James Richardson and Football Weekly - the undisputed pioneer of football podcasts

Enigmatic host James Richardson leaves the podcast after more than a decade at the helm.

AC Jimbo alongside Football Weekly contributors.
AC Jimbo alongside Football Weekly contributors.
Image: The Guardian

ALL GOOD THINGS must come to an end. However Monday’s bombshell that James Richardson would be leaving the Guardian’s Football Weekly along with producer Ben Green was still a major shock to all fans of the beloved podcast.

Debuting over a decade ago during the 2006 World Cup, it began as a roundup of the day’s action from Germany, before continuing into the 2006/07 Premier League season – along with covering international football and the domestic leagues across Europe – where it has remained ever since.

Becoming the first major staple of the football podcast back before the P-word became mainstream and saturated to the point where anyone had the ability to vent their views on the sport, Football Weekly became and has remained the standard bearer for all others.

In a saturated media environment of loud voices and hyperinflated opinions, it has retained its loyal listenership season after season, never appearing to wane in quality, but only ever mature and age well – like a fine wine, you might say.

Such was AC Jimbo’s magnetism as presenter, force of personality, broadcasting skill and deadpan delivery it seems plausible that he could conceivably host a podcast about fine wines and still make it a groundbreaking success.

Source: The Guardian/YouTube

Granted, Football Weekly was never a one-man show. But Jimbo ran it supremely.

As it rightly should the show will continue without him, but after a decade with the presenter at the helm with the odd splashing of Max Rushden (shakes fist), it will never be the same.

The podcast’s success came from its stellar cast, featuring the best football journalists across the planet. Take your pick of Sid Lowe (on some form of public transport), Jonathan Wilson, Amy Lawrence, Barry Glendenning, Philippe Auclair, Raphael Honigstein, Barney Ronay, the list is endless.

Like a conductor, Jimbo knew how to get the best out of them. The show had all of that dull, deadpan British humour, along with original, insightful takes on the game which were largely absent from standard television and talk radio coverage for years.

Jimbo’s qualities were many – he had personality, humour, wit, a sense of his role as presenter, chemistry with his colleagues and an endless bag of puns which would grace the start of each episode, along with the bi-weekly barrage to buy Squarespace – the all-in-one platform that gives you beautiful design.

He claimed not to have any of his own insights into the game, sticking to his role as presenter. But hearing him catch up with the week’s Serie A action with James Horncastle was always a treat, as he indulged himself for a few brief minutes, momentarily harking back to his Football Italia days.

Source: Joe Lang/YouTube

Going on like this may sound like Jimbo is retiring, but that he is not.

He will start a new venture along with his trusted Producer Ben, and regular contributor to the show Iain Macintosh – with the Totally Football Podcast.

It remains to be seen whether or not the old stellar lineup of guests will follow suit. But one thing is for sure – Football Weekly won’t exist as it has done for the last 10 years, with a new presenter imminent.

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Perhaps what made the show so successful was its originality and its sense of being a pioneer in a new media format. Unlike Newstalk’s Off the Ball, which performed a similar function albeit live on air, Football Weekly was almost always pre-recorded and heralded the era of football podcasts way back in 2006.

One can’t help but look to Second Captains, The Football Ramble, The Times’ Game Podcast and pretty much every other football pod and see the influence of Football Weekly and its use of the casual roundtable discussion.

Source: The Guardian/YouTube

Despite existing in a saturated market, it has remained almost always the most popular and the most revered podcast of choice among its listenership.

It routinely dominated the iTunes podcasts charts and even developed live shows in its later years, such was the demand from its fans to see the magic of the pod in person.

Attending a Football Weekly Live event in Dublin a few months ago held in the National Stadium, it was a joy to witness Jimbo strut his stuff live and in the flesh.

As a friend pointed out, he gives the impression he is not listening – looking away, feigning interest, typing on his MacBook, sipping a glass of wine – before catching up with the conversation and snappily asking another question with that deadpan, disdainful brilliance we have come to know and love.

With an Extraaaaaaaa and a Woof for good measure, we sadly bid farewell to Jimbo as he begins a new adventure on a new podcast.

From Football Italia to Football Weekly, seemingly everything he presents turns to broadcasting gold.

As such, fans of The Guardian pod wait in delight and happy expectation for Monday’s first episode of the Totally Football Podcast. It won’t be the same, but it will be warmly familiar.

Arrivederci, AC.

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About the author:

Aaron Gallagher

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