesn’t), it’s there (35, by the way). It was run by the eponymous Tony until he died last year (almost exactly a year ago now) and now stands almost as a memorial, like a stopped clock.
How did you end up at Guardian Towers? Same old story, I’m afraid – not what you know but who you know. A university lecturer helped me bag two weeks work in the summer of 2002. That turned into a month. Then the season. I’m still clinging on.
Clinging on and going great guns but it’s 2010 and you’re not on Twitter Mr Ashdown. Time to get down with the kids no? It’s bit poor isn’t it? I tend to use it quite a bit (@badjournalism is a particular favourite) so I’m beginning to feel like a Twitter leech (or Tweech, if you like) – taking what I want out of it without putting anything in. I’m sure I’ll be on there soon, though the thought of Barry Glendenning ‘following’ me is slightly unsettling.
The Knowledge on the Guardian website is a thing of rare beauty. Are there any cunning or inane questions and answers that stand out? My favourites tend to fall into two categories. There are the deep research ones – an afternoon with my head stuck in old Rothmans or Guardian archive pages is something close to my idea of nirvana. Of that ilk the recent question on the pointlessness of taking three goalkeepers to a World Cup is a perfect example – it’s not something I’ve ever seen anywhere else and it was an excuse to spend all day looking at every single World Cup line-up since 1930.
The other category of great questions are the ones where you get fantastic anecdotes or info from readers. Have any football matches been captured on Google Earth? Well, yes they have. From which train trip in Britain can you see the most league football grounds? This one, actually. You just couldn’t do those questions without an army of trivia-loving readers pitching in.
 
And occasionally you get emails out of leftfield that really make your day. The one from David White’s dad, for example.
Genius, surely there is a book in that isn’t there? Why, yes there is! Available in all good bookshops etc and so forth. My Knowledge colleague James Dart put it together so he scoops all the vast royalties.
Stinker. Who is the biggest football anorak at The Guardian? Smyth. Without question. Though I did once out-anorak him at a football-based quiz by knowing that Edgeley Park is the closest ground to the Mersey and recognising a bearded early-80s Martin Jol.
Has anyone ever disagreed with Jonathan Wilson on a ‘football tactics’ issue or do you all just agree with everything he says and then pass it off as your own thoughts down the pub? I find it rarely pays to disagree with Jonathan about anything. He seems to know pretty much everything about about pretty much everything. We once spent a four-hour train journey from London to Sunderland together and he regaled me with stories of the various features of the north-east coast as we went past, pointing out of the window at some 14th century castles and revealing who lived there, what they used to have for their tea and what their dog was called. When I went to Amsterdam for a weekend last year he recommended the Indonesian rijsttafel. Now I’m a bit of a gourmand, but I’d never heard of it – turns out it’s ruddy amazing. So in the face of such knowledge I’d never dream of questioning him on tactics, and, yes, in the right company (ie people who haven’t read much of Wilson’s stuff) dropping ‘Actually I reckon the full-back is the most important player on the pitch’ into a conversation can make it sound like you know what you’re talking about.
Rather embarrassingly Mr Fuller from The Ball is Round and I got locked inside Wembley Stadium a few weeks back. You’ve got previous in this department have you not? Alas, yes. It’s happened twice, with varying degrees of embarrassment. Basically on both occasions the shoddy broadband at Loftus Road and Hillsborough meant I had to pop back to the press box to file match reports rather than utilise the press lounge. And on both occasions, I returned to the press lounge to find doors locked and lights going off. At Loftus Road I accidentally scared my other half by ringing her and saying I was ‘stuck in the ground’. She thought I’d fallen down a hole. After wandering round the pitch I managed to get out through the players’ tunnel. That wasn’t an option at Hillsborough – it was locked for a start, but I’d also left my keys in my bag in the press lounge. I don’t really want to go into the unedifying details. Suffice to say they include increasingly frantic banging on a door, increasingly loud and colourful swearing, and, eventually, rescue from a understandably nervous looking local journalist.
You like your cricket as well. Would you prefer an afternoon at Lords watching England rip through the Aussie card or a seat at the World Cup QF watching England unexpectedly overcome Portugal on penalties? I’d have to say Lord’s. I’m not an England-hater, but I do find it increasingly hard to get behind the national side. Too many dislikable characters. That said, even when I was a kid I’d have taken a Sheffield United FA Cup win over an England World Cup victory. 
My wife wouldn’t agree but I don’t actually digest that much football media during the week. The thing I do make a point of listening to each week though is the Football Weekly Podcasts. Are they as much fun to record as they are to listen to? Probably more. It’s far more shambolic than you’d ever imagine having downloaded from iTunes, which is a testament to the skills of Producers Pete and Ben. That sitting around chatting to such footballing brains as Raf Honigstein, AC Jimbo and others is an occasional part of my job is a real privilege.
Do you have a favourite James Richardson pun? There was that one about Sharon Stone and Nicklas Bendtner. But as we don’t have the option of bleeping it out, it probably can’t be repeated here.
How do you think Football Weekly differs from TheGame podcast and The Football Ramble? I suppose on a spectrum of seriousness, if you had the Game at one end and the Football Ramble at the other, we’d be floating in the middle. I imagine if you like football and enjoy podcasts you probably subscribe to all three. I certainly used to, though it’s just FW and the Ramble for me these days.
I don’t suppose you all queue up to do those minute by minute reports do you? They’re wonderful to read but no so good for repetitive strain injuries I’m guessing? I genuinely always enjoy doing them, although it’s very difficult to get a proper impression of the match because you’re always watching them out of the corner of your eye. And, yes, they do make you yearn for a touch-typing class.
How much sport do you watch a week? Not as much as you might think. When you work in a sport environment all day it’s nice to get away from it when you leave the office. For example, I’m currently listening to a Radio 4 report on krill. That said, it’s probably still far too much.
Barry Glendenning is bezzy mates with Dara O Briain (check him out). Who is the most famous person in the Ashdown mobile? O Briain? Pah! I used to have Barry Chuckle’s number in my mobile. I curse the day a bike-riding local youth nicked it (the phone, not the number). Glendenning and Dara can keep their dry Irish witticisms. As far as I’m concerned comedy reached its zenith with ‘to me, to you.’
Tee hee, thanks a million for talking to EFW John and keep up the good work old chap. Cheers. It’s been a pleasure.
So there you have it folks, John Ashdown is not only a top man (see above) but, he won’t mind me telling you that he recently cemented his ‘football guru’ status by predicting Blackpool would be relegated from the Championship last season, Oh. I’m off to get a train from Plymouth to Aberdeen, 11-and-a-half hour journey that takes in 20 (twenty) league grounds in case you didn’t click on the link earlier. £180 well spent and no mistake.
Read up on John’s work at The Guardian HERE. To get tip-top satirical daily football email The Fiver delivered to your inbox click THERE and you’d be an absolute radish if you didn’t download the Football Weekly podcast – again for free – HERE each week.
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Hang on a minute….

Occasionally here at EFW HQ I get to wind my neck in for ten minutes and let someone who knows what they’re talking about take to the stage. Stepping up to the mic today is Spanish football guru Sid Lowe, who – in between penning articles for the Guardian, Four Four Two, World Soccer Magazine and talking down the phone on the Football Weekly Podcast – was good enough to give us some of his time.

Sid has been reporting back from Spain for the thick end of ten years in which time he’s translated for David Beckham, Michael Owen and Thomas Gravesen at Real Madrid, worked on Real Madrid TV and occupied a seat in every press box in La Liga and beyond. He’s often mocked on the Football Weekly Podcast for continued usage of the phrases ‘Rubbish’, ‘Caveat’ and ‘Hang on minute’ whilst trying to control his dog in the background.

So pour yourself a caña, have a nice long siesta before waking up and reading Sid explain why Michael Owen isn’t gay, Barry Glendenning is screwed, that Real Madrid bike, his recent Twitter addiction and why he will shortly be receiving Five FIFA stars in the post from EFW for laying the boot into Formula One.

Fans outside of Spain who travel to the Bernabéu and Camp Nou often complain about the lack of atmosphere, is there a game in Spain you can recommend that raises the roof in terms of noise? The Bernabéu and the Camp Nou can make a hell of lot of noise on big occasions (with 78,000 and 93,000 capacities how could they not?), but yeah I agree … Sevilla, Sporting Gijón, and Athletic Bilbao’s San Mamés are usually pretty good. Sevilla against Real Madrid (and, naturally Betis – who also tend to pretty noisy) is fantastic. And Madrid’s trip to San Mamés is always fantastic. Since returning from a decade away, Sporting’s fans have introduced the first division to a new phenomenon: away fans. Speaking of Sporting, it’s worth mentioning the Asturias derby too: Real Oviedo versus Sporting’s B team in the Second Division B (a level below the Second Division and made up of four twenty-team divisions, essentially a kind of Conference level) had over 16,000 this year. That was more than six first division games that same weekend. There are some others that stand out: Osasuna: close to the pitch, hostile, and very loud. Cádiz: funny. Similar at Xérez. And Tenerife’s fans have been great this season. Atlético: there are few noises like the Calderón launching into an big deep roar of: “Atlééééééééééééti”. And the return to a stadium of their own has made a real difference for Espanyol. Earlier this season Getafe were presented by the LFP with the award for the best fans in the league … in front of an empty stadium. Which says it all. I went to six consecutive Getafe games earlier this season. I think that makes me about their most loyal supporter. And I don’t even support them. I sometimes think the LFP are deliberately taking the piss.

Getafe fans collect their LFP ‘best fans in La Liga’ prize.

In my experience, Real Madrid fans aren’t the most vocal in Spain, in fact, there aren’t even the best in Madrid (Atléti and even Rayo Vallecano fans create more atmosphere). Has the fan base at the Bernabéu noticeably changed in recent seasons? Yes, to an extent. It’s got a lot more expensive and to some extent more gentrified. It is full most matches now but rarely makes as much noise as you might expect. There is a theory that says that one of the reasons why there is more noise on Champions League nights is that season ticket holders (who don’t necessarily chose the European option) don’t go so Madrid fans from all over Spain do (bear in mind that you can prepare a trip to the Champions League games and you can’t for league games because the LFP doesn’t even fix kick off times or dates until eight days before) and they are noisier and, as less regular visitors, more up for it. It’s also true that because of UEFA rules there is much better banter because there are actually away fans there – and lots of them. Taking away standing areas of course makes a difference too. the first game I ever went to in Spain was at the Bernabéu with 115,000 there against Zaragoza. Now, that was noisy.

I went to see Getafe play over Christmas and was astonished at the cost of match tickets. €40-80 to see them play Valladolid. Spain must be one of the most expensive countries in Europe to watch football nowadays no? Yes, it’s changed massively. A few years ago I bought a Rayo season ticket for the equivalent of £38. Madrid and Barcelona in particular have really increased but other clubs too. There is no uniform pricing structure either so smaller clubs hike prices like mad (and adopt the truly criminal policy of Día del Club whereby even season ticket holders are obliged to buy their seats) against the big two. All they achieve is a half empty stadium, and the half that is there supports the other team. Oh, and pissed off fans. Getafe are amongst the worst, price-wise.

Is it true that there is more Live English Premiership football than Spanish La Liga coverage on Spanish terrestrial television? On terrestrial TV in Spain you get one La Liga game a week: on La Sexta/autonomous region channels on Saturday night. And you normally get two English games: one on TVE and one on Teledeporte. If you buy Gol television you get a whole load more English games but you also get more Spanish league games – as many as four more per week. *interviewer rushes off to ring Spanish father in law*

The Marca and AS (predominantly) football papers are incredibly popular in Spain. Their output leans towards the English version of a tabloid, whereas El Mundo and El País don’t really cover football in depth. Where do you head for intelligent football debate in Spain? Good question … actually, in fairness El Mundo and El País have increased their coverage recently and it is mostly very good. El Mundo now have a Monday sports supplement. I’m very impressed with a lot of the writers on those papers – Diego Torres, David Gistau, Cayetano Ros and more … Santo Segurola is at Marca, too, and he’s excellent. The problem with Marca and AS or El Mundo Deportivo and Sport is, in my onion, not so much that they are tabloid in style (they’re not always) but that they have sides. And that they have agendas that are so comically obvious, so utterly shameless, that you wonder if it’s all a big wind-up. Marca has taken a massive nose-dive lately. It is worth adding something here: those papers are mostly very good at what they do. Much as I dislike certain things about their editorial line, their self-importance, and the ludicrous ‘Villarato’ campaign (in which they accuse the refs of being in cahoots with Barcelona), AS is an impressive paper in some ways.

The actual dates and kick off times of matches in Spain are only decided a week or so before they take place. This makes any sort of pre-planning a logistical nightmare for fans. Is that why there are virtually no away fans at most matches? It certainly doesn’t help. I think it’s a complete shambles. But it’s also partly a cultural thing, partly the fact that Spain is so much bigger than, say, England. Spain is very passionate about football but that does not necessarily translate into attendance at games.

You’ve worked as a translator for Becks and Michael Owen. Any anecdotes about those two you’d care to share with EFW? Tragically, the best one has already become public and has done the rounds on Spanish telly. Basically, I used the wrong form of the verb ‘to be’ and had Michael Owen saying that Frank Lampard was, well, sexy. I suppose the best, nearly right but importantly still very wrong comparison would be me having Owen saying “Lampard is fit” but not meaning that kind of fit. Everyone fell about. One magazine asked the question: Is Owen Gay? No, it said, asking its own question, but his translator might be. I saw Michael in England a few months after he had signed for Newcastle and pretty much the first thing he said to me was: “hey, tell my dad what it was you said about Lampard.” David was always keen to do as much as he could in Spanish and actually worked at getting it right in preparation for press conferences but wasn’t comfortable in Spanish – not in front of a big audience anyway. He did try. The one that I found the funniest was translating for Tommy Gravesen. He just kind of growled angrily at everyone. It hardly needed translating and I was trying very hard not to laugh.

It wasn’t too hard for EFW to track down Sid.

Real Madrid also gave you a fold-away bike did they not? Have any other gifts been forthcoming? Bizarrely, yes. At Christmas press meals they always give presents out. Mostly it’s relevant stuff – pens, phones, books, that sort of thing. And then one year Calderón handed out fold-up bikes. He must have had a job lot of them knocking about somewhere that he couldn’t shift. Should I admit that I haven’t used it? (Yeah, it’s no big deal, we’ve all got Real Madrid bikes knocking about in the shed – Ed).

They’ve started playing “Sid Lowe Bingo” on the Football Weekly Podcast and Barry Glendenning told me (in jest before anyone writes in) to “defunny” your answers in this interview. Do you have a message for the boys back home? Well, that’s Barry screwed then, isn’t it? I deliberately defunnied my own answers so he wouldn’t have that satisfaction. If I remember rightly, the bingo didn’t go too well, despite them trying to take me down lots of dark alleys and serve up some caveats, woofs and hang on a minutes. The other day I was watching the elections on UK TV, by the way, and it was a caveat landslide. They were all at it. Dimpleby, that arrogant, argumentative tosser on Sky, even Mandelson. I’m just claiming back a much maligned word. Or maybe I missed my real calling? In truth, it comes from living in Spain. Caveat is the best translation of ‘matiz’ which in Spanish sounds nowhere near as poncey as it does in English. Someone mentioned to me the other day that they had used it twice in a Masters degree thanks to me … I was proud. Or at least I was until I checked my PhD and found that I hadn’t used it. Not bloody once in 147,000 words. I didn’t eat for days. As for the pod: I’m at an unfair disadvantage: I’m just down the phone, the sneaky bastards. And then they get producer Ben or Pete to edit it so they look good. And sabotage me. Now, that is when Barry defunnies my answers.

You’ve finally got onboard the good ship Twitter. Good fun or a pain in the arse? A bit of both. I’ve got to stop. It gets addictive but, as I have found out recently to my immense cost, it can be, well, costly.

Do you report or are in you interested in any other sports? I’d love to say yeah I’m an all-rounder me but not really. When I was younger I had spells of being really into tennis and even a bit of cricket, although I haven’t played either for over a decade. I used to do a lot of running too – cross-country and track but my interest in athletics as a spectator sport has largely faded. At moments, I can watch most sports and almost get excited. I went to the Olympics in Athens and absolutely loved it. But that was partly the event itself and partly the sense of discovery with some sports. I was trying to work out what it was that made me like sports or not and I think I came to the conclusion that I liked fast, aggressive sports: the water-polo was sensational. I hadn’t realised how bloody dirty it was. Volleyball was very enjoyable, even handball. And I loved track cycling. On the roads I find it a bit dull – they just fly past you – but on the track I found it fascinating. I have always liked basketball (mainly because my brother played properly and I used to be a regular at the Sheffield Forgers/Sharks), so it was fantastic to get to see the US team play. But the king of sports is weight lifting. And I really do mean that. It was just brilliant. It does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s great drama … you can see the pressure all over their faces which look like they’re going to explode. And then afterwards, they were in the bar smoking tabs and drinking beer. Brilliant. Actually, am I allowed to plug an old piece of mine here? (Oh go on then – Ed) I loved it. I still wear my weightlifting t-shirt with pride. But I also actively dislike some ‘sports’. Like Formula 1, for instance. Which is bollocks. When Hamilton and Alonso were having that spat, I kept getting asked about it and had to show some vague interest but not only did I think it was tedious, distasteful (the way the two presses handled it struck me as embarrassing – so much so that I found it hilarious when NEITHER of them won) and vaguely pathetic, I also just didn’t give a toss. Then there’s that horsey thing in the Olympics when all the horse does is ponce about a field wearing a pretty bow and occasionally cocking its leg. What’s that for?

“..there are few noises like the Calderón launching into an big deep roar of: “Atlééééééééééééti”

Do you have a view on bullfighting? I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I have a view on it in the sense that it doesn’t massively preoccupy me. But, put it this way, I have lived in Spain for a decade and never been to a plaza de toros … at least not to watch a corrida. I’ve seen a few concerts.

In retrospect, the Spanish Olympic basketball teams “eye-catching faux pas” was a little ill conceived no? I thought so. Although it is also true that my handling of it might have been too. The removal of one key paragraph from the reporting on it didn’t help, either. Pau Gasol made one very interesting remark that went almost unreported but I thought was significant: “We didn’t think it was a good idea but the sponsor insisted and insisted.”

Do you support a Spanish or English football team? Yes. Both.

Oh, Which Spanish ground do you most enjoy reporting from then? Oh, ok, the answer to the last question is Real Oviedo. And in England, I think I’ll hold my peace. But most people know. There is a point that’s worth making here, mind you: in most cases, who journalists support really isn’t relevant. I’m not sure I understand the obsession with working out who we support. I’ve been accused of being blatantly pro-Madrid and obviously anti-them, rabidly Barcelona-biased and a Catalan hater… I’ve got it in for Atlético, I clearly love Atlético, and so on and so on … all of which might be a good sign. If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, bias is even more. Andoni Zubizarreta said something this season: “As fans we demand accuracy and fairness … but with one caveat [yes, he did say caveat. Well, matiz]: that it is in out favour.” He was talking about refereeing but he could just as well have been talking about readers. I think it’s a brilliant quote. He wasn’t a bad goalkeeper either.

Rabidly Barcelona-biased? Catalan hater? Neither, he’s just a bloody good journalist.

How much Spanish football do you watch each week? Far, far too much. Usually four live La Liga games plus everything that happens mid-week. And sometimes it’s dreadful.

You’ve waxed lyrical about Danny Alves and Racing Santander’s wonderkid Sergio Canales, any predictions on the next star to illuminate La Liga? I’m not sure how unknown they are but I do like the look of Ander Herrera at Real Zaragoza and although most people have seen a lot of him by now Javi Martínez at Athletic is very, very good. Keep an eye for that Leo Messi kid too: he’s pretty special.

Talking of predictions, Spain should win the 2010 World Cup shouldn’t they They should. But, hey, shit happens … one slip and they could be out. Del Bosque said something very important: Spain shouldn’t let themselves get into a dangerous state where it’s either win the tournament of be a failure. I think they are the best side in the world but who knows if they will actually win it. Torres and Villa will be vital.

What do you make of England’s chances? I have a feeling that England might go one step further than normal this time. So, quarters or semis, then. We might actually beat one genuinely good team. I wrote about this earlier this season and I find it hard to avoid the feeling that with England success or failure depends on the teams that await once it gets to knock out rounds, rather than how well we really play. I wrote:

The bottom line is that England have not beaten a ‘big’ country in a knock out game at the World Cup for years. England have been remarkably consistent at the World Cup and yet the reactions have been very different. In 1998 they fell at the first hurdle. In 1990 they were gloriously close to the final. There’s always a hardluck story; a robbery, a villain but there is also an inescapable fact. Since 1986 (in 1982 the format was different), England have gone out to the first ‘good’ side they have played. Argentina in 86, Germany in 90, not even there in 94, Argentina in 98, Brazil in 02 Portugal in 06. The sides they had beaten in knock out games? Paraguay, Belgium, Cameroon, Denmark, Ecuador. It’s not really glorious. Yet 1998 was a failure, 1990 a triumph. The difference is who they played. In 1990, after a dreadful group phase, a late goal from a set-play took England through against Belgium and a couple of dodgy penalties beat Cameroon. Then it was Germany and Arriverderchi. But it was a glorious, heady summer in England.

Rooney or Ronaldo? Ronaldo. I think he takes bad decisions but is such an astonishingly talented and physical imposing figure that he is genuinely special.

That’s it Sid, thanks a million for speaking to EFW and muchas gracias por todo and especially for putting some meat on the bones of our La Liga coverage. Pleasure.

You can follow Sid on Twitter at @sidlowe

You can read his work in The Guardian HERE and also catch him in Four Four Two and World Soccer Magazine.

You’d be bonkers not to listen to the Football Weekly Podcast

Read the EFW interview with Barry Glendenning HERE and our Spanish reports at AD Alcorcón, Alicante, Atletico Madrid, Barakaldo, Barcelona Athletic, Barcelona, Gava, Getafe, Portugalete, Rayo Vallecano & Real Madrid, Real Mallorca.
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Guardian angel

Evidently, I’m not alone in appreciating the sophisticated wit, scepticism and cynicism of the genial Barry Glendenning. His minute by minute match reports are often the most read thing on the Guardian website – with its 33 million (million!) readers. Furthermore, he’s the maestro largely responsible for The Fiver; a flipping marvellous tea-time satirical newsletter that brightens up umpty thrumpty inboxes every weekday.

Glendenning also sprinkles magic on the Football Weekly podcast (simply the best bit of football media one can digest) and has started casting his spell on the new Today in Sport – Live! feature which will undoubtedly result in yet more damage to your F5 key as update your PC throughout the day, whilst pretending to do some work.

Anyway, enough of the pleasantries (phew – Ed), EFW was delighted to be granted an exclusive interview with the Big G. So, pull up a chair and join us we chat about paranoid Everton fans, Cash in the Attic and why Dara O Briain is erm….a “fucker”.

Satirical daily emails, minute by minute reports, Football Weekly…do you ever long to get out of the office and report on matches? On cold winter afternoons I often yearn for an away day in Crewe or Wolverhampton, sitting in a press box trying to type 300 words of pristine prose to a tight deadline with frozen fingers, but unfortunately my paymasters rarely see fit to unshackle me from my desk, so it remains a pipe dream.

Are there any sports other than football you take a keen interest in? I will watch anything, even that nonsense on Eurosport where blokes compete against each other to see who can ride a motorbike the furthest up a very steep hill, fall off near the summit and then tumble all the way back down while trying to avoid their bouncing bike. As far as keen interests outside of football go, I love horse racing, cricket, rugby and Ireland’s national sport of hurling. But like I said, I’ll watch pretty much anything: tennis, golf, snooker, darts, rugby league, Aussie Rules, boxing, gaelic football, cycling, motor racing … you name it. There are very few sports that I’ve never warmed to, but basketball is one of them. I wouldn’t cross the street to watch an NBA game. I had a Polish builder doing a job in my house recently and he was trying to extol the virtues of handball, but I wasn’t convinced.

How long do think it’ll be before a Premiership club goes out of business? I would not be hugely surprised if Portsmouth go out of business by the time I finish answering this question. They seem to be very badly run and while it would be an awful shame for their fans if they did go to the wall, my podcasting partner James Richardson recently made the excellent point that at least there’s another team in nearby Southampton that their fans will be able to support instead.

Football fans take themselves too seriously don’t they? A lot of them do, but then so do a lot of football writers and pundits. People need to lighten up a bit and realise football’s just an ongoing soap opera, much like EastEnders or Corontation Street. You only have to read the comments that appear under certain articles on the Guardian sportblog to see how seriously some fans take it and how completely deluded and unaccustomed to failure many of them are. Some of the correspondence we get from fans who think we’re biased against their team is genuinely funny and often astonishingly abusive. One of my favourite emails was an angry email we got from an Everton fan who accused us of deliberately not publishing the Premier League leading-scorers table for a few weeks because Yakubu featured prominently on it. Just to fuel his paranoia, I’m very tempted to publish one with a thick black line through the names of any Everton players that might feature on it … if only I could find one with any Everton players on it.

You’ll be writing about the World Cup for the Guardian, how do you rate England’s chances? I honestly don’t think England have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the World Cup, which is an opinion that doesn’t go down very well with some of my English friends. But they’ve had Ireland under the heel of oppression for over 800 years now, so I don’t care what they think. They might have forgotten what Cromwell did, but I haven’t.

If England fail to win the World Cup in South Africa, it’ll be the English media’s fault for bigging them up again right? I don’t care whose fault it is (although a small part of me hopes it’s John Terry’s fault), so long as they come home empty-handed. England’s a great country which has been very good to me, but the jingoistic smugness that would accompany a World Cup win would be unbearable for me as an envious Paddy. Myself and a couple of Irish mates have already decided that if England make it to the final, we’re going to spend the 90 minutes of the game doing laps of the London Underground’s Circle Line. Then once we reckon the match is over, we’ll alight from the Tube and emerge blinking into the sunlight to see what the prevailing mood is on the street.

The Football Weekly podcast is hugely popular. Why? Good question. The world and his wife are podcasting about football now, but I like to think we’re holding our own, if you’ll pardon the expression. At least I hope we are – I very rarely listen to any of our “rivals”, because I worry I’ll end up absorbing other people’s opinions or jokes and passing them off as my own. We try not to take ourselves or the football we’re talking about too seriously, which I think is one of our more endearing qualities. It’s very easy to become pompous and decide that, just because you’re talking into a microphone and being broadcast on t’internet, your opinion is more valid than that of somebody pontificating from a bar-stool down in their local pub. If anyone, including me, falls into that trap on Football Weekly, they’re quickly cut down to size. It’s important also to remember that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, so there’s no point in trying. We have a number of listeners who claim to hate our show and everyone on it, especially me, but they still tune in religiously, presumably just to confirm that I’m still a prick. I find that very strange. It’s like hitting yourself with a stick or burning yourself with cigarettes for 40 minutes twice a week – why on earth would you do it? I think Cash In The Attic is rubbish so I just don’t watch it. I certainly wouldn’t Sky+ it just to further infuriate myself at the end of a long day.

Will there be a daily version during the World Cup? The honest answer is that I don’t know, but I expect there will be. For logistical reasons, I suspect we’ll be doing it from London with added input from our boys and girls on the ground dotted around South Africa.

Can you describe your typical working day at Guardian Towers? I can, but I’m not going to. A lot of people seem to think it’s a glamourous gig and I’d prefer not to shatter their illusions.

Is there a sport or other subject you would prefer to write about other than football? I must be the only journalist alive who has no interest in writing a book, but I’ve always fancied trying my hand at a sit-com. However, I’m aware that the older I get the less likely it is to happen. I’m very, very lazy.

Are there any plans afoot to charge for the Football Weekly podcast? Not that I’m aware of. Why? What have you heard? Will I be on commission? I certainly hope we don’t start charging for it, because then we’d have to up our game and start taking it more seriously. No good could come of that.

Do you have any interest in Non League football? I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t. However, one of our office administrators/fixers, Yvonne, without whom many of our journalists would be unable to get dressed properly in the morning, never mind book into a hotel or catch a plane, is a rabid Luton Town fan who never misses a game, home or away. I’m in awe of her dedication to the Hatters and the close proximity of my desk to her’s means I have no choice but to take in interest in their progress in the Blue Square Premier League. I can tell you without looking that they’re fifth at the moment, so they’re doing quite well in trying circumstances, but possibly not as well as Yvonne would like.

Who are you favourite sporting personalities? I’m a horse racing enthusiast and have the highest of regard for jump jockeys. Not just the really good ones, like Tony McCoy, Ruby Walsh and Timmy Murphy, but all of them. They’re so brave, often to the point of total foolhardiness, that I’m honestly in awe of them because I’m far too much of a coward to even try what they do. Although the vast majority are not particularly well paid, they put their lives on the line every time they go out to race, often riding poorly schooled, stupid or lazy horses over big fences at top speed in terrible weather. I mean, it’s so dangerous they get followed by an ambulance, for heaven’s sake. In what other line of work is that kind of precaution required? And the stoic shrugs with which many of them deal with bad, bone-crunching falls really puts the theatrics of certain diva footballers into perspective. Jump jockeys are as hard as nails and very competitive, but because of the inherent dangers of their sport, the camaraderie between them is real Band of Brothers stuff. There are very few big egos in the weigh room, because every single one of those boys is constantly aware they’re only ever one mistake or misplaced hoof away from very serious injury or death.

Putting sport to one side if we may, I hear you’re a music aficionado. Who should we be cocking an ear to these days? I’m not sure where you heard that – I downloaded the grand total of one album last year: Florence & The Machine’s Lungs, and attended one gig that I can recall: AC/DC at the O2 Arena, which was one of the best nights out I’ve ever had. In a lame effort to redeem my reputation, I should add that I own three or more albums by each of Primal Scream, The Coral, Foo Fighters and Super Furry Animals. My girlfriend got me interested in the Foo Fighters and Dave Grohl is top of her laminated Celebrity Shag Wishlist. That causes tension in our house, because he’s only third on mine.

You like a bit of stand up, any current comedians float your boat? For sheer edginess, I’d have to go for Michael McIntyre. His fearless, ground-breaking routine about people walking past shop windows and doing double-takes upon seeing their own reflection is possibly the funni … no, I’ll stop there in case your readers don’t realise I’m being sarcastic. There’s a lot of comedians I like: I’ve known Dara O Briain for nearly 15 years, since he was doing gigs in front of 10 or 15 people in assorted Irish clubs and he’s doing amazingly well for himself … the fucker. Dylan Moran is effortlessly brilliant and always has been. I think Chris Rock, Rich Hall, Ross Noble and – on his day – Johnny Vegas are top class as well. I was lucky enough to see Jerry Seinfeld in Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas once and that was probably the best $100 I ever spent. It was certainly the best $100 I spent in Vegas, but that’s not saying much.

That’s it. Thanks very much for brightening up our tea-time (via the Fiver) and bringing large doses of sophisticated wit, scepticism and cynicism into our daily football intake. It’s most welcome and no mistake. No problem, although I think you need psychiatric help if you honestly believe that.

To hear and read more of Barry’s musings check out the Guardian Football Website, subscribe to the iron horse of podcasts Football Weekly or sign up for football’s most tea-timely email The Fiver.

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