You might all be bored of reading about it now, but as I got such superb support from you all over the last few weeks I thought I owed it to you all to write about the night, or at least what I remember of it.
The sheer scale of the event really surprised me with over 700 guests, and one or two familiar faces. Stan Collymore was there, up for the award of ‘best influencer’ alongside some Spanish fella I’m told is on Sky Sports. I wouldn’t know, my football world has no real need for Sky Sports.
The fact there’s an event to celebrate fans doing their own thing is excellent, and I can see it growing more and more as the years progress. Five years ago it looks like it featured about 100 guests in a small room, so it really has exploded in size and in prestige.
We were seated close to the front in relation to the rest of the room, but far enough away for me not to be able to see the people on stage properly. Our table had five guys from The Anfield Talk, also up for best new blog, and three guys from a betting site called Weekend Football. The rivalry was friendly between myself and the Liverpool guys, and the Weekend Football crew were really supportive.
There was a lot of things to do as well, from photo booths to a football freestyler. We got a goodie back which had one of those big headed plastic figurines in it and some match attax cards. The tables all had a classic football shirts quiz on them with the winning table getting £250 credit to spend in the store. We didn’t win but if we had £250 would just (and only just) buy me the match worn Glenn Cockerill shirt they have on their site from 1982.
There was a multitude of other bloggers and ‘online content creators’ there, from the famous Twitter account ‘Deluded Brendan’ to 442oons video site. It wasn’t all bloggers like myself, there were podcast creators, video creators and even football gaming sites. It really was a rogues gallery of everyone who operates below the official media radar, the people like me who simply follow a club, or an idea. To that end it was great.
I do have a couple of little gripes about the evening. I think there was quite a bit of emphasis on the sponsors and what they could offer the bloggers. Two of the partners went to great lengths to try and ‘recruit’ bloggers to their list of clients. They’ve contacted me prior to the event as well. One of them asked if I would like to work ‘in partnership’, but then turned me down when they realised my viewing figures weren’t in the hundreds of thousands. The others, Classic Football Shirts have provided a link whereby if you click on it through my site I earn commission. I haven’t earned anything yet, probably because I forget to put the link in. I’m not in this to make money, I’m in it to write about our club*.
I was blown away to hear some of you actually watched the live stream, I was honoured you took the time to do that. As you know I didn’t win, in my category the fans vote went to a Rangers blog called John James Site which in one year has had over 7.75m hits, which is about 7.65m more than mine! I knew we were up against some heavyweights so I’ve no complaints. The judges choice went to a blog called the Football Lab, and interesting choice for Best New Blog as it’s been on the go two years and three months, but it’s a good read nonetheless.
I didn’t come away disappointed though. I wanted to win, believe me. I’d worked out a speech where I thanked my missus, everyone who voted and dedicated the award to Collin. I didn’t get to say it, but you know what, I realised it’s still relevant. Throughout the night I was getting messages, texts and tweets offering support and luck. Some of you were tagging me in Banter with really great messages, and I realised that was what I actually craved, not a certificate from the judges. I write about Lincoln City because I love the club, and you read it because you’re the same as me. My award was simply going to Old Trafford and sitting in a room full of people because you read what I write and you supported me. I feel wrong to say ‘me’, because it was ‘us’ in there last night. We, as fans and as a club were at the awards. Without you lot I’m just a bloke who writes too much, and without Lincoln City I’m just a bloke who wants to write but has nothing to write about, so he plays on the PlayStation.
The Anfield HQ won best football club blog, I’m sure it’s a cracking read. I wonder if Jurgen Klopp messaged the writer ahead of the event to wish him luck? I wonder if the local Liverpool radio station and newspaper did a feature on them? I wonder if the clubs investors took time out to tweet best wishes, or some of the players did the same? I doubt it. Who’s the real winner? We are, our football club. Our family.
I’m going to get all deep and heartfelt now, so if you’re done with the meaningful prose about what a club means feel free to skip a few paragraphs, probably past the Stan Collymore picture.
It’s well documented I fell out of love with Lincoln City for a while. I have had more interaction with managers, players and officials in the last twelve months than at almost any time when I was Poacher. I stayed clear of players as much as possible on match days back then, but I always felt I could offer the club so much more. Not many of you will know but in 2008 I formed a company with an events organiser friend of mine with the intention of putting on a big gig at Sincil Bank. I was the ‘feet on the ground’ and he was the brains. We met with the club and were more or less dismissed offhand. Why? Was it because I was just the guy in the suit? I think so.
I used to travel all over the country to mascot events representing our club at my own expense and I was proud to do so. Increasingly I was frozen out, especially under our last chairman’s regime. My belief in the Lincoln Family began to wane. You might recall the night the World Cup came to Sincil Bank and we had a memorial to Keith. That night I was told I couldn’t have my photo taken with the trophy because I wasn’t ‘proper staff’. That night started a long downward spiral, not only with the club being relegated but with me feeling that I wasn’t providing worth, and that I wasn’t appreciated. I think the club began to go cold.
The last twelve months everything has gone full circle, and to be representing the club once again, albeit in a different way was wonderful. The guys on our table didn’t really know about Lincoln City, but I promise you they do now. I did what you guys do when you go abroad in your Imps shirts, I represented LN5. Imp on tour. Only this time I did it with the full blessing of everyone connected with the club and the city. I don’t need a certificate to tell me I won anything last night, I have a lot of screenshots of good wishes to prove I got the prize I wanted, and have wanted since that cold Friday night at Sincil Bank.
The night ended (I’m sure) with a bit of milling around and propping up the bar with my good lady. The Budweiser was free, but the G and T’s and vodka and red bulls we finished on were not. We chatted a bit to Stan, had a few pictures and just soaked up the atmosphere. Will I be back next year? Maybe, maybe not. I’ll still be eligible for best new blog, but I’m not convinced a Lincoln City can hope to achieve anything more than we already have. I’m not sure next year the event will be the final act of closure on my disillusionment with the club I was born to love. I’m not sure going again will have the same impact on me personally that it has had this time around.
So thank you all for your support, your kind words and for reading regularly. Personally as I’ve alluded to things have been a bit of a struggle for the last two or three months, but you guys have given me belief in myself and helped finish rebuilding my complete and utter faith in the club and it’s fans. Now lets go and kick some Village Green arse tomorrow morning and make my 38th birthday (yes, I’m only 38. I matured quickly) one to remember.
* That’s not to say I don’t want to write about Lincoln City for a living, I do. I would love nothing more than to have Mark Whiley or Rob Makepeace’s job. I’m pretty sure everyone should email The Lincolnite and tell them they need to start covering Lincoln City, and employ me as their lead reporter.