By Jason McKeown
As the dust settles on Sunday’s powerful Stephen Darby appreciation friendly against Liverpool, Bantams Banter has announced that the podcast they recorded of the match will be their last. Dom Newton-Collinge and Tom Fletcher have hung up the BB mics, bringing an end to nine memorable years providing an alternative and highly valued soundtrack to Bradford City.
The sheer beauty of watching a football team live in the flesh is the raw emotion you experience along the way. Unbridled joy, agonisingly lows. A front row seat of the highest drama and – every so often – watching history being made. You are part of it. And though you watch those golden occasion back on TV or YouTube, sometimes hundreds of times, you can never replicate that pure emotion of the actual live moment.
The greatest achievement of Bantams Banter was that they came as close as you can get to capturing the passion and spontaneous excitement of being a Bradford City fan. And their back catalogue of podcasts provides a treasure trove of some of the greatest moments in the club’s modern history, that take you right back into the middle of occasions we’ll cherish forever.
I love watching James Hanson’s goal at Villa Park, and I’ve probably seen it back a thousand times. But there is something more spine-tingling about hearing back the instant, oh-my-god reaction of Dom and Tom as they scream in delight from inside the Villa Park commentary box. Martin Tyler commentated for Sky Sports that night and his authoritative words are beautiful to listen back to. But for the true depth of what that moment meant as a City fan, “f**k the cosh” was the defiant Bradfordian reaction that spoke for thousands of people.
And that’s just one podcast. Think of every great moment since 2012, and there’s a Bantams Banter podcast to transport you back to that time. Arsenal, Chelsea, Leeds, Wembley. Even beyond the obvious ones, there’s the chaotic joy of a late win over Stockport in 2011, beautifully captured and preserved.
I first started listening to Bantams Banter when it launched in 2010. The Bradford City world was very different, as we slumped at the bottom of League Two with Peter Taylor’s football boring us to tears. Having a Bradford City podcast was ground-breaking, and the pair’s tell-it-like-it-is approach quickly won them admirers and followers. These were City fans suffering like the rest of us. No more or no less clued about the club than anyone else, but with a passion and talent to offer something very different to fellow City fans. It was two mates watching their rubbish football team, getting worked up but also remembering to have a laugh. It’s what lower league football should always be.
I always admire people who can do comedy, especially related to football. It’s not an easy thing to do, and certainly isn’t something I have the aptitude for. Dom and Tom worked really well together, and as they grew in confidence and City prospered under Phil Parkinson, they were brilliantly positioned to capture the raw sounds of the 2012/13 season.
When City reached Wembley and the world’s media descended on Valley Parade, Tom and Dom were in huge demand. Their podcasts had offered a unique window into what it was like to be a Bradford City fan, experiencing the joys of beating Arsenal and Aston Villa. I always thought it was great that, as the media looked for stories about Bradford City in the build up to the historic cup final, they looked inside the Bradford City supporter base – and the local community – to tell our stories. Dom and Tom were fine ambassadors, showcasing the Bradford sense of humour to a wider world.
I got to know Dom and Tom a little bit over the years. We’ve done a few bits together that were great fun, and their passion and dedication for Bradford City should never be overlooked. They really do care. They branched out the Bantams Banter podcast to offer t-shirts and other bits of merchandise that frankly put the club’s official efforts to shame. Especially in demonstrating an understanding and appreciation of the club’s history and heritage.
It’s a fact of life that if you put yourself out there doing anything, people will shoot you down. Dom and Tom got stick from some quarters, but they had an incredibly loyal following of supporters who love what they did. And that’s all that matters. They were liked because they worked damned hard to produce something people could connect with.
But of course, the hours of hard work that go into producing podcasts mean that in time they’ve struggled to be able to commit to as many podcasts. It has been a shame they’ve not produced many shows over the last couple of years, but then again there’s not been a great deal to shout about that they’ve missed capturing. At least they’ve gone out on a great note, recording a really important afternoon in the Bantams’ recovery.
I think Bradford City’s supporter base has a strong tradition of having trailblazing fan media. The City Gent remains the world’s oldest surviving fanzine. Boyfrombrazil was a revolutionary step in giving supporters a voice in the digital world. And Bantams Banter completes the trinity of true firsts. Even now, when almost every football club has fans releasing podcasts, the live-at-games approach of Bantams Banter is different and creates a lasting impression.
I’m sure Dom and Tom will continue to be a notable voice within the Bradford City supporter base. Watching, fretting and cheering like the rest of us. Because that’s what they are. Fans. And their impact on Bradford City fan culture, and the capturing of so many iconic moments in modern Bantams history, means Bantams Banter will be remembered and enjoyed for years and years to come.