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Happy New Year everyone! Hope you all enjoyed your Christmas. Last week AP's newest writer, Dan Roberts, answered Seven Questions to introduce himself to you before he starts writing articles in 2017. This week, it's time to hear from Nik Myles and see what he plans on bringing to AP in the coming year. Check it out.
Who you are, where you're from, and what do you plan on bringing to AP.
I’m Nik Myles, and I've seen 42 summers. Grew up a Tranmere Rovers fan (third team on Merseyside, currently the best team in nonleague, although they are too big to be down there anyway. Check out Planet Prentonia, which isn't me, for more on them) Spent the last decade or so involved in the regional lower leagues around the East Midlands (Nottingham, Sherwood Forest and all that) I moved over to Chicago for the love of a good woman, and have been amazed at the soccer-ing desert that exists in America's 3rd biggest city. The interest is there, the communal pitches are always in use, but whether it is the awfulness of the Fire, the poor location of the Fire, or some other malaise, there is no culture here. The bars are packed for EPL and LA Liga games. During the Euros the expats were everywhere. But for whatever reason no-one has tapped in to that on a local level. I'm looking to couple my explorations of Chicagoland soccer with some sort of internet presence, whatever that may look like.
Soccer fandom in the US strikes me as a very earnest past-time. Blogs, Twitter, podcasts are invariably solid, stern and dry. I'm not one for tactical analysis, I can barely tell the difference between a 442 and a 541. But I do know that football is supposed to be fun. At every level. People get in to playing it cos it is fun. People get in to watching it cos it is fun. So why can't that fun translate itself in to the coverage? Ultimately I would love to do something like Dennis has done with Stockade, or the Bearfight guys are doing. I have no doubt that Chicago could support it, or that it would flourish. But realistically there has to be a culture shift from American football fans. The focus in all sport here is on the "major". The community aspect of all sport, not just football, is lost somewhere mid-Atlantic. Clubs can serve as a rallying point for so many people, and done right, the facilities can benefit all. I don’t know, there is so much more I could say, but ...
That's what writing on AP is for, right? How did you come to be a fan of the game?
I didn't care for football at all until I went to uni, at which I become fiercely tribal of my home. It coincided with Tranmere actually being the best they have ever been in their history, when they got to the D1 (as it was, Championship now) playoffs three years on the bounce. Lost to Swindon, Leicester and Reading. They were glory days. Since then it has been a slow and inglorious slide to the ultimate humiliation of dropping out of the league two seasons ago. We're back now though!!
You've mentioned Tranmere several times now. How did you come to be a Rovers fan?
Like I say, it was a direct result of going to uni. My best friend had always gone throughout our time at school, but it just never appealed. But when I moved away, I got loyal to the homeland! I lived in London for ten years post-uni, and after a while the travelling every week got tedious, so I looked around for another team. Being a Tranmere fan means you can’t be a glory hunter, right? So all the Premier teams were out. And they had to be non-threatening to Tranmere. I eventually stumbled across Barnet, up in North London. And I had some of the best fan experience of my life watching them. But when I moved again, I couldn't realistically keep two teams on the go, so Barnet sort of fell away. Tranmere were getting more and more rubbish, but the prices were going up.
So I started looking real local, and was fortunate top live in the midst of a massive nonleague scene. The place I lived, Mansfield, has its own football league team. But it also, miraculously, supports some 10 or so smaller clubs, all within a 10 mile radius. I was spoilt for choice!! There is a subculture in the UK of folk, mainly highly dubious looking men in raincoats carrying plastic shopping bags, who make it their life's work to go to different football grounds. "Doing the 92" of all the FL grounds is accepted. But these hardcore ground hoppers keep logs and charts and whatever of all the one-man and his dog pitches they visit. That was never for me. I liked to call myself a match-hopper. But realistically I was just standing in a cold, windswept field watching men I could feasibly work with play a game they love.
Have you done any writing previously? And where can people find your prior work?
I used to curate a blog. It mainly consisted of football stuff I found elsewhere on the web. But every now and again I wrote a match report or an opinion piece. You may have noticed I am quite wordy, and I struggled to get reports out in any sort of acceptable timescale. Plus, really, no-one cared to read my thoughts on Askern Villa v Appley Frodingham (both real teams, I assure you)
I did run a blog at one stage. It still exists, in some form or other.
I was mentioned in The Guardian once, y'know!! I mainly just reposted stuff I liked from the internet, but every now and again I would write a report on Appley Frodignham v Askern Villa (both real teams, I assure you), or go off on a rant about some perceived injustice.
Who is your favorite non-league team?
I have to say Tranmere, right? I'm hoping they won't be for much longer, though. As I have grown older, I have found myself moving away from club affiliations. I found the tribalism tiring and all-too-often moronic. I have friends at various clubs, and I still have a couple of clubs I look out for. Retford United, Shirebrook Town, Worksop. But really, I'm more interested in the system these days. That's way the pro/rel thing caught my eye. We know there are some staunch advocates on both sides of the divide, and if they want to shout on Twitter, that's fine. But I see soccer as a community thing, and that's what I strive for.
What books, soccer related or otherwise, would you recommend to people?
Soccer and non-soccer eh? Is start with Inverting The Pyramid. It's kind of dry, but so informative. Then Simon Kuper's Why England Lose, which is a fascinating dissection of, well, why England lose football matches. Not sure if you're aware, but we have a chip on our shoulder about that. David Conn's The Beautiful Game is great just cos he gets "it", and why we've lost "it". One that American readers may not be familiar with is Kicking In The Wind by Derek Allsop. It's a year in the life of Rochdale FC, who are as glamorous as Cleveland crossed with Pittsburgh, by the size of that town Green Bay come from. Also, see if you can hunt down a copy of A Passion For The Game by Tom Watt. Non-football, I'd like to commend anything by Andre Dubus. For me he's the master of the short story. Are You Dave Gorman is a great yarn, as is How To Start Your Own Country.
What would you say to someone asking why they should support lower level soccer?
So many things! You matter. That would be my first point. As a fan of a "big" club, you really are a customer If you don't sit in that plastic seat, someone else will. But getting involved with your local team (assuming you have one, not guaranteed in American soccer I know) gives you a sense of belonging. People notice if you're not there. You get to know the players. You can be an actual part of things. I've set up and run a supporters clubs, I've done the announcing, I've painted lines, fixed advertising hoardings, presented awards, the works. And obviously you can do as much or as little as you want. But you can make a difference if you want. Can you say that about your MLS franchise?
Thanks for going over all that real quick, Nik. You can follow Nik on Twitter @BeatTheFirstMan