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Planet Prentonia is back (kind of)

Eight months ago, I ended Planet Prentonia. Amid a mental breakdown, I lost passion for things I usually loved. My relationship with football changed and I languished in a black hole, unable to create or think straight. It was a time of immense transformation, and the digital enterprise I built around Tranmere Rovers, my greatest love, was sacrificed prematurely.

Suffering with obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and consequential depression, the burden of regularly producing content for a website and various social media platforms paralysed me. I tend to heap pressure on myself, imposing false deadlines and demanding ridiculous levels of production. It all became too much.

Alas, when Connor Jennings scored in the dying seconds at Wembley against Newport, heading Rovers back into the third division, Planet Prentonia lay dormant. No hastily created graphics. No timely tweets. No celebratory article, despite many yearning for it.

I can only apologise.

Writing as recovery from depression

Privately, behind closed doors, writing was my saviour in the darkest times of mental ill health. The act of getting all those obsessive ideas out of my head, onto the page, was unbelievably cathartic. Those thoughts became sentences, and those sentences became paragraphs, articles and trends. It didn’t really matter where those pieces were published, or even if they were read. The very art of writing itself offered me a lifeline, an outlet and, above all else, hope.

Informed by life-changing experience, I was writing from the heart, writing like never before. It felt great, and I rued the loss of Planet Prentonia in its purest form, as a blog sharing the untold stories of Tranmere Rovers. That’s when I delved into a special project that will soon come to light.

If 2018 was characterised by a slide into depression and despair, this year has been a time of individualist awakening for me. Patrycja, my girlfriend, has brought the greatest positivity to my life, encouraging me to live free from approval, live as the real me, and not to apologise for anything that may seem uncool.

Above all else, Patrycja encourages me to write. In years of working for esteemed newspapers and illustrious websites, I have never been more creative, more fearless and more driven. I have never been a better writer than I am right now. Planet Prentonia, the blog that changed my life, deserves to feel the benefit of that inspiration.

The demise of Planet Prentonia

Towards the closing stages of 2017, and on through 2018, changes in my career led to infrequent articles and spluttering content on the pages of Planet Prentonia. I couldn’t find time to breathe, let alone think coherently. Writing fell by the wayside, and that suppression of self in conformance with the brutal capitalist order exacerbated my psychological implosion. I lost the instruction manual for life, and Planet Prentonia bore the brunt.

Flailing through the abyss, I tried anything and everything to find psychological peace. I pruned and tweaked different aspects of my life, detracting through minimalism and adding through experience. I revaluated my career path. I gave up alcohol. I even attended a Buddhist meditation class in Hoylake. That’s how confused, hurt and battered I truly was.

Of the things I altered and discarded, some were right and some were wrong. Eschewing alcohol gives me greater clarity of thought, but meditation isn’t quite my cup of tea just yet. In hindsight, closing Planet Prentonia was a mistake. It was the act of an unhealthy mind. I worked so hard to build this enterprise, develop this following and influence this movement. Abandoning it was asinine. I hated myself at that point, a frustrated empath in a narcissistic world, and severing ties with the past was my reckless plea for help.

Back from the dead

After making a further career change earlier this year, I managed to engineer more time for my passions. More time for the real me.

Rigorous self-analysis is a key component of recovery, and key decisions helped me take back control of my life.

I gradually emerged from the darkness, reinvigorated and alive. The old Ryan came back, slowly but surely. The real Ryan, not the council estate kid swallowed by corporate dogma.

In February, awash with unstable creativity, I launched this website and began building a personal brand of unapologetic iconoclasm. After being a prisoner of social acceptance for so long, I just didn’t care anymore. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote some more, about anything and everything that interested me. About Poland and mental health, about baseball and writing itself.

About Tranmere Rovers, but more on that later.

I discovered that, more than the antidepressants in my cupboard or the therapist in my phone contacts, writing kept me sane. Writing kept me excited. Writing gave me purpose, and all the other stuff didn’t matter.

A new model for writing

In the modern world, so closely dependent on money, we are told that happiness can only be attained by turning our most intense passion into our day job. And so we sell t-shirts online to support our writing. And so we model toothpaste on Instagram just so we can record podcasts all day in our underpants.

The entrepreneurial spirit is admirable, but the expectation to monetise and develop projects along a clichéd, linear path knocked me out of kilter.

First and foremost, Planet Prentonia was a passion project. It was brazen and insurrectionist. It finally stuck up for Tranmere Rovers and sneered at our nemeses in Liverpool. Trying to follow the same business model as every other football website - selling ad space and vlogging vaguely about tabloid transfer rumours - was diametrically opposed to its philosophical identity, mission and purpose.

Planet Prentonia wasn’t just another football website. It meant something more than that.

I’m a writer. I write about Tranmere Rovers. That’s who I am, and that’s who I will always be. I’m not a photographer. I’m not a graphic designer, a broadcaster or even a social media creative. Lingering in those spaces for too long detracted from the true value of Planet Prentonia: exploring through writing the soul of a hard-luck football club from a rough and rugged town.

Well today, almost a year down the line, sound of mind and filled with determination, I’m pleased to announce that Planet Prentonia is back. Kind of.

The return of Planet Prentonia

Planet Prentonia is back in so much as I will be writing regularly about Tranmere Rovers and sharing the links through the social media accounts we worked so tirelessly to build.

Planet Prentonia is back in so much as I still love this football club, I still have thoughts about its progress, and I still yearn to share them with you, the likeminded people who always support my work.

Planet Prentonia is back in its original spirit, as a purist blog, a vehicle of impassioned writing and a lyrical hub of all things absurd and wonderful about football in Birkenhead.

I probably won’t post random photos from Rovers history on Instagram. At least not with any demanding regularity, schedule or expectation.

I’m unlikely to tweet irately about the club letting its top goalscorer leave for free in successive seasons. Quite frankly, I’m past all that.

I probably won’t produce merchandise of any mass appeal. Lux et Robur literally exists. The guys over there have done a brilliant job, and they have all your needs covered. Go and check them out.

You may not hear from Planet Prentonia at certain times, and at others you may get sick of its ubiquity. I cannot promise or commit to anything beside the fact that I will definitely be writing about Tranmere Rovers with something approaching regularity once again, guided by passionate instinct rather than pressured anticipation, and you will be able to find those articles in all the old places.

It feels like we’re reopening a favourite old pub. Occasionally, there might even be some drinks to enjoy.

The power of gratitude

This relaunch is a show of gratitude from me to you. Sometimes, you have to lose your mind to find your soul, and that was certainly true for me. My soul belongs at Prenton Park, or perhaps more accurately behind a keyboard chronicling the exploits of the inexact heroes who roam its inviolable turf. In the end, the solution to my identity crisis was right under my nose, captured in the thousands of goodwill messages you have imparted over the years.

You didn’t love Planet Prentonia because it unearthed random pictures of Ian Goodison shopping in Asda while wearing a full Tranmere training kit. You didn’t love Planet Prentonia because it had a boring podcast that was sponsored by a random local furniture company, like most other football blogs these days. You didn’t love Planet Prentonia for all the excess stuff.

You loved Planet Prentonia for the writing, for the stories, and for the way it fearlessly advocated Tranmere Rovers as the most dignified, underappreciated and beguiling football club in the land.

You loved Planet Prentonia because it put into words your ardour for that plucky team in white.

That Planet Prentonia is back. Right here, right now.

That Planet Prentonia, with writing at its core.

That Planet Prentonia, focused and driven.

That Planet Prentonia, the definitive Tranmere Rovers blog online.

So long as the desire to write still yaps at my heart, it will never be forced into knee-jerk hibernation again. That is my promise, and this is my pledge. The fact that you stuck around, waiting long enough to see us return, makes me emotional. I couldn’t ask for more amazing support.

The technical details

You will notice that Planet Prentonia has a new home, residing as a subsection of my personal website, ryanferguson.co.uk. All of our original articles have moved across to the new space, maintaining the fine legacy that means so much. Have a dig through the archives. All your favourite stories are there.

Again, I’m a writer, not a web developer, IT specialist or SEO guru. Migrating an old, clunky blog to a new, modern website was a difficult, meltdown-inducing challenge. Links may splutter. Teething issues will undoubtedly arise. It may take time for search engines to re-index our humble outpost of Tranmere Rovers nostalgia. Please bear with me. We’ll get there in the end.

Ultimately, the most important takeaway from our comeback is that we should focus on the future, chronicling the fine renaissance of this football club, rather than dwelling on the past, regurgitating the same old narrative.

When Planet Prentonia was launched in December 2015, Tranmere Rovers was a non-league club. The first match we ever tweeted about was a 1-1 draw with Halifax in the fifth tier. A lot has happened since then, and we will soon report on league matches with Sunderland, Ipswich and Portsmouth. Things have changed, and my writing has evolved with the times. That’s why I’m so excited to reconvene and rekindle Planet Prentonia.

Together, we can build something great.

Explaining the new Planet Prentonia logo

I thought a fresh start called for a fresh logo. Something modern. Something inspirational. Something positive, looking to the future, rather than stoic, gazing into the past. Therefore, without further ado, I would like to present the newly rebranded Planet Prentonia logo.

The blue circle and floating lines? Well, that is actually an eye, believe it or not. I told you I’m not a graphic designer, so please hear me out.

The emblem represents Birkenhead, known colloquially as the one-eyed city. It speaks to the all-seeing passion of Rovers’ fanbase, forever supportive and eternally demanding.

Quite why Birkenhead is called the one-eyed city is lost to the chaos of time. Various theories are proffered. Some say that, looking towards Birkenhead from Liverpool, only one face of the Town Hall clock is visible, so scousers started calling it the one-eyed city. Others contend that Birkenhead trams only had one headlight back in the day, inspiring the nickname.

However, a more plausible rationale is captured by the Oxford-English Dictionary, which defines one-eyed as “small, inferior, inadequate, unimportant, esp. of a town.”

That encapsulates the existential frustration of Birkenhead and the defining mission of Planet Prentonia. In true Superwhite style, it satirises the perceived inferiority of Tranmere Rovers and Wirral to the Liverpool metropolis and its famous football teams. Exploring that dichotomy and exhuming that misconception is fundamental to our project, and that’s just what we are going to do.

Overcoming anxiety as a writer

I have been incredibly anxious about relaunching Planet Prentonia. When you put your neck on the line, take a decision and announce the termination of such an enterprise, resuscitating it eight months later amounts to something of a gamble. It flirts with fermenting fatigue, disrespect and suspicion within the community that is tethered to the project.

Yet in keeping with my recovery, my newfound stability, and my steadfast appreciation of self, I have become fearless. To me, the simply act of writing is an infinite good, a pursuit of standalone catharsis. If people happen to like the end product, that’s a happy coincidence. If they pinpoint technical deficiencies or unfulfilled potential, so what? If they disagree, disapprove or disengage, so be it. I will still be smiling in the serene absence of expectations.

What can we expect from the new Planet Prentonia?

So where do we go from here? Well, Tranmere face Rochdale on Saturday as my nineteenth season attending matches at Prenton Park begins. I will be there as usual. You will be there, too. Planet Prentonia will even be there, and who could have predicted that six months ago?

They always suck you back in. 

In the meantime, while we wait fruitlessly for a half-decent striker to arrive, you might want to look out for a special announcement tomorrow morning as well. Something about Planet Prentonia and Tranmere writing, if I remember correctly.

Everything is set for 8 am.

You are in for a treat.

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10 comments

  • Ryan, what a fantastic thing for you to be so brave and post about your issues with mental health. You were a fantastic student, an exceptional young man and I’m proud to see some of your amazing writing here! Well done, you always were so determined, great to see you still have that quality I wish you all the best, Mr Ellis.

    Ryan Ellis
  • Welcome back Ryan. Missed you. I think it could be a tough season and your perspective and passion will help to see us through.

    Dave
  • Great to have you back, Ryan!! From what I remember, you were often late with your school homework (only joking!!), but this has been a ridiculously long wait!! We really missed your take on our “Two in a row” season, so it’s great to know you’ll be around to write about our next success in your inimitable style!! Hopefully it won’t be too long away!!

    Tony Evans
  • Hi Ryan
    First of all it’s great to see you are healthy and together

    I hope you managed to get to Wembley!

    Your posts are fabulous pieces of nostalgia

    Keep up the good work when you’re able to do so

    Best Wishes

    Robin Russell

    robin russell
  • Ryan, Your articles are always so well written and express so eloquently how fans feel about the club.
    No need to feel any pressure to produce regular stuff. In fact occasional treats are so much better. You already have a legacy with the words you’ve written. You can’t produce a blinder every week! I should know! Just give all you’ve got and mean it. It doesn’t always work, you can’t always win or play well every time! But more often than not you’ll succeed and sometimes when all the hard work pays off you produce an absolute belter and that’s what you get remembered for! CM

    chris malkin

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