The Big Kick-Off

Davids James and Ginola talk the new season and nearly taking up rugby with Stade Français

We caught up with the former French international and fellow BT Sport pundit David James in Dublin last week.

060814BM0252 Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

BT Sports pundits paid a visit to the Irish capital recently to promote Setanta Sports’ new €1 start of season offer. The pair invited us to a penalty shootout (which didn’t go too well) before sitting down to give their thoughts on the upcoming Premier League campaign, which begins this weekend.

It’s like Christmas eve for football fans with the Premier League about to start. Are you excited about the new season? 

DJ: Indeed. We had the excitement of the end of last season with us not knowing who was going to win fully until the last day of the Premier League. Three weeks earlier it could have been two or three teams and that was exciting stuff.

We then had the excitement of the World Cup, which was a little bit predictable if like me you knew that Germany were going to win it. But it was still exciting all the same and now we are checking our phones, looking on the TV to see who has signed who from where and who has said what with regard to the kick off in a couple of weeks. It’s decent.

You got the Germany prediction right so who is going to win the Premier League?

DJ: Liverpool.

Could Liverpool suffer in the same way that Spurs have? Get big money for a player then spend it all on a number of others who don’t work out?

DJ: I’m confident that the recruitment system at Liverpool is superb. The issue with Suarez is that it has freed up a lot of money but I think they were going to spend a lot of money regardless of him being there or not.

What they now have is a bit more money than they probably anticipated. The signings were always going to be done. With the recruitment that Liverpool have they know who they wanted long before they bought them. That might sound silly.

Spurs ended up with a load of cash and thought ‘we’ve got to go and spend it somewhere’. That might be doing them a bit of injustice there but that’s what it appeared to be like. Liverpool’s strategy is a lot more clinical.

I’m not a Liverpool fan in the sense that because I played for them I have to say good things about them. I went up there before last season and saw what they were doing and checked in with one of my friends who is in the backroom staff and fully understands what they are about, and I was very impressed and not surprised that they finished where they did in the league.

It doesn’t meant that everyone is going to be perfect. If (Divock) Origi goes out on loan and doesn’t play this season then they’re looking for next season, which is a fantastic strategy. Why buy him next season for double the money when we can buy him now, keep him playing and improving and bring him in next season effectively as a new player. It’s a long term strategy.

Can Manchester United challenge for the title?

DG: I think he has got a lot of work to do given Manchester United’s fall-off last season. They won the league by so many points the season before last and to not qualify for the Champions League last season and not really fundamentally change the side that much means he would have to bring in so many players to replace what wasn’t good enough last season.

I think he will get into Europe but I don’t think they will be challenging for the league. With Man City acquiring players like they have and with what they had last season, Liverpool and Chelsea with their acquisitions they’re going to be so much better than they were last year so the gap between Manchester United has not just got to be bridged but surpassed just to keep up.

DG, who do you think has been the Premier League’s biggest signing this summer?

DG: I think Fabregas at Chelsea. For me it is pretty interesting because first of all he is a great player. He had his misfortune at Barcelona. I was surprised by that. When he left Arsenal I understood he wanted to go back to his own country, sign for a huge club and he wasn’t the Fabregas we knew, the one that played for Arsenal.

Brazil Spain Soccer WCup Cesc Fabregas will be expected to fill the gap left by Frank Lampard at Chelsea this season. AP / Press Association Images AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

You were a player that really excited fans during your playing days. With Suarez gone, is the English top flight short on the type of player that fans would pay in to see?

DG: Of course! When I am watching games these days I want to be entertained. When you have players like that, scoring some amazing goals and being as good as he was when he came back from suspension… he was just tremendous.

This is what Premier League is about — entertainment. In France, they are amazed by the about of entertainment in the Premier League. I remember watching Liverpool v Arsenal (last season) and there were four goals in 20 minutes. I was at the game and was saying ‘what’s going on here?’.

You are not playing against a League Two or a League Three. You are playing against Arsenal. See Liverpool playing Crystal Palace, scored three goals in 12 or 15 minutes right at the end of the game? Before that the game was over. This is what football is all about in England. It’s about being surprises, always.

DJ, is Joe Hart’s number one shirt at Manchester City under threat?

In a sense that you’ve just won the league and every position should be up for grabs. Especially when you’re at a club who have enough money to go and have Frank Lampard on loan for six months! It’s the nature of the beast, isn’t it.

Manchester City have got the spending power to go out and get better players in any position they want.

Joe Hart will have known that as was proved last season when he was dropped for a short period of time. I wuold argue that it was good management because a lesser manager would have kept Joe in there and it wouldn’t have been good for him personally. In the long-term it wouldn’t have been good for Manchester City either.

He (Pellegrini) brings in somebody he knows (Willy Caballero), it’s more competition and I would like to think that will make Joe a better goalkeeper. So it’s good for Man City.

With the likes of Luis Suarez, Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez all playing in Spain, can the Premier League say it’s the best in the world?

DG: Seeing Rodriguez going to Real Madrid, that wasn’t a surprise. He’s a young player, a young talent, he had a fantastic World Cup. He deserved Player of the Tournament.

Playing in Monaco is nice, fantastic but it’s not for a young man who is 20-year-old. I am sure he was playing there many times and perhaps thinking how difficult it is to play in Monaco because there are so few fans — maximum 14,000. It’s not what these type of players deserve.

These type of players want and deserve a career… James, Bale, Suarez. If you want to play for the best clubs, and I am not saying that Liverpool is not the best club, but different offers, Spanish language as well, which is very important. It’s a more South American way of life so it’s not surprising if you see Suarez going from to Real.

James Penalty shootout mentor Ginola teaching members of the Irish media (including's Ben Blake) a thing or two about the art of penalty-taking. Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

Who do you see as being a potential surprise package for the title this season? 

DJ: Pochettino did so well with Southampton and my view on that is that Nicola Cortese had such a good system that any decent manager would be able to bear fruit from that production line of young players.

If he is truly a great manager then he will do something that most managers at Tottenham have failed to do and that is have good success on a sound basis. That isn’t going out and spending all the money that they’ve got but keeping people happy. It’s about a proper system.

Harry (Redknapp) had a bit of success with them in the Champions League and if Pochettino is as good as you would like to think he is, then he can do something at Tottenham. Whether or not they can get into the Champions League, they might be fighting with the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal.

Can your former club Spurs get top four under Pochettino, DG?

DG: For managers it is about winning, it’s about bringing back trophies. It’s not the same (as managing Southampton).You can be a good manager at a club and you can find it difficult at another one. So it is about what he is going to bring to the dressing room and for players to understand his football philosophy and his appraoch of the game.

We know he has a good approach to the game. He had some great players and they all left Southampton, most of them. The job is absolutely right for Pochettino. For Spurs fans getting into the top four will probbaly be the main target.

Finally, is it true you were asked to join Stade Français a few years ago? 

DG: How did you know that? In 2002 we had dealings with Christophe Dominici and he was looking at me saying you are strong and quick on the pitch. He said: ‘Did you ever think of playing rugby? Would you like to play rugby, a footballer going to rugby has never been done before’.

He rang the chairman of Stade Francais who said ‘what are you talking about?’ and hung up. Five minutes later the phone rang and it was Max, he said ‘are you kidding?’ and Dominici said ‘yes, he is standing next to me’. He said ‘that’s a great idea, it hasn’t been done before’.

I grew up in Toulon and all my friends who play rugby said thank God you didn’t do that because if you were in the tunnel going on the pitch you would have been the target of every single one of us!

David Ginola and David James were in Dublin today to launch Setanta Sports’ new €1 start of season offer where new subscribers can sign up to Setanta Sports for just €1. In total, 71 live Barclays Premier League games will be available on the Setanta Sports Pack in the 2014/2015 season. The Setanta Sports Pack contains 5 channels: Setanta Ireland, Setanta Sports 1, BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2 and ESPN.

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