Liverpool cult hero Luis Garcia is returning to Anfield on Easter Monday to take part in the 'Celebration of the 96' charity match. Jon Holmes caught up with him...
You just can't sit and get angry at Niall Quinn, say Johnny and Al. Even if he's talking rubbish it stills seems quite nice rubbish coming out the mouth of a friendly, normal man...
We love a bit of low culture. Something cheap and trashy that doesn't engage the brain too much. A proper hamburger. A schlocky horror. Dirty good times rock and roll.
But to balance this out, we also like something quieter, more intelligent and less flashy. For years we have craved a football version of Newsnight where contemporary issues are discussed and viewpoints put forward by people in the know. Admittedly Newsnight has dumbed down from its heyday and now seems obsessed with doing pointless reconstructions of events, as if we couldn't imagine them from a verbal description.
We get plenty of clip shows and shouty, shallow, facile nonsense. All of which is fine if you're drinking vodka on your sofa to numb the pain of a meaningless existence. However, until last week, there was no intelligent alternative. But now we have The Footballers' Football Show launched on Sky.
Broadcast on Thursday evening, it's presented by Sky's Dave Jones, along with three football guests each week. There are no clips, no quizzes, no silly music, no boy band member interviewed, no bimbos hoping for a career in modelling, no silly teenage boys with ridiculous trousers, no thick people talking bollocks. Instead four adults sit and discuss football issues quietly, seriously and in some depth.
Last week's kicked off with Clark Carlisle, Uwe Rosler and Niall Quinn.
The set features a 'thinker' statue, and a black reflective shiny desk with gold highlights. It looks like a bachelor's pad in 1985 or perhaps the classiest nightclub in Essex; gold highlights everywhere.
Among the topics covered were RvP to Manchester United; racism and abuse; and the Olympic effect. At 90 minutes long, it gave plenty of time for the discussion to flow. Quinn and Rosler made some good points about how football and footballers can inspire young and old to greater things but that players should not be held up as role models: a gig for which they didn't apply and are often not suited.
Quinn was also amusingly scathing about some footballers' ability to communicate with the public but Rosler talked about how his players at Brentford do work in local schools that is often unreported because the media only wants 'Footballers Gone Wild' stories. Interestingly, he also pointed out that it was this sort of activity that often inspired players to become coaches after their playing days end, and that it was important for personal development.
But it was Carlisle who really impressed. In this environment he is an exceptional performer. Softly and carefully spoken, he doesn't waste words but actually has plenty say. His polysyllabic tendencies must baffle his dressing rooms. Saying "racism is such an amorphous issue", he talked about "the base level of language" in the game, how Twitter is "the communication tool for this generation" and went on to make the point that not all racism is white on black, but that abuse wherever it happens and whomever it is between has to be culturally outlawed.
He also talked of how a black Premier League coach recently had monkey pictures pinned to his locker but he felt unable to report this for fear of looking like a troublemaker and thus losing his job. This kind of illustrative detail is exactly what we need from people inside the game. It gives a flavour of the culture that elevates understanding and is not information to which outsiders like us, or you, would necessarily have access to.
These were all topics which have been covered, many might say over-covered, in the media previously, but here, under the light touch of Dave Jones, the debate was properly illuminating and not merely a re-hash of the usual default points of view.
Obviously, such programmes rely on the guests being intelligent and articulate but this was a real pleasure. These guys have all played at the top and have also been behind the scenes in non-playing roles. It was informed and detailed and accessible and just the sort of thing that has long been needed.
It is the sort of show the BBC TV should have already made but haven't because they are apparently too wedded to the idea of football being the preserve of the dumb grunt class who consider 'Football's Most Amazing Moments' to be the intellectual equivalent of reading Hermann Hesse. This recent BBC Three job, fronted by Robbie Savage, was like watching YouTube clips on a loop while someone shouted the idiotic user comments at you. In a whiny Welsh voice. Sky's new discussion show has raised the bar, now other broadcasters must try to match it.
The Footballers' Football Show is on Sky Sports 1 at 10pm on Thursdays.
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
Alan has ghost-written a book for Premier League legend Ronnie Matthews. It is called 'I Kick Therefore I Am' and you can check it out here.
And read Johnny's book The Meat Fix' here or buy tickets to see him at the Hampstead and Highgate Literary Festival here.
Follow Alan on Twitter here or Johnny here.