A review of some football podcasts.
If, like me, you are a football fan who spends a lot of time on public transport and are in possession of a penchant for procrastination, the football podcast is a Godsend. They entertain in times of boredom, analysing the weekend or midweek of football, giving a range of views and coming in different varieties - the fan podcast and the neutral podcast. Though invariably, some are better than others; with my pseudo-expert analysis, I am writing my own views of each one (some to which I still subscribe and others on which I have given up).
The Guardian’s bi-weekly effort features the master of punnery James Richardson, often alongside Barry Glendenning and an assortment of Guardian journalists, while Sid Lowe makes an appearance to discuss the state of affairs in Spain. In terms of cogent analysis, it is the best of the lot, with a constant element of humour. Its range of journalists and viewpoints means that it does not suffer from the same problems as others in the same field, in that it does not get constricted by the same people who are perhaps not as well informed as others. Meanwhile, as well as the aforementioned Lowe, it has correspondents around the footballing world, such as Raphael Honigstein from Germany, Phillippe Auclair from France, Fernando Duarte from Brazil (all of whom offer alternative perspectives on the game here, too) and occasional calls to North and South America, as Richardson and occasional contributors Paolo Bandini and James Horncastle cover Italy. In terms of coverage across the world, no other podcast matches it, while few boast similarly talented writers. The likes of Michael Cox (of zonalmarking.net) and Jonathan Wilson give a more tactical view and Glendenning, Barney Ronay and Jacob Steinberg have a more cynical view of the game. Of course, you are never going to agree with everything put forward on a podcast, no matter how many different people think different things, but it is entertaining, humorous and insightful. 9/10.
The Times’ own pod is one to which I no longer subscribe, but I do give it the occasional listen, which generally just reminds me why I stopped listening. Gabriele Marcotti is the host: he is a very unique writer in one respect, as his knowledge of football as a whole is far more extensive than most others. His forthrightness and outspoken nature is something that is absent from the rest of the podcast’s regular guests, most of whom are writers in the Henry Winter mould - people who have made a career on excellent writing, while avoiding managing to really say anything at all. While they offer more in the way of analysis than The Telegraph’s foremost scribe, they are often superficial and fail to gain a deep understanding of the subjects beyond the bigger clubs - and even then, they barely scratch the surface. The show as a whole is near-bereft of any jokes, with the atmosphere sounding more akin to people at a rather sombre board meeting than people discussing football. Football is not the most serious of businesses, though they do not apply to that logic. 4/10
The Football Ramble:
Because Football is Permanent. The Football Ramble consists of four men who really like football, but do not write about it professionally. As it is only the four of them, there is not an awful lot of variety in the views from episode to episode, and because they are not full-time writers, their opinions can occasionally bare the hallmarks of people who cannot watch the game as thoroughly as professional journalists. Though with these minor flaws aside, it is a fantastic show. It approaches football differently to other podcasts. It is not hung up on matches and the ‘proper’ news, (though it does focus on the more important occurrences); moreover, it focusses on the more bizarre stories to come out of football worldwide - for longer term listeners, Gigi Becali is a cult figure, and regular forays to Diego Corner and stories from the House of FIFA evoke fond and hilarious memories. It has a more timeless element than the others, because it spends relatively little time analysing the actual football and more time talking about the parts of it that are funny, nonsensical and insane, often in equal measure. The profiles of the inductees to the Dean Windass Hall of Fame are well-researched and interesting, ranging from the well-known likes of Ronaldo (O Fenomeno) and Pele (though not yet El Diego, for some reason) and less famed but incredibly interesting characters, such as Bella Gutmann and Fernando Peyrotteo. The emails section epitomises the show: strange, mad and funny pieces centred around football. The Ramble is a haven for such things. It is in stark contrast to TheGame, treating football with the light-hearted touch it deserves. It also manages to be quite balanced, given each presenter’s club allegiance (Luke Moore - Portsmouth; James-or-Jim Campbell - Arsenal; Pete Donaldson - Newcastle; Marcus Speller - unknown, though I suspect Fulham). Not for your serious-types; just for people who really like football. 9/10.
The BBC's Saturday morning show is not a great show if you are after very well-informed, intelligent and interesting viewpoints on football (or sport in general) - how could it be, with Colin Murray as host? If you like inane, yet humorous stories about sportspeople from the past then you need look no further. Personally, I grew tired of the ignorance shown by so many on the show about many matters within the game, on teams' buying policies and players' abilities and the like, as well as the complete absence of any tactics-based insight or knowledge. Good if your preference is for a mild laugh, less so if you want something to think about and for real debates on actual sporting issues. Even though this is not the nature of the show, the Football Ramble manages to combine the two far better. 5/10.
World Football Phone-in:
BBC FiveLive's late night show is only accessible to me via podcast because it is on so late, at a time I am either asleep or out of the house. The show is very good and provides insight into areas untouched by so much of the media here. Tim Vickery appears on every episode, providing extensive and near-unrivalled knowledge of South American football, with emphasis on Brazil, where he is based. There is European football expert Andy Brassell, whose depth of knowledge is also astounding, and Sean Wheelock covers North and Central America. The questions they receive concern all sorts of topics surrounding the history, present and futures of the game in their respective regions. A lot of the information given is not mentioned anywhere else, so if you like a broader perspective on football with humour a-plenty, this is an enjoyable show. 7.5/10.
The Tuesday Club:
The Arsenal podcast hosted by actor and comedian Alan Davies, with any two of fellow comedian Ian Stone, DJ Tayo Popoola and carpenter and friend of the three Keith Dover is, as a show, very, very different to its counterparts on this list. Its operational remit is Arsenal, though they end up taking in anything in English and Champions League football, providing laughs upon laughs in the process. It is completely unscripted and barely censored and moderated, and it has that crude, yet brilliant element in abundance. Subjects provide segues to others and any major football incidents are covered, while Davies has a penchant for a rant (which usually make for hilariously entertaining listening). As an independent podcast, they have no need to worry about pissing people off (the recent misgivings notwithstanding) and there is no fear of disapproving sponsors either, so they really are as free to say what they wish as possible. This shows in the content, and they do not hold back with their thoughts - especially on the likes Tottenham Hotspur and 'Arry Redknapp, Liverpool and Kenny Dalglish and just about anyone else they consider... gently put, 'less than desirable'. For a fan podcast, none of whom are sports writers, they are very well-informed and puts forward interesting ideas, especially when placed alongside other fan podcasts. They are not as reactionary is the wider media but not as measured as the Arseblog Arsecasts (reviewed below). Do not judge it on Davies's recent rather ill-timed and ill-toned diatribe; it has many listeners who are not Arsenal fans and it is plain to see why: the entertainment value supersedes almost all others in the same field. An outstanding podcast by some proper gooners. 9/10
The Arseblog Arsecasts:
Another Arsenal podcast, but quite different to the Tuesday Club. It is a far quieter affair and more of a review and preview show. Mr. Arseblog is a very measured individual with regard to The Arsenal and with recordings coming on Thursday evenings (posted on Friday mornings), furore around losses or draws and joy about wins is often less prominent and with the heat of the occasion in the not-so-distant yet-distant-enough-that-you've-calmed-down-a-bit (can't see that catching on, if I'm honest) past does allow for more relaxed, temperate look back on any Arsenal week. Guests from the Arsenal blog and Twitter communities (which is vast as the gap between Spurs and their last league title) or even old players like Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn appear as guests to discuss what has been and will be. His analysis on the blog is far more extensive and the podcast is even better in conjunction, while his smaller features, including Internet Joe and the voices of various current and former players are strange, to say the least, but also quite funny. Not as fun as the Tuesday Club, but with a wide range of views and more analysis. A solid 7/10.