In December of 2012, I wrote an article about the lack of passion and commitment in the England football team, to launch the blog I’d called Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything. Leeds United were in one of their too-frequent glory-free periods, becalmed in the Championship. Corruption seeped its way through the corridors of power, whether you looked at the rulers of our national game or indeed the nation itself. Millions gazed dead-eyed and compliant at the telly box in the corner, placated by reality TV and the glitz of the Premier League. Six years on, as I clock up article number 1000, it’s self-evident that not much has changed – so there’s been plenty to write about, and ample justification for the odd body-swerve away from our heroes in white.
For the blog itself, though, Life – if not Leeds United and the Universe, never mind Everything – has been quite good. Halfway into its first full year, NewsNow syndication was granted, and my little creation went global – thanks mainly to the happy fact that there are Leeds United fans, in big numbers, simply everywhere throughout the world. Since that time, blog hits have averaged thousands instead of the initial readership of dozens – and now, with this piece, the first “millennium” has been clocked up. Other writing commitments have meant that the frequency of posting is not what it was in the early days, but still, in those thousand articles over six years, almost three million hits have been registered from a shade under two million visitors. Those are numbers I couldn’t have dreamed of as I wrote that first piece, and I’m duly grateful to everyone who’s ever clicked on the blog, made a comment, shared an article, made a donation, or whatever. You’ve all contributed to what I would modestly describe as a fairly successful project. And happily, the blog has led to other things for your humble correspondent – columns in two local newspapers, invitations with hospitality to cover various sporting events – and even admission within the hallowed portal of the Leeds United press box. Despite the occasional grumblings of the mob, perhaps I am actually doing something right.
Still, not everyone has always been happy, needless to say, about everything I’ve written here. As Abraham Lincoln said – and as he had violently confirmed to him by actor-turned-assassin John Wilkes Booth – you cannot please all of the people, all of the time. And, to be fair, I’ve never set out solely to win friends or admirers; I’ve always wanted to be opinionated and partial, being a Leeds fan is a passionate, partisan thing – and you have to speak your mind. I’ve frequently disagreed with fellow supporters and writing colleagues, and with the club itself, as well as with the more obvious groups like rival sets of fans. I’ve made myself deeply unpopular with certain of these groups, and I’ve attracted the usual inarticulate abuse, death threats and more or less sinister promises of harm to my family – mostly anonymous, as you’d expect. But it’s all been worthwhile in terms of getting deeply-held points of view off my chest, and it’s on all fours with my need as a writer of opinion pieces to be more than just a mere cypher, toeing a line drawn by external bodies. I’ve always tried to draw my own line, and this has frequently upset people – but those are the breaks. You have to stand by your own ideals.
So that’s been the rationale behind the first thousand posts on this blog. Apart from the very occasional guest post, it’s all been my own work, and I’d imagine that this will hold true for the next thousand too, however long that might take. I’m happier paddling my own canoe and sticking to my own guns – though I am looking for a site sponsor, so I’m happy to talk to interested parties about that! But the blog, as I hope and trust, will continue to go from strength to strength, particularly as and when Leeds United gets its act together and ascends to the Promised Land of the Premier League. Then, it will be a whole new ball game, both for me and for the club I’ve loved (though not uncritically) for the best part of half a century. Roll on, that glorious day.
In the meantime, thanks to everyone, friend or foe, who has ever given up a few minutes to read this blog. Your time and patience is much appreciated. Thanks also to my little group of trolls, who have afforded me so much amusement without ever seeing the light of day on the comments page. I’m thinking here of people like “Clive”, who imagines he’s had me banned on a few occasions from NewsNow, and is always surprised to see that I’m still there. Thanks go to Clive, and the others too. You need a bit of a laugh sometimes when you’re writing and thinking about the soap opera down at Elland Road, and my trolls, as much as any other group, have been as devoted and amusing as I could possibly wish.
So, it’s onward and upwards from here. Expect post number 1001 whenever there’s anything that needs saying about our beloved Leeds United – or maybe about Life, the Universe, Everything. Please keep reading and commentating and – to those kind, blessed few – donating. It’s a sobering thought that, if every single one of the views over this thousand posts had realised just 20 pence, I’d now be over half a million quid better off. Life’s not like that sadly, but my kind donors still keep the blog going and I’m immensely grateful to them for their generosity. Here we go with Leeds United – Marching On Together.