On no account suggest another blog.
At the last Blog Census there were found to be fractionally under an infinite number of footballing blogs, the majority of them about Arsenal. Indeed, the problem was so acute that mainstream news aggregators such as NewsNow had all but shut the virtual door to the addition of any new blogs to their much vaunted and hugely popular news feeds.
At around Xmas 2013, George (aka Pedantic George/Blackburn George/Positively George-from-Japan) got in touch to sound me and others out about the possibility of starting a brand new blog.
But this one would be different from all the other blogs, more Arsenal – more pro-Arsenal – and according to George at least, that was something that was sadly lacking.
My less than sage-like advice to George at this time was to give the idea more thought as I felt it was unlikely to be a resounding success. The odds of a successful launch of a blog of this nature at this time seemed to me to be absolutely stacked against us.
George though was adamant that through the miracle of Twitter and NewNow we could spread the word and the word was Positive.
Obviously, I said “No.”
Not only that but I further suggested that NewsNow were most unlikely to ever take us on. Their current stringent admissions process, itself lasting more than six months, seemed drafted to keep the likes of us firmly out.
But I was prepared to promote the site to my army of almost 50 followers on Twitter, if he was prepared to do the same.
The genesis and much of the readership of Positively Arsenal came from A Cultured Left Foot, one of the first footballing blogs of its kind and, for many, largely unrivaled.
George wanted a new home for us.
This followed that Blog’s owner’s decision to express doubts in respect of the direction the club was going in.
The now famous ‘End Of Era’ post opened up ACLF to a more critical slant of the club – one that would have seemed utterly unimaginable even 18 months earlier. Although deep down I didn’t personally actually believe it was the end of an era, another disappointing autumn, which had followed the loss of Van Persie to Man U, meant that it really did feel like there could be some kind of sea-change taking place in the club’s fortunes.
I could understand the sentiment but I just felt it was a tad premature.
I certainly felt it was worth arguing the toss and believed there were still just enough of us pro-Wengerites around to make the case. So this was my response to George’s initial idea – that we should stay with ACLF and fight for what we believed in and yes, argue our case, even if we did take a hammering.
A few days later George was banned from commenting on ACLF and could no longer stay and fight for what we believed. George’s ban followed yet another fracas in the comments section which, by now, Yogi was weary of policing any further. So now with George gone and literally a handful of us left to fight our embattled corner, it was hard to argue against setting up a new site. It simply felt there really wasn’t that much left to lose – many of my personal favourite commentators had all but disappeared and Yogi had clearly lost his patience with some of those still prepared to put their neck above the parapet.
I’d always admired ACLF for the quality of Yogi’s writing, his insight and knowledge of the club and it’s wider environs. He also had the occasional guest posters and the best of these, for me, was the alarmingly youthful and generally just brilliant Birdkamp. I chipped in with a couple of posts of my own and these were kindly received. But the ‘mood’ of the blog became progressively darker and gloomier and morale seemed to track the club’s wavering fortunes. There were very, very few commentators I actively disliked (and that’s remained the case to this day) but I found myself in disagreement with the majority of those whose patience with the club was all but exhausted.
With something of a heavy heart I agreed to take a backseat, low-key role (sweeping the floors and cleaning windows, mostly) with Positively Arsenal and promptly found myself writing the opening post. I think by late January (the blog launched on 28th January), the ‘founders’ of PA were themselves somewhat exhausted by the negativity threatening to envelope the club – not just on ACLF but on Twitter as well as the wider blogosphere, the media and pretty much anywhere where more than one was gathered to comment on our beloved and by this stage somewhat beleagured club.
It was on this basis that George insisted that all commentators to the blog would be effectively by invitation only. I insisted that the first letter of each word in the title of each day’s blog should be capitalized.
With these two fundamentals firmly set in stone and with Steww, Frank and Adi alongside, we set off on Our Great Blogging Adventure. I didn’t expect all that much, to be honest; I thought the writing would be fine but I felt the furrow we were attempting to plough was such an isolated one that we were as likely to be marginalized and ignored as we were anything else.
How would anyone find us? And would they care if they did?
But a very wonderful thing happened.
Many of our old friends and former ‘allies’ from ACLF – some of whom had gone missing in action over many months and even years – pitched up having somehow found us. And, amazingly, from the earliest days, the site’s viewing stats (as provided by WordPress) were always substantial with ‘hits’ being recorded in volume from literally all around the globe.
It was all hugely encouraging.
For sure, many of those readers recorded by WordPress would not have been in agreement with much of the sentiments of what we felt the blog stood for but the sustained interest in the blog over days, weeks and now months – almost 9 months of them – suggests to both me and George that the site is chiming with a good number of our visitors.
It’s funny now to look back and think that our biggest fear was that we wouldn’t be able to replicate the comments section we once frequented on ACLF. Indeed, the biggest problem for most blogs is the absence of comment and there are some first class bloggers out there for whom solving this is still no nearer to happening than when they first started out.
Positively Arsenal is not without its critics of course and chief amongst the criticisms is the idea that we see ourselves as somehow superior to most other fans, that our determination to see the positives in the club we love somehow, in our own eyes at least, elevates us above all others.
Well, for this writer, PA is not about being a ‘better’ fan but it IS about being a different kind of fan. The Arsenal ‘family’ is a big one and it’s a diverse one. There is room for many different ‘styles’ of supporting. There are plenty of blogs out there to cater for all the other different ways of showing support.
This is ours.
And for me personally, it’s a hugely enjoyable way to experience the game, in the company of like-minded souls knowing that good or bad or indifferent, our players’ performances will be supported and encouraged – and above all else, understood, as best we can. I rest easy knowing that my faith in the club and its employees at all levels from Doris the Tea Lady all the way down to the directors and manager will be largely shared by my fellow readers and contributors.
And even when part of my beliefs are not universally shared (ie, I get things wrong), the howler is unlikely to be met with cynical aggression but more likely discussed and reasoned based on the facts available to us rather than a process of random, unsupported speculation.
If that makes us the ‘sunshine bus’ then that’s fine with me though I understand it doesn’t suit everyone.
But it suits me and a good number of those contributing to the site.
On Wednesday, to my surprise, PA was, against all the odds, added to the feeds of NewsNow.
This despite their virtual ban on adding new Arsenal blogs to their roster. It prompted this article to be put together as George and I wondered the best way to mark this welcome development.
This brief retrospective seemed the right thing to do.
It just leaves me to end on an acknowledgement of every single poster and commentator we’ve had the privilege to have ‘join’ us.
PA is very much a collective effort and the diversity of its contributors – main posters and commentators alike – is one of its key strengths. In the course of this blog’s brief life, we have made many new friends both near and far, from India to Alabama and beyond and our lives and perspectives have certainly been enriched by this.
As we finally reach the autumn, Arsenal Football Club appears to have left much of the negativity behind. Whilst there will doubtless be ups and downs still to come, the good times do finally appear to be back with us.
It is a source of undented and undiminishing pride that PA was set up during what may end up being seen as the club’s darkest hour.
That we went through this awful phase together won’t be readily forgotten.
Long may Positively Arsenal – and all of us – continue.