A little over seven years ago, Tom Goom, a good friend of mine, fellow Gooner and all round good egg, told me about this ‘great fansite he’d come across‘, and that I should check it out. At the time, I’d grown bored of gossip sites, as well as the majority of the printed press, such was the dearth of accuracy and logic on offer, so I was naturally a little cynical.
“Seriously mate, this one’s different. The bloke makes sense, cuts the bullshit, and is hilarious.”
“Actually hilarious? Or Soccer AM ‘hilarious’?”
“He’s giving away prizes on his site. The question you have to answer is: Is Didier Drogba a) a cunt or b) a cunt”
My curiosity was piqued.
The next day was a slow one at work, and I thought back to the night before, and the site Tom had mentioned. Why not, I thought, and typed ‘arseblog‘ into Google. Arseblog – it’s fuckin’ excellent appeared as the first result. My thoughts switched to Freddie Ljungberg and I chuckled inwardly at the reference. It was the be the first of many.
I clicked, and read. And then I read some more, scrolling back through older pieces, laughing at the highlighted jokes that appeared when you hovered over links, at the biting comments made towards unsavoury opposition, and the general tone of light hearted merriment, clearly written by someone used to cutting through the crap he read everywhere else. I loved it.
The next day, I read again. And the next day, and the one after that. In fact, over 2500 days have passed since then, which represents a ridiculous number of articles, yet I, along with many others, have lapped up every one. After a few days, I started to wonder if there were others like it, and came across another few blogs of quality, notably Goodplaya, Gunnerblog, Goonerholic and East Lower, or Man From East Lower as he was then. Remarkably, that select group still produces quality content to this day, and have since been joined by many others.
I was hooked. More blogs began to spring up, and I kept adding them to my list. Some began to irritate me, and tempt me into writing responses in the comments, but I’ve never really been one to write scathing replies to obviously antagonistic content. I’m not a biter, I suppose, so instead they dropped off my list, and I returned to the tried and tested group. I started to interact with them, commenting and debating where I could, and as the months passed, I realised it would be far easier if I just wrote my own opinions in one place. Perhaps, blogging would be for me?
My wife was all for the idea, but I suspect that had more to do with the fact that if I had somewhere to write, I would spend less time boring her with my opinions (she doesn’t care much for the game, her desire to see Arsenal win is driven more by wanting me to be in a good mood). She also named the site – coming up with what I thought was a clever play on ‘the beautiful game‘ and my constant rants about it. Since then, others have told me that The Beautiful Groan actually sounds like a bad porn film. You win some, you lose some.
And so this site was born (or at least, a previous incarnation of it). For nearly five years I’ve been penning my thoughts here, and like many other bloggers, there have been times of regular articles, and lean periods. In fact, my current count of 713 pieces means that there have been over 1000 days on which I’ve written nothing. Meanwhile, in nearly ten years Arseblog has barely skipped a beat, which no matter what the man himself modestly says, is an extraordinary display of commitment.
On Wednesday night, the crowds were out in full to celebrate that commitment, arriving in droves to get their hands on his new book, So Paddy Got Up, complete with contributions from a veritable who’s who of journalists, bloggers and passionate fans. The sight of queues winding round the pub and out the door was one to behold, but at the other end of the line was a shiny new hardback anthology, a group of contributors willing to spend hours signing each copy, and of course the man himself, whose arm probably wanted to drop off after hundreds of handshakes and scribbles.
What made the evening particularly great was that the characters there were exactly as you would imagine them to be if, like me, you had never met the majority. From the professionals – Philippe Auclair, whose passion for the game soaked every one of his words, and Amy Lawrence, whose inability to hide her love of Arsenal was touching to listen to – to the bloggers – Tim Stillman (handsome bastard – Arseblog columnist), Siân Ranscombe (smiley, sharply dressed, blogs here) and the cheerful legend that is the ‘holic – they were all friendly, warm and genuine, even when meeting their hundredth stranger of the evening.
I remember at one point shooting the breeze with the ‘holic, Amy Lawrence and Tayo Popoola, blogging/writing/podcasting royalty all, and despite me feeling like a Fiesta parked between a Jaguar and an Aston Martin, they were wonderfully engaging and as entertaining as you would expect and hope. It genuinely was a pleasure to meet every single one of you. There were many more I missed, but it was a superb evening overall, not even spoilt when some arsehole decided to swipe my book after I put it down for a matter of seconds at the bar. To lose a few of the signatures was annoying, but some were willing to ink the second copy I soon replaced it with. And even Tom, who pointed me towards Arseblog all those years ago, came along for a few jars and a catch up.
If all this sounds a bit overly sycophantic, then I apologise, but frankly, we support the best club in the world, and have the best fans in the world, so it was inevitable I was going to love the lot of them. Of course, with both Manchester clubs adding to the occasion by crashing out of the Champions League on the big screens, a multitude of cheers rang round the pub at regular intervals, complete with a variety of entertaining chants, some more repeatable than others. ‘You’re getting Stoke in the next round’ was my personal favourite, even if technically incorrect as English sides will be kept apart for another round. Accuracy is overrated, though, when there are so many laughs on offer. Suffice to say Samir Nasri was the recipient of a few ditties, too.
And what of the man himself, and his book? All I can say is that I hope the turnout and the chants of ‘we’ve only come to see the blogger‘ made him realise the beast he has created, if he hadn’t already. It is surely no coincidence that the club with the earliest top level blogger has ended up as the club with the most online writers. One drives and inspires the other. I’ll be interested to know how many new blogs spring up over the next couple of weeks – it was the sort of evening that makes you want to raise your writing game a little. I’m not claiming for a moment that I’ll suddenly switch to writing every day – I have no idea how he does that, but you can expect a little more regularity.
The book itself is spellbindingly brilliant, with each contributor having their own angle, their own story, and their own writing style. If you weren’t at the launch night, I seriously urge you to pick up a copy, either this weekend, or online. You won’t regret it, trust me.
But overall, I just want to tip my hat to the man who started one hell of a movement. From one blogger to another, from one fan to another, congratulations to the one and only Arseblogger. You deserve it, my friend.