There are fewer printed fanzines now, but some of the best are still going strong two decades on. Graham Ennis & Mark O'Brien report
When Skies Are Grey started in 1988, during that first heady rush of the fanzine boom. The aim, very simply, was to give supporters a platform. To this day, although the appearance of the mag has changed radically – we threw away the Pritt Stick years ago – that ethos has never changed. The fanzine and, for that matter, our website exist to let Evertonians have their say on about pretty much anything they like.
The mag has always been about fans. It has never really been about players. We tried. Once we interviewed Tony Cottee and it was extremely dull. So dull that Cottee’s team-mate Matt Jackson took the piss, sticking his head around the corner during the interview and shouting “What’s your favourite colour?” and other such witticisms. This only served to cement our view that professional footballers have absolutely nothing in common with fans, so why pretend otherwise? We’re fairly certain that none of them has ever read it, either. It’s hard to imagine James Beattie with a copy secreted into the Max Power that he apparently reads in the changing room and laughing out loud at a list of “Five Favourite Serial Killers” or “101 Grange Hill Moments”.
The club have largely ignored us, although we did hear one fantastic story of a marketing manager throwing an issue across his office in disgust and forbidding his teenage son to read it. We prefer it that way, really: they do their thing and we do ours. Whenever they have been in touch it has rarely been for anything good – they did threaten to sue us at one point very early on. As have Liverpool FC, a leading city councillor and a local DJ whose name we still can’t print without his permission. In fact he liked us so much he sued us twice.
We’ve been really lucky down the years in that we’ve consistently had people get in touch with superb offerings. A lot of readers will probably point out a cartoon that used to grace the middle pages, called “Laugh Along With the Loveable Reds”, as the most memorable thing we’ve printed. But we keep getting new stuff that makes us laugh.
The website started about six years ago and has complemented rather than detracted from the magazine. For a start, the site’s ability to reach a much broader audience has brought WSAG to people who weren’t aware of it before. There are certain similarities between the online and paper-based manifestations of WSAG – after all, most of the people who use the message board probably buy the magazine, too – but there are also marked differences. The immediacy of the internet allows people to discuss the latest events almost as they happen. So, for instance, while we’ve never had match reports in WSAG, we have them on the site. On the other hand, longer, more thoughtful or analytical pieces often don’t come over that well online, so there are probably more of those in the mag, as well as more of the nostalgic pieces, too.
The advent of the internet has been a positive thing. On a broader note, though, it’s just a shame that the internet, with all its potential for inspiring creativity and debate, often seems like nothing more than a haven for cranks and weirdos. Football sites suffer very badly from this – when people had to go to the effort of writing a letter out by hand and putting a stamp on an envelope it filtered out a lot of the more tiresome loons.
From WSC 230 April 2006. What was happening this month