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The Tomkins Times Interview

The Tomkins Times was nominated for the Best Club Fansite award. We asked them to talk about the awards, how 2010 had turned out for The Dirty Tackle, future plans and of course, who they would vote for in the awards. Here’s the interview:

1) You’ve been nominated for Best Club Fansite, chosen by both fans and industry experts, how does it feel?

It’s great. It’s the first award I’ve ever been nominated for. It’s probably a smaller site than a lot of the others, so I don’t expect us to win, but it’s an honour to be nominated, especially as it’s the only Liverpool FC site shortlisted.

2) What kind of year has 2010 been for The Tomkins Times?

Quite incredible, really. The site was only set up in the autumn of 2009. Rafa Benítez was a regular reader of my work, and he invited me to chat with him at Melwood. That was within a month of the site launching. This year, Jamie Carragher took exception to something I wrote and phoned me up to take umbrage, but which led to an interesting conversation, so that was interesting to experience and to write about. Then in October the new owner John W. Henry requested a one-to-one meeting, having read my book. So I got some interesting material from such encounters, the like of which I wouldn’t have imagined at the outset.

About half of the articles written for the site is for subscribers only, and in that sense, the number of people happy to sign up and pay – and the quality of subscribers’ own observations in the comments areas – has been infinitely better than I could ever have hoped for. It grew from a blog for just my own work into a site to which some excellent writers have contributed.

The highlight of the year has been the Transfer Price Index (TPI) project, which led to the critically-acclaimed book, “Pay As You Play”. It began with about 15 members of The Tomkins Times, including data analysts and statisticians, and branched out to fans and writers associated with other clubs, including many of the nominees on your short-lists. From the project as a whole we can write about the entire Premier League for the TPI website, or create bespoke analysis on Liverpool via TTT.

3) What do you think has been the key factor in your success?

The key has been excellent support, both technically and from my readers and members of the site. That’s first and foremost. A wonderful community has arisen, not least because the interactive areas of the site are behind a pay-wall, which means no real spammers and time-wasters, and people feel free to express themselves. From this, other writers have emerged.

On a personal note, I seem to divide opinion quite strongly amongst Liverpool fans, but I offer something that’s perhaps unique, which mixes a lot of research with a decent understanding of how to play the game (from being a semi-pro) and an understanding of what it is to be a fan who goes home and away, having done that for a number of years. I might be bested in each of these individual areas, but perhaps not many other writers mix them all. Like-minded people then gravitate to the site, and not just Liverpool fans.

The ethos with all the writing is to try and be objective in terms of finding the facts, but of course, on top of that you have subjective analysis, especially when it comes to the grey areas. With my own work I don’t feel I’m always right, but I do work hard at basing my opinion on facts.

There are also some unique contributors, all of whom are subscribers. We have a pro-qualified ref who goes over each month’s officiating decisions. A specialist football lawyer who explained the ins and outs of the takeover of the club this year. People who look at Chalkboard analysis. A raft of statisticians and professional data analysts. It makes for a rich mix.

4) If you were casting a vote for your any of your fellow nominees, who would it be?

I’d have to say all of those involved with “Pay As You Play”, not least because I approached them – or had got to know them previously – on the basis of admiration. So Gabrielle Marcotti, Jonathan Wilson, Daniel Taylor, Zonal Marking, Swiss Ramble and Equaliser Blog are all well worthy of a vote.

5) What’s next for The Tomkins Times?

No great departures from what we’re doing, just gradual improvements where possible. A redesign of the site is in the offing, just to deal with how different areas have evolved in terms of other people contributing, but nothing radical.

6) Have you seen the Castrol Football Rankings? What do you think about them, and who do you think is the best footballer in the world at the moment?

I’m renowned for my love of stats, and I think anything that helps us better understand the game is to be welcomed.

While there are a number of outstanding players, for me, Lionel Messi is in a class of his own. Cristiano Ronaldo has an incredible goalscoring record, Xavi is a joy to watch, but Messi just has the something extra.

You can vote for The Tomkins Times in the following award category:

Best Club Fansite

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