This week John Nicholson goes foreign with Julien Laurens, the BT and ESPN go-to man for French football and other continental delights. The PFMs are not going to like this…
Early photos suggest a passing infatuation with the floppy haircut of a briefly popular boy band. These days looks much more suited to the neatly cropped barnet. Generally seems smoother than the proverbial fresh jar of Skippy.
Working in the informal surroundings of BT Sport means he has the freedom to go for the full French existentialist black roll-neck. Also loves a tight black t-shirt and a relaxed, fashionable suit jacket. Probably owns a collarless shirt. Has that thing going on where he can wear simple, unstructured plain clothes and still look stylish. How do you do that? Is surely a fragrant sort, with the smell of an almond liqueur lingering on his lips at all times. Has excellent unblemished, smooth, almost velvety skin, which suggests a good diet, rich in duck fat and garlic.
We British are simple folk; we like our Frenchmen to talk like Peter Sellers pretending to be French. As long as he does that, we will tolerate him. Also, because so few of us can speak any flavour of foreign, when an overseas chap shows up and has good English chops, we feel both admiration and inferiority and a little annoyance all at the same time, which is pretty much the British condition in a nutshell.
Julien has fluent English, so much so that he sounds like he’s an Englishman doing a French accent. He’s far more expressive than some of the less cerebral, more shouty pundits one sees on TV. He can construct a sentence without mixing tenses, without saying ‘them’ instead of ‘those’, without misplacing a verb, without using a double or triple negative, without repeating himself several times, literally several times, literally several times, Jeff. He can even probably deploy some antimetabole, when needed. Comes across as very passionate and engaging and yet appears very even-handed. Capable of talking very fast. Cheerful and funny as well as being a well-versed communicator, he does great pieces to camera on the European Football Show. In essence, he sounds like someone what hasn’t been one of them people whats never not had no interest in none of them things, ain’t that right, Tommo?
Hits and misses
Like all the cool bands, he plays all the big hit alternative gigs – BT Sport and ESPN, primarily. You’ll sometimes find him casting the runes on 5live European nights too. Has been known to do talkSPORT, which must be upsetting for all concerned. Lots of writing gigs, some of them in that there proper foreign French.
His big hit is as part of the regular European Football Show panel. He’s established himself as one of the relatively new breed of broadcast journalists who is knowledgeable and able to express that knowledge both wittily and cogently, without any need to default to alpha male guffawing or punching someone hard on the top of the arm. And better still, like normal people who aren’t ex-footballers, doesn’t seem to be compelled to say the name of the person they’re addressing at the end of almost every sentence.
There is a relatively small audience for the EFS partly because it’s all foreign football, but also partly because its knowledge-rich nature is not for everyone, especially for an audience used to slaw-jacked, brain-in-neutral football blather. But for those of us who like some smarts to break up the drone of the football hive mind, Julien and his ilk are where we go to get it and to us, it’s a massive hit.
Big club bias
Covering Ligue 1 means a lot of PSG-ing, and there are those who say he’s very partisan towards them. Seems to have a lot of man love for the Z Man. But, then, who among us thrusting, roister-doisters haven’t?
Loved or loathed
Well, in fairness, despite a fairly ubiquitous media presence over the last few years, being one of the go-to France fellas, no-one really knows him outside of we chin-strokers. He’s an exotic pleasure, like a pickled quail’s egg or tight shark skin underwear.
My social media research unearthed nothing but praise for his work.
‘He’s infuriatingly fair & balanced. To the point where I almost question my entirely natural mistrust of Johnny French.’
Praise for his appearance. ‘Smoother than a pint of expensive continental lager, insightful and probably smells of cologne that costs a small nation’s GDP.’
Praise for his lifestyle: ‘Could definitely see him sipping wine responsibly with Ginola & Petit.’
Praise for his football skills from Michael Cox: ‘He is obscenely good at football and once nutmegged me three times in a game.’
And even praise for his sex life. ‘I’d put money on him being a tender love-maker…’
Yeah, safe to say, we all love JL.
Proper Football Man
There’s only room for one foreign from each country in the PFM’s life and in France’s case, that’s David Ginola, who most PFMs would marry if they knew they could, even though he’s a luxury player who won’t track back.
What sort of a name is Julien, anyway? I’m not ‘avin ‘im, Jeff. Not for me, Mark. Clive, I’ve killed better men than him with my bare hands on a pre-season tour of Albania, no offence. He’s not even wearing a stripy jumper or carrying a string of onions, so he can’t be proper French, Jeff. I know ‘cos I saw that long-running documentary about them in the war set in Alloa.
A Frenchman is just a lazy version of a German, we all know that, Gary.
All PFMs have a tick list of things they hate about modern football and media and rather brilliantly, Julien ticks them all:
Works at BT Sport, which is full of PC socialists, feminists, foreigns and what John Wayne once called ‘pinko liberal faggots’…and as if that wasn’t enough, they employ Michael Owen, and the PFM really doesn’t like any of those things.
He’s a foreign who speaks better English than what they do. It’s our language, we’ll speak it how we want. Who won the war, anyway?
He enjoys football not played in Britain. I’m not being funny Jeff, but everyone knows it’s mostly rubbish.
Appears to enjoy sensible, moderate drinking. How are you going to keep the void of dark misery and psychic pain at bay without extreme intoxication?
Probably drinks white wine. Backs against the wall, boys. No offence, like. Jus’ sayin’ white wine is for a lady in this country and that’s how it should be. You can’t give a manager a nice bottle of white, not unless you’re wearing a dress, anyway.
Has some education attained from somewhere that wasn’t The School of Hard Knocks.
The vicious PFM sneer at all of these things is quite scary. They would spend a lot of time trying to get Julien to say ‘monkey’ like Inspector Clouseau and would get very annoyed when he refused, because there’s nothing they hate more than a foreign who won’t play up to a national stereotype. So they’re already fighting angry. And they’d know there was no chance of him accompanying them to infamous French-themed Doncaster nightclub ‘The Trouser Snail’ nor of him leaving with Miss Buttery Garlic Bread Baguette Body of 1992, nor of drinking Reidy’s Gallic artisanal, hand-crafted blend of Carmelite Water, garlic and untipped fags, served in a World War II German helmet. Hey, we all know they bombed my chippy, la.
And like any well-adjusted, sentient adult, the idea of joining in the PFM’s post-casino japes combining extreme humiliation and bodily functions, preferably in a shopping trolley, wouldn’t even be considered by Julien. This would cause them to go a funny and jab their fingers in the air while chewing gum.
See that’s what’s wrong with his sort, they don’t know how to have a laugh do they, Deano? Deano?! He’s passed out, quick Beags, let’s see how many cucumbers we can push into him.
Beyond the lighted stage
Apart from being good at football and, presumably spending time on his skincare regime, there is little evidence of what his cultural hinterland might include. I’m guessing, like all French people, it involves art house films about the futility of existence, smoking cigarettes that smell like dope, eating offal and looking at well-lit black and white photos of people having sex.