On the final day of 2008, I want to send out a huge thank you to you, the readers, for supporting EPL Talk in what has been our best and most successful year ever. Your support and your comments are much appreciated (EPL Talk has now amassed more than 13,000 comments). There’s no way to thank every reader personally but I do want to mention a special thank you to Lonnie (LS), Atlanta Pompey, Lou (eplnfl), Bishopville Red, Double Pivot and DaveMo for contributing the most number of comments in ’08.
As far as articles, EPL Talk now has more than 2,500 of them. Massive thanks go to the team of writers at EPL Talk in 2008 which include Michael James (200 articles), Lonnie (68), Paul Bestall (58), Johnathan Starling (49), Tyler Duffy (49), Sam Dalton (34), Jeff Hash (22), Kartik Krishnaiyer (22), Chris Rivers (14), Josh Pedley (12), Andrew Moshoian, Andrew Morris, Christopher Nee, Dominic Mather, Ferd, Ian Cahir, Jake Hall, James Harris, Jonny Carter, Karthik Balasubramanian, Michael Barany, Phil McThomas, Richard Whittall and Tony Allen. I couldn’t have done it without all of your help.
The year 2008 started well for me after I traveled to Baltimore for the annual NSCAA Convention where I interviewed Steve McClaren and Gerard Houllier for the EPL Talk Podcast. But it all went downhill from there after returning home and being rushed to the hospital, where I stayed for six weeks and had two surgeries to remove blood clots from both of my legs.
Special thanks must go to Chris Oakley, author of the excellent Some People Are On The Pitch blog, who graciously compiled a Best Of episode for the EPL Talk Podcast while I was still in hospital — and to Kartik Krishnaiyer who produced the episode featuring an interview with Paul Gardner (from my NSCAA trip) and Martin Rogers from Yahoo.
After being in the hospital on bed rest for six weeks, I returned home unable to walk and still in immense pain. But thanks to the support of my wife (and goodwill phone calls from Japan courtesy of the Tokyo Toffeeman), I was able to return to full health within a couple of weeks and I’m now 100% healthy again.
The strangest thing for me was that when I finally returned to full health during the beginning of April, it felt like I had missed out on a quarter of 2008. In many ways, I had. During the three different hospitals I stayed at while I was infirmed for six weeks, one of them had Fox Soccer Channel so I was able to watch one live match. The rest of the time I was able to find the scores online.
May, in terms of the Premier League, was a massive month so I was fortunate to witness the wonderful end to the season as well as the Champions League victory for Manchester United. For personal reasons, I was also ecstatic that my team – Swansea City – had gotten promoted from Division One to the Championship.
The year got better in June when I was fortunate to travel to Switzerland for a weekend to watch one match, Italy against Holland, which was one of the best games of the tournament. As I did in the 1994 World Cup in Orlando, I fell in love with the Dutch fans again. This time, in 2008, they took over the beautiful Swiss capital of Bern and I have the pictures to prove it!
The year continued to get better in July, August and September when, after publishing my free travel guide on how to save more than a thousand dollars to attend Premier League matches in England, I was interviewed by BBC Five Live, featured on the two hours of BBC’s World Football Phone-In Show and then interviewed and featured in The New York Times.
From September through December, the year has been a blur for me. In September, my wife and I had a baby boy named Christopher who has been a wonderful addition to the family alongside my three daughters. As you can imagine, raising all of those kids has been a handful and again, I must thank my dearly devoted wife.
In the past several weeks, some of you may have noticed that EPL Talk hasn’t been posting as many remarkable stories as we have done in the past. Other than a lot of sleepless nights due to the baby having colic, that’s because I’ve been busy at work planning for 2009 to make the new year even bigger and better for readers of EPL Talk.
One of the things that suffered from my ill health and arrival of the new baby in 2008 was the inconsistency of the EPL Talk Podcast. But beginning in January, the podcast will return to a twice monthly format and will feature interviews with some of the biggest names in football courtesy of new host Johnathan Starling.
During 2009, Johnathan will also be bringing you daily coverage to EPL Talk with the return of The Daily Digest (a roundup each weekday morning of the major Premier League-related stories from the tabloids as well as his objective criticism and observations), a weekly preview and predictions (every Thursday) of the weekend Premier League matches, and a daily update on Saturday and Sunday of the key decisions in the weekend matches.
Working alongside Johnathan, in addition to the team of EPL Talk volunteers, will be Tyler Duffy (formerly known as Bill E Shears from The Guardian fame), Paul Bestall, James Harris and Josh Pedley. They’ll be bringing you unique and remarkable Premier League-related stories in 2009.
In the next few weeks, EPL Talk will also be undergoing a massive redesign (yet another) to improve the usability of the site, and a move to a dedicated server which will radically improve the loading time of the pages. Plus more surprises and big plans are in store for 2009, so be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed and keep on returning each day.
And last, but not least, a special thank you to all of the contributers responsible for the EPL Talk sister sites including Kartik Krishnaiyer (Major League Soccer Talk), Kevin Walker (Serie A Talk), Juan Arango (La Liga Talk), Mark Moll and Chris Murphy (Bundesliga Talk), Shakira Graham (Championship Talk), George Metellus (World Cup Buzz), Lonnie (Champions League Talk) as well as contributing writers Mike (from Starting 11) and Mitch Howard. If you’d like to write for EPL Talk and/or any of the sister sites, please contact me thegaffer[at]epltalk[dot]com.
As you can tell, 2008 has been one hell of a year for me. Thanks once again for your support, and I’d like to wish you and your family a safe and Happy New Year.