Tab Meets: Pat Nevin

JONNY HYMAN spoke to ex-footballer and current BBC pundit, Pat Nevin, about his hopes for England’s chances at the World Cup, the prospects of up-and-coming young English players, and the perks of his job.

BBC pundit England football glasgow pat nevin Scotland Sport Union world cup

Words of wisdom

Liverpool has impressed a lot of people by fielding so many homegrown, English players in big games. Progressing towards a World Cup this year, and in the future, should the Premier League look at trying to enforce more strictly the selection of homegrown players to nurture upcoming British talent?

Well I come from an era when only three foreign nationals were allowed on each side. The English league used to have 80% homegrown players playing, but now there’s only around 30%, so there is an obvious need for a quota of some sort if it were at all possible. But the Premier League is the world league now, and it’s a very difficult one to put in place. 

England’s got absolutely enough talent to be right up there, but I’m not convinced that it does the best with its talent. However, players like Ross Barkley, Raheem Sterling and the young Southampton boys look like great technical players, rather than solely having pace and power, which have been the attributes of upcoming English players in the past. This World Cup is way, way too early, but if we can avoid beating the technical ability out of these young players, England might just have a chance come the next one. I think the lack of technical ability has been holding England back.

Don’t expect a repeat of 1966 anytime soon

Your comments were quite critical about the idea of a more regular fixture between England and Scotland. There is never a lack of hype between the two nations when they meet in the rugby every year, so why do you think a regular football fixture would become ‘boring’?

With Premier League, Champions League, World Cups, European Championships all going on, players are too overworked at the moment, and they’re playing far too many games. It’s too much to ask of the more creative, explosive players, to play another fixture and ask them to give it 100% – it’s not going to be the most important game for them anymore. It’s friendly, and only against Scotland, not one of the big international teams. I think the odd game now and again gets us very excited, and rightly so, because the most recent encounters have been excellent, but that’s only because they are irregular. 

Following your successful career as a player, your role as pundit has taken you to some very exciting stadiums and locations. What has been the highlight?

This was totally unexpected, but I loved South Korea when I was covering the 2002 World Cup. I loved being there for the whole thing, and travelling around Korea which is a fabulous country with fabulous people. 

On a selfish note, I covered a game at Jeju Island and I was staying in a beautiful hotel, overlooking the best beach I’ve ever seen in a perfect temperature. The only piece of work I had to do in three days was walk half a mile to the stadium to watch Brazil play – I remember thinking then that I could never complain about this job.

What made you choose a career in journalism over another traditional path for an ex-professional, like a coaching qualification and going into management?

I never thought of doing coaching badges, because I knew if I did I’d be tempted into doing management, which I didn’t want. You only get one life, and I love football, but there are other things to do. I wanted to see my kids growing up, and spend time with them. I wanted to experience what’s available in the world of art and film, and generally just to live a life. I always had it in my mind to be involved in journalism, particularly writing. I’m fortunate that I can do a number of different types of punditry, such as television, radio, co-commentary, chat shows etc. 

Back in the glory days

You’re a bit different from the traditional idea of a footballer – your interest in arts and literature makes you stand out. Was that ever uncomfortable in your playing days?

I come from a background of education – I did two years of a degree in Scotland before coming down to England to play full-time. The professional players who spend those years playing full time at football clubs develop an unusual attitude towards the world. I always felt I was the normal one for having an interest in things other than football, but the other players always thought I was a weirdo for it. But growing up in Glasgow, I became pretty streetwise, so if anyone had a dig, I would just have a dig back.