It has been four years since I started These Football Times and the landscape of football writing has changed beyond imagination in just that short period. I never intended to create a site that hosted original football writing; the initial reasoning behind TFT was to offer free coaching drills for youth trainers to exploit. It was about opening people’s eyes and giving them a chance to broaden their knowledge with minimal hassle and for free. I guess, via an alternative route, that’s still the aim today.
I’m proud of every writer that spends their hours and days putting together features that challenge the norm and educate the reader. There are enough news sites out there, so we don’t bother with that. There’s enough opinion on social media, too. Often, however, there’s not enough education. That’s why the men and women who spend their time writing about original, engrossing topics from the game we love have my utmost respect. I’m not one of them – I write once every blue moon – but I’m privileged to be able to give their writing a home and offer them a chance to get noticed.
That’s why the degree of nonsensical writing on the internet infuriates me. Why should other writers who jump on the same old bandwagon, with the same old clichés, and the same old points, receive plaudits for their work? What do they teach us? In many cases, very little.
I suppose I sound like a grumpy old man – I’m actually in a pretty good mood as I write this – but football writing is undeniably saturated. The blogging world is now saturated. And it’s not because there’s so much great content, rather the opposite. There’s too much mediocre obviousness, and it’s taking away from the great writers who dedicate their time and effort into researching pieces that open our eyes, empower us, and inspire us.
Take, for example, the rise of the amateur analyst. I don’t even know where to start with this point. Everyone’s an analyst, it seems. Perhaps I’m picky, or just a massive snob, but I want to read someone’s work that, over time, has proved to be accurate again and again. Michael Cox and Sam Tighe are brilliant. There are others too who hit the nail on the head every time. I’m proud to say that Lee Scott – a writer with TFT – is equally impressive. Why? Because they don’t point out the obvious. They go beyond what we can all see on the television. They challenge the norm and focus on what we may not know.
And still, there are some who persist in tweeting out tosh and criticizing these writers, and others, for their “lack” of knowledge. Ridiculous.
I enjoy an in-depth tactical feature as much as anyone. I love reading about the thoughts of others and how they see the game, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find another person who spends more of his day reading material on various sites. But when it’s “analysis” that an armchair fan can muster by just watching the game and pointing the obvious, I take exception. Inspire your readers; don’t point out the obvious. Enhance their knowledge; don’t frazzle their mind.
Often when we’re sent articles at TFT, they come from writers with no experience in journalism but a real passion for the sport and literature. They may be raw and even sloppy at times, but we don’t care. We edit their work to the best of our ability and let their story fly. If you have a website, edit your articles! Stop putting poorly worded, incomprehensible trash out there for your readers. It doesn’t have to be to a high standard even, but just get the basics right, please.
I heard from one of our writers recently that he was rejected the chance to write for another site because he had “too few twitter followers”. Let that sink in for a minute. He’s excellent, writes original, intelligent articles, and has a clear ambition to one day go full-time into journalism. And a site – akin to ours in size and readership numbers – turned him down for such a menial reason. That’s the reality for many talented writers out there. Their work gets marginalized by features that barely belong on a children’s website.
They also get marginalized because they don’t have enough twitter followers. What is enough? Instead, those serial tweeters who in some cases are posting 300 (literally) tweets a day are given preference; the same tweeters who can’t wait to discuss Gareth Bale’s new haircut. I’d rather discuss what David Cameron ate for dinner last night. They’re the same few who post the dreary, predictable stuff about who Manchester United are going to sign next. We all read the BBC, and Sky, and the Guardian. I assure you, they have it covered.
So if you’re one of those predictable people who draw little diagrams, live by stats and “analyse” why Thibaut Courtois is Chelsea’s number one, and not Petr Čech (it’s because he’s better, by the way), raise your game. Inspire people. Educate people. Not everyone gets to watch games live and not everyone is as fervently against nonsense as I am. Give your readers the best possible content.
Football writing, though saturated, has never been in a healthier, organic state. It’s just a shame that the genetically modified crap still filters through.
By Omar Saleem. Follow @omar_saleem