Footy on TV: James Horncastle

Date published: Thursday 24th December 2015 9:27 - Daniel Storey

Fashion police
Appears to have used an approachable 1970s Geography teacher as inspiration for dress sense but with slightly added jazz. Clothes are non-confrontational, soft and seem to belong to a different era. Not so much old-fashioned, as non-fashioned. This is always an excellent choice for any man in his 30s because it means you don’t have to change style until the day you die and thus it frees your mind up to wonder about the more important things in life, such as Roma’s defensive capabilities, why pasta is a rubbish food and how to have sex with Fabio Cannavaro, despite a previously consistent record of heterosexuality.

Wears his hair long, and thus bears the slightly studious disposition of a man who would have played a mellotron in a progressive rock band in 1973. Premiata Forneria Marconi, perhaps (one for fans of 70’s Italian prog there, kids) Has the dark look of a man who could grow a dense, lush beard. The fact he has chosen not to, in these most heinously bearded of times, does him great credit.

Default expression seems to be one of vague amusement that he’s on the TV at all. Hard to faze, possibly due to being well-informed and intelligent.


Lingo bingo
In football media you are regarded as a highbrow intellectual if you can construct sentences without saying ‘them’ instead of ‘those’. So anyone like James, who is able to speak Italian fluently, may as well be a throbbing head in a jar a 1960s sci-fi movie; an all-powerful, all knowing, hybrid life form.

No defining linguistic ticks, though my missus thinks he sounds like a posh Geordie, by which she means, someone who wears a shirt in the winter and drinks only the finest branded varieties of bleach.


Hits and misses
One of the new generation of educated football media people who straddles the twin wild stallions of broadcasting and writing. This is not unique, of course, but contrast his work to some of the journalists that regularly crop up on Sunday Supplement and it’s easy to see that his is very much an alternative strand of football culture to the mainstream, pun-based, often ludicrous, space-filling, flatulent, faux exclusive fabrications of the tabloid culture.

Whether you consider this to be a hit or a miss probably depends on whether you get your football thrills from When Saturday Comes or from the back page of The Sun.

To those of us who, inexplicably to some TV producers, like to be entertained and informed by people who are sentient, know stuff and have a basic command of the language, yer Horncastle is a go-to man for well-season European football dinners. To those who can only understand opinions that have been expressed many times before and always using the exact same words and expressions, he’s just an incomprehensible professor. Where is Italy exactly, Jeff?


Big club bias
No form in this regard. So if it exists towards Juve or Milan, he’s hiding it very well behind admiration for Sassuolo. More seriously, having an obsession with a few top sides is just tedious and anyone who really likes football has nothing to do with it, because so much pleasure is available at the margins and along the lesser trodden roads. Those whose focus on only the richest and the most glamorous clubs are rightly the most readily dismissed. See also: those people who wear a Barcelona shirt with Messi on the back.


Loved or loathed
The truth is that he’s comparatively unknown and thus certainly not loathed. Because he is only to be found on programmes like the European Football Show, he is, to a degree, already preaching to the converted. There is no requirement on him to be a bantersaurus, or to behave like one of those alpha men who insists on walking naked around the dressing room of your local gym. That’s why those who love him, love him. As part of the new army of the intelligent, he’s welcome round here for a limoncello at any time.


Proper Football Man
To any PFM worth his exceptionally salty salt, someone like James should be banned from TV studios. Let him stick to doing all that intellectual stuff, like writing, and leave the gurning at the camera to the ex-pros with the spread wide legs and the readily available technicolour yawn of football cliche.

The PFMs secretly suspect people like this don’t actually like football at all and are more suited to playing chess, working out equations or just weeping over lack of girlfriends. It’s a shame because with a surname like Horncastle, the possibilities for nicknames are almost limitless. One can only imagine the ceaseless joy Merse would get from calling him Horny as though it was a form of poetry that he and he alone had mined out of the English language. At least until it was pointed out to him that calling another man Horny means you’re gay, Merse. It doesn’t does it, Jeff?

Speaking a foreign language triggers an automatic PFM exclusion clause because all PFMs know that shouting English very loudly is the best way to communicate with foreigns. If that fails, adopt their native accent as if you are in Mind Your Language in 1976 (a big fave with all older PFMs), and then shout at them even louder.

Long hair is also unacceptable on man, unless on David Ginola – whom every PFM secretly has a crush on – or Mark Hateley, who could hurt you badly. Normally, long locks require the wearer to be called Gloria and to receive unwelcome supposedly comic, below-the-waist physical attention, as the PFMs love nothing more than to pretend someone is a woman.

The PFM hates how BT Sport encourages people with actual learning to talk about football because they suspect that when they use “them” instead of “those”, the nerds are laughing at them behind their backs, for reasons the PFMs don’t quite understand. Them Poindexters is always sniggering about words, like they’re important. What does he know about football, anyway? You can’t replace doing something with just thinking about it. And all I’ve ever done is football and I’ve not thought about it once. Never did me any harm, Clive.

Looking at him, Keysie, he couldn’t even handle one bite of Reidy’s novocaine and firelighter custard tarts served on the thighs of an economically and culturally oppressed woman, (who should be glad of the work, by the way. Give us a smile, luv) let alone cope with a night out on the bovine tranquilizer and sheep dip shandies. See, that’s the trouble with these young media types, Andy, they don’t know how to have a good time. You’d never see him hanging out at the Back Passage in Castleford at 3.59am with Miss West Yorkshire Glue Gun Body of the Year, 1989, stuck to his arm. Probably likes reading instead. It’s a disgrace. It’d never have happened back in the glory days which, by the way, we invented before the PC feminazis took over. This is exactly how Hitler got started, you know.

Horncastle wouldn’t be seen passed out drunk in a shopping trolley on the roof of a Dubai hotel with marker pen glasses drawn on his face – so he doesn’t know the meaning of fun, if you ask me. He’s not a proper football man, and you know what’s worse? He doesn’t he want to be. Loser. Come on, let’s go dwarf tossing.


Beyond the lighted stage
Writers and broadcasters who are not interested in being a wacky and shouty personality tend not to have a wikipedia page dedicated to them and if they do, it documents only their career and thus we know nothing about their lives outside of this context. This is much to be welcomed because you don’t need to know what a man’s favourite member of Bucks Fizz is, nor anything about his love of small horses, and whether he likes weaving carpets from his own hair, in order to enjoy his work. Thus it is with Mr H.


John Nicholson

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