Thursday, 18 March 2010

A Big Star leaves this universe

Alex Chilton dies. Very sad - he had a beautiful voice.

Gonna listen to this on the bus home.


Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Thirteen point one miles

Just entered the Plymouth Half Marathon with my buddies Richard and Chipbit.

Once The Plymouth Herald told me it was full - the fools - I presumed it'd be safe to stick my head above the runner's parapet, give them my details; sign up to the newsletter; and register my ageing loins safe in the knowledge the thing was chock-a-ruddy-block.

Nope.

So there I'll go. I can do about 5 english miles but then I invariably make like a 1960's t-shirt and die. The remaining seven and a bit look harder.

I can't say I'm too disappointed - it should be a fun day. And only a big family birthday last year stopped me then (though I would probably have engineered some other elaborate excuse.)

Friday, 6 November 2009

Football Manager owns my life

Last week Football Manager 2010 came out. Anyone who knows me knows Football Manager owns me, not the other way round. But being a disciplined and committed post-graduate trainee journalist, I will not buy this and invest days of my life until the start of February.

My finest FM moment?

While notable mentions must be furthering the Ajax wonderteam in 97/98 and turning Schalke 04 and latterly Spurs (to who I prefixed all my players with emotive and descriptive titles [eg. The Magnificent Jonathan Scott; The Solid and dependable Karl Webb]) into world-beaters on FM 05. Also on 05 I left spurs at around 2020 to take over struggling Cardiff, guiding them to bottom of the Premier League at December with 2 points.

It was a source of incredible pride that I kept them up, mostly thanks to a striker I neglected and belittled at spurs...

But i think my best game has been on FM 09, where 9 months of hopeless unemployment equipped me to do very little else. Spurs again were my team, but after winning them everything, I got bored after about 10 years, and went on managerial hiatus: resigning and putting myself on manager holiday overnight. I woke up in 2027 and was immediately appointed manager of struggling Valencia, and thanks to countless hours scouring Peruvian U21 teams, have become an international tour de force.

On this 09 game, I have just hit the 20 day mark. A fantastic game.

I get married next July. Can FM and the wife exist in harmony?

And, what's your (or your boyfriend's?) finest FM moment?

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

I'm sorry

I'm sorry, poor blog.

Poor, neglected, sad blog.

Here's Pops little blog, it's going to be alright.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

"this one's optmistic, this one went to market"

Feel the optimism, brethren. Feel the optimism. This hallowed and blessed week is the sweetest, most hopeful and inherently beautiful week to be a Tottenham Hotspur fan.

Where a soft ignorant confidence reigns supreme in the upper echelons of that thing between your ears. This is the garden of Eden before the Fall.

Inevitably, Eve bites the apple, usually at about 5 O clock on Saturday afternoon: Benoit Assou-Ekotto falls on his arse, Heurelho Gomes jumps the wrong way, Ledley King crumples in an arthritic heap and Robbie Keane (and his manager) proceeds to blame everyone but himself. Paradise lost.

As many people who I can’t be bothered to research have clich├ęd over the years, it’s not the despair that kills you, it’s the hope. It won’t be Dirk Kuyt’s looping header winning it in the 85th minute, but the pre-match promise of improvement and 2 months meditation on the mantra “this could be our year”.

It couldn’t.

Nevertheless, this years optimism is less viral, and thus less dangerous, than the previous two summers. Under Martin Jol and Juande Ramos respectively, strong teams had (allegedly) been assembled. Strong league finishes and cup wins had wetted the appetite of both board and fans. Achievement gave way to further expectation, whilst expectation and hype gave way to the inevitability of underachievement. Jol was sacked with the side flirting with relegation, whilst the exact same fate befell Ramos a year later.

This year, as a result of the egg on Spurs fans’ faces the last few years, expectations are lower. Most fans would bite your hands off at a 6th place finish and some good cup runs. Personally, I’d absolutely demolish your hand for 17th and the FA Cup, football’s not about finishing 4th and getting richer, it’s about WINNING THINGS. But that’s another matter.

Spurs are stronger (he says, unbelievably tentatively) this season. Harry Redknapp, since his appointment, has established a settled atmosphere at the club, and the team have become, in Spurs terms at least, semi-consistent. For all Redknapp’s faults (and I’d have a wonderful time listing them to you), he has created a strong, united team and, crucially, bought players Tottenham actually need. Comolli take note.

The signing of Wilson Palacios last January was a key turning-point in the Spurs season. A Tottenham midfielder who could tackle. The sheer unheralded charm of it wowed fans last season, and completely galvanised the team. The anchor that Palacios provided allowed Luka Modric, far and away Spurs’ most important player, an attacking freedom which was key to the Lilywhites climbing up the table last spring. For a successful season this year at White Hart Lane, the creativity and guile of Modric will be key.

Spurs are far from the finished project, something that last year’s relegation scare confirmed, but they now have the base with which to build something promising. A quiet, solid season with Redknapp still around in May would continue do just that. But this is Tottenham, a team as far removed from quietness and predictability as a Jazz-punk collective. Things never happen how you think, we know that. With that, lingers the hope. That sick, damned hope.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Misery on the Mersey

Step outside, dear reader. If you can hear a loud exhalation - nay, sigh of relief, coupled with the fainter wailings of lovelorn Scousers, that’s the sound of Britain reacting to one of the summer’s most drawn-out and irritating transfers finally being laid to rest.

Like a pregnant Paula Radcliffe, Liverpool have finally given up the chase and accepted a £30m bid from Real Madrid for Spanish playmaker Xabi Alonso. And once the brief period of satisfaction at having seen the last of the tedious to-and-fro between Anfield and the Bernabeu is over, one understands that Liverpool’s title bid could be over before it’s began.

For the last 5 years, Alonso has been the calming genius in the testosterone-fuelled mad dog of the Liverpool midfield. It is he, coupled with his partner Javier Mascherano, who has given the Reds’ midfield wile and brains, stopping opponents attacks whilst - crucially - starting their own. It is he who has allowed the previously inconsistent Steven Gerrard to shine.

Gerrard has frustrated Liverpool managers during his long career at Anfield, displaying the physical and technical abilities that suit him to all manner of positions, yet displaying a mental naivety that betrays him to nearly all.Over the last ten years, the Liverpool captain has played an attacking and defensive role in central midfield, sat on the right and left wing, even helped out at full back, yet too often his lack of discipline drifted him in and out of games, gifting opponents a foothold in the match.

It was not until Rafa Benitez’s master-stroke of buying Alonso in 2004, and the later purchase of Mascherano, that the midfield could be solid defensively, meaning Gerrard’s talismanic attacking abilities could be unleashed without doing harm to the team.

While this is undoubtedly a great loss for Liverpool - and one they tried vehemently to avoid - the opposite is certainly true for his new club, Real Madrid. It has already been confirmed by the Spaniards that this is a signing requested (for once) by Manuel Pellegrini, the Madrid manager, and not by the publicity-shy and notoriously frugal owner Florentino Perez. Which suggests that despite his hefty price-tag, Alonso will be seen not as a ‘Galactico’, but as a team player who allows the likes of Kaka, Ronaldo, Benzema and Raul to play. An unassuming and modest character, this will suit Xabi fine, and will not be unlike his role at Liverpool, where he often faded into the background compared to the power and flair of Gerrard and Fernando Torres and the beautiful face of Dirk Kuyt.

In the north of England, the chances of finding an available central midfielder with the passing ability and football brain of Alonso will be very long indeed for Liverpool. Many are suggesting that this will prove a massive stumbling block for their title aspirations. Whoever they land as replacement - optimists suggest Alberto Aquilani or even Cesc Fabregas, while United fans suggest Lee Cattermole - history suggests they may take a while to bed in, and history is one thing that becomes more of a burden year after year at a Premiership-less Anfield.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Romantic Eriksson picked up by Magpies

The little man's popped up again. Sven-Goran Eriksson, the bookish and mild mannered former England manager, has re-ignited his love affair with English football. Trouble is, this time our dear Sven has not chosen a young busty lovely with which to while away his lonely hours.

Oh no, Mr Eriksson has chosen the most aged babe at the bar. Notts County, at 147 years old, are the oldest professional football club in the world, with a history that pre-dates the Football Association, and now - due in no small part to County's recent takeover by Middle Eastern moneybags Mundo Finance - the famous Swede has moved to Meadow Lane to become the League 2 club's Director of Football. Yes, Director of Football. Yes, very 2005.

Notts County fans are, as one would expect, roundly ecstatic at bringing such a famous name to their club, with their more experienced fans comparing it to when County last upset the applecart, snaring Tommy Lawton, England's most feared marksman, in 1948.

Whilst there is no doubting this is an exciting move for County, some may say the opposite is true for Sven. Athole Still, Eriksson's agent, claimed 2 months ago that his client would "love to return to England", and at that point one would have expected Eriksson to draw the line at the top 20-placed English league teams, much less plumping for the team that finished 87th on the football league ladder last May.

But maybe, his detractors would claim, Sven is only doing what he has done throughout his career - chasing the cash. Whilst he built an incredible side at Lazio at the turn of the century, the side was lavishly put together and cost over £270 million of President Sergio Cragnotti's hard-earned Lira. His two stints in England, as national team manager and at Manchester City, were paid handsomely by clueless bigwigs and Thai billionaires respectively, whilst his most recent sojourn as Mexico head coach netted him £3.5 million per annum.

Or maybe we British are too cynical. Whilst our favourite Swede's jobs have often enjoyed a bounteous salary, he often chooses the romantic option. On and off the pitch. When he arrived at Lazio, the Roman club were a sleeping giant with just one Scudetto in their history, intent on rediscovering their glorious past. Ditto Manchester City, a once proud club who, with marked parallels to Notts County, now sit in the shadow of their famous neighbours.

As for Sven's most famous job, there is no doubt that even for a foreigner, the opportunity to re-unite football's mother country with sport's most cherished prize would appeal to but the hardened football fan.

The same is the case then with County, albeit to a smaller scale. Backed with a generous budget, Sven will try to restore a proud team to the heights they once enjoyed. Who couldn't find the romance in that?