Glasgow University graduate Callum McFadden’s podcast, Football CFB has seen big success in a small time frame.
Callum McFadden is a University of Glasgow graduate and alumni, with aspirations of entering the sports media sector. Recently, he founded a football podcast, Football CFB, with the aim of shedding a light on the Scottish Football scene. In a relatively short space of time, Football CFB has seen its fair share of successes, gaining thousands of listeners in a matter of weeks, and even reaching number three in the UK Football Podcasts charts. I met with Callum to talk football, balancing the podcast with his career as a teacher, and his love for Greenock Morton.
Glasgow Guardian: So Callum, when did you get the sports media bug?
Callum McFadden: It’s always been an ambition of mine to work in sports media. When I was at high school, I had the grades to go for it but lots of people around me had said if you don’t know anyone in the sports journalism industry, the chances of breaking in are very slim, and that put me off.
Another passion of mine was primary teaching, and I volunteered at my old primary school [St Joseph’s in Gourock] in sixth year. I got accepted for primary teaching at Glasgow University and another few universities, so when I got the opportunity to go to Glasgow for that, there was no other place I wanted to go.
GG: Being from Gourock, does that make you a supporter of them?
CM: I’ve got a unique football story. I grew up as a Celtic fan because my mum’s side of the family are all Celtic fans. My dad was a massive Rangers fan and his side of the family were all Rangers fans. The reason my dad and I got into Greenock Morton together was that it kept the rivalry aside between Celtic and Rangers. We went to Morton together and that became our club.
GG: Were you a season ticket holder?
CM: We had season tickets at Morton when I was younger. Sadly, my dad passed away when I was 14. After he had passed away, it was hard to go back to Cappielow for the first couple of years because as much as I love Morton, and I love the local community, it brought back the memories of my dad passing away. I stayed away for about a year or so, and then gradually went back. I go to Celtic games; I go to Morton games, and I try and combine the two as much as I can.
GG: When you were a student here, were you going to Celtic games, Rangers or Partick Thistle?
CM: When I was a student I would go to Celtic and Morton predominantly. But, for instance, say there was a game at St. Mirren, or a game at Partick, I would go because it was obviously in the local vicinity. Even now if there’s a game on anywhere, even if it’s juniors I’ll go.
GG: How did your podcast [Football CFB] come about? Was that recent?
CM: It’s very recent! Last year was a bit of a tough year for me. I graduated in 2017 and I’ve been teaching in Greenock since. I sent a letter to the football sports lawyer and writer Daniel Geey, who’s based in London. I said I really admire his work and the book he wrote called Done Deal, and he got back to me and said “thank you so much for the email, I’d love to send you a signed book, but I’d also love to give you a call because you sound quite interested in football.” I spoke to him and I told him my story, and explained that I wanted to be in sports media but I never had the confidence. He said to me: “you’ve got such a passion for Scottish football, you’ve got tons of knowledge, why aren’t you doing this?”
GG: With a lack of Scottish football podcasts, does yours bring something new to the table?
CM: Yeah, I think so. In terms of long-term dreams and ambitions, the dream for me would be to build up my body of work, hopefully impress someone at The Athletic and say Kieran [Devlin] and Jordan [Campbell] are doing a great job on working in the Celtic and Rangers, but I think I could definitely add something to their coverage in terms of tapping into the market of the rest of Scottish football and maybe providing something that can attract their readers.
GG: Do you subscribe to The Athletic?
CM: I do. I’m a paid subscriber but I think the reason I’m really interested in them is that they do their podcast for free, even though it’s a subscription model. I think if they were to back me long-term, in terms of me doing a Scottish football podcast outside the Old Firm, I think it could work and it would give the other teams a level of exposure from The Athletic for free and it could attract the people listening to me to hopefully subscribe to The Athletic.
GG: Who have been your inspirations?
CM: In terms of inspirations in Scotland, it’s Simon Ferry and his series of Open Goal podcasts. He’s played the game and is very humorous – I enjoy his stuff. The staple in Scottish football is Tam Cowan and Stuart Cosgrove from Off the Ball; they’ve been going for 25 years, and they’re incredible at what they do and latterly what inspired me also is the boys on a programme called A View from the Terrace on BBC1. They’ve been tapping into Scottish football as a whole, outside of just Celtic and Rangers, they’ve got their own podcast but obviously they’re not tackling it as one-to-one interviews with people, they’re talking about the game in general.
I’m looking to do one-to-one interviews, from the Premiership down to League 2. The other day, I got my first opportunity to go in the press box at my local team [Greenock]. I went down there, covered the game, and instead of writing a match report or doing a blog on it, I approached it from the podcast point-of-view. After full time, I used the notes I’d taken through the game to give the fans a brief summary of the game and then I had post-match reaction from both managers and all the goal-scorers in the game. It went down really well with the fans.
GG: When did you start?
CM: I started in January, and since that time, the podcast has been listened to over 8,000 times in seven weeks, and been covered in the Daily Record, the Courier, and in my local paper, the Greenock Telegraph. In terms of the reactions so far from friends, family and my girlfriend, they’ve been incredible. If five people listen and I’ve got a wee bit of output that five people enjoy, that’s my dream made already. I set myself three goals when I started: I wanted 300 Twitter followers by June, 500 by December and my big long-term dream is to appear on Off the Ball on BBC Scotland. That would hopefully be made by June 2021. So far, I’ve got over 300 followers already!