The sense of bewilderment never quite goes away. As The Blizzard begins its ninth year, it still seems vaguely incredible that we’re still here, still trying to provide an eclectic alternative to that available in more mainstream publications.

Yet the world has changed. “Mainstream media” now is a term of abuse, something that speaks of the crisis at the heart of journalism. When the idea for The Blizzard first emerged in Fitzgerald’s on Green Terrace in Sunderland, the night of Darren Bent’s hat-trick against Bolton, the landscape was very different. Back then our main concerns were the way newspapers and magazines had turned away from seriousness or taking risks, the way the rise of the internet had brought an economic reckoning that in turn had brought a conservatism to the industry. Our reasoning, in as much as we had any, was that with a smaller scale and next to no overheads, we could offer an alternative that happened to be the sort of thing I wanted to read, and that a lot of other journalists wanted to write.

Now the battle for long-form seems won, and the boom in independent sports magazines suggests we were right about the desire for eclecticism. This is the great positive of the internet: it’s much easier for people to find like-minded others and to create communities. 

But the challenges to journalism seem much greater now. Truth itself is under threat. Politicians have always distorted or presented a particular view of reality, but never before, surely, have they lied with such impunity. Being caught in a blatant untruth would once have been a source of great embarrassment, perhaps a resigning offence. Now, it’s shrugged off, part of the greater game of undermining faith in facts.

The media, en masse, is no better. Newspapers, television channels and websites distort, while trusted sources, such as the BBC, have proved incapable of dealing with the threat, still hung up on the idea of news as entertainment, of offering specious ‘debate’ without much regard for actual facts.

Alongside that, football is facing a challenge that, when we began, would have seemed unthinkable. Racism and hooliganism are back. The uncomfortable truth is that it probably never went away, but Brexit and the disgraceful discourse around immigration – of which Theresa May’s Hostile Environment, the cruellest, most callous policy any British government has introduced in my lifetime, is a central strut – seem to have unleashed the poison. 2019 has begun with each weekend bringing fresh outrages, football, having tolerated one-eyed tribalism and disproportionate anger for too long, transformed into the most visible stage for the disgrace of modern Britain.

It’s all deeply depressing, but we press on, striving to remain true to our original values, a sliver of internationalism in a miserable world.