Tell Him He’s Pelé is Scotland’s best independent football website. I have absolutely no doubt about that. Not only does it focus on an area that is often neglected by the mainstream media – the Championship, League 1 and League 2 – it does so with flair and aplomb, offering an unparalleled level of insight and analysis into the Scottish lower leagues. From the regular Five Things We Learned column to the quarterly report cards, from The Pelé Podcast to the historical pieces, the quality of the output on this site over the last three years is unmatched elsewhere.
But being the best comes at a price. The time and energy required to keep Tell Him He’s Pelé at such a high standard is remarkable. Every Sunday is sacrificed to compile the Five Things We Learned – the whole day is spent making notes, watching back match highlights, writing, compiling copy, editing and proof-reading. The Pelé Podcast is equally time-intensive and the research, recording and editing involved is a lengthy process – the Davie Irons episode, for example, took four days to complete. Four days!
It has come to the stage where this is no longer sustainable. Work commitments and familial obligations have rendered the time we can dedicate to the site a luxurious premium, and so it is with regret that we announce that Tell Him He’s Pelé will be scaling back its output in the future. This is disappointing given the recent weeks’ events – St Mirren’s relegation into the Championship, Greenock Morton’s return to the second tier, Montrose surviving the Pyramid play-off, Stephen Aitken’s move to Dumbarton, Ray McKinnon taking charge at Raith Rovers, Rangers spending a fourth season of purgatory in the lower leagues – but time is now impossible.
Time is certainly the biggest factor in this decision, but it’s not the sole reason. There have been occasions where I’ve been a little resentful towards writing and broadcasting and I’ll admit my enthusiasm has waned over the last few weeks. I also think I’ve reached something of a crisis of confidence and I’ve begun to doubt myself. After Stenhousemuir’s play-off final victory over Queen’s Park, I sat in Ochilview’s Wee Bar, picking over the remnants of the Warriors’ season. Brown Ferguson, the Stenny manager, was there and he spoke with supporters about the campaign and his hopes for the new year ahead. He discussed the difficulties of working with so many young players and the challenges in bringing them up to the required standard. Ferguson talked with a level of insight I could never have hoped to match and I suddenly wondered: “Who am I to criticise footballers?” I don’t necessarily think my own opinion holds lesser currency than someone who’s “in the game” but I began to doubt its value.
This all sounds a little downbeat and elegiac. It shouldn’t – Tell Him He’s Pelé will still continue to some extent. We will still publish the odd piece of analysis and record the occasional podcast with a lower-league superstar. There is still unfinished business in this respect – I still want to look back at the best 15 sides of the last 15 years, and I still want to interview John Gemmell, John “Bomber” Brown, Scott Booth, Andy Robertson and Dick Campbell amongst others – but the Five Things We Learned and the quarterly report cards will cease. Working on them stopped being fun and if it’s no longer fun, then what’s the point?
When John A Maxwell and I began Tell Him He’s Pelé in 2012, I approached the project with three main aims: to interview Des McKeown about his Stenhousemuir team of 2005-06; to speak with Davie Irons about his managerial career, particularly about his involvement with Gretna; and to interview a member of Queen’s Park’s promotion-winning side of 2006-07. I’m proud to say I achieved them. The podcast with Steven Canning is, for me, the best thing on the site and the definitive lower-league story – a good guy and a very decent footballer who was at the right place at the right time on two occasions. It is a wonderful tale, and having had the opportunity to speak to him and everyone else has made the whole venture worthwhile. The site has been a big part of my life.
I’m proud of everything we’ve done and I’m proud of the people I’ve worked alongside. John, my co-editor, my soundboard and the Silvio to my Tony, has been a great friend over the past three years. Ally Gemmell, Shaughan McGuigan and Jon Blackwood are very talented writers and their input has been essential. Their work is always to an incredibly high standard: Ally’s examination of Mark Roberts’ dire tenure at Ayr United is excellent; Shaughan’s analysis of Claude Anelka’s spell in charge of Raith Rovers is downright hilarious; and Jon’s scrutiny of the Scottish leagues from 2012 is still a vital assessment. I hope they continue to work with us in the future. I would also like to thank Craig “Rain Man” Anderson for his fantastic statistical articles, as well as everyone else who contributed over the years in some way.
And thank you to everyone who read our work, shared it online, followed us on Twitter, liked us on Facebook and interacted with us. We’re hugely appreciative of your support.