Introducing is a feature on Box To Box looking at a handpicked selection of magazines, fanzines, websites, blogs, teams, projects and individuals who produce great quality content on football and football culture.
Outside of the dizzying Premier League spin-cycle, there are 72 other clubs in three professional leagues in England. The storylines are just as interesting and funny, and their results just as important for fans. Whilst mainstream media tends to present a very narrow view of football, with the majority of footballing podcasts ignoring anything below the Premier League, the Not The Top 20 Pod treats the Football League with the podcasting coverage it well and truly deserves.
In our latest Introducing feature we speak to the guys behind the podcast, 26-year old George Elek (also Head of Media Relations at Oddschecker) and 25-year-old Ali Maxwell (also Junior Assistant Producer at Sunset+Vine).
George Elek & Ali Maxwell: Not The Top 20 Pod gives the EFL and its fans the podcasting coverage that it deserves, with knowledge, passion, insight and debate.
What is the story behind the creation of the project?
GE & AM: We were at school together for a few years, when we were about 11 years old, and our friendship completely revolved around football. More than a decade later, with both of us in the same city for the first time, nothing had changed – we still spent hours talking about the Football League and, both wanting to try our hand at broadcasting alongside day jobs in media, a podcast was the obvious option.
Luckily, at the time (April 2016) the market was much less saturated than today. Initial feedback was better than we could have imagined and we started to feel responsible for providing EFL fans with a half-decent podcast. Since then, that’s been the motivation.
What is the unique selling point of your project?
GE & AM: We know what we’re talking about, across all three divisions, all 72 teams.
That should be a given, but it’s the single most important thing for a Football League podcast. You cannot pull the wool over fans’ eyes and try and ‘tap into the EFL market’ without truly knowing the players, managers, history, strengths and weaknesses of every team – it is so obvious if you don’t.
And not just the Championship – from Wolves to Rochdale to Walsall to Grimsby to Forest Green. We’re not reading out results and headlines; we analyse, predict and debate. We don’t read off notes, we don’t pause to plan the next segment, we know this stuff. We take our analysis seriously (see the Reading penalty analysis below!), but we also have fun with it.
Simply, we are obsessed with the Football League, and our podcast is a space for people like us. We’ve talked this way for a decade amongst ourselves, the only difference now is that we press record before we start.
Out of everything you have done through the project so far, what are you most proud of/what has been your most enjoyable moment?
GE & AM: We’re most proud of having done everything ourselves. Setting up from scratch and having to make things up as we went along, building the NTT20 Pod name completely organically alongside full-time jobs, without any backing or advertising and without a single penny earned from the podcast.
Very much twinned with that pride is a huge sense of gratitude to the listeners, from the handful that listened to our first episode to those that are still discovering us now as we reach thousands of people a month. Helpful and honest feedback and an unbelievable amount of support when it comes to the ‘PR’ side of things, that’s what has kept us going.
Oh, and reaching the Top 10 of the iTunes Sports Podcasts Chart in August. We were joined in the Top 10 by the Football Ramble, Football Weekly, the BT Sport and ESPN offerings and five Radio 5 Live podcasts, and it felt like we had gleefully crashed the party.
NOT THE TOP 20?
MORE LIKE YES THE TOP 10 MATE 🎉🏐😎🙌🎙🎧 pic.twitter.com/dMaZbZx1pq
— Not The Top 20 Pod (@NTT20Pod) August 1, 2017
What next for the podcast?
GE & AM: To keep providing listeners with a podcast that they look forward to, and to keep being the pod that provides the broadest and best insight into all three EFL leagues. We’ve also got some irons in the fire for a few bonus podcasts in the next few months.
Out of all the football websites, magazines, podcasts, projects out there, what are your personal favourites?
GE & AM: Staying on brand and focusing on good EFL stuff: Experimental361.com, Mike Holden’s Foxpunter service, WeLoveBetting, The Football League Paper, The Football Lab, Who Are Ya? Podcast, The 72 Show on TalkSPORT 2 and the legion of exceptional, club-specific Twitter accounts and podcasts.
If someone wanted to collaborate with you at Not The Top 20 Pod, how would you suggest they went about it?
To someone wanting to start up a similar project to yours, what would be your words of advice?
GE & AM: Mix ambition with patience. Prepare the first episode properly in terms of content and sound quality. Always feel prepared for each episode, but relax and enjoy yourself once you’ve started recording.