Such sad news and there’s nothing I can write here that will make it any easier to bear.
Graham Taylor wasn’t just a former Watford manager, he was the man who took our little club and built it into the entity it is today. Not once, but twice.
Indeed, amongst the thousands of memories he gave me over the decades following Watford, one of the best was the play-off victory over Bolton which took us into the Premiership for the first time. Not just for my sake, but for his. As a slap in the face for all those who had criticised him for his time with England, it couldn’t have been any better than that. Not that you would have heard him say that because he was far too much of a gentleman.
RIP Mr Watford. You’ll be sadly missed for sure, but you’ll never be forgotten.
I am, by nature, something of a miserable sod. Indeed, as anyone who knows me will know, moaning isn’t just second nature to me, it is my nature. Football, work, politics, telly… the subject is irrelevant. If it irks me, I’ll moan about it. Often for days.
There will however, eventually come a point where I’ll say ‘f**k it’ and move on. For even I will realise that the only thing moaning will ever change is my mood.
Sadly, this is not a lesson the ‘remainers’ of this little island of ours seem capable of learning. For despite it being months since they woke up to the gut wrenching feeling of being proved wrong, they are still moaning about the result of the EU Referendum. And they’re not alone. The tide of bitterness which followed the Scottish referendum shows no sign of abating and now they’ve been joined by the anti-Trump brigade. A group who are giving new meaning to the term ‘bad loser’.
Now whilst their continued angst is all highly amusing to those of us who voted to leave the EU, to remain as part of the Union or to put Trump into the White House one does have to wonder how long they are going to continue whining before they actually accept the result. Because at some point, like it or not, they are going to have to and that’s going to be a huge problem for them. Mostly, I suspect, because the vast majority aren’t football fans.
You see those of us who follow the great game are all too familiar with the gut-wrenching feeling of defeat and so are quickly able to put it behind us before moving on. Those who don’t, have no idea what humble pie tastes like and so would rather choke on it than swallow it.
OK, I know I’m being flippant, but be it in the UK or the US, there has to be some reason why people refuse to accept the outcome of a democratic process which millions have died to defend. And that reason has to be more credible than the idea that those individuals are so arrogant that they are incapable of accepting that they are in the minority.
As anyone who knows me will know, I rarely describe myself as either a screenwriter or an author. Not out of any kind of false modesty, but because I’ve never felt that I’ve earned that right.
Yes, I know I’ve written a few books and a number of movies but I’ve always considered the ’S’ and ‘A’ words to be far too grandiose for the likes of someone like me who basically got lucky. And let’s face it, given the lack of acknowledgment or recognition from either industry over the years, I have a feeling I’m not alone in that thinking although that’s another debate.
However, the other day I had an experience which has actually made me rethink things and consider the fact that I haven’t actually done that bad. It happened, ironically, in a pub where I was having a late afternoon drink with the actor Leo Gregory who starred in both Green Street and Top Dog.
As we were chatting, the door burst open and in came a group of Man City fans on their way to their FA Cup tie at West Ham. Within seconds, they’d recognised Leo and as the cries of ‘fuck me, it’s Bovver’ went up they came across and surrounded us. As gracious as ever, Leo took the time to shake hands and pose for selfies and fairly soon, the pub settled back into normality.
Now this is a fairly routine occurrence when you’re with Leo and god only knows what it must be like to have the shadow of Bovver follow you around all the time as it surely must. But as I reflected on it later, it struck me that whilst that’s my fault for creating that role, I have every right to feel pretty pleased with myself.
After all, Green Street was released in 2005 and whilst huge credit must go to Leo for what he did with him, to have created a character that people still recognise in the street 12 years later is an achievement to be proud of.
And d’you know what, I bloody am.
Talking of movies, thanks for all the messages about my next project, Three Greens. As is the way with these things, there’s not much I can say at the moment but I’ll release more details as soon as I can.
I’m not generally a fan of mascots, at least not British ones. Not because I find them pointless, but because unlike those in the US where it is pretty much an art form, our versions tend to be either scruffy or embarrassing (often both).
But more importantly, it’s usually obvious that the people who inhabit these costumes are not actually performers. Indeed, having seen mascots at all kinds of events over the years, I often get the impression that the only reason they have donned the outfit at all is because they drew the short straw that day.
There is however, one exception and he happens to be the mascot at my club. His name is Harry the Hornet, and entertainer doesn’t do him justice. I would even go so far as to say that there have been plenty of times over the last few season when he’s been the most entertaining thing on show at Vicarage Road.
Central to this is the fact that the guy who inhabits that strange yellow outfit has a fantastic sense of humour and is not afraid to use it. Be it with home fans, visiting fans, officials or even players. Which brings us nicely to the events of last Saturday and the mocking of Wilfred Zaha for diving. An offence for which he was rightly booked.
To his credit, Wilf eventually saw the funny side and the two exchanged a series of tweets (yes, Harry has his own Twitter account) but sadly, the same cannot be said of the former England and now Crystal Palace manager, Sam Allardyce who seemingly took grave exception to one of his players being ‘abused’ in this manner. He even suggested that the FA intervene which, given the subsequent social media piss take, has to go down as one of the great managerial PR own goals of our time. Given what happened with England, you’d have thought that he’d have been wary of anything even closely resembling a sting.
But whilst there is a huge amount of humour to be found in all this, there is also a very serious point. For the truth is that Harry was only mirroring the feeling of the home support and that was a frustration at the antics of certain players in the Palace team. Diving is cheating and a number of Palace players were guilty of that and more on Saturday.
As a former England manager who is now back at the helm of a Premier League side, maybe Mr. Allardyce should be focussed not on the antics of a man wearing a large yellow head, but on those of his team.
This will be my last blog of 2016 so I would like to say a huge thank you to all of those who have continued to support me in any way shape or form.
Whilst I haven’t been exactly prolific on the book front these last 12 months, a lot has been happening behind the scenes, primarily on the movie front and that will hopefully start to deliver in 2017. Indeed, as some of you may have seen, my next movie, Three Greens, has recently been announced.
So can I take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and productive New Year.
A couple of weeks ago, whist sitting at my computer as I do most days, I had one of those gut-wrenching writing related moments when I begrudgingly accepted that what I was working on wasn’t working.
These, as you can imagine, are painful times for a writer because not only do they signify wasted creative effort, but wasted time. Worse than that, they inevitably kick off feelings of frustration and anger and can even signal the start of what some people refer to as writers block (and my feelings on that are well documented).
Anyway, when such a moments occur in Brimson Towers, any one of a number of things will happen:
1. I will make tea before simply dumping everything I’ve written and starting again.
2. I will make tea and settle into a few hours of quiet reflection (sulking) before going back and finding a way to make it work.
3. I will make tea, curse my life and lack of talent and settle into a few days of quiet reflection (sulking) before going back and finding a way to make it work.
4. i will switch on the internet and waste hours of time arguing with someone in the name of research and/or spend loads of money on eBay before going back and finding a way to make it work.
5. I will go out on a motorbike for a few hours and return with not only a way to make it work, but a way to make it better.
Sadly, due to the ravages of time on my knackered back, number 5 is no longer an option which left me with only four choices, or so I thought. Because as I switched on the obligatory kettle, it suddenly struck me that I wasn’t actually enjoying writing. Not just the project I was actually working on, but at all. This light-bulb moment instantly presented me with a fifth option and it was one which, as someone who lists ‘laziness’ as a personal attribute, had an obvious appeal. So much so that right then and there, I grabbed it with both hands. It was retirement.
Yes, that’s right. I didn’t tell anyone about it but early on in November I made the conscious decision to retire from writing altogether. It was bliss, and it lasted approximately two days.
But what dragged me back to my keyboard wasn’t boredom, it was a series of phone calls informing me that two scripts I’d written had taken major steps forward along the development path whilst another idea I’d thrown into the mix had begun to generate some serious excitement.
As motivational tools go, mentions of A-List actors and doubled budgets sit pretty high on the list and so I am happy to announce that my short-lived retirement is now at an end. In fact my writing life is more hectic than it has been in ages.
So it appears, as threatened, that FIFA are going to investigate both the FA and the SFA for a variety of incidents relating to the displaying of a political symbol during their World Cup qualifier on 11th November. Or Armistice Day as some of us refer to it.
The symbol they refer to is, of course, the poppy and whilst a large portion of the British sporting public are rightly up in arms about this affront to the war dead, it might shock you to read that I hold the opposite opinion. Yes, that’s right, this particular veteran actually welcomes this investigation, and for a variety of reasons.
The first is that it will show English and Scottish football fans just how strong the backbones the staff at our respective FA’s actually possess. For given the public reaction, not to mention our inbred dislike and distrust of both FIFA and UEFA, even the acceptance of a token fine would be seen as an admission of guilt and given the significance of both the poppy and the date to the British people, that would be totally unacceptable. Hence, they dare not back down.
Second, it will show once and for all exactly how FIFA regard the English game and the people who follow it. Indeed, given the nature of the allegations, one has to wonder why the Welsh FA aren’t also being investigated given that they put on a show of remembrance in Cardiff the following day.
So angry are fans at this affront that many are already calling for the home nations to step away from the existing governing bodies and whilst I can’t ever see that happening, if FIFA fail to show any flexibility with regard to this matter, the damage to our relationship could be immense.
Finally, and most importantly, it will establish once and for all that the poppy is NOT nor ever has been a political symbol. For the stark reality is that if FIFA decide it is, and the FA accept that decision, it will set a legal precedent which would open the floodgates to all kinds of groups who attack the very idea of remembrance.
That simply cannot be allowed to happen which is why we have to have this investigation and why we have to come out of it with the dignity of the dead intact.
I’ve received a number of mails recently from people who are keen to write books and need advice on how to go about it.
Invariably, these mails ask about finding an agent and/or a publisher as well as any one of twenty questions relating to the actual process of getting a book from brain to bookshelf. However, whilst I’m always keen to encourage new writers, it’s fair to say that most of the people who contact me need (and receive) a reality check.
The truth is that when you’re starting out on the rocky road of penmanship, you don’t need an agent and unless you are incredibly famous or staggeringly lucky, the chances of you securing a publishing deal are pretty much zero. What you do need however, are words on pages. Lots of them.
So if you want to write a book, the best way to start is to simply sit down and get writing. And once you have a few thousand words on your hard drive, you’ll soon realise any number of things. Not least if you have the imagination and drive to actually see it through. Most don’t, but if you actually reach the point where you can say ‘yes’ to both of those questions, that’s when you need to start thinking about the next stage in the process.
Until then, it’s all about actually doing the graft. And you do know it’s hard graft right?
*I first posted the following blog in the spring of 2012, ironically, the same year that footballer Andre Gray posted the homophobic tweets which recently saw him spread across the sports pages.
You would hope that things would have changed in recent years but as we have seen with the Greg Clarke article that’s splashed across the media morning, that is far from the case.
Tragic doesn’t come close. Shameful does.
As you may or may not know, Downing Street will today play host to a summit which will discuss, amongst other things, the issues of racism and homophobia.
Leaving aside the simple truth that I actually think our PM has more important things to be doing at the moment, the reason this summit is taking place is apparently to take a fresh look at both ‘problems’ in the face of recent events and, in the case of homophobia, in the wake of the BBC documentary which looked at the lack of any openly gay players in the professional game.
Now my views on racism at football are in black and white for all to see, be that on this very blog or in my book Kicking Off. Homophobia however, is something I have never really discussed before and there is a reason for that.
You see speaking as a football fan, it is my assertion that there isn’t actually a problem to address at the moment and nor will there be until such time as we have a player with the bottle to actually come out and admit to his sexuality. At that point things will change immediately because then the anti-homophobia campaign will have an actual focal point or to be blunt, a potential victim. As a result, then, and only then, will we know if we actually have a problem at all. Because at the moment, it is all supposition.
That is I know, a very simplistic way of looking at things but let’s face it, once inside the confines of a ground, football fans become fairly simplistic beings. All too often the concept of right and wrong is neutralised by raw emotion but as we saw with racism, when people eventually began to realise how futile and pathetic it was, it soon became so ingrained in their psyche that to even utter a racist term stopped occurring to all but the most rabid of morons. Indeed, far from knocking football for being racist we should be applauding it for driving the anti-racism message deep into the heart of British society.
I believe that exactly the same thing will happen with homophobia and I would argue, it will happen in a fairly short space of time if not immediately. After all, one only has to look at the TV to see how much has changed with regard to British societies acceptance of homosexuality in recent years.
Yet as the noises being made ahead of this summit clearly seem to prove, both the game and the authorities would like the great British public to believe that the second an openly gay player steps onto a field, the terraces will resound with cries of ‘they don’t like it up ‘em’ or ‘I’m free’ and the sight of fans mincing up and down behind the goals. Indeed the reason I sat down and wrote this very blog is because I have been so offended by some of the things I have been hearing this morning. How dare they accuse us, as citizens never mind supporters, of thinking like that!
The question of course, is why they are inferring such things and the answer, like most things to do with the great game, is fairly obvious. It’s a basic diversion tactic. Because if you point the finger of blame toward the fans, you don’t actually have to apportion any blame to yourselves.
Like it or not, if you are a pro-footballer be it at Old Trafford or Roots Hall, the nature of the beast is such that getting abuse from the terrace is going to be part and parcel of your career. Brutal though this might be, it is a fact and if you don’t like it or don’t think you will be able to take it, don’t do it. It really is as simple as that.
The key to dealing with that abuse is to understand why it happens and what it actually means because for the most part, it will only be coming at you from opposing fans who you are pissing off by doing a good job. And as long as you’re doing a good job, as recent history has proven only too well, your own supporters will not only forgive you anything but they will continue to heap adulation on you. Since they are the ones who ultimately pay your wages, they’re the only ones you really have to worry about.
However, if that grief comes not from the terraces but from your peers, especially your own team mates, it is something else entirely because it goes beyond banter from the crowd, it becomes personal. Anyone who has even been in a changing room knows that many of them are like a scene from Animal Farm (the George Orwell book, not the porn movie!) and anyone who shows even the remotest sign of being in any way different becomes fair game. Remember the stick Graham Le Saux used to get simply because he has a brain in his head? Much of that focussed on his supposed sexuality and let’s face it, if you were gay and saw that as a potential warning of things to come, why on earth would you want to put yourself at risk?
Of course not all players are like that and I’m sure that there are certain changing rooms which are delightful places to be post-training. But there are plenty which aren’t, especially if you’re not one of the towel-snapping, prank playing, tart shagging brigade and it is that ‘closed shop’ lad mentality which David Cameron and the various cronies and cling-ons should be discussing not the old chestnut of fears of abuse from the terraces.
But that will only happen when the game actually admits it has a problem in-house and we all know how reluctant it is to do that.
Thanks to all those people who continue to keep both The Crew and Top Dog at the top of the various download charts. It really is humbling. Could I please ask that if you have read either book you leave a review of some kind as they are a great help both to me and to potential readers. And don’t forget, my latest comedy ebook Wings of a Sparrow is also available both in print and to download.
Given my youthful good looks (sic) it might shock you to discover that I’ve been around for a long time. Truth is, I’ve made so many trips around the block that I frequently navigate it in my sleep.
Along the way, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some incredible people but inevitably, I have also encountered some who are, shall we say, less than incredible.
That’s life of course. It would be a bizarre world indeed if we liked everyone we met just as it would be extremely odd if everyone who met us were dazzled by our individual charms. I’ve certainly met plenty of people who have come to regard me as an arsehole. Or worse.
But I can live with that. Life’s too short to work with people you don’t like and that obviously works both ways.
However, whilst normally I consign these individuals to the ‘bad experiences’ folder of my meagre brain, there will occasionally be someone who irks me to such an extent that they make it onto my s**t list. And if you make it onto that, watch out. Because at some point I will repay you in kind.
Oh yes, I carry a grudge.
I mention it here simply because I was recently given the opportunity to dust off said list and cross two people off it. Not because I had forgiven them for their transgressions, but because the opportunity had arisen for the delivery of some payback and I’d grabbed it with both hands.
Yes, I know it’s childish and yes, at my age I should be above such things, but when I’m looking at a potential cast list and see that two of the actors on it also feature on my s**t list, there is no way on earth that either is ever going to get a sniff.
The only sad thing, as I sit here basking in a warm glow of revenge, is that I doubt either of them will ever know that karma paid them a visit on my behalf.
But I know. And ultimately, that’s all that matters.
I have an admission to make: my name is Dougie Brimson and I am a professional author. That isn’t as an introduction to some kind of warped writers anonymous group, it’s a statement of fact.
I mention it because the other day someone asked me what motivates me to write and having thought about it at length, the one thought that kept entering my head was ‘what a stupid bloody question!’ Let’s get this clear once and for all; I write for two reasons: 1. I’m a lazy bastard who likes sitting down all day and 2. I need to make money to facilitate item 1.
That seems fair enough to me but for some strange reason it doesn’t seem to sit well with the literati. For them, the very idea of a writer admitting to being motivated by income rather than some holier-than-thou desire to ‘create’ is almost akin to admitting a being a Brexiter and admiring Margret Thatcher. Mind you, both of those are true of me too.
I have never really understood this thinking. After all, writing isn’t just bloody hard work it takes an awful lot of time and effort so if you’re going to do it, surely the aim must be to get published? But you will only get published if someone thinks that there is potential to sell copies and if you sell copies, you make money. That’s why it’s called the publishing business.
Yet for some reason, if you as a writer approach the process by looking at the market and giving it what it actually wants as opposed to what some editor thinks it should have, you are regarded almost as a traitor to the art form. Believe me, I’ve met people who work in publishing who genuinely seem to consider being popular as something to be ashamed of.
Well sod that. I might never win the Booker prize or receive invites to the Hay festival but I know my market, I know what it wants and I’m happy to provide it with as much as I can and as often as I can. If the literary world doesn’t get that simple commercial reality then screw them.
The reason why this is so relevant is because as some people are already aware, I’m currently working on the sequel to my novel Billy’s Log and it’s highly likely that I will be releasing it purely as an ebook.
There are numerous reasons for this (most of which are quite tedious) but the two main ones have to do with speed and money.
It can take months, sometimes years, for a manuscript to make the journey to Waterstones and even longer for the meagre percentage of the cover price to reach the authors bank.
For an eBook, it can be online within hours and any royalties in the bank within 3 months and more importantly, even though eBooks are significantly cheaper than paperbacks, that royalty is higher.
As a professional writer, that’s significant because at the end of the day, whilst I’ve sold plenty of books (around 750,000 at the last count) I’m not JK Rowling or Jeffrey Archer and I don’t get offered 6 figure advances. My income is generated primarily by sales.
Don’t get me wrong, I cannot even begin to tell you how much I appreciate every single email, tweet, letter or comment I receive about my writing and when it comes to motivation, nothing works as effectively as praise. But I also appreciate the income that my work generates if for no other reason than it buys me time, and food. So anything I can do to increase that income and the speed with which it arrives, has to be a good thing.
The downside of course, is that for someone like me who continues to sell books, by stepping away from the traditional publishing route I’m actually taking work away from the very people who have for years been in control of my career.
I get no pleasure from that but at the end of the day, going the eBook route might not win me any friends in publishing but no editor would work for nothing and I’ll be buggered if I’m going to either.
On the subject of ebooks, it continues to astonish me that over 5 years since it was first released as an ebook, The Crew has almost continually held the #1 slot on both its Amazon and iTunes chart and was the most downloaded football book of 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Additionally, on most weeks at least 7 of the top 50 football books on iTunes are my titles and I’ve also released two further books including Wings of a Sparrow which continues to sell well.
This, in spite of the fact that publicity for my work remains an elusive beast. In fact I have found it all but impossible to obtain any mainstream coverage for my work which is both irritating and frustrating in equal measures. Yes, there is obviously the ‘hooligan’ tag to overcome which is clearly and understandably an issue with some people but the fact remains, there is a market for the type of books I write and thankfully, that market seems to like what I’m providing for them.
So rest assured, as long as people keep buying them, I’ll keep writing them because to me, the reader is and always will be the most important person in the whole process. Which is kind of the point.