We managed to have a quick Q&A with Jeff Goulding, author of Red Odyssey to find out what it’s like to capture the pride, passion and irreverence of Liverpool and Merseysides most ardent supporters and publish his first book.
1. Would you say you are Liverpool’s number one fan? or does it go deeper than that?
I wouldn’t say that to be honest. I do love Liverpool Football Club and sometimes I wish I didn’t care so much but describing myself in those terms feels uncomfortable. It’s not just because the phrase ‘number one fan’ conjures up images of Kathy Bates in Steven Kings Misery either. The phrase to me feels cliché, even fake. Worse than that, it seems too simplistic to amply explain the relationship we all have with our club.
The word fan feels passive. It’s like the word ‘admirer’. Following Liverpool feels more like an interaction. Ask most Kopites and they’ll tell you that they can affect the performance of the team and vice versa. It doesn’t really matter if that’s real, although it is, the important thing is we believe it.
So, I feel that all Reds have a connection with the club that’s unique to them. Mine is to do with so many things and it’s often hard to pin it down. I explore all of that in the book, and in the end, I guess it’s about an accumulation of stories and memories, but even that doesn’t seem to do it justice. Yes, it is as you say deeper than that. I would say it’s about how the club makes you feel, the emotions that well up inside when you remember a game or a player and the associations that dredges up, that’s all part of it.
I think that’s probably the same for every supporter and although everyone’s memories and emotional responses will be different to mine, neither connection is superior to the other. Or maybe I’ve been thinking about this too much. 😊
2. What is your best piece of writing advice?
Don’t talk about wanting to be a writer, write. Actually, that’s Steven Kings advice, but when he’s right, he’s right. Seriously, you won’t get good at anything unless you practice. I started making a serious effort to write in my early 20s and I got my first article published in my early forties. I’m 50 now and have just had my first book published. Sometimes it takes time and that’s alright.
The other thing is to write about the things you really care about. If the reader senses your passion they’re more likely to come along for the ride with you.
3. You have written various publications and for many websites, what does it feel like to have your first book published?
I still can’t believe it. I keep expecting someone to tap me on the shoulder and say, “sorry we’ve made a horrible mistake.” Having someone publish a book of mine has been a dream ever since I can remember. The day I saw the cover for the first time, with my name across the top, that feeling will live with me for a long time.
I am incredibly proud of the work I’ve published online though. It’s just that books to me are special. Maybe it’s a generational thing, but a book is a tangible object, something physical I have produced. Books are also about legacy, you can pass them on to children and grandchildren. They’re a little piece of your personality that will live on after you’ve gone.
4. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
Writing articles for websites or fanzine publications felt more manageable to me. Obviously, there’s still the same focus on quality and telling a story that’s entertaining and informative, but I was always producing a discreet piece of work, wrapped up in just 800-1000 words.
In writing a book I had to become more disciplined, and not just in terms of the amount of effort involved (be prepared for it to take over your life for at least six months). It’s more than that. A project of this size requires you to maintain the readers attention over a much longer journey than a blog or an opinion piece.
I kept having to ask myself “why would anyone care about that,” and “how does this fit with the overall story I am trying to tell.” That meant being prepared to bin stuff I liked, but which I knew didn’t add value to the work. That was hard sometimes.
5. How do you think that social media outlets have affected sports journalism?
To be honest, I still think there’s a hierarchy in place with the traditional sports journalists on their pedestal. However, I can see that starting to change and I really think the explosion of supporter media is having an overall positive effect, in terms of offering a greater diversity of content and setting agendas.
Unofficial media are really pushing the boundaries and challenging what you can and can’t write about. In addition, there’s an authenticity to a lot of the work that makes it more entertaining and engaging than the traditional outlets. I think they see that and are changing as a result. We now see newspaper sites running live blogs and other techniques utilized by the unofficial media, in effort to appear more edgy and authentic.
However, you can also see the supporter-based media becoming ever more professional in their approach. Ultimately, I see this as opening opportunities for new and emerging writers. My work would never have seen the light of day, were it not for social media. I’ll let the reader decide if that’s a good or a bad thing.
Excerpt from Red Odyssey: Liverpool FC 1892-2017
“Time and again Liverpool are driven to the brink of defeat, only to refuse to accept their fate. Countless encounters, from Auxerre to Milan, demonstrate their never-say-die attitude. On Thursday, 14 April 2016, Borussia Dortmund came to Anfield for a Europa League quarter-final that gave a new generation of Kopites stories to tell. With 45 minutes to go before kick-off, the pavements outside the ground were crammed.
Supporters were animated in conversation and, delirious with anticipation, reveling in the occasion. Anfield Road was jammed as Reds and Yellows alike posed for selfies and laughter filled the air. I moved through the ‘tunnel’ under the new Main Stand, still under construction, weaving my way through the throng, before emerging near The Albert.
A sign was hanging in front of a shop, next to the Hillsborough Justice Campaign store. It read ‘Willkommen In Liverpool’. The sound of singing from inside pubs drifted into the street and joined the smell of beer and chips. A cacophony of accents surrounded me: English, Scouse, German and Irish. It really was all nations, all cultures, in one place and dreaming of glory. This was European football. This was Anfield.”
About Jeff Goulding
Jeff Goulding is the author of two books about Merseyside football. Odyssey: Liverpool FC 1892-2017 (available here) is the author’s first book. Jeff has previously written for various publications and websites and is now a regular feature writer for This is Anfield. Having stood on the Spion Kop for over 40 years, Jeff is ideally placed to capture the pride, passion and irreverence of Liverpool’s most ardent supporters.