Star Athlete to TV Pundit- Soccer stories with Warren Barton

LLL Warren | Hosting Fox Sports

LLL Warren | Hosting Fox Sports

 

Taking a big leap from sports to media is a bold move especially when you are part of a national team. This episode is a fun, lively chat with former England football star and Fox Sports host, Warren Barton. Warren was born and raised in London, UK and played at the highest level for eighteen years in the EPL. Today, he talks about TV hosting, playing for his country, living in So-Cal, and so much more. He also opens up about his life before and after the Premier League, and talks about his segue from being a sportsperson to becoming a media personality.

Listen to the podcast here:

Star Athlete to TV Pundit- Soccer stories with Warren Barton

Hosting At Fox Sports, Playing For England And Newcastle United- Football Chat

My guest is a former England soccer player, my former co-host at Fox Soccer and my California co-resident, the one and only Warren Barton.

Dani, how are you?

I’m good. Thanks so much for joining us. I thought you would be a fabulous guest because we’ve had a similar journey in a way where we both started our careers in the UK, both ended up here in LA, in Southern California and brought all the families and everybody along for the ride with us. What’s best is we tell everyone how we first met and then we’ll get into it proper. I first met Warren back in 1995 when Warren was moving from his former team at Wimbledon to go and play up at Newcastle United with his lovely wife, Candy. I was dating at the time what was going to be Warren’s teammate, Mr. Les Ferdinand. We met at the local gas station to go in a carpool up together to New Castle to the M1. I remember the car pulling up from London where we’re all from to do the big long journey up to the Northwest in Newcastle and taking on the journey. Warren and Les were there for a purpose. They were going to play for Newcastle and here was Candy and I in tow going all right, “What are we going to do? We might as well stick together.”

We became fast friends and have been friends and close friends for a long time. We’ve been great family friends since then and I’ve been through all the birth of his kids and my kids. It’s been a great friendship. Why don’t we start at the very beginning. What is interesting for the readers to know, whether they’re interested in soccer or football as we call it or they have kids that are into it and how difficult it is to get from a regular lad who loves the sport to being professional. It’s so difficult. Why don’t you start at the beginning and tell the readers how you go into it?

It’s remarkable that over twenty years ago that we began our friendship and the journey that we’ve been on. My journey of playing football/soccer started when I was a young boy in London. I’ve got an older brother. We started playing for the local Sunday team. I realized that I loved the game and want to be involved. I was lucky enough to be decent at the sport. I got told twice at the beginning of my career that I was too small, whether it was at Watford or Leyton Orient but then I got my chance at Wimbledon. They come and booked me from a team called Maidstone that was in the lower league, but it was such a cutthroat. It’s difficult.

I’ve got an older boy that’s trying to break into US soccer. I’m trying to explain to him that in Europe, particularly in England and in London, it’s the number one sport. You haven’t got American football, you haven’t got basketball, baseball. You’ve got millions of kids that all think they’re going to be the next Wayne Rooney or Alan Shearer at the time or it’s going to be Ronaldo, whoever it’s going to be. They all live that dream, but I was lucky enough to have a good family around me. I got the opportunity and played with some great players, Les Ferdinand and Alan Shearer and Ginola up at Newcastle.

Those were the good old days.

That was fun. It was a great city. It was a long way from London, but we had a good time in London as well. London was vibrant and then you go to the Northeast where the fans are passionate about their team. All they think about is black and white shirts. To be with someone like Les and Peter Beardsley, Shearer and coming so close to winning the Premier League on two occasions was fantastic. It’s every boy’s dream to try and do that. Particularly women. You’ve been in America long enough to see the women’s game and how that’s grown.

LLL Warren | Hosting Fox Sports
Hosting Fox Sports: Pride is the first thing that comes to mind when you get picked to play for the national team.

 

They are phenomenal. It’s so exciting watching women’s soccer.

The attendance is like back home in England. I don’t think you realize how hard you have to work when you’re doing it because that’s all I knew. I didn’t know anything else. I wasn’t going to work in an office. I wasn’t going to be an accountant. All I wanted to ever do was play the game and to have the opportunity to do it and play at a high level and he was nice enough to introduce me as an England International and to play for my country. It doesn’t come any better than that. I’ve lived the dream and I’ve loved every minute of it.

Do you think that there’s a bit of luck to the component, right time, right place or is it purely on skill?

I’ve always been taught you make your own luck, but you are very nice, the right time someone watching you like Wimbledon come down to watch me at Maidstone. They happen to like the others. You play someone like Dennis Wise. He was going to Chelsea. There’s a lot of things that come into it, but you make your own luck. If you work hard and put your heart and soul into anything, it will give it to you back. Particularly schools, if you work hard and you have that dedication and focus. You’ve done it in your career, Dani when you first started with the media. It’s hard. It’s a rat race and everybody wants to do it. Everybody wants to be in front of the camera. Everybody wants to play in the premier league. We’re lucky enough to be able to do that and be proud of it as well. Being told twice that you’re too small, you’re never going to make it or not good enough. It’s quite nice to prove people wrong.

It was Richard Branson that told me this once when I used to work with him at Virgin because I used to be the face of Virgin Atlantic. I used to do all the voices on the plane, the safety videos. He said, “Perseverance is the key to success.” Because it doesn’t matter what level of education you have, what your skill sets are. There’s a certain amount of fake it until you make it evolve for sure. It’s the people that don’t give up. If you have certain industries and certain careers like yours, you can’t fake it without having the technicality and the skills to back it up. If you don’t have the perseverance, you can be the most educated, the most skillful. If you don’t have that perseverance and that hunger and that drive, somebody else is going to take your spot.

Another word I would use is personality. You have to have a personality and character because you are going to be put down. You got 52,000 people at Newcastle and there’s only you and Candy in the stadium that cheering us on whatever we do and we make a mistake and we’re getting booed and you get picked. It’s hard for people to take that. I’ve been in a situation where you’ve had top-class players that have been suffocated because it’s too much. We walked out into the supermarket or a restaurant or into a bar and you’ve got people, “What went on a weekend? Why didn’t you score?” It was hard particularly someone like Les who was the predominant number nine, a striker, scoring goals. Lucky enough we were top of the league and we were flying high.

My experiences being in the stadium were not so much me and Candy cheering for you. I used to have the rest of the stadium standing up and pointing at me going, “He’s here, he’s there. He’s shagging Dani Behr.” Remember those?

I wasn’t going to bring that up.

Who cares? I used to look at them and get so annoyed. I was like, “Concentrate on the game. Stop looking at me. I’m just here to watch. Look at the game.”

I think that’s when Candy used to go and get a coffee or tea and you’ve been by yourself.

It’s the pressure not only while you’re in the game and on the game and before the game. It’s post-game. I remember being out with you guys all the time where the fans take it so personally with soccer. I don’t think I’ve seen anything else like it in any other sport or industry. Have you?

You go to Glasgow and you have religions, Celtic and Rangers but in the Northeast in particular, they work hard Monday to Friday and at the weekend you’re there to produce and entertain them. In London it’s cosmopolitan, there are people that are around, there are different businesses. To an extent, Manchester’s probably very similar because it’s a thriving football town in Liverpool, but the Northeast is driven by the team being successful. You used to go to the stadium and see the kids, the parents, the mom and dad, everybody wearing black and white. I remember saying to Les in our game against Coventry when we won three and zero and the big main score is that everything was just black and white. Sometimes it was hard to pick a player on the field. That was my excuse I kept giving the ball away because everyone’s wearing black and white. It was a unique experience. If you ask anyone that was involved in sky or TV around that time, they love going to the Northeast because it was such a vibrant, happy town and everybody enjoys the game.

It's hard for people that have been so successful and then not have it one moment. Click To Tweet

It wasn’t just a football game; it was a religious experience. When things were good and you guys had a good run while we were there, you’re heroes and you’re royalty. God forbid you to let a goal in or Les missed a goal or you were number one.

We’re going to take away and watch a movie. Netflix wasn’t there. That’s how old we are. We didn’t have Netflix. We have a video.

We have to get a video rental from Blockbuster and keep on the down-low. It was like a witness protection program up in Newcastle. The differences between the teams are quite paramount from the Northeast where you have these small towns and it’s their everything as opposed to London teams where they have a whole lot more going on. It’s a much larger city with a lot more other cultural experiences going on around you. How was playing for England? That’s a dream come true for any player for their country. You are one of how many people that get picked on a squad of 22 in the World Cup. What was that feeling like when you found out you were picked on the team?

A lot of emotions. Pride is the first thing that comes to mind because I’m patriotic. I’m proud of my country when I live in the States and I love it here in America, but England and Great Britain’s got so many great things going for it. It’s a bit difficult at the moment with what’s going on. You have that pride; you have nerves and a little fun fact that people don’t know about me. My international debut was cut short after 27 minutes against the Republic of Ireland. It got painted with crowd trouble. There was violence with English fans. I had Candy, my mom, my dad, my brother and sister all flew over to watch the game. After 27 minutes, it was abandoned because of trouble. I was lucky enough to get a few more appearances involved in England and Euro 96 as well, which was a phenomenal time to be involved in English football.

To have that experience for England and the pride and then being cut short was a bit surreal to be honest with you but it’s magnificent. Because you look back away, at thirteen, you’re too small, sixteen, you’re too small. I’ve been to many bars and people say to my brother. “I was better that your brother. He’s not good enough.” You’re there aware in an England shirt with the three lions and you’re standing there with Tony Adams or Stuart Peace and Ian Wright. It’s good memories. Some of that I’m proud of because not a lot of people get to experience that and there’s been a lot of good players that haven’t played for their country. To have the opportunity and do it, I do it with pride. My oldest son has got the caps in his bedroom. They’re there as a little reminder. It’s distant memories, but it’s nice to have those memories.

Do you find that when you do get picked for the squad or a game, it’s that feeling of this might be the last time I get picked and I better make the most of it because there are no guarantees you get picked again? How does it work once you’re picked for the squad that season, you played the whole season?

Each international game, you get a phone call. At that time, it’s a fax. At Wimbledon, you didn’t get too many people to be a part of the craze again that was being selected for their country. To have that fax that comes through and then have your manager call your name out and say, “You’ve been picked for England.” Straight away, the media changes. I remember in one of the big tabloid papers, me and Candy did an exclusive because it was a story. I’ve been told too small. I’ve worked for a company called Arthur Andersen which is a chartered accountant. I played non-league. I drove to work on a moped and then we’ll set up a plan for England. We have been in space for several years. It’s quite a story, but your profile just blows up on becoming an international player and then it wasn’t long afterwards, I broke the record as a defender in the Premier League, the biggest fee that anyone’s ever paid for defenders. It all snowballs into it. It becomes the hype, becomes the expectation and becomes the pressure. That’s what you have to deal with. That’s why I’ve got the gray hair and receding hairline.

Let’s talk about this because I’ve experienced it from dating and being in relationships with people that have gone through this. When you get to that age, you hit your early 30s and you know that the career is starting to wind down a little bit. The age is probably gone up a bit because everybody’s staying fit and healthy for much longer, but you get to that age, whatever it may be and you know coming to the end of my run you start to see and feel a lot of the other players getting a bit depressed, starting to feel a bit blue. Is that just from the sheer lack of “What am I going to do now?” or is it from “Every day I’ve been told what to do and where to go and what time and now I’m on my own.” Talk us through what happens at that phase.

It’s a mixture of everything you’ve said there. I was lucky enough in my career. I played non-league football. I knew it wasn’t all about the Premier League. I knew there was life after the Premier League and you have to adapt yourself to that. Also, I was chairman of the PFA, which is the Professional Footballer’s Association. I see cases all the time of players being injured. An eighteen-year-old boy at Bristol City unfortunately got injured and never going to play again and did not get an education. I’m getting stories like this all the time. As I’m getting older, I understand that it’s coming to an end. I was lucky enough and like with you, smart enough that I started talking to the media and you start doing interviews. You start networking a little bit. I was grooming myself already to know that it’s going to end. I was lucky enough to get to 36 years of age. I’m fly and I looked after myself. We didn’t have any injuries. You start preparing yourself for that. I feel for these players that play on one minute and then all of a sudden it’s one tackle, one turn and they’re out of the game. They’ve got no backup to what you’re doing.

It’s because it’s unexpected, that’s why.

No one prepares you for that. Psychologically and you hear about it, a good friend of mine, Gary Speed. We talked about what was going on in his mind and other players have come out and said about depression and where do you turn from? As a governing body, the PFA could do a better job with younger players, giving them better support, helping them maybe network and have an avenue for players that could go into employment, go back into education and trying to do that. When you’re playing in front of 52,000 people, you think it’s never going to end. I remember walking on the bus at Wimbledon. I’m walking past some of the older players, guys like Lawrie Sanchez or Vinnie Jones saying, “One day, this will be you at the front row.” I said “Shut up. I’m fine. I’m only 21-years of age.”

The next thing I’m sitting at the front of the bus, letting up the kids go by. I was lucky enough to have the experience of seeing that and had my head screwed on. I had family around me. That’s the biggest thing. You might relate to this as well, Dani. As you get older, you look back on things and say, “If only.” You can feel sorry for yourself and it’s quite easy to get the heights that you had, national TV, to be the face of Virgin. You can get caught up in that and then all sudden it stops. I was 35, I’ve got the rest of my life. Hopefully, I live through 70. I’ve got a bit of time to catch up. It’s hard for people that have been so successful and then not have it one moment. I was told when to go, when to eat and when to go to bed. I was also aware that one day was going to stop.

LLL Warren | Hosting Fox Sports
Hosting Fox Sports: When the phone stops ringing, that’s when you find out who your true friends are.

 

You see that a lot with musicians, with big rock stars, pop stars and people that have been at the height of their fame and performing in front of 100,000 people at these stadiums and with other successful sports players. You’re so used to the adrenaline and the rush of the crowd, the fans, the excitement, the buildup and the pressure that when it stops, it’s like tumbleweeds. The silence is deafening for them.

You find that as well. It’s not necessarily the money.

Talking of the money part because the top players are getting such ridiculous fees. There needs to be something to help the young players work with their finances and put it away and put it into funds so that there is an unexpected event like an injury, they’ve got something.

They do that. The PFA and agents and Harry Kane have become a business. It’s not just one player in the stable. He alone is one business because you have to do the marketing and everything else that goes with it. There are things that you can help with the players with their investment and the way they’re going. Unfortunately, he found difficult with finances. It’s never about the money. It’s the fact that you so much enjoy it. You would have done it for free. You loved it, you enjoy playing and then all of a sudden it stops.

Someone’s telling you, you can’t do what you love.

That’s one thing. Also, it’s amazing that I found as well is the phone stops ringing. When you’re playing, “Can you get me tickets for us? Can you get me tickets when you’re playing for England? Can you get me tickets here?” That’s when you find out your true friends and the true people that are around. You have to deal with it and go through it, but it can be challenging. There are even moments where things are going well, it’s like, “That went quick. I wish I was there again,” but that’s life.

I don’t know if you have these. I have moments and I go, “I wish I’d made a different decision,” or, “I wish I had been more at the moment and enjoyed the experience.” I was so in work mode so much that, “I’ve got to be on set at this time,” or, “I’ve got to be up at 4:00 in the morning, I’ve got to get on another plane,” or, “It’s another twenty-hour day.” You don’t take in those moments until later on in life where you go, “I should’ve enjoyed myself more.” Because when I think back, who else got to do the highest-rated late night show on TV and hang out backstage in the green room with all these big-time movie stars and rockstars?

I’d be like, at the end of the show, “I’m off to bed, everyone. See you.” All my friends were like, “Can we go to the green room?” I’m like, “I’ve been here since 11:00 this morning. I’m out of here.” Because I was so in work mode and I think I probably wasn’t fazy either because I was talking to movie stars and rock stars all day every day. It was just another day at work for me. I should have enjoyed a bit more and I should’ve probably networked a bit more and marketed myself a bit more. It was not like now where everybody is the self-marketer with selfies and Instagram. You have to pay people to do that for you.

You look at what Posh and David did, they market themselves. They push themselves out there and how they were doing it. At the time, you’re there and you had made it but you didn’t have social media or Instagram.

We were trying to get away from the press. We were doing everything not to get attention.

You didn’t want the press following you around. The only thing I had with high senior players towards it. I was getting started at about 29, 30. I had people Ian Rush, he was a great Liverpool legend, John Barnes, another great legend and these types of people. Ian used to say to me, “Because it is coming to an end, when you go to Old Trafford or Anfield, just before kickoff, just to have a look around of where you are and take it all in.” I did that for the last five years. I would take it wherever I was. Even a bit like Villa Park, an old stadium because I’d played lower league or non-league and in front of one man and a dog. To stand in front of 76,000 people, take it all in and enjoy it. I did that to towards the end, but you’re right. For ten or twelve years, it was a game, book my holidays and then another season.

Thank God that you have someone like Rush or Ponzi to give you that even if you got a bit of it at the end and not at all.

Sometimes it could be the last time and your contract runs out and you don’t get a phone call, “You’re too old, we don’t want you, your agent can’t get you deal or if he can, it’s in some country you don’t want to go to.” It’s like “What do I do now?” I was lucky enough I finished that last game of the season. I got a phone call from Sky. When I was first playing, I used to go to Sky in Isleworth. There was a guy that used to come down and meet us. They call them a runner that used to pick you up from your car and take you up to the studios. I got to know him well. He’s a big United fan. I used to give him tickets sometimes. I was going in my career; he was going in his career. When I finished, he was starting to take over at Sky to do their Monday night football and Saturday night virtual TV.

As he went up, I was going up and then when I was coming down and he was still going up. He phoned me and I said, “I’ll never forget that you were polite.” You bring in a cup of tea or a coffee, chat and be me like you would have been and it’s how he progressed the network. When I finished, I was lucky enough for the three years that I was still in the UK from 2005 to 2008, he got me back into media. He said, “I like what you’re doing. Come behind the scene. Look at what we’re doing.” That was interesting as well. That was a way of getting into media.

Every host has to know about the sport. If soccer or football is your game, you have to understand it. Click To Tweet

The segue from going from being a sportsman or sportswoman into career number two that the media route definitely seems to be a popular out, especially if you’re a good talker. If you’re eloquent and you’ve got the personality and you’re okay in front of the camera, which does take time and experience, but some people are just more natural than others. That sat with you and your personality well. You seem to be natural, you’re like me. You could talk the hind legs off a donkey, especially about something you know about. How was that first experience of going from being on a field and kicking a ball around to studio, cameras, director and lighting? You are getting croft with makeup and your hair and this is a whole new world.

The good thing is I went behind the scenes to see the different camera angles, I’m working with different people and just be yourself. One thing I feel like I’ve got that I can talk to and I’ve got personality and I’ve got opinion. You have to have that when you’re doing media. The hardest transition a lot of players have is that being critical of your teammates. People that you were with, you share the locker room with and your friends. Not just being critical for the sake of it but being constructive with your criticism. That was a hard thing and that’s what someone said to me in Sky. He said, “You have to make an opinion. You have to make a decision what you’re going to say.” That doesn’t mean you go there and you criticize everybody. I always think if you’re fair and give an honest opinion, it comes across. It takes time. In the UK is totally different from the US. In the UK we’re having a conversation, in the US I’m talking to the camera, I’m talking to the audience and that’s how you have to be. It’s a totally different way. You have 45 seconds and you work with people to get your points in. Where in England it’s more of a conversational rather than make your bullet points and get out.

Did you get any pushback from any of your former colleagues? “I can’t believe you said that on the show about me.”

There was a colleague, I didn’t actually play with him, but we were at Wimbledon at different times. A player named Ben Fletcher. He was at Manchester City and he elbowed Pablo Mendez. It was a bad tackle. My good friend at the time was Stuart Pearce. He was the manager of Manchester City. I went up to see Stuart. I was calling one of the games for Sky and they sent me up to Manchester because I knew the coach. Stuart used should stay to me on a Saturday morning, “Come in and train with the boys that are not involved on match day, have dinner on Friday, come on Saturday, get a feel for it.” I said, “It sounds great.” Lo and behold, when we’re doing the five-a-side, who I come against? It’s Ben Fletcher. He’s called me every name under the sun for what I did to him, “You killed me on TV.” I said, “What’s wrong in what I said?” He went, “No.” I said, “My job is to tell what my opinion is.” He kicked me when we played, but it was fine. It is what it is and he got it out of his system. There was one instance where I’ve had to be critical of an ex-player and then lo and behold, ten days later I bump into him on a training field and he gets his frustration on me.

Moving to the states, when did that happen and why?

I’ve been coming on vacation with Candy to New York, Boston and Chicago. We’ve been down to Florida and all over the states. We love the positivity, the feel, the climate and at the time the flexibility of traveling around the country and the cost as well. Standing and living jumped out straight away. I’ve been on trips with Adidas doing different camps in Cincinnati, the Midwest where you wouldn’t go for a vacation, but I always end up being there. I knew that there was a big world out there. I finished doing my coaching qualifications. I’d started doing the media and felt it was the right time.

I could’ve stayed in England and doing after dinner speeches, doing the media, maybe a bit of coaching, but I wanted a better life for my family. I wanted to take my kids to school and be around with them. We took advice with you with Atlanta, North Carolina, San Francisco and just fell in love with San Diego, which is arguably one of the best places in the world. It’s been in our mind to do that and it was so hard and you’ve done it as well, coming away from family because I’m very close to Candy’s family and my family as well. America’s been great to me. I’m a citizen now as all the family is and we fairly enjoyed it.

What did you miss most about home? I miss chocolate and curry. Do you miss a good curry?

I love London being around but give me two days and I’m ready to get out there. Give me a good Cadbury’s chocolate and a good curry then I’m happy because I haven’t found one yet. I’m still looking.

I haven’t found one. I have to say the first thing I do when I go home is I go and have a nice Ruby Murray curry. I have a good Chinese because I have to say the Chinese are different in London than it is here. Stock up at the local sweet shop with all my favorite chocolates and sweets and then I’ve got to hit Tesco and I’ve got to get my Branston pickle and marmalades. I miss all the foodie stuff.

I’m from the East side of London, so I miss my pie and mash. There used to be a time when I have three pies and double mash, but as I’m getting older it’s just one pie, one mash. I’m on a diet.

When I got back into TV here after my kids were old enough and at school and I was starting to get back into hosting again, Warren was kind enough to make some introductions to me. Hosting in America is a very different thing than the UK as well. We call it presenting back home. If you’re a presenter in the UK, it’s a career. You go from one show to the next, if you’re good and you have an image or a reputation of being able to present well. In America, it’s quite different because most of the presenting or hosting jobs here are done by either sports journalists, ex-sports men or women, news journalists, comedians, late-night hosts or celebrities. For me as a presenter here was always quite tricky.

I took a few years off to have the kids and by the time I got back into it, everything had gone digital. The first thing, everything cut out was the proper TV host. These are more entertainment-type shows where the host used to run the whole show and anchor it. I remember calling Warren saying, “I miss doing TV.” I don’t know the technicality of soccer or sports in that respect but give me anything to talk about and I’ll learn about it, read about it and I can host anything with my eyes closed. Warren kindly introduced me to his people over at Fox Sports and we started doing some stuff together at Fox Soccer, which was fun. The hardest thing for me was the pronunciation of all of those names. That was the hardest thing to get down. Everything else you can learn, but the names, if you get the name wrong, you know you are not a proper soccer fan.

It sounds like it’s fun that particularly if you’re doing European games, but you’re right, the host has to know about the sport. That’s why I always said to you is that soccer, football was your game, you understand it. If you know people and you can talk about different things and you’ll see if someone’s passionate about it. Here the host has to be up-to-date with Ohio State College Football and then they have to know what the Lakers are doing at the moment. They have to be so versatile in so many languages. In England, you just do soccer, someone does cricket, someone does rugby, someone does tennis. Here you’ll have Mike Tirico that would do five different sports. He’d do the US Open, then he’d do the Super Bowl and then he’d do an NBA final.

Is he a bit of Jack of all trades, master of none or is he the master of all of them?

They have that where you have to move around and do different things. We just concentrate on one sport. It’s five or six here, but college is so big, the NBA. The NFL is a different monster as well. You have to be sure about a lot of these subjects as well and you will get found out if you’re not sure. A lot here is from the teleprompter. Everything’s been written down in front of you and you have to read it where some people are just more natural. I remember back home, Richard Keys, he was big in Sky. He never used autocue because he didn’t like it.

LLL Warren | Hosting Fox Sports
Hosting Fox Sports: People are playing soccer everywhere which is great for the game because it will get more popular and get more people involved.

 

We don’t have teleprompter or autocue in England. A lot of the budgets didn’t provide it for you. We never had the fortunateness of autocue. It’s good and bad. It’s good in the way that, it makes it so much easier for you to host a show because you know what’s coming up and you don’t have to memorize everything. In another way, it takes the improvisation out of it or the adlib, the funny, quirky moments where you do mess up. That’s what makes it spontaneous.

A big thing here as well is they rehearse. I remember speaking to the people that come and do the show. Vinnie was a great one. It was the FA Cup Final and we got Vinnie in as one of our guests. One, he’d been out the night before, which is never good. Also, they like getting you in there two hours beforehand. Don’t forget because of the time difference, we’re in at 4:00 AM in the morning. He’s not coming in at 4:00. I’m coming in at 5:00, but he comes in at about 5:30. We’re rehearsing around, he’s like, “I’ve done Spielberg films. We don’t rehearse as much for Spielberg than this.” That’s what they wanted. It’s all down to a run-down time.

It’s live to record, that’s why. You are doing it in a real lifetime even though it’s not a live transmission. They want to record it as if it is live TV.

Vinnie lasted one show and then that was it. He went, “I can’t do no more.” He went off to Hollywood and star in a few more movies.

He’s don’t quite well.

He’s one of the most hardworking and he hasn’t changed. He stopped drinking as well. People get the wrong impression about him, but he’s always been good to me. I’ve got nothing but respect for Vinnie.

Who have been your favorite players to play alongside with on the field and then TV, who do you love to co-host with or have on as a guest on TV? Who have been your favorite people to work with?

Kate Abdo, who’s come over from Sky as well. We get on well, we have a good rapport. Rob Stone who does a lot on Fox. I think I can get on with anybody. I’m not one of these people at a wedding. If you put me next to the aunts, I’ll have a chat with her. You put me next to the niece, I’ll have a chat with her. I can get on with most people. I like people that are spontaneous, professional, always on time and do your job properly, but have fun doing it. You’re in a business of entertaining and a bit like the players I used to play with. Les would be one of them, a good professional. I was lucky enough to play with Gazza as well with England. People talk about him off the field. Once he was playing football, he was focused, he loved the game. The best I’ve ever played against was people like Ryan Giggs. Week and week out, I played against him.

I dated Ryan Giggs when I was nineteen. I was doing my TV shows and I interviewed Ryan. We hit it off. We were both very young and both quite well-known at the time. It was the first time somebody in the world of entertainment had started to quietly date a sportsperson. He was very low key and he didn’t like any of the attention. I threw him into the forefront of media attention, which he hated, especially Alex Ferguson. He hated the fact that I was hanging out and dating him, “Leave him alone and he’s not allowed out.” He was extremely protective over Ryan. He would never let him come to London. Every week I was schlepping up the M6 all the way to Manchester. That was a hard relationship and we were both so young. I knew nothing about soccer because of my dad’s South African. I grew up in a household of rugby on TV and Formula One. My dad was obsessed with rugby being South African, but my mom’s side of the family being proper Londoners, it was football but my dad ruled the TV screen so she didn’t even get a look in.

My grandfather was a big Spurs fan. I remember when I first dated Ryan and Ryan played for Man U, my grandpa was not having any of it. He didn’t care that he was a Northerner. If I was picking one soccer player, it was not a Tottenham player. I was like a traitor to the family, “How could you?” That’s when I realized that sport and soccer are hardcore. That was an experience dating Ryan. From Ryan, I became good friends with Paul Ince because he was playing with Ryan at the time. Paul was good mates with Wrighty and Les and that whole crew. When I broke up with Ryan, I stayed friends with Ince and Wrighty and then a year later, I met Les. This is before David and Victoria. I got us so much grief for that but both great soccer players and at the time I had no idea how good they were.

When I look back on those times, it was exciting yet stressful and trying to make sure nobody knew that we were dating, keeping the paparazzi at bay. At the same time, it was exciting. I have no idea what their level of football and how well-loved they were not just in England but all over the world. With my twelve-year-old son, he’s playing soccer with his friends on a basic level. He’s like, “Do you know my mom dated Ryan Giggs at one point?” I’m like, “That’s my only claim to fame? Thank you.” Give us a bit of a rundown of what’s coming up for you.

I’ve been lucky enough still working at Fox. It’s been eleven years. We finished the German League Bundesliga with Bayern Munich. I’m up in Los Angeles, in Century City, getting ready for the show. I’d drive down to San Diego back to my wife, kids, and my old English Bulldog.

You’re coaching as well in San Diego? Tell us about your coaching.

When I moved here, I was to be with my kids. I’ve coached my oldest son, Milo, my middle son Kane and my youngest one Ty, who’s fifteen years of age. I still coach him Monday to Fridays and then it allows my weekends to be up here. I love being with the kids. I love helping them, but I also love my job. I love media work. It’s still involved in the game. You’re still following great teams, great players. Soccer has been great for me. It has given me a great career and then afterwards given me a living as well. Lucky enough, I’m still working part of Fox Sports. It is all changing. It’s going more digital. There are different sides of social media, but I think you still want to have people that have played the game and have an opinion about the game and if not, I can always coach.

Being is sports is also being in a business of entertaining. Click To Tweet

How do you see the US soccer league growing and the popularity of soccer here in America? It’s not as popular yet as the NBA and NFL because they’ve been around a very long time. You’ve definitely seen the rapid growth of soccer amongst the youth picking that as their priority of sport. Have you noticed that in the eleven years you’ve been here?

For how popular the sport is and how it’s grown is through the roof. It’s as popular as the NBA Finals. People watch the Premier League, they watch the national team, the women’s game won the World Cup in France. The game has grown, it’s exploded. It’s challenging, hockey, baseball which is seen as the oldest sport. NBA is right behind that. The NFL is a monster in itself. Even that’s had its problem as well.

Do you think it’s because it’s just one of those games that any kid can play from any economic, country, city, state? You can get a ball; you don’t need anyone else to do it. Just go on your road in your backyard and you can kick a ball and it’s attainable. You don’t need an expensive bat. You don’t need a court with a net. You don’t need to be seven-foot tall. Anyone has a chance.

The generation of people who have had kids that are seven, eight, nine, ten, a big blow-up in soccer. It’s such a diverse country. You’ve got such a mixture of people that want to be involved in soccer. You walk past the park instead of just seeing a baseball glove and a football which you would do, it’s a soccer ball. You just need a ball and that’s it. You can go out and play. The MLS is still catching up. It’s still not the Premier League. It’s not the Bundesliga. It’s not the Liga but it’s getting there. Better coaches, better finances, better TV deals, better sponsorship. It reminds me very much of what the Premier League was like in the early ’90s where back home in England in the ’70s, ’80s was predominantly a male sport. You go there, if you come out of a stadium with a punch, you’re quite happy. Wherein the ’90s, it went a bit more corporate, more family orientated, women going to the game, more accessible for every type of person and the safety and the stadiums. That’s similar to what I’m seeing with the MLS where everybody wants to be involved and a part of it.

It’s still got the barriers. There’s no doubt about that with the MLS, because you are up against so many big sponsorships with football and baseball and the NBA, but it’s definitely got a niche and it’s definitely here to stay. That was the biggest concern that the league wouldn’t fold in five years’ time, ten years’ time. That’s not going to happen. At the grassroots level, the kids are playing soccer. The concussion was a big thing with the NFL. Kids are playing it now. It used to be little pockets where Southern California, Texas. It’s up in the Midwest, it’s up in Toronto. It’s everywhere. People are playing the sport everywhere and that’s great for the game and it will only get more and more popular and more and more people involved.

When is the next World Cup and where is it going to be?

It would in 2022 in Qatar. They’re going to do it in the wintertime. That definitely the first time.

Didn’t LA bid for the World Cup? Did we win it?

The US tried to bid for it as England tried to the Euros, but we lost that to Russia and the US lost out to Qatar. The next cycle in 2026 will be in the US.

Which city will it be? Do they split out over different cities?

It will be all over the country.

Once the country wins the destination for the World Cup, they then work out between cities and states where the different matches are going to be in?

That’s what the US has done with Canada and Mexico. They spread it out, but then ultimately, the finally ends up in New York. It’s the biggest place and got the biggest revenue to do it.

Warren, it’s been such a pleasure having you on. You have to come back again soon. Warren’s wife, Candy is the most amazing interior designer. She’s going to be one of my guests soon. She’s got a fantastic interior design company called Barton and Barton down in San Diego area. She does the whole of California, wherever you need her services. We’ll talk about all things life and style and design. She’s one of my favorite people on earth as are you were. If you guys have any questions for Warren or suggestions or anything that you have to ask Warren, have you got an Instagram account, website or email?

My Instagram is @WarrenBarton22. On Twitter, it’s @WarrenBarton2.

That was your number, wasn’t it?

My lucky number.

Thank you for reading. Check us out at Instagram @LaLaLandedPodcast. On Facebook at La La Landed and any information and future episodes it’s all at LaLaLanded.com. Stay tuned for some more great La La Landed episodes coming soon. Thanks to my fabulous guest, Mr. Warren Barton.

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About Warren Barton

LLL Warren | Hosting Fox Sports Warren Barton was born and raised in London UK. He played at the highest level for 18 years in the EPL, he played for the English National Team, English Premier League, with 500 senior level appearances for Wimbledon FC, Newcastle United, Derby County & Queens Park Rangers.

Warren was asked to be the Chairman of the PFA, Professional Footballers Association, in the UK which he held for 2 years. After his professional soccer career he was an analyst for SKY Sports Television, covering all the major soccer leagues and competitions.

Warren moved to the US 6 years ago to become the head analyst on Fox Soccer Channel, which is now Fox Sports. He was the Head Coach of the U18 LA Galaxy team for 2 years and then the General Manager of the LA Blues, USL. Four years ago he became the owner and Head Coach of the San Diego Flash, NSPL. He holds an UEFA Pro License as well as the UEFA ‘A’ and ‘B’ License.

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