'Embrace the madness': FourFourTwo goes behind the scenes at TNT Sports' Champions League Goals Show

Champions League Goals Show TNT Sports
(Image credit: TNT Sports)

Champions League gameweeks are busy affairs during the group stages, with eight games each on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. 

But for the Champions League Goals Show team on TNT Sports, it's even busier. Comprising presenter James Richardson and journalists James Horncastle, Julien Laurens and Raphael Honigstein, the Goals Show covers all six 8pm kick-offs live in the studio, highlighting all the action in Europe's elite competition. 

Starting at 7.30pm, the show runs until 10:15pm, barring any major delays in any of the games. The four discuss all of the action in the games, bringing their expertise to the table, going through every goal, red card and missed penalty across the course of an evening. 

And FourFourTwo had the pleasure of being invited down to the TNT Sports headquarters to go behind the scenes.

Champions League Goals Show TNT Sports

The Champions League Goals Show team, from left to right: Julien Laurens, James Horncastle, James Richardson, Raphael Honigstein  (Image credit: TNT Sports)

What makes the Champions League Goals Show different?

The first thing to note is the chemistry between the quartet of Richardson, Horncastle, Laurens and Honigstein. It's apparent from the first minute of meeting them, and clearly translates perfectly onto the screen. 

As Horncastle explains, the format of the Goals Show is different than simply covering one game of football and going through passages of play with a fine comb. Instead, it's about engaging the viewer and attempting to appeal to a different style of audience.

“You do feel like you're on the sofa sometimes where you're quite relaxed, and we can all be taken by action in another game if ours is a bit slow," Horncastle tells FFT. "Sometimes we can't really take our eyes off the action of another game, and as much as it's the Goals Show, sometimes it's action in games that need to be talked about. 

"And you also don't want to just focus on your games, either - you want everybody to interact and have a conversation with everyone on the sofa, bring everybody into it rather than just focus on Red Star Belgrade against RB Leipzig, for example."

Guests such as Jermaine Jenas and Owen Hargreaves are sometimes invited onto the sofa for evening, too - which is a far cry from the conventional style of punditry they're used to. 

“We had Jermaine Jenas with us yesterday, and when he arrived you could see that he was surprised by the atmosphere between all of us on the sofa," Laurens recalls. "He started off in a studio for normal match coverage doing normal analysis, and then he came to ours where there was a lot of fun, we laughed a lot and there was a lot of energy. There was a lot of things, which I think again make the show very special.

“As well as James being able to talk about what happened in previous games for teams, us being there is an opportunity to give people some expertise about the two teams, something special about whoever is playing, so I think it makes it interesting viewing for people watching on television. It's not just about seeing the goals as they happen, it's also that we will tell them hopefully something they don't know about the team they watching.”

Richardson, the man who brings the four together through his presenting skills, indicates where he think the magic of the show lies. 

“The football is the main thing, and it's a really nice TV show to work on because we've got all the best of the football for the best teams in Europe," he says. 

"But perhaps one reason why people like the show is that, as well as all the great football, you have an enjoyable conversation to eavesdrop on. So I think that's nice in that sense, and is where our relationship is important.”

Behind the scenes

Champions League Goals Show TNT Sports

The production control room of the Goals Show (Image credit: TNT Sports)

The chemistry between the aforementioned quartet isn't the only synergistic element happening on the Goals Show, however. Invited into the production control room, it's clear this is where the magic happens.

Behind one window are people controlling the graphics on screen, while others are behind a different window ensuring the sound is correct. The producers sit in the middle, knitting everything together by taking charge of the situation. 

With a direct feed into Richardson's, Horncastle's, Laurens' and Honigstein's ears, producers are able to feed them match information they may have missed, as well as highlighting what is coming next in the schedule. It's all very impressive, especially when live.

Just imagine someone speaking into your ear about something completely different to what you're trying to convey yourself. Difficult, right?

With live TV, though, mishaps are inevitable. But how you react to them determines how you progress. 

"Anyone can make a mistake," Richardson says, "but if you get awkward about it, it's uncomfortable for the viewer as well. I will throw to the wrong thing sometimes - we’re covering six games simultaneously, so it’s never going to be spotless. 

"We just embrace the madness."

Prior to entering the production control room, though, FFT get to spend 20 minutes on the studio floor, watching how everything is brought to life. The green screen envelopes the quartet, allowing for the graphics crew to work their magic and deliver a seamless programme.

Huge cameras are controlled by multiple people, too, which are so clever they're able to blank off 'dead space' in the studio, ensuring nothing untoward is shown during broadcast. 

Champions League predictions

Champions League Goals Show TNT Sports

FourFourTwo speaking to the Goals Show team (Image credit: TNT Sports)

Working together and covering plenty of sides across Europe, Richardson, Horncastle, Laurens and Honigstein are comfortably among the most knowledgeable people when it comes to the Champions League

Learning about teams is certainly made easier because of their relationships, too.

“I think you find yourself in a rhythm at this stage of the season,” Horncastle explains, “because we work together so often that it ends up being…”

“...osmosis,” Honigstein says, finding the right word for Horncastle.

But, while Manchester City are the obvious answer when it comes to who will be lifting the trophy at Wembley on June 1, with Real Madrid also mentioned, three of them have slightly different answers as to who will be their closest challengers.

Honigstein opts for Bayern Munich, though caveats his answer with them doing strong business in January, while Horncastle believes Inter Milan could recover from final defeat last term to go one better. Naturally, Laurens' Parisian upbringing sees him choose PSG - though he recognises that's out of hope more than anything. 

But what about the dark horses? Well, Real Sociedad, Porto and Atletico Madrid have all impressed so far this season, but Barcelona's shock defeat against Shakhtar Donestk has ruled them out of the running, according to the Goals Show team. 

Whatever happens, we're sure it's going to be a humdinger of a campaign for the Champions League - and the Goals Show team covering it. 

Watch every goal as it happens on the UEFA Champions League Goals Show, presented by TNT Sports’ panel of European football experts: James Richardson, James Horncastle, Julien Laurens and Raphael Honigstein. Tune in live every matchday on TNT Sports 5 from 7:30pm. For more info: tntsports.co.uk/football

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