The words “end of an era” are often thrown around too casually in the world of sport. But not with Jim White.
In the world of football broadcasting, there are a special breed of presenters who transcend the art of presenting, wowing the viewers at home with their natural charisma.
Soccer Saturday king Jeff Stelling is one, Match of the Day host Gary Lineker is another and one cannot forget the work Sue Barker has done over the years — and White can rightfully stake his claim to join their company.
Transfer deadline day will never be the same again after the 64-year-old decided to leave his role at Sky Sports, following a period of more than two decades working with the broadcaster.
“After 23 fantastic years, it’s time to bid farewell to Sky Sports,” he said in his final broadcast back in July. “After much thought and with a heavy heart I leave Sky Sports News – but what a journey it has been.
“Other media challenges lie ahead! I have presented every late shift on every Transfer Deadline Day — thanks for everything Harry!
“To everyone out there, keep watching the best sports news channel in the business. #YellowTieForSale.”
As the clock ticks down and the 2021 summer transfer window enters its final week, Mirror Football reflects on why the day will never be the same without him…
How it started and why he left
White began his broadcasting career at STV flagship programme Scotland Today back in 1979.
He worked as a sports reporter at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, travelling with the Scotland team to the tournament.
But his career truly took off when he joined Sky Sports in 1998, becoming synonymous with their transfer deadline coverage and often striking a chord with viewers with a balance of showmanship and professionalism.
But it was hardly surprising when White announced his departure. Several prominent presenters and reporters have left, including Bryan Swanson, Natalie Sawyer and Scott Minto, as part of Sky’s attempts to shake up their teams.
When news of his exit reached the media, he was inundated with messages from former colleagues. But White remains very much a part of the football news sphere as he hosts a radio show on talkSPORT.
The jovial tone of his announcement was typical of White, whose light-hearted persona and passion for breaking transfer news captured the hearts of those watching. Now they will have to make do without his intelligent quips.
The yellow tie
The backstory behind the lemon-tinted silk accessory is perhaps not as interesting than some would think.
“In the early days of transfer deadline day, they chose a yellow strap on the bottom of the screen so yellow became the identifiable colour,” he said.
“That has stuck, hence the yellow tie. And that is why to this day van drivers getting their windows down and asking, how’s the yellow tie?”
It was White’s ability to make it front and centre of his coverage, even when speaking to some of the greatest figures in football — such as Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson — that gave it a historic presence.
“The last time I interviewed Fergie, the first thing he said was where’s the yellow tie?” White said.
“I had one for him in my pocket, he loved it and he found it hugely funny.”
White’s best moments
There are simply too many moments to document over the years for White to fit into words. But at the centre of his entertainment has been a close relationship with former Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp.
In the pre-social media era, White’s late-night stint on their deadline day coverage was unbeatable. His close ties with managers, in particular the “wheeler-dealer” Redknapp, meant he was often able to get instant text updates of the veteran manager’s movements.
One iconic moment from their friendship was when White visited Redknapp his club’s training ground.
When told he was hoping to wrap up some last-minute deals, White bullishly predicted: “You will not fail if you wear my transfer day yellow tie”, to which Redknapp replied: “Oh my god, Jim… that is a beauty!”
The pair once appeared on Soccer AM together and Redknapp admitted he was one of his trusted sources for information: “We’re good mates and yeah, he does ring me up a lot, especially on deadline day!” he told Soccer AM.
For years, football fans had been watching with anticipation as the clock ticked towards midnight. White would be in the chair alongside Sawyer, wearing his famous suit and yellow tie, rounding up the news as it arrived at his doorstep.
And one night in January 2013, Peter Odemwingie’s attempts to engineer a move to QPR meant White had the first glance at a breaking news story unfolding in front of him.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had this before on a transfer deadline night,” he began. “West Brom striker Peter Odemwingie is here, trying to force through a move a deadline day move to Queens Park Rangers.
Like a young child at Christmas, this was a gift that left him buzzing with excitement.
Perhaps one of his most admirable qualities is not to back down when facing some intimidating figures. In the happier days of Jose Mourinho’s career at Chelsea in 2013-14, White dared to quiz the Blues boss on whether he would be dipping into the market.
The Portuguese, with a wry smile, replied: “I don’t think so. But I will be enjoying your show for sure.”
But perhaps the creme de la creme arrived hen Sky hired an impressionist to come on the show and imitate the Scot. Dressed in his traditional black suit and yellow tie, the comic finished his impression when White appeared from off-camera in plain clothes to give his thoughts.
“You do a better me than me. Here’s some breaking news… I’m not happy!”
Even if his joyous style of presenting did not appeal to everyone, there will be a sombre mood on the station as his replacement steps in to fill the unfillable void.
The future of transfers
Deadline day has had its challenges over the past two years.
During the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the broadcaster was forced to alter its usual tradition of sending reporters to stand outside in the cold for 12 hours on end.
Instead, they were live from their homes or at Sky’s base in Isleworth, Middlesex where they continued their coverage as normal. For White, it made those moments where he effortlessly kept the programme ticking over even more crucial than ever.
The advancement of an army of transfer gurus in Italy, such as Fabrizio Romano and Gianluca Di Marzio, has unquestionably affected Sky Sports News’ ability to be first for transfer news.
But the programme still attracts millions of viewers around the country, with players, pundits and football managers all tuning in to find out the latest gossip and news.
With White now out of the picture and transfer news more instant than it has ever been, one has to wonder how long it will be until deadline day shows are scrapped.
But for now, White can put his feet up and enjoy the show at home for once — just the like the rest of us.