Curbing Your Enthusiasm: Podcasts, Piggybacks and a Pilonidal Sinus

A former Premier League manager approached us here at Tales and asked that we publish his diaries, so he could show the public what life is like out of the game. His only request was that he remained anonymous. Below is this week’s entry:

Kevin Lisbie had invited me to appear on his new podcast. He has set up a small studio in his office and got in touch with Julie to see if I could be on the inaugural episode. After checking I had time in my busy schedule (the consultancy offers had exploded after Bournemouth’s 0-0 draw with Leicester), I gladly accepted.

I wouldn’t say I’m a massive fan of podcasts, but I have dabbled. Of course, I have heard Serial and S-Town as everyone has! I think Adnan Syed is innocent and Jay definitely did it, just as much as the next man. But I’ve never got properly into a football show. After all, I know more about the game than any presenter. I’m a former successful Premier League manager.

When I arrived, Kevin met me on the drive and walked me into his living room. A teenager was lay on the floor playing video games. I hadn’t expected this.

‘This is Simon, my nephew,’ said Kevin. ‘In fact, you’ve met him a lot in the past, he used to watch me all the time at Charlton.’

I tried to remember if I had any memories of this kid. I had a vague recollection of bending down to shake hands with a young person…could this Simon be that child?

‘Say hello to Alan, Simon,’ said Kevin, looking down at the prone adolescent.

‘Hmm,’ said Simon, not looking away from his game.

‘He used to be enamoured with football…now all he talks about is his stupid video games. I’ll put the kettle on and get the mics set up.’

As Kevin left, I sat on the sofa behind Simon. After spending a few seconds drumming my kneecaps with my fingers, the silence was starting to be painful.

‘So…what are you playing, Simon?’

‘Final Fantasy IX,’ he said as if this was the most obvious thing in the world. ‘Square have just re-released it on the PS4, now in HD and with loads of tools to make it easier.’

I stared at the screen, trying to work out what the hell he was talking about. As far as I could make out, a boy with a monkey tail was talking to a man in armour. There wasn’t any action though. Just lots of talking.

‘Wait, is that guy called Zidane? Like the footballer?’ Maybe this was some sort of avant-garde football reference.

‘It’s pronounced Zidayn. He’s a heroic character with an unknown past.’ Yet again, Simon sounded as if they taught this along with maths at school. I’d given up on the video game chat, feeling it was time to change approach.

‘Not playing football at the moment, Simon?’ I asked, hoping to be able to talk about something I actually understood.

‘Can’t. I had an operation three weeks ago. Pilonidal Sinus. Ingrowing hair in my lower back.’

He went on to describe in great detail the treatment plan including all of the blood and the required wound packing. I had gone a bit pale. Simon could talk in the most gruesome detail without compunction. But I’m a football manager. I shouldn’t have to deal with talk about blood and holes. 4-4-2 and headers for me, please.

‘Stop talking about your wound, Simon,’ said Kevin, returning from the kitchen with two cups of coffee, finally saving me from the grim discussion. ‘Come on Alan, we’ll go into the studio.’

The studio was a lovely little space. Kevin had lined the wall with a bookshelf featuring many football books. There was a lovely pine table in the centre of the room with all the necessary technology to record, including two microphones on little stands in the middle of the table. I took a seat in front of the window while Kevin laid out his notes.

‘What’s this podcast called?’ I asked, just as we were ready to start.

‘Lisbie Avin You,’ said Kevin, grinning.

I mulled over the title.

‘Kev, you’ve got nothing to do with Norwich or Delia. Shouldn’t it be Lisbie Friends? Or Lisbie: We need to talk about Kevin? Hey, you should do it with Chris Perry! Kevin and Perry Go Large! You’re mates right?’

‘I never liked Chris, Alan,’ said Kevin, dismissively. ‘Also, they say that growth has gotten bigger. I don’t think there’s room for it in here. Should we start?’

‘Okay,’ I said, with a hint of trepidation. ‘Is there a format to this?’

‘I have a few pre-prepared questions. But mainly you just need to be yourself.’

I settled down and Kevin began to ask me questions. Some touched on football, some were more about me as a person. Of course, we spent time talking about how good a manager I was and our own personal relationship. But Kevin was such a good host that I relaxed as if I was down the boozer with Big Sam. All my killer anecdotes flowed out:

‘Of course, not many people know that, legally, a policeman has to give you a piggyback if you’re too injured to walk.’

‘Honestly, Kevin, the man could have been my clone. But my word, he could take a punch.’

‘I had to explain to Radostin Kishishev that we weren’t in a dystopian future, we were in Milton Keynes. But he honestly believed we were in the future. Roundabouts baffle the man.’

We talked for hours and I had a brilliant time. By the time Kevin had pressed stop on the recorder, it was dark outside. We said our goodbyes and I went to depart.

While travelling through the living room, I had to step over Simon, who was in tears. On his game, a little character with a big hat talked about the concept of his own death. I don’t understand kids today. He could be watching a Championship game on Sky Sports. Instead, he’s being asked by a machine to consider the very meaning of life itself. Stupid.

On the drive home, I was thinking about the engaging discussion Kevin and I had. Maybe podcasting is the future? I was able to be completely at ease and able to talk freely about whatever I desired. It was brilliant fun! Joy was still coursing through me. What if I did this every week? I could do my own podcast, I’ve so many friends and colleagues who would be really interesting to talk to. Alternatively, I also know a few awful people I could invite on for the download numbers! Paolo Di Canio, anyone?

Entering my home, I set a reminder on my phone to call Julie tomorrow, whilst settling down on the sofa next to Carol.

‘What are we watching?’ I asked, still beaming.

‘Strictly! Someone will be voted off for the first time in this series!’

The world suddenly felt darker. I was subjected to the very dregs of British broadcasting. Rev Richard Coles shuffled through an American smooth like a reanimated corpse, Simon Rimmer threw his partner around during You’ll Never Walk Alone and Ruth Langsford looked like a mum on a hen do. But the icing on the s*** cake was Brian Conley. Brian F****** Conley. He looked like an action figure being slowly positioned by a child, rather than a dancer. However, my biggest gripe; no one is a Brian Conley fan. Nobody. He has had the same cultural impact as the Avatar film series. Less even! Probably as much as the sitcom Til Death!

All joy is gone. All happiness has left me. All because of a man who thinks saying the word ‘puppet’ in a funny voice is the height of comedy.