Lee Rooney pulls out his phone and scrolls through a list of 61 countries. There’s Belgium and Kenya, Morocco and South Africa, Malta and Myanmar, Cape Verde and Costa Rica…

“Faroe Islands…that one baffles me,” he says. “Brunei comes up every now and then.”

These nations may appear to have little in common, but do have one unlikely piece of shared ground. At some point, over the last couple of years, someone in their territory has been listening to a podcast about Carlisle United.

The Brunton Bugle, run by Lee and fellow fans Dan MacLennan and Mike Booth, reaches the 100-episode milestone this weekend. With upwards of 500 regular listeners now, their show has become a weekly staple for many supporters in Cumbria and beyond.

It is still a little surreal, though, to consider exactly how far-flung their work is heard. “I know a lad who lives in Luxembourg and travels around Europe, so when he’s in a different country he tries to listen so we can tick off another,” says Lee.

“No North Korea yet – that’s the dream,” adds Dan...

News and Star: The podcast regularly reflects on United news, games and opponentsThe podcast regularly reflects on United news, games and opponents

After experimenting with a podcast in 2016/17 through thecumbrians.net forum, Dan, Lee and Mike decided to launch it in earnest during 2020’s first Covid-19 lockdown.

“We were just chatting online and suggested getting it going again, just as something to help people keep connected,” says Lee, a Merseyside-based Blue who works in communications and, for a spell, worked in United’s media department.

“We’d seen other clubs’ fans do them, and thought, ‘Why don’t we?’ We like to think we’re fairly knowledgeable on Carlisle United, and we’re three different voices. Dan’s been going since 1985, me since 1994 and Mike the early noughties.”

After its proper launch in 2020, the Brunton Bugle – which takes its name from a 1980s United-themed newspaper – has grown. Routinely the three discuss weekly Blues news, preview and review games, chat to podcasters from opposition clubs and, every so often, produce a special themed episode.

News and Star: Lee and Dan say the podcast has been listened to in some unlikely places, such as the Faroe Islands (photo: PA)Lee and Dan say the podcast has been listened to in some unlikely places, such as the Faroe Islands (photo: PA)

Features on favourite XIs, one-game wonders and the history of United’s kits have proved popular. Last season they interviewed then Blues right-back George Tanner. Nigel Clibbens, the club’s chief executive, is said to be a regular listener.

There is also, as you’d expect from a supporter podcast, some sharp and passionate comment about the state of United. All in all it feels like the next stage in the line of supporter publications which rose with fanzines and developed through online forums.

“It’s a natural progression,” Dan says. “I was involved in the main fanzine era at Carlisle, and on forums all way though. Forums are slowly dying; we still run thecumbrians.net, and it’s still busy, but podcasts are the evolution, I think.”

News and Star: One-off special episodes have included this feature on United kitsOne-off special episodes have included this feature on United kits

“Like fanzines, every bit of media has its place,” adds Lee. “In terms of the News & Star and Radio Cumbria, I don’t think sometimes our fans grasp how lucky we are to get the level of coverage we do. But this is a different voice. It’s a fan voice. We can be a little bit naughty sometimes…”

The Bugle’s discussion about the performance of director of football David Holdsworth during his United tenure was on particular source of…comment. “We’ve made the H word a swearword on the podcast,” adds Lee. “It’s not bleeped out – it’s like a clown horn noise.”

They have not, so far, had any official comeback for such antics. “The likes of yourselves [the N&S] and radio run the risk of bans if you go too far,” Dan says. “Whereas if the club banned a fan for an opinion on a podcast, it would create lot of negative publicity. It has happened at some places. But when we talk about things like managers being sacked, we don’t go too far. You have to remember the human side of a bloke losing his job.”

READ MORE: Vote for your Carlisle United player of the 2021/22 season

The Bugle’s growth has been helped by United’s supporters’ club London Branch, who have contributed to hosting costs. Technology gremlins have not yet, touch wood, caused any major impediments, but there are idiosyncrasies across a normal season.

“Some of Mike’s voice notes, when he gives his predictions, are sent from service station toilets,” Dan says.

“We occasionally do matchday experience [episodes] adds Lee, “With one, there was the story about animal poo on the top step of the terrace at Exeter. We had to put an upturned coffee cup over it to make sure nobody stood on it. I presume it was animal poo. It was lovely talking about that…”

They are considering a Patreon style subscription system next, with more specials also in the planning. Lee says he’s researching stories about players who died whilst playing for United, as well as a feature on Bob Spottiswood, the Carlisle man who grew up near Brunton Park and went on to manage Inter Milan.

Lee and Dan are also part of Unita Fortior, the new fan group which aims to grow the membership of supporters’ trust CUOSC. Is there a risk that discussion on this particular topic, then, will lack balance, given their direct involvement?

News and Star: The Bugle's Lee Rooney, left, and Dan MacLennan are also involved in new fan group Unita Fortior (photo: Richard Parkes)The Bugle's Lee Rooney, left, and Dan MacLennan are also involved in new fan group Unita Fortior (photo: Richard Parkes)

“It’s not something we mention weekly,” Dan says. “When [UF] launched we gave it a bit of airtime, but these [the podcast and UF] are separate projects.”

It is a tribute to their work on the Bugle that some fans now wait impatiently for latest episodes. “People have it in their routine now,” says Dan. “We record on Thursday and if it’s not out by mid-morning on Friday we’ll get tweets.”

“When we went to Sutton – dreadful game – a guy came up to us and said, ‘You’ll have a lot to say about that, then’,” adds Lee. “No idea who he was, but he’d obviously listened.

“Paul [Newton] and James [Phillips] often get us on Radio Cumbria for our views and that’s given us an extra push. The Simmo effect has definitely helped too. The episodes that get most listens, though, are when managers have been sacked and we’re discussing who should get the job next…”

At this point, the Bugle in its century-strong guise has had two managerial oustings to discuss. Hopefully, by the stage Kim Jong-un eventually tunes in, they still won’t be reflecting on a third.

To listen, click HERE or search for Brunton Bugle on any good podcast app.