Russell Osborne is the proud host and, since 2017, pioneer of the England national teams in podcast form. His Three Lions Podcast is one of the most popular amateur football podcasts anywhere in the UK. I met him ahead of the men’s fiery encounter with Kosovo this month, to discuss all things football – all things international football.
Here’s Talking England with Russell Osborne.
How did the Three Lions Podcast come about?
I can’t take the credit for it as it was originally started by fellow England fan, Ryan Power. I think he had put together 3-4 episodes before I found it. I contacted him to see if he wanted a sidekick.
I used to present a daily radio show on local radio station and wanted to try and get back behind the microphone. Ryan and I had a chat via Skype, as he’s on the South Coast and I’m in Hertfordshire and we went from there, recording when England played, sharing opinions and chat.
Then at the end of 2017 Ryan had to put work first and gave me the opportunity to take it forward, with the World Cup coming up in 6 months’ time, he said, “you never know what might happen”.
Three episodes later, on my own, I was standing opposite Gareth Southgate interviewing him and it’s gone from strength to strength.
Do you enjoy putting together each episode or is it a lengthy and difficult ordeal?
I would say firstly, it’s not an ordeal, I enjoy it, although it can be time consuming. I often find myself thinking about it whilst at work, thinking about who England are playing (be it Men or Women), who can I try and approach to be on the podcast with me, then try and work around their timetable, especially when they are opposing supporters in other countries and English isn’t their mother tongue.
But generally, a preview episode for upcoming matches will take 3-4 days to compile, although having said that I’ve been working on an episode (to tie in with England’s 1000th game) since the start of the year…
How long have you been an England fan for? How often do you attend matches?
I find it hard to really pin down when I first really became an England fan, I have memories of my parents talking about England against Argentina in 1986, but I don’t remember seeing any games on the telly.
I have happy memories of being with my Grandad watching Euro ‘88, despite the results. I guess like for many, Italia ‘90 was a happy time – England’s journey through that, collecting the Panini stickers, crying when we went out on penalties against West Germany.
My first actual game was a good one, England vs Scotland in Euro ’96. Sun was out, flags were waving, amazing Scotland support, Seaman’s save, Gazza’s goal. Then in 2001, I went to Greece for the WC qualifier with a good friend, amazing experience, and taught me a lot about going away and the logistics of it.
I distinctly remember a local woman and her young son taking a step to one side as a lot of England supporters were in the vicinity, this was still a time when England fans had the stigma of violence held against them.
Then an England fan gave the young boy his hat, immediately the ice was broken. When you travel away with England it’s a great opportunity to see the world, meet new people and cultures and an opportunity to be an ambassador for your country. USA at home in November 2018 was my 100th game and I try and go when I can.
You started what appears to be the first ever England women’s football database in EnglandLionesses.com. How is that going and how shocked were you that such information wasn’t already available anywhere else?
Yes, it all came about after discussing the Lionesses on the podcast and I started to look back on older results. I found it staggering that I could find every result/line-ups for the men’s senior games going back to 1872 but nothing documented online for the women.
I’ve accumulated quite a pile of older women’s programmes and in the name of research, I’ve been to the British library too where they have lots of information but so much of it doesn’t seem to have been documented so it’s a case of trying to fill in the gaps.
We all know how the women’s game now is, but the England team of the past deserve the same recognition; many probably don’t know they actually made a European Championship final in 1984.
Who is your all-time favourite England player and why?
So many to choose from, as an Arsenal supporter, I’d always like to see Arsenal players playing for England. I seem to remember a time when 7 Arsenal players were selected for a squad, I think 5 made it on the pitch (maybe around 1991-92).
I loved seeing David Seaman and Tony Adams at Euro ‘96 and more recently Theo Walcott getting his Croatia hat-trick a while back. I always enjoyed seeing Peter Crouch, he always did well and, listening to his podcast, he clearly knew what it meant to represent his country. Beckham and Gazza too, how can you not include Gazza?
Which England performance at any level impressed you the most and why?
Similar to the favourite player, there are quite a few to choose from, for a variety of reasons. Colombia in the World Cup, precisely for the penalty shootout, what with all that had gone before and the penalty history that we all know about and needn’t recap.
But for those that were only young or not even born when we last won one, the pressure on their shoulders must have been immense, even if Gareth Southgate had tried to shield them from it all.
Croatia away in 2008, to go to such an intimidating atmosphere and silence it, Theo Walcott, as mentioned above, got his hat-trick. But I guess in recent memory it would have to be 2001, away in Munich against Germany. Having lost previously to them in the last game at Wembley, a wet one that, we needed a result to continue progress to the World Cup 2002 as group winners, rather than go through via the play-offs.
Germany had only ever lost one home World Cup qualifier in their history and had never lost a competitive home match to England, of course there is all the previous baggage that comes with this fixture, Germany go ahead and you think that’s it, but five goals from Liverpool trio, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Emile Heskey made it one of those ‘you know where you were when’ games. Sadly I wasn’t in Munich, but a bar in Magaluf.
Describe your views on the current state of both England’s Women and Men’s teams. What shape are they in right now?
On the whole, I think both are in a good place, both with managers who can see a clear direction planned ahead. Both have experienced semi-finals recently in World Cups and I know it’s the holy grail of any team, but I think both the Men and the Women need to be picking up some silverware soon to prove how good they can be. The next couple of tournaments will hopefully be the proof of that.
Both European Championships will be (more or less) on home soil and we need to capitalise on that. The senior Men have a lot of youth coming through, there seems to be a lot of competition for places.
The Women, perhaps in my eyes, not so much. Their pool of talent is maybe not as big, but with the bigger exposure of the Women’s Super League I hope that this will change going forward.
As he mentioned, Russell Osborne has attended well over 100 England matches and is an expert on the England teams, as a fan and now a broadcast journalist. Many thanks to him for his insightful and impassioned views on England and on what it means to go solo as a podcast host.