Since the 2006 World Cup, everyone from daily newspapers to amateur broadcasters have jumped on the soccer/football podcast bandwagon attempting to grab market share and win over listeners with a superior product.
Out of the dozens of podcasts available on a regular basis, there are only two that consistently provide quality content and feature seasoned football pundits. Those two podcasts are Football Weekly from The Guardian and The Game Podcast from The Times.
Without a doubt, The Guardian was the hands-down winner last year with a comical podcast that included some of the characters from the most popular daily football email newsletter, The Fiver. But Football Weekly also proved that The Guardian could provide quality analysis of the top European leagues.
Last season’s The Game Podcast from The Times, meanwhile, was a close second with expert analysis from Gabriele Marcotti, Guillem Balague, Tony Evans and a host of guests and journalists, but never reached its potential due to the clowning around by host Danny Kelly.
This season, it’s a different story altogether. After some changes in the summer, The Game Podcast is back on a weekly basis sans Danny Kelly but with Gabriele Marcotti taking the reigns alongside Guillem Balague. The result is a much more informative and intelligent show. Even Bill Edgar seems more enlightened in the new format.
The changes on The Game Podcast have, without a doubt, moved the show into the top spot in football podcasting. Balague and Marcotti are sensational together. Both of them are able to debate topics in an intelligent manner. Plus, they tap their network to bring on excellent guests. Recent episodes have included Jamie Carragher and Mikael Arteta.
The addition of the “Quickfire” segment on The Game Podcast is an excellent idea. Balague and Marcotti run through some of the major stories, and provide their opinions in a fast manner before quickly moving on to the next topic.
Not only has The Game Podcast improved by moving Danny Kelly out of the picture, but it’s also enhanced by deciding not to include Alyson Rudd’s singing contributions. While they were entertaining at first, the segment become belittling after a while. Also gone is the horrible sound effects segment led by Kelly.
How I personally rate and compare podcasts is on how much information I learn from each episode. In just a few episodes this season, I’ve already learned a lot about the inner workings of the game (such as transfers) from The Game Podcast.
With The Guardian‘s Football Weekly Podcast, however, there isn’t as much to gain from the show in terms of education. Sure, the pundits offer good insight and analysis as well as their continuous laughs and cute one-liners. But, other than that, what’s left?
The issues that Football Weekly seems to be experiencing so far this season are, first, the shows have become stale. Each episode is pretty predictable and despite the fact that the show has now added a Thursday ‘Football Weekly Extra’ episode, there doesn’t seem to be enough quality content on the Thursday show to make it worthwhile other than trying to predict who’ll win what games on the weekend (and what value does that add?).
Second, the show is desperately missing the presence of Barry Glendenning. Without the jovial Irish chap, the shows miss his comical delivery and wit. A Football Weekly without Glendenning is just an above-average podcast.
Third, the average Football Weekly podcast is just 35 minutes. The Game Podcast is 45 minutes. Ten minutes may not sound like much of a difference, but ten minutes to Football Weekly could allow the show to add a different segment and try new things.
Fourth and finally, Football Weekly tries to be too much to too many people. While The Game Podcast focuses mostly on English football, The Guardian squeezes in the english, spanish, italian, french and german leagues. Commendable, yes, but by doing so, it shortchanges the Premier League. The Guardian would be better off doing separate podcasts on each league so they could give the respective leagues the attention they deserve.
The Guardian doesn’t seem like the type of organization that would change the format of Football Weekly at all during this season. The Times, meanwhile, was smart to make the moves they did in the summer and has a distinct advantage of a winning formula under its belt this early in the season.
As for The Fiver versus Ahead of The Game, that’s a different story entirely and one which EPL Talk will be dissecting over the coming weeks.