Thursday June 15 2017
Horncastle Exclusive: 'Calcio is passion'

Did you know James Horncastle started out writing for Football Italia? We had an exclusive talk about enthusiasm, calcio myths and why pundits can learn from Arrigo Sacchi.

You can see James in person along with James Richardson and Paolo Bandini at the one-off Gazzetta Football Italia – Live, Londra Edizione at Union Chapel in Islington on June 19.

Not many people know this, but you used to write our Serie B reports on the site. We’re very proud of you! Can you give people any advice on how to get started in sports journalism and progress?

“Enthusiasm. You can’t write about Serie B without it! I seem to recall that after the year Juventus, Napoli and Genoa all got promoted, and Hellas went down to the third division. Stefan Schwoch was still around and stopped just short of entering history as the Cadetto’s all-time top scorer. But I digress.

“You need passion. I was quite uncompromising. I didn’t want to write about anything else. Just immerse yourself in it. It helps if you love Italy, and all things Italian, rather than just Italian football. I mean my iPhone is quite embarrassing. The most played song on there is probably La Solitudine by Laura Pausini…”

What myths still exist that you’d love to dispel about Italian football?

“Where do I begin? That it’s defensive. Serie A was the 'goaliest’ of Europe’s top five leagues [1,123] last season.

“That it’s old. Milan’s starting XI was the youngest since the `80s. And just look at the kids Gian Piero Gasperini brought through at Atalanta this year or Eusebio Di Francesco at Sassuolo the year before. Incidentally, teenagers like Moise Kean [2000] and Pietro Pellegri [2001] became the first Millennials to score in Europe’s top five leagues on the final weekend of the season.

“That teams roll over. Crotone were dead and buried but completed the greatest escape since Colditz [or Venezia in 1998-99].

“That it’s uncompetitive. Spalletti was right to say Juventus were in a position to manage their results in the league in the spring and concentrate on Europe, but I still think Roma and Napoli made big strides forward. Both established club record points totals and let’s contrast the situation with two years ago. When Juventus reached the Champions League Final in 2015, the gap to Roma in second and Lazio in third was 17 and 18 points respectively. This year it was down to four and five. You can scoff all you like, but the standards set by Roma and Napoli in terms of their consistency and performance were very high indeed.”

There was a big social media reaction to news the European Football Show would not be returning. Did people underestimate just how popular it was? Did it prove you don’t have to be an ex-player to be a pundit?

“We were all very taken aback by the reaction and how sustained it was. Looking back, I don’t think we had any indifferent or casual viewers. The people who watched it really loved it and, with technology making the world smaller, I think there is more interest in European football than ever before. Naturally we’re grateful to BT Sport for providing us with a platform for four years. They took a risk on us and that shouldn’t be forgotten.

“I do think there is a place for journalists in the game’s coverage on TV. As you know, Arrigo Sacchi once said you don’t need to have been a horse to become a jockey and the same applies here.”

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