Author Paul Gerald at Preston North End The night I finished the Championship clubs — for then — at Preston North End’s Deepdale.

There isn’t much I can add to what’s already been said about 2020. But I do have a question for my readers about 2021.

We’ll get to the question (or you can skip ahead), but… On the one hand, a year ago I had a thriving and growing business; two part-time jobs; tours running in London, Manchester and Liverpool; both of my parents; and plans to relocate to England. Since then, my entire industry has shut down, my parents both passed, and I’ve had to dip into the money they left to pay the bills instead of funding retirement plans.

On the other hand, I am healthy, safe, still living indoors, still working on the business, and I am incredibly blessed to have an inheritance to draw on. Also, I still have plans to relocate to England in the fall. So it’s a mixed, weird, confusing, shut-down-and-waiting time. May it end soon. And may your 2021 be a major improvement, as well.

woman smiling beside Portland Timbers 2015 MLS Cup trophy

Alethea with the Portland Timbers’ 2015 MLS Cup.

What Went Well

At Groundhopper Guides, the year can still be called a success — notwithstanding revenue dropping from “best month ever” to pretty much zero. For this year “I” became a “we,” as I seriously upgraded the brains and organizational stature of the company by hiring Groundhopper Alethea.

Together, we’ve been working on some decidedly unsexy but important stuff like improving the back end of the website, learning how Google works, creating an editorial calendar (imagine!), and thinking big-picture thoughts about the future of Groundhopper Soccer Guides. And that’s what our question for you will be about.

Top Posts in 2020

Now that Alethea is on the scene and we have an administrative backbone, we can answer questions like “Which posts are the most popular on our site?” And thus we can see that for most people, we’re a helpful, educational outlet.

Ranked by total visits:

  1. Promotions and Relegations Last Season
  2. International Breaks This Season
  3. Guide to the Leagues and Cups of English Football
  4. Full UK and European Schedule
  5. Map of UK Clubs
  6. Helpful Terms to Know When Watching English Soccer
  7. 2020-21 FA Cup Schedule
  8. MLS Teams Compared to England
  9. Flying into London, Looking for Stadiums
  10. How to Buy Tickets for English Soccer
Entrance to The Den home of Millwall FC in South London

The Den, home of Millwall FC in South London.

But the Posts We Love Are…

Going back to the beginning, the halcyon days of 2014, these for us are the “Best XI” posts. Several are also “Story Times” in the book.

My Night in The Den because it was such an authentic, unexpected experience that gets to the heart of a club. And because when the BBC’s Danny Baker retweeted it, it blew up, after which the reaction fell into two categories: Millwall fans saying “You get it!” and everybody else saying “They’re fucking animals, aren’t they?”

Sunderland’s Big Night at Old Trafford was the first time I really saw the passion of a large number of fans, and also the first time I made a connection, through a video and blog post, to supporters of a club. I could still get free pints in Sunderland off that!

Sunderland’s Big Day at Stamford Bridge was after the “big night” at Old Trafford, when I was invited into the away end at Stamford Bridge. Even without a historic win, it would have been a blast, from the singing and new friendships to being warned about the walk home.

The Points Dropped, Two Blokes Bantering was another authentic, unexpected experience, and one that the club tweeted out with a simple “This. Nailed it.”

The Bouncing Day Massacre is the best game I have seen in England, a Tweet that still blows up every year on the anniversary, and a story that landed me in the Sheffield newspaper.

Another Steel City Derby because it’s such a football thing: the follow-up to the epic night, filled with anticipation, would of course end with “a fucking nil-nil.”

Hull City vs Reading: I Guess We Have to do This. It’s not about the club or the city, but a state of mind that any traveler or football supporter can identify with.

How do MLS Teams Compare to England? was fun to write, gets a lot of attention, and years later I still stand by the conclusion. I enjoy MLS, but it’s kind of crap.

Seeing a Game at Charlton Athletic because clubs like Charlton, and the day I had there, are exactly why I write this whole blog. Screw the billionaire dramas and get out to The Valley!

What is this Allez Allez Allez Song? is also the kind of thing I started this whole blog about. I find something cool, research it, learn what I can, and share it with you so the next time you hear that song, you’ll know what it’s about.

Characters You’ll Meet at an English Soccer Game takes me back to that miserable night at Bolton Wanderers, and some of it still makes me chuckle.

crowd of people police on horses outside Tottenham Chelsea London derby

Outside a Tottenham-Chelsea London Derby.

Our Plans, and a Question for 2021

Until we can go to games, lead tours, and sell tickets again, we are left with a basic question: What to write about?

We have three basic ideas:

  1. Profiles of each major derby in the game, as they are played. First up: the Black Country Derby in a couple of weeks!
  2. Interviews with supporters about their clubs, cities, pubs, songs, et cetera.
  3. Stuff we find while exploring the world of (mostly) English football, like articles, videos, people, and stories we enjoyed and think you will, too.

So, here’s the question: What do you want to read about here?

In other words, what can we at Groundhopper Soccer Guides do for you, if we can’t take you to a game, put you in a seat at a game, or report back from a game?

Drop us a comment below, fill out the form, or just shoot us an email at [email protected]

Meanwhile, we wish you a most happy and prosperous 2021, and as we always say, We’ll see you at the grounds! Soon, we hope…

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