10 years of Width of a Post

Image by Claire Epton (copyright Bradford City)

By Jason McKeown

This week is officially the 10th anniversary of when Width of a Post started up, after we first went live a couple of days after Bradford City defeated Crewe Alexandra 3-0 on Boxing Day in the 2011/12 season.

At such landmark moments it can be tempting to rattle out an article talking about the highlights of running the website – and all the memorable things we’ve covered. But instead I thought I’d write about why editing a website liked Width of a Post can be draining, stressful and occasionally leave you feeling downright miserable.

First of all, running WOAP is time consuming and eats into your own social life in significant ways. Sometimes it’s difficult to truly enjoy yourself going to watch Bradford City, when in the back of your mind you know you’re planning to write about the game. Your thoughts become less occupied by the raw emotions of live football and more about what angle to take for your introduction.

Writing a match report takes 2-3 hours. That’s more often than not the bulk of your Saturday night, or for midweek games staying up into the early hours. It wrecks your social life. There are many times I’ve turned down after match pints with friends because I needed to write the report. I sometimes take the train to midweek games rather than drive, simply because the journey home gives me the chance to get started typing something on my phone.

Image by Mike Holdsworth

When City got to Wembley for the 2013 play off final, and the group of mates I travelled to Burton with went out drinking to celebrate, I went home for three hours to write a report and joined them later, totally sober compared to the merry state they were all in. It was hard to catch up, and it felt like I’d missed out on much of the after match glow.  

I remember being at one midweek away game a few years ago, City were losing at half time, and I spent the interval typing up the start of a match report on my phone, and just trying to finish a paragraph as the second half kicked off. City immediately scored and I missed it because I was looking down. They went onto win. And whilst that felt good, it meant everything I’d written had been in waste. But I’d stupidly felt I had to start writing it when I did, because I had a long journey home before I could get cracking and I had to work the next day.

In the early years there were more windows to write match reports and so it mattered less when I did it. Not going to get home from Barnet away until 11pm? No matter, I’ll write the report on Sunday morning. But when you have young kids, that option goes away. So Saturday nights become lonely experiences in front of a laptop, hoping you can get the piece in a good state before the Match of the Day theme tune starts up.

Picture by Thomas Gadd (copyright Bradford City)

When you do publish something, on a few occasions you get lots of people getting angry and having a go at a sentence or paragraph you wrote that they didn’t agree with. It always seems strange to me, the importance some seem to place on my opinion and how upset they can get about it. When I’m no better or more knowledgeable a fan than anyone else. My views are no more important than theirs.

We get accused so often of being ‘pro-club’ and get angry demands to be more hard-hitting and tear into them. But when we do cast a critical judgement, we get a backlash from another set of fans who hate criticism of the club and expect us to show no emotion. I’ve had occasional nuisance phone calls and the odd demand that I must meet with an upset reader to talk through their issue. This even included one father of a player.

And then of course there is the reaction of people at the club. I’ve had plenty of awkward phone calls or messages over the years. Perhaps one of the strangest was when Edin Rahic asked to meet us at a hotel bar and proceeded to go through each of the growing list of articles we’d written criticising his leadership to tell me where he disagreed. He wanted me run future articles past him before they went live, which naturally we didn’t. That was a long evening.

To give yourself a break, and to make sure the site has good coverage of City games, you ask others to help write – but often with an acute sense embarrassment. This is an amateur website that makes no money, so I can’t pay anyone. Asking people to give up their own time to write leaves you feeling guilty, but oh so grateful when they do. So many people with far better things to do with their time have given up countless hours over the last decade to write for WOAP, and I am massively in their debt for doing so.

Photo: Claire Epton © Bradford City

Despite all these moans, there is one inescapable truth that keeps me going – I love writing about Bradford City. That’s the reason I run WOAP. The buzz of a great victory lives on when you’re writing about it. Even writing about the disappointment and anger of defeat can be a therapeutic way of coming to terms with it.

The truth is those 2-3 hours of doing the writing absolutely fly by. When you’ve got your introduction, you’re off and enjoying yourself. And writing about the ups and downs of the club helps you to re-live and revel in the experience that bit more. I’m proud that every great Bradford City moment of the past decade has been covered on WOAP. To be at Villa Park in January 2013 to see City reach a major cup final is something I will treasure forever. To get up the morning after it and write about the experience was also really invigorating.

I absolutely love writing. I’m so lucky to do it for a living. And writing about Bradford City is a fun side hobby. Especially given, for reasons that are often frustrating, there is always something to write about.

And whilst you do get some people having a go, they are vastly outnumbered by the well-wishers and people who tell you they enjoy reading what you do. It is human nature, I think, to pay more attention to insults and criticisms than to accept praise (as Baz Luhrmann once sang, “Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how”). But those moments – where someone tells you they thought you’ve written a great article, or that reading what you’d put together had triggered an emotional reaction – leave you feeling proud.

From time to time you hear about people in the game who read WOAP and enjoy it. There was one recent City manager who apparently read everything we did and valued it, even though we were often critical of him. Others, who have ended their time at the club, say they use WOAP as a way of following its fortunes and keeping in touch.

Image by Thomas Gadd – copyright Bradford City

We’ve been so lucky, over the years, to build up a good readership following. The reader comments we get are great. We’ve got a strong email subscriber base – more than 7,500 people are signed up to get articles send straight to their inbox – and good levels of visitors to the site. And many of those people who have written for us have produced astonishing things and boosted their own profile with it. I take great pride in the small role I played in helping Katie Whyatt’s career get going, and the way she has flourished. 

I also really feel grateful, doing WOAP, for the friendships I’ve made. Before writing about the club, I was the most anonymous of anonymous fans you could imagine. Petrified of ever having a conversation with someone I didn’t know inside Valley Parade. Always completely in awe of other people’s opinions and scared to ever voice my own.

Writing about Bradford City helped me to feel more comfortable in my own skin. And that has helped me to make friends, get to know more City fans, and feel confident expressing how I feel about the club’s fortunes through writing. And though I wish my opinion was taken less seriously by some, I feel privileged that some people want to read my rambling views.

10 years of overusing hyphens, getting too emotional about the ups and downs, mis-reading tactical approaches and getting predictions hopelessly wrong, we’re still here – loving and hating what we do. We’ve published more than 2,000 articles, averaged more than 450,000 visits every year and are on our way to five million hits. Oh, and we’ve also run a podcast for more than five years – now that is always good fun.

I hope that, in its small way, the last decade of WOAP’s presence has contributed to your enjoyment of supporting Bradford City. Because being the editor of this site – and the thousands and thousands of words I’ve written along the way – has certainly made it a more wonderful experience for me.

Most of the time, anyway.

Image by Thomas Gadd

(Please note: the purpose of this article is not to fish for compliments, so reader comments are turned off for this article.)

Categories: Opinion


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