Currently starring in his own live television show, ‘Jason Cundy Kicks Off’, there certainly isn’t a shortage of talking points to shout and scream about when it comes to the ex-Premier League footballer’s boyhood club Chelsea this season.
The former Blues defender, who made 41 league appearances for the defending league champions between 1988 and 1992, is embarrassed by how his beloved football club have performed this campaign, with the club currently sitting just a point above the top-flight’s bottom three.
After hanging up his own boots during the turn of the millennium, Cundy decided to try his hand at swapping professional football for talking professionally about football, before most notably going onto become a radio presenter for talkSPORT and host for the likes of Chelsea TV and Premier League TV.
Alongside co-presenter Kiri Bloore, Cundy is now in charge of his very own live TV sports show on London Live, where the former Chelsea, Tottenham and Ipswich Town centre-half is joined by celebrity guests and journalists to discuss and evaluate the weekend’s sporting headlines.
Shoot spoke exclusively to Cundy about his new programme, the reasons behind Chelsea’s disastrous season, the Blues’ Champions League draw against PSG, and why Leicester City are genuine Premier League title contenders.
For anybody that hasn’t already seen your show on London Live, how would you explain what you get up to on Jason Cundy Kicks Off…?
“Well it is a fun show, first and foremost. It is informative as well. We are very fortunate on Monday that we can look back on all of the league games; whether that will be Arsenal, Brentford or Fulham. So we are quite lucky that we have got something really tangible to talk about, bearing in mind that they are results. [We have] Champions League games when they turn up on the Tuesdays and Wednesdays, with Arsenal and Chelsea in particular progressing and League Cup games. So we are in a position that we can look back and there is always loads to discuss. There is always something to talk about. There is a fun element as well. I love the fact that there is a live audience. We like that participation with the crowd, a little bit of banter with them. I think it has got a mixture of everything. We have a serious football debate that ranges from all sorts of different subjects. So it is a fun but informative show.”
You were forced to retire from professional football back in 2000, due to injury. How did you deal with the transition of playing professional football to talking about football professionally?
“It happened over a period where it sort of built up and then rose quite sharply! I had done some stuff for Chelsea TV and then I started doing little bits and pieces for talkSPORT. That kind of grew from just doing bits and pieces to co-hosting Drivetime, which happened pretty much overnight. I got a phone call on the Friday asking whether I could take over on the Monday. So I did 18 weeks of that, where I was thrown in the deep end, but I relished the challenge as it was the biggest show that I had ever done. So I took that up from March, right up until the end of the season. And then things just kind of developed. I was doing more stuff for Chelsea TV. Then I started presenting, as opposed to being a pundit, which I love. I am quite lucky that I can turn my hand to both. I do a lot of stuff for Chelsea TV now, I work for Premier League TV, I had a show on Sky for two years and I am lucky enough to present on London Live. So I have been quite fortunate really. Doors have opened their way for me and when they have, I have jumped at it. It is a lot of fun and because it is my passion; I wouldn’t say I find it easy, but it is a labour of love, really. Talking about football and talking about Chelsea isn’t hard work.”
You were probably best known for your time at Chelsea, between 1988-92. How much did you enjoy your time at Stamford Bridge?
“Well I was there from [the age of] 11. I supported Chelsea when I was a boy and they were the only team I wanted to play for. I was at Wimbledon, [Crystal] Palace, Arsenal for a period and West Ham, but I only wanted to play for Chelsea. So I was lucky enough to be taken on at 11 and then just come through the ranks up until the first-team. It was the best years of my life being an apprentice with my mates and I am still friends with a lot of those boys now. There was a whole group of us that came through the youth team; David Lee, Gareth Hall, Damian Matthews, Graeme Le Saux, Eddie Newton, Frank Sinclair, so we all kind of grew up and came through into the first-team together. It was like being with your mates, working hard but a load of fun. Then eventually I was sold to Spurs! Which was a bit of a tough time. It was a decision that was made for me really. Chelsea made their choices and I had to make mine.”
The defending champions are shockingly contesting near the bottom three so far this season. What has gone wrong at your former club?
“Well it has been embarrassing! First and foremost. They haven’t played well. I think if you look back over the last 18 months or so, I think *Jose [Mourinho] can be guilty of not rotating his squad enough. I think you can argue that some of those players have been flogged. Last season, he had a core of seven outfield players which played 32 games and which he has continued to play into this season as well. His reluctance to use young players as well has been a fall, in particular Ruben Loftus-Cheek. When players haven’t performed, they continue to stay in the side and I don’t think that has helped. I think if the players aren’t playing well and aren’t performing and they are still in the side, I think it creates the wrong sort of atmosphere. I think Jose needs to trust some of his fringe squad players, in particular someone like [Loic] Remy. We didn’t start with a centre-forward against Bournemouth. If you are not going to start [Diego] Costa, I think you have to start Remy. So I don’t know how he would feel about that. Eden Hazard started that game and he is yet to score this season. I thought he played very well, but when you are looking for goals and he hasn’t scored this season, that doesn’t quite make sense to me. So I think there have been a number of factors but the big players haven’t performed in the early part of the season.
I think there is a general feeling that Chelsea are getting better, but the results haven’t quite reflected that. The performances in the early part of the season were dreadful. Against Swansea [City], we were lucky to get a point. Lucky to get a point against Newcastle [United]. Deserved to get beat by Crystal Palace. Deserved to get beat by Manchester City. So I can’t really complain at the way the season has gone in terms of performances. We haven’t really deserved much out of the games. But there is a feeling that Chelsea are starting to get better. I think it is about time they stood up because they owe the fans a performance.”
*Since speaking to Cundy, the West London side have dismissed manager Jose Mourinho just seven months after he guided the Blues to a third Premier League crown.
Already 14 points adrift of fourth-placed Manchester United, can Chelsea realistically still go on to finish in the top-four of the Premier League come May?
“Mathematically it is not impossible. In all honesty, we don’t deserve to be top -our. The performances; there are perhaps signs of them getting better, but in terms of where consistency levels are concerned, they haven’t really reached that standard and the most consistent sides will get in that top-four. Although having said that, we have just seen both Spurs and Everton slip up recently. Liverpool were another side that took the lead but didn’t gain three points. So I very much doubt that we will get top-four. [But] it is not impossible. Any side can put a run together and Chelsea are capable of winning maybe 10 to 12 games, who knows. But I won’t be putting any money on it!”
Away from the Premier League, Chelsea drew Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League. How do you think the Blues will fare against the Ligue 1 giants?
“Chelsea’s performances in the Champions League have actually been a standalone. If you take away the league performances, they have been really good. I think we were unlucky to get beat 2-1 at FC Porto, we played well. I think we deserved to top the group. I think we left it a little late, but I think overall that we deserved it. Like I said, our performances this season in the Champions League have been much better so I am not writing this off at all. Yes it is one of the ties that we wanted to avoid, but I am pretty sure PSG looked along that list and we were probably one of the ones they wanted to avoid on that list as well. They didn’t top their group, we did. Over the two legs; with the second-leg at home, I think the advantage, be it quite slender, will be with us. It is important that you get an away goal, that is going to be crucial. Coming back with a 0-0 leaves us very vulnerable to a counter-attack, they’ll sit deep. They have got some good players as they have proven throughout the years. They actually knocked us out last season without actually beating us. We didn’t lose a game in the Champions League, but didn’t progress. We have players that have shown in the Champions League this season that can raise their game. Prediction? I’ll have us to go through. But it won’t be easy!”
From defending league champions to the current leaders, Leicester City. What have you made of the flourishing Foxes so far this campaign?
“I think he [Claudio Ranieri] has looked at his squad and realised that they have got a lot of pace. They play 4-4-2, have a lot of pace out wide and pace in someone like [Jamie] Vardy who has been, as we know, outstanding. There are a number of players in that squad that can turn defence into attack very, very quickly and he has utilized that. He has been quite clever actually because it is not a squad that you would look at going into the season and say, “This is a squad that can really go and do something”. But he has worked out that a 4-4-2 system has worked out for them. They have got experience at the back with [Robert] Huth and a goalkeeper in [Kasper] Schmeichel who has developed into a fine young stopper. So right through that spine of the side they have got quality. If they are serious contenders; and I think we have to consider them that bearing in mind where they are, I think if we get to the end of January and they are still in the mix, then they’ll rightly believe that they have a chance.”
What do Leicester need to do to convince everyone that they are genuine Premier League title contenders this season?
“I think they need a little bit of fortune. Injuries is something that most teams that go on to win the title have been quite fortunate not to have. Like Chelsea last season, they had very few injuries. Arsenal’s seasons throughout the past four of five seasons, and this [one] to a degree, they are missing key players and will only find out in weeks to come whether that makes an impact. Leicester obviously can’t go and spend tens of millions. If Vardy gets injured; or even Schmeichel or Huth, if one of those players go injured for a month or six weeks, that could be enough to derail their season. So I think that is going to play a key role for clubs with small squads or smaller squads with quality. Can he [Ranieri] go out and spend in January? Well he can, but you cannot foresee the future. Not only that, but I think Leicester may as well have to try and fight [off] maybe one or two offers of their own. If someone comes in with £40 million for Vardy, can they turn that down? That would be a brave decision to do that, but probably the right one depending on what the money is and depending on where they finish. I think January is going to be key for both players coming in and possibly leaving.”
TV pundit Gary Neville has landed his first managerial role with Valencia. How do you think he will cope at the La Liga club?
“It is a very brave decision; one that when he accepted the job, he did say that he doesn’t shy away from challenges. I find it a little strange that a club like Valencia have offered him a job; [someone] with no managerial experience and he doesn’t know the league. I think it is a huge risk on their part. I think the risk is bigger on their part than it is on his. He can go and do a good job, but I think it may take him a little bit of time to settle down over there. I think it is incredibly brave of him. I hope he does well because I think we haven’t had enough English or British managers go abroad and work in the last decade or so, only very few have done that and he has taken on that challenge. A lot of people feel that he can go on and be the England manager, this will answer a few of those questions. He is still young. He will inevitably make mistakes and I think he will become a better manager or pundit, call it what you like, when he finishes that experience. I hope he does well. It is only until the end of the season. Who knows, Roy Hodgson’s job may well be up come July when the European Championships have finished, so he may well be positioning himself for that job if he does well there.”
Recent reports have speculated that the FA are considering offering national team boss Roy Hodgson a new deal before Euro 2016. Is that a smart move?
“Not a smart move at all! I cannot believe they would be making that mistake. They done something similar with [Fabio] Capello and they played themselves into a corner and then they couldn’t get rid of him. He then walked away and then there was a huge pay-off. I think we need to go from tournament to tournament, see how he does. I am quite optimistic about our chances in France. I think the group that we have got [Wales, Russia and Slovakia], I think we should top it. If we do top it, we should get a third-placed team from one of the other groups, in which case we should get to the quarter-finals, at a minimum. If we don’t progress to the quarter-finals, then I feel that he needs to move on. We have got a young exciting squad and I think the next manager that comes in will benefit from that.”