Guardian Angel – an interview with Barry Glendenning

The Guardian’s Barry Glendenning (good enough that we should call it Barry Glendenning’s Guardian) was recently interviewed by Danny Last of European Football Weekends. Danny was kind enough to offer reprinting rights of the interview to Soccerlens, and we’ve published the whole interview below.

Make sure you also visit European Football Weekends for more quality football writing.

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?

BG: 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?

BG: 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?

BG: 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?

BG: 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?

BG: 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?

BG: 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?

BG: 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?

BG: 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?

BG: 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?

BG: 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?

BG: 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?

BG: 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?

BG: 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?

BG: 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?

BG: 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.

BG: No problem, although I think you need psychiatric help if you honestly believe that.

Make sure you also visit European Football Weekends for more quality football writing.

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