In the six years that I’ve published EPL Talk, I’ve shared a lot of details about my life, mostly from a soccer perspective. But one thing that I haven’t mentioned before, because it wasn’t really relevant, was another six year chapter in my life that I spent from 1989 to 1995. I don’t think any of you know this, not even my closest friends, but during those six years I founded, wrote and published a music fanzine named Sanctuary. It was an independent print fanzine written about the music band The Cult, best known for their two biggest singles, “She Sells Sanctuary” and “Fire Woman.”
In hindsight, there were a lot of similarities about publishing EPL Talk and Sanctuary. Both were on niche topics. Both were a labor of love, pouring countless hours into researching, writing and handling all of the behind-the-scenes stuff that most people don’t realize that happens. But the biggest difference was that Sanctuary was quarterly. There wasn’t that daily pressure to write that hangs over my head with EPL Talk (and thankfully I have a team of brilliant writers who help manage the load on soccer-related topics).
In the pre-Internet days of the late ’80s and early-to-mid ’90s, publishing Sanctuary (which had subscribers from around the world) was an experience that opened doors, helped connect me with people around the world and gave me opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. That included drinking beers with lead singer Ian Astbury, and interviewing him on a back patio after a concert, or going backstage after a show to hang out with the band. Or lead guitarist Billy Duffy literally giving me his shirt off his back and signing it. It was a purple Manchester City jersey from the early ’90s.
When I spoke to Astbury and Duffy throughout their career, we talked about music, life and family, but the one topic that was a common thread was football. Astbury was, and still is, a devoted Everton supporter, while Duffy supports Manchester City. Both musicians are very different in personality. Astbury is the spiritual and the in-the-clouds one, while Duffy is the pragmatist. But they both have a common love for music and football — both playing it, and following it.
Back in those late ’80s and early-to-mid ’90s, it wasn’t easy being a soccer fan in the United States, especially when you followed British clubs. The access to live games was practically non-existent, so the football conversations you had about with anyone were treasured. It was a rare chance to pontificate about the sport, the players and your team. So when I had a chance to speak to Astbury or Duffy about music and life, soccer often entered into our conversations. It was a connection we had, and sometimes a pleasant break for them to talk about a topic that didn’t often enter the discussions they had with the press on grueling world tours.