Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Story So Far

Cold snacks only in this corner of Havant & Waterlooville's Westleigh Park.
The Story So Far is not only the name of one of my favourite albums (by the Mo-Dettes), but it's also a perfectly adequate title to use for a piece to sum up the first year of this blog. So I shall indeed use it as a title and hang the consequences.

I didn't really know what I was doing when I started HAH last January. I just copied over a couple of match reports from my other blog, Pleasure City Avenue, and wrote a short introductory piece. I had a vague idea that I would like to visit all the football grounds at Level 10 and above in Hampshire and write about them. So I just got on with it, without knowing if anyone else would be interested.

Thus was the beginning of the "runaway success" that is the current incarnation of Hopping Around Hampshire (up from virtually no page views per day to the present-day average of 20 or more, overtaking my older blog on Boxing Day).

The big stand at Basingstoke Town. Babies R Us just visible to the left.
By checking the stats, I soon realised that people were arriving at the site almost exclusively via Google image searches, so I upped the number of photos. The trouble is, initially I didn't take many very good ones, so firstly I had to learn how to use a camera (it's not just point and click - you have to get your subject in focus too!), and then how to edit photos to make them stand out on the electronic page. A severe crop, followed by turning up the contrast and brightness, then saturating the colour until a cartoon-like effect is achieved tends to work quite well on the screen. I now take around 20 photos at each match I attend, and use the best eight or nine.

A severe crop and contrast at Horndean v Hythe & Dibden. Sounds like a rad haircut.
I also realised before I started that intricately detailed match reports might be a bit dull for the neutral - they're perfectly fine for the immediacy of the Non-League Paper and match programmes, but people come to see blog pieces weeks and months after the event, so the writing has to be slightly more entertaining (Dub Steps is an excellent example). I admit I cross the line into pretentiousness occasionally (see AFC Portchester), but in my defence, it's pretty difficult knowing what to write about some clubs when there is so little information about them elsewhere on the 'web. Thus, like a proper journalist, I have to occasionally pad out articles with inconsequential fripperies.

Dugouts at AFC Portchester.
So, mildly entertaining/pretentious writing plus cartoon-like photography makes this blog what it is. But how many visitors has each club-based piece achieved to date? The answer to that question is below, in the form of a chart, in order of popularity:

The most-visited piece over 2011 has been...

*drum roll*

1. Hartley Wintney! With 122 page views to date!

There may be no standing allowed in front of Hartley Wintney's stand, but that hasn't stopped them from taking the coveted number one spot in the end of year HAH popularity chart!
2. AFC Totton (120 page views)
3. Horndean (102)
4. Brockenhurst (80)
5. Romsey Town (66)
6=. Stockbridge (57)

Along the touchline at Stockbridge.

6=. Fleet Town (57)
8. Fareham Town (56)
9. Basingstoke Town (45)
10. Andover New Street (40)
11. Whitchurch United (39)

Enjoying the big cup match against Gloucester City at Whitchurch United.
12. Moneyfields (38)
13. Havant & Waterlooville (32)
14. Cove (31)

The pay booth at Cove FC.
15=. AFC Portchester (17)
15=. Lymington Town (17)
17. Eastleigh (13)

Totton near the top is no surprise: the overall most-popular page thus far is a page dedicated to photos of theirs and Totton & Eling's new grounds (123 views); a photo diary of their promotion celebrations at Gosport in April has also been metaphorically well-thumbed (97 views). Arguably Hampshire's club of the year for 2011 after their promotion and FA Cup run.

More surprising is the inclusion of Hartley Wintney and Horndean at the top, and Eastleigh at the bottom. The former can be explained by having a link on the forum of their excellent unofficial website, the latter by the lack of photos in the article. Horndean's popularity is harder to explain, although I'm sure they'll be pleased. They borrowed some of my photos for their new website. If they'd like the new photo that's featured in this article too, they're welcome to copy it (the same goes for any other club website or programme editors - just let me know by leaving a comment, as I like seeing them used).

So, onwards into 2012. Barring illness or bad weather, I intend to visit two new clubs per month for the rest of the season, and then the remaining 16 in 2012/13. Enough looking back for now. It's time to look forwards. Roll on, roll on.

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