Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What is Life

So. people aren't calming down very much. Nicky Campbell, in particular seems intent on starting a witch hunt against Capello. He will ask blatantly loaded questions then innocently say………."just asking the question", and he is just cheerleader in chief.

Let us try and remember, Capello's record is astounding, his history is one of almost relentless success. This England team, on the other hand, has a record of abject failure. We did not even qualify for the European Championship 2 years ago. Capello took over a team tarred by humiliation, a team that even when it does qualify for major championships, usually does it the hard way. What happened? We sailed through qualification……..strolled it. I cannot remember the last time that happened. Then, at the competition itself, we got through the group stage, achieving more than the finalists last time around managed, before losing to a team with far superior record to ours and who may well end up in the final again.

If we are unhappy,who should we be unhappy with? A manager with a proven record of winning, wherever he has been, or the players, with a proven record of……..er, let's be kind, underachievement?
Capello's record is a huge improvement on the previous managers, these players, failed, again, despite having a manager who clearly knows what he is about; this lot are the just about the only lot he has failed to inspire to glory, so is it his fault, or theirs?

Monday, June 28, 2010

96 Degrees in the Shade

The world does not seem to be lacking an opinion or two on the state of English football, and there is certainly no need for me to add my tuppence worth, but, you know, when did that ever stop me?

I don’t think we should get carried away with the injustice of the “goal”, but nor should we become too hysterical about the manner of the defeat. The non goal changed everything. Had it been allowed to stand, the force and the momentum would most certainly have been with England and we would have gone in at half time full of confidence. We would have gone out for the second half with a different game plan and a different attitude. We may well still have lost, but we may have won, we don’t know what impact the quick reversal of fortune would have had on Germany.

Leaving that aside, it was not a good performance. Until the third goal went in, we appeared to be playing quite well. We were pressing and putting Germany under pressure, but, as soon became apparent, our eagerness to redress the balance left huge gaps at the back. On a day when 3 of the back 4, plus their midfield protector were having an off day, we were inviting trouble. There is a time to go gung ho and we went for it too early, a bit more patience was required. We needed a cool head, but there wasn’t one in the vicinity. We still need a cool head, actually, but such items seem to be in short supply.

There is a truth that is finally being universally acknowledged…………..England are not very good, and we haven’t been very good for a long time. We very rarely do well and even when we do, it seems to be in spite of ourselves. We got to the semi final in 1990, but, you may recall, we were dismal during the group stages and only got through the subsequent knockout games by the smallest of gnats cocks.

Actually, this truth isn’t being universally acknowledged. We continue to be told that individually, these England players are great, and that it is only when they come together to represent England that they become mediocre. We were told before the game that, man for man, England were better, from 1 to 11, and I have even heard people state that this is still the case. This is myopic beyond belief. On what rational basis is this belief formed? It seems to be based on nothing more scientific than that we have heard of our players, but we are only dimly aware, if we are aware at all, of the Germans.

Much was made of the relative youth and inexperience of the German team, but they seem to have adapted to playing with the big boys well enough. I saw them in their first game and was surprised at how well they played; they looked like a really dangerous team, and then they lost their next game and it was all too tempting to think that the outstanding performance was the aberration. They are in fine, devastating form and I would be happy to see them go on and win it now.

The interesting thing is that quite a few of the team were in the Under 21 squad that won their version of the European cup last year, and, I believe, they have been winning major competitions through all the age groups. It looks like the buggers are going to be ahead of the likes of us for year to come.

I had thought it is probably time to get rid of most of the current squad; they have had their chances and they have screwed up, every time, it's time to make way for a younger generation, but who do we replace them with? If we possess a Muller, or an Ozil, or Khadeira, they are keeping themselves well hidden. This world cup condemns not just the current squad, but the whole system. We are not producing good enough players. At the risk of sounding like Chris Waddle, you have to wonder how our system, with all its riches, consistently fails to produce top class players, players who are able to play with a bit of wit and invention.

I have two male nippers. The eldest was never a fanatic, but he liked football well enough and joined a local team when he was 6, and hated it. The training was boring, regimented and mundane. The blokes running it, who I applaud for giving up their time for free, were all registered coaches, and they were all well meaning enough, but they stripped the game of all joy. You would have 30 – 40 kids on a pitch on the side of a mountain, on freezing cold November nights, more or less just hanging around. In 90 minutes of training, they might touch the ball 10 or 12 times. The session would end with a free for all game, with the coaches taking part. Big kids and fast kids prospered, those who were not innately gifted, or big, or aggressive were more or less ignored.

That was about 9 years ago, but I went through the same thing last season with my youngest, with two different clubs. This chap is an absolute football fanatic. He loves the game and he is constantly kicking a ball, and when he isn’t kicking a ball he is reading about kicking a ball, yet two different teams managed to strip away all his enthusiasm. The training was the same as before, and there was little emphasis on practising ball skills, and no emphasis at all on just going out and enjoying yourself and loving the game. He drifted away, just like thousands and thousand of others probably drift away.

Through his hysterical rant ( if you haven’t heard it, consider yourself lucky) Chris Waddle did make some salient points, one of them being that skill is being coached out of young players. He says that the emphasis in academies is all about one and two touch football………….pass and move, pass and move, pass and move. Individual skill, idiosyncrasy is discouraged. We might see this in the case of Joe Cole, who was slagged off by Mourinho for being too much of an individual, and even though he has reined himself in somewhat, he still struggles to get a regular start for either Chelsea or England.

You might think that Waddles doth protest too much, as he represents failed England teams just as much as the current lot but there is truth in what he says. Thinking back to when I was nipper, the English game, if not the English team, always had players with flair, skill and a bit of the devil about them.

Thinking just off the top of my head, I think of players like Stan Bowles, Tony Currie, Keith Weller, Charlie George, Peter Osgood, Alan Hudson, Rodney Marsh, Trevor Francis (minus the devil) Frank Worthington…………er…………..I’m struggling a bit now, until we get to Paul Gascoigne. There will be many others, who I can’t quite remember and more still who didn’t quite touch greatness in the way those I mentioned did. So, England can produce talented players; there is not an innate defect that renders Englishmen incapable of producing football which has the crowd off its feet in anticipation of something wonderful happening.

When I was a nipper, there was a small park on Fox Hollies Road, and, just as would have been the case on countless patches of grass all over the country, there would be dozens of games going on. Straight after school, everyone would head to the park, until it got dark and at weekends the whole day would be spent there. There would be dozens of games going on, usually 15-20 a side, with the proverbial jumpers for goalposts. These are the environments which bred the talents of the mavericks, but you don’t see it anymore.

For whatever reason, kids are not spending all day playing unorganised, but brilliantly exhilarating football. They are joining neighbourhood clubs, where they are learning drills, and where they are learning that the greatest asset a British footballer can possess is strength, closely followed by an ability to shout loudly and lose ones temper, and an ability to follow instructions. You can’t expect these junior coaches to provide in an hour or 90 minutes what kids used to provide for themselves all through the week, but they can be less regimented in their thinking; they can be more tolerant of mistakes; they could encourage kids to love the game.

I shall offer the FA this advice, absolutely free. Tell the junior coaches to throw away their coaching manuals. Tell them to spend their training sessions doing nothing more than organising their players into six a side teams, then throw them a ball and let them play. Just let them play.

Predictably, large section of the media are calling for Capello's head, and the phone in experts are being given all the time and space they need to articulate their brilliantly sophisticated views. Sometimes, (mostly when I listen to 5 live) it feels like I live in a bi polar nation. We seem capable of only two emotions: irrational hope and expectation, or absolute despair. If you express a rational view that history suggests that we aren't very good, you are a traitor: if, once your hypothesis has been proved correct, you suggest that we need not neccessarily open a collective vein, you are complacent. Journalists, phone in nutters, message boarders and bloggers all queue up and vie with each other to out despair one another. Cool heads are in very short supply. No good will come of it. Mark my words.

It’s not all about England though, but I am still waiting for this competition to catch fire. Yesterdays game was one of the better ones, and there’s a thought………..until the 4th went in, I was really enjoying the game; people seem to forget this is a competition, with two highly motivated sets of players, the best in the world, in fact, trying to outdo each other. For all the disappointment, for 70ish minutes I was fully engaged, rapt, and is this not what we want?

The most entertaining bit so far remains the French meltdown. It amused me to see that even after they were eliminated, they still tried to entertain us, with David Ginola threatening to sue Gerard Houllier for comments he made years ago. Thank God we have Maradonna and his touchline operatics to keep us entertained.

Besides which, we have been blessed with the most fantastic weather. Christ, what a halcyon summer this is turning out to be. My world cup vigil has not been as intense as it might have been, because the garden keeps calling me, and I habitually find myself with a cold beer in one hand and a barbecue implement in the other. You can’t be outside, gently melting, getting slowly, blissfully and gently pissed without having a bit of music on, and my preference at such times is for lovely, gentle music, and if you are of a like mind, I recommend the following:

Richard James, formerly of Gorkys Zygotic Mynci has a newish album out “We Went Riding” and it is wonderful, although there are one or two discordant moments on it.

Euros Childs, also formerly a Gorky, put an album called Cheer Gone out a couple of years ago, and it suits the bucolic bliss of a long, sunny afternoon in the garden beautifully.

Gorky’s Barafundle also hits the spot, magnificently, as doe the newish Hindi Zahra. Then there is John Grant, not exactly gentle, but wonderful nonetheless. Once the beer kicks in, I default to a bit of reggae.

Have a spotify playlist: Summer

Monday, June 21, 2010


Finally, the world cup is showing signs of life, and there have even been a couple of half decent football matches. The Denmark game the other night was entertaining enough, largely because both teams were shambolic, Brazil were OK last night but not nearly as thrilling as the pundits would have you believe. Spain played some good stuff tonight. I missed the Portugal game, being  a wage slave.

The more interesting happenings have taken place off the field, with the lunatic French taking star billing. It's not just the well publicised rows between Domenech and Malouda and Domenech and Anelka and Evra and the fitness guy, apparently the team is, and has been, very divided, and contains a number of players who have a penchant for bullying younger members of the team. What a bunch of dickheads.

David Pleat was on the radio this morning and he said that he thought that players earn so much now, the game really isn't that important to them. I struggled to believe it, but when you see the self destructive way the French are behaving, there might be something in it, and he knows more about players than I do. Anelka has missed previous world cups, and has managed to get himself turfed out of this one, and his barmy mates have withdrawn their labour………..in the middle of the world cup! Billy Wright would never have done that.

England are trying to match France for idiocy. David James has been sulking publicly, and, yesterday, John Terry let his ego do the talking. Reaction to Terry in the media was mixed; some thought he was a stout hearted Englishman defending the cause, others (not many) thought that he had overstepped the mark. I predict a lucrative book deal and serialisation rights ahead for the ex captain. Hilariously, Fabio has not engaged in mealy mouthed, anodyne spin. He has said that Terry has made a big mistake and went on to more or less tell him to shut his cockney face before he gets it filled in. I demand a knighthood for Fabio.

There is a good article in The Globe and Mail on diving, which, naturally enough, brings me to diving. Last night, a big, athletic player from the Ivory Coast, bumped into the much less imposing figure of Kaka and went down like a ton of bricks; bizarrely, clutching his face, which I can only assume was an attempt to hide his shame. It goes on, it's blatant, every player does it, and there is no point bleating about it.

But bleat I must. When I was a lad, and when I was a young man, it was a point of principle to show the other fucker, no matter how hairy arsed and fierce he was, that he couldn't hurt you. No matter how crunching the tackle, how blatant the assault, you did not show fear, and you did not show pain. It was not manly. Obviously, if you had broken a limb, or lost some teeth, it was acceptable to wince a little bit. Now, a player only has to feel the gentlest breeze and he tumbles over. No one really minds this, players are expected to go down at the merest hint of a touch; it is only the most blatant cheating that is condemned, but the sight of big, strapping athletes falling flamboyantly to the ground, every time they  feel a faint tickle makes me feel sick, frankly.

We finally seem to be getting a bit of opposition to this bastard coalition, not from Labour though, who continue to engage in a staring contest with the fraternal navel. Will Hutton was eloquent in yesterdays Observer, and the brilliantly named DD Guttenplan has provided Gideon with a free history lesson. Charles Kennedy has taken the Nicholas Anelka role in the new government and has apparently said to David Cameron: "Don't expect me to fucking support you."   Bravo!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Early Days of a Better Nation

My prediction was correct. There has been wailing and there has been gnashing of teeth……….and it continues.

Well, we were bad, but no has been good. Germany looked good against a toothless Australia, then lost to Serbia, Holland have won two without looking remotely convincing, Argentina looked sharp, but apart from that, what? Very little, from anyone. History tells us that England are more than capable of finding some form when they need it most, and there is no reason to suppose that we cannot do it again. Mind you, it might require the manager to be a bit more flexible, and he may not be capable of that, although he did change his mind about Beckham when he was at Madrid.

Everyone seems to have decided that Capello is a bad man, stubborn, joyless, unyielding. David James was interviewed and without actually saying anything, seemed to be in a bit of a sulk with Capello. The radio this morning was full of people saying that the players need to have more fun, and maybe the occasional shag, a consensus seems to be growing that the Capello regime is too strict and too regimented. Capello is not a friendly person. The players are missing their loved ones. Most of these people were saying as recently as last week that part of Capello's strength was that he had no wish to be anyones mate,  and that there were clear and consistent guidelines on behaviour. And the WAGS had been banished. I suppose if we beat Slovenia he will be a genius again.

It could be worse, we could be France. Not only are they a shambles, but Domenech is clearly insane. I like him.  Apparently he and Malouda came to blows in the week and now he has had a huge barney with Anelka, who, if reports are correct, will be on the next plane home.

It's Ghana 1 Australia 1 as I type, with half an hour gone. Kewell has been sent off for Australia having handled the ball on the line. It was clearly the correct decision, but that didn't stop Kewell squealing like a stuck pig. This type  of nonsense is fairly typical of footballers and really gets on my nerves. Kewell knew the ball hit on the arm, it was impossible for him not to have known, why couldn't he just accept that today, fate was against him? Why did he have to lie so blatantly? Poor show by the chap.

For a bit of light relief, have a read of an interview Tommy Docherty did with the Scotsman.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Valley Town

Meet the new half. Same as the old half.

The best thing about vuvuzelas is that they are drowning out the sound of the England band.

James hasn't been playing regularly for England, Barry cannot be match fit, Carragher hasn't been involved for years, Heskey can't even get in the Villa team. It seems to be a strange time to be bedding a team in.

65 mins in. It's a bit grim. I foresee Rooney becoming a headless chicken.

71 mins and we still lack cohesion but we are playing with more urgency and are starting to create chances. I'm enjoying this game. I may be in a minority

I'm enjoying it less now, at 82 minutes. Algeria have run out of puff and are as bad as us. And we are very bad.

All over. Fabio looks fed up. Fans boo.

I have a new prediction, there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth

They say that the quality of football in the world cup has improved over the last few days, but I haven't seen much evidence of it myself. It has certainly become more interesting, with the France and Germany results and the next round of games, when teams will be playing for a win, should be better. I am watching England V Algeria as I type and so far, England are disappointing; they seem to be lacking cohesion. Walking off at half time, Capello seems to be lacking gruntle. Algeria are looking sharp and lively; we could yet be in for an upset.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Just Like Kat's Guitar

Oh Ruin - Just Like Kat's Guitar from Carolina Petro on Vimeo.

I spent all day yesterday in a meeting sitting next to someone who stank vaguely of  piss. As the day wore on, I started to doubt myself and wondered if it was, in fact, me that stank vaguely of piss. I resorted to trying to take surreptitious sniffs of myself , which was a bit undignified. After a while, he went to the toilet and the aroma went with him, so I was able to reassure myself that it wasn’t me. I still worried that others in the vicinity would think it was me though.

The chap had another quirk; he kept falling asleep. He would wake himself up with a snore, then, 5 minutes later his breathing would become deeper and he would be away again, until another snort would wake him up. Maybe he was pissing himself in his sleep.

Well that was another day to remember in this feast of football yesterday wasn’t it? I know that tournaments like this can be slow burners, but bloody hell, the pilot light hasn’t even been lit yet. I am told that I should be more sophisticated, and appreciate the defensive arts as much as the attacking arts, but the game is about scoring goals. Besides which, watching a master of the defensive arts go toe to toe with a master of the offensive arts (Moore v Pele, anyone) is not quite the same as watching two drab teams play pat a cake with one another.. It’s not a feast, it’s a famine. In fact, it’s not far off being a fucking funeral!

At least Maradona remains mildly entertaining.

Robbie Earle has been sacked by ITV for giving his comp tickets for the Holland v Denmark game away, between 30 and 40 of them. Also, the tickets went to a bunch of girls dressed in orange, who were subsequently removed from the stadium, as they were deemed to be engaging in illicit marketing of a beer. They could have just made them remove the offending articles.

Why the devil does Earle need all those tickets? Do all the pundits from all the nations get that many? That must be thousands of tickets given away for every game. Half the crowd must be made up of friends and family of mediocre broadcasters.

The Pernice Brothers have a new album out, possibly the best one they have done, which is very high praise indeed. Joe Pernice used to write a very interesting and funny blog, but it has gone, however, the news section on the Pernice blog is very good and isn’t simply made up of anodyne press releases. I highly recommend that you read the announcement that the new album is out.

I bump into people around and about and they ask why I don’t blog about work anymore, and I say that I found out the hard way that it is a risky enterprise, but I had a bit of an interesting in week the other week so, for anyone daft enough to be interested in my working life, here it is:

Monday: As usual, arrive early, and mentally prepare myself for the emotional rollercoaster ride that is a Monday morning; listening to the team relate the various joys and woes that they have experienced over the weekend. Discussing the latest injustice perpetrated upon the nation by Simon Cowell. Complaining that it is only Monday. The day passes quietly, paperwork, chat, tea, cake, biscuits, chat, paperwork.

Tuesday: Team meeting. That’s the morning gone. Afternoon spent fielding calls from local police officers and elected representatives who are outraged that one of our service users should be living in their community. The year is 2010. We may not be as enlightened as we like to think we are.

Wednesday: There is a bit of a panic on. Someone has phoned the office. The father of a service user has died and there is pandemonium at the house: a slight complication being that the service user had been arrested for assaulting a neighbour the day before. I don’t know the man, who doesn’t actually get any support from us, but I am tasked to go and see what is happening. The man is on the doorstep as I arrive, various surly looking folk are hanging around nearby. I introduce myself and in we go. The mans father is in the middle of the room, in his wheelchair. Stone dead. I struggle to recall the bit of training that advised how to deal with such situations. I conclude that I must have been off that day.

Thursday: It had been agreed (long before the complaints started coming in) that the man the police don’t approve of would benefit from an SVR20 assessment. I arranged a visit, just to introduce the health colleague who would be doing the assessment. It started well enough, then it all kicked off. Mayhem. He asked me to take him back to prison. As much as I would love to have such power, I had to explain that I couldn’t do that. His carer then explained that she did not care what I could or couldn’t do, (I paraphrase) he had to leave her house, immediately. It had all become rather delicate and strange looking people kept appearing, having a mutter, and then disappearing. My health colleague looked equally amused and bewildered. 

We managed to extricate ourselves from the situation, then hit the phones, trying to find a provider who could meet this chaps very complex needs at very short notice. Amazingly, we found a provider, only slightly out of county, who was prepared to at least visit that day . Went back to the house, with potential provider, only to find it was all peace and harmony and to be told that there was no way on this earth that I was going to force this man to leave his home against his will

Unfortunately for them, a court of law has told him that he must reside at a place where this department sees fit, for his own safety and the safety of others, but, finding a provider prepared to take him on has been difficult. So, having found a provider who is prepared to work with him, and who I know has the skills to work with him, I insist that we start the process. The panic is over, but I leave with the feeling that I am off the Christmas card list. 

Friday: It is generally acknowledged within the office that I have endured a bit of a week, but, rather than sympathy, I am subject to a fair bit of gallows humour. When I arrive in the office there is a resuscitation dummy laid out on the desk, with pennies in its eyes, and that is about as sensitive as the humour gets.  It may seem callous, but we have to be so sensitive to the needs of others that it is good to allow ourselves a bit of irreverence in the relative safety of our own office. It can be catharctic.

Monday, June 14, 2010

This God Damn House

Low Anthem "This God Damn House" from Lake Fever Sessions on Vimeo.

This world cup is taking its time sparking into life, although I haven't seen a fat lot of it, being at work when most of the matches are on. I didn't even see any on Saturday, as I spent the whole day and half the night in the garden, cooking, eating and drinking.

So, I don't know how poor England were but judging by the reaction in the papers and on the phone ins, we may as well pack up and go home now. Being old, I can remember loads of tournaments and I can also remember that we started badly in just about all of them. It is probably a bit early to start panicking; after all, a 0-0 defeat to the USA still gives us a point, and the other two in the group look poor. Now everyone is worrying  that we will have to play Germany in the first knock out stage. Ye Gods......keep yer hair on, comrades.

Being a bit obsessed with the football, and against my better judgement, I have been listening to 5 Live in the morning. To my horror, I discovered that the entertainment guy is there. What the hell is he doing there? His job is to gush witlessly about empty headed celebrities, why do I have to put with him reporting from the world cup? How much has it cost to send him? In fact, how many people have they sent out there? Is there anyone left in the UK?

The BBC also seems to have  developed an obsession with foreign footballers as summarisers. I am not against this, in the past non English summarisers have been a refreshing antidote to our regular wizards of drivel, but I am struggling with this lot. I can barely understand a word that Adeboyer says, and the bits that I can decipher hardly seem worth hearing. Edgar Davids looks and sounds arrogant and bored, I quite like Viera though. While I was typing this I heard Seedorf, but couldn't see him ( I have to stare at the keyboard as I type) and I half hoped that when I looked up I would see it was Steve Mclaren.

I hesitate to praise Sky, but the commentators on the Spanish programmes are usually very good, much better than ITV and BBC and the the blokes on the Guardian podcast are sharp, witty and knowledgeable. Couldn't the Beeb have borrowed a few of those chaps for the duration?

Christ. Italy V Paraguay has just finished and who has appeared on my screen, in all his egocentric glory? Colin Fucking Murray. I am starting to feel depressed. Actually, clinically depressed.

The Guardian is running a previously unpublished blogpost by the dear departed Stephen Wells every day this week. It's OK, if you like that sort of thing, which I do, when it is done well.

The increasingly aggravating toff bastard Nick Clegg seems to have public sector pensions in his sights, you know, the gold plated ones. For about 20 years, I have put up with below inflation wage rises and poor working conditions happy in the knowledge that I would at least have a decent pension if I ever make it to retirement. I had a letter few weeks ago telling me that I was heading for a pension of about 9 thousand quid. People seem to forget that this isn't a freebie, we pay into it, all our working lives. I read somewhere that the average pension in the public sector is about 4 grand. Yep. Gold plated. I wonder what the multi millionaires in the cabinet, with their inherited wealth will have to manage on.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Me No Pop I

First day of the cup, and I can't be arsed to search around for good stuff. Been too busy, am too tired.

The opening day was as expected really………dull. I didn't see the first game but caught up with the very brief highlights online. Good to see that "The Wires" McNulty has found something to keep him occupied and that he is scoring vital equalisers for Mexico.

As for the other game. Well. I might just have been down at St Andrews, such was the innovation, wit and excitement on display. France were distinctly unlovely, and what the hell is going on with Govou…….he is entirely the wrong shape and build to be a footballer. He looks like an extra in an old Richard Pryor film.

I complained the other day that we have no opposition, well Alastair Darling is fighting back, trouble is, he seems to be fighting his own side too.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

She Don't Own Me

Micah P. Hinson - A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

There seems to be a conspiracy theory going around that Maradona will not stand for Messi exceeding his own greatness………it will make for great entertainment.

"I think he lacks character. Messi sometimes plays for Messi. He is so fond of himself he sometimes forgets his team-mates. He is Messi Football Club."

A good article here on the Ajax academy

Italy v West Germany 1970

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Longshot


I have lived in Wales for 25 years now and have never experienced any abuse on account of being English, not serious abuse anyway. I get plenty of stick for being a Brummie, but not  for being English. Until today. Because of Wayne Rooney. The man in the papershop rounded on me as soon as I walked in………….arrogant bloody English……who do they think they are, spoilt brats and racists the lot of them, and on it went. So thank you Wayne, and kindly do me the favour of keeping your trap shut for the next few weeks, and that goes for the rest of you dopes too!

The newsagent and his customers (it’s an old fashioned kind of a place, more of a hang out for ex miners than a shop; the local youths hanging about the bus shelter regard the place with awe) also had fun at my expense in wondering aloud at what point England would suffer their ritual humiliation and come home with their tails between their legs. These stout Welshman didn’t quite get the irony of ridiculing a team that had actually qualified for the competition, and I wasn’t foolhardy enough to point it out.

It is a very serious business though. Even here in the South Wales valleys police are warning of a likely increase in episodes of domestic violence as the competition progresses. Known offenders will be visited and have their cards marked, and known victims will also be visited by specialist officers. A fairly complex plan is in place for the whole tournament in general and England games in particular (this is Wales, remember).
It seems that incidents of domestic violence increase by a huge amount when big football or rugby games are on. 

Tracing footballs tribal roots.  See, very serious stuff.

There was a good article in the Guardian today on Capello’s temper tantrums during the game with the All Stars the other day. It seems that he will not settle for any complacency. The most interesting bit for me was that he gave Joe Hart a huge bollocking for booting the ball aimlessly up the field rather than rolling it out to a team mate. As a Blues fan, I have sympathy with Capello……………it drives me nuts when our keepers just boot the ball up the field, almost guaranteeing that it immediately comes straight back. If midfielders, or even defenders, passed the ball to the opposition as often as keepers do, they would be vilified and dropped.

I got Roberto Bolano’s 2006 out of the library last week. I keep looking at it. It is huge. I don’t think I will ever develop the courage to dive in. I fear I will never emerge.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Beautiful Tango

The world has gone football crazy, and my little corner of the world is just about as crazy as everywhere else. My youngest is beside himself with anticipation; when the first ball gets kicked on Friday afternoon he might just pop.

I have carried out a scientific analysis of the likely winners which consisted of diligently trying all the flavours of the Walkers world cup crisps. I can safely predict that the last 4 will consist of France, Holland, Argentina and Germany, with Holland emerging as the victors. America should actually be thrown out, immediately…………their abomination of a crisp is a crime against junk food.

The web and the papers are full of football related stuff, most of it garbage, but one of the huge pleasures of the world cup in the age of the internet is that you do come across some real gems. You may have to wade deep in shit before you find them, but they can be found. It also very good when you get sick of the sycophancy and xenophobia of the British press, to have a browse around the Sacramento Bee or some such, for a bit of balance. You won't actually get football coverage there, but you can see arrest logs………..it seems to be a very pissed up city.

I try to kid myself that I am above nationalism and that I am not much of an England fan. I loftily annnounce that I have no interest in declaring my love for a bunch of overpaid prima donnas and that the only overpaid prima donnas that I have room in my heart for all wear royal blue.  But when their first game kicks off I know I will have that familiar knot tightening in my stomach, and as they progress through the tournament the very act of watching will be almost unbearable.

I am looking forward to watching the referee in Englands first game; this is what the Palmeiros president had to say about him after a game last year: 
"He's a crook, a scoundrel ... just a shameless bastard," Belluzzo said at the time. "He must be in someone's pocket. If I met him in the street, I would slap him. What he did was unbelievable and he was helping Fluminense. He should be driven out of football."
I fully expect him to form a deep and lasting relationship with Wayne Rooney

Gary Younge has written a very good and thoughtful piece on why he is supporting England this time around.

13 ways of looking at Fabio Capello

The Miracle on Grass: an account of the USA beating England 60 years ago.

And here is someone hoping for another miracle

Jimmy Burns, Diego Maradona’s biographer, has written an entertaining, if not particularly revealing piece on the man.

Ever since we sort of elected this coalition government, living in this country has become like living in North Korea; we do not seem to have an opposition. The Labour Party is engaged in a staring contest with its own navel and the media, broadcast and print, seem to have accepted the new situation without demur.

There seems to be a consenus that Labour is damaged beyond repair, having failed so miserably in the election. Now, as anyone who has cast a glance at this blog over the years will realise, I am not a fan of New Labour, but this is nonsense. In the circumstances, and given the relentlessly negative media coverage, Labour did remarkably well, and the Tories did remarkably badly. Also, for all their fine rhetoric, the Liberals finished a pretty dismal 3rd, both in terms of seats and in terms of share of the vote. Yet you barely hear a dissenting voice, it has become accepted that Labour are in the shithouse, well, I don’t buy it, and the Liberals and Tories might do well to remember that they are only there on sufferance.

Alongside this is the notion, as told to us by the multi millionaires in the cabinet, that we all have to swallow bitter medicine, immediately. Excuse me, but why? I recall Alastair Darling being uniformly praised for the skilled and astute way in which he was handling the economy. How come, in a matter of a few short weeks, everyone has changed their minds? What the fuck is going on? Why is big media so meek and compliant?

I keep hearing about the new politics, and the new consensus, but all I see is the same old Tories, bashing the poor, the weak and the vulnerable, and what has happened to the Liberals? It is easy to understand that they are relishing their 15 minutes in the spotlight, but I am surprised that they seem to like wielding the big stick with so much glee. Surely, I am not the only chump that feels like this, why is there no dissent?

Stieg Llarrson. I don’t get it. I read the first book and more or less enjoyed it but thought it was a bit bloated and the plotline a bit ludicrous, you can’t dispute that the man can could write though. Then I read the second and thought the same thing. Now, I am reading the third and think the same again, only with knobs on. He is a brilliant writer, but , all the lengthy digressions and labrythine sub plots are getting on my nerves.

You wouldn’t say the same for Tony Black, who is sharp, concise, punchy, brilliant: he is The Ramones to Larsson’s Yes. Maybe the best way to experience Larsson is through an abridged audio book. An excellent way of experiencing Black is via this short story

There has been a lot of hoo hah about the new Michael Winterbottom film, which is an adaptation of a Jim Thompson novel. I will give the film a swerve, as I don’t think I could sit through the violence, but I would recommend the novels of Jim Thompson, he is the real deal, and I bet you can pick them all up for a single penny at Amazon. In the meantime, you could read this.

From May 30, 2010