The proof is in the pudding...

The proof reading is done and it’s going to print next week. With a bit of luck and a following wind, they’ll be copies ready in time for the Yorkshire St. Pauli launch event in Leeds on Saturday 22 February – hopefully.

It’s a strange and scary feeling. I started writing Pirates, Punks & Politics in 2010, and have working on it on-and-off ever since. It’s taken far longer to complete than any of the previous stuff I’ve written, partly because my day job has been so completely all consuming that I’ve not been able to devote anywhere near the time to the book that I wanted to. In one way, that’s been really scary as writing something over a four-year period I was really worried it would appear disjointed and inconsistent when I read it back. Fortunately, it’s not too bad and just about flows. One benefit of the delay was that it allowed me to get a much deeper understanding of the St. Pauli fan scene than if I’d crashed it out in 18-months. Over the last couple of years I’ve met some fantastic people connected to FCSP and it is during that time that I feel that rather than just writing about it voyeuristically, I’ve become a part of the community that surrounds our club.

Sometimes things work out for a reason: I pretty much took six-months off even thinking about the book at the start of 2013 and that experience gave me a bit of perspective (although people close to me still had to listen to me warble on about the book, offer feedback on cover designs and generally get a bit bored with it all – sorry!) but – crucially – it made the timing of a link up with the 1910 e.V. Museum project possible. In hindsight, without their help – especially that of Sönke Goldbeck and Christoph Nagel – in both editing and promoting the book wouldn’t be half as good (or accurate!) So, there’s a decent silver lining to the slight delay.

It’s strange and scary now though because, although the hard work is done, this is the bit where I have to let go and this is the bit where the doubts creep in.  The writing is definitely the fun part. The fear starts with other people reading it. I wrote the book pretty much in its entirety before showing it to my publisher (I’ve never been very good at the sample chapters approach). I was lucky he liked it, but it is still a terrifying process. One thing he did change was to switch the ‘match’ chapters into the present tense. I must admit, I wasn’t sure about it at first, but can now see how it helps differentiate these sections from the ‘history’ chapters.

Publishers and proof-readers are one thing; the book actually being published is another. It terrifies me, not because I don’t like what I’ve written – for me the book, especially the personal ‘match’ chapters, comes from the heart – it is more that I can’t help worrying that it is not the book that everyone imagines. The history side of things is fairly straight forward, but the personal bits about my trips to watch the club, are just that, personal to me. I’m not a massive drinker or someone that stays out partying until the early hours, and I worry that my accounts won’t reflect what other people get from the St. Pauli experience. But then again, I’ve not written the book to be a guide for those people attracted by the usual clichés of beer, punks, prostitutes and evenings spent drinking on the Reeperbahn. The flip-side of this is what those people who have been going over to watch St. Pauli for years (decades in some cases) will think. I’m still a relative newbie in terms of supporting FCSP and I know of lots of UK based fans who have been actively supporting the club for much longer than me. Their experiences and their story would be much more interesting than mine; their golden-age of supporting the club at odds with mine. They were lucky enough to be there during the late 1980s and start of the ‘90s to witness the birth of the alternative fan scene at the Millerntor. I just read about it.

The other thing that’s playing on my mind is the media coverage and reviews. Being something of a worrier and a pessimist, I spend a lot of time in the run up to publication trying to second guess what the critics are going to pick on.  I guess it links back to the general point about it not being the book that people expect about St. Pauli. People also love to spot a mistake (of which there are bound to be plenty) and I’m already second-guessing that reviewers won’t like the mix of history and match reports. Or it’ll be too short. Or too long. Or in the wrong typeface ;) Like I said, I’m a pessimist. In my head I can see the review in When Saturday Comes and it doesn’t make good reading.

Still, it’s a book written from the heart. Following FC St. Pauli has restored my faith in football. Through following the club I feel a part of something special; a real community, one that shares my beliefs and hopes for both football and society. The positives of this outweigh any criticism or negativity. The sheer number of incredible people I’ve met through supporting the club is incredible, as are some of the experiences I’ve shared. When I first visited the Millerntor, back in August 2007 with my Dad, I was an outsider looking in, I loved what I saw but I wasn’t part of it – not then. Now, one of my favourite things about trips to the Millerntor is that I always randomly bump into people I’ve met on previous visits either in the Fanladen on the Südkurve or in the Jolly Roger. I feel like I belong now. I’ve met some amazing people who I am proud to call my friends and in many ways St. Pauli – the club and the district – feels like home.

I’m also extremely grateful for the support and encouragement I’ve received from various sources, from people who’s opinion I really respect and value. To have Christoph Nagel, co-author of FC St. Pauli. Das Buch, give up so much of his time to proof read the book was truly incredible. The support of Stefan at the Fanladen has also been fantastic – without the Fanladen and their willingness to help us ‘international’ fans, I would never have been able to fall in love with this wonderful club of ours. Then there’s the various UK supporters’ groups. Scott Stubbs and the rest of the gang at Yorkshire St. Pauli have been a bloody inspiration. As a fanclub they work tirelessly promoting the club and what it represents to an English speaking audience. I don’t know how they maintain their twitter feed alone… The fact that they are busy organizing trips (can’t wait for the Sonderzug!), writing fanzines, organizing subsidized football games for refugees and supporting Leeds based charity PAFRAS is incredible. They have also gone out of their way to help support the launch of the book by hosting their first Antira football tournament and finding a slot for me to do a book Q&A as a part of it. Their energy and enthusiasm is infectious. Plus, I like the way they seemed to have accommodated me and my best mate Shaun as honorary Yorkshire folk, despite our distinctly ‘southern’ status. Thanks guys.

Also, I do need to say a big thank you to Randall Northam the founder of Sportsbooks Ltd. I’m now on my third book with him, I’m sure this entitles him to some kind of award. He has continued to be both supportive and patient with me throughout the whole process.

Anyhow, I need to try and overcome the fear that usually engulfs me at this stage and try and enjoy the whole experience. I feel very lucky to have been able to write about the club that I love. I’ll never forget how I felt on that August afternoon back in 2007, when we made our way onto the Gegengerade terrace for the first time. But most of all, I’m glad that that feeling wasn’t a one off; that I still feel it now when I return to the Millerntor (and despite relocating to the Südkurve!) What’s even better now is that, every time I visit, I’m amongst friends.

Forza Sankt Pauli.

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