So, why finish?
Firstly, and most importantly, we are now making regular losses on issues. The last issue saw sales drop by over 40% and meant that I personally made a big loss. I also lose my full-time job at the end of August and so it's not even a no-brainer, I simply can't lose money when I'm not even sure about earning money. Simple economics tell us that we are daft to even continue now, but we would never let down our subscribers and advertisers and those who buy the mag regularly. It would be very easy just to call it a day after our last issue's sales that were pretty heartbreaking to be honest, but that's not what we are about. We demand commitment from those employed at SCFC, and so we should do the same. Plus, we have some unfinished business, too.....
Issue 75 saw an exclusive interview with Harry Souttar and some cracking articles from our brilliant contributors, and went on sale at the first home game of the season on a lovely, sunny August Saturday. Before that day, pre-order sales were hugely down on recent issues, but that can happen. We expected/hoped to make that up at the Blackpool match - but it just didn't happen. I was in Lisbon on the day for my first family holiday since the shitty pandemic started and must admit was expecting a cracking day of sales. But that didn't materialise despite the very best efforts of Steve and Orfy who sold on the day.
There is no-one to blame but ourselves really, and we aren’t doing. We knew that by going £4 and quarterly that it was a big gamble, but it was the only way that we could come back in print. Well, the gamble didn't work out, unfortunately. That's just how it is. At least we tried and we were desperate to be back in print. £4 on a matchday has simply gone down like, er, our football club in the last five years. With the programme back on sale too, it means that a matchday has become an expensive day for many DUCK readers. We understand that, but there as nothing we could really do about it. We looked at producing a free magazine, but that would mean doubling the amount of advertising. We even looked at one issue a year – a bumper festive period for a tenner – and that is something that may be a possibility but only based on pre-orders. I can’t see it happening personally, but you never know…..
Covid-19 hit the magazine hard, and whilst we were absolutely overjoyed to do our bit for local charities and also send out loads of free digital issues out to keep eyes and minds active, as a business (of a sort!) it was a dreadful time. And yes, we know that many have had it far worse than us and continue to do so. The irony is that the issue leading up to the pandemic (#58) was our best-seller. It featured an exclusive with Ryan Shawcross -and as we sold out at 2.30pm that day against Hull City (with Ryan's lovely wife Kath having a few of our last available copies), it was hard to envisage just what lay ahead.......
The decision to go quarterly and £4 was a tough but necessary one. Basic economics meant that we could not remain as a monthly magazine and that if we were to be out every 3 months that we would need to offer at least 60 pages to provide VFM. To do that, we introduced pre-ordering to ensure that we had as few unsolds as possible, but we still have to guesstimate how many to order for matchday. We simply couldn't afford any to be gaining cobwebs in the garage! Unfortunately, there are.
I also think that football, like life, has changed so much in recent times. Are fanzines really needed anymore? Not when you can have a row on social media while the match is going on. And not when you get direct messaged to "Go **** yourself and die" because you question a manager’s choice of tactics. The pub debate after the game is all but dead - indeed, most debates now can be started while you're at the match with someone thousands of miles away. Like I said, life and football has changed.
Personal health issues have stopped me from selling at matches and that has meant I have lost touch with both friends and our readership. I need to be in and amongst the readership on matchdays, but I literally can't. Matchdays I now generally detest - the main bits I enjoyed were meeting you lot. Now that's gone, I'll be honest, I rarely can be arsed to go sometimes. Going to ST4 often bores me as I wrote in a recent issue - and it can't be like that, it mustn’t be like that. Football has to be the release at the end of a tough week. My youngest lad is also bored stiff going to Stoke at times- he says he's not, but he often is. He plays and trains four days a week and so I totally get my footballing buzz from watching him and carting him around the country. I don’t actually need Stoke City anymore when I have him to support and another two kids who deserve me around more.
I don't like how football is going, how supporting a club is going, and I also worry about the future of our own club, too. Football is 24/7 now, there’s absolute saturation, and I find that I'm watching less and less as a result. Nothing is a surprise anymore - if a player farts, it's on SKY Sports News. It's as if I've fallen out of love with going to watch, and with three kids who are all growing up, moving away etc....I now appreciate that it's not that important any more to me. Indeed, I can see that I have been bloody selfish for most of my life and it's time to put others first for a change.
As I said at the start of this - it's also coming up to a decade since we started DUCK. It's a natural time to call it a day for me. I'm 54 - this club needs energy to hold it to account and it's sapping everything that I have at the moment. And when my wife sees the work I put into each issue and I can't even buy her a bottle of bloody wine from the proceeds.....it’s not on. She's been watching me go off and support Stoke for 30 years and 73 grounds now. She and the family deserve better. This past week I have suffered pretty badly with Covid. It spoilt our family holiday in Lisbon (I didn't know it was Covid at the time), and it showed me that time and life is precious and that some things simply come to an end.
The last 2 or 3 issues will be ace - we have Robert Huth in our next issue, I'm chatting to him next week. He will be our 48th interview. As our 50th interview we would like to get TP in, but that's fallen on death ears so far - if anyone can help...........please let TP know! We have had 47 SCFC heroes and legends in our pages and we will strive to make our last 3 issues as good as we possibly can - so we'd love your articles and contributions in, too. And please - BUY THEM! Indeed, perhaps Orfy will somehow keep it going after I have left, but I know that his workload is huge and he also has a family, too.
All this is not earth-shattering news, but I really do hope you don't feel we have let you down. If we have, I'm sorry. But DUCK has been like my fourth child for nine years now, and it's not something I wanted to let go lightly - but you simply cannot put in hundreds of hours per issue to make a loss. Thanks for all your support.
All the best,