Who is Stanley Grouse?
There are more fan-made bits of memorabilia than I ever remember these days, with Jordi Connor`s excellent 'Retro Horns` sticker series now available as a poster from the Watford FC Club Shop (with all profits going to the Peace Hospice), a new Watford fanzine`s first edition that came out on the final day of the season, a whole host of Watford prints, posters and t-shirts from Anderson Design, and a whole load of others that I`ve forgotten about or neglected to mention. But my favourite, and in my opinion most interesting, piece of fan-made memorabilia come from a mysterious man who goes by the name of Stanley Grouse.
I first became aware of Stanley Grouse after a few games, when Vital Watford was mentioned in one of his tweets. That tweet contained nothing but a link to our account, a couple of Watford related hashtags, and an image that contained one of my tweets recreated within a slick looking graphic.
It was simple, and looked great. A quick look through Stanley Grouse`s twitter page revealed that a graphic had been made for each game of the season so far, each with one tweet from a fan recreated in an artier form, and they all looked fantastic. I followed the account straight away, and always looked forward to seeing the reaction from each game from Mr Grouse - hoping that another one of my tweets would be selected again to represent Stanley`s feelings. (Alas, it wasn`t to be )
Once the season had come to a close, Stanley Grouse compiled the tweeted graphics, and is now selling the collection within a beautiful box with a really understated design. He is also selling a few other bits of Watford memorabilia on his website.
Apart from the relative anonymity, lack of self-advertising and propensity towards quality over quantity, I knew nothing about the man. Conscious that most Watford fans that don`t use twitter may not have heard of him and what he does, I got in touch to have a chat about his ethos, and how it all started. It would be a shame to see such a great idea not shared with as many people as possible, I thought.
"The idea for the twitter series developed over a couple of months last year. I was always interested in what people were writing about Watford on twitter and some of the tweets stood out so much - be it good, bad, rude, funny - that it seemed a shame that if you weren`t online at exactly the right moment they would just fall off your timeline into the abyss never to be seen again.
"During the pre-season the concept of anonymously artworking one tweet per game took shape. I thought of it as quite a unique way to document an entire season."
@WatfordTalk`s one about Munari. It seemed to sum up the feeling of the game beautifully without even having to know what had happened. He didn`t care who Munari was! The sun was out, football was back and we were 3-0 up. Happy days!
"The rest, as they say, is history."
I wondered about the selection process. It must be difficult to find one tweet that sums up an entire game, surely.
"It was occasionally difficult, but not often. The tweets I chose were often those that made me smile or were very much in tune with what I saw or felt.
"I did have my favourite tweeters though and could have probably done a whole season focusing on just a couple of people`s take on following Watford."
Having not publicised himself or his work until recently - and even recently it`s only been via his own twitter page, with all outside promotion, including this article, being done by fans of his work - I wondered whether this was a conscious choice, in order for his work to retain an air of distinction, or whether there was some other reason for it.
"It was purely a social experiment initially. I just like the concept and I wanted to see how far I could take it. I did set myself some rules on anonymity - i.e. to remain completely anonymous. In fact, even people I go to games with still don`t know it`s me! I`d also rarely write anything on my twitter account, so the artwork would have to do the talking if I was to gain followers."
There was a moment that things started snowballing, and that was thanks to Stanley`s work being picked up by the guys from From The Rookery End.
"After the third game, @RookeryMike picked up on what I was doing and suggested that others should follow me. My phone went crazy! I went from two to seventy odd followers in about half an hour."
"All the @watfordpodcast boys have been great towards the project, always retweeting the artwork and often writing really complimentary stuff. I wouldn`t have got anywhere near the following I have without their help."
As for beginning to actually sell some of the work he`s made, Stanley believes that staying anonymous might be key to continuing his work in an interesting way.
"The shop is a little different, as I have to answer questions and make people aware of it, but I`m still very keen on the whole anonymous angle. It`s a little more fun this way and I`ve had a few ideas going forward that rely on keeping my identity hidden."
The tweet series becoming a product to sell was not part of the original plan, though. The strength of the artwork and the following he had gained convinced Stanley to open up his small online shop.
"It was never on my radar to sell initially, it only came about through encouragement from followers on twitter and it turning into such a memorable season on and off the pitch.
"Now I`ve done it, I am really pleased with how it looks. I have added essential game stats on the reverse of each card - score, goal scorers, date, attendance, line ups, etc. - to give each artwork some context.
"The prints themselves are great quality and I spent time researching packaging to make sure it all works as one product that people will hopefully enjoy owning and will stand the test of time.
"I am also a big fan of what The 1881 are doing at Vicarage Road so thought it would be a good way of contributing to their fund too by giving them a percentage of any profit."
Stanley has a few other products available in his shop, with t-shirts and framed prints designed by him too. He doesn`t now whether that side of things will be continued, as it all depends on interest and demand. I`m hoping that there`s enough demand for it, but more importantly, I hope he does another tweet series for the Premier League season.
"Whether or not I do it again next season is a tough one Doing 46 artworks was quite time-consuming! At least next year there`ll be less games to cover! We`ll have to see "
Was there anything else he wanted to tell his followers?
"I clearly don`t have much of a social life at the weekend."
You can follow Stanley Grouse on twitter here.
You can visit Stanley Grouse`s online shop here.
We`d like to thank Stanley for talking to us.