Football people on TV: Graeme Le Saux

Date published: Friday 30th December 2016 2:11

This week Johnny puts Graeme Le Saux under his media microscope and finds a nice man doing a good job at being nice, which is nice…


Fashion police
As I was writing this, Dawn, my missus, looked over my shoulder at a picture of GLS and said “he looks like a miniature Arnold Schwarzenegger”. Initially, I thought this was one of her regular magic mushroom flashbacks. But I think she’s right. He does have a bit of an Arnie thing going on. Head the shape of an ice cube. Lots of teeth.

However, he is not a Terminator, rather he dresses like a Tory politician on holiday. Everything he wears is pulled out of the same smart-casual and blue collection. Plain dress shirts. Yup. Polo shirt in pastel shade? Yup. Looks very at home in black tie. Has had the same haircut almost his whole life apart from a brief ill-advised floppy, Take That phase. Follicles still performing well despite being 48-years old.

Has the sort of wide mouth that could accommodate a baguette sideways which provides him with a generous, broad and giving smile.


Lingo Bingo
A native of Jersey, he has no discernible accent or speaking style. Talks in a calm, relaxed tone and sounds like a normal person with a regular command of the language, in other words, not like someone in the football industry. Can even place a verb correctly. Ironically, this is a basic modern football media problem.

A distinctive voice is what separates the modern media high performer from the rest. You and me can’t really hear GLS’s voice in our head the way we can hear Jamie Carragher or Gary Neville, and even if we can, it sounds like someone asking a baker for a wholemeal loaf and enquiring after the family dog’s health. If you sound unremarkable, even if you’re intelligent and thoughtful, too many people will tend to think you’re bland and boring. Just being even-handed and reasonable is right out of fashion. Not that there’s anything he can do about this.


Hits and misses
Packed in university to play football and this fact seems to have led to him being regarded within football as a towering intellectual, even though he never did get a degree. Then there was the whole reading The Guardian thing which remains an especially stained bookmark in British football’s bible of anti-intellectualism, the cultural ripples from which continue to curse us all.

Had a stellar playing career as a dynamic left-back, winning a lot of big trophies including a Premier League with Blackburn. Won Le Tournoi with England in 1997 and the old Second Division with Chelsea in his first season. Seems odd to think of the Blues in the second tier, doesn’t it? Yeah, they used to be quite sh*te. Middlesbrough once put seven past them.

Pundit career has been a bit patchy, largely on the BBC but now also in America. By being educated and capable, and not a slack-jawed football ninny, he accidentally raised the bar for himself, meaning we all thought he’d bring exceptional insight and erudition to the party. By all accounts he does sterling work on NBC stateside, but his BBC work has had a milky quality when talking about the actual kicky-kicky, rather than cultural matters. Utterly inoffensive, of course, and that’s a very good thing, but the feeling that he could either be more forensic or more learned, is there. That being said he writes very well (I’m assuming it’s not ghosted). This being especially good.

The fact he’s still often the go-to man for comment on the knuckle-dragging homophobic element in football culture has given him a distinctive furrow to plough. Every time a programme wants someone who won’t speak in a string of football cliches, he’s on the speed dial. But you do wonder if he isn’t fed up with the whole gay thing, having been subjected to “takes it up the arse” chanting for 15 years. It’s like his whole fabulously successful and decorated football career is very much secondary to Robbie Fowler’s arse, and that’s really unfair.

Is well-regarded in the FA, so much so that he was asked to contribute to the selection of the new England manager after Sam Allardyce’s pint of wine-inspired jowl-flapping victory for entrapment. Quite what specific talent he had to qualify for that role remains a bit of a mystery, as does what he could possibly have brought to the table given Southgate was nailed on from the start. Did they just sit in a room with a photo of Gareth, point at it and say “him”? Still, Graeme is probably the cleverest man the FA bods have ever met.


Big club bias
Is brought in to add a reasoned, even-handed voice to proceedings and this precludes any blinkered BCB, even though he’s hardly a down and dirty grassroots scuffer.


Loved or loathed?
GLS seems a thoroughly decent, intelligent, nice person. And the decent, nice and intelligent should always be celebrated in a world where utter bastards proliferate and idiots are vaunted like royalty, and indeed, sometimes are royalty. So you’d be some flavour of swine to dislike our GLS. Clearly a nice fella, even if he hardly inspires many to great passion, and this is recognised in my social media research, which only drew a modest response.

Gives the impression of a man who has a well-organised shed.

I’d bet good money he has a monthly magazine subscription.

Often a figure of fun for the insecure PFM. Makes him a good guy in my book.

Reads the Guardian, anti PFM & clearly never going to appear on TalkSh*te due to the aforementioned. Plus points for latter.

He’s a patron of the Fields in Trust charity and spoke very well at their recent awards. Comes across as a nice chap.

Seems he has kept the same hairstyle since his First Communion.

Meh he’s saux saux

Often comes across, unsurprisingly, as well informed in the pundit’s chair.

Comes across as intelligent and well-spoken which is why he is considered a bit haughty doesn’t fit in as a real football man

Saw him play whilst the pathetic ‘rent boy’ chants were in full effect. He f*cking bossed the left wing. Total pro.


Proper Football Man?
Oh dear me no. Not even for a second. He might well have played the game at the highest level but GLS is emblematic of Where It All Went Wrong. He symbolises everything they hate. Intelligent, well-read, well-spoken, educated, from somewhere posh, foreign name. There’s no call for that. I didn’t get where I am today by being intelligent, neither me nor any of my team-mates were intelligent and it never did us no harm. Look at this watch: 20 grand. Brains are overrated, but then I’m an English dinosaur, Mark.

Anti-intellectualism is very close to every PFM’s heart, feeling that learning stuff just gets in the way of running a lot, drinking, practical jokes and inflicting literally and psychic pain on the weedy boys. The whole Robbie Fowler thing is the PFM culture in its natural habitat, doing what it does best and even now, probably thinks there’s not much wrong with it and has Prozone stats to prove it’s good for team bonding, or at least a whiteboard, a felt-tip pen and a drawing of a cock and balls.

So the PFMs would find the urge to bend over in front of him, whilst pointing to their irresistible buttocks. What’s wrong with that? Being gay is funny. Can’t you take a joke?

All this Guardian-reading business is too rich for their blood as well. They fear anything liberal and lefty by instinct rather than any rigorous political analysis. The middle-aged white bloke is an oppressed minority these days, Jeff. You can’t call a bin bag black without someone getting up your arse. Backs against the wall, boys. No offence. I never said them things. I’ve been taken out of context, some of my best friends are bin bags. Am I going to jail, Jeff? It’s a right carve-up, this.

Because Graeme is normal, the thought of a night with Reidy on the rhino horn, petrol and marzipan shandies would hold no attraction, and neither would a night in legendary Jersey hot spot The Wet Channel with Miss Most Mammon-infatuated Off-Shore Investment Tax Avoidance Body of 1988.

Instead might just stay in and be nice.


Beyond the lighted stage
His Twitter feeds suggests Graeme is a man with a social conscience, a sense of humour and a knowledge of the music of Bob Mould.

Is a keen photographer and once sold a photo of a Sindy doll being eaten by a shark, which sounds like something you’d see in a gallery titled ‘Feminist Transubstantiation’.

Was a finalist on something called Vernon Kay’s Gameshow Marathon and in 2009 was on Dancing on Ice, but was voted off in the first round. Has reported and presented occasionally for BBC Two’s business news programme Working Lunch. In 2006 he joined ABN AMRO Bank’s UK private banking team in the role of Ambassador for their Sports Desk, a role which has the strong whiff of both gravy and train about it. A bank has a sports desk, does it?

Is a Patron of the Fields In Trust charity which exists to protect playing fields from being shamefully flogged off by successive governments seemingly unaware or uncaring about their importance. Fell out with local council and bat protection people over a proposed extension of his house. We’ve all been there. I once found a dead bat in our bed, y’know. Dunno if we crushed it in the night, or it crawled in there and simply expired due to the fact we’d just had a curry. Either way, I felt very guilty to have potentially gassed a bat to death.

So that’s the lovely GLS, talking about a bank’s sports desk, grinning a lot and surely hoping he doesn’t run into Robbie Fowler.


John Nicholson

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