PROUDLY unfiltered and unofficial, fan-run Oxford United podcasts are increasingly becoming part of a supporter’s routine.

Five years ago there was nothing club-specific, but now the content from a variety of groups is downloaded by Yellows all over the world each week.

Advances in technology mean the podcasts are relatively cheap and simple to produce.

And in the unremitting chaos of 2020, the output has been a welcome slice of normality for supporters, helping them stay connected to United at a time when they cannot see the side in person.

The United podcast community’s founding fathers, plus Kath Faulkner, are The Fence End.

Oxford Mail:

  • The Fence End’s mock-up from United’s 2016 promotion celebrations (from left) Liam Burton, Simon Hathaway, Paul Wakeford and Fraser Webster

A group of supporters who largely did not know each other were brought together by the club after approaching them to suggest there should be a U’s podcast.

It began in February 2016, just in time to chronicle the run-in to the promotion season.

Also read: Cameron Brannagan on the mend after blindness scare

For many, listening to podcasts is like eavesdropping on a conversation in the pub.

That was literally the case initially for The Fence End, who set up shop in Abingdon’s Boundary House.

Fraser Webster, who had produced some videos for the Yellow Army, said: “Joe (Nicholls) rang and said we’re doing a podcast, have you got a few microphones we can borrow?

“I was never really meant to be on it.

“I’m still waiting for them to tell me to go away.”

Actor Liam Burton offered to host the podcast, which led to an appearance on Match of the Day in February before the FA Cup replay against Newcastle United.

“I think for a lower-league football fan all the national media are Liverpool this, Man City that,” he said.

“It’s nice to feel there are other people who are as into it as you are.”

After three years where The Fence End largely had the stage to themselves, 2019 brought T’Manor Podcast.

A group exiled in the north had come together via a loose connection at away games.

Oxford Mail:

  • T’Manor came out of northern-based fans meeting at away games, with James Robinson (second left), Ben Chowns-Smith (third left) and John Huddleston (right) going on to be part of the podcast

Fans of The Fence End, they saw a gap in the market created by their forerunner’s then-irregular schedule.

So while it took more than four years for the trailblazers to reach 100 episodes, T’Manor’s next recording will be their 50th since starting just before last season.

John Huddleston said: “The thing about our pod is it’s no holds barred Oxford United chat, with a bit of serious analysis.

“It’s an unfiltered view, which obviously the club aren’t going to put out.

“We like to get some guests on and have had a lot of success with that.”

During the first lockdown, where there was a complete lack of United news to discuss, they produced a series of interviews with figures in the local media.

Former U’s defender turned pundit Steve Kinniburgh was a guest on the most recent episode and it is an area the group want to pursue in the future.

“The unofficial angle helps,” adds Jack Shoemark.

“We’re not trying to be the voice of the club, we’re a group of mates.

“It makes it natural.”

The third player in the audio market is a bit different.

The Thamesmen is co-run by U’s fan Andy Roberts, who was part of Jack FM’s coverage of the club, along with Reading supporter Si Hawkings.

Oxford Mail:

  • Recording The Thamesmen with (from left) Andy Roberts, Jono Scott, Si Hawkings

Their unique selling point is the split focus on two clubs, which can be a strength and a weakness.

“If you start talking about Reading, all the Oxford fans switch off,” Roberts said. “We have tried to mix it up a few times to keep it interesting, talking about hot topics like VAR or the handball rule.

“But it can be useful for Oxford fans to hear how their situation comes across to others.

“Having been involved in proper sports broadcasting, there’s a format to how you have to do those things that doesn’t apply with podcasts.

“It can be free-form conversations.”

Although the thought of doing a joint podcast with a Swindon Town fan does not bear thinking about, the format is not universally popular.

Roberts said: “I have had some grief from Oxford fans for being so friendly with Reading fans.

“For some it’s crossing a line and one or two have had a go at me for it.”

The importance of the United podcasts has grown at a time when the side have never been further away.

Coronavirus could see supporters go a whole year without seeing their side in person.

In that context, having familiar voices talking about all things connected with the club has been invaluable for many.

The Fence End’s Simon Hathaway said: “You can’t replace it, but it’s like being down the pub before a game chatting with your mates.

“You’ll talk a bit about football, but the rest of it is nonsense.

“It’s keeping a bit of normality going.”

That goes for the podcasters themselves.

Ben Chowns-Smith, from T’Manor, said: “If possible we get on together while watching the games on iFollow on a different screen.

“It’s a real date in the diary now. It’s nice to have something to look forward to.”

James Robinson, who hosts the podcast, added: "There were a few threads on Twitter a week or so ago about turning off (from football behind closed doors).

"Some people were referencing the pods helping them to keep them engaged.

"If the pod wasn't a thing I do wonder if I would be paying £10 to watch every game, or whether I'd be doing different things."

Any rivalry between the podcasts is friendly and there is one big area of agreement – they would be doing the shows even if only a handful of people listened.

“We’re proud of what we’ve achieved,” Huddleston said.

“It’s a pleasant aside that the listening numbers have grown steadily over time.

“We’re not trying to conquer the world, this is for ourselves and the Oxford fan community.

“We enjoy it, that’s the key thing. All this other stuff has come as a nicety.”

Paul Wakeford, from the Fence End, said: “If people enjoy it, then great. If they don’t, then we still enjoy it.

“We’re not doing it to make a name for ourselves, it’s just a bit of fun.

“Anyone can do it.”

Burton cuts in: “Don’t say that. It’s really difficult.

“And hi Tim.”


Oxford Mail:


Oxford Mail:


Oxford Mail: