The likes of Birmingham Live and The Athletic are certainly using lockdown to their advantage.

Words: Mark Jirobe | @VillaMarkPGH


No matter what sport you’re missing at the moment, there are more than enough resources out there to get your sporting fix.

The importance of sports in life may have to be looked at from a different angle due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are still creators far and wide that are going above and beyond for you: the football starved fans.

In times of social distancing, podcast presenters are having to rely on technology and video chats to keep churning out media for their supporters.

It’s a long step away from being in the same room and having a conversation, but every football supporter is looking for anything to keep them distracted through these tough and basically lonely times. 

For supporters of Aston Villa, there are two content entities who are going above and beyond. 

The Athletic has an Aston Villa podcast entitled “1874”, hosted by Dan Bardell (formerly of The Villa View) and The Athletic Aston Villa contributor Gregg Evans (formerly of Birmingham Mail). Evans & Bardell have had many interviews since the birth of their podcast back in November 2019, including former Villans Thomas Hitlzberger and Mark Bosnich. More recently, they have a wonderful interview with none other than Villa legend Gabby Agbonlahor and the interview with Conor Hourihane is not to be missed out on either. Without spoiling too much of the treat, Agbonlahor talks about which teams he was courted by but ultimately rejected among other interesting topics. A definitive listen for any Aston Villa supporter, no matter their age. 

The chemistry between Bardell & Evans has grown to a point where it seems they’ve been speaking with each other about football for decades. If you’re familiar with Dan Bardell and his previous work with The Villa View, he never shies away from a cheeky joke but still maintains an air of passionate seriousness and tactical knowledge. Evans, who has a massive background in sports journalism, speaks more like the kind of person you’d more likely want to have a pint with rather than abuse in Twitter comments. The knowledge of Evans compounded with the passion of Bardell makes for a great listen in these times of self-isolation and lack of football. 

Studio B in 2020 | Home studio setup, Recording studio design ...

The other leading podcasting entity is “Claret & Blue”, brought to you by the Birmingham Mail. Mainly presented by Dan Rolinson (former Villa View/Current Birmingham Live Football Multimedia Producer) & Mat Kendrick (Midlands football editor for Birmingham Mail), the duo has been flooding the Villa podcast market with media that can only be described as fun, a little silly and definitely not afraid to showcase their Villa opinions. 

Topics have ranged from “Which goalkeeper wouldn’t you let hold a cup of tea?” to “What is your meal deal of choice?”. But don’t let this deter you, there is very serious talk within the confines of “Claret & Blue” as well. Also founded at the end of November 2019, Kendrick & Rolinson are often joined by Birmingham Live mainstays Ashley Preece and James Rushton. One of the highlights of the podcast has certainly been the Jack Grealish origin story, which dives into speaking with people who have been around Grealish since he was a toddler and beyond.

In more recent times since the COVID-19 pandemic, “Claret & Blue” have altered their content in a way that can’t be explained if you’ve never seen it. Ranking Villa players in comedic tiers, unpopular AVFC opinions and the ever comical “Worst Villa Players World Cup” have been highlights of the podcast as of late. Their latest podcast is an interview with none other than Martin Laursen, the beloved and admired former Villa defender. The interview speaks a lot about Laursen’s life, how he wound up at Villa & the events that transpired to the defender ultimately retiring in 2009. At the end of the day, “Claret & Blue” perfectly finds the balance between entertaining banter and thoughtful opinion. This may not be the podcast for those who prefer to hear about the tactical nuances of football, but it will surely give you a chuckle or two when we all need it the most. 

Rolinson said of the current situation:

“It’s great that Villa podcasts can still continue at a time without football even if that does mean getting a bit silly or nostalgic from time to time. Of course, this is our job and it’s a pleasure to still be providing content for the fans that enjoy our work.

However even though there’s different podcasts and fan sites covering similar topics, it doesn’t mean all can’t be enjoyed for the varying opinions, humour and knowledge. Villa fans can feel fortunate that there’s a variety of content available to suit your tastes in a time where actual football matches are still a ways away.”

It’s interesting to watch Dan Bardell, Dan Rolinson and their maturation process in terms of content produced outside of their former fan-driven channel, The Villa View. Both men have moved on to the dismay of fans of The Villa View, but by no means is there bad blood or a rivalry of sorts. They even sat down for a chat to talk about The Villa View and their new endeavours on the “Claret & Blue” YouTube channel.

For those Villa supporters who were fans of The Villa View, it always seemed as though the team was gearing themselves up to take an eventual leap into the world of professional media content, be it as a multimedia producer or a presenter. 

Speaking of when The Villa View landed an interview with former Aston Villa manager John Gregory & what it meant to his media career, Bardell proclaimed:

“My whole purpose of joining The Villa View was because I wanted to prove, first of all to myself, but to people out there that I could be a presenter. That I was good enough to do it.

It hasn’t happened all the way yet, but in my head I know I’ve done everything I can possibly do to give myself a chance.” 

The friendship between Rolinson and Bardell cannot be ignored after years of grafting at The Villa View, but that does not mean that the two podcasts they belong to are similar in nature but they are both very important in the realm of getting Villa supporters engaged and entertained. “1874” is hosted by The Athletic after all: who have dubbed themselves “The New Standard Of Sports Journalism” and takes great pride in bringing in the best minds in the arena of sport, opinion and journalism. “Claret & Blue” has a more relaxed feel, like a few mates getting together at the pub after a hard day at work, on the hunt for a few laughs.

While different in their own ways, the difference does not diminish the fact of how entertaining these podcasts can be. Villa fans are truly blessed to have more than a handful of great minds to look towards & listen to during a very strange time in the world. 

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