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Dublin: 16 °C Friday 14 August, 2020
Advertisement chats to Football Weekly about Brendan Rodgers, MONKeano and other podcasts

Also up for discussion, Gary Neville’s flawed punditry, Dortmund’s romantic legacy and how this year’s Champions League will pan out.

Yesterday, we brought you part 1 of our interview with The Guardian’s Football Weekly podcast stars.

In part 2, we discuss whether social media has changed their approach to journalism, why they’re not suddenly on the Brendan Rodgers ‘bandwagon,’ the reason they are reluctant to listen to other podcasts, and their thoughts on this year’s Champions League.  

TheScore: Does the thought of ‘what will the commenters say’ ever tempt you to write differently, or at least with that in mind?

James Horncastle: Not really. A lot of the abuse I get is about my hair.

Raphael Honigstein: Rightly so [laughs].

JH: The ‘Goth-like Sherlock extra’ and a range of things like that. But if I cut my hair, it would indicate that below-the-line comments had got to me.

RH: I guess the honest answer is ‘yes’ for me. Sometimes, when a specific section of a club feel that you have it in for them for whatever reason and they start hounding you on Twitter, the next time you write something about the club, you do wonder how you should phrase it. But at the same time, you cannot let that get into the way of how you see things, because then, it’s a very slippery slope. So yes, I do think about it, but at the same time, you have to make a very conscious decision to disregard it.

Other journalist (from the Dublin Gazette): Has Twitter/podcasts etc changed the way you’ve approached journalism?

JH: The podcast? Not really. I think that’s just a case of doing something on a different broadcast. But Twitter, definitely in the sense of engaging people and getting a feel for things, which I don’t think was there. Even below the line, I avoided that, but with Twitter, I wanted to check for my own purposes various news things, so I can’t avoid my mentions. You know: ‘I can’t believe you wrote that you long-haired freak.’ The best image I got was Larry David crossed with Rosie O’Donnell, so that was particularly brutal.

But Twitter… Not for self-promotion, but something you can put yourself out there from and get recognition from — particularly if you’re a freelancer, and you work for several different publications. People can’t pick up one thing every week and see where you are. I think Twitter, in particular, in a sense is very good [in that regard].


Credit: YouTube screengrab

(James Horncastle — once harshly described as “Larry David crossed with Rosie O’Donnell” )

RH: I treat the podcast almost as if it’s not journalism, because you somehow feel it’s fleeting, because it’s not in writing, your words are not easily accessible. You have a bit more freedom the way you phrase things and you’re less worried about the repercussions. And perhaps saying things — people can work out who your sources are. It’s just not that easily transmitted via social media. If it’s just the one line, especially taken out of context, you know it’s going to have to be around forever. But if it’s on the podcast, people will have forgotten about it.

Barry Glendenning: Ho, ho! You’d think [laughs]. Yesterday, I was accused on Twitter of jumping on the Brendan Rodgers bandwagon, because I praised him on Monday.

RH: [Sarcastically] How dare you!

BG: I pointed out to him that the Brendan Rodgers bandwagon was well in motion long before it rolled up to Anfield, because he’s managed Watford and Reading and Swansea and done good jobs there, which is why he got the job at Liverpool.

But around the time of the Being Liverpool documentary, which I thought Brendan Rodgers came out of quite badly — he just looked like a bit of an idiot. And I said on the pod — I can’t decide if he’s the snake oil merchant or the real deal, time will tell. Someone on a Liverpool fan forum said that I’d called him a snake-oil merchant. And so I keep getting Liverpool fans who probably haven’t heard the podcast in question, but have read this misquote on the forum, giving me grief now whenever I say anything in praise [of Rodgers]. Because I used to praise Rodgers to the high heavens whenever he was at Reading and Swansea, so there you go.

But yeah, I just treat the podcast as a chat among friends, and you do get criticism of it. People say ‘well, it was very flippant,’ or ‘how dare you say this, or how dare you say that,’ but it’s just a chat. And it’s our chat, we’ll chat about whatever we want. If you don’t like it… It’s as if some people think it’s compulsory, you don’t have to listen to it. There seem to be people who tune in just to hate it [laughs]. There are so many podcasts out there. Just listen to a different one. Obviously it’d be nice if they listen to ours, but I don’t consider it journalism.

I’ve been doing it so long now that I’ve been podstitutionalised. I don’t really pigeonhole myself.

TS: Would you listen to other podcasts much?

BG: Never [laughs]. I used not to, because I was always worried I’d start passing off Ken Early’s opinions as my own [more laughs]. I listen to a lot of non-football podcasts, and then I sometimes listen to Second Captains, or The Football Ramble or The Times one is quite good.

But that’s another thing about Twitter or comment sections. You get people praising you, but they can never praise you without slagging someone else. They say: “I really like Football Weekly. It’s so much better than those Football Ramble w**kers.” It’s alright to like both [laughs]. When we started and then Football Ramble started, we had this pretend Craggy Island/Rugged Island or Springfield/Shelbyville hatred going on. But a lot of people took it really seriously and thought we didn’t like those guys, which is just nonsense. I’m pretty good friends with a couple of them and I’ve been out for drinks with them and all that.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Round of 16 - Second Leg - Bayern Munich v Arsenal - Allianz Arena Source: EMPICS Sport

OJ: How do you see this year’s Champions League going compared to other years?

RH: I think it’s too early. A year ago, to give you the most obvious example, Bayern had just squeezed through after looking very unconvincing in the second leg against Arsenal, they had Juventus coming, lots of people made Juventus favourites, not many people could see past Barcelona at that point. I think what the previous rounds have shown is whether teams are not good enough to go far, but if you are in the select two or three teams who have that extra bit special — Real Madrid have looked fantastic, but a lot of teams would have beaten this Schalke side by a similar margin. It’s the same with PSG and Leverkusen.

JH: I think you were saying earlier that all of the group winners from the round of 16 matches aside from United and Chelsea, almost all of those ties were done. This week and last week were almost a formality, so going ahead to the quarter-finals, I think you probably get a better indication of who will be a genuine contender… I think we already know who the genuine contenders are, but there are a lot of unforeseen things that happen in knockout football. So while many people would be saying: ‘Look at Bayern, they’re unbeaten in 500 league games,’ there’s this whole narrative about them becoming the first team in the Champions League era to go back to back. It’s not a foregone conclusion at all. So you never really know.

TS: Are there less exceptional teams than ever now, given how uncompetitive most of the last-16 matches were, or is this a much too simplistic and reactionary position to take?

JH: I don’t know, you could say that the number of teams that are consolidating themselves is above and beyond the rest, but at the same time, the makeup of that group has changed. You have the introduction of a nouveau rich club like PSG, who can put together a team with a lot of money and make that transition into Europe relatively seamlessly. Whereas as we’ve seen with Manchester City, that hasn’t been the case really, although there are individual circumstances there. That coefficient for example, they’ve always had really difficult groups and really difficult draws. But then you had established elites, clubs like Milan, Inter, dropping out. Juventus are finding it hard to translate their domestic dominance into a continental mentality. So it is quite fluid and quite open — look at Dortmund those last few years. Considering their resources, being able to make a final in their second season back in the Champions League under Klopp. So I think we tend to look at things and not get surprised anymore, but we do get surprised, and I think Dortmund are a good example of that.

Germany Soccer Champions League Source: Martin Meissner

(Dortmund have enjoyed considerable success despite their limited resources)

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TS: I think it was one of you guys who pointed out that QPR’s overall wages were higher than Dortmund’s.

BG: I think that’s more a damning indictment of QPR than anything else.

RH: The Dortmund story speaks to the romantic notion that you can transcend your financial constraints through fantastic scouting and fantastic management to a certain extent. I think the fairytale notion of the average English team-supporting fan is to get bought by a sheikh, and having £300million the next season to spend. I think the rest of Europe has always looked at it slightly differently.

In England, Liverpool are punching slightly above their weight. To make that jump from fifth or sixth to third or fourth is quite significant. It takes a lot of really good management, and that’s why I think Arsenal are such an interesting club on so many levels. They can always quite legitimately point to clubs with bigger resources and say, look, we are more or less where we should be. But at the same time, throughout these years, clubs with significantly less money have been able to do better than expected, so just flat-lining is something that’s eventually terribly frustrating for supporters. So if I was an Arsenal fan, I’d be very upset.

BG: I think, as well, because they pay more expensive prices than any other club in the world, that entitles them to a moan, even though their club is outpowered compared to City and Chelsea.

RH: Last year, Arsenal’s wage bill was higher than Bayern’s. But then you wonder is this a fair comparison, as Wenger said, and I think he’s right. Because Bayern can almost do what they want in the Bundesliga. It’s clear that they can pick the best players. It’s clear that once these players are there, they don’t have to worry about those players defecting to other German clubs, they already making the most they can domestically, whereas I think it’s very telling that United had to put out this message after the summer saying, one of our main objectives has been achieved — we kept Wayne Rooney. Of course it was self-serving, because they failed to attract anyone significant, but it’s telling in the fact that it was conceivable that he would go to another Premier League club, whereas the same is inconceivable when it comes to Bayern, when it comes to Juventus, when it comes to Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively — it’s a long time since they’ve targeted each other’s players, so these domineering clubs are in a better position to a certain extent relatively to the Premier League teams, who have to keep their heads above the water domestically and then have to take on these superpowers in Europe.

That’s why there’s a trend of English teams somehow not being at the very top of European football, it kicked in with City. There was a very good reason for that shift.

Source: ArsenalFanTV/YouTube

(Arsenal fans — like most football supporters — are not averse to the odd moan)

TS: Changing subject slightly, this is an issue I know is particularly close to Barry’s heart, MONKeano – an inspired move, or one that’s bound to end in tears?

BG: I don’t think it’s bound to end in tears, but I think it may well end in tears. I wouldn’t say it’s inspired, it’s certainly interesting and more interesting than what was there — the Trap regime. And I quite like Trap in a sort of a grandad way… I just thought it was time for him to go, it was getting a bit stale. I’m not sure how the O’Neill-Keane dynamic will work, because the number two is traditionally the sort of guy who’s supposed to be nice to the players when the manager isn’t and go ‘ah don’t mind, it’ll be alright tomorrow’. And I can’t really see Keane doing that. And I’m not sure how good an idea it is that a number two should have so much attention focused on him, but it’s certainly interesting, and if the objective is to qualify for the European Championships, it’s so easy to qualify in theory now that anything less than that would be abject failure. So we’ll see how that goes, and if they get there, it’ll be good. I’m not sure who else they could have got really…

JH: AVB? [laughs]

TS: Mick McCarthy?

BG: I think McCarthy is a bit cheesed off he didn’t get it.

TS: Particularly when Roy Keane did get it.

BG: Well apparently, they get on okay now. I read an interview with McCarthy with Paul Kimmage, and they met each other in a hotel in Manchester and just went ‘look…’ and they just shook hands. But I think Keane may seem like a bit of a sociopath, but as he said in his press conference, he was asked would he need to be tamed, and he said I’m not some wild animal. And as he said as well, O’Neill’s no shrinking violet either. So it’ll be interesting.

Ireland Latvia Soccer Source: AP/Press Association Images

(Roy Keane and Martin O’Neill’s appointment to the Irish management team certainly raised eyebrows – Peter Morrison/AP/Press Association Images)

TS: What about this conflict of interest where ITV want Roy Keane to do the Champions League final the day before an Ireland friendly?

BG: I suppose for cosmetic purposes he should probably do the Ireland thing.

JH: It depends if an Irish player is playing in the Champions League final, because he might need to scout him [laughs].

BG: But I personally wouldn’t care which option Roy Keane chose, but I’d imagine there’d be a huge fuss if he does the TV gig, but international friendlies are ridiculous.

TS: Would you see the TV work done by the likes of Neville and Keane as problematic, given their commitments at international level?

BG: It has been a problem for Gary Neville, and I like him as a pundit, but he’s definitely given Joe Hart an easy ride when he was having difficulties, while he slaughtered David de Gea, and the previous week against Tottenham, Joe Hart had let one in, which was way softer and Neville gave him a pass. And there’s no doubt that that’s because he has to deal with Hart in England training. I don’t think he ever commented on it publicly, but that’s one example, there could well be others.

It is difficult. I’ve no compunction about slagging off Jimbo if he’s not performing to standard [laughs]. I’d imagine Neville gets paid a lot more by Sky than he does the FA, but I do think he’s a very good pundit, but that’s definitely an Achilles heel. And he’s quite inexperienced as well, he’s only been doing it a year and a half.

TS: Would you apply those sentiments to Keane as well?

Yeah, he’s a good pundit. I’d listen to Gary Neville and he’d point out things that I didn’t know, but then he has a lot longer to explain things. Keane gets 30 seconds, whereas Gary Neville gets an hour on Monday night. They’re both entertaining, but in different ways. I’m sure if you had Keane at a tactics board…

JH: Shouting at them [laughs]!

BG: I’m sure he’s a good pundit in that regard as well, he just doesn’t get the time.

JH: That’s what Match of the Day fall back on whenever they face criticism — they have only a limited time to show so many highlights of games. They don’t have the luxury Gary Neville has to basically pick out an hour of whatever he wants.

BG: And presumably he has a team of people to delve into the archives, though I’d imagine they have those on Match of the Day too. Whereas we have to do all our own work [laughs].

Woof! It’s our 25 favourite AC Jimbo intros from Football Weekly chats to Football Weekly about Twitter trolls and why United would have been better off with Mourinho

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