Hard at work finishing Issue 14 of his cult Pickles Magazine, we convinced Ned Read to take a break and chat to us about his vision for Pickles going forward, 'Pickles the dog', and his thoughts on his beloved Birmingham City!
Corinthian: So Ned, how would you describe all that you're up to at the moment?
Ned: It's all about Pickles 14, the next issue of the magazine. That's pretty much what I'm focused on at the moment and putting together an issue that's as good as the last one, and packed full of great features, articles and illustrations.
C: And how would you describe Pickles Magazine?
N: Pickles is an independent football magazine, based in the UK, that focuses on the culture surrounding the game, great football stories and issues that transcend the sport. Established in 2011, the magazine uses design and illustration to present stories in more engaging ways, as well as featuring great photography – presenting unique and original articles and offering a commentary on the modern game.
C: And - because it's such a great story, and for those who don't know - tell us the story behind the name Pickles.
N: I was searching for a name, something that would match the tone and voice of the magazine and help us to develop an identity. Some obscure piece of football trivia. It was actually a friend who remembered the story of the original World Cup trophy, the Jules Rimet, being stolen just before the 1966 competition. So I did some research, found that the trophy had been on display at Westminster Central Hall and it was pinched, only to be found seven days later in South London, by a guy walking his dog. And that dog, was Pickles, the inspiration behind our name.
C: Take us a step back. Where did the idea for Pickles come from?
N: I’m a designer, I studied Graphic Communication at uni and I’ve always worked on magazines and newspapers. I love the editorial process, the collaboration and finding new and interesting ways to present stories. Back in 2010, I was working at a newspaper, a few friends were football bloggers and getting their work out there, but I could see there was a gap in the market. There didn’t seem to be a football publication that was embracing great design or illustration, or targeting more discerning football fans, who wanted something other than tabloid style transfer gossip or the latest piece on Ronaldo or Messi. So I set out to create a magazine, that would combine my passion for design, illustration and football, and create something original.
C: With quite a few football magazines in the market place these days - from Four Four Two to the more sportswear-orientated titles like SoccerBible - where does Pickles fit in? What kind of fan do you have in mind as you edit each issue?
N: I can’t really believe how many football magazines there are now, it’s crazy. The reason I started Pickles was because there wasn’t anything else out there remotely similar. Green Soccer Journal was around and that was a great magazine, but it was really slick and seemed to focus a lot more on photography and fashion stories, quite different to what I was looking to achieve.
I still think Pickles maintains a unique viewpoint and identity, in the now crowded market, but the focus has shifted slightly. You have to back up great design and illustration with top quality editorial content and stories. Football fans are pretty savvy and to avoid the accusation of style over substance, the written content has to be great - that’s the kind of fan Pickles is aimed at, the fan that can see the difference, the effort that goes in to Pickles and appreciates our approach.
C: You’re never short of crazy stories, such as the recent one on Luciano Cecconi holding up a jewellery store with a gun in Lazio. What's been your favourite story that’s featured in the magazine so far?
N: Luciano Re Cecconi’s story is incredible, and what appealed about telling it in Pickles 13 is that it seems to have been forgotten over time - that story has it all, drama, violence, Tim Lovejoy, BANTS… A similar one that stands out is Greg Lea’s piece on Agostino Di Bartolomei, Roma’s Fallen Captain. A player who made over 200 appearances for his boyhood club, he led Roma out at the Stadio Olimpico for the European Cup final against Liverpool, but he was left heartbroken when he was forced out of the club, and his career fizzled out. Sadly, in 1994, Agostino Di Bartolomei took his own life. It’s an important story to tell, and as relevant today. Football and society still has much to learn about mental health.
But, by contrast, we also featured a story on supporting under-10s football, and the writer overstepping the boundary of appropriate adult behaviour and parental responsibility. In his case it was shouting ‘For f**k’s sake, don’t make that fat twat look like Messi!’ during a tense under-10s league match in which his son was playing.
C: Has football always been a huge part of your life? Who's your club, and who was your childhood footballing hero?
N: Sure, I grew up just outside Birmingham, but my dad made sure I was going to be a Bluenose. Growing up, I had a few heroes. Steve Claridge stood out, with his socks rolled down and the massively oversized shirts the players used to wear… I loved his tenacious style, some would say scruffy appearance and he scored goals (cue the inevitable YouTube vortex), and I’m now watching Claridge score a brace against Southend United from the ’95 season, the second goal a brilliant solo effort. He was great. And then there’s Christophe Dugarry, a few years later, but he was class - it’s funny, when a player is that good, they just have more time.
C: Ok, so, in 5 words or less, how would you summarise your beloved Birmingham City’s season?
N: Hard work. It’s often the case supporting Blues, joy and sorrow. We don’t do things the easy way. We win the cup, beating Arsenal in the final and we’re relegated the same season. For the first time in a few years, some money seems to have been invested in to the club and we’ve actually signed some quality players… Harlee Dean, David Stockdale, Jota, Marc Roberts… But every good result, has so far been followed up by a bad one, and we’re struggling to find any form. Hopefully the lads will gel - bringing in 14 signings, it’s going to take a bit of time.
C: The Corinthian Spirit - that gentlemanly sense of sportsmanship over gamesmanship is central to what we do over at Corinthian. Is that something that you believe in?
N: Absolutely. I loved your feature on Costin Lazar, the player that refused to take a penalty and pleaded with officials to rescind a foul against him as he believed the challenge was fair. That sort of story really resonates and gives you hope for football. The focus is often on negative aspects of the game - the money, diving, the corruption in FIFA. But saying that, I used to have a soft spot for Robbie Savage when he played for Birmingham and I’m not sure he epitomises the Corinthian Spirit.
C: What's next for Pickles - what are you most excited about?
N: Pickles 14 is coming together nicely, an exciting stage in the process, loads of possibilities and I’ve had a chance to work with some new talent, as well as the regular contributors. It’s going to be a cracker though, some great features lined up and more of a focus on photography. I’m taking a different approach with the distribution, so we’ll reach a lot more football fans . Looking forward to getting this one out there…