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?
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.
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