For those of you who know both Danny Last and I you can confirm that we are not one and the same person. There has been talk on certain online forums that we are actually multiple personalities of a northern chap called John, who goes to watch Vauxhall Motors with a Tesco carrier bag and a flask of Campbell’s Vegetable broth. But we are not. We are often seen in the same place at the same time, standing on “The Jungle” at the Dripping Pan, or propping up the bar in the Rook Inn. But we do share some of the same philosophies in life and both have a passion to write about it.
So when James Boyes came to us and asked for our “best ever interview” for the Lewes FC programme we looked at each other knowingly and decided that the ULTIMATE interview would be with each other – after all we really can talk absolute crap for hours. Unfortunately work commitments mean that we are normally 600 miles apart during the week. No problems though – after all we have technology on our side. Or so we thought….
Danny – Earth calling Denners
Stuart – Got you!
D – I can’t see you on messenger
S – I am not on messenger, I am on Google
D – I don’t use Google
S – OK, I will go onto messenger….nope can’t do that on my Mac
D – Shall we do this by phone?
S – Carrier Pigeon
D – Post
S – Yeah ‘cos that will get there…I know a block at the Gatwick sorting office….ah there you are
D – Right, shall we kick off?
S – So, crop rotation in the 14th century – what was all that about?
D – The Young Ones – Grade A funny!
S – I am impressed you remembered it! OK – having been away from the “league” scene for a while, how has it been going back to BHA a couple of times recently?
D – Both bitter and sweet. Bitter in that it costs an arm and two legs, you can’t get a beer in the ground, you get told what you can and can’t do every five minutes and there is no lettuce in their burgers. Sweet in that they beat Portsmouth, handsomely, and that made it all worth the while.
S – So next season in a new stadium, with potential home games against West Ham and Aston Villa (based on current form), would you be tempted to start going again?
D – I shall pick and choose the games I go to. Hopefully, Lewes and Brighton will do the sensible thing and have home games on alternate Saturdays. Then I can pitch up at both, in between my jaunty trips abroad. I thought we were here to celebrate a classical Greek Athenian philosopher, right?
S – Just a warm up and then we can get onto that famous Garforth Town reject. Taking of trips abroad, on the FIFA star index, what would gain a 5 star trip these days? Obviously the bar has been raised in previous years.
D – I don’t dish out the coveted FIFA 5 stars too easily these days. It would have to be something very special. How about a trip to Berlin for a derby between Hertha and FC Union in Division 2 – watched by a sell out crowd of 75,000 followed by the Leipzig derby the very next day?
S – The Leipzig thing is amazing – great stadium as well. So this football blogging thing. How, why and when for you?
D – How is anyone’s guess, I’m still try to work out how to use a computer properly. Why? Because at the time there wasn’t anything quite like EFW. All of the (deep breath now) “ground hopping” blogs were more concerned with how they were going to keep their programme in mint condition and what time the last bus left from Chester-Le-Street. I just wanted to get likeminded folk, those who enjoy a beer. …and a giggle and didn’t take life or football too seriously together in one place. And I think that’s worked. When? About three years ago, but only really seriously in the last 12 months. And I think that has worked!
S – What was your first trip you published? Do you look back at what you wrote and cringe? I am thinking of republishing all mine from day 1….sort of a retro look back
D – The first one I published was from a trip to Romania to see them tackle Holland followed by a Division 4 game in Bucharest the next day. And yes, it was shocking, as were the rest of them around that time. I think the polite way of describing them would be “rough around the edges.” – rubbish in other words. But good fun.
S – I learnt yesterday the origins of the term “pushing the envelope”…how can we (as in TBIR/EFW) push the envelope even further based on our past year?
D – I only started taking a camera to games two years ago. Before then, I thought anyone who snapped away at games was radio rental. Like those who wave their mobile phones around at gigs. No need. Can we upgrade the envelope to a jiffy bag? That’s the six million dollar question. And will we still be able to push that through the letter box? I need to upgrade from Blogger to WordPress that much is true. But to do that I have to put in more effort and invest more time to learn new skills. And I quite like my fix of Homes Under the Hammer in the morning. That’ll have to give.
S – So what are your aims for 2011 for EFW?
D – As for 2011, all that I know is that I know nothing. Another nod to Socrates there, did you notice? More of the same, really. Other writers have climbed on board the good ship EFW, and they’re really talented chaps. I’m chuffed to bits that someone else would want to write for EFW.
S – You have pulled in some big names in 2010. Who have you in your sites for 2011 and how do you managed to get so many big names to agree?
D – It was a concertina-effect, once Barry Glendenning agreed to answer a few questions – and set the standard, it was easier to get others to say yes, culminating in getting James Richardson on, which was the highlight of 2010 on EFW. I belong to Jimbo. Oh and Dave Lamb was brilliant but only if he’s reading this. As for 2011, I don’t know – Gareth Gates? Patrick Marber?
S – You mention other writers – do you see a day that EFW will just be a portal for new writers?
D – That would be brilliant. If someone can get a bit of recognition by virtue of penning an article on EFW, then my work here would have been done. I missed my calling, but if I can help another person get a leg up, then I will.
S – It is certainly a long term ambition of mine to create a site for young writing talent
D – Aye, and not two old duffers like us. Talking of Duffers…Terry Duffelen has done a great job to bring the football blogging community together, no?
S - Yes indeed – how much power do you think the blogging community has nowadays?
D – Not too much power. But a fair amount of increasing respect I think. Initially, the perception was probably of a bunch of nerds hiding behind keyboards. And now, due to the likes of Michael Cox and Kieran from the Swiss Ramble, bloggers seem to be all the rage at the moment, the best of which will probably turn their hobby into a living.
D – I suppose I should ask you a few questions then? How do you get a golden pass from the Current Mrs. Fuller to attend all these matches?
S – I’ve always travelled for business, being away for days on end. I think I would drive her mad if I was at home every night. She doesn’t want for much being a simple northern lass – a bottle of stout and a greasy chip butty. She reads all my stuff and is actually an inspiration behind some of my best work
D – Open the windows, why did you start The Ball is Round?
S – Well the forerunner was BudgetAirlineFootball.co.uk and that was set up to help fans go and get to games abroad. I have travelled for years going to football and used to take handwritten notes and keep them in a file, now taking pride of place in the Museum (my shed in the garden). Then I would see amusing stuff or get into situations where I thought “that would be funny to read about”…so I started blogging in 2006
D – Hypothetical situation time. You’ve got a free pass next Saturday; would you prefer to go and see Lewes, West Ham, a new non league ground, the Milan derby or a division three match in Bulgaria?
S – 1. A visit to a new non league, 2. Lewes FC, 3. The Milan derby 4. Bulgaria and finally 5. West Ham…unless Avram had gone and then it may just move above Milan and Bulgaria
D – So West Ham have slipped down the pecking order. You gained infamy by penning an open letter to the board at Upton Park. Is modern football rubbish?
S – Modern football isn’t rubbish per say – the club owners are businessmen and need to make money for their stakeholders, and like all businesses that means trying to gain more ARPU (Average revenue per user). So that means higher ticket prices, more crap merchandise, more paid for internet content etc. But unlike other businesses they seem to think that the quality of their product on offer does not matter – in fact they can reduce the quality and still expect people to pay more – bit like Southeastern trains really. After all clubs feel they have a monopoly on a fan’s support…..but here is the secret….they don’t – fans have a choice!
D – So what is this Socrates all about and why are all these football bloggers nodding in approval of the Harveys in the Rook Inn?
S – A meeting of some of the finest minds in the independent football writing community. And where better than a community drinking some of the best independent beer in England!
D – And at the best ground, no? What is so special about an afternoon at the Dripping Pan?
S – The surroundings, the fans, the banter – all friendly, nothing confrontational….Lewes fans are simply friends you have never met!
D – I think it’s the best beer garden in England. So being Devil’s Advocate here, Lewes isn’t your local Non League club is it? Why not follow them?
S – I used to – Welling United is my local team and I did get involved with them, helping out on the programme, doing some match reports and even bringing in a couple of corporate sponsors. But they didn’t appreciate it. No one ever said “thank you” for the free time I had given up so I thought “sod that”
D – So their loss was Lewes’s gain then. And you’re involved in the Lewes FC programme now as well?
S – Yes – and that is really enjoyable. I love writing about the unusual stuff around football and the fans seem to enjoy the stuff we are putting in there. And with the Community Share Scheme in place I will become a part owner of the club soon. And of course there is our ongoing work to turn The Rook Inn into a shrine to football. That project is far from finished and all donations from any club are still gratefully accepted
D – You spend part of your working week in Denmark. How does watching football in Denners compare with games back in dear old Blighty?
S – Football in Denners varies so much based on the levels you watch – even in the Superliga. FCK and Brondby are very corporate, akin to our Premier League clubs with your branded popcorn and fizzy drinks, whilst a visit to Lyngby in the same league is like a visit to a League One club. Go down a division or two in Denmark and it is the same level as Lewes. Funnily enough, the Danish equivalent of Myfootballclub has actually invested in Croydon Athletic of the Ryman League
D – Final question. Do you have a spare plastic wallet to keep my Bognor Regis programme in so it doesn’t get creased?
S – Only if you tell me the return times from Braintree Freeport on Saturday evening!
Surprisingly, both Danny and Stuart are married, hold down regular jobs and can use a mobile phone. Lord help us all.