Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Two really good, very different podcast hosts

I spend almost as much time listening to football podcasts as I do listening to proper radio. There are two I never miss. Football Weekly from The Guardian and The Game from The Times. Essentially they both cover the same things: what just happened at the weekend and what might happen over the next weekend. Football has the ideal rhythm for podcasting.

I'm interested in the contrasting styles of the two hosts. Football Weekly is anchored by James Richardson. He supplies geniality and warmth, qualities which might otherwise be in short supply. With the honourable exception of Barry Glendenning, the Guardian's pundits are a bit short on common man breeziness, as you'd expect from people who spend so much time working out the number of "assists" players have provided and give the impression that since England is, when all's said and done, a bit of a disappointment they would really rather be watching football in Italy.

The Game, on the other hand, is anchored by Gabriele Marcotti, who is anything but genial. In fact he might well be the most argumentative man in audio. Presumably the producers had to give him the presenter's job because otherwise he would overwhelm the others by dint of his great erudition and deep-seated desire to have the last word. So determined is he to prevail that in each podcast he lapses into a voice which is supposed to represent the man on the Clapham omnibus. He does this purely so that he can dismantle the man's arguments with a few savage strokes of his football intellect. It's like something out of Samuel Beckett.

They both work really well in their different ways because they both understand that the thing that matters most in podcasting, as in radio, is energy. If these presenters weren't there in their playmaking role the rest of the contributors would probably just sit there looking at each other.


  1. The two podcasts you mention are the best out there and I eagerly await them on a Monday afternoon.
    Richardson has a great sense of humour and a wonderful mischief about him.
    Marcotti's knowledge of the game is intimidating and he could be an out of control ego but for the quality of his fellow presenters (especially Tony Evans and Paddy Barclay).
    A couple of 'niche' football podcasts I like listening too are 'The Spurs Show' (although I'm not a Spurs fan) and, from the same stable, 'The United Redcast' (because I 'am' a United fan).

  2. Maybe there's something appealing about listening to people talk about something out of sheer enjoyment instead of for monetary gain.

    I listen to the Chelsea one with Phil Daniels (despite not being a supporter).

  3. I know we're deep into injury time but I thought I'd make a late bid to get on the scoresheet.
    Apart from Richardson's gloriously contrived puns, I think there is one reason above all why Football Weekly is so good -- it has absolutely no footballers talking.
    It has people who know how to talk, rather than people who knew how to kick a ball.
    Even better, because these pundits are not players, they don't moderate their opinions to avoid offending their pals in the game.
    The BBC could learn a lot from this, particularly on TV.

  4. Know what you mean, Andrew, but to be fair The Game often has former players such as Tony Cascarino and Matt Holland, both of whom contribute a lot of perceptiveness and common sense. This is partly because it's demanded of them by Marcotti. Most of the TV problems to which you refer come about because the pundits are rarely pushed.

  5. Not forgetting the excellent Stuart Robson, ex-player turned journalist.
    I also use to enjoy the Chappers Premier League Podcast with Mark Chapman, Graham Poll, Kevin Day and Roy Meredith.
    Unfortunately they lost their sponsorship but it was the only broadcast I know of with a referee (ex) on the panel.

  6. Thanks, David and Lloyd. I will definitely give The Game a go based on your recommendations. Maybe ex-players don't necessarily make bad pundits. I just honestly can't remember the last time a football player -- past or present -- said anything very interesting. (Hansen is probably an exception.)
    Having an ex-ref involved is a great idea. I don't know why broadcasters don't do that routinely. Instead, we get people who don't actually know the laws of the game opining on key decisions.
    I guess my overall plea is for pundits to be employed on merit -- because they're good at their job rather than because they were a big name in the game. And let's have much more variety -- ex-refs, ex-managers and expert journalists. When the BBC covers international tournaments, it relies largely on the same old "big names" who only know the Premier League. Why not bring in people from the World Service or World Soccer magazine?
    To be fair, this over-use of famous ex-players as pundits reflects a more general trend in broadcasting -- a patronising belief among executives that on-air "talent" should ideally be already familiar to the audience.
    This is why even sports presenting jobs go to ex-athletes, why TV stars get parachuted into radio shows and why BBC News relies increasingly on a few on-screen "editors" to tell the big stories.
    No doubt this is all backed up by audience research bursting with Birtspeak. Which surely proves it must be nonsense.