Next week is the World Cup. Whoop. Yay. Huzzah. Sooo excited. Russia vs Saudi Arabia? I’m positively moist with anticipation.
Anyway, it seems like a good reason to listen to a bunch of footy podcasts, separate the Man United from the Young Boys, and finally write the ‘best football podcasts’ listicle that was due 2 years ago.
I already listen to several Arsenal podcasts and a couple of others, so this will be me trying new shows. The ideal outcome? Probably finding 2 or 3 fun shows to listen to. If something doesn’t grab me by the throat right away, I’ll slag it off and then move on. If you feel I’ve misjudged some show’s ability, let me know in the comments.
General Football Shows
This is a fantastic Irish podcast – I think it’s hosted by well-known journalists and broadcasters there but I don’t want to spend any time checking that. Not every episode is free, and not every free episode is about football. But I’ve loved all the eps I’ve heard. It’s suuuuuch good quality. These are people who think deeply about sports, and are articulate with it. It reminds me a lot of the podcasts from The New Yorker.
The most recent footy episode as I write this is the one about the Champions League final. Is Sergio Ramos a master of the dark arts? Some say yes, but one lone voice says ‘are you fecking kidding me?’ Was Bale’s overhead kick better than Ronaldo’s? It’s all great. I’m a huge fan. I almost want to go and watch curling or whatever so I could enjoy more of their output.
This is the podcast equivalent of: a mercurial playmaker who dominates games from start to finish but sometimes doesn’t show up. Riquelme, perhaps.
The Sunday Supplement
This is like Second Captains but with less charming guests. In theory they are quite impressive – head football writers for major newspapers – but they do talk a lot of shit. One episode, where they spent ages talking about whether some manager would and should shake someone else’s hand – who gives a flying fuck? We’re watching Man City tear the league apart, Liverpool’s Fab Three thrilling the world on a weekly basis, a Man United team so dour they could be cast as extras in the House of Stark, and you want to talk about handshakes? Jesus Christ.
But sometimes it’s good. Actually the best one was where they had a Greek-born journalist on and their casual xenophobia and dismissal of his opinions made his blood boil to the point he basically said ‘I’m not going to talk any more’ and he sat there and sulked.
This is the podcast equivalent of: Sam Allardyce.
The Football Ramble
This is one I’ve heard about/seen on listicles a hundred times. It came up while I was browsing the top sports shows so I downloaded the latest ep and put it on while painting a room. Good job I was wearing my vinyl gloves because I would have turned it off within minutes otherwise. It joins the 98% of podcasts that self-sabotage with off-topic, narcissistic intros.
Do you want to listen to 2 minutes of blither about Right Said Fred from 3 people you don’t know? Yes? Then this is the show for you! After I literally started gnashing my teeth one of the guys said ‘Who wants to hear a story about me meeting Kevin Keegan?’ and we’re finally on track. (I was legit surprised that it was only 2 minutes – I checked – because it felt like 5.)
Now I don’t mind when a podcast goes off on a tangent. By all means tell me if you think Right Said Fred were over or underrated. But there are something like half a million podcasts in circulation now. Why am I going to give yours the time of day if it’s an incoherent mess?
Who are you and what is your podcast about? Throw me a fucking BONE.
I suppose I’ll listen to another episode and see how that goes.
Episode 2. All right, straight into the chat, bit of structure in the intro makes me feel like I know what’s going on (they’re talking about World Cup injuries) and ten minutes in I’m having a good time. 40 minutes in a good time is still being had.
It’s good chat. The guys all sound pretty similar but that’s true on a lot of pods. I think I’ll stick with it during the World Cup, at least.
This is the podcast equivalent of: Your team’s new signing having an absolute shocker on debut, but over time you grow to quite like them, maybe even respect them.
The Guardian Football Weekly
Another one I’ve previously ignored because it’s so ubiquitous. Big turn off. But guess what? It’s ACE! The Guardian has some great football writers and they’re on the pod. Tactics boffin Jonathan Wilson, Spain know-it-all Sid Lowe, and my favourite foreigner Philippe Auclair. As a former English as a Second Language teacher I love his mastery of our idioms. It’s legit impressive.
And just as the intro is about to get derailed by talk of ‘what meal someone ate in Kiev’ the host says ‘oh we’ve had complaints about this sort of thing so let’s just dive right into the football’. Holy shit! That’s what I’ve been saying! I love this podcast!
BACK OF THE NET! Subscribed.
Update – quite a few episodes in and this is super great. Special shout-outs to Barry Glendenning and Barnay Ronay.
This is the podcast equivalent of: reading a Guardian article, but not one of the obnoxious clickbait ones, hot takes, or social justice warrior rants. One of the ones where you nod quietly.
The Game from The Times
This is the same as the above, but with writers from The Times. It’s got a female host (Natalie Sawyer), which is a nice change if you’re listening to a bunch of all-male podcasts, but it’s a lot drier. The Guardian one has equally insightful analysis but is warmer.
Still, pretty good.
This is the podcast equivalent of: A fussy referee. Everything he does is technically correct, but maybe he could let the game flow more.
This is hosted by Bob Mortimer and would I suppose be classed as ‘comedy’. That’s the intention, anyway, and one of my friends finds it funny. It just depends if you like Bob and his flights of fantasy.
This is the second or third time I’ve given it a chance and nah.
This is the podcast equivalent of: strolling up to take a penalty, doing a cheeky panenka, and finding the goalie hasn’t moved.
We Came to Win
Gimlet is the studio behind such podcast heavyweights as Reply All and, um, Heavyweight. It’s very American, so I was surprised they made a series of soccer stories based on the World Cup.
I just listened to the first episode, which all England fans my age will LOVE, since it’s about Italia 90. It sets an emotional scene, tracking the lowest point in English football history, the Hillsborough disaster, and takes us by the hand to the shambolic first game of that tournament, when England stank the place up against Ireland.
And then… redemption. My only disappointment was they didn’t mention Nessun Dorma, which played as big a part in the turnaround as World in Motion. Ah, well. I’m especially looking forward to episode 3, which is about the Zaire team of 1974, who dreamed up a moment that will live forever.
This is the podcast equivalent of: ‘Yeah I remember it well, I was the goalkeeper’An interviewer stopping a man on the street to ask him for his memories of a certain cup final, and the man saying .
I’m not an Arsenal fan, but loved the soap opera nature of the last years of Wengerball. Now that they have a new ‘head coach’ I hope the fanbase continues to divide against itself and spew bitter venom for my amusement.
The best ones are Arseblog, A Bergkamp Wonderland, with a participation trophy for the Arsenal Vision podcast (which would be 100% better if the host stopped interrupting to make unless comments and then commenting on how he’d just ruined the show by interrupting to make a useless comment. And the way he asks a question then answers it himself before letting his guests speak is FUCKING MADDENING. But seriously, nearly a good show.)
I’ve listened to a few eps of the United We Stand podcast. It’s an offshoot from the fanzine of the same name, and the hosts are often the guys who sell the mag. There’s also Andy Mitten, who apparently founded the magazine aged 15! He’s related to United royalty and knows everyone at the club. Thus you get a good mix of episodes – ones which are recorded on fan coaches going to and from the games, and others which are interviews with former players or respected journalists.
However, with United playing the Mourinho way, it’s just utterly depressing. All the fans have to talk about is how the team is underperforming and how dull the match they just watched was.