Supporters of Arsenal Women have made themselves heard across the country and on the continent in recent seasons, but two fans are finding their voices on a podcast that the likes of talkSPORT are buying into.
Inside the Red and White was created by Natalie Busher and Suzy Lycett towards the end of the 2022/23 season, with the first episode launching after Arsenal Women’s final day defeat to Aston Villa.
Both Nat and Suzy began their journey as Arsenal supporters last year, with the latter inspired by Euro 2022 to overcome her anxiety of crowds. “When the Euros came about, I realised that the atmosphere seemed great, seemed a bit more accessible to me, both in terms of cost as well as the fan base. It seemed a bit friendlier, a bit more inclusive. I decided to book a ticket after the Euros final to watch Arsenal Women, and I essentially went to the first game of the season, and I went to every single home game last season from there. I kind of fell in love with it a bit. Initially it was purely for the football and then obviously I grew a bit more of a friendship base around that which made it even better,” says Suzy.
Hailing from North Wales, Nat’s first exposure to women’s football was an annual event. “I watched the Women’s FA Cup Final every single year. It was always on a May Bank Holiday and it was the only women’s game that was on TV when I was growing up. It was always Arsenal on, so they've always sort of been there in the back of my head and I've always tried to watch football when it's been on,” Nat tells the Gooner Fanzine.
Like Suzy, she also found herself driven by Euro 2022 to go and support women’s football: “In the final right at the end it was Gabby Logan and Ian Wright and they were talking about if you're going to do anything, go and watch the girls that are playing. It properly hit home- I thought after they’ve done all of this, they deserve to go and watch them.”
Despite her vast distance from North London, Nat partnered up with her aunt, who resides in Hertfordshire, to watch the Gunners play Tottenham Hotspur at Emirates Stadium in September 2022.
“I went to the Emirates and I just fell in love,” says Nat. “Once I met a friend at the Liverpool game, which was pretty soon after then, I just got the bug and it was it and I just loved it and it didn't matter, the travelling or anything, it's the whole thing. It's the games. It's before the games, it's after the games. It's what we do in between games. I've loved every part of it and it's just really grown.” She now plans to not miss a single game in 2023/24, travelling great lengths to each one.
Due to the geographical distances between myself, Nat and Suzy, we convene on a Zoom call to discuss the podcast. We will all meet in person when Arsenal travel to Leicester in November. I’m intrigued to know their recollections of their very first meeting. Suzy thinks it was Reading away, or perhaps at West Ham. Nat is convinced that they knew each other before Reading, and neither are sure.
Nat had noticed “Suzy with the camera” when Arsenal played Leeds in February, but after a few conversations, she decided that she had found a podcasting partner.
“I wanted to do a podcast of some description for quite some time because I love talking, and I love talking about things I'm passionate about,” says Nat. “And as my Arsenal journey grew there was just something I really wanted to do something but I didn’t want to do it on my own. And I think as me and Suzy started speaking I just had a feeling inside of that Suzy is the person I want to do this with and then we just had a conversation. I think I mentioned it to Suzy, I was like: [mimics] ‘Would you want to do a podcast with me please Suzy?’”
For the first of a series of features on the @rednwhite_awfc supporters group, I spoke to @Inside_redwhite podcast hosts @natalie_b1986 and @Boodlepim about how the idea to start their podcast came about ??? pic.twitter.com/T2Ioce4eTd— Freddie Cardy (@CardyFreddie) October 19, 2023
After the first episode was well-received by members of the Red and White supporters group, the season came to an end. The two then used the summer as a “testing bed” in Suzy’s words, to push on with the podcast during the backdrop of a Women’s World Cup that had plenty of Arsenal interest.
This season, each episode has focused on the matchday experience, with the listener coming along for the ride from the early morning train journey, to post-match chatter in the pub, home and away. Nat tells me: “We did have a little planning meeting before the start of Season Two, and our plan was always to do a sort of journey to the first home game of the season and then the second game was Man United. Those two just worked out, and actually the feedback we had about the layout of both of those episodes has been great.”
Suzy adds: “One of the reasons we wanted to start the podcast was we wanted people to recognise the fact that it was very, very easy, and a welcoming environment to get involved in women's football and with Arsenal. And so one of the best ways that we can obviously do that is to just really show the atmosphere and literally take people into the stadium, into the pub with us.”
“The biggest point that me and Suzy do not shy away from when we’re on the pod is that we are not football experts,” says Nat. “And there are countless podcasts out there which are about what happens on the grass. And although we will touch on that mildly, we are really touching on that from people that are not professionals. I think there's so much on the market for if you want to listen to what's happening on the pitch. Ours is really about what we do in the stands and the hard work that goes into it, and how we create that atmosphere that the players thrive from, and what we do.”
Football experts or not, one of the biggest sport radio stations in the UK have shown an interest, with Inside the Red and White recently becoming part of the talkSPORT fan network. When a disbelieving Nat first heard from talkSPORT, she had to check with Suzy that the message was genuine.
What might come of the link with talkSPORT, neither Nat or Suzy are sure. “It's given us access to more platforms and whatnot but I mean, God we don't know,” says Nat. “It may make no difference at all, and it may make a lot of difference, we don’t know. I don't know what it's gonna do. It might do absolute zero. People might go: ‘I'm not listening to it now, you've got an advert in the middle of the podcast!’ It could backfire!”
During our chat, both speak passionately about issues such as the relationship between fans and players in women’s football, as well as problems that supporters are facing with awkward kick-off times. Future articles will certainly draw upon this conversation, one that certainly needs to be had.
Suzy tells the Gooner: “It’s nice thinking you can have that influence out there. I started with my blog and writing in that, and that's always been more my kind of comfort zone in terms of sharing things. I've always been better at writing things down than I am at saying things, even for my actual work it was never something I actually wanted to do for my job. It was just something that I was forced into but it gave me the confidence to come in and do it with Nat.”
It was Suzy who helped give the podcast life thanks to her prior podcasting and editing experience in a former marketing job. The Londoner writes a popular blog on Arsenal Women and as Nat referenced, is a keen photographer from the stands. The two are in just their second year as Arsenal Women supporters, but are putting out engaging, entertaining content on a weekly basis that a whole fan base are buying into.
I get the sense, when I ask about what their long-term plans for the podcast might be, that the two are simply living in the moment. Nat proves me to be right: “To be honest, as long as we're enjoying it well, I'll keep doing it. And I think as long as people are enjoying listening to it, then I'll keep doing it. And if it encourages one or two people that would have never gone to a game to go, or to reach out to go then I'm happy. We do it for everyone. For me, I just want to get as many voices as possible on the podcast over the season, which is the aim.”
? NEW EPISODE ? The ? is back! And you can experience the moment again as @natalie_b1986 and @Boodlepim take you on a road trip to Bristol - plus we hear fan fives, our match reactions, and insights from a Bristol City fan, @shahanshahan - listen now ?https://t.co/77CnYSbIt9— Inside_the_Red_&_White (@Inside_redwhite) October 25, 2023
Inside the Red and White has become an essential listen for Arsenal Women supporters, many of whom have the chance to feature on the podcast itself on a matchday. It has been supported by national radio, and listener numbers are flourishing. If Arsenal can replicate Nat and Suzy’s success, then Jonas Eidevall’s side are in for a good season, and the two are eying up an FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium.
Nat: “I went to the FA Cup last year. Obviously it was Manchester United versus Chelsea, so there was that red end and I was just looking at it going: ‘God, the noise we would make down there would be incredible’.”
Both feel that Arsenal must challenge in all three competitions following their premature Champions League exit. “They've put themselves under pressure, and I think that the Champions League last year shows that they can perform under pressure,” said Suzy.
“Last year they started the WSL really well and then they slowly petered out but they kept up that momentum in the Champions League. Potentially having that pressure, is that going to spur them on and mean that they're not going to make those silly mistakes?
“Obviously it all depends on us gaining players and not having any more bad luck in terms of injuries. I think that's right in saying that we have to get to the finals of both of those domestic cups. And we have to have at least one of those trophies.”
Nat has the final word: “And that is what Arsenal did. They won everything. Everything. And that's what Arsenal needs to get back to. Chelsea have had their moment now and I'd like nothing more than to knock Emma Hayes off her little perch. That'd be wonderful. You can quote that!”
Listen to Inside the Red and White: https://linktr.ee/inside_redwhite