The Big Interview: Football FanCast meets Chris Waddle

Never in need of an excuse to chinwag with a footballer – or for that matter, an opinionated Geordie – Football FanCast hooked up with former Newcastle, Tottenham, Marseille, Sheffield United and England star Chris Waddle.

Everything seems to be going wrong for Newcastle right now, the club where you started your career. Should Alan Pardew still be in the job?

Well if you’re looking at it as a results business, then probably not. But when you’re buying and then selling players of quality like Yohan Cabaye, it’s not very easy. He lost Demba Ba who scored goals for him and was really good in the changing room, as was Cabaye. So you’ve lost two important players, not just for their football ability but also the acknowledge and respect they had in the changing room. It can’t all just be about Fabricio Coloccini. I think you need a few leaders like that and Pardew’s definitely lost two who had a huge influence on the pitch and in the changing room.

But realistically, looking at Newcastle United, a Premier League club is their stature and that’s what they should be. As for a top four or top six, I don’t think their budget allows Pardew to get into that bracket. In terms of the size of the club and the size of the wage bill they should be mid-table, away from relegation every year. If Alan Pardew can do that, maybe have a solid cup run, that’s a good achievement for where the club are at right now.

Are the fans right to be protesting so militantly during games? Papiss Cisse believes it’s damaging the team.

The one thing you don’t want when walking onto the pitch is fans holding banners up with ‘manager out’. The players are still playing for Alan Pardew so he must be doing something right. I was at the Stoke City game last Monday night and Newcastle played very well – they just couldn’t grab a goal.

They dug in against Swansea and got a good result after going down to 2-0, so you can’t say the players aren’t giving it everything. But sometimes you have to be realistic and say ‘how good are the team?’ Currently, they’re on par with the teams in the bottom half of the league.  People might say they’re better than that, but does that mean you get a new manager in who can get more out of his team?

Personally I don’t think you can. If a new manager comes in, he’d say to Mike Ashley ‘I need to bring  in three or four players to make this team stronger’. Alan Pardew could probably say the same thing right now, but they haven’t got the budget at the minute so what’s the point in bringing a new manager in if he’s going to work from the same sort of line?

What about Mike Ashley? Will this dark cloud always be over the club until he decides to sell?

Newcastle’s fans are as good as any fans. They’re very fanatical about their club; home and away they always take massive support. Everybody knows about Newcastle’s fans and they want to be competing at the top end of the table. They may believe 53,000 is a big enough crowd to be in the top four, which realistically, is a fair point.

But you need a lot of money to compete against likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United. Liverpool spent well over £100m this summer, Tottenham have spent a fortune after losing Gareth bale, Everton are buying people like Romelu Lukaku.

So there’s a lot of a teams at the top of the league who are spending fortunes and Mike Ashley’s said he can’t compete. He’s being honest, I don’t think there’s a problem with that, I don’t think he’s ever hid from that.

So yes, Newcastle fans would love to be up there and probably think they should be with the support base they’ve got, but unfortunately they don’t pay the wage bill anymore – that’s all TV and sponsorship. At the minute, the only way Newcastle can get back into challenging for a Champions League spot is if Mike Ashley were to sell the club to someone who’s got lots and lots of money to spend.

You famously moved to Marseille in 1989, do you think more English players would benefit from moving abroad?

I’d like to see players moving abroad, especially those who play for the national team. I think it would bring them a lot; going to Italy, France, Spain or Germany would widen their horizons and give them a new outlook on the game. People say football is football – it’s not. It’s completely different abroad. The whole set-up is different; their way of training, the culture, the way they eat, the way they drink, everything that goes with it.

And the football is a bit more tactical. If you analyse international football, most countries play like their leagues. And let’s be honest, the Premier League is a great league for people who want watch it throughout the world, but it’s not a great league for the national team because we can’t take the Premier League into an international match against a big side.

We get picked off. The Premier League is very gung ho, it’s like basketball – you have an attack, we have an attack. But we saw at the World Cup, you can’t play Premier League football against decent nations because they have better defenders, better players who read the game, than a lot of other countries and the smaller nations. They pick you off as Italy and Uruguay proved. Costa Rica could have as well.

There’s an argument that English players are scared of going abroad – did you struggle when you first moved to France?

Yeah but it’s something you have to take on board, something you have to do –  I thought it was great!  To be honest, for the first three months it was like having tooth ache; I was sick of my life every day.

I wasn’t fit, we’d been having pre-season at Tottenham  when I left but Marseille were starting the league in ten days, so I was always playing catch-up.  And just going into a supermarket trying to buy a bit of ham or a bit of bread is very, very hard work and very frustrating. It was so hot when I went in July too. There was a lot going against me.

But once I got into a house, my family came over and I got fit, I knew that I’d give it my best shot and if it didn’t work I’d eventually just go home. I had three years in Marseille and apart from those first few months of the season it was thoroughly enjoyable. It was a great place to play.

It was all educational. You learn so much more about the football. If you speak to Ashley Cole after his first season at Roma he’ll probably tell you how different it is from Chelsea. He was a great full-back, but if he’d gone over to Italy at 22 or 23, he probably would have been an even better one.

And speaking of English players, are you the last great genuine winger to have played for England?

Well, I was definitely a winger, I can see where you’re coming from. I did play wide-ish, take full-backs on and get to the byline – we don’t have wingers as such now.

Theo Walcott, I’d probably say he’s a centre-forward who plays out wide because of his pace but he’s not someone who picks the ball up and takes on people. I’m talking jinking runs and taking people on, without using pace as the main object.

And I think we’ve definitely lost that tag – Scotland probably produced even more of them when I was going up. I’ve not seen anyone for a long time who you’d actually class as an out and out winger, so I wouldn’t say I was the last, but that sort of position, of getting the ball out wide and taking people on and exploiting full-backs or coming inside and shooting, you don’t see very often now.

It’s a shame because if there’s one thing the game’s crying out for, especially in England, is these types of players who can go past defenders and make things happen.

Raheem Sterling, he’s a great player to watch; he’s got a lot to learn but he’s going about it the right way. I don’t think he’s a proper winger though, he’ll probably end up a centre-forward, supporting striker or No.10 type. But as for wingers, you just don’t see them happen anymore.

You were working in Brazil during the World Cup. What went wrong for England from your point of view?

Going out there I didn’t think we’d get out the group. Maybe people thought I was being negative. But we don’t kick the ball very well against better teams, we never have, and we got exploited and exposed too easily. The full backs were pushing on, we played four attacking players,  the two centre-halves  were exposed bar Steven Gerrard sitting deep. These other national teams have good players, they’re very compact and they know how to win games. They know how to slow games down and how to foul.

We’re not streetwise; we don’t know how to win football matches, we don’t know how to foul or stop a game. Basically, we’re just so naive – we’re too nice. It’s the English way! You don’t want to dive, you don’t want to fall over. I’m not saying they should all start diving but when you go to a World Cup, apart from English referees, every referee will give you a free kick when you get touched and you go down.

We were trying to go to the World Cup and play like watching the Premier League. Someone like Tottenham against Hull City – you have an attack, we have an attack and see who wins. Unfortunately, in international football, teams are now very good at organising and playing counterattacking football. Yes, somebody’s got to take the game to somebody but why is it always us against stronger nations?

So is Roy Hodgson still the right man for the job?

I think Roy Hodgson’s limited to what he’s got to pick from. If you’re honest and sat down with a pen, you’d probably write about thirty footballers who you’d say could get into the England squad. Now, thirty players is not a lot – there’s a lot of smaller nations who have 30 players.

We’ve got to get back to producing players without playing one-and-two-touch football. You go and watch these kids play at training; cones, bibs, everything’s organised, but there’s these guys on the touchline who feel like they’ve got to coach in a two-touch football manner.

Just let them go out and enjoy it, and when they get to 14 or 15 you know who’s a full-back and who’s a centre-forward. Don’t stifle players – especially players who’ve got flair. Not everybody can dribble, not everybody can do magic tricks with the ball, but there are players who can and as they’re coming through, they’re getting stifled by all these training sessions based on the same format; be it defender, midfielder, centre-half, it’s all based around one and two touch football.

I was never coached to get rid of the ball, never.  People would tell me to get my head up sometimes, little pointers like that, but nobody ever told me not to dribble, not to run with the football, not to have that imagination.

it’s a shame because there is talent out there – there’s got to be! But it’s coached out of the kids by all these guys with coaching badges thinking they’ve got to use them. Identify the kids, look at their strengths when they’re young and say ‘keep playing, enjoy it’. You’ll see the ones who can beat blokes and make things happen. Don’t take away their imagination that’s got them beating people and going past players – but unfortunately that is the problem with our country.

To think of all the players we produced in the 60s, 70s ad 80s. We had so much talent ability wise, flair players, players who could do things with a football as good as anybody abroad. Now, the players that catch the eye,  95% of them are pacey rather than skilful. We’ve got to find a way of going back to all those players from the 60s 70s and 80s, and it’s because they didn’t get coached every day on how to get rid of the ball as soon as they get it.

Is there a bias towards big clubs? I heard you mention Ryan Shawcross as an example in a recent interview.

Ryan Shawcross is as good a defender as we’ve got. I’m not saying he’s world class, but he’s as good as who plays now. If he was playing for Manchester United, Liverpool or Chelsea, he be in the England squad and probably have made it to the World Cup.

I understand you’re now player/manager for Hallam FC’s Sunday team, the second oldest club in the world. How did that all come about?

Well, Hallam FC’s not far from where I live, it’s about twenty minutes in the car. I’ve got a couple of friends on the committee there, so I go up and watch them when I can. It’s the oldest football ground in the world, the second oldest football club in the world, and despite all the history, they’ve never had a Sunday morning team. Meanwhile, I was playing a lot of friendlies with my mates and they wanted to play more. The only way we could do that was by starting a Sunday team and I was kindly asked to run it out of Hallam.

So they’ve got a Sunday team now which they’ve never ever had before. The first game we played on a 3G pitch at a local school, but last weekend we actually played on Hallam’s ground so that was a little bit of history, for a Sunday team called Hallam to play on their ground.

How do you fancy your chances this season? I read one report tipping you for the title?

Haha, I don’t know about that. I think it’s ‘Chris Waddle’s a manager of a football team’ so everybody thinks we’re like Chelsea or Manchester City. We’re not – we pay subs, a fiver home and away, we’ve got a squad of about 18 players, 17 of which don’t play Saturdays.

There’s a lot of non-league clubs around here so if I had all the best players in Sheffield, they’d all be playing on Saturday and coming out again on a Sunday. I’ve got players who’ve never really played any level of football.

Yes, we’re top of the league at the minute, we’ve had a great start to the season. The players we’ve got I’m sure can progress, I’ve got a lot of younger players – some of which could end up playing Saturdays this season. But realistically, I think people have taken the Chris Waddle name and immediately thought ‘they’ll win that league, they’ll walk it’. We’re a normal Sunday team just  like everybody else. I’ve got players who are keen to learn and want to play, which is why we started the team.

A little bit of five-a-side fantasy football for you now Chris, starting with the best player you’ve ever played alongside?

Glenn Hoddle.

And the best player you’ve played against?

Diego Maradona.

Your role model growing up?

Probably George Best.

Someone who started after you that you wish you could’ve played with?

Steven Gerrard

And finally, who goes in goal?

Erm… Ray Clemence.

One last question – the one on everybody’s lips – are famous 1980s pop duo Glenn and Chris going to make a comeback?

It’ll cost a lot of money for that! No, I don’t think so.

But it was a good bit of fun. When we did it, we didn’t think it would get as big as it did but we enjoyed it. At the end of the day, I like music, Glenn likes his music, it was just an opportunity we had and we thought ‘Why not?’

To think that was in 1987 and I still get that question every day of my life. If you talk about a song that many years down the road, it must have been a classic.

There was a follow-up called ‘Goodbye’, which was quite fitting because Glenn was about to join Monaco – that was a better song. But the week before it’s release Glenn Hoddle unfortunately got transferred to Monaco, so they decided to pull the plug.

We were actually on a five-album deal. We got two singles and that was it – so we have got unfinished business!

Chris Waddle joined Ian Wright, Paddy McGuinness, Jeff Stelling and the Carlsberg Fan Squad to put on the Ultimate England Experience for 1,000 fans at Wembley. The Carlsberg Fan Squad aims to make football BETTER for fans by listening to real fans, celebrating what is great about football and improving the experience of being a fan. Follow @CarlsbergUK for weekly Premier League ticket giveaways. That calls for a Carlsberg!