Top notch football podcasts – part 1

What can I say, I’m on a little bit of a roll in terms of blog posts this week. The close-season has irritated me because some of my favourite podcasts are off the air (if one can call the Internet the “air”). My lack of aural pleasure has inspired this list of beauties, so you can all subscribe for next season.

Fighting Talk

Not strictly a football podcast (it does cover more than that), Fighting Talk is a sporting talk show presented by everyone’s least favourite Match of the Day 2 host, Colin Murray, on Radio 5 Live. It tends to get low-rent guests (Simon Day is about the most famous guest) but what it lacks in “celebrity” it certainly makes up for in sheer entertainment value. Points are awarded for punditry, with questions ranging from “Sportspeople as biscuits” to erudite efforts from the programme’s producers and the public. Questions are asked over 45 minutes, including one in which Murray gives ten extra points for an answer which concurs with his, contained in a “golden envelope” (which hardly anyone ever gets).

The two highest scorers are then charged with “defending the indefensible”, in which Murray reads a ridiculous statement with which the contestant much agree. Whoever makes the best effort at doing so (memorable events include Jim Jeffries being cut off after he was asked to defend “Vomit is always part of my lovemaking ritual” (in reference to Ashley Cole) and John Rawling saying nothing when asked to defend “I hate Xmas dinner as my wife’s cooking is abysmal). It is a fairly fluffy fifty minutes but entertaining nonetheless.

The World Football Phone-In (“WFPI”)

The original football podcast I subscribed too, and still my favourite. WFPI takes place every Saturday morning from 2:30 to 4:00am on Radio 5 Live. Luckily, it is also available as a podcast. Genial and occasionally annoying Up All Night host Dotun Adebayo presides over a never boring show, with pundits who (by and large) display an almost encylopaedic knowledge of their subject matter.

Regular correspondent Tim Vickery appears every week – his area of expertise being South America. His knowledge is frankly ridiculous – his ability to wax lyrical about a random Peruvian second division player for 2 or 3 minutes is tremendous, and he never fails to put across sensible, well-thought out opinions. He also regularly apologises to Celtic fans for recommending Rafael Scheidt on one very early edition of the show, and brings in the hilarious Brazilian Portuguese pronunciations of Jonathan Woodgate (Oodgey-gaugey), Harry Redknapp (Hedgey-nappy) and Marlon Harewood (Harry-woodgey) when things get a little stale.

Andy Brassell, who appears fortnightly in rotation with Sean Wheelock (see below), is the show’s European expert, and shares Vickery’s encyclopaedic knowledge of his area of expertise. His polyglotinous ways are particularly impressive, drifting into perfect Portuguese/Spanish/French pronunciations of various players/clubs. Again his opinions are well founded, and he displays a sound technical insight into the beautiful game too.

Sean Wheelock is the resident CONCACAF expert, and despite his jovial Mid-West ways is probably the least effective of the regulars. Though ostensibly a CONCACAF man, his expertise extends almost exclusively to Major League Soccer. When asked about Mexico, if it ain’t about Jared Borghetti or Javier Hernandez, one can forget getting an answer.

Adebayo himself can be a little irritating, but he is good at moving people on who ask idiotic questions or who try and take up a little too much airtime. Other less regular regulars include African experts Durusimi Thomas and Mark Gleeson, both of whom add some spice to proceedings, and other irregular regulars include contributors from Russia, Asia, Australia and Norway.

The Football Ramble

I first came across the Ramble thanks to an article in Four Four Two in early 2009. It described the Ramble as a “fans’ show” and that is very much the case. The Football Ramble involved four chaps bantering about the beautiful game: Marcus Spellar (de facto host and Fulham fan), Luke Moore (Portsmouth fan), Pete Donaldson (excellent surname, Newcastle fan) and James or Jim Campbell (Arsenal fan).

The show follows a fairly formulaic path, but it’s the bizarre digressions from the chaps, their general knowledge and enthusiasm for the game that really shines through. The first 10 minutes or so generally involves a listeners’ question which Marcus puts to the four panellists (himself included). This can range from “best Emile Heskey goal” to “best footballer with a beard” to “which footballer would you go out with”, with Spellar awarding the best answer “the points.”

There then follows a round-up of that week’s English Premier League matches, usually followed by the Championship and Leagues 1 and 2. A brief sojurn to Scotland normally follows (particularly if Hearts have had a decent result), and then a jaunt round the major leagues of Europe.

Thereafter is the “e-mail” section (I have had the pleasure of having one read out on the show) where again these range from the sublime to the ridiculous – regulars include a baker who sells Ramble Rolls, and a Leeds fan whose boss thinks he’s a Spurs fan, continuously buying him seats for Spurs games.

The latter part of the show (and often the strongest) is the Dean Windass Hall of Fame (DWHOF), in which Marcus profiles a particular entrant into the DWHOF. What I particularly enjoy about this feature is not only does it feature less obvious players (Walter Tull, Martin Palermo and Jimmy McGrory, anyone), but also features tournaments (the guys have a real penchant for the Cup Winners’ Cup) teams (Cameroon 1990) and even stadia (the Azteca). It’s always a genuine surprise whatever they pick, and more often that not it’s a clearly a well-informed, well-considered selection.

What does set this podcast apart though is the humour. I often find myself laughing out loud in public listening to the Ramble (indeed the word “lolz” is used often), sometimes somewhat uncontrollably. From the revelation of one of Lionel Messi’s less likely nicknames (the Ice Rabbit…?) to the 5-minute diatribe-piss-take of Andy Gray’s “internal monologue” scoring thing for David Silva’s beauty against Blackpool last season, the Ramble is never knowingly unfunny.

This has turned out to be rather longer that I’d originally expected, so I will go for another list later on in the week.

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