BBC BLOGS - Dan Walker
« Previous | Main | Next »

Football Focus fun with Dixon, James and Neville

Post categories:

Dan Walker | 11:38 UK time, Wednesday, 7 September 2011

I really enjoyed last Saturday's Football Focus. Lee Dixon was at his insightful best, while Phil Neville proved he is a pundit for the future and David James delivered that unpredictability you need from live television.

As soon as the show finished, Neville turned to James and laughed, "I think you just ruined any chance of a TV career". We had a few tweets and emails saying the Bristol City goalkeeper was hard work and a bit rude but that is far from the truth.

He does have a remarkably dry sense of humour that probably doesn't work as well in quick-fire TV as it does in normal conversation. If you watch the longer-form Focus Forums on the website, you'll see what I mean.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.

He and Neville started early, chipping away at each other from the minute they entered the building. A little bit of that spilled over into the show. Personally, I welcome it. Live TV becomes a little dull if you know what's coming next and good guests add an extra dimension to things.

It's great to have the dependable quality of Mark Lawrenson and Lee Dixon but, throughout the season, we will try to introduce some new faces and opinions. If you have any suggestions, let me know and I will throw the names into our weekly meetings.

At some stage, we will hopefully have John Hartson as a guest too. When he came on Focus last season, he was very open and honest about his fight against cancer. That is why it's a real honour to play in his England v Wales charity match at Pride Park tomorrow.

When Robbie Savage first suggested it, I thought it would be a rather low-key affair. As the weeks have passed, its significance has grown and I've had a few butterflies after reading the list of my England team-mates.

The squad will be managed by Harry Redknapp, who is perhaps rehearsing for the proper job. He will be barking instructions at Paul Merson, Stan Collymore, Dion Dublin, Ian Wright, Steve McManaman, Andrew Cole and Dave Beasant. In addition to that quality you will also be able to see the likes of Ricky Hatton, Darren Campbell, Idris Elba, a fella from The Inbetweeners, Richard Ashcroft, Ricky Whittle, Angus Deayton and me.

Hartson will be in the other dugout and has called on the powers of Savage, Dean Saunders, Gary Speed, Neville Southall, Kevin Ratcliffe, Mark Pembridge, Joe Calzaghe, Nathan Cleverly, Iwan Thomas and Gethin Jones.

Derby County's stadium Pride Park

Derby County's ground Pride Park will host our charity football fundraiser on Thursday 8 October. Photo: Getty

I've been having a recurring dream that involves me having a fight with Savage midway through the second half but hopefully it won't come to that! He has promised to decapitate me if I try anything stupid but, despite the warning, nutmegging Robbie would rank as a career highlight.

The last time I played in a charity game, it was at Wembley. I set up a couple of goals but also managed to injure one of my own team-mates in a slightly misguided goal celebration. I went for a double high five with Danny from McFly but looked away at the crucial moment and rammed my thumb in his eye! He was substituted immediately, so I shall warn all team-mates to avoid anything other than a firm handshake.

Proceeds from the match will help raise awareness of testicular cancer. Hartson ignored a lump for four years - a delay that led to operations on his lungs and brain and 60 sessions of chemotherapy.

You can still buy tickets if you'd like to help on 0871 472 1884 (option one) or at

This week, we are on BBC1 at 1130 BST and have loads on the show. Don't forget you can find me on Twitter at


  • Comment number 1.

    All in a good cause Dan.
    Will we see any highlights on Football Focus?

    Geoff Thomas

  • Comment number 2.

    Actually, I thought, the 5 or so mins I watched, David James was very entertaining and far from rude. I think what football shows miss at the moment is the comradarie that there is in the changing rooms. Lineker and Shearer are as dull as dish water with their pre-rehearsed jokes on MOTD, puts me off watching it. The craic between James, Dixon and Neville was more like what you would see on a Saturday morning and a welcome change from the norm!

  • Comment number 3.

    Playing football against Richard Ashcroft - what a Lucky Man you are!


  • Comment number 4.

    That's a great cause Dan well done for taking part, and kudos to Big Man Hartson for raising awareness of this nasty disease - he's a legend. Luckily he has a good support network in place and has kept going throughout. Make sure you find out what John Hartson's biccie of choice is - he looks like a no-nonsense chocolate digestive man to me!
    Hope the game goes well and you don't get nobbled by Bobby Savage. You have plenty of opportunity to give him some stick as not only did we beat Wales last night (just) but he's taking part in Celebrity Come Dancing this year. His pink shirt and cheesy grin in his promo photo on the BBC website made me laugh. Speaking of pink shirts, David James' kit for Portsmouth was always loud wasn't it? He's a character that one.
    I didn't catch the episode in question but I'd rather FF guests be interesting than spout off the usual cliches. Along those lines, would love to have either Neil Warnock or Ian Holloway on again as you can count on plenty of opinions and fireworks.

  • Comment number 5.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 6.

    And if you like painful goal celebrations, this one is a cracker:

    I think you're in good company Dan! What on earth possesses his teammate to just slide in on him like that is beyond me....

  • Comment number 7.

    Hi Dan, Long-shot suggestion for a show: Prof Stephen Mumford at the University of Nottingham. Massive football fan with stacks of work in the philosophy of sport.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Comment number 8.

    JellyWobble - surely he would be a Gingernut man?

  • Comment number 9.

    I've always been a fan of David James, not really for his goalkeeping skills (though he's by no means rubbish) but more for his presence and insightfulness. He's always impressed me in interviews or in punditry with his eloquence, thoughtfulness, dry wit and occasionally cynicism. I'm by no means implying that most footballers are stupid, but James is a breath of fresh air in not being ashamed of demonstrating his intelligence. To be honest though, in an industry full of "y'knows", "likes" and "at the end of the days", even pausing to think before answering a question and using grammar correctly is enough to set you apart.

  • Comment number 10.

    I agree I think Jamo will be a good Manager and a better pundit than Shearer. Phil Neville is also FAR better than his Bro'

  • Comment number 11.

    #5~ I agree, Lee Dixon is really good and is always on the ball and correct in what he says.

    Dan - Suggestions for Guest Pundits - Tony Adams PLEEASE!!

  • Comment number 12.

    Wasn`t it Tony Adams and Steve Morrow of Arsenal who had a bad celebration together?...didn`t someone`s arm get broken or something?

    Good luck for the match Dan. Hope you score a corker. Just shoot form anywhere...go for a Van Basten type strike, or a Jimmy Floyd Cashinbank bar rattler, or a Maradonna/Messi mazing run. Failing that a in off the shin mis-hit would be good enough too.

    Mick Mills

  • Comment number 13.


  • Comment number 14.

    Hi Dan

    Will this game be on TV? It should be, great cause.

    Be interested to see what sort of footballer you are? I'm imagining a sort of Bambi on ice Djimi Traore kind of player, perhaps a clumsier version of Peter

    Good luck with the nut-meg on Savage, I imagine you will need it!

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    I always think current footballers are better pundits, as they actually know more about todays game, rather than say someone who hasn't played in 20 years!!! But FF was very entertaining with James and Neville both trying to get one over the other. Would be interesting to hear from a younger footballer though, might give some more insight into what the current game is like.

  • Comment number 17.

    Brilliant, absolutely loved this. James and Neville are hilarious and fascinating in equal measures. I love how spikey James is. I think he'd clash with older pundits like Lawro or Hansen but against young Phil, it works a treat.

  • Comment number 18.

    good luck against the welsh. it would be brilliant to get the gret Sir Bobby Charlton on ff

  • Comment number 19.

    Cracking read. Good to see Hartson is doing well and doing some great work for charity.

    Dan - Make sure you call megs, otherwise it really doesnt count!

  • Comment number 20.

    It is very hard to find too many footballers who don't speak in the same generic way, ditto for quite a few of the managers (especially outside of the Premier League). The problem across all sports though is that when you do get people who are happier to express their opinions, you often get complaints at how outspoken they are - like Mark Cavendish for example, in cycling, or Daley Thompson back in the 1980's.

    It'll never happen, but it would be interesting to get Arsene Wenger in your studio.

    Chuckie Egg

  • Comment number 21.

    #15 Andy Connor got referred to the moderators! Wonder why? Were you writing your normal stuff Andy and the thought police just decided enough is enough, or was it something more heinous this time!!

    Dan, many years ago a bean pole reporter for BBC North West or BBC Manchester got right up Sir AF's nose and he went on a self imposed exile from BBC tv (aka spat dummy). Recently this exile came to an end, with accompanying fanfares, bells & whistles. How about getting Sir AF on FF WITH Arsene as Mr. Morecambe suggests (#20)
    I still want to know what kind of biscuit man you are!!! I bet it is chocolate covered malted milks!!
    Chuckie Cheese

  • Comment number 22.

    "I went for a double high five with Danny from McFly" - Haha David Brent would be proud of that comment.

  • Comment number 23.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 24.

    As someone who couldn't stand him whilst he was at Man Utd, I really respect Phil Neville in how he's reinvented himself at Everton - shame he'll probably not get recognition for him (and I'm sure some Everton fans who see week-in, week-out will say he's only good because of the likes of Arteta etc.). Shame that it's kinda not worked internationally for him but still playing Premier League football at his age is canny when you look at Paul Konchesky and Kevin Nolan.....

  • Comment number 25.

    Hi Dan,

    I think David James came across very relaxed on FF - at one stage you had to cut in to remind him you were on a footie prog. Maybe it's indicitive of his style of play which has often been criticised for producing momentary lapses in concentration? His banter with Phil N. may well explain England's former reluctance of playing out from the back ;)
    I love the arguements/debate footie sometimes causes - Garth Crooks is a legend at them on Score. I'd hate for it to become too chummy chummy.

    Whilst getting ex-pros and celebs to play in mega stadia in charity matches is all well and good, wouldn't it be a better idea to auction off some 'starting places' to Jo Public? I'd imagine many would pay a king's ransom to step out at places like Wembley, Old Trafford or even Pride Park.

    Jo Public

  • Comment number 26.

    More of the same from these type of 'likely lads' please. What sort of stuck in the mud could've complained about DJ's behaviour? He was brilliant, wish I could say the same for when he was at Villa Park though, just joking David! Phil Neville presents himself very well and will probably go on to become a top coach too.

    Looking forward to watching Dan the proud man in an England shirt taking on the Welsh legends tonight, all for a good cause, well done (as may John Hartson's men be)!

    Guaranteed more than a few laughs if you get Ian Holloway on FF, arguably the funniest if not the most popular man in football. Check out some of his quotes:

  • Comment number 27.

    Aye up Ladies and Gents

    Sorry I haven't been on here. It's all been a little bit busy this week. Hope you enjoyed the England v Wales game last night if you managed to catch any of it. Big John was delighted with the turn out and hopefully raised plenty of money and awareness for a great cause.

    Tomorrow on Focus you'll hear from Tony Pulis, Steve Kean, Grant Holt and we're in Turin with Notts County. Mark Lawrenson and Lee Dixon will be in attendance so see you there at 1130 on BBC1.

    Disappointed your comment was obliterated by the moderators Mr A Connor. Go on... have another go.

    See you soon.

    Francois Pienaar

  • Comment number 28.

    Is there any chance of an online edition of football focus like last season? As I am sure me and half the population work on Saturdays so miss out!

  • Comment number 29.

    4. At 14:30 7th Sep 2011, jellywobble wrote:
    Speaking of pink shirts, David James' kit for Portsmouth was always loud wasn't it?


    I believe this was his choice due to his involvement with the Wessex Cancer Trust charity. I'm pretty sure that's right.

  • Comment number 30.

    Oh Eldridge will be hurt, his first ever mention and it is removed.

    Zebras take everything to heart!

    Dan do me a favour

    Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance.

    #21 Blaenorynyclwyd, I don't offend, I just talk, at least I think so.

    I've said worse!

    Oh what a lonely zebra

    Andrew Gold

  • Comment number 31.

    At 10:39 8th Sep 2011, blaenorynyclwyd wrote:
    Dan, many years ago a bean pole reporter for BBC North West or BBC Manchester got right up Sir AF's nose and he went on a self imposed exile from BBC tv (aka spat dummy). Recently this exile came to an end, with accompanying fanfares, bells & whistles. How about getting Sir AF on FF WITH Arsene as Mr. Morecambe suggests (#20)


    If you want to see something like that:

  • Comment number 32.

    I interviewed David James once whilst he was at Portsmouth. He was visiting a hospice for sick children on his day off and I found him to be a very funny, easy going chap.

    His humour was very familiar and mocking (in a good-natured way) rather than the stand-offishness I had experienced with other footballers I'd previously spoken to and it was a pleasure spend a few hours in his company.

  • Comment number 33.


    Not convinced PH has reinvented himself. Just a decent bloke full-stop.

  • Comment number 34.

    Have to agree about the interview, it was witty and honest at the same time. DJ was especially good coming over as funny intelligent, this happens rarely with football interviews.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.