Undr the Cosh has become one of the most popular football podcasts in the UK, as Premier League and EFL professionals reveal the highs and lows of the modern game
In a world dominated by press officers and social media gurus, modern footballers are finding it increasingly difficult to connect with supporters.
For years, the public have had to settle with the odd interview or tweet. It’s hard for many to know what it’s actually like to be a professional.
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“As a player, you just can’t be yourself [in the press],” admits Brown. “It’s difficult when you’ve got the local newspaper there asking about a game because you’re on eggshells.
“You don’t want to upset the club or the fans, so you’re just saying the same old things. You just feel robotic.
“But [on Undr the Cosh] players can just be themselves and I think people appreciate that. Fans don’t really know what these footballers are like as lads.
“They hear what they’re saying on a Saturday after the game, they’re saying the same old things every week – the clichés.
“It’s only when you hear them on something completely separate you think, ‘These are actually good lads, they’ve got personalities and they work hard and enjoy their life, they’re just normal people.’
“You pay your money on a Saturday and just assume these players are 100 per cent physically, 100 per cent mentally, when a lot of the time you don’t know what’s going on in people’s lives.
“I’d like to think a lot of fans have changed their perception of what happens in the life of a footballer.”
Brown started the podcast with his friend Chris – who also appears as one of the three presenters – around 18 months after his career ended through injury.
After a spell in the Premier League with his boyhood club Sunderland, the striker played for Championship sides Hull, Norwich, Preston, Doncaster and Blackburn.
Brown became good friends with Parkin – who scored more than 200 professional goals during a 20-year career – during his time at Preston.
Despite the success of Undr the Cosh, entering the media via YouTube was never part of Brown’s plans.
“I was never comfortable doing stuff like this – public speaking – I was never the most vocal in the changing rooms.
“I met up with Chris [fellow presenter], who I’d known for a long time but didn’t have a close relationship with.
“But he had his own media page and when we met up, we spoke about doing something – maybe a documentary – about going into retirement and stuff.
“And he just said, ‘We should podcast because this time next year everybody’s going to be doing them.’
“I didn’t know much about them. I’d listened to the Magic Sponge, so I knew what the concept would be and how it would work.
“There was also a lot of lads that I’d kept in touch with – I played with a lot of good characters in the game – and we decided why not.”
The podcast is famed for its hilarious tales – with many often retold on tabloid websites – but it also focuses on the other side of professional football.
A Fifpro study of 1,314 male players – conducted between March 22 and April 13 last year – found that 13 per cent reported symptoms consistent with depression.
Brown struggled when his playing days came to an end and admires those who talk openly about the lows of their career on the podcast.
Under The Cosh /Youtube)
“I did nothing for 18 months without realising I probably was struggling with it [retirement].
“Not so much that I missed football – because I had a lot of bad times towards the end with injuries, so I knew was done with it – it was just the lack of direction and structure I had in my life.
“I just found myself waiting for something to come to me and I’ve just been extremely lucky that we’ve landed on doing something like this.
“The podcast has evolved. At the start it was all funny stories and the highs of the game, but gradually we started getting lads on who would open up and talk about the other side of being a footballer, which I could really relate to but never really spoke about.
“When these lads came on, [I realised] there’s more to life than the highs of football. There’s the other side of it, where you have got a lot of low points where you’ve got nobody to speak to.
“If you’re struggling with injuries, you’ve just got to put a brave face on. The stuff that fans don’t really see.
“We’ve had lads with gambling addictions or struggling with the drink and a lot of people who are watching that – probably football fans – and realising these footballers earning x-amount-a-week, ‘If they can struggle, then so can I.’
“It hits home with people that they can seek help as well, nobody’s invisible to feeling like this.”
Every fan of Undr the Cosh will have their favourite episode and Brown is no different, choosing Gareth Southgate’s close friend and Northampton Town legend Andy Woodman.
“None of us knew Andy, he was a friend of my uncle and he filed in at the last minute – somebody had dropped out – and he was just so enthusiastic.
“Andy had played the game in the lower leagues and was very self-deprecating. But his stories from his playing days and when he was goalkeeper coach at Newcastle … were just incredible.
“But there’s loads I’m forgetting about. Nicky Weaver was up there, Simon Ferry. I also loved the ones of the lads I played with, Matt Kilgallon, Simon Ramsden… there’s just so many.
“One thing they’ve got in common is they’re so different, but they just make for a brilliant listen.”