‘Who is a Pep Guardiola?’ – football with James Felton

We asked The Guardian’s Sachin Nakrani what he would like to do for the award-winning Football365. Of course he answered that he would like to talk to minor celebrities who don’t really like football. Of course he did.

‘Who is a Pep Guardiola?’ – football with James Felton

‘Who is a Pep Guardiola?’ – football with James Felton

He started with Sarah Sumeray – and got a shedload of abuse – and then moved on to Grumpy Skeletor. He has now returned to an actual real-life person in BAFTA-winning comedy writer James Felton.

 

Hello James, how’s tricks? “Pretty good, cheers.”

Glad to hear it. So, you’re a comedy writer. That sounds fun. How much fun is it, exactly – a mug’s worth? A pint’s worth? A bucket’s worth? … A Peter Kay after a Sunday roast’s worth? “It’s making dick jokes for money. Or if you’re writing for a kids show, poo jokes. Life’s pretty sweet.”

It sounds sweet, really, really sweet.

Right…football. On a scale of 1-10, how funny is it? “Football itself is not that funny. It’s mainly just kicking. Watching footballers trying to put together a coherent sentence after a match, that’s pretty hilarious. It’s like watching an all-duck production of Hamlet.”

I once watched an all-duck production of Hamlet. It was shit. Back to the Q&A…football is full of funny terms. Here are some, tell me what you think they mean:

‘Cultured left foot” “That’s when you put a bowtie on your boot to make it look classy.”

‘Schoolboy defending’ “The match gets interrupted for a PTA meeting.”

‘Beckham territory’ “Beckham’s knackers.”

‘Six-pointer’ “Honestly the only thing I can think of here is a hexagon. Does everyone on the team form a hexagon and run at the opponents like geese? Reckon that’d be pretty intimidating.”

‘Group of Death’ “That’s when North Korea draw South Korea, China and the US.”

You’re not a fan of any particular club, but if you had to be one, which would you choose? “Liverpool. Used to support them as a kid/teenager, reckon they’d take me back.”

How much do you know about Liverpool? “Alan Shearer is not in their starting 11, Michael Owen used to play with them in the 90s, they are based in Liverpool.”

All correct, well done. You look like a man who gets behind England. Am I right? “I am. I get weirdly into the World Cup, and the Euros. I even got a bit UKIPPY once and waved a flag.”

Any chance of our brave boys doing well at the World Cup in Russia, or do you expect it to end with the usual flat disappointment and grown men crying on the shoulders of other grown men while standing in uncomfortably hot and crowded pubs? “The flat disappointment at our footballers is becoming a British tradition. We need that right now. We can put aside all our differences and remember just how shit we are at football. It’ll be healing.”

There is that. I hear you play a bit of football. Any good? “I’m at the level where I can run rings around my nephew – really destroy the little 10-year-old – and any of my friends. I’ve got this competitive streak in me that makes me ruthless. I once played the word c*nt against my nan to win a game of Scrabble. That kind of cut-throat attitude comes in handy in a friendly against your mates or when you need to ruthlessly tackle your niece. But put me against adults of any competence and I’ll buckle under the pressure.”

What’s your position? “I used to play defence when I was on a team as a teenager. Partly because I was a bit shit, and partly because I wasn’t afraid to do unnecessary slide tackles or dive in front of a ball. I once saved a goal from a spectacularly hard strike by leaping in front of it with my testicles. I hit the deck immediately and the guy just walked it in afterwards, but even the medic agreed it was a noble effort.”

I once clashed knees with a fella during five-a-side and it was the most pain I’ve ever felt. But yours sounds worse….I enjoy your work on Twitter, especially when you’re tweeting about politics. Speaking of politics – Brexit is batshit crazy, isn’t it? “It certainly is. The whole country decided to punch itself in the balls and now we’re spending two years deciding on whether it’ll be a hard slap or an uppercut.”

Brexit negotiations have been derailed after Carol from Worcestershire tweeted “bit worried about the Irish border if I’m honest”.

Things were going great until the Remoaner, 34, sent her little tweet and now we’re going to get a bad deal and it’s all her fucking fault. pic.twitter.com/p7Kx2hrq1Q

— James Felton (@JimMFelton) February 12, 2018

See any similarities between football and politics? “In both you sort of pick a team for life and call everyone else who likes a different team ‘wankers’.”

Who do you think would make a better football manager, Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn? “Corbyn. Apart from anything else, he wouldn’t shit himself in fear every time he saw a working-class person.”

Could you say that the battle between May and Corbyn is similar to that between Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola – an embattled, grey-haired leader struggling to maintain their mystic of dominance coming up against a cosmopolitan, hairy-faced new-ish contender who has all the hip young things eating out of his hands. Or is that just bollocks? “Who is a Pep Guardiola? Is this a trick question?”

He’s the manager of Manches…never mind, it’s not important. Right, I have a challenge: You have to pick a five-a-side team that includes you and four politicians, two from this country and two from abroad, who are you going for and why? “Jeremy Hunt. Any of the opposition gets injured, he’ll fire the nurse. Ann Widdecombe – I feel she’d be quite distracting. She’ll say something horribly offensive and while the opposition are all discussing that Hunt’s done a hat-trick. Donald Trump…going to need a strong wall. And Vladamir Putin. I have an inking him and Trump have some sort of unspoken bond that’ll end in the annihilation of all their opponents.”

Interesting choices…very interesting. Right James, I’m aware you’re a busy man so I’ll let you get off soon. Before I do, another question, and it’s a biggy…if you had write a play about football, what would be the plot and what would it be called? “It would be about a former rugby player’s attempt to get into football, and his struggle to realise you can’t just pick up the ball and run. The final scene would be him taking a penalty in the World Cup final. He’d lob the bar and start celebrating, thinking he’d scored, whilst the whole audience boos. Fucking tragic. Think I’d call it ‘Rugball 2 – It’s Getting Reeeeal Footbally In Here’.”

That sounds brilliant. I’d definitely take three of friends of mine and Emile Heskey to see it. Do you know who Emile Heskey is? “That’s my era. He’s sort of a substitute that comes on at the last second because his fitness isn’t great but somehow he does occasionally score.”

Close enough. Right James, is anything you’d like to ask me about football? “When I’ve done a football is that the correct terminology or is it ‘I’ve footballed’?”

Both are wrong but also so, so right. Thanks for your time, bye! “Bye.”

 

 

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