Exclusive Interview: Jim White – “I Need All The Followers I Can Get!”
Ben Fawcett sits down with the incredible Jim White ahead of Jim White Day on 31 August...
It was one of those moments you would never even fathom happening to you, but as a die hard football fan, I must say, when I caught up with the living legend of the transfer window Jim White and he started our conversation in his infamous Scottish accent and instantly excitable cadence, “Hello Ben, how are you?” I realised that I just had the voice of the transfer window greet me. Me!?
There is no equivalent to Jim White in the game, a man that embodies one of the most exciting periods of the football calendar, so much so that 31 August is now considered, “Jim White Day”
I spoke to the living legend recently about what it’s like to be the voice of such a hectic and vital period in so many people’s lives and discovered more about what he’s doing to help ease the torment of this baron football period…
This initiative we’ve got going on called Goal-Line is a tongue-in-cheek help-line for fans who are desperate for their football fix from the end of the World Cup to the start of the new season and what people can do is they phone in and they’ll hear me in a recorded fashion and I’ll put them through to the club of their choice so they can hear key commentary moments from their teams past season and hopefully that adds to their excitement for the upcoming season Sam (Jim got my name wrong, I cried a bit).
So we can all get a little bit more gassed Jim?
Exactly. Say you were an Arsenal fan, you would call me up and you can re-live some of the great moments Arsenal had last season.
It’s phenomenal that it has taken somebody this long to bridge that gap between whichever summer tournament there may or may not be and the start of the new season because it is just torture.
Absolutely, Ben. I’ve got to apologise; I’ve just realised that I called you Sam earlier (he did, I denied it but he apologised and it was awesome) honestly though, we are really looking forward to this and think it will really go down well, it’s very tongue in cheek.
Considering the fact that we are slowly ebbing towards Jim White Day, did the World Cup get you really excited about what might just happen on the last day?
That is a great question (Thanks Jim) and it has, there are players who have emerged in Brazil that I knew next to nothing about, whom we now may be talking about on the last day of the transfer window and may be knocking on the door to join clubs here. I fully expect that. The Mexican Goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, I could see him end up here, Keylor Navas, the Costa Rican keeper, he also had a fantastic World Cup.
They were both incredible…
Absolutely, and the World Cup can do that, I’m aware of that. I remember being in Mexico in ’86 covering Scotland, obviously, which had its highs and lows of course. There were some highs I remember actually, vaguely and I was at France ’98 and these tournaments just throw up stars who you may have heard about, but suddenly they become a real focal point for the world, so I think some of these guys who did well in Brazil could very well end up here.
Considering that the Alexis Sanchez and Luis Suarez transfers have already gone through even though we’re still quite far from Jim White Day are you quite upset that two such huge transfers didn’t go through on your day?
Yeah, that’s another good one. The thing about those two transfers is, especially Luis Suarez, it was the worst kept secret wasn’t it? We all knew that Liverpool were going to sell Suarez, I didn’t think on the eve of last season, you may remember Ben we did 92 live where we covered all 92 English clubs and I descended on Anfield in a helicopter and interviewed Ian Ayre, The Liverpool FC director and following Suarez’ indiscretions then, I did an interview with Ian Ayre, which I hear was Box Office because he didn’t necessarily want to talk about it, but he had to because he was live with me and there and then he didn’t really know, “is he going to stay or is he going to go?” This time we knew that he wasn’t staying. And we knew Barcelona would be his destination, so this one was never going to go to the last day of the season, but there will be some big dealings on the last day, no question. Expect the unexpected.
Considering the modern game and how dominated it is by the aspects of Social Media; Twitter, Facebook and Instagram especially, flooded with people giving their opinions and starting false rumours, how does it feel, considering your career which started in Edinburgh in ’74 to now be the person who, regardless of what we hear about transfer news is the only person that we all trust. When Jim White tells us it’s happened, it’s happened…
Wow, I’m delighted that you would say that. That again though…you’re spot on with that Ben!!! It becomes more difficult these days, everybody thinks they’re an expert. The chat on Twitter on deadline day is just unbelievable. Last season I couldn’t believe it. And in response to that, I don’t know if you know this Ben but I am finally now on Twitter!
You are!? I did always find it amazing that you weren’t on Twitter…
Oh, I am, and I don’t much suggest, but instruct you and all of your readers to follow me, because I need all the followers I can get. (follow @JimWhite)
Something tells me you won’t struggle with that Jim…
I had to join it. It was very much a case of if you can’t beat them, join them. I stayed off for long enough, but this social media has just blown this thing wide open. You have to be very careful about what you believe and what you don’t believe, but if I can be the reason people tune in for the last day of the window, that is amazing and it’s an honor to be that.
You’ve been asked quite a few times about the incident involving Harry Redknapp and Robbie Keane a few years ago and the fact that Harry called you during an advertising break on Sky Sports News Transfer Deadline Day to tell you of Robbie Keane’s transfer. Do you have any similarly obscure and interesting situations arise at such a crucial time?
I do and it’s something I’ve never mentioned, this is funny. After Wigan Athletic, a club I really, really like, I was so pleased for them when they won the F.A Cup a couple of seasons ago. Dave Whelan, the owner of Wigan is a great friends of mine, he told me on a Sunday night ‘I’m having a meeting with Roberto Martinez, I don’t know if you’re on tomorrow?’ I told him I‘m on between 10am-3pm, he said, ‘This is a meeting to determine if Martinez is going to stay with the club, which I want him to do or if he is going to leave, which I don’t want him to do.’ So I was on the following morning and during a commercial break at about 10:25am and I look at my mobile phone and it says ‘Whelan,’ he says, ‘Jim, I’ve just had my meeting with Roberto, he’s leaving the club, he has just left.’ I asked if I could say that on air, he said yeah, I asked what exactly I could say, “He’s left the club but he goes with our blessing after winning the F.A Cup and Everton want him Jim but they’ll need to pay £2million in compensation to get him.”
Can I go with that? “You can go with that!” So I thanked him and put the phone down, I had 10 seconds so I just said, “Everybody listen up, I’ve got big news!” and I then told the watching audience this huge news before anybody in the studio knew. I said, “Roberto Martinez has left cup winners Wigan Athletic and is considering a move to Everton!” And that is the buzz I get from this job.
An institution of the game, Jim White is one of the last few representatives of the ear-to-the-ground journalism that has help keep football in the main-stay of popular culture and has carved out a lane so unique that we, the fans, have decreed him his own day. August 31 Jim White Day With the launch of the new tongue-in-cheek ‘Goal-line’ service, we can all hear from the man himself, whenever we please.
Call the Sky Sports GoalLine on 0333-202-2177, a helpline for fans desperate for a football fix ahead of the new season. Find more of the games that matter next season on Sky Sports. skysports.com/GoalLine
Words by Ben Fawcett (@BenKeableFaw)