Fanzines are non-professional publications written by fans, for fans. In Britain, they possess a tradition dating back to the 1960s and 1970s when typewritten and photocopied band tributes were produced and sold at concerts and in record shops. Football started to attract such publications in the early 1980s.
Among the best known of this early batch was The End, notionally devoted to Liverpool FC, but whose remit extended to music, fashion and popular culture. In many ways it transcended footballing allegiance and its co-editor, Peter Hooton, later the front man of The Farm, could sometimes be seen at Goodison selling copies to Evertonians.
By the late 1980s Everton were one of the few big clubs still without a fanzine to their name. In December 1988 the seminal When Skies Are Grey was founded by Chris Collins.
Initially based out of Porthmadog, it was type-written, smeared with globules of Tipp-Ex and replete with spelling mistakes. Collins’ first editorial boasted:
At last you the fan’s have you’re own platform to air you’re views on Everton FC ... I will not make any apologies for ruffling any feathers though. What’s got to be said will be said, unlike the programme which would have us believe that all is rosy in the Goodison Garden. The football I’ve seen over the last eighteen months or so tells me otherwise. (Sic)
The Daily Post’s Len Capeling welcomed its arrival: ‘Hardened Everton fans who’ve suffered the slings and the arrows (plus the occasional bouquets) of the last 20 years will instantly warm to the tone of torment in the Goodison fanzine WSAG. Of course the title gives the game away. Depressingly downbeat, it forcibly reminds us that every silver lining has a cloud.’
FANZINES STRUCK a chord with fans who were increasingly dispossessed, alienated and treated appallingly by their clubs and the football authorities. Amateurishly produced, often libellous and bitingly funny, they made for essential half-time reading and were always more pertinent than the match-day programme. To a certain extent they suffered with the ascent of the internet in the late 1990s. Their original success was because fans did not have a say; with the arrival of blogs, fan sites, messageboards and so on, everyone suddenly had a forum.
EVERTON HAVE POSSESSED a handful of fanzines, some of which are still in production.
When Skies Are Grey (1988–):
The original and best Everton fanzine, still going strong after more than 170 issues and for many years supplemented by a lively and popular (now sadly defunct) website. Among its editors is Mark O’Brien, one of the most gifted and perceptive commentators on the club.
Blue Wail: (1988–89):
Now a collectors’ item. The fanzine was pulled after inadvertent comments about Liverpool fans that the editors feared might have been misconstrued following the Hillsborough disaster.
Speke From The Harbour (1989–):
Originally published by Everton’s Northern Ireland Supporters Club. A longstanding and irreverent addition to the fanzine annals.
Gwladys Sings The Blues (1994–97):
Co-edited by four Crosby school friends, including this author, this ran for 16 issues and a ‘Best Of’, covering the eventful Joe Royle years.
Published with the mantra ‘We Don’t Hate Liverpool; We Don’t Hate Man Utd; We Don’t Hate Anyone’, Satis was charged with the gloomy task of covering the Walter Smith years.
Run by George Orr, prolific Everton writer and historian, it specialised in the rich lore of the club and ran for 100 editions.