You don’t ask you don’t get: it’s an ideal that drives both football and writing. Questions come as a form of currency. The more you ask, the more opportunities tend to come your way.
And sometimes those opportunities are better than you ever could have imagined.
Together with Paul Watson I’ve been running an event called Great Football Adventures. We invite people who’ve had interesting experiences of football abroad to come and give talks in London. When the feedback for our first events was good, the logical next step was to create a book.
It wasn’t as easy as we thought. Speakers became hard to tie down. People stopped replying. After six months we had just a handful of chapters.
And so I started to chase new opportunities. I contacted more speakers, learned new stories and revisited older ones. One of those was In the Hands of the Gods. A favourite film of mine growing up, the documentary features five football freestylers who attempt to busk their way from the UK to Argentina to meet Diego Maradona.
I browsed various websites and eventually managed to contact all five. Just one replied.
That one was Paul Wood.
I arranged a time and a date then set about booking a meeting room at work for ‘an important client call.’ I suppose it was half right.
We spoke for an hour. Paul – or Woody, as he liked to be called – was a great speaker and gave me plenty of content. He even passed me on the details of others he knew who could be part of the book.
A few days later I’d written the first draft of his chapter. I sent it over and Woody called back later that day. He loved the chapter and spoke through a few necessary changes. ‘And by the way,’ he finished. ‘I like what you’ve done. I’ve got a project that might interest you.’
Woody, it turned out, wasn’t just a football freestyler. In fact, that was in the past. Now he was one of the world’s biggest content creators. Along with his partner Kleiny (and manager Darryl), @WoodyandKleiny had more than 10,000,000 followers across their social channels. And now they wanted to write their first book.
At the time I was working in an office job as a social media manager. I knew YouTubers and had worked with many. But I didn’t really know YouTube. The craze had passed me by. I’d seen the impact it had on people up and down the country, the potential of what they did, the power they held in their hands.
I couldn’t have been more excited.
I followed all of @WoodyandKleiny’s channels. I watched their pranks, gave them likes, showed my mates. Then we met in person.
We clicked straight away. I brought along my business partner in Floodlit Dreams, Ian Ridley, and we outlined the book process over a dinner at Zizzi’s. They had plenty of options, we told them. We’d be happy to help them get a literary agent and pursue their project with a big publisher. Or they could go with Floodlit Dreams. Ian outlined the pros and cons with each option then left me alone with Woody and Darryl, Kleiny being unable to attend due to illness.
We spoke for a couple more hours and by the time I got the last train home to London I was filled with positivity.
Another meeting was arranged. They wanted me to help them write their book. They wanted that book to be published with Floodlit Dreams.
Over the next few months I got to know Woody, Kleiny and Darryl well. I saw parallels in their experiences with mine as I attempt to turn a passion into a livelihood and become a full-time author. So inspirational did I find their journey that I even took redundancy to focus fully on writing.
We set about into a routine: they’d pick me up from the station, take me for dinner, I’d get out my dictaphone and then we’d talk late into the night. They’d always pay for my Uber home.
It took eight full sessions to get enough content. Then the back and forth really started. There were changes to make, designs to approve, covers to sort. Writing ended up being the easiest part of the process.
That process is now almost complete. The Social Struggle: How We Took Over the Internet is available to pre-order. It’s been an incredible journey with three people I now consider to be friends, rather than collaborators. Their story inspires me and I hope it will inspire readers all over the world.
And it all came about from a question.