Football People on TV: Kevin Kilbane

Date published: Saturday 14th May 2016 9:55

This week Johnny puts down his frankly emasculating tumbler of cranberry and vodka, takes off his bra and looks at the hunky man called Killa


Fashion police
Not a man who aims to be a style guru and succeeds in this aim. And yet has a rugged charm, as this lovely photo well-proves:

Kevin Kilbane Football365

Unique, large, chunky teeth with a gap at the front. I have a theory: having a small space between your front teeth makes you about 33% more endearing and even more attractive. I don’t know why, but it’s so much more rock ‘n’ roll than an even set of gnashers.

The Yanks got teeth wrong; there’s nothing sexy about uniformity. And not getting your teeth fixed to conform to that ideal also suggests a man not psychologically in hock to narcissism. It hints at character and strength of mind.

KK is also the sort of man who you’d expect to have a haircut that was done by his mam in the kitchen using the same scissors she cuts the bacon with, and using a pudding bowl as a primitive styling tool.

The very opposite of a show pony, pundit clothing is almost unnoticeable. Dark jackets, plain shirts, is all. Which is fine. One Twitter contributor said our man “looked like a farmer despite coming from Preston”. And that’s a beautiful way to say it.


Lingo bingo
Magnificent Preston accent. “Take” and “Make” are “Tek and “Mek”. “Derby” is “doorby” “Money” is “Munneh”

Talks with an earnest passion which often reminds one of the wonderfully focused mind of Phil Neville. Shares that same obvious love of talking in detail about the game. Has a nice, unaffected manner about him which comes over well both on TV and the radio.

Always talks sensibly, if not necessarily huge creatively. One of those pundits who you turn to for even-handed analysis, rather than bluster and thoughtless barking. He’s a solid anchor in a world of flakes. I especially enjoy him on co-comm duty, where he just never phones it in. Always seems super-engaged, and deploys a quick mind.


Hits and misses
First big hit was his playing career. Seemed to be the inheritor of the Chris Waddle style of looking deceptively like a knackered, lumbering carthorse, and yet possessing some magic in his boots. His 110 appearances for Ireland, an astonishing 66 of them consecutive, have also massively endeared him to their fans, and rightly so.

Can do, what I think the young folk call, “rapping”. Good memory for lyrics too.

Apparently writes his own newspaper columns, instead of the more common approach of being called by a journo, saying some apparently unconnected nouns and verbs then picking up the money, while the poor scribe has to try and shape your 154 words into something cogent.

A thoroughly charming and clubbable sort, KK gets gigs across the TV and radio networks but can mostly be found on 5live and Match of the Day 1 and 2 and Football Focus, and has even been on the Guardian podcast, which is all pretty much top of the tree stuff. This isn’t by accident. KK is that best of all things: articulate working class. Full of learning but grounded in the real world. An unbeatable combo.

No obvious misses so far. Proof perhaps, that a decent bloke who comes to work to work, who wants to do a good job and has genuine interest and commitment to that job, can actually be really bloody good at it. In an ever expanding universe of pundits who appear to be not even trying, KK stands out as one who is rightly held in high regard. Looks set for a long career. Would love to see him given a Lineker-style presenting role, at some point.


Big club bias
None at all. Spent most of his career sweating it out at the chewy meat and heavy dumplings clubs like Preston, West Brom, Everton, Sunderland, Wigan, Hull, Derby and Cov, and after that, you are not going to get any airs and graces, are you?


Loved or loathed
Everybody likes the man, affectionately known as Killa, Zinedine Kilbane, or indeed Kevin Zidane.

Social media comments were very complimentary and heart-warming.

Well-informed insiders have confirmed KK is “excellent to work with, does his homework and is a thoroughly nice chap, with no ‘what do you know, you’ve never played the game’ attitude whatsoever. Works hard at wanting to improve, and takes advice”.

And I don’t think any of us would be surprised to hear that, but it’s good to have it confirmed.

Someone said “he has the eyelashes of Mr Snuffleupagus” and I think we can all agree that’s a good thing.

“Seems like a nice chap, looks a bit like Jim Carrey’s character in Dumb and Dumber,” was another comment.

Many Irish people got in touch to say how they love him.

“The man is literally an Irish hero who should have statues of him in Dublin” is just one comment which sums up many.

Others admired how he’s talked about and dealt with his daughter having Down’s Syndrome and I can thoroughly recommend Henry Winter’s piece about him. Proof that good, decent people in football are not uncommon.


Proper Football Man
With a career at unglamorous clubs, having been managed by Reidy at one point, you’d think he’d already be drinking out of the PFM ceremonial gold-plated, toilet duck in a pigeon loft somewhere off the East-Lancs road, but no. You’re barred, son.

Why? Well, first, he’s only gone and got himself some education at Staffordshire University. Unbelievable, Jeff. No PFM would do that, partly because he thinks stupidity is merely an alternative version of clever, but also because it would take up valuable time which could otherwise be spent showing your watch to blonde women in expensive hotel bars…and anyway, the University of Life teaches you everything you need to know, Richard. Never did me any harm, Gary. Walking and talking at the same time? Not for me, Clive.

Worse still, KK’s degree education is in sports writing and broadcasting and every PFM knows writing is for pencil squeezers, wusses and four-eyed nerds, whilst broadcasting is a piece of pish which just involves saying the first thing that comes into your head as loudly as possible, then repeating it several times, with increasingly wild-eyed gestures, as if the non ex-player constituency is seven shades of stupid for thinking anything else, shortly before then performing a 180-degree volte face and totally and shamelessly contradicting yourself. Easy. Where’s my money, Richard?

He’s also got some previous with Big Sam, back when Allardyce was youth team coach at Preston. When called up to play for England, Killa, feeling Irish to his lush, green core, told Allardyce he didn’t want to play for England and wanted to play for Ireland. Was Sam’s response to compliment him for having a strong sense of identity as a teenager? Was it to wish him luck in his ambition? Was it even polite? Of course it wasn’t. Instead he was furious at the young Killa, and told him to “f*ck off!” as any Proper Football Man would do without compunction.

But did it change Killa’s mind? No way. Right on.

This will not have been forgotten. No PFM ever goes against King Beef Sausage.

As far as the PFM lifestyle goes, Kevin lacks the habit of self-aggrandising small career achievements, and the narrow-eyed, persecution complex needed to climb the PFM ladder. And of course, that would give him every possibility of scoring big with Miss White Pudding Body of 1988 at infamous Preston night club and chicken in basket purveyor, The Disco Cock. But while he looks up for a good night out, it’s hard to see him giving it the full PFM bantersaurusing at 4.27am, strapping TC to a drone and flying him into the flight-path of an oncoming 747, nor having much of an appetite for shaving off Deano’s eyebrows after he’s passed out in a kebab shop, or inserting an aubergine into one of Ray Parlour’s body cavities.

PFM application declined.


Beyond the lighted stage
He is a patron of the Down’s Syndrome Association and donated the royalties from his autobiography to charity. In February 2015 sent a complaint to the FA over allegations that some West Ham United fans had sung a chant mocking the condition. Has that degree in Professional Sports Writing and Broadcasting from Stafford University, which suggests he might have some books in house and some pens. Pulls his weight on the ex-player charity golf days and does a bit of after dinner work, telling tales from the football frontline, while people drink beer eat pies and peas. Lovely.

Seems a thoroughly decent man. One of the good guys.


John Nicholson

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