Billy Blagg is an alter-ego. One that has stuck to the point that I’m never sure who I am and who Billy is any more. We’re probably the same; which is funny as that was never the point of it.
I’d long been a frustrated writer. When I’d been younger I’d always wanted to get into journalism but things hadn’t turned out that way. However, over the years, I’d written a number of articles that I’d managed to get published.
In 1998, I became interested in the the number of fan-based websites that were growing up about football. I decided I wanted to try and write a weekly column about my club West Ham United but not one where I discussed transfer windows, team formations or the players favourite music. Rather I wanted to approach football from a different angle; more humorous, less reverential and certainly less po-faced.
I imagined writing from a different perspective but didn’t seem able to do it as myself. Although I knew how I wanted to write and what about, it looked flat on the page and it didn’t spark my imagination let alone anyone else’s. I then hit on the idea of writing under a pseudonym; I felt someone else could say the things I was struggling to say. I mentioned this to Gail “I don’t want to be myself when I’m writing,” I said. “Call yourself something else then…how about …Billy Blagg ?” She was so smart and inspirational. It was another reason I loved her.
As soon as the name was mooted, I could see him; Racing Post in the pocket, cigarette in the mouth, dishevelled, unshaven, always sporting something claret and blue. Billy Blagg was born.
As Blagg I began a weekly column on a website called The Ironworks, that soon morphed into West Ham Online and, from that, I was approached by a Publisher and asked if I would be prepared to write a book based on the immediacy of the fan quotes on the Internet pages.
In 2003, ‘Nightmare On Green Street’ was published. I gained a bit of local notoriety, filled up a stand in Waterstone’s in Romford and appeared on the radio. Dan Brown did not appear to be worried though.
Outside of that, I was also approached by Soccernet – a web site soon to becomes ESPN – and asked if I would write a regular column in the style I’d harnessed on West Ham Online. I became a regular as not only West Ham but also England ‘correspondent’ covering the latter on every World Cup and European Championship from 2002 to 2014. I had a lot of fun on Soccernet and garnered a lot of support from all lover the world as both England and West Ham fans picked up on what was fast becoming what was known as a ‘blog’
My club career continued until 2016 when I was ‘retired’ from ESPN but, in truth, I’d tired of the format by then anyway. as I’d also been pedalling the same shtick for the local Guardian group of newspaper. Time had caught up with the keyboard warrior that was Billy Blagg
Blagg lived on though. As I’d created a Twitter and Facebook account for the man to advertise my various outlets, I’d picked up regular fans from around the world. I had hundreds of emails a week from places I couldn’t even point to on a map. Of more relevance though was the fact that my own life had started to meld with Billy’s. I knew things had become odd when I eventually met up with a lot of Hammers fans I only knew via the website at the 2012 Championship Play-off match at Wembley. I was called Billy all day and I quite liked it.
With that in mind it seemed appropriate to write this blog as Billy. Gail was my Lady Blagg online and I know she was proud of what I’d done from such a small and off-the-cuff concept. I know she’d have liked her life and my love described by Billy. So here it is.