Lee Rooney pulls out his phone and scrolls through a list of 61 countries. There is Belgium and Kenya, Morocco and South Africa, Malta and Myanmar, Cape Verde and Costa Rica…
“Faroe Islands… that one baffles me,” he said. “Brunei comes back from time to time.”
These nations may seem to have little in common, but they do have some unlikely common ground. At some point in the last couple of years someone in their turf listened to a podcast about Carlisle United.
The Brunton Bugle, led by Lee and fellow fans Dan MacLennan and Mike Booth, hits the 100 episode milestone this weekend. With over 500 regular listeners now, their show has become a weekly staple for many supporters in Cumbria and beyond.
It’s still a bit surreal, however, to consider how well heard their work is. “I know a boy who lives in Luxembourg and travels around Europe, so when he’s in another country he tries to listen so we can tick off another one,” says Lee.
“No North Korea yet – that’s the dream,” adds Dan…
After experimenting with a podcast in 2016/17 via thecumbrians.net forum, Dan, Lee and Mike decided to launch it in earnest during the first Covid-19 lockdown in 2020.
“We were just chatting online and suggested we relaunch it, just as something to help people stay connected,” says Lee, a Merseyside-based Blue who works in communications and, for a time , worked in United’s media department.
“We had seen fans from other clubs doing them and we were like, ‘Why not us?’ We like to think we’re pretty knowledgeable about Carlisle United, and we’re three different voices. Dan has been there since 1985, me since 1994 and Mike since the early 2000s.”
After launching in due form in 2020, the Brunton Bugle – named after a 1980s USA-themed newspaper – has grown. Regularly, the three discuss weekly Blues news, preview and review games, chat with opposition club podcasters and, from time to time, produce a special themed episode.
Features on favorite XIs, one-match wonders and United’s kit history have proven popular. Last season, they interviewed Blues right-back George Tanner. Nigel Clibbens, the club’s managing director, is said to be a regular listener.
There’s also, as you’d expect from a fan podcast, some pointed and impassioned commentary on the state of United. Overall, it looks like the next step in the line of fan publications that grew with fanzines and expanded via online forums.
“It’s a natural progression,” says Dan. “I was involved in the main fanzine era in Carlisle, and in the forums all the way. The forums are slowly dying; we still run thecumbrians.net, and it’s still busy, but podcasts are the evolution, I think.
“Like zines, every medium has its place,” adds Lee. “In terms of News and Stars and Radio Cumbria, I don’t think sometimes our fans realize how lucky we are to have the level of coverage that we have. But it’s a different voice. It’s a fan voice. We can be a little naughty sometimes…”
The Bugle’s discussion of director of football David Holdsworth’s performance during his tenure at United was a particular source of… comment. “We made the H-word a dirty word on the podcast,” adds Lee. “There’s no beep – it’s like a clown horn sound.”
They have, so far, had no official feedback for such antics. “The tastes of yourselves [the N&S] and the radio might get banned if you go too far,” Dan says. “While if the club banned a fan from having an opinion on a podcast, it would create a lot of negative publicity. It’s happened in some places. But when we’re talking about things like firing managers, we’re not going to not too far You have to remember the human side of a guy who loses his job.
READ MORE: Vote for your Carlisle United player of the 2021/22 season
The Bugle’s growth was helped by United supporters’ club, London Branch, which contributed towards accommodation costs. Tech gremlins have yet to hit the woodwork, cause any major obstacles, but there are idiosyncrasies in a normal season.
“Some of Mike’s voice notes, when he gives his predictions, are sent from gas station toilets,” Dan explains.
“We occasionally experience match days [episodes] Adds Lee, “With one, there was the story of animal poo on the highest terrace step in Exeter. We had to put an overturned cup of coffee on it to make sure no one was standing on it. I Guess it was animal poop. It was nice to talk about it…”
They’re looking at a Patreon-style membership system next, with more promotions in the planning as well. Lee says he is looking for stories about players who died while playing for United, as well as an article about Bob Spottiswood, the Carlisle man who grew up near Brunton Park and later managed Inter Milan.
Lee and Dan are also part of Unita Fortior, the new fan group that aims to increase the number of trusted members of CUOSC supporters. Is there then a risk that the discussion on this particular subject lacks balance, given their direct involvement?
“It’s not something we mention every week,” Dan says. “When [UF] launched, we gave it some airtime, but these [the podcast and UF] are separate projects.
It is in tribute to their work on the Bugle that some fans are now impatiently awaiting the latest episodes. “People have it in their routine now,” Dan says. “We’re recording Thursday and if it’s not out by mid-morning Friday we’ll be getting tweets.”
“When we went to Sutton – terrible game – a guy came up to us and said, ‘You’ll have a lot to say about that, then,’” adds Lee. “No idea who he was, but he had obviously been listening.
“Paul [Newton] and Jacques [Phillips] often takes us on board Radio Cumbria for our views and it gave us an extra boost. The Simmo effect certainly helped too. The episodes that get the most plays, however, are where the managers have been fired and we discuss who should get the next job…”
At this point, the Bugle in his century-old guise has had two managerial ousters to discuss. Hopefully by the time Kim Jong-un comes online, they still won’t be thinking of a third.
To listen, click HERE or search for Brunton Bugle on any good podcast app.