In the Blog: The Roker Report

by Neil Sherwin

Club specific blogs are on the rise and it can be a challenge to make them appeal to a wider audience. However some sites just ooze universal appeal, and Simon Walsh took a bit of time from his busy schedule to talk to us about The Roker Report which has been on the go since just before Christmas.

Hi Simon, hope we haven’t caught you at a bad time?

Well, as I write this its 6.30am on a Wednesday. I was in bed until 6am, which is a lie in by my standards, as 5.30am is usually my time to get up and write/do stuff for the blog! In all seriousness it’s a pleasure to speak with you guys, there’s never a bad time to talk football.

You say you’ve been a Sunderland fan for over twenty years. What differences do you see between now and back in the day in terms of interacting with your fellow Mackems?

I think now it’s a lot easier, and people are more, I dunno, accepting. SAFC fans have always been a friendly bunch, but rarely would I interact with a stranger. Now you’ve got blogging, Facebook, Twitter etc, everyone and anyone can spout their opinions to the world with some degree of anominity. You definitely find a lot of people will say things they wouldn’t say in real life (which I’m sure I’ve been guilty of too). I’m just fortunate that when I spouted my opinions, people tended to agree. Or at least read them on a regular basis!

The content is very regular, which shows great commitment on your part. I’m sure the missus is chuffed!

Oh she’s delighted. We recently had a ‘discussion’ about it, and we’ve had to come to the agreement whereby I put the laptop away at 8pm. That’s sort of working! Plus the addition of a few extra writers has really, really helped. They’re doing some fantastic stuff, allowing me to cut down the amount I do, and focus more on the management of the site as well as future projects, and promotion.

A few extra bodies have been brought on board to help with the workload; any arguments over whether Kieran Richardson’s rat’s tail should’ve stayed?

Whilst we’ve never discussed it, I feel I can speak on behalf of all SAFC fans in saying it was a disaster for the lad. I’m sure he thought he looked a bit like Roberto Baggio, but ended up more like Lister from Red Dwarf!

Marcos Angeleri arrived in the summer, and took over the hair spotlight. I know he’s South American, but what sort of twat puts his hair in a bun? And he wears tights, the big ponce.

My favourite part of the site is the ‘Fan Focus’ feature where you interview a fan from Sunderland’s next opponents. How do you go about finding a suitable Notts County supporter for example?

I sweated on the Notts County one, but it was actually the easiest one to find and had two people for it. I tend to search for a blog for the opposition and contact them. Failing that, I will find a forum for that team and post a message saying ‘fan wanted’ etc. And the ultimate fall back is basically saying on Twitter ‘Anyone know a XXXXXX Fan?’ We’ve covered a fair few teams, and they’ve all been great to work with, so hopefully I’ll use the same people next year.

You’ve got some nice testimonials on the site under ‘People Who Like Us’. Do you find it difficult to plug a club specific site to the masses?

I have never tried to be mass appeal. I know the audience is SAFC fans, so I’m writing for them. Luckily, SAFC are news right now with the good league performance etc, and media bigwigs have taken notice of what we have to say. When you get a comment from a proper journalist like Gabriele Marcotti or Sean Ingle, people I read, listen to and respect, it feels great and is a big confidence boost.

We had a slightly backhanded compliment too. SAFC.com ran a feature which was incredibly similar to one we did about 5 days before them. I read it and thought ‘this looks familiar’…  only to log on to Twitter and have a barrage of messages saying ‘SAFC.com have just done a shitty version of what you did!’… So I liked that people prefer us, and are thinking of us as opposed to the official outlet!

We hear you have some pretty big plans for the future, is there anything you can tell us exclusively? We’ll keep it on the down low of course.

Well, we’re going to be changing the site entirely! We’re in the process of transferring to SB Nation, a big American company who are looking to expand their blogging network to the UK and in particular the Premier League. It’s very exciting as I’m hugely confident they will be a success over here. It’s a similar premise to the ‘Vital..’or ‘..Mad’ Networks, except it looks a billion times better, is much better written, and is backed by some serious big hitters, so as I said, rather excited by that.

We’re also launching a shop to sell some t-shirts/hoodies and wotnot, which is what I’ve been focussing on recently, and of course we will be continuing with all the great features we’re doing now.

New features are in the pipeline. I’m looking for someone who follows the SAFC Academy teams for regular match reports and youth progress updates. Perhaps, if I can find a real tactical specialist, do something a bit ‘Zonal Marking Lite’ too.

Interviews have been very popular too, and we’ve got more lined up. We’ve already had Mickey Gray and Danny Dichio, and we have the likes of Jody Craddock, Darren Williams, Nicky Summerbee, George Caulkin and Kevin Phillips all on the horizon.

I’d love to do a podcast too for next season. Although there is an Official SAFC Podcast, it’s basically 15 minutes of recycled radio interviews etc. A Roker Report Podcast could be a lot of work, but I think it could be worthwhile.

Basically anything that can establish Roker Report as the No.1 SAFC news/opinion/analysis site going.

Cheers for talking to us.

It’s been a pleasure. I hope we can do this again! If you would like to say something nice, it might make it to the ‘People Who Like Us’…

We’ll put our compliment hat on and fire something across!

You can also follow The Roker Report on Twitter.

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