Thursday, December 30, 2010

Slippin and Slidin

How chuffed I am to see England retain the ashes, on Australian soil, with 1 game still go. Magnificent. But the media are at it again. James Lawton in the Independent has said that the performance was close to perfection, not just cricket perfection, but sporting perfection. Old Lawton is paid to write about sport, and he does it well, he sees loads, it's his job to see loads, but, come on, perfection? It was a brilliant performance, against a demoralised team made up of fragile prima donnas (1 or 2 apart). A brilliant performance, but not a perfect performance. Cricket is too subtle and beguiling a game anyway to be perfect.

I hope the media calms down a bit, we don't want these players being eaten up by their own hype. It wasn't long ago that we could not imagine an England team without Flintoff and Jones (Simon, not Geraint). Well, now we have a better team, let's just let the team be. Much has been made of the stout, no nonsense virtues of Breslan. The day he turns up with a fake tan, an elaborate tattoo, and a remodelled haircut, is the day that the decline starts. It is not insignificant that the form of Bell has improved since he lost the boy band haircut.

That video up there, it's Steve Earles nipper and he is touring next month. Small venues, cheap tickets.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Spare Me

Blues returned after the midwinter break to earn a point against Manchester Utd and upset Alex Ferguson.  The game showed the best and worst of Blues. The best was our obduracy and fighting spirit, the innate bloody mindedness of players who will not accept that they are beaten until the final whistle goes. The worst, 2 distinct spells apart, was our complete disinterest in threatening the oppositions goal.

We started pretty well, very solid, very tough, without showing any inclination to make acquaintance with van der Saar, then had a period where we took the game to them a bit more but without offering any real threat. Manchester dominated the second half,  probably because we allowed them to and it wasn't until they scored that we started attacking with any intent.

McLeish has a bit of a blind spot here. He says that we create chances but don't put them away. Sorry, Eck, but we create very few chances and we are expecting Jerome to have a strike rate comparable to Gerd Muller or Paolo Rossi if we are expecting him to knock in many of the very few chances that fall his way, our problem is that we don't create enough chances. Our midfield is not quick enough to support the front one, or, frequently, the front 0, as we tend  to have every single player back to defend set pieces. This tendency does not discourage the defenders from booting the ball up the pitch though, to no one.

The fact is, we are capable of passing it, we are capable of putting the opposition under pressure and we are capable of creating chances. We show it every time we go behind. Eck should stop blaming the strikers for their poor conversion rate and instruct the team to play with a more positive intent. We slipped into the bottom 2 yesterday before hauling ourselves out; snatching last minute equalisers will not get us up the table.

There is a huge rumour that Robbie Keane will be coming to us when the transfer window opens. This is good news. However if he has to feed on the kind of scraps that the current strikers have to sustain themselves with,  he will be looking very skinny by the seasons end. I think Eck has seem the light though, and we will all be enjoying a goal feast in the coming months.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Country Dumb

By Christ it's been snowy. I don't like it, 2 days is OK but then it just becomes irritating. Played havoc with the sporting weekend too, although rugby clubs didn't seem to have the same trouble as football clubs in getting games on. I watched a bit of the Leicester v Ipswich match, which was played in a white out, it was hilarious. I'm sure that in the 60's and 70's far more games would have been played in the conditions. It's not political correctness gone mad that has caused the change, it is a culture of litigious freeloaders gone mad. Councils and clubs are scared that some dope will fall and break his arse bone and sue 'em.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the Ashes. It was the end of the first day and England were struggling and I made some disparaging comments. England then decided to make me look stupid by dominating the rest of that game and the next game. I read articles seriously asking if this was the best England team ever or the worst Australian team ever. This England team is not even English, so it s a moot point anyway. Besides, I don't look so foolish now, after the worst bowler in the world destroyed the best batting line up in the world. Once upon a time, I am sure, people would reflect before making stupid statements. I blame 24 hour news channels and bloggers.

Talking of stupid, I came across this splendid correspondence between a disgruntled fan and the board of the Cleveland Browns. I hope it is true, because it is brilliant.

There is a piece on Blues in this mornings Guardian which is depressingly accurate. It doesn't say much more than I have been saying for months, but reading it, it just sort of hits home how fucking awful we are. There are those who will say that so long as we stay with the elite none of it matters, but I beg to differ. Epic defensive goalkeeping displays like the one against Chelsea are all well and good, but I don't want to see that every week and I don't want to spend 120ish quid every fortnight to watch a team that is proud to finish a match having had no shots on target. There is a balance and we are extremely out of whack.

I remember many years ago going to a match between Crewe and Reading. Reading were flying high at the time but playing shit football, Crewe had a reputation for playing the beautiful game. Reading won. I remember in the boozer afterwards that Reading and Crewe fans were having a furious debate, with Crewe fans saying that they didn't care where they were in the league, they would not want to watch that shit week in, week out. The Reading fans just gloated. I'm with the Crewe fans. I don't go to watch the likes of Gerrard and Fabregas display their silky skills; that is not what I pay for, I pay to go and support the Blues, and supporting the Blues has become a very unappealing pastime.

So Saint Vince has had his comeuppance. From Francis of Assisi to Rasputin in one easy stride. I still keep reading and hearing that he is an accomplished political operator and is the conscience of the coalition. I don't believe it. He didn't have much of a conscience when he was employed by Shell, he hasn't shown much of a conscience in the coalition and it wasn't very accomplished to blurt out all that shit to 2 women he didn't know. I think he fell victim to his own vanity. A lot of these lib dems look a bit out of their depth: being responsible for making tough decisions is very different to sitting on the fence, trying to be all things to all men.

Metafiletr still come up with good stuff, like this fantastic photo essay on Hells Angels

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sweet Talk Sweet Talk

I am a bit disgruntled with modern life. Whenever a comic has gifts with it, always cheap, nasty tat, they put the price up. That's not my idea of a gift.  Here you are, have a gift, now you owe me 3 quid, for the gift. Shysters. It never happened with Whizzer and Chips.

I keep hearing about the Arsenal game at the weekend. The big news is that it will be Ryan Shawcross' first game against the charmless bastards since THAT tackle. Fuck me, what has the world come to? A player was tackled in a rough, tough, mans sport and got injured, it happens all the time, always has, always will, yet when it happens to an Arsenal player, we have to keep hearing about it for years and years after………if you don't believe me, ask Martin Taylor. The media, and Arsenal, are killing the fucking game; as Ricky Hatton was fond of saying……."it ain't a tickling contest".

There is a threat of snow, which means that there will be no bread or bananas to be had for days to come. Big society, my arse. I was foiled in my attempts to panic buy yesterday and I was foiled again today. If the snow comes, we will starve. Mind you, I managed to get hold of 2 sledges today, so the snow will undoubtedly pass us by. I was a very popular man as I walked through Ebbw Vale with my sledges, practically the whole population approached to ask where I had nabbed them from. If I liked the look of 'em I told 'em. I was a bit worried I might get mugged.

I don't really like Julie Burchill all that much, she's a bit too shouty and a bit too knee jerky for my liking, like a female Richard Littlejohn, but she can write like a bastard and stick the boot in like a Richard Allen character, and both qualities are evident as she tears into posh bufoon Charlie Gilmour and his oafish ilk.

Whenever I see David Cameron at Prime Ministers Question time, I think, well, he's insouciant, then I think, fuck me Dave, this is no time for insouciance.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Set 'Em Free

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Birmingham City Woeful. That’s all I have to say on the matter, except that I hope the players have been instructed to go to their rooms for a long, hard think.

The kettling debate continues. It tickles me to see people on football message boards vigorously defending the actions the police took against the great unwashed. Many of them would be the same people who rage against the machine when the rights of football fans are infringed, or when kick off time are changed in the name of good public order, or potentially difficult matches are designated bubble matches

I recognise that it is difficult for the police. I am a man of peace and have no sympathy at all for those protesters who wish to engage in violence, but I wonder how many of them actually wish to be violent. I don’t know, but I suspect that it is a small group, and I suspect that they have a bit of previous, some of them may not even be in education at all, but attach to themselves to any demonstration in order to pursue their hobby of acting like complete pricks. The police are pretty adept at isolating troublemakers at the football these days, I am sure that the skills utilised by officers in football intelligence are transferable, why not get some of those brainiacs involved to try and limit the potential that the worst among us have to act the goat.

This is a huge dilemma for democracy. We all have the right to air our views and we have the right to dissent. We should be allowed to gather in our thousands, if enough of us feel strongly enough, but we should also be responsible enough to gather in our thousands peacefully.

No one voted for this poxy coalition, but this poxy coalition is what we have. This is what our electoral system has served us up, and we have to live with it, which doesn’t mean that we should sit back meekly and accept everything that is thrown at us. We have a right make those who are increasing hardship for millions of people feel uncomfortable.

The current presenting issue is tuition fees, but over the coming years there will be many others. The problem is, that many people will look at police tactics, and wonder if they really want to run the risk of being whacked about the head, or charged by a horse, and whacked about the head, or corralled somewhere he doesn't want to be for hours, unable to even enjoy a shit, and many people will choose to stay at home. Kettling is an awful tactic. It imprisons people against their will and most of those ketteld will be innocent of any crime and will not be offering any threat to public order or the stability of the nation. Democracy loses

Those who wish to take to the streets, probably thousands upon thousands of people, should do so in a benign and good humoured way, otherwise the message they are trying to get across will be diluted and all protesters will be lumped in with the great unwashed. Our hegemonic media will gleefully focus on the bad shit. Organisers of marches and protests should work intelligently with the police to stop protests becoming hijacked, but the police also have to work intelligently with protest organisers to ensure that measures put in place are not too draconian.

Mikey Delgado puts it better.

Enough of that bollocks. I finished the Alan Warner, and, while it was a bit of a struggle, I would actually recommend it. The blurb talks of his brilliant imagination, and he surely does have a brilliant imagination, although he does have the posh English girl slipping into a Scottish brogue from time to time. It is impossible not to warm to all of his characters in the end, even the grotesque, vulnerable Manda. This is not my usual crime fiction, this is literary fiction which focuses on working class women, and does so with a dispassionate, yet warm and humorous eye. It doesn't romanticise and it doesn't demonise, and in British fiction, it is a hugely refreshing change not to be reading about the existential crisis of some upper middle class berk.

So, I dived into Nesbo's Snowman. God, it was a comfort. I have barely started but  I feel right at home in it and I know I am going to be pissed off when I finish it. I shall have to ration myself. Have I mentioned KO Dahl on here? He is another brilliant Scandinavian, as good as Nesbo, but he only seems to have had two books translated. This is a crime against the genre loving British public, and needs to be adressed.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Annie, Lets Not Wait

As a general rule, I support the police. I work with some chaps who do terrible things and the police frequently get involved and they are always quite sensible about it. They are a bit like us, I suppose, they have seen, and know about shit that really doesn't bear contemplating, so they are not given to over reacting. Also, I see 'em at the Blues, and, less frequently at demo's, and they show fucking remarkable restraint. The public ain't nice. The public at football matches ain't nice at all. They will spit at, kick at and verbally abuse the police, and yet the constables stand there, stoic. I admire them, hugely.

But. By God, they really are agents of the state. They will take any provocation from football fans and Saturday night drunks, but gather in large numbers for a political cause, and it will be whack a mole time. Talking of drunks, I am drunk now, and one should not blog drunk. I have loads of really erudite observations on all this shit though. Won't post 'em tomorrow, local derby on……..too emotive. Come back around Wednesday. It will be brilliant.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

I'm still struggling to find a book that agrees with me. I'm persevering with Alan Warners "The Stars in the Bright Sky", but it's a struggle. I've had Jo Nesbo's Snowman sitting by the bed since the summer, but I've been saving it for desperate times. I think desperate times are upon us. The Mrs thinks I'm a nutter for saving up books like that, she just gets stuck in and devours 'em, straight away. I'm a bit fed up with the marketing of Nesbo. Having been reading him for a couple of  years I don't want people thinking I've only picked him up because, apparently, he is the new Larsson. He is miles better than Larsson for a start.

This whole Julian Assange, Wikileaks, Operation Payback episode is starting to read like a Larsson novel. I can't help but have an image of some huge, fat, hairy bastard with no social skills, sitting in some basement  manipulating everything. 3 massive cheers for whoever is behind Operation Payback.

Johan Hari's article on wikileaks in this mornings Independent was brilliant, and is well worth reading, and sharing.

There was also a very good article by the reliably indignant Robert Fisk on the influence of Qatar,

I was listening to some tory berk on the radio this morning, going on about Big Society and how we should all be out in the snow, being neighbourly, helping each other out, and gritting the roads ourselves. He said, helpfully, that he believed that some councils even provide boxes of grit, so that we could do just that. Something struck me. I wondered what kind of community he lives in, and if he has a neighbour within a hundred yards, because around here, big society kicks in and everyone is out, shovelling, being jovial, and we are not a neighbourly bunch. I don't include the git who helps himself to barrow loads of grit from the only grit box. I just assume he is a tory.

There is reason to assume he is a tory, as, it turns out that the rich are unempathetic and selfish:  the poorest 3rd donate more of their cash as a proportion of income than the richest third. It comes as no surprise to me. All this talk of Big Society smells to me of people who do not really participate in society, people who are pretty much excluded from society, by reason of wealth.  They don't realise that the little people go around helping each other out and empathising with each other all the time. If your view of the world is filtered by the scaremongering prism of the Daily Mail, you might not realise that.

It looks as if Alan Pardew will be the new Newcastle manager. He must be mad if he takes it; the fans have made it clear that they don't want him and it can only end in tears. Look what happened to Gary Megson at Bolton and Sam Allarydyce and Ruud Gullitt at Newcsatle. Pardew will not be allowed a single error of judgement before the fans turn against him, and then the press will all pile on. I predict that the reign of Pardew will be nasty, brutish and short.

Driving home a bit earlier, the starlit sky was stunningly beautiful, and the crescent moon, which was hanging as low as teenagers trousers, seemed to be smirking, cheekily. I decided that I would blip it. Can't find it. It's there somewhere, because it is still a beautiful starlit night, but I can't see the moon anywhere, it must be so low that it has dipped below a house or a hill. Is it a bleeding portent of something?

The government has been wheeling its big guns out all day to talk about tuition fees. I can stomach it from the tories, but not from Nick Clegg. Even the odious Nick Robinson had him wriggling about in an interview somewhere or other. He is like a whirling dervish with his vaccilations. He says that it isn't fair that those who don't go to university should subsidise those who do, but those who do go pay back plenty and we all benefit in many ways. I wonder how much we all subsidised Cleggs education and when he is going to pay us back?

Monday, December 06, 2010

Where Dreams Go To Die

John Grant | Where Dreams Go To Die | A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.
">John Grant | Where Dreams Go To Die | A Take Away Show from La Blogotheque on Vimeo.

Well. That was a dainty dish to set before the swine last Wednesday, wasn't it? Enough has been said now, the world doesn't need my contribution, but I will point out, because few others seem able to do so, that as far as hooliganism went, Blues fans were innocent: it was evil Villa fans who threw flares, broke up and hurled seats, smashed up toilets so that they could enjoy the perverse pleasure of wading about ankle deep in each others piss, and who broke through a door separating the fans in the Railway End  (it will always be the Railway End to me) so that could attack Blues fans. Sore losers.

It was a relief and a pleasure to see us go a goal down early on against Spurs, it meant we had to play a bit, and we did play a bit, at times, and played well. Some Blues fans are now eulogising Zigic because he had a half decent game. It is a typically bi polar response. He wasn't as bad as everyone said last week and he wasn't as good as everyone is saying this week. He looks OK and if he continues to learn how to handle himself in what must be a pretty alien environment, he could turn out to be a bit of a bargain. I have high hopes for Beausejour as well, another player who isn't as bad as everyone has made out; I think it is pointless asking him to be a warrior though, just give him the ball and encourage him to take the others buggers on, see what happens.

Not a bad week then, for the Blues, with points gained against good teams and knocking Villa out of the cup, and a definite improvement has been shown over the last 5 or 6 games, but we need some wins, we need daylight between us and the rest, we need to be a bit more pro active and a bit less reactive. Once we decided to have a go against Spurs we caused them plenty of problems; Eck has to find a way of balancing our defensive solidity with a bit of wit and elan.

There was a good piece the other day on the Zonal Marking site, all about wingers who play centrally. If Eck really doesn't want to play 4-4-2, we have the players who can play in that sort of hybrid winger / inside forward role……Helb, for one, but I also think Fahey and Gardner could have some potential there, and it would go some way to solving the problem of linking up between the defence and the attack.

There was a bit of a brouhaha over the world cup vote last week. I can't say I was bothered, one way or the other, but the outraged responses of the media and many of the fans has been amusing, and it now appears that Boris Johnson has withdrawn an offer of hospitality to genial old Sepp. Very classy that, very dignified, very stiff upper lip.

John Pilger has written a brilliant piece in the New Statesman on Vietnam

Get Your War On is back, in rude health.