Six and a quarter years since I went out and purchased the domain name for the site, and nearly as long since I spent one late night building what was to become AVL 1.0, I come to you all with a sad farewell, but one I have to make.
For six years, AVL has very much been my baby. However, in more recent times, I’ve been very thankful to those who have been able to submit articles to keep the site alive following a few years where I’ve struggled to have the time as life has taken its toll. 2016 saw a lot of upheaval for me, and whilst I originally decided to stop writing for the papers in July of that year in order to focus on AVL, it unfortunately hasn’t materialised.
The challenges I’ve had are varied. Some of these people will be aware of such as my health & a series of events in 2016 putting me through the wringer, but ultimately the challenge of holding down a full time job whilst also trying to complete a Masters degree has squeezed almost every free moment out of my days and, at times, squeezed a lot of the enjoyment out of it all too.
The long and the short of it – as is evidenced by the lack of my posting – is that AVL had/has become an entity that needed/needs something else to thrive and get back to where it used to be. This isn’t, of course, to take anything away from the site in the past few years (I will always be grateful to both the community and especially John Lerwill for keeping things going), but seeing things slow down left me struggling with thoughts of what I should do.
I had, at one point, contemplated closing the site but after more than five seconds thought, I felt this would be the wrong thing for any number of reasons – the main one being that I felt AVL’s community had value that has led to friendships and a wider sense of belonging in the Villa family. Hearing from Deano about Gary’s passing made me reflect on how the site meant and means something to a lot of people, and made me make my mind up that I had to at least find a way to pass the torch on.
Many routes were looked at. Those who know me know that Jon Fear who owns Vital Football (and thus Vital Villa) is a friend of mine and we discussed amalgamating AVL into that, but I wasn’t 100% sure on how that would work given that AVL has a distinct identity, and anyone who wanted to post or read on Vital is/would probably be already on there.
I’d contemplating giving it up to another entity but the risk you take when you hand things over to someone else is what happens to the site and its reputation. Sure, AVL was never going to be the New York Times, but it has developed a reputation for solid long form content and a respectful community – I personally can thank the site for being part of why I managed to appear on the BBC regularly, why I wrote for the papers and when I used to appear on Sports Tonight on Sky. Ultimately, I didn’t want to tarnish that legacy by handing it over to someone else who might just turn the site into click-bait fodder or load it full of irritating adverts.
Instead, I’ve managed to hand the keys over to John Clark – a man who has become a friend of mine since the very early days of this site when I only knew him as “Kohoutek”. Whilst it was me who started the ball rolling back in March 2011, JC quickly became part of the site within the first year of us opening and steadily contributed – submitting over 200 articles over the course of AVL’s existence up until now.
I’ve also managed to infuse AVL with other aspects of those around me and one person in particular stands out who knows me very well. Kristina Montesano, arguably one of my best friends on the planet, was welcomed into the community and whilst I appreciate she’ll likely have her own words to say about AVL and this post, I can certainly say that she was very humbled by the warmth you all extended to her when she turned up as a practically newborn Villa fan, despite her following football for a long while.
However, AVL most certainly hasn’t just been about me – in fact, I always intended for AVL to be very much about “the fans” rather than some soapbox for a lad from Aston – but about all of the people who have contributed as writers, commenters, or readers. I will, invariably, be unable to list everyone, but I would like to say thank you to you all for the role you’ve played in making this an enjoyable place to be – cliched as the overall sentiment may be, I couldn’t have done it without you all.
I’ve been lucky enough to know many of you as more than just a username and profile picture as well over the years. I’ve also been lucky enough to have people share music, memories and even gifts with me (thank you Ian Gibson for the Stampeders T-shirt!) over the years, so thank you everyone for having faith in AVL when it was just the one post in late March 2011 – to that end, I’ll always be grateful to Gary Haddon and those on day one for his/their faith he/they had in this from day one.
So whilst this isn’t a final goodbye – I will still retain an account and have been granted the ability to continue to publish on here – it is time for me to say thank you for the past six years and here’s to seeing AVL cultivate its own new identity under John Clark.
And so, to quote one of my favourite authors (the late Douglas Adams) “so long, and thanks for all the fish” (well, comments).
PS Those who want to stay in touch, can find me on Twitter via @matthewsturvey. Aston Villa Life will, of course, continue to exist on social media via @astonvillalife and http://www.facebook.com/astonvillalife