LONGEVITY has become something of a rarity in football in modern times.

Expensive foreign imports kiss the badge and proclaim their undying love for their team’s supporters one day, then jump on a flight to Saudi Arabia after being offered a six figure weekly salary the next.

Managers whose appointments are cheered by jubilant crowds at the start of a season are hounded out of town by angry pitchfork-wielding hordes before the winter break in January.

So why has The Terrace, the irreverent Scottish football podcast which spawned the offbeat BBC Scotland television programme A View from the Terrace, endured for 15 long years now?

Why have they become the Terry Christie of what is a highly-competitive and increasingly over-saturated market?

The answer perhaps lies in the quirky, frequently humorous and occasionally downright bizarre nature of the not so beautiful game in this country. The standard of fare served up by our senior clubs is unquestionably inferior to that which those in larger and wealthier nations produce. But, boy, does it throw up some bonkers tales.

There has, then, never been a shortage of subject matter for them to sink their teeth into. They enjoy pricking the piousness which so often prevails when the sport on these shores is being debated. They have found they have a lot of kindred spirits out there.

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“Fans of Scottish clubs do take football seriously,” said Craig Fowler, the lifelong Jambo, Herald columnist and A View from the Terrace co-founder, “I am no different. Some of the best days of my life have been at Hearts games. But it is, as Arrigo Sachi once said, the most important least important thing in the world. That is how we see it.

The Herald: “Between all of us, we watch a hell of a lot of Scottish football. We have a Wyscout subscription and we watch a huge number of games back in full before speaking about them on our Monday podcast. We know that it isn’t the best in terms of technique. But it’s ours and it has its own idiosyncrasies which make it uniquely Scottish.

“But, at the same time, we realise that Scottish football can be stupid as well. We have always leant on the fact that it’s ridiculous. Scottish football is a silly place full of silly people and it deserves to be laughed at.”

How very dare they! Do they not understand the success or failure of a team on the park matters more than life itself to those who cheer from the stands every Saturday home and away? Fowler backs up his argument eloquently as he recalls some of the topics they have covered.

“Remember the Dundee United player Gavin Gunning deciding in the middle of a game that he had had enough, picking up the ball and walking off the park,” he said. “You don’t get that in the EPL!

“Partick Thistle striker Conor Sammon getting a free pizza for being named Man of the Match – and looking thoroughly miserable as he received it. Then you had Mark McGhee with his ‘get that to f***’ comment when he was Motherwell manager and got a phone stuck in his face after being sent to the Pittodrie stand in a game against Aberdeen.

Celtic’s entire 2020/21 season was priceless. For things to fall apart as spectacularly as they did must have been the nadir of being a Celtic fan and the pinnacle if you are wanting to have a laugh at them. It was a pleasure to cover Rangers’ time in the lower leagues too. It was a constant source of giggles for us.

“We are quite Marmite. We have a certain sense of humour ourselves and broadly speaking come from the same side of the political spectrum as well. There are people who love us and there are others who can’t take to us at all, don’t think we’re funny and don’t appreciate what we say about football.”

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Many, however, clearly do. The Terrace has come an awfully long way since Fowler and his friends Alan Temple and Jen McLean, journalism students at Napier University in Edinburgh, decided there was a need for an independent fans’ podcast about Scottish football back in the mid-2000s. Their venture, though, got off to an inauspicious start.

“We had very rudimentary equipment,” he said. “We had a microphone that plugged into a laptop and was held in place by a toilet roll. We did about six episodes to begin with. We were going to do more, but a toilet quite literally fell on the studio equipment and destroyed it.”

The Herald: After graduating and being unable to find gainful employment, Fowler revisited the project. There have been more personnel changes than a Rangers summer rebuild since it was relaunched in 2009. But the original ethos has remained in place and has stood the test of time.

“My inspiration was from an American sports show called Pardon the Interruption, which is still running,” he said. “They would spend about a minute on each topic and fly right through it. They didn’t spend half an hour talking about one team, they gave everyone their equal due.

“I appreciated the informal style of the Football Ramble podcast as well. I enjoyed hearing fans talking about the game, having a laugh, taking the p***, not taking themselves too seriously. But, at the same time, still doing their research and knowing what they are on about.

“I have always railed against how much coverage there is about Celtic and Rangers and felt other football clubs were unrepresented. I have always found it more interesting to talk about the stories which are not being highlighted. That was a big motivation for me back then when I was young and idealistic.

“Right from the start, the goal was not just to talk about Celtic and Rangers, but to talk about every team. Jen was a Rangers fan, but she was also of the opinion that there was no point focusing on two clubs. So we talked about every Premiership team and there was a lower league round-up. That grew over time.

“Everyone has a podcast now. There must be a dozen Hearts podcasts alone. There are loads of Celtic and Rangers podcasts. Concentrating on every club has probably stunted us a little bit, but we wouldn’t have it any other way because it is what we believe in. At the same time, it has enabled us to grow.”

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Their following and reputation have both increased over time. When BBC Scotland were launching their new channel back in 2019, they were looking to add a football magazine show to their schedule and a commissioning editor who was a devotee got in touch to see if they would be interested.

Much to their astonishment, they were chosen out of the five parties who put themselves forward and A View from the Terrace was born.

“We are quite modest in comparison with, say, Open Goal,” said Fowler. “They have over 100,000 subscribers on You Tube and have sold out shows in The Hydro. We don’t have their clout. We have just started You Tube and have 1,000 subscribers so that tells you the difference.

“We did a pilot episode and watched it in the Dominion Cinema. I can remember thinking, ‘This is really good, I’ll be annoyed if we don’t get this’. But Open Goal did a pilot as well. I sat in the house looking at their Twitter followers and our Twitter followers thinking, ‘We are going to have to be a lot better than their show’. But we ended up getting selected.”

It has proved to be a shrewd choice. A View From the Terrace, a mix of whimsical chat about the week’s events, interviews with famous figures, regular features like Talk it Up, Larsson and Scheidt, This is the News, Jobberography, Mythbusters, Time Capsule and See Ya later Debater and fascinating films, has become hugely popular. 

Joel Sked, the diehard Jambo and Hearts Standard editor, has been a regular on The Terrace and a View from the Terrace along with Shaughan McGuigan, Robert Borthwick and Craig Telfer for many years now.

He hopes they provide a light, refreshing and much-needed take on a sport which so many of their compatriots are so passionate about.

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“It has seemed to go down well,” he said. “I think there are a few reasons for its success. I think people like the fact we don’t just speak about Celtic and Rangers. That is the feedback I have had from speaking to fans, even Celtic and Rangers fans. There is fatigue there.

The Herald: “I think the films are great too. They shine a light on subjects and causes that people don’t know about. One of my favourites was when they went up to Eriskay and showed what it is like to play football there. It has provided something different.

“We do reviews of past seasons and they are always fun. They are usually longer and we get to dig into it and look at it from an amusing angle. When you are discussing the here and now everything can be very serious because, as we are well aware, fans want to win and want to win now.

“But looking back allows you to celebrate mediocrity, celebrate being s***. It is not great at the time, but when you reflect on it it can be funny. When I talk about football in the pub with my mates, we do remember the awful moments and the terrible players.”

Telfer, a Stenhousemuir fan who got brought on board through the Tell Him He’s Pele lower league website he produced, has savoured speaking to their guests during the past five years.

“One of my all-time favourite shows was when Lewis Stevenson came on and talked about Hibs’ win in the Scottish Cup final in 2016,” he said. “You could tell how much it meant to him as he talked about his memories and experiences. It was very infectious. He has my favourite guest.

“We are not necessarily mainstream so we are not going to get Brendan Rodgers or Philippe Clement on. But we get guests on who have, even though they are maybe not involved at the very top, interesting stories to tell. We had Brian Graham, the Partick Thistle striker and women’s team coach, on a few weeks ago and he was fantastic.

“I think the fact we are not Old Firm fans and so are not accustomed to winning means we can look at football in a detached, ironic, satirical way. I think a lot of people see versions of themselves in us, see guys who love going to the football, love talking about football. The other guys are my best friends, I love them to bits. It is a once-in-a-liftetime opportunity.”

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Feathers are ruffled from time to time. Ambitious Lowland league outfit East Kilbride, for instance, were less than enamoured recently when their K Park home was compared to a five-a-side complex. But the intention is never to offend, only to entertain.

“We are a bit older, a bit wiser and a bit more respectful now,” said Fowler. “We try to quantify things a bit more instead of shooting from the hip the way we used to. We were a bit naïve before, thought we were the punk alternative to what was out there.

“We get more heat these days because we are being taken more seriously. It is happening a wee bit more because of the television show. But I think most people realise it is all being done tongue in cheek.”

The Terrace Scottish Football Podcast is available through Apple Podcasts, Spotify and most popular podcast players. A View From The Terrace is expected to return to BBC Scotland this September.

The Herald: