So at last, then, here it is: the first issue of The Blizzard, hopefully a new beginning in what is possible for football journalism, a chance for writers to escape the strictures of search engine optimisation and write at greater length and in more detail than the mainstream media allows about what matters to them. In all honesty, it doesn't feel much like a beginning. This is a project that began in February 2010 and has very slowly come to fruition after a lot of hard work from a lot of people, most of them working not for cash but because of their faith in what we're trying to do.

When we launched the pilot at the beginning of March — Issue Zero — we had no idea what the response would be. We knew there was a possibility it would sink without trace, that either we'd failed to reach out to our audience or that there simply wasn't an audience for this sort of football writing. After the website went live (at 1953 GMT on March 4), I went out for a meal. We'd set it up so I got sent an email every time somebody downloaded the pdf and for two hours I sat in the restaurant trying to focus on the food while acutely conscious that my Blackberry was sitting dormant in my pocket. I'd cautioned myself not to expect a rush, but I'd thought we'd get at least a handful of downloads that evening. There was nothing.

And then I stepped out onto the pavement, into an area with a mobile signal. My Blackberry suddenly came alive, buzzing like a swarm of bees trapped in a vuvuzela. As the email count span upwards, it felt a little like that scene in The Social Network in which they watch the counter ticking towards 1,000,000 (although with much smaller numbers). I only wished I'd been at the office up in Sunderland to share the celebrations.

In the cold light of morning, when we actually looked at what the figures meant, sobriety set in. It had been a great start, and downloads and subscriptions have continued to grow steadily in the weeks since. There's still a wider audience out there though and we need to attract them if we're to be sustainable in the long term. We're ahead of the curve, but there's still a lot of work to be done.

So, thanks for your support, thanks for downloading this or for ordering the hard copy but, please, keep recommending us to people and, if you've got this in digital form and think you might like the hard copy, give it a go. Think how nice paper smells; think how good The Blizzard will look on your shelf; think what having it on your coffee table will do to your status as a football geek.

The Blizzard was set up as a communal venture, based on the efforts of a collective of writers, but you the readers also have a role as we move forward. The first phase is over. We've reached the end of the beginning. The first green shoot is poking through. Now we have to work together on nurturing that into something substantial and firmly rooted.