Hey, if you can't be self indulgent in the 'about me' section of your blog then when can you?
In this section of the blog I'll ramble a little about where I'm coming from and why I've opted to create the Rowett series for anybody interested. This is going to be almost auto-biographical and a bloody long read. So best to read it if you've got some time on your hands. You've been warned!
"Excellent work. I really enjoyed reading this, it's incredibly absorbing, well done," wrote my year eight English teacher in pencil underneath a piece of homework I'd handed in the day prior.
We had to put together a few pages describing a personal event from the last year that affected us emotionally. The praise shocked me. I'd scribbled together this story in the morning during registration. It was a rush job. A piece of crap essentially, yet the teacher seemed to really like it.
Looking back, this was the first moment which led me to think....'well, actually, I might be alright at this writing lark. If everybody has at least one discernible talent that they take into the world of work, this might be mine, maybe.'
Now...I know there's the distinct possibility that people are reading this and thinking 'why does this guy think he's decent at writing? His blogs are terrible'. That's a concern of mine. I'd hate to be viewed as being self-delusional, like those Apprentice contestants who gob off and rate themselves as '10/10' in everything and make crass statements like....'Why reach for the stars?...Steven [always refer to themselves in the third person]...doesn't limit himself like that' and then they stare at the camera and end the segment with a pout.
I have my nagging doubts, I question myself constantly. A famous sport psychologist calls this 'The Chimp Paradox', which, as far as I can tell, states that each of us has two 'entities' in our heads; the rational human that favours facts and logic; and the chimp which deals in emotions and its main concern is convincing you to avoid risk at all costs [out of a basic, primal urge for self preservation].
So when you get into an airplane and it takes off, your rational human mind says: 'every day thousands of flights take off; it's statistically the safest form of transport; planes have never been so technologically advanced, sit back and enjoy the flight'. Whereas the chimp will be saying '...what in the sweet shitting nora are you playing at? You're in a metal tube, 30k feet in the air, being propelled by a highly flammable substance. You must be shitting crazy. Get off the plane, get off NOW'.
Apparently, each of us has a daily mental battle where we try to suppress the chimp and let the human take control. At times, my chimp is Donkey Kong. The N64 version where he's beefed up. My human is constantly being pelted with barrels and knocked unconscious.
But sooner or later you have to learn to accept praise. There's enough talentless arseholes knocking about who have deluded themselves into thinking they're infallible and brilliant, so why not put yourself out there and give them some competition?
I might be a talentless arsehole, It's very hard to definitively come to a conclusion, objectively. But who cares now? The time has come to create, to have a go, to throw my blog out there amongst the endless sea of blogs and let the audience decide. And even if they decide it's average, at least I can sate the burning desire we all have to create something artistic. Plus when I'm 70 years old I can read this back and have a laugh.
If you're reading this, my message is to go out there and create something. Write a blog, learn a musical instrument, paint, sculpt, learn a language, vlog. You'll feel better for it. And at least it will offer a form of escapism from the grey weather and the 9-5 drudgery we suffer.
This is the first reason I write. To satisfy the burning need to create something and express myself and leave something to read in the future when I'm sitting in a retirement home and I've had enough of playing Call of Duty multi-player in the communal living room.
The second reason I created these blogs is that I would like to work as a journalist or a writer one day, and the best and most accessible way to get onto the ladder is by writing and creating content.
I outlined above that I'd like to just engage my hippy artistic side and create something, and also leave something for posterity. In theory this could feasibly be achieved by writing a diary which only I would read.....but you know......the truth is that loads of people from all walks of life have complimented me on my writing style and told me they're thoroughly entertained by my posts. I make them laugh, or sum up their feelings on a particular issue, and they say they enjoy reading my work.
You cheeky bugger, they're not just my family and friends!
I'm not like those oddballs on X-Factor who break the windows when they sing, but have been led astray by family members telling them they have the voice of an angel all their lives. Most of the people who react positively to my writing are complete randoms, strangers with no real need to compliment in the ways they do.
It all started in 2004 on a rainy April afternoon at Solihull Sixth Form College. It was pissing it down outside, most of my mates were in lessons, there was only one friend who shared this free period with me and he had to finish some coursework quickly on the computers. So I logged on the PC next to him.
Skysports had taken over Planet Football so no longer could we go to that mental website and read the endless transfer rumours listed there. A pity. What else was there? I started to surf the net looking for football websites. Football 365 appeared. I can't truly remember what I saw but I do recall being entertained and wanting to post responses to a few threads which had taken my fancy on the discussion forum.
That night I created a login and began to post, as a noob, and I remember debating with Arsenal fans, criticising Wenger for importing a cheating, diving mindset into the English game via his Arsenal team of Frenchies. More and more Arsenal fans piled into the thread to take an e-swing at me, but I continued to give examples of their players diving and quoted stats about them being the most carded team in the Prem. I think Vieira had the most red cards too. They weren't having it. The predictable anti-Birmingham slurs were fired in response, but they merely spurred me on and in the end it was a good bit of fun. The thread was the busiest that evening.
The forum is now owned by Sky and is the biggest football forum in the UK, boasting over 40,000 active contributors. From 2006 to 2013 I was voted the Forum's Forummer of the Year, four times.
Yeah that sounds incredibly nerdy. Yeh it's all a bit sad. But when there's 40,000 people posting on there: London-based journalists, teachers, reporters, DJs, bloggers, former footballers, Oxbridge graduates, investment bankers, and you're held up as the best contributor? It definitely triggers a sense of pride. It's something to batter down my inner Donkey Kong.
I don't know why the Football 365ers have reacted so well to my posts and my writing over the years. Half see me as a wind up merchant. My login 'Trader Jones' is often held up on there as a standard-bearer for wind ups. The other half see me as a plain talker that dishes up a combination of common sense and comedy.
I sometimes wonder whether I'm a contrarian. That I'll purposely oppose what is deemed the popular view in order to entertain. I've definitely been guilty of this. I find it really easy to argue in an authoritative manner either side of the same debate. Where I've been anti-soldiers, anti-our foreign policy, anti-America one day; the next I'll big up our soldiers, champion America and praise our foreign policy.....all with the intention of providing entertainment. Creating a debate, so that we can all get through the day quicker.
I do however, have real views and post candidly on the forum too. Especially in threads relating to issues I'm passionate about such as the Blues, Politics, Comedy and Game of Thrones.
This blend of being in character part of the time, but posting honestly the rest of the time has created a mystique around the login and often forummers will find themselves agreeing with my posts but hating themselves for doing so because they believe they're agreeing with a piece of text designed to wind everybody up for a laugh.
This unpredictability of the Trader Jones login is perhaps why it's been so successful for so many years, and has survived where other bolshy forummers have become stale or got themselves banned.
I do take umbrage with the idea that everything I write on there is designed to be outrageous. I genuinely believe that I do ponder both sides of an issue, as objectively as possible, before arriving at a position.
In my first entry on the Rowett's Corner blog I fundamentally refuse to just go with the flow and blindly suggest Liverpool should sell Suarez just because he bit someone. I try to approach it from a different perspective, one which asks questions about morality in football and whether it's fair for some clubs to adhere to the arbitrary ethical precepts, while others [*cough* Barca *cough*] do what they like.
I guess what I'm saying is that while I do set out to entertain and provoke in my writing, I'll always argue a point that is defensible and is somewhat understandable even if you disagree with it.
A couple of years after signing up to Football 365, I joined smallheathalliance - a Birmingham City based forum where Blues fans ostensibly discuss the club but like F365, threads often wander to include other subjects.
Like F365 I started out contributing with my real opinions. McLeish was an idiot for playing the snail-paced Garry O'Connor ahead of wonderkid, Mauro Zarate. McLeish was insane for playing the raffle winner Gary McSheffrey [who was seriously struggling at Premiership level] instead of the old fashioned winger we'd recently signed from Ajax's academy, Daniel De Ridder.
Even ignoring the frustrations of McLeish's personnel selections, tactically he was too conservative. He'd often play one striker up front in home games with Bolton or Wigan and we'd draw the game. When you're part of the lower Prem insanity, perpetually fighting against being drawn into the relegation abyss, you live and die by your winnable home games.
Every time McLeish packed the midfield and started James McFadden or Garry O'Connor up top on their own at home to the likes of Stoke, I pictured a man on a sinking ship callously tossing away life jackets in sheer ignorance.
The problem was that McLeish was incredibly popular on smallheathalliance at the time. He wore a suit [possibly the first recent Birmingham manager to do so], engendering an image of professionalism. He had the much-respected Scottish accent which made him sound utterly competent. There were comparisons with the peerless Alex Ferguson. And of course in interviews with the media, McLeish always came across as a decent guy.
This cocktail of wearing a suit, being Scottish and being genuine rendered Big Eck a difficult character to criticise amongst Blues fans. I do believe that had he been decked out in a tracksuit, spoke like Paul O'Grady and been arsey with the media his team selections and tactical decisions would have come under greater scrutiny. I doubt he'd have lasted the season.
Whilst a decent number on smallheathalliance [SHA] agreed with my posts about McLeish, the majority criticised me. "How can a Blues fan moan about the manager?", "McLeish is the best thing to ever happen to us". "Go and support the Villa." Were some of the insults fired.
I still maintain that you're not being a good Blues fan by blindly lapping up anything that's served to you. You need independence of thought, if you think the manager is an idiot then say so, it's not wrong of you to have a criticial opinion - no matter what Tom Ross says.
The Blues fans on SHA would say that I was obsessed with foreign footballers [due to my rating of Zarate and De Ridder], this, combined with my rating of Robert Koren at the Baggies and general praise of Tony Mowbray enhanced the fun on the messageboard and turned the Gary Rowett login into a sort of entertaining bogeyman that most SHA users loved to hate. "Go and watch the Villa" became "How did your beloved West Brom get on at the weekend Gary?"
The Blues criticisms were added to by a few tongue-in-cheek wind ups. SHA had a large number of right wing, Help For Heroes type members. So I'd make threads knowing this, designed to wind them up, for a bit of entertainment. Never nasty. Never aggressive. If I'm being contrary for a wind up, I'll never resort to swearing or personal abuse, and I'll always try to make a controversial point in the lightest and funniest way possible.
Whenever November came around I'd make a thread asking people if they knew any Arts and Craft shops in the Solihull region because I wanted to save cash by making my own poppy. The Help for Heroes tub thumpers were disgusted, calling me a traitor and a disgrace. Those SHA users who became accustomed to my Gary Rowett posts would laugh, the Rowett Poppy thread has become something of an annual piss take on there now.
Over time I started to write post-match reflections, and like on F365, people genuinely seemed to like my writing and would say they found it entertaining. During the 2012/2013 season the SHA members asked me to write a blog about Blues games. The owner of SHA said he'd set up an RSS feed so that whenever I posted an entry it would appear on SHA in green font as an article of interest/news item. I was skeptical at first, the chimp was telling me that nobody wants to read my shit, just leave writing about Blues to the official sources. But I gave it a go.
My rationale was simple - write in a way that entertains yourself, because then even if nobody likes it, at least you'll have something you're proud of.
Every Blues or football-based blog I'd read beforehand seemed to follow the same patterns and themes. All of the blogs out there were just emotionless, sterile walls of text detailing what happened during a football match.
"On the 67th minute O'Connor raced onto a Fahey through ball and blazed high and wide into the stands."
"On the 71st minute Martin Taylor was carded for a wayward elbow during an aerial tussle with Effan Ekoukou."
I couldn't see the value in creating another one of these blogs. Not only did they bore me, but I was never really sure why people read them when there's match reports in the papers, on websites like Skysports and the BBC.
If I'm going to read a thousand words on our recent 0-0 draw with Ipswich, I don't want to be met with loads of factual statements about what happened. I was at the game, I know that Wade Elliot was substituted in the 21st minute. Even If I wasn't at the game, I doubt I'd want to read about that.
No. I'd write about the other issues surrounding the games. One week I'd write a wind up piece criticising the uncriticisable Chris Hughton, and I'd purposely misspell his name as 'Houghton'. The next week I'd write a piece attacking the opposition's fans for being too middle class. Then I'd take a really boring and unfashionable game against Scunthorpe on a freezing Tuesday night and romanticise the contest like it was an Ancient Greek myth. The less I wrote about the actual football, the funnier the premise became.
They loved it on SHA. I know I'm coming across as a dickhead by suggesting that everybody loves everything I write, but they genuinely did love it. They hailed it as fresh and often SHA members would send me messages saying that they love reading it during the commute to work.
In six months of its creation, the blog had accrued over 52,000 views. An absolutely astonishing figure when you consider it was merely the creation of a bored university student hurling words at wordpad at 2 o'clock in the morning.
This is ultimately my second reason for creating the Rowett blog series - enough people seem to enjoy the posts. So if the first reason is defined as wanting to 'create something' the second reason is that there seems to be some sort of demand.
If I enjoyed writing but my online pieces got 15 views in six months, I'd perhaps focus on a different career path. If I hated writing but got 52,000 views in six months, again I might focus on a different career path. This combination of enjoying the writing process and my work receiving a positive reaction is the chief reason I'd like to move towards a writing career.
During my first year at university my business lecturers would return my essays and complain that my writing was 'too conversational'. Despite studying English at degree level I'm still not totally sure what a preposition is. Adverbs? Forget it. I probably whack too many commas into my prose, and if you got a smacked bum for incorrect usage of paragraphs I'd never be able to sit down again
This is both my biggest weakness and my greatest strength. Whilst an 18th century scribe may shriek in horror at my lax punctuation in places, I bloody well know how to create an engaging text.
I believe that rather than adhering to an archaic set of grammatical rules, the chief concern of every writer is to make their prose readable; to maintain the reader's attention and to entertain them enough that they come back for more. I know I can do that.
Better to produce a piece of text 'conversational' in tone and spaced out liberally for maximum lucidity than something unnecessarily wordy, verbose and resembling one solid block of text. That just puts people off, you lose their attention and they exit your page.
Obviously there's a context involved. If you purchase some blood pressure tablets and you peer down at the instructions you don't want to be met with ' Take a chill pill. Get one of these beauties down yer cake 'ole and have a sleep you loopy shithouse.' I appreciate that.
During my second year of university I matured as a writer, partly due to Russell Brand and Pete Doherty. Brand would use words like 'denouément' during his anecdotes while the Libertines' front man would sing about Oscar Wilde, Huysmans and Stevenson's 'Treasure Island'. I loved the pair of them but all these references flew over my head.
The closest thing to a bit of culture I'd experienced up to this point was huddling around my next door neighbours' computer, aged seven being captivated by Encarta and giggling in hysterics with my friends every time they clicked on the audio delivery of A.A Mine's poem about Winnie the Pooh as a hilarious double entendré.
I set out to remove my ignorance. I admitted that I needed to read more. Tyrion is totally right on Game of Thrones when he says “A mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”
I was going to learn about Oscar Wilde and Robert Louis Stevenson. I walked into Preston's Waterstones and bought ten Penguin Classics. By the end of the semester I'd read thirty: Homer, Ovid, Euripides, Wilde, Dickens, Bernard Shaw, Machiavelli, Geoffrey Chaucer.
As for Brand, I'd buy a broadsheet newspaper every day and force myself to read it from start to finish. If I came across a word I didn't understand I'd highlight it with one of those garish clunky pens, add it to a list, then at the end of the day I'd spend an hour Googling my list of words for definitions and I'd memorise them.
Towards the middle of the second year, my essays were returned and had improved by 15-20 marks. Gone were the 'conversational' remarks. It's amazing the difference in academic reaction if you substitute 'apparently' for 'ostensibly'; 'lucky' for 'auspicious' and 'knows quite a lot' for 'omniscient'. I might have even crammed in a 'denouément' too.
Never let it be said that style over substance is a myth. The content of my first year and second year essays wasn't much different, I just delivered the latter in a 'posher' manner.
I try to read a decent quality book every couple of months nowadays just to stop the grander aspects of my vocabulary slipping out the back of my head every time the name of a reality tv contestant goes in.
That's another strength of my writing, and part of the reason I believe it has wider appeal - I'll watch Question Time and I'll watch Big Brother.
I've never really understood the seemingly common attitude of most people to outright dismiss certain tv shows or music genres as being beneath them. Don't get me wrong, if you watched nothing but Big Brother and X Factor you'd be an idiot. But by the same token I firmly believe that if you watch nothing but Question Time, Newsnight and University Challenge you're the same kind of idiot. Two cheeks of the same arse.
People limiting themselves through a misguided sense of superiority. 'Why would I watch shit like Big Brother?'
Err, well because it's actually a thoroughly entertaining show full of interesting characters. It gives a great insight into human psychology [how groups of strangers behave, social hierarchies, how we fall in love] but the program embodies the same theatrical motifs that made Shakespeare so successful. In your average Big Brother series you'll have favourite characters, there'll be betrayal, love, greed and avarice, Machiavellian plotting. It's just that instead of being dressed in tunics they're in hot pants.
I say fair enough to those who watch shows like Big Brother and say it's not for them. Taste is subjective. But I can't abide those people who just dismiss tv shows blindly. They come out with statements like: 'Oh it's on ITV, I don't degrade myself like that'.
You see them all over twitter and internet forums proudly shouting from the internet rooftops just how 'against' reality tv they are, or ITV's football coverage, or Adrian Chiles, as if portraying themselves as being intolerant and ignorant is increasing their street cred and they're being all 'edgy'.
I can't bear these snobs really. Yet so many people allow themselves to trip into this behaviour; to fall into this pit.
Perhaps it isn't a bad thing, as the more open minded will profit from the stubbornness of the rest. Being able to hurl in a quote from Shelly's Ozymandias and then mention Jade Goody three sentences later perhaps creates quite a funny style which is perhaps unique to my writing, I don't know.
Rowett's Corner: Birmingham Edition came to a natural end as the Hughton era faded away. The blog had been a success beyond my wildest imaginations, but I'd lost intense interest in the Blues as Jordan Mutch and Redmond were sold off, and the club spiraled into depravity and depression. I was and still am a huge Blues fan, and me and my dad still kept a season ticket during Lee Clark's first season, but I couldn't muster the enthusiasm to churn out a passionate article about them any longer. I think the series would have suffered from diminishing returns too, so leaving it as a seasonal endeavour seemed to package it up quite nicely.
I went off to do other things in my spare time. I think it was around the time I got stuck in Skyrim for about 10 months too and couldn't get out that bloody addictive, beautiful, beautiful game. I found a tv show too - Game of Thrones.
If you could take everything you're interested in and forge something using these interests, mine would resemble Game of Thrones.
The politiking, the nods to Medieval British History; the hints of Ancient History; the fashions; the beautiful crisp HD cinematic picture; the twists and turns; the philosophy, psychology and nuance found in the plot. Oh what a show. I became obsessed with the programme, an obsession that would lead to my second blog creation - The Garden of Whispers.
As I write this About Me section I'm on the verge of completing my first season of The Garden of Whispers, probably my most enjoyable blogging experience to date, and it's been really positively received by fans of the show.
The events of this sensational programme have reignited by desire to write and blog. Where Peter Pannu stamped all over it. Tyrion, Cersei, Jamie, Baelish, Oberyn, The Hound have picked up the fragmented pieces and stuck them back together.
I'll keep The Garden of Whispers going for as long as there are Game of Thrones season aired on television. The show does go missing from July to March, during those periods I've decided to start a general football blog looking at the most controversial current affairs in the game - Rowett's Corner.
At this point I'd like to thank everybody who reads my blogs and sends me such positive and complimentary reviews and comments. They all help to bash my chimp down into a plush beanie toy. Such support really does mean a hell of a lot.
If you're still with me at this point, I hope you'll excuse this extra long slice of self-indulgence but it's been quite therapeutic to vent and pour some of my writing history onto the page.
Now, go and get a stiff drink. I'll be getting one. Might go for a Baileys down at the local nutters' bar, just to be contrary.....why not?