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Pleading the Fifth : The SW19’s ARMY Fifth Birthday Message

At least you all now know where the name of this site comes from

It’s SW19’s fifth birthday. You could have all come to the party if I had held one, but instead I’m going to get drunk on my own, call in a couple of strippers for my own personal self-gratificiation and go for a level of self-indulgence that wouldn’t be seen out of place in Peter Winkelmann’s CV.

Not put off yet? OK then……

On the 14th June 1999, after two rather lousy attempts at websites, I decided to do something different on the web. This would be about football, and in particular a club called Wimbledon.

In them days, football websites were one of two things : either image based, with loads of oversized JPEGs buggering up my humble 28k connection, or rows upon rows of stats of goals scored against Coventry. No matter where I looked, there was nothing to tax the old grey matter. There was no gossip, no alternative views of Wimbledon anywhere. At the time, there was little fanzine activity about. There was nothing that I wanted to read, especially in a post Dublin climate. The silence of Wimbledon fans about anything was deafening

I had written for fanzines before, but this was different. This would be my own site, where I could put what I wanted. Naming it after the very lyric you get at the top of this page, and in true angry young man style, I dug out a freeware copy of an HTML editor, and started to type my first entry….

Right, bearing in mind I’ve only just started doing this, I’ll do a brief recap of what’s going on….. in case you’ve been living in a place where news travels slowly, like up North for example, you will notice that we have a new manager, he is the ex-Norway and Valarenga manager Egil “Drillo” Olsen, and the man is a deity. Why? Because he says how much he loves us etc etc, and the fact that he got Norway to the World Cup in 1994 and 1998 using our style of tactics. Of course, he’s going to get slaughtered by the press for bringing back “primitive” tactics back to the hypefest called the Premiership, but then he’s probably not glamourous enough for them. Tossers

Looking back, there isn’t that much I would change about that very first entry. To this day, I still believe that Drillo was the right man at the wrong time. I still believe the players were mainly at fault for that relegation season. I still believe that the Premiership is a hypefest. I still believe that they’re tossers. For the record, fact fans, that very first entry mentioned Robbie Earle getting an MBE (and this very site is responsible for the REMBE tag), Chris Perry going to Spurz, with suitable barbs, and this little gem:

And finally, we’ve got a new shirt sponsor. Tiny Computers. Yes, Tiny Computers. As in total shite company with wank support and wank quality. Guess they’ve decided that WFC would be the ideal club for them then. Of course, the name is bound to work against us. No doubt there will be some “funny” comment that it refers to the size of the crowd, or that the thought of John Hartson wearing one will be mirth-inducing. Likewise, I’m sure people will refuse to buy one because it may be a reference to the size of ones genetalia. Personally, I think it refers to the collective brain power of Wimbledon FC Marketing department.

These days of course, I’m not an angry young man. I’m merely angry. But this does show what has happened to us all since that fateful close season day. When I first uploaded SW19 to the servers, I never thought that in five years time I would be following a lowly non-league club, that we would have suffered Dublin making the rounds. Or relegation. Or player revolts. Or Milton Keynes first time round. Or Milton Keynes second time round. Or even “We Will Rock You” at corners.

The early SW19 stuff will probably never be reprinted, because I don’t think the quality of writing is that good and some of the personal attacks are a little bit too blunt for your average PC Womble. But that is what my mood was at the time (and you think the tagline “Politically Unsound” was a joke). These things weren’t being said, because Wimbledon fans had a sense of loyalty and deference to those who ran them because they were fans themselves, and shouldn’t be criticised. Some argue that this is the case today, not me though. Obviously.

And when I first started, I was genuinely worried what people thought. Would they read it? Would they like it? Will people get pissed off with it? Well, the answers are : I’ve had less than 5 complaints about the site since I started it. Nobody has tried to properly kill me – yet – over it, though I’m told it’s because I scare people. Charming. I get about 400-500 people reading my match reports, and that’s not including the people who read printouts of it given by others. Not bad I suppose, considering I gave it two years maximum.

As the site progressed through Drillo’s demise, and the club’s relegation, I tried various things. I tried a general observation section called “Odds, Sods and Gits”, which lasted until I totally got bored with writing the same stuff over and over. I did the guestbook – still limping strongly even today – and a messageboard, which lasted not too long. I had loads of pics and sounds, so I did my own media centre called, er, “Pics and Sounds”. There’s some other stuff that lasted as long as an AFC Wallingford title run, but the strengths that are still there were as strong then.

There were the articles. I had a lot to say in them days that wasn’t being said, so I said them. Although I don’t write as many as I used to, I still consider them my favourite bit of the site. Some of the better ones have been put in the very archive you can see today (for the record, I consider my Celsi Fun Page a work of genius and is still my favourite ever article to this day).

And then there are the match reports. Some people like them for some reason, I’ve never really worked out why. In the beginning, I tried “ordinary” ones, but the more I did it, the more writing material I could get out of observing what went on off the pitch. Christ, during the MK season it was the only thing keeping me sane. Again, I tried something different with the bullet sub-headings (ie Plus Points, Truth…. etc), can’t remember when I first tried it out but it made it so much easier to write. The idea wasn’t new, I actually nicked the concept from Millwall fanzine “The Lion Roars”, but the best ideas aren’t always the newest ones.

The weird thing is about the match reports, at times I find writing them a real job. Especially when the game is dull, because I then struggle big time thinking of funny/thought provoking things to write about AND be consistent in the quality. Some games, I consider not writing them to see if anyone notices, unfortunately they do. I have trained myself now to getting it all written up, formatted and occasionally proof-read within a set time frame (usually each match report takes 1-2 hours to write up). I don’t think I’m doing too badly after 5 years practice.

SW19’s influences are quite subtle. When I first started, I was drawing heavily on reading some of W&WW before it became a guestbook-only site. I was also seriously influenced by Red Issue (Man U fanzine), Through The Wind And Rain (Liverpool fanzine), both of which I was heavily into at the time, and something called Fitshaced, an online US fanzine now sadly defunct. Shame, I’m sure your average middle class liberal would have had a stroke after reading it…

Without a doubt, the one single event that to this day defines SW19 was Milton Keynes. I had heard the rumours, I didn’t want to believe them and I felt that there was shit stirring going on. When it came out firstly in the Sun, then through WFC’s letter to us, everything went into overdrive. This site, plus a couple of others, went bellyup almost immediately. I remember going to to a derelict Plough Lane and wondering if this was really it. Then the FL said no, Koppout came back, and I spent just about every single article or report or whatever else second guessing. This was when things were dampening down, my enthusiasm was waning quicker than a neutral observer watching Franchise vs Doncaster.

Things got worse and worse with the site. Milton Keynes was taking a big, BIG toll. I was getting really fed up with writing stuff. I was getting fed up with people coming up to me and giving me quotes purely for my benefit. I knew then that I was becoming somebody with journalistic tendencies, because I don’t like my integrity being threatened in this way. SW19 had, in effect, become a parody of itself. I know that some people came up to me and thanked me for it during that season, but in truth I thought they were just taking the piss. So, after a rather nice trip to Boston, I came back, sat down and pulled the plug on the site. I’d had enough, and I didn’t regret torching it.

The response was mega, and it made me realise just how people enjoyed reading it. Even got a nice tribute on Big Tissue which I really didn’t know about or ask for until somebody pointed it out. But my mind was resolute, and nothing was going to make me return. I’d made my bed and was going to lie in it. That was until 28/5/02 came along. Now, you know what you felt at the time, I know I did. I felt I had to say something, anything. So I got out the HTML software again, and symbolically made the background black and the text white. It felt funeralistic. I needed to redo the logo, so again, a nice cool black colour. I found a rather evil looking Real IRA gunman, so I slung him on. And I began typing. Can’t remember what I said, again it’s in the archive, but the SW19 you read today is heavily, heavily down to the 28th May. OK, some people don’t like the white-on-black design but I think it’s quite cool and edgy meself.

AFCW started up, and so SW19 got back into it. I’d lied about restarting the site, but nobody cared. What persuaded me to bring it back was that first Sutton game. Although I said that I was considering not doing it after that first set of friendlies – which was true to an extent, I was still majorly fucked off – I knew deep down that SW19 would be back covering games against Raynes Park Vile and Chipstead. Indeed, one memorable guestbook entry at the time (so memorable I still remember it even now) said to me quite explicitly, “You’ve got to bring it back now”. We were heading into the unknown, and so was SW19. And it came out all right.

Writing about AFCW is the easiest and the hardest thing you can do. There’s been some things that I’ve wanted to write but thought better of it because it’s too close to us all. On the other hand, it’s a joy not to have to constantly look over your proverbial shoulder to see what the club comes out with next. Christ, it got to the stage that every time I went abroad, something shit happened. QPR merger, us going down are just two things that have happened (there were moves on WISA to have my passport revoked – and I don’t think they were joking either). Nowadays, whenever there’s mass grumblings about the Dons Trust, I leave the politcised to it. At least I know at the end of the day we’ll have a club that I can sort of believe won’t do the dirty on us.

So now what? I don’t think SW19 will be here in another five years, in truth I don’t think it will last another two. By that time I should have moved on to my burgeoning (?) journalistic career, which has been honed by doing this very site (seriously). Or I’ll be dead or something. And anyway, in true punk style you could pick up some software and create your own. Like I did 60 months ago to this very day….

Finally, some memorable SW19 related moments of the past five years:

– The hand drawn picture of a penis to illustrate the CPFC 4 WFC 0 game when I forgot my camera. Reason being that the game was a complete pile of cock. Actually manage to impress one female with it.

– Getting SW19 mentioned in Cork City’s “FourFiveOne” fanzine for my report at Turners Cross.

– Managing to get SW19 into the Observer and on a Sky Sports “Fanzone” thingy as well

– Photographing Woking Womble lying flat out drunk at Gillingham, making an issue of it for the entire rest of season – “Woking Watch” anyone? – and finding out that his mum wanted to kill me.

– Having somebody else’s parent wanting to kill me for slagging off Feltham.

– Having the same somebody else threaten me for publishing details of his love life.

– Nearly getting thrown out at Barnsley for taking pictures of the rather iffy wiring in the stand

– Being barred from no less than 10 different internet places, including an international high street bank and a Middle East government. At the same time. “Adult content” apparently…

– Witnessing Pompey stewards assaulting our fans

– Coney Hall at Bromley. Especially taking the photos.

Oh, and I once got offered a job writing for Eurosport…..