Football People on TV: Jim White

Date published: Friday 2nd September 2016 9:56 - Matthew Stead

Our Johnny is a Teessider fashioned out of pig iron, pollution and pork scratchings, but even he finds Transfer Deadline Day and Jim White hard going. Maybe he should buy himself some Spanx and a vivid dress. Mmm, Johnny in Spanx.


Fashion police
Never seen in public without a black or blue, heavy duty suit. And not just a regular suit; they seem to be constructed out of Kevlar or something equally indestructible. In a post-nuclear holocaust world there will be only three things left on the planet: cockroaches, Jim White’s suits and a few fragments of a radioactive yellow tie.

The only man on TV who ‘owns’ a colour. Somehow, he has become yellow. And it’s not even a nice yellow. It’s a retina-hurting yellow; the colour of the pound shop, the rejected fashion line or the cheap sweets.

Face is a shade of pink so vivid it suggests that he’s been a little too vigorous with the oatmeal exfoliating scrub.

Hair now a vivid white, but it was once all so different. Let me take you back to 1985, and a land where the mullet ruled. Oh Jim, we’ve all been there, us old fecks.


Lingo bingo
A very distinctive voice and unique intonation. Hails from Glasgow, but you’d never know any more. Has a habit of making the last couple of words in a sentence 50% louder than any of the others. Sometimes makes an unpredictable emphasis on a syllable. Sometimes orates as though he’s shouting from a soap box in a park. More than any other newsreader, he ‘performs’ as though on stage. Deploys all manner of odd verbal inflections, which sometimes makes it sound as though his words are either being badly translated, or are being voiced by someone who has never spoken any English before.

No hyperbole is too hyper, nor too bole, for Jim, and he has made a Sky Sports News career out of being excited about things which no sentient creature could possibly feel an influx of adrenaline in their central nervous system about. High volume is his primary mode of communication.

Has a long history of approaching interviews in full sycophant mode. Apparently, once asked Brian Laudrup, “why are you so good, Brian?”

TDD brings out a fondness for saying odd expressions such as “over to you, my good friend”, along with total overuse of the word “sensational”. On top of that is the frankly odd relationship with A Woman In A Vivid Dress, whomever that might be at any one time. Her job seems to be to sit there while Jim talks. She sits, looks at the camera, looks at Jim, looks at “the boys”, fiddles with her mouse, looks at the screen, Jim, us, boys, mouse, Jim, us, boys, mouse…on and on….and is then allowed to say something briefly, when Jim finishes an extended oration on someone from somewhere going to somewhere else, before having to shut up and go back into the silent mode. It’s just weird. There are times when she looks at the camera in the way a hostage does in a movie, with an expression somewhere between boredom and bemusement, silently screaming “please, for the love of God, help me.”


Hits and misses
Earlier career as the frontispiece of Scotsport made him a household name up here, north of the border. Was well known from Durness to Dundee to Dalkeith before Sky was even invented. Eventually made a bit of a name for himself doing marathon presenting sessions during Transfer Deadline Day but, crucially, only to a few niche fans. Then at some point a few years ago, it jumped the shark and became a slightly creepy exercise in media self-congratulation.

What we all loved about it was the slightly shambolic way it was all stitched together, with reporters outside of grounds, surrounded by dildo-wielding fans, chanting Simpsons-like mobs of morons and strange hollow-eyed children who should have been in bed. But as soon as Sky realised they had a cult hit on their hands, they killed the very thing that was good about it.

They started marketing Jim as a wacky guy and got rid of all those opportunities for comedy, put reporters in safe environments, and added more Jim and A Woman In A Vivid Dress; a garment so tight, it appears less a dress and more a corset.

This very The Sun-style, sexist element just feels hugely inappropriate, very, very, very old-fashioned and diminishing for all of us. I’m sometimes surprised they’re not referred to, in true 1970s-style, as the Sky Sports Dolly Birds.

Still, for a presenter to become a brand in himself, is quite a success in the world of football TV news and if reports of his wages are anywhere near accurate, he’s trousering substantial wedge in return for this hoaky old nonsense. Fair play to him for that.

Other misses include a few drinky-poo mishaps. This from the Herald in 2005:

‘Jim White, the Sky Sports presenter, was banned from driving for a year and fined £750 yesterday after admitting a charge of refusing to take a breathalyser test.

‘The 47-year-old football pundit was stopped by police while driving in Church Street, Glasgow, on June 2 last year.

‘Adele McDonald, depute fiscal, who told stipendiary magistrate Robert Hamilton that there was a schedule of previous convictions relating to the presenter, added: “The police had reason to stop the accused and take him to Partick police station. He refused to provide specimens and said: ‘I’m providing f****** zero’.”

The Daily Record adds to this story. “A police source told the Record at the time: “White told officers they couldn’t arrest him because he was interviewing Jose Mourinho the following day.”

In 2010 the Record reported this:

‘Sky Sports star Jim White was banned from boarding a British Airways jet amid claims he had been drinking.

‘A witness at Glasgow Airport said the former Scotsport presenter was “pretty far gone”.

‘The bystander added: “He appeared to have spilled something on his trousers and was definitely drunk. The staff had no option but to tell him he’d have to go and sober up.

The fact he was let on the next plane, an hour later suggest amazing ability to metabolize alcohol at high speed. Well, he is Scottish.


Big club bias
The man himself says “The bulk of folk have surmised that I am a Rangers fan, but at the end of the day if the Old Firm play – and I mean this, hand on heart – it doesn’t bother me one way or t’other.”

I am assured by those who have good cause to know, that this is rubbish. He’s a Rangers man. But is this BCB? Celtic and Rangers are massive clubs. Sometimes, unless you live in Scotland, it’s hard to understand just how big they are.

But down south on Sky, his job is merely to inflate the importance of everything and everyone, at any level, in order for the whole sorry mess to appear less tedious and reprehensible than we actually know it to be.


Loved or loathed
Was once top of everyone’s lists of tune-in and watch presenters. Drinking games were named after him. These days, the overbearing nature of TDD has reduced the love considerably. To be fair to Jim, this isn’t so such a criticism of him as a performer, but of the style of the whole sorry farce that this twice yearly thing has become. There’s clearly been a producer-led decision a few years ago to change the nature of TDD and turn it into something teeth-clenching cartoonish. It’s done him no favours.

A selection of the very many social media comments I got reflect the overall view.

“Hard-drinking party-animal who was so lonely he used to ask complete strangers to come round to his house to drink with him when he was flying back to Glasgow from London at weekends.”

“He comes over as very camp when you meet him in person, or maybe it’s just smarm-overload.”

“Sports the very epitome of the constipated grin.”

“His default position is kissing the arses of anyone in power.”

“Jim doesn’t appear to have an inside voice.”

“there is absolutely nothing likeable about Jim White. Him & his shenanigans one of the many reasons my subscription cancelled.”

“A parody of his former self, sadly…”

“He’s ace. He’s made TDD a thing. Owns yellow. Makes no news for hours watchable. Like election night Dimbleby but for footy.”

“Oh Lord, self-promoting, self-serving, platitudinous b*llocks served up in a colour scheme out of place in a crèche.”

“So bad it’s good’, I’d say.  Perhaps by chance, he’s done a great if daft job of making a bigger event of the whole thing.”

“Feels like he’s believing his own hype more with each passing TDD. Used to be part of it, now it feels like he’s all of it.”

“A cringe in human form, probably started the make transfer deadline day a national holiday campaign himself.”

“I suspect he actually hates TDD, but it’s the only cache he has at Sky. His face says excitement but the eyes say ‘help me.’

“A great presenter and great at his job, but SKY have made it all feel so contrived these days. It’s all too polished for me.”

“The TDD special, with him at the centre, seems like it’s part of the repression of women in men’s football.”

“A vicious silvery fox who barks ferociously while bearing the psychotic grin of one that lost it’s soul eons ago.”

“A man who probably thinks it all wouldn’t happen unless he was there. Utterly inexplicable.”

“A good journalist who’s badly lost his way and self respect.”

“He’s basically a loudhailer in human form with settings such as ‘hysterical’ and ‘disbelief’.”


Proper Football Man
Any PFM needs a Media Man to remorselessly flatter him on the telly, talk to him like he’s a football oracle, never question his wisdom, nod appreciatively as he talks rubbish, laugh at his top, top banter, take him seriously as he spews out half-digested facts on topics he has absolutely no idea about, stop him from making a xenophobic, accidentally racist or misogynist faux pas, indulge him in his absurd views on the game, and give him a pen in order to make him look more intellectual. Stop drawing on your face, Merse.

The stellar PFMMM is of course Richard Keys, who perfected toadying to footballers and passed it off as analysis for years. Now Jim ain’t no Keysie, but he’s a very good chance of being given access to the PFM abandoned caravan of grief, in the middle-aged lay-by of desperation.

First there’s the drink-driving offences. Perfect. Too drunk to get a plane to Glasgow – a city that would make sobriety a criminal offence, if it could – now that’s proper drunk. Excellent work. Every PFM admires such noble lifestyle choices and considers turning over your 4-wheel drive in a motorway ditch after three bottles of wine having been doing “an After Dinner” with Frank Worthington a badge of considerable honour.

Then there was a couple of divorces for Jim: another crucial PFM lifestyle choice, because life is nothing if not for sitting at 3am in the morning moaning about how you’ve been taken to the cleaners by your ex, and all because you were caught in legendary massage parlour and chip shop, Vinegar Tits with Miss Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil and Trans Fats body of 2001.

I mean, it was just banter. And batter.

The PFMs love that he gets to sit next to A Woman In A Vivid Dress, feeling that’s how all women should look.

And there’d be no reluctance on Jim’s part to grab Reidy’s nasal passage clearing blend of lye, butane, miso and radioactive iodine, and drink the lot in one shot, grab the bottle off Reidy, leap through a window, shattering the glass like a drunken priest being chased by the authorities.

Every PFM knows he can be out-drunk by any Scotty man or woman, at any time, and that any night out with them could easily end in a knife fight, or being forced to drink IrnBru, which would be even worse. So back off, son! Here’s your membership card, now leave us alone.


Beyond the lighted stage
Most people in this field of the media do a bit of golf, or the gee-gees, or pretend they like music and books. But not Jim. Absolutely no evidence of a life beyond the studio, apart from the fact that you can hire him for After Dinner speaking, which, as we all know, is where the sweetest financial meat is to be found. Food, drink and a sack of cash. And maybe, if you’re lucky, a woman in Spanx and a brightly coloured dress.


John Nicholson

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