2020 a year of memories

It’s been one mixed up, muddled up, shook up year for everyone. Throughout the trying times there have also been some golden moments and events that have made this year memorable for all the right things. So what has ben going on in the world of Unashamed Football Novels in 2020? Oh, and if you’re reading this on your mobile, you can swipe the photos to see the others in the gallery.

Two books from Popcorn Press, Introducing Jarrod Black and Jarrod Black Hospital Pass, released in 2019, continued to tour the world. Cambridge United and Bermuda star Reggie Lambe got his hands on one, thanks to number one fan Lilah. We also saw a book being consumed in the French Alps by Allison, and spotted in New York in the hands of avid reader Tommy B. The books have been spotted in holiday locations from Druridge Bay to Caves Beach, in book stores around the globe and in the hands of many football fiction lovers.

Two became three in May, at the height of the Covid 19 pandemic. Jarrod Black Guilty Party was launched to an unsuspecting public and found its way immediately into the hands of a loyal readership. A three week feature on nufc.com was amazing, giving this blog a 500% increase in visitors within 15 minutes of it appearing – if only we could get the same increase in sales of the book. It gave Guilty Party a moment in the spotlight and made the Newcastle United supporter base aware that there was a new book out there that celebrated their club. Big thanks to Fair Play Publishing for releasing a book when everyone was in lockdown and when distributors and bookstores were closed.

That trio of novels continued the world tour, taking in the sights of Morpeth, the author’s home town, and even making it to the scene of Jarrod Black’s debut, Carlisle United’s Brunton Park. Good on you Jules for sending those photos over.

The new book had a whistle-stop tour of Humberside with Steve too, taking in the bridge and the Hull City stadium, while Charlotte tucked in to her new book in the sunny climes of Phoenix, Arizona. Fantastic fuel for an author, it just makes you want to write more! If anyone else has a good photo from anywhere in the world, you know where to send it. Pop it up on social media, send it via email, don’t be shy! Exposure on socials guaranteed!

There have been other journalistic forays in 2020 – a half page article in TWT, the local free paper to many Sydneysiders, was a blast, as was scoring a centre-spread in the first issue of Play On, a magazine for socially distant football fans. That one was a write-up about a visit to Central Coast Stadium and a comparison to visits to St James’ Park way back in the 1990s. An article also made it to issue 7 in December, after a nervy time at NPL trials prompted some quick-fire writing. I’ve also had articles published at The Mag here and here, at True Faith and on our shores on The Roar and I’m now showing everyone how not to tip in The Roar’s weekly A League tips and predictions.

Exciting times for journalism ahead in 2021 hopefully.

There was also time to do some reading. Due to my rapidly changing family circumstances during the year, Tony Cascarino‘s book struck a chord and I now rate that as my favourite football read of all time – you’ll understand when you read it. The Boy on the Shed by Paul Ferris (I reviewed it here earlier) was my holiday read from last Christmas holidays and was an equally absorbing read. Tim Cahill’s book was entertaining at the beginning as he made his mark at Millwall, the latter stages of the book were a little self-indulgent perhaps. Maybe should have waited for the end of his playing career to get it all in there, but hey, well done on getting your memoirs published Timmy. You will always be an Australian football legend. I’ve got much-loved books by Tim Parks and Steven Scragg sitting on my bedside table at the moment. I can sense a good reading session coming on to get back into them, but life is still getting in the way!

Football supporting is still a way of life and has continued throughout 2020. From taking in Sydney FC games including a grand final success at Bankwest Stadium to roaring on the Matildas in their dramatic late comeback at the same venue, the itch to follow my teams will never wane. In fact, we now have a social group that meets on Saturday mornings in the area, the Meadowbank Ultras, a group of football people, all with the common goal of helping promote football by whatever means possible. The less said about my beloved Newcastle United, the better. From the false high of takeover cans to the lows of watching another Steve Bruce masterclass, it really has lurched in a familiar way from one crisis to the next.

From a family perspective, the year has seen plenty of football action amidst a background of uncertainty and turmoil. Zach won a trophy for his summer soccer exploits early in the year and enjoyed a successful winter season with the Rovers and as a referee. Aurelia continued to kick goals for Gladesville Ravens in GSAP (far out, she did score an absolute screamer at Ernie Smith reserve!) and will play NPL Under 14s in 2021. Duke continues to be a bona fide member of #dogsofsokkahtwitter. Love ’em all to bits!

While all along, the mighty West Ryde Rovers Over 35s have continued their quest for the perfect esky. This season saw silverware in a pre-season tournament when I played in goal and somehow kept a clean sheet in the final. I wrecked my shoulder early in the winter season thanks to some friendly fire from teammate George, rising for a corner with his knees in my back, but we came good after the lockdown and finished the season well, mid-table in Division 2. An end of season trip to Canberra, the first foray interstate for the year, was like a holiday, and a high quality seven-a-side comp every Thursday night has been special. Hooray for football.

So, what’s next? The Football Writers Festival in November saw the unveiling of the cover of the fourth Unashamed Football Novel. Anna Black – This Girl Can Play should be out in March 2021. And how is that shirt, courtesy of Futbol Cult. Jarrod Black takes a back seat while his sister Anna experiences a rollercoaster adventure that will touch every active Australian football fan. Copies are on pre-sale already from the publisher – it’s less than three months away! There are some crackers coming out from Fair Play in the new year, especially looking forward to Andy Bernal’s autobiography, Riding Shotgun and Be My Guest by those football oracles Jason Goldsmith and Lucas Gillard.

My fifth novel is underway, but time is proving the biggest obstacle. Jarrod Black returns in another cracker of a story. How long can his football career span? Are there new twists? You can bet your bottom dollar that there are. There’s a long way to go with this one, but it’s already shaping up to be a gripping read.

Stay tuned for all the action on and off the field in 2021. It’s such a relief getting to the end of such a turbulent year, but let’s celebrate what we’ve learnt from it and look forward to a year filled with footballing goodness.

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