Time for my top 20 podcasts of the year. I have to say my podcast listening habits have changed somewhat in recent times. I’m listening to far fewer political or news podcasts than I used to and tend to use podcasts nowadays to escape the world of current affairs. As you will see, I see to listen to more football podcasts than anything else (6 in total).
The rankings reflect how often I listen to each of the podcasts listened. For example, I never miss an episode of the twice weekly THE PRICE OF FOOTBALL, but I only listen to the daily NEWSAGENTS maybe once or twice a week, depending on what they’re talking about. Similarly, with POLITICAL THINKING – I have to be interested in the guest, which means I don’t listen every week. I’m sure that’s how most listeners are with my IAIN DALE ALL TALK podcast, although having said that I’ve had a lot of people say they often enjoy the episodes with guests they have never heard of or from sectors they are not interested in. The top ten I listen to more or less every episode. The others I dip into depending on what they’re talking about or who they are interviewing
I don’t pretend these are the best twenty podcasts on the internet; they’re just the ones that I enjoy and happily recommend you to try…
1. (+12) The Price of Football
Hosted by Crystal Palace supporting comedian Kevin Day and Brighton fan and university academic Kieran Maguire, this podcast looks at the finances of football. It’s more interesting than it sounds, believe me. They get the big interviews with the football chairmen and chief executives which you just don’t hear elsewhere. Two stand out interviews this year were with the Leicester City groundsman and the owner/manager of Dorking Wanderers.
2. (NEW) Off Air with Jane & Fi
I never missed an episode of the late lamented FORTUNATELY but that has now bitten the dust after Fi and Jane left the BBC for the new pastures of Times Radio. OFF AIR is their new podcast incarnation, which they record four times a week immediately after their live show finished. They start and end with 5-10 minutes of banter, then replay the big interview from their radio show in the middle. One thing they must do is ditch the awful opening music.
3. (-2) What Most People Think with Geoff Norcott
I love Geoff Norcott, who is a centre-right comedian and you don’t get many of them to the pound. He’s built up quite a profile over the last few years. He usually has a guest co-presenter and they chew over the world of comedy and current affairs. Sometimes, however, it’s just him musing over a few subjects that he finds amusing. This year his frustration with the Conservatives has reflected my own, but he expresses his exasperation in a truly original and amusing way. I just get angry.
4. (NEW) Proper Football with Ben Shepherd & Chris Kamara
Ben Shepherd and Chris Kamara bring all the magical chemistry they had on GOALS ON SUNDAY to this weekly podcast, in which they interview a high profile football personality. Kammy’s Apraxia is evident in some episodes more than others but it has no impact on the listener’s enjoyment of the conversation. His humour and unpredictability are always to the fore and Ben’s calmness and protectiveness towards his great friend are wonderful to behold. My podcast find of the year.
5. (-1) Moore Than Just a Podcast
If you’re not a West Ham fan, this is probably not for you, but it gives me a weekly fix of Hammers banter and gossip. Hosted by West Ham blogger Sean Whetstone, he tries (not often with success) to control the other four contributors, Nigel Kahn (Shedman), Canning Town Len and John and George Bucci. I even make the odd appearance myself if I’m not working.
6. (-) The Joe Cole Cast
Up until this year Joe Cole had co-hosted a podcast for Joe.co.uk called ALL TO PLAY FOR but this ended in mid 2021 and he is now back hosting the JOE COLE CAST for BT Sport. In each episode he invites a former teammate or famous player on and they talk about their career and current issues in football. Cole is quite excitable and a real enthusiast and full of very entertaining stories.
7. (-)The Chris Moyles Show
This is much more than a ‘best of the week’ podcast, as it usually contains at least half an hour of extra material. Chris Moyles is joined by Pippa Taylor, Dominic Byrne, Matt Parkes-Smith and James Robinson who are all a brilliant foil for Chris. I had never listened to him before he came to Radio X, but I’ve become a big fan. He also knows his politics and loves a good political debate. He also does some brilliant LBC skits.
8. (-) The Political Party with Matt Forde
Matt Forde is one of the funniest people in the media. I love his impressions, especially those of Boris Johnson and Donald Trump, who he does better than anyone else. His podcast has now gone weekly and as well his live events he also does pre-recorded interviews with people in the world of politics, current affairs and the media. A bit like Eamonn Holmes, he’s great at dragging things out of people without appearing to do so.
9. (-) Rachel Johnson’s Difficult Women
Rachel Johnson is a superb interviewer and her interviewees really respond to her style. I tend to binge listen to this one and even when she has a guest I think I won’t find interesting, Rachel has a way of making them interesting. She’s a natural conversationalist but also doesn’t shy away from asking the difficult questions. Sometimes I wonder if she is “going to go there”, but she always does, and in a way which doesn’t appear intrusive.
10. (NEW) The News Agents
Launched at the end of August this podcast, hosted by Emily Maitlis, Jon Sopel and Lewis Goodall, went straight to the top of the podcast charts and stayed there. It hits your phone around 5pm five days a week. It’s an easy listen and often either amusing or even emotional depending on the subjects they are trying to shed light on. And you learn something from every episode.
11. (NEW) Rest is Politics
Hosted by Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart, this podcast has become a bit of a phenomenon. They even sold out a live show at the Albert Hall. I don’t listen as often as I did when it started as I felt it just became a ‘who can slag off Boris Johnson’ the most podcast, but I’ve come back to it in recent weeks. They clearly like and respect each other and the double act works. Rory is the calm ying to Alastair’s sometimes Mr Angry yang. They do tend to agree an awful lot, but then so do Jacqui Smith and I on FOR THE MANY.
12. (-1) State of Mind with Richard Sefton
Richard Sefton is a mental health counsellor and in this podcast he puts various well known and not so well known people on his metaphical couch. I was his guinea pig in the pilot episode and he made me cry three times. He never fails to get a lot out of his interviewees and his two hour episode with Mark Anthony Ward, who is one of the victims of the infected blood scandal, was probably the best podcast I have heard in the last year. He knows when to let his subjects continue to speak without interruptions, which is a key asset for any interviewer.
13. (NEW) Overlap with Gary Neville
Like most interview podcasts, this can be a bit hit and miss, but Gary Neville has the skill of a seasoned interviewer and manages to tease things out of many of his guests that they perhaps hadn’t intended to say.
14. (-11) The Imposter with Tom Harris
This became one of my favourites. It’s a sort of audiobook version of former Labour MP Tom Harris’s time in politics. I’m never quite sure how scripted it is, but it’s very funny at times and takes you through all the oddities and idiocyncracies of political life. From time to time he interviews a guest, but 90% of the time, it’s just Tom talking for 12-15 minutes. He always leaves you wanting more. The reason why it’s fallen in this year’s list is that he has caught up with time and run out of new material, so new episodes have been as rare as a Conservative by-election victory. If you haven’t heard of it before, start from the beginning. You’ll soon become an addict.
15. (-) Political Thinking with Nick Robinson
This is exactly what podcasts should be all about – going beyond what you can do on a normal radio show. Nick’s interviews with prominent politicos are usually around half an hour long and he also incudes some commentary of what’s happened in the week. Given a lot of people won’t listen to the podcast in the week it’s published I wonder whether that part of it couldn’t be dropped in favour of a longer interview. It’s rare that the interviews don’t commit news.
16. (-11) Get Onto my Cloud with Sir Tim Rice
Tim Rice is one of the most fascinating and entertaining people I know. In this anecdote laden podcast series he talks about his career and all the musicals he’s been involved in. He also plays some of the songs that didn’t quite make the cut or demo versions of those that did. He doesn’t have guests. It’s just him and it’s all the better for it. The podcast has dropped in this year’s list because of the scarcity of new episodes.
17. (+1) Triggernometry
Hosted by comedians Konstantin Kisin and Francis Foster, Triggernometry really gets into the meat of an issue and has a single guest on each weekly podcast. Some of them are famous, some of them you’ve never heard of. It’s not a comedy podcast, although there are funny moments. They’re fairly fearless in the subjects they cover. Also available on video on Youtube.
18. (NEW) Londongrad, The Slow News podcast
From Tortoise Media, Slow News is full of long form multi-episode documentaries. I don’t normally go in for this sort of thing, as I prefer regular weekly podcasts, but I’m glad I listened to this 6 episode series about the relationship between Russia, the Conservative Party, and in particular Boris Johnson. It could have been condensed into four episodes but that’s a minor quibble. Utterly fascinating.
19. (NEW) Stephen Nolan on Stonewall
This turned out to be a hugely controversial series about Stonewall. I didn’t listen to it when it first came out, but whatever your views on Stonewall and Transgender issues, it has dealt with an important issue. Many of its critics clearly have issued their condemnation without even having listened to it. A group of 100 radio insiders have complained to the organisers of the Aria radio awards complaining it was nominated for an award, and to ask the organisers to ensure that nothing “transphobic” is ever nominated again. Yegods.
20. (-6) Quickly Kevin, Will He Score?
An homage to all things nineties in the football world. It’s very bantery and sometimes a bit hit and miss, but they get some really good guests and really delve deep into their subjects. It’s very annoying that a lot of their material is behind a Patreon paywall, but I suspect that’s the way a lot of podcasts are going. The podcast has been very irregular this year, hence the fall.
And here are my 6 podcasts! They’ll be joined in January by a seventh – The Irish Taoiseach.