Mark Lawrenson on saddos, the art of punditry and why Sean Dyche is the hardest manager in football
Mark Lawrenson had just finished his infamous Reddit AMA when I stopped by for a chat. He was, as ever, in a jovial mood
Mark do you ever get sick about talking about football?
Yeah. All the time. Well, not all the time. I get loads of random people coming up to me in the street and I quite like that. I don’t mind that.
I like people. People are different. I would bore people to death talking about cricket, otherwise. And I love cricket.
I’m a massive Jimmy Anderson fan. I love Jimmy. I was invited onto the ground staff at Old Trafford when I was 16, and the premise was that I had to sort of give football up, that I couldn’t do both. And that just pissed me off, so…
And there was no money in it. I used to go and watch Lancashire all the time. That team in the 70s and 80s, wow. I could just reel them off.
(Note - He doesn't reel them off)
I do quite a bit of work for the Lord’s Taverners as well, and they’re always like 'Oh Christ, the Anorak’s here!' Because I just love it. I would have absolutely loved to have been a cricketer.
So, in another life we might have had Mark Lawrenson the cricketer?
I would have loved to have thought so. I absolutely loved it. Gary and Phil Neville were good cricketers, weren’t they? Lineker. Trevor Brooking.
Botham. Botham. So… you know.
You don’t mind people coming up to you asking for selfies?
As long as they’re not nobheads, it don’t matter, does it?
I took my kids – my daughter is 15, my son is 19 - and I took them to Sports Personality of the Year in Liverpool last year. No, two years ago. My man was there. … the singer. The Bin Man. I call him the Bin Man.
The Bin Man?
Rag and Bone Man! Rag and Bone Man. That’s my process of remembering it. And he’s the only person I’d ever ask for a selfie.
Rag and Bone Man?
Yeah. And he had with him, I don’t know if it was his PA, this bloke, or his manager, and we got in a picture and he said to this bloke 'and you take one for me'. Which I thought was great. Yeah. Rag and Bone Man.
Do you think people have this misconception about you then?
Yeah, they think I’m Middlesbrough- they think I’m Middlesbrough (laughing), they think I’m miserable. I don’t. All my mates think I’m really funny.
But they’re obviously lying, aren’t they.
On your Reddit AMA, I quite enjoyed watching you call people saddos.
*with relish, very satisfied* YEAH.
The world is full of saddos, isn’t it? The world is full of saddos, it’s amazing. It really is.
Do you watch Game of Thrones?
I’ve never seen a minute of it. It’s just kind of passed me by.
As a family it’s just, well, it’s well and truly gone now. Because haven’t they finished? Isn’t it the last one?
Yeah, we’re into the last series now and…
And there was loads of shagging and everything in it wasn’t there?
Surprised we missed it then!
Who are your favourite pundits if you're watching at home?
Souness. I’m a little bit biased because I played with him but he just, he says it as it is. I think Gary Neville is a really good co-commentator. Very, very good.
Erm… Pfffft. Apart from that…
There’s lots of lads who are decent. You kinda watch games and make your own mind up and I wouldn’t necessarily want to listen to too much punditry before or after. If a game is at four I’d be doing stuff and then switch over at five to.
I think Graeme’s spot-on because he’s a little bit old-school, but also… not.
And it does make a difference to us when you’ve played with them and you know them as people as well.
Erm. There’s some shite ones. *voice lowers dramatically* Yeah. Can’t really name them.
There’s LOTS of shite ones.
On the difference in punditry philosophy. You seem to acknowledge that it isn’t the be all and end all…
Just an opinion, isn’t it. *shrugs, sip of coffee*
But Souness is quite serious, Gary Neville is quite serious. They get very emotional. Whereas you like to keep a certain distance…
Well it’s meant to be entertainment, isn’t it? I just don’t… I just think, generally, a lot of pundits overuse words. Like brilliant, sensational… like Sky. It’s got to be SUPER Sunday, hasn’t it? Super Sunday has got to be SUPER Sunday, Manic Monday has got to be MANIC Monday.
Fuckin’, Terrific Tuesday has got to be Terrific Tuesday and it’s just like…
I just think there’s too much hype. Do you know what a lot of people say to me? Especially taxi drivers and people you meet on trains or something and they go, ‘I’ve fallen out of love with football a little bit.’
I think a lot of people just go, ‘You know what? There’s so much bollocks. And it’s money, and it’s this, and it’s that, and the way the players act and all that kind of thing.
And I sound like an old man moaning, which I suppose I am, but I get them a little bit. You know. I get them.
What do you make of Twitter?
Not just Twitter but don’t you feel that the life we lead now where everything is automatic and at your fingertips that, your manager loses one week – he’s crap, he wins next week – he’s a genius.
That’s where we’re at. I listen to the FiveLive phone-in occasionally, occasionally, and guys ringing up and I’m screaming at the radio. Because I’m going HE’S NOT BEEN THE GAME. What’s all that about? You might as well ask me Auntie Nellie. She’s not been the game!
Why do you listen to this fella’s opinion when he’s not seen the team play? I really don’t get it. And then the next thing is, you have an argument over it. On the radio. Which, I get it. It’s cheap radio. It’s cheap as in it doesn’t cost any money, not it’s cheap as in it’s…
But he’s not been the game. Move on. Ask someone who has been to the match. Somebody who has been to an away game. Because it’s completely different.
I can’t stand football phone-ins…
(increasingly animated) No, no, occasionally you do get somebody come in and see through the mist almost, and I like all that. And it sounds like I’m moaning about it all the time but I’m not! You know. I just don’t get it. If someone, oh, I’m Joe from Brentford, and I saw Liverpool, no, I didn’t see Liverpool, and Liverpool are this and Liverpool are that.
And the first question you need to ask Joe from Brentford is: when was the last time you went the match?
“Oh well I can’t go because I’ve got to get a babysitter and bluhbuhbuh”
I don’t get it! I really don’t get it! I really do not get it!
(suddenly zen-like, totally calm) But… hey.
But these people don’t think that they need to go to a game to have an opinion…
That’s fair enough, because I suppose… No, it’s not fair enough, is it, because if you think about it, you can’t have an opinion on a film if you’ve not seen it.
And talking about pundits and talking about films, what’s the name of the lad who does the film thing on FiveLive? (I don’t know). With the *clicks fingers repeatedly*, the other one is a DJ! Simon… er. Oh my god…
*points to PR person with laptop* Google FiveLive… film… critics.
And who is the other fella? The other fella is brilliant.
I’ve never met him. I just think he is unbelievable… ly good.
Do you think that’s the key thing to being a good pundit, just cutting through the…
Erm. I don’t know. I don’t know. Most of us are marmite aren’t we? Some people absolutely think you’re shite and some people love ya. The ones who think I’m shite, I don’t think they ‘get me’.
I don’t even think they get irony. They totally don’t. And they all say, ‘oh you’re a saddo, you’re boring’ and it’s just, when I go to a football match, I’m saying ‘come on then’. Entertain me.
Why should you suffer through half an hour of nobody having a shot at goal? At the World Cup I got MURDERED for the French right back, who actually scored one of the goals of the tournament.
Yeah, Pavard. And in the first game he was hopeless. He was absolutely HOPELESS. And I think it might have been along with Hernandez, the left-back… they’re both centre backs, really. And I just went, because they really didn’t want the ball in the first game, you can’t win the World Cup like that.
And I got mullered which – fair enough – but it’s like, they were crap that day. And I’m sure the manager thought they were crap that day. But it’s just, it’s funny, isn’t it?
I have to be honest here, I actually tweeted about Pavard in response to your punditry, I was a bit annoyed by it…
Fair play to Mark Lawrenson for spending the entire match needlessly shitting on a 22-year-old he's never seen play before who is having to fill in at RB because of injuries. Classy and informative as ever
— Kyle Picknell (@kylepicknell) June 16, 2018
That’s alright. That’s fine. I really don’t have a problem with it. It’s just an opinion, isn’t it?
He did look nervous but it was his first World Cup game, he was playing out of position at right-back…
Yeah, but you kinda overlook that. Oh he got it. I gave him lots.
I think the problem is we’re a little bit old school, because then you only know from your time what it was like. And I know football has completely changed, and it’s different, and there’s loads of things which are minging…
What are the things that are minging?
Well there are lots of things now, aren’t there. I hate it when… every team wastes time now. Burnley! Burnley waste time! Which is really unusual for Sean Dyche’s team. They just sat in.
You like Dyche though, don't you?
Oh I like him. I like him. I think he’s honest. I get the impression that he’s really honest with his players. That they like him. You know you get the impression with some players that they think their manager is an idiot?
Why would Sean Dyche win the hypothetical Royal Rumble you were asked about on Reddit?
With all the other managers? I can’t think of anyone else who’d lay a punch on him.
I didn’t go through all the 20 managers thinking him, him, him, him. But I kinda just looked, and he looks like if you went to school with him he’d be the hardest man in the playground. Wouldn’t he?
He’d be the cock of the school, wouldn’t he? Definitely. And even though he sounds a bit like Barry White at times, he just…
Can you imagine Guardiola and all them fighting him? Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
*very suddenly* Jurgen’s a bit mad! Yeah, he’s a little bit of a wildcard. But he wears glasses so he’s not a fighter is he? So no. I can’t see anybody else. Pochettino… hmm South American so you know.
If Big Sam was still in the league I think he could be a contender…
Yeah. The less said about him the better.
What was it like representing Ireland at International level?
I think I said it before on the Read-it thing, or Reddit. I played on the Saturday for Preston, made my debut for Ireland on the Sunday, and played again for Preston on Tuesday. And people just go to me, how mad is that?
I did it because I promised my grandad. He was from Waterford. I promised my grandad if I was ever good enough I would play for Ireland. And I know that Liverpool made their final decision to sign me on the basis of watching me play international football for Ireland. So. Win-win.
I was at Preston, and I was still 18 and they bid 70 grand. And my stepfather was on the board, so that’s how I know. And they went, no, we want 100. And Liverpool went ‘no’ and I went to Brighton.
But I knew nothing about it at the time. My stepfather didn’t even tell me. That’s the way football was, no agents or whatever. And he didn’t even tell me that Liverpool had come in.
Do you think you would have been pissed off if you had found out?
You know what. I think I would have been lost at Liverpool. I was only 18. And I was a young 18 as well. I kind of, I went to Brighton and became a man, as it were, and all that kind of stuff.
It was really, really good for me. We were successful, relatively, as well. So, no. I am quite glad of that kind of path. It worked out.
Although, when I signed for Liverpool from Brighton, I didn’t tell them I was suspended for the first two games of the season. I kept it quiet because I thought it might affect my deal. And they wouldn’t sign me. And then Bob Paisley found out and called me into the office.
“We didn’t know about this”
And I went, “I just thought the people at Brighton would have told you boss… I had no idea.”
Anyway. Got away with it.
Mark Lawrenson is a Paddy Power ambassador. Read his columns at news.paddypower.com