Monday, August 27, 2007

We Don't Need That Fascist Groove (Thang)

There is a short story in the Independent today by Roddy Doyle. It's worth a read because it is a good story, there is an added piquancy for Blues fans though.

Again in the Independent, from a couple of days ago, Robert Fisk wonders about the unanswered questions relating to the attack on America. He makes clear that he is no conspiracy theorist, but points out there are several fundamental and fairly simple questions that remain unanswered.

Roy Keane has told his players that they must not argue with the ref, which has to be the biggest laugh of the season so far, apart from Steve Bruce's shirt and Martin O'Neill's attempts to communicate with his staff via the miracle of modern technology. Also, Steve Bruce and O'Neill have both apologised to refs this week for comments that they made about them or to them. Bruce hasn't apologised for his shirt yet though.

This all makes perfect sense, ref's don't change their minds, there is no point arguing and to get booked for arguing is the height of stupidity. As for being nice to refs, well, keep calling refs nasty names and it is hardly likely that they will be any more kindly disposed to you next time you meet. Still, it's unusual and I wonder if managers have had their cards marked.

A good win for Blues on Saturday, however, given that every one else will also beat Derby I don't know how significant it will be at the end of the season. I think we look alright though and Bruce has publicly stated that he intends to attack, so I am hopeful of a good season. I think we have already scored more goals than we did in the whole of our relegation season.

Apparently, we are in for Peter Luccin, as in, who the devil is this fuckin' Luccin? You might well ask. We may or may not be in for some other bloke with an unpronounceable name as well, who may or may not be any good. I have said before that I don't know how this season will go for Blues, none of us do, because if we are honest we know hardly anything, if anything at all, about our new players. In the case of De Ridder, we may never know, given his career history of about 1.5 games per season. Of those we have seen so far, they look good, admittedly most of them being British.

Which sort of brings me to Man City. Who would have thunk it? I don't think I should be too embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of most of their signings, after all, the press had a field day ripping the piss out of Sven for buying blokes he had only seen on video (do they still make videos?). As early as it is, it is evident that these Carlos Kickaballs, generally, kick a ball very deftly indeed, whether we had previously heard of them or not. The prem is littered with people of whom we had little or no previous knowledge, but who are comfortable on the ball, confident, happy in the knowledge that they possess the ability to do their job, be it pass, run, tackle or all three.

So back to Blues. Of our new signings, the one likely to cause most excitement is Kapo. I had never heard of him before he arrived and even after the first game, struggled to remember his name. The pundits and experts in the pre season supplements told us that we had not bought wisely, and that Kapo had never settled anywhere, because he isn't very good. I don't think those highly paid experts knew what they were talking about, I don't think they ever know what they are talking about.

They saw an unfamiliar name sign for Blues and did a quick scan of his history via google and made assumptions, the lazy, lazy gets; the same can be said of their attitudes to Man City and others, notably Portsmouth, going back over several seasons. Kapo, is a pleasure to watch. He has style, grace and panache. He looks head and shoulders a better player than anyone else on our books, yet, none of us who are honest enough to admit, it had heard of him before. The experts considered him a journeyman, and maybe, in other leagues he is, but not this one.

Every season we see players come here and surpass our expectations. Take Dugarry. I could never work out how he got picked for France, whenever I saw him he looked hopeless, pathologically unable to score, and, when he signed for us the world mocked. Some wee Scottish bastard whose name escapes me for the moment, but who made his name playing for Ireland, because Scotland didn't want him, as well as turning out for our neighbours, told the world that he was a waste of space.

I am as thick and as stupid as Ray Houghton, (I remembered) because I also thought he was a waste of space, but he wasn't a waste of space; he was a genius at using space, and creating space, but he wasn't a waste of space. In 40 odd years of suffering the Blues, I can only think of Willie Johnstone (briefly) and Frank Worthington who can compare when it comes to taking ones breath away.

So where does the widely held notion that we have the best league in the world come from? I watch a fair bit of foreign football on the box and have done for years; I am not a narrow minded xenophobe, but I have never heard of half the players who turn up here; they are not exactly setting their leagues alight in Italy or France or Spain, yet they come here and show us all up. I have said it before and I will continue to say it: our arrogance and insularity is killing us, we need to wise up.

Meanwhile you could be listening to one of the best shows on the radio.

Talking of radio, more people are listening than ever, apparently, and awhat good thing that is; the interweb is a wonderful thing.

Soften an onion, add garlic , some chopped carrot and a chilli, followed a bit later by some tomato puree, throw in two tins of different beans, like chick peas or borlotti, add a couple of handfuls of small pasta bits, cover with about two pints of decent stock, simmer for about half hour. Delicious. Even deliciouser if left for a day.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Too Much Too Young

I finished Donkey Punch the other day and haven't actually reflected on it that much, as I immediately got stuck into the New Bruen, which, as you might expect, is bloody magnificent and has kept kept me up way past my bedtime these last two nights. Bruen is masterful, most definitely the capo of crime writers, either British or American. The highest praise I can give Ray Banks is that he is up there with Bruen............he bears comparison: the trick will be keeping it up.

Derby v Blues on Saturday. I can't even bring myself to think about it, by 5 o clock on Saturday our season could be over, said the drama queen.

A child of 11 got shot in Liverpool. This is horrific and is something I genuinely cannot bring myself to think about, the slaughter of the innocents can bring a tear to the hardest of hearts. Listening, as ever, to the phone ins all day as I drive around there seems to be a consensus developing that we have to hit the bandits hard, make them suffer and squirm, and while we are at it we should make their families suffer and squirm a bit too.

I can't really go along with this. Living in an area which has more than it's fair share of petty crime and vandalism and more than it's fair share of 'orrible little gits, who have no fear of any adult, I find my liberal conscience troubling me, as I become less tolerant, and wish harsh punishment upon those who daily aggravate me, but, then, when I calm down, I try to rationalise it and I can't go along with the idea that it is being soft on crime that has led us to the state we apparently find ourselves in.

I do wonder, often, just what the fuck has happened. It wasn't that long ago that I was a nipper and I was right peeky blinder too, as were all my mates. Christ, the things we got up to. However, I think most of us and those like us, were mischievous and stupid rather than just plain bad. We didn't necessarily fear adulthood or authority, nor respect it, but we paid attention. We wouldn't trespass or damage property if an adult was about, and if were indulging in some wanton vandalism and an adult turned up we would leg it.

If we got caught and suffered a boot up the arse or a punch in the ear, we wouldn't complain, we would just hope the old man wouldn't find out, and he rarely did. Where we live, we get grief regularly from gangs of teenagers and also gangs of much younger nippers; their language and behaviour is.....................educational. They couldn't give a stuff who hears them and they couldn't give a stuff who sees them, there is no consequence of which they are afraid. They know that no adult will actually physically assault them, and they laugh in our faces.

How did it come to this? Well, I can tell you how it came to this, I can tell you how we arrived was an uncomfortable journey, but we got here in the end, via Thatcherism and the bloody equality gap. It's time to stop blaming the poor and the oppressed and the excluded. It's time to stop blaming teenage mothers and it's time to look at a bit of economic and social history. We are paying the price for Thatchers horrific experiment and Labours fear of the right wing press.

Thatcherism is one of the greatest evils ever visited upon this country. Whole sections of society were abandoned, in some cases entire communities were abandoned to their fate and invited to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Thousands and thousands of people, were just tossed aside, there being no such thing as society, only a collection of self interested individuals. There will always be smart arses, like myself, who escape the daily horror of having no education, no job, no confidence and no hope, but there will be many who don't; some of whom will just sink into a sort of social catatonia, some of whom will become cheerful scallywags and get by as best they can and many of whom will get by with the help of drink, drugs, casual sex and crime.

There will be procreation, lots of it, in and out of wedlock; fathers may be known, they may not. The daily grind of poverty will continue, hopeless lives will stretch out into a blank horizon; there will be no positive role models, peoples lives will be shit and they will seek solace where they can and more babies will arrive and the cycle will continue endlessly on, because communities have been destroyed, industry has gone and respect for the working or non working man eroded.

Children will be born into a world characterised by a moral emptiness, where pleasure is taken whenever and wherever it is available, however short term it may be and regardless of the long term cost. They will have no stake in society, they will not care about society, they will not care about their neighbour and they will be a bunch of aggravating, scary bastards, but, really, whose fault is it? Would any of those people choose their lives, if they had any kind of a choice, I think not. They are abandoned, and they were first abandoned by people with a narrow political agenda who should have known better.

Our society is fucked up, but it's not the people on the estates who fucked it up, they are the victims of the fucking up; we are all the victims of the fucking up. We are the fuckees, not the fuckers. The damage Thatcher inflicted is immense and it will take more than a lily livered Labour regime to put it right. Meanwhile, as I keep saying, the fucking equality gap keeps getting wider, and as I keep saying, where this happens, social cohesion breaks down and life is, for many, nasty, brutish and short.

Tax the rich, squeeze them until their pips squeak and pump all the money into our destroyed and desolate estates. Abandon the olympics, use all that money to provide facilities and coaching in all towns and cities up and down the land. Lets just spend the money. Don't audit it, don't account for it, just spend it; lets give these anti social murderous bastards a reason to believe that they actually belong to this shitty world and have something to gain from engaging with it.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


I told you Sunderland aren't very good, then again, neither are we and it could well be that the three that came up will all go back down, together. Many Blues fans regard today's result as unfortunate and blame the ref for giving a poor decision for the pen, or Doyle, for his naivety. They might be right, but I think they are wrong, I think we are poorly managed, and that is why we lost today. Again, we just kick the ball back to the opposition, again the midfield is too far away from the front two, so they look isolated, and the midfield support arrives too late, every time. This has been going on for years, it is not an accident.

West Ham at least looked like a half decent team today, but I still think if we had midfielders possessed of a bit more thrust and attacking intent, they wouldn't have looked so threatening. Bruce has to stop playing two purely defensive midfielders in the middle of the pitch. It's not as if our two wide men are constantly putting the opposition on the back foot to compensate. West Ham had Noble in the middle today and he was a genuinely class act, caused us problems all afternoon and they still managed to accommodate Etherington and Dyer, two players whose instinct is to attack. And West Ham were away. I can't think of any decent teams whose emphasis is on defence to the extent that Blues are.

Bruce isn't going to change, history proves this. Thousands of people spent a great deal of money to watch Blues today. The great Brummie diaspora will have travelled from many miles away, incurring petrol and catering costs on top of the price of admission. And they have all gone home, near and far, disappointed. Again.

It doesn't have to be like this, there are other ways. Bruce either can't or won't see the error of his ways, he either can't or won't see that his style of football is depressing, as well as ineffective. I think we have suffered enough and I think Bruce should go. Watching Blues should brighten the bloody week for us working class heroes, not darken it. We deserve more, we deserve better, not because we are noble, not because we are different, but because we bloody well pay for it. The Blues aren't delivering, the sums don't add up, we ain't getting enough bangs for the buck. It is time for a change, before it is too late.

Through the summer there was anticipation, there was excitement as we signed players that the more honest among us admitted we had never heard of. The general consensus was that the future was bright, because of all this new talent we would have at our disposal. The less credulous among us pointed out that we didn't actually know if any of our signings were any good, moreover, some of us pointed out, it would make no difference unless there was a radical change of thinking and intent on the part of the manager. It looks like we doom mongers had it about right. 1 point out of a possible 6 against teams who could be genuine contenders for a bottom three spot is just plain suicidal.

Still, it's only bloody football. The wonderful Iain Anderson played some Oysterband the other night and they seemed to have ditched the pub rock and returned to their roots, which can only be a good thing. Also a reason to be cheerful, one of the few things that can stop me thinking about the bloody Blues, I have in my possession a copy of the new Ken Bruen. I cannot stress enough how much I want you to click that link.

The new Rilo Kiley is getting good reviews and you can decide for yourself because they streaming it on their myspace site. Bloody hell, something of quality and class, available for free. Karren Brady please take note. The New Pornographers are also getting good reviews. The two sauciest broads in pop release albums in the same week, that cannot be a bad thing, can it?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Classic Northern Diversions

This is good: Jackie Leven

The Dusty Foot Philosopher

The Guardian gets on my nerves when it comes to its coverage of the Blues; I don't mind them being dismissive of us, it's the tired and inaccurate way that they do it which grates. I am afraid that I have become a bit of a one man rapid rebuttal unit, firing off e mails to point out the laziness of the jokes and inaccuracy of the statements, but I have come to forgive them, I have become magnanimous, because the best article of the season has already been written.

To offer a clue as to what it is about, the very long comment thread which accompanies the article contains this gem: It's a good job that so few Villa fans read The Guardian or you'd have the local historical society bombarding you with their views on the latest Messiah.

Mind you, I'm no apologist for the Blues and I don't share the evident joy that some are showing at our collecting of 1 point from a possible 6. We bleat about the unfairness of Sunderlands last minute winner the other night, but once again, we hardly played with gay abandon. The fact is, we invited Sunderland to attack us and they snatched a point. Whisper it, but Sunderland aren't actually very good and we have to view this as two points dropped. If we play in similar fashion against more talented teams we are asking for trouble.

We did play some fantastic stuff at times though and it is endlessly frustrating that our first instinct is always to defend, because if we really went for it we could do some damage. I'm not holding my breath though, because on a very loquacious day for Steve Bruce he commented along the lines that we need to concentrate on not giving anything away.

According to Bruce, football academies aren't working. The nation produces no more footballers now than it did 20 years ago. He has said that over the last 6 years Blues have spent over a million quid each year on the academy, yet no one has come through. So 6 million quid and we haven't produced anyone fit to lace the boots of Steve Bryant. Bruce should be ashamed of himself and resign now, as this is the saddest of all indictments of his reign.

If he has seen that our youth coaches are so useless, why has he not done something about it. With whom does the buck stop? I can think of three Brummies in the premier league outside the Villa. Carsley, Richards and someone else whose name escapes me. What a great scouting and coaching system we must have in a city of about a million people and a conurbation of about 3 million.

I don't get what Bruce is saying. Does he mean we just don't have the talent in the country? That the coaching is shit? or that the coaching is pointless? My guess is that he doesn't believe that theorising about the game has any value; you either have it you don't and the cream will always rise to the top. I might be wrong and I hope I am, because if I am right I might just have to open a vein.

Ajax don't seem to have done too badly with their numerous and varied academies, nor with the barmy idea that, up to to the age of twelve, results don't matter, learning new skills does. Barcelona don't seem to have too much trouble unearthing gems, I believe Fabregas went to Arsenal when he was nipper because he was some way down the pecking order at Barcelona. And on it goes, even in the
Côte d'Ivoire, where the academy in Abidjan has noticeably more success at turning out players than Blues, with all our millions. Nearer home, Southampton seem to have a conveyor belt of talent.

Sometimes, old Bruce just makes me feel sad.

Did I mention that tomorrows game is a vital six pointer. Two games in and we are in a relegation dogfight! Win tomorrow and the future is rosy................. lose, and it is going to be a long, hard, dark, and depressing winter.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Pick Up The Pieces

As I have been saying about inequality:

The increasing concentration of income and wealth in the hands of a tiny elite isn't only a gross affront to social justice and any sense of equal worth in a single community. The evidence is clear that greater inequality fuels crime, corrodes democracy, divides our cities, prices people out of housing, skews the economy, is an engine of social apartheid, heightens ethnic tensions, is a barrier to opportunity and stifles social mobility - it's no coincidence that Britain and the US are at the bottom of the industrialised states' social mobility league and the more egalitarian Scandinavian countries at the top.

Another day another slaughter. In my usual naive and simplistic way I cannot see how this is allowed to continue. Forget about the Americans, surely the people of Iraq, those of the who are left, who haven't already died or left for pastures new have had enough? This is what I don't understand. The perpetrators of this mayhem cannot number all that many, so how come those with more goodness in their hearts don't denounce them, don't drive them out, don't betray them?

I appreciate that this is easier said than done and it would be a very brave man who stuck his head over the parapet, still, no rational person can imagine that these atrocities are in any way just or can be condoned. The horror of it is beyond imagining, surely, there are enough sane people left in Iraq who could just turn their backs on the crazed zealots, who could refuse to give them shelter or succour; the place is awash with weaponry, even the good guys must have guns with which to defend themselves, why don't they just turn their backs on the nutters?

There is always football to take our minds off the savagery:
The atmosphere will not resemble carnival celebrations characteristic of sports around the world, but something completely different. The special circumstances are noticeable kilometres away from the stadium itself. There will be special police forces in full riot gear at each big crossing, main streets shimmering blue with police uniforms and police vehicles, and citizens removing their vehicles and avoiding passing by the stadium with their families.

We want to control other people and make them what we want them to be. Meanwhile, we are complaining that they do not accept us the way we are. Sometimes the biggest gift we can give to other people is just to let them be. Of course we try and help others, but helping others is very different from controlling them. We help others because we care about them; we control them because we care about ourselves.
- Ven. Chodron

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Who Put The Bomp (In The Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)

For one week only, I am supporting Sarajevo, who might just qualify for the Champions League. Recent history in Germany, France, Spain and Italy shows that clubs can surpass expectations and thrive amongst their so called betters, a lesson to us all. We don't have to settle for seventeenth and survival, somebody does, but it doesn't have to be us!

A good start to the season for the Blues. OK , we lost, but we didn't embarrass ourselves and even surprised a few people, including every single one of us. Grave tending duties called me away on Sunday afternoon so I haven't seen much of the game, only about the first ten minutes and I can't say I was impressed, as we just endlessly kicked the ball back to Chelsea. Here we go, I though, same old same old, but it seems that we actually took the game too them and might well have won; I'm still not getting carried away though.

Looking around the superb Saturday Boy to find out what the term Donkey Punch means, I discovered more than I actually wanted to know! I haven't read the novel yet, having only picked it up from the library yesterday, but I suspect it won't leave me disappointed; I just wonder if I should read Saturdays Child first. If the author is anywhere near as good as the authors he likes, well, we will be alright.

I finished The Winter of Frankie Machine. I found it a bit strange reading it, after the Scent of Blood. The latter basically subverts and takes the piss out of the language used in crime books, and then subverts it some more. The Frankie book is full of such dialogue. It doesn't matter though because it is brilliant, and quite different from the also brilliant Power Of The Dog and is full of likeable psychopaths with a fine line in witty repartee.

I read or heard somewhere the other week that the ending toThe Shawshank Redemption isn't the original ending; it was tacked on because the studio didn't want the film to finish on too bleak a note and I wonder if something similar happened here, not that I would want to give the ending away, which would be a crime worthy of a donkey punch in anyones book.

Book recommender in chief, Bob Piper, thinks the book should be filmed and while I see his point, I disagree. The only bloke who could play Frankie Machine is Ben Gazzarra, and he's has to be dead by now.