12 episodes

Introducing Unsung, a podcast about the sports stars you don’t know, telling the stories you can’t miss.

Join host Alexis James as he goes behind the scenes of professional sport, looking beyond the headlines and behind the athletes to introduce and celebrate its hidden stars.

A sporting anthology of the unheard, the unsaid, and the unusual, Unsung shines a rare spotlight on the integral men and women in the shadows, interwoven in the fabric of sport.

For while its biggest stars and household names enjoy the glory, tucked away amid sport’s small print and voiceless under its fanfare is a band of unsung heroes rarely acknowledged, let alone championed.

And it's about time that changed. Because not all heroes, wear kits.

Follow or subscribe to the podcast, and head to unsungpodcast.com for more.

This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis:

Chartable - https://chartable.com/privacy

Unsung Alexis James

    • Sports

Introducing Unsung, a podcast about the sports stars you don’t know, telling the stories you can’t miss.

Join host Alexis James as he goes behind the scenes of professional sport, looking beyond the headlines and behind the athletes to introduce and celebrate its hidden stars.

A sporting anthology of the unheard, the unsaid, and the unusual, Unsung shines a rare spotlight on the integral men and women in the shadows, interwoven in the fabric of sport.

For while its biggest stars and household names enjoy the glory, tucked away amid sport’s small print and voiceless under its fanfare is a band of unsung heroes rarely acknowledged, let alone championed.

And it's about time that changed. Because not all heroes, wear kits.

Follow or subscribe to the podcast, and head to unsungpodcast.com for more.

This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis:

Chartable - https://chartable.com/privacy

    Vote for Unsung in the 2024 Sports Podcast Awards!

    Vote for Unsung in the 2024 Sports Podcast Awards!

    Hello and Happy New Year! It’s Alexis here from Unsung with our first ever public service announcement.
     
    At the end of our last episode in December, I mentioned that you’d next hear from us in the Spring. But while we continue to work on series 2, forgive me for jumping on the feed a little earlier than planned.
     
    Because, like a school kid eager to show their parents their “cleaned my plate” lunch sticker, I wanted to share the news that Unsung has been shortlisted as a finalist in the 2024 Sports Podcast Awards.
     
    After our rookie season, we’ve been nominated in the Sports Talk Podcast category, pitted against the likes of football legend Ian Wright, top broadcasters Kate Abdo and Simon Jordan, snooker player Shaun Murphy, and three sporting titans from across the Atlantic who’ve nearly 5m followers between them.
     
    And then there's little ol' Unsung. Think David and Goliath, except we’re not David; we’re David’s annoying little dog, yelping for scraps and attention when he goes off to chin the big guys.
     
    Although it’s fair to say we’ve had a little more attention since our nomination.
    A new listener recently tweeted us to say our last episode was like, “if you purchased Roy Chubby Brown off of Wish, you would get this guy”. But hey, that counts as a download. 
     
    For anyone else who has enjoyed any of our episodes in the last year, we'd love your vote! You’ll find the link in the show notes, or head to www.SportsPodcastGroup.com and you’ll find us among the shortlist for the best Sports Talk Podcast.
     
    Finally, a thank you to all our guests, whose generosity of time and entertaining yarns are the reason our fledgling podcast has been recognised by the industry. 
     
    And another big thank you goes to you for listening and to anyone who has subscribed, reviewed, or spread the word about Unsung. This knock-off, Roy Chubby Brown, really appreciates it.
     
    Thanks for your vote, and we’ll be back in the Spring with some new episodes of Unsung - introducing the sports stars you don’t know, telling the stories you can’t miss.
     
    Vote for Unsung at the 2024 Sports Podcast Awards
     
    Click here to vote for Unsung: https://www.sportspodcastgroup.com/sports_category/best-sports-talk-podcast/
     
    Buy the book!
     
    Unsung: Not All Heroes Wear Kits, by Alexis James
    http://www.unsungbook.com
     
    Host: Alexis James
    Producer: Matt Cheney
    Artwork: Matt Walker
    Executive Producer: Sam Barry


    This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis:

    Chartable - https://chartable.com/privacy

    • 2 min
    Our Top Sports Stories of 2023: The Unsung Year in Review

    Our Top Sports Stories of 2023: The Unsung Year in Review

    With 2023 coming to a close, there’s something a little different for you in this rather frenetic episode of the Unsung podcast.
    In just 40 minutes, we rattle through the sporting year via the perspective of its unsung heroes, beginning way back in January at a boisterous and disbelieving darts crowd in Ally Pally, before ending with a tenuous reference to the late Mystic Meg to review a sporting event that is yet to occur.
    You’ll also discover the Augusta National golf legend you're unlikely to have heard of, find out why Phil Foden can’t stop eating salmon and soy, and discover a good reason to raid the drinks globe for the winter's first drop of snow. 
    If you’ve listened to previous Unsung episodes, you might recognise some of the voices featured here. We’ve got anecdotes and insight for every month of the year, and if you’d like to hear more from anyone involved, be sure to check out episodes 1 to 9 from our archive.
    It all makes for a whistlestop tour of 2023, and I think you’ll enjoy it. If you do, please consider leaving a review to help others discover it.
    And if you know of someone who’d make a good subject for a future Unsung podcast, get in touch with a recommendation at unsungpodcast.com.
     Quotes:
     “The real skill in my job is you wait until everybody is at the pinnacle of their set position and they have all been absolutely still in that position. And when you're happy that they've all had that opportunity to get into the still position and concentrate, you pull the trigger. It's fair to say probably at a major event between set and pulling the trigger, I'm holding my breath. I'm holding my breath, because I'm praying I don't have to pull the other trigger."
     “Climate change is real. It’s something that’s very heavily linked to snowmaking, which is becoming more popular with resorts just to ensure that they can open for their customers and provide a great experience. Instead of having snow machines that are 100 to 150 metres apart from each other, they’re going to 20 to 50 metres apart. You’re getting snow guns that are closer and closer. That has been a trend that we’ve been seeing in this industry.”
     “Last season, it was absolute chaos because of the World Cup. Quite a lot of people thought, "well, I'll go to the World Cup, I'll come back a mega star and PSG or Real Madrid will be on the phone, and it's the transfer window immediately afterwards." So when people came back from the World Cup, they were like, "oh Real Madrid's not on the phone. I haven't heard from Barca. Uh, I guess I'm staying. Better get a chef then."
     "I built my business, and I wasn't going to let any of these guys [dopers] ruin it for me. So, I found a way of enjoying it, of getting over the shock and any disappointment and just moving on. And cycling's also a sport which is very beautiful. Um, I don't just mean the scenery, I mean the beauty of riding a bicycle is a very beautiful thing."
     “In groundsmanship, everybody knows if you let the underdogs train on the pitch first, they're going to do it over because that's going to give them an advantage, to make the pitch bobbly. So, Portsmouth came and hammered it, then did a penalty shoot-out. Then Petr Cech came on and said, 'why am I playing on a potato field?'."
     
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    To find out more about the charity, visit a...

    • 40 min
    Interview: Touring with England’s Cricketers, with Phil Neale

    Interview: Touring with England’s Cricketers, with Phil Neale

    Our guest this time around is Phil Neale, who enjoyed a 47-year career in professional sport. Having played 369 games for Lincoln City and 354 first-class matches for Worcestershire; he’s believed to be the last man to play both professional football and professional cricket at the same time.
    But it’s his post-playing role that we’re mostly discussing in this episode, first as county-level coach and then with the England A setup, before moving on to become England cricket’s first-ever operations manager. Appointed to help out Duncan Fletcher and captain Nasser Hussain in 1999, it’s a role he stayed in for over 20 years, encompassing 257 Test matches, 422 ODIs and 110 T20Is. He was also there throughout the tenure of six head coaches and 11 Test captains.
    During our chat, which took place as the early stages of the 2023 Cricket World Cup unfolded in India, the man who became known to England’s top cricketers as Uncle Phil talked about his versatile yet integral role behind the scenes. He recalls his memorable experiences, including five Ashes series victories, the 2010 T20 World Cup triumph, and, of course, the famous 2019 World Cup win at Lords.
    Phil describes being peppered in the nets by Freddie Flintoff, navigating a floundering Michael Vaughan through an Indian airport, and revealing which cricketer’s bag was the only one he lost in over two decades. There are also tales from that infamous Germany boot camp ahead of the 2010 Ashes and the time he tried his best to keep a lid on post-World Cup celebrations in 10 Downing Street.
    Many thanks to Phil for taking the time out to speak to me, and also to Luke Thornhill and Donald Nannestad at Lincoln City for putting me in touch with their former player.
    If you know of someone who’d make a good subject for a future Unsung podcast, get in touch with a recommendation at unsungpodcast.com.
    Quotes:
    "Alistair Cook sat down with me, towards the end of my time with England, and we were rained off one day, and he said, 'come on Phil, let's work out how many days you've spent on a sports field'. And we worked it out that I'd spent basically 10 years of my life, 24 hours a day, day and night, on a cricket field. Never mind getting into the football."
     "I really enjoyed those first five years with Duncan Fletcher, where I had a fair bit of responsibility on the cricket side as well, I became the throw down guy. I did some throws with Freddie Flintoff, which was a nightmare because Freddy's way of practicing was, I only want to hit straight drives. I just want to hit the ball hard and straight so you throw it and get out the way as quick as you can. I've got quite a few, got quite a few bruises on my shins from Freddie peppering it back at me. 
     There was one period where he was out of form and then he got some runs in the one-dayseries and won the man of the series and he presented me with his jeroboam of champagne as thanks for getting him into nick. So it was nice when those little bits of appreciation came back."
     "Monty Panesar was in front of me. And Monty was on the edge of this cliff facing with his back down the cliff, holding onto the rope. And I watched Monty, and his feet were moving, but he wasn't going backwards. He was walking on the spot. He just couldn't get himself to go over the edge. And I watched him for about five minutes, and he pulled out in the end. And I said, right, I'm ready to go now. And I thought, I can't be any worse than that."
     "One of the things I've done since I've retired is look back and see what the common factors are in the teams that have been successful, and the teams that haven't. Good senior players are one, but planning and preparation definitely...

    • 49 min
    Interview: Mending the All Blacks, with Doc Mayhew

    Interview: Mending the All Blacks, with Doc Mayhew

    It was 200 years ago this year that a young scholar by the name of William Webb Ellis decided to take the game of football into his own hands. Quite literally. He picked up the ball and ran from his opponents and, in doing so, invented what we now know as Rugby.
    The sport now boasts over half a billion fans across 132 countries, and is played by over eight million people around the world.
    It's more popular than it's ever been, but there are also questions around its future, with recent concerns surrounding the potential long-term health impacts of playing the game, particularly at an elite level that was professionalised only as recently as 1995.
    So as the tenth Rugby World Cup takes centre stage, the latest episode of Unsung sees us chat with someone who has witnessed firsthand the transformation of the professional game and who is best placed to discuss its hot-button topic.
    John Mayhew was doctor to the All Blacks for over 200 matches, beginning in the amateur era in 1988, before moving on to work at rugby league side New Zealand Warriors in 2003. Now in his late sixties, Doc Mayhew continues to be involved in professional level rugby in his home city of Auckland.
    In our chat, the doc describes tending to legends like Michael Jones, Sean Fitzpatrick, Richie McCaw, and of course, Jonah Lomu - with whom he forged a close bond while treating the winger's genetic kidney disease.
    We also discuss the perils of treating his own rugby-playing sons, his World Cup memories - not all of them fond - and the challenges of working with the toughest of players who refuse to hear that they're hurt. To no surprise this includes a story about renowned Kiwi hardman Buck Shelford, who once famously finished a game against France without realising one of his testicles had been ripped from his scrotum... 
    Many thanks to John for his time and insight, and also to Ben at the New Zealand Rugby Foundation for his help facilitating our conversation. 
    The Foundation advocates for and champions the safety of all players in rugby, and you can find out more about their work via the link below.
    If you know of someone who’d make a good subject for a future Unsung podcast, get in touch with a recommendation at unsungpodcast.com.
    Quotes:
    “The spectrum of injuries has changed. The training has made them bigger and stronger, and the collisions are that much harder, and there's a lot more collisions. You get props and locks now who are making upwards of 20 tackles a game. In my day, if you're a lock or a prop it's pretty unlucky if you had to make two or three tackles in a game. You went into a lot of rucks, you did a lot more running. So the game has changed, and the injury pattern has changed as well.”
    “I think we've got to be very careful here and look at the science rather than the emotion. And I get concerned. I mean, getting hit on the head is not good for you, that's rule number one. And rugby's tried to make the game safer by outlawing and managing the acute head injury much better.”
    “In the Seventies and Eighties the management of concussion wasn't as good, and rugby league was even worse. But we've tidied that aspect of the game up now, we are managing head injury. And believe me, as a practicing sports medicine doctor, the management of a concussed player is one of the hardest parts of the job.”
    “You do develop a relationship with these players, but as a rugby doctor you've gotta still think, okay, this may be the most famous rugby player in the world, but he's still a patient. And as a doctor you're on the field sometimes and you think, ‘well, I know the state of the game, if I take Richie McCaw off, that could affect the outcome of the game.’ But if he has to come off, he has to come off. And you've gotta put your team...

    • 42 min
    Interview: The Performance Chef Fuelling the Premier League, with Rachel Muse

    Interview: The Performance Chef Fuelling the Premier League, with Rachel Muse

    In 2007, Harry Redknapp was asked about the importance he places on the diet of his footballers. He said: “If you can’t pass the ball properly, a bowl of pasta’s not going to make that much difference.”
    Well, it’s fair to say attitudes have changed a little in the Premier League, and as it makes its return for the 2023/24 season, in this episode we speak to a performance chef who, for over a decade, has been feeding and fuelling the country’s top footballers in the surroundings they’re most comfortable in - their home. 
    Rachel Muse began her career as a chef at some of the UK’s best-known hotels before she traded in the mania of hospitality for the altogether more personal setting of private dining. With her company Discreet and Delicious, she now trains performance chefs to ready them for the unique challenge of one-to-one catering for sport’s most famous faces.

    We discuss the intriguing dynamic between chef, footballer, and the vital third ingredient, the club nutritionist. Rachel reveals her joy of cooking for a wide variety of nationalities, explains why it's important to stay out of the family domestics, and describes why she regularly finds herself on the phone to footballers’ mothers. She also ensures that we will never get my hands on a Nando’s black card.

    If you’d like to make our jobs easier and you know of anyone with a unique perspective from behind the scenes of elite sport, get in touch with a recommendation for a potential future Unsung interview or story. Just head to unsungpodcast.com where you can suggest a guest. 

    And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast to be the first to know about new episodes. 

    Quotes:

    "There's a great nutritionist called Graham Close who's up at Liverpool, John Moores. And he told me his phrase for this is the stealth vegetable. So grating courgettes into bolognaises and grating carrots into things. Cook that down. No one knows they've ever been there. People go, "I don't eat vegetables." And he's like "mate, I'm sorry to tell you, but you do now." There's a certain amount of espionage that does go on."

    “Last season, it was absolute chaos because of the World Cup. Quite a lot of people thought, "well, I'll go to the World Cup, I'll come back a mega star and PSG or Real Madrid will be on the phone, and it's the transfer window immediately afterwards." So when people came back from the World Cup, they were like, "oh Real Madrid's not on the phone. I haven't heard from Barca. Uh, I guess I'm staying. Better get a chef then."


    "In the course of the whole day, maybe nobody listens to you. Nobody. Everyone's telling you what to do, do. Everybody wants something out of you, like sign this for me. You can feel really unconnected. When I ask somebody what they want for their dinner, I write it down, and I show them that I've listened to them, because I put in front of them what they have asked for. And that is a great bond of trust between two human beings. A huge thing to do. It's in the format of food but it's just a comforting, life affirming, connection between two human beings."

    "Particularly what people will say is, "when I was a little boy I came back from training, and my gran used to make me this with that. And you're like, okay, can you describe it a bit more? No, I'll tell you what, I'll get my mum on the phone, and she'll explain it to you."

    "I think players understand that it's an investment. And if you can extend your playing life and your recovery, the pain in your knees, the pain in your hip, the pain in your ankles, if you can keep the machine moving in a kind of pain-free way just for one more season. Part of that is eating well and recovering well and sleeping well."

    Explore more

    Discreet and Delicious...

    • 48 min
    Interview: 40 Years Photographing the Tour de France, with Graham Watson

    Interview: 40 Years Photographing the Tour de France, with Graham Watson

    This is the Unsung Interview, introducing the sports stars you don’t know, telling the stories you can’t miss.
    For over a century, the Tour de France has been a summer staple in the sporting calendar. Its lavender fields, epic mountain ranges, and historic chateaux have been the backdrop to some of cycling’s most iconic and controversial moments.
    It’s also the most photogenic event in sport. And so in this episode, we speak to a legend behind the lens. A man who spent decades looking over his left shoulder while perched precariously on the back of a fast-moving motorbike, metres away from the likes of Eddy Merckx, Miguel Indurain, Laurent Fignon, and, of course, Lance Armstrong.  
    His name is Graham Watson, and he was the first English photographer to establish himself on the European cycling scene when he dared to muscle in on the Tour in the late Seventies.
    We discuss blurring the lines between photographer and fan, getting a sixth sense of when a crash is about to happen, and who was the nicest guy on tour. We also tackle the murkier topic of doping, and how tainted champions have affected his business.
    Graham spoke to us from his home in Nelson on New Zealand’s beautiful South Island, where he’s lived since his retirement in 2017, exactly 40 years after the Tour de France that would change his life forever. 
    PLEASE NOTE: This episode was recorded in mid-May, a month before the tragic death of cyclist Gino Mäder at the Tour de Suisse. We join the entire cycling community in sending our thoughts and condolences to Gino's family and friends. May he rest in peace.
    If you’d like to make our jobs easier and you know of anyone with a unique perspective from behind the scenes of elite sport, get in touch with a recommendation for a potential future Unsung interview or story.
    Just head to unsungpodcast.com where you can suggest a guest. 
    And don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast to be the first to know about new episodes. 
    Quotes:
    “You really are in the thick of the peloton. If they are able to talk, you hear what they're saying. If they're not able to talk, then you just watch them sweating and perspiring and usually having a pretty horrible time. But you're also there when they're in good form, when they're flying down the road, leading the Tour of France in the yellow jersey. You're so close up you feel all their emotions and all their pressures and stress. It's impossible to explain to someone who's not done it, what it's like. I can't explain it properly. It's just a very special place to be." 
    "You have situations where a lot of them, a guy like David Miller or Lance Armstrong, the subject always comes up if you're having a coffee. Because I know I'm going to photograph them on the floor one day. And they both said, 'Graham, get the best shots you can. As much blood as we can see.'"
    "My outright favourite, I would say is Miguel Indurain. He won the tour for five years in the mid-nineties and was six foot two, very statuesque, from Pamplona so very brown and bronzed, extremely lean. Physically, he was incredible. And the nice thing was that he was an absolute gentleman, you know? He had time for everybody."
    "I built my business, and I wasn't going to let any of these guys [dopers] ruin it for me. So, I found a way of enjoying it, of getting over the shock and any disappointment, and just moving on. And cycling's also a sport which is very beautiful. Um, I don't just mean the scenery, I mean the beauty of riding a bicycle is a very beautiful thing."
    "There are crashes which are too nasty for anyone to see. And whereas an agency photographer would see that as an absolute golden nugget and send the picture in, I would think, Nah, it's too bad."
    Explore more
    Graham...

    • 40 min

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