Squeezed But Still Here: The Best Of The Independent Football Podcasts

by | Jan 21, 2020

Everybody’s got one, these days, and the market is now such that it’s frequently commented that it’s approaching saturation point. Still, though, the world of football podcasting is such that its most common form – grab some people who know about football and sit them around a microphone on a Monday morning to discuss the previous weekend’s matches – has started to become a little bit of a cliché. It’s a format that works – it’s been working for the Guardian Football Weekly for more than a decade – but it’s also a format that can only stomach so many variations.

Further to this, the decisions of several of the leading proponents of the genre to flood the marketplace with daily recordings to a point that can feel exhausting, at times. The Football Ramble and The Totally Football Show have both been doing this since the start of the season, and the entry of The Athletic into the market has further heightened the feeling that smaller, independent podcasts are simply being squeezed out of the sight of an audience which already seems slightly worn out by it all. The future, it can sometimes feel, will be funded by advertising for razors and website builders. When there’s a glut of new content, it’s usually the smaller guys that get washed away.

But what is there available for those of us who wish to dig a little deeper than the podcasting arms of media companies? The domination of the bigger brands might make it difficult to see at times, but there is probably now a greater amount of variety out there for those whose interest in the game extends a little beyond seasoned hacks finding increasingly inventive ways to berate Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of a Monday morning. This list is for all of those amongst us who are interested in a little more of a deep dive. If you have others that you think deserve a little wider attention, then do feel free to leave them (with a link) in the comments below. (I’ve steered clear of club-based podcasts for the purposes of this list as well.)

The Sound of Football: After the thermo-nuclear apocalypse that is undoubtedly just around the corner, the cockroaches will inherit the earth, and their FA Cup final will be picked over by Graham Sibley, Terry Duffelen and Jan Bilton from a bunker one hundred miles under Surrey. They’ve been doing this for more than ten years and have more than enough in-jokes to keep long-time listeners happy, but never stray into the troubled waters of being incomprehensible to outsiders. They run fake draws for every World Cup finals and European Championship, a Christmas advent calendar special, and even now have a weekly newsletter called The Weekend Boxset, which flags up seven matches from around the world and arrives in time for you to be able to arrange your entire weekend around.

Life Goals, With Theo Delaney: There is no reason whatsoever why a good idea shouldn’t evolve over time, and the proliferation podcasts taking on varying forms of the long-running BBC Radio show Desert Island Discs is proof of the endurance of the format. What’s striking about Life Goals is the quality of guests that host Theo Delaney manages to attract, but the notion of talking us through a guest’s life using goals as the waypoints is obviously appealing, and especially so for those of us who came of age in the confessional era of Fever Pitch.

Beyond The Touchline: As just about anybody who understands football knows all too well, a considerable amount of what makes the game so enjoyable has little to do with what happens at three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. A culture has grown up around football ephemera, and no football ephemera is too obscure to be examined in granular detail, these days. David Hartrick, Seb Patrick and Denis Hurley host this podcast, which has already covered as BBC2’s 1994 night of football-related programming, Goal TV, Mike Bassett: England Manager, and football comics that don’t “involve any members of the Race family.”

Footy Fidelity: Hosted by Chris Nee and Steven Chicken, the concept of Footy Fidelity is extremely simple, as can be seen on the website to which I’ve linked. One subject, five answers each, along with attempts at justification for those choices of varying degrees of plausibility. Chosen subjects have already included “top five football shithouses”, “top five unpopular football opinions”, and “top five on-pitch rule changes in the noble sport of football.”

Outside Write: Outside Right positions itself as being about “the football supporter’s experience around the world”, with a combination of “football history, and football and politics.” The podcast lives up to all of this, releasing every Monday on such eclectic subjects as football in the former East Germany, the art of the match-day programme, and improving the game.

The Goalkeeper’s Union: The most misunderstood and misinterpreted people in football, it’s no wonder that goalkeepers have an unspoken bond that binds them together across club boundaries. With this in mind, perhaps it becomes slightly less of a surprise to see that The Goalkeeper’s Union podcast has had such illustrious guests as Carly Telford, Jack Butland, and Joe Hart. See, goalkeepers do that sort of thing for each other.

The Lob Podcast: These Football Times has been running for some time, and its weekly podcast is a reflection of the content published on their website. Subjects have included a celebration of the European Cup Winners Cup, an interview with the director of the recent film about Diego Maradona, and a personal account from a West Ham United supporters from the club’s laast season at The Boleyn Ground before leaving for the London Stadium.

Unusual Efforts: UE has been running its podcast with a feminist slant and an accent on giving voices that are unrepresented in the football media a voice. Their own words: “We’re tired of women asking the questions of soccer experts, of women literally standing on the sidelines, of women being called upon only when a sexist scandal has broken, of trans persons and queer individuals being used only to comment on oppression.”

When Saturday Comes: It took a long time for When Saturday Comes to get into the podcast game, but when they did, it was with a panel – Andy Lyons, Daniel Gray, and Harry Pearson – that was second to none, and its fanzine feel has remained completely intact through the transition from the printed word to this new medium. They also offer additional bonus content for Patreons, and recent topics for conversation have included Brian Kilcline’s metal dragons, Ron Noades’ favourite cheese, and defunct football competitions.

The 200% Podcast: Indulge me, here. Last year, I produced a twenty part series of standalone documentaries from the history of football called Winning at Dominoes. Earlier this month (January), I started a second series, a twenty part history of the game in England and Wales called An Echo of Glory. I’ve actually broken off from scripting the fourth episode of the series to write this.