Football People on TV: Ruud Gullit

Date published: Saturday 18th March 2017 1:54 - Matthew Stead

Fashion police
Definitely one of those men who looks more cool in his 50s than he did in his 20s, especially as he once had a touch of the Labradoodle about him.

While the dreadlocks made him very distinctive, and always looked dramatic when scoring a header, somehow they still always had the look of nylon wig from a joke store about them.

Despite his flamboyance on the pitch, has always been a relatively conservative dresser. Never looked at ease in the manager’s waterproof coat, or sportswear in general. His natural habitat is an exclusive, upmarket menswear boutique, or the suit section of Harvey Nichols. Probably has his own tailor to hand-make his shirts. Certainly the pundit most likely to have a butler.

Occasionally dons something someone has told him is highly fashionable. I recall once seeing him in a beige Nehru collared jacket, and another time in a rather crumpled unstructured electric blue jacket, which had all the style of a bin bag in a tree.

These days in his mid-50s, he’s thickening out in a very pleasing way, and getting a nice little tummy on him, no doubt as a result of an almost impossibly glamourous lifestyle, mixing with the great, the good and the beautiful, probably on yachts in Marbella or Monaco, drinking Remy Martin and eating caviar off the thighs of a supermodel. Mmm, salty.

At 6’ 3” he’s a tremendous physical wall of Dutch loveliness. Seems always to be the biggest boy in the studio by several inches, both in girth and length. Impressively large head.


Lingo Bingo
The Dutch accent is brilliant. It manages to amuse the British, who find all foreign accents tremendously exotic, and allows us to indulge in an easy impression just be making that schhh noise at the start of any word beginning with an ‘s’

Has one of those voices which falls easily into amused laughter, and never lacks a twinkle of happiness or enthusiasm. An absolutely engaging and passionate talker on just about any subject you want – including, as we shall soon learn, dressage.


Hits and misses
Had a hit which was a bit of a miss. Released a single in 1984. Footballers should never do this. Didn’t trouble the charts here, but was a top 10 hit in the Hollandlands. It’s not exactly Focus, nor even Golden Earring.

Reggae band, Revelation Time recorded a single, ‘Captain Dread’, in his honour. You know you want a copy.

After one decent season as Chelsea’s manager, every other gig he’s done in that capacity has been rotten. Has hopefully given up, at least until they let you lick champagne from the belly button of a supermodel whilst in the dugout.

Last year he wrote a slightly odd book about watching football. The publisher’s blurb said it would “quite simply change the way you see the beautiful game,” which is a classic publisher cliche, sounding like it was written by someone who knows nothing about football. Mixed reviews suggest it didn’t change many people’s view of football in the slightest.

But hey, it’s Ruud, so it’s all cool. He’ll just shrug and move on to do something else glamorous.

On the upside, was utterly, utterly brilliant at playing football. More brilliant than almost anyone ever, and was twice voted World Player of the Year. Cor.

Better still, got a mention in Father Ted, when, during a Christmas episode, Dougal predicts that one of the pictures in the advent calendar will be Ruud Gullit sitting on a shed.

Widely enjoyed for his general good vibes bonhomie. One of the few pundits who seems loved by everyone, regardless of the quality of his work. Before the Chelsea v Manchester United game on Monday, he was on the radio, apparently in the tunnel, or pitchside, and spent some of his air time just wishing players good luck as they came up to him. It was though he knew everyone personally and the players treated him like some sort of footballing Pope, whose ring everyone wants to kiss.

He’s one of those ex-players who is at his best when talking about positions and games he played in, drawing contrasts to the match unfolding in front of him. Is refreshingly less bothered about analysis and more interested in illumination and anecdote.

Always seems prepared to have a laugh and a joke, his presence somehow radiating light into any room. This must be why he’s a regular at UEFA and FIFA events presenting awards, glad-handing and beaming like an especially massive cat that got locked in the Whiskas factory.

You’re left with the inevitable impression that it’s bloody great being Ruud.


Big club bias
You are not going to see Ruud on your TV talking about anything other than a pretty big game and that’s kind of what we want from him. He adds glamour. I don’t know how, exactly, but he definitely does. It’s probably to do with being one of, if not the best, players of his generation. Genius makes us feel good.


Loved or loathed?
A very high-profile media person, who has worked with Ruud, got in touch with me to say: “Every time I work with Ruud, I spend the whole time thinking, christ almighty it’s Ruud Gullit. How have I ended up sitting opposite Ruud Gullit! He is such a joy to work with and constantly wants to talk sport. I’ve had off air discussions about everything from darts, to dressage, to gaelic football with him.”

Isn’t that fantastic? I’m willing to be bet we’d all feel like that. Not that I could hold a conversation about dressage, like.

Social media responses were largely positive. Though some question his punditry talents, everyone loves a bit of Ruud.

‘Must be the only pundit whose mother was a custodian at a world-famous art gallery (the Rijksmuseum).’

‘Sparked the cultural renaissance of Newcastle/Gateshead by living in the Malmaison Hotel on the Quayside when he was manager.’

‘He’s a Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau (as are the members of Focus and Raymond van Barneveld).’

‘Pretty useless but I like him.’

‘”If you control the midfield, you win the game” was a classic line trundled out regularly.’

‘Literally offers nothing. Then smiles like he has just enlightened us.’

‘He’s articulate, insightful and affable as well.’

‘Everyone likes Ruud Gullit, surely? He’s great. A great player who doesn’t patronise you like some do.’

‘My wife saw him talking on TV recently and said “oh no Ruud, what the hell is that suit?!”. It was a bad bad suit.’

‘He can’t say ‘The Cup With The Big Ears’ enough when talking of the European Cup. Such a great turn of phrase. Accent helps!’

‘Always reminds me of when Chelsea had a team of players I’d like in my team.’

‘Nice chap when I met him and was genuinely impressed in how far I came to watch his team play.’

‘He married Johann Cruyff’s daughter!’

‘He’s a charming, intelligent and well spoken presence on my tellybox. If you actually listen to what he’s saying..not so good.’

‘Comes across as quite aloof but can say a lot with very few words. Loves a subtle dig at English players’ lack of technique too.’

‘Punditry I can take or leave since very early days but what a player he was.’

‘As a pundit? Awful. But I get the impression he knows he’s awful as well which means I can almost forgive him.’

‘He seems to treat the 99.99% of the world who were less talented at footy with a curiosity-like we need his help in a nice way.’

‘I love his voice. So Dutch sounding it puts me at ease like Amsterdam’s finest weed.’

‘Era defining player, winged it beautifully as a manager and now, mostly, phoning it in as a pundit. And I could listen all day.’

‘Met him at a meet and greet in Dublin a few years ago, I asked him to come play 7 aside with us after it he smiled that big smile and said his knees wouldn’t hold up. My 12 year old me died at that moment.’

‘A room smells nicer when he walks in.’

‘His internal monologue would be a potters wheel and unchained melody.’

‘Love it when him and Souness talk about the ‘really big games’ and Redknapp has to sit there quietly.’

‘I love the fact that he KNOWS he is the coolest person in the room. Also, seems to genuinely love football. Not all pundits do.’

‘Great deliverer of the laid back comment.’

‘Met him at an event with Numan, v.Hooijdonk and others. A bit rude compared to the others.’

‘I enjoy the obvious sexual tension between him and Shearer.’

‘Good knowledge, very watchable. Routinely displays suaveness and a level of English that enrages the PFM.’


Proper Football Man
All PFMs love to suck up to the true greats whilst secretly resenting them and feeling that they were over-rated, especially if they’re foreign and don’t know what it takes to dig in. Also, dreadlocks used to really annoy every PFM; what was wrong with a mullet or a bubble perm?

And they don’t like orange either, largely due to an unsavoury incident on Oxford Street with them Hare Krishna types. I thought they were chanting ‘arry ‘arry ‘arry Chris-summat and I told them it weren’t Chris-summat, it were Redknapp. They just kept chanting it though, which got me back up and then I was arrested, Jeff. Punching Buddhists is a hate crime, apparently. Anyway, why do all the Dutch live in Holland and the Netherlands, and not in Deutschland, Mark? I don’t get that, me.

However, Ruud’s three-marriage track record is a tremendously impressive achievement. The boys very much approve of divorce because she doesn’t know how lucky she is; it’s not like he even charged her for the season tickets and he can’t understand why she’s even left when there’s plenty of Prosecco in the fridge. Of course I’m going to have affairs, I’ve got the kavorka, haven’t I? I won’t be tied down, not unless you pay us, anyway, luv. No offence.

Other ticks in his PFM column include being happy to rock up at BeIn and grin a lot at Keysie and the boys. He’s a huge lad so can definitely handle a lot of Reidy’s Dutch-inspired orange assault liquids, mixing Cointreau, Oranjeboom and Agent Orange, injected into a Terry’s Chocolate Orange.

And you know, like any solid PFM, Ruud is always up for a good time. Trouble is, he’s a bit too upmarket for the lads, who prefer a night out at local chip shop, casino and strip club, Fish, Chips n Nips. Ruud is more likely to want to party in a Monaco club and enjoy the attentions of famous triple-barrelled minor royal party girl, Lady Lovely-Downstairs-Parts.

But, all the same, y’know, he’s foreign and that always counts against being a Proper Football Man. After all, Ken Bates once said of him, “I didn’t like his arrogance – in fact I never liked him.” And they trust Ken’s opinion on anything. And as manager of Newcastle United, he dropped Alan Shearer. Isn’t that, like, actually illegal Jeff? He should be in jail.

And he speaks five languages, which makes any PFM suspicious because they have yet to learn proper English, preferring to grunt out word clouds and cliche salads while rolling their eyes, all as a means of communication.

Coined the term “sexy football” which all true PFMS also hate because football is war and not sex, just like their relationship with the current Mrs PFM.

Went to LA Galaxy for $2million a year, fell out with everyone, was rubbish: sacked. Went to Russian club Terek Grozny, hoovered up a lot of money for six months, was rubbish: sacked. Accused of having a party lifestyle. Mmm, that’s top notch sponging off of the foreigns, Jeff. The boys are frotting themselves because they love nothing more than coining big money for being rubbish then getting sacked by foreign owners, which just shows they don’t know the game.

PFM Application: Honorary only, needing renewal every 6 months to make sure standards are being maintained.


Beyond the lighted stage
Flies around the world to play in charity games and to swing a club in pro-celebrity golf tournaments. Seems to be all about sport and little about anything else. Hasn’t made any more records, which is a blessing. Probably too busy getting on with the time consuming business of hedonism, anyway.


John Nicholson

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