Self-propelled football writing on the internet has been up and running for some time now and while a number of sites have now established themselves as reliable go-to sources of articles, a recent phalanx of writers has emerged in their wake.
Enter The Football Pink, stewarded by Mark Godfrey. The publication has attempted to tackle head on the issue of how to make money in a field assailed by the slings and arrows of open access by requiring its readers to stump up a modest amount of money for each of its issues – hence, each offering is available on Kindle for 99p and Joomag for $1.50.
It’s an intriguing experiment and The Football Pink is already on to its second issue, with no shortage of promising writers queuing up to offer their thoughts on a range of subjects. I recently took possession of a copy of Issue 1 and while this has been out for a few months now, the nature of the material hasn’t dated it.
As well as the financial model, Godfrey will have had to contend with that key question facing the football blogger – how to develop a unique selling point and indeed, he spends much of a disarmingly modest first editorial musing on what this is going to be.
Ultimately, he feels that nostalgia – or some kind of historical leaning – is likely to come up trumps and there is little doubt that he will have to crystallise such an editorial policy soon for despite the Pink’s immaculately edited format (I failed to detect a single typographical or grammatical error) and thoughtful articles, the publications with which it jostles for house room are The Blizzard and In Bed With Maradona and joining those two titans on their perch will be a mighty job.
Add to that the fact that feedback when material is placed behind a pay wall, no matter how slight, is often hard to fathom. The immediacy of free access, online publication can leave one with little doubt as to the merits of one’s work within a few minutes of posting while print publication – or even material which most readers are likely to print off – is hard to directly retweet, ‘like’ or link to and the result can be a deafening silence.
Issue One is packed with good things and I’d actually cite two pieces written by Godfrey himself as the pick of the bunch – a study of the Zambian team that so sadly perished off the coast of Gabon in 1993 and a look back to the frankly barmy Football League Centenary tournament a couple of decades ago which featured 40 minute matches (!) and a 90 minute booing of Diego Maradona.
Elsewhere, Brian Strahan is strong on Irish centre backs of the Jack Charlton era, Chris Smith looks back to the coaching career of Béla Guttmann, Trevor Keane reflects on the sad depression of former Oxford United and Ireland full back David Langan and there are series photos of two of the world’s iconic stadia – the Estadio San Mamés and the Maracanã.
At such a cheap price, it would be silly not to buy it on first inspection – but such is the strength of the football blogosphere that the amount of equally excellent material also available for free might provide a deterrent – indeed, a number of the contributors have their own, burgeoning blogs, most notably Stuart Howard-Cofield and Alex Stewart.
The contents list for Issue 2 looks a strong one with a piece on Afghanistan from Nathan Carr catching the eye – but how can one plough the back furrows of international football while equalling the sheer depth of In Bed with Maradona and matching the pull of established journalists as displayed by The Blizzard? That’s the challenge – but Stewart seems prepared to tackle the conundrum with an opening gambit in Issue 2 on the state of football journalism. All power to The Football Pink’s elbow.