Exclusive: David James excited by BT Sport chapter

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David James’ love of football shows no signs of dwindling any time soon, even after a 26-year playing career.

The former England number one is embarking on an exciting chapter in his life, which will soon see him immersed in the beautiful game as a player, coach and pundit simultaneously.

James is part of the ambitious BT Sport team that is looking to displace the Premier League broadcasting monopoly currently held by Sky Sports.

With 38 live games from the English top flight this season, the new channel is looking for a fresh approach to presenting football matches.

Meanwhile, until the culmination of the domestic season in September, he will be splitting his time between BT’s Stratford studio and a small Icelandic island, where he is currently a player/coach at IBV Vestmannaeyjar.

Despite the trans-Atlantic commute, his role as a co-analyst is one that he is looking forward to.

Speaking exclusively to GiveMeSport, the goalkeeper revealed how he has adapted to this new career path.

“Yeah I’m enjoying it the more it goes on. When I first signed for BT they gave us the dates and the fixtures when we would start and essentially it was at the beginning of the Premier League season so I kept my mind on playing in Iceland for IBV,” explained the 43-year-old.

“And then I got an email through saying ‘you’re in next week, got to do this, got to do that’ and all of a sudden I’m practicing for this and it was sort of short notice.”

The channel kicked off with a friendly between Manchester City and Bayern Munich last week – two sides that will be televised throughout 2013/14 as part of the PL and Bundesliga coverage respectively.

And the former Liverpool goalkeeper has been handed the opportunity to work with 90's teammates Steve McManaman and Michael Owen.

This trip down memory lane is a theme common with his work in Iceland right now.

As assistant manager at IBV, he is also working alongside Hermann Hreidarsson, a fellow FA Cup winner with Portsmouth.

“It’s terrific,” said James. “I was good friends with him in my world when I was at Portsmouth – I say that because I didn’t really hang around with anyone, but I always got on with him.

“He called me and said I was going to go out there, and I was like: ‘right, fine’. I didn’t have a choice [laughs]. But once I got out there we spent – and do spend – so much time together.

“When I first went out, for three days I couldn’t visit the island, similar to what happened to me earlier in the week. The weather was so bad we couldn’t actually get on the island so we ended up staying in Reykjavik for three days.

“We enjoyed Reykjavik but all we did was talk football for three days. It was solid ‘what about this? What about that?’. Just solid football talk between manager and assistant manager to the point that his wife Ragna said: ‘you two are geeks’. Yeah, we get on well.”

IBV are currently comfortably mid-table in the Icelandic Premier League, in what is James’ first foray into a coaching role. An adventure that he hopes will one day lead to management.

“I started my coaching licenses three years ago at Bristol, I did my level two C, then went into the B, completed that, and started the A license just over a year ago with the intention of getting into coaching to become a manager,” James stated.

At present a lot of his focus is being diverted to broadcasting as well though. And he will be at Anfield when BT show the opening game of the Premier League season – the lunchtime kick-off between Liverpool and Stoke this weekend.

However, what is going to be different about this latest pretender to the Sky throne? Recent seasons have seen both Setanta and ESPN fall by the wayside in terms of televising top flight fixtures.

Well, as James went on to explain, the station’s aim is to put a new and unique twist on just how a football match is broadcasted.

The goalkeeper revealed: “BT asked me if I wanted to be involved with their new project and I came in for a meeting and was like: ‘Well what are you going to do? For 20 years now we’ve had guys sitting behind a desk wearing suits and ties and very tight trousers’.

“Did I want to do more of that? Not really. And then BT described that they were going to have the big studio, the pitch. And I was like, that’s a bit of me, something different and a fresh take on presenting a football match.

“I know everybody tunes in to watch the match of course, but the way that we can deliver before and after analysis will be good, and different, which appealed to me.”

A display of his quick wit, which we can expect to see on screen, was provided when he was questioned whether or not he had received any media training in preparation for his new job.

“Are you saying I’m bad? [laughs] No not really. I mean Macca’s (Steve McManaman) very experienced with his work at ESPN, Owen’s (Hargreaves) done quite a bit. Michael (Owen) and myself, because we’ve been playing the last few seasons we’ve done less, but we’ve had some experience.

“But I know that BT didn’t just bring me in because I used to play for them or whatever. It was because I’d done some work on TV before.”

The early weeks of the season could be pivotal for the company, as they look to attract – and maintain – a lot of skeptical viewers. But from the luxury of their lavish new TV studio, which is incidentally the biggest in the UK, they will strive to bring viewers a new experience.

The glass-floored pitch that comes with complimentary goalposts will aid this process, with the prop allowing pundits to demonstrate match situations in a life-sized environment.

David also touched on this innovative approach: “BT have set out by having a much freer studio. It’s a bigger space so there’s a lot more freedom in that sense, it’s a more relaxed environment.

“Not wearing shirts and ties. We’re talking about football heading into the corporate world and the people presenting it look like corporates. I like to think that we look a little bit more relaxed.”

Time will tell whether or not BT can sustain their challenge of Sky, but until the season starts, it is a level playing field.

“Are we competitors? I suppose naturally we are. We’ve got live games as well as they have, but at the same time, at BT Sport we’re doing something different and I genuinely hope that it will become popular and that will lead us to success, rather than deliberately going out and trying to beat everybody,” concluded the co-analyst.

David James is co-analyst on BT Sport’s coverage of 38 exclusively live Barclays Premier League Football matches. BT Sport is free with BT broadband, to find out more visit:

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David James
Premier League

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