Monday, May 30, 2011

Kiss Me Again

Sorry. I'm going to bang on about Eck again. There are those, myself occasionally included, who will defend Eck's negativity on the basis of horses for courses. We don't have the players to play a flowing, expansive game, so we have to make the best of the talents that the players do possess (Whether Eck achived this is a bit of a moot point). This is fair enough, but then I recall the year he took us up (not forgetting that it was him who took us down in the first place). We probably had the best squad in the division and we were certainly better resourced than most other club in the divison, but we still played negatively. So much so that there were howls of protest and calls for his head.

This coming season will be interesting. Assuming he is still with us. Forget all the talk of losing the telly money and losing players. Most of the departed were either not good enough or past it anyway, and we should be able to replace them easily enough; of those that are left, well, they were part of a team that won a cup, and, so their apologists tell us, were unlucky to go down, so they should be more than good enough. We get a 16 milion quid head start on most of the others, plus substantial sums for the likes of Johnson, Dann and Foster, at least 2 of whom will go. In the context of the division, we will be in a very privileged position, so we will see what Eck is made of. If we don't have a team that can compete, and play with a bit of elan (it's all relative!), it will put me in a very fucking bad mood.

Swansea play Reading today in what is hyped as the richest game in the world, given the prize. I'm looking forward to it. Both teams play attractive football and have nice kits. I like the cut of the jib of both managers.

I mentioned the other day, that to an extent, Eck seems to settle for the mediocre in his players, and can be overly loyal to them, if he likes them. I saw an interesting article with Brian McDermott the other day, in which he talked of his team settling for draws too easily. To make a run for the play offs, they had to rise above the mediocre. He held brain storming sessions with his coaching staff, and got the players to hold their own session, they then met to discuss the outcomes and came up with a plan to get into the play offs. Clearly, it worked. I know David Moyes did a similar thing a few years ago, when Everton were rooted to the bottom after about 12 games, and it worked then too. Obviously, it wouldn't do any good if everyone came up with shit ideas!

The point is, I suppose, to recognise when players and the people around them are settling for the mediocre and to do something positive about it. One of McDermott's inspirations was Mathew Syed's book, "Bounce". I haven't read it, but I have heard Syed talk a lot about it, as he seems to be a permanent fixture on Radio 4. He says that it is no good constantly telling people they are the best, because how can you then expect them to improve? He and McDermott talk about putting in the hours, doing a hell of a lot more than the bare minimum, and they refer to Alex Ferguson who would remark upon the astonishing amount of extra training that Cantona would put in. Blues best recent striker was known for it, even practising on his own in a local park.

For all I know, Eck does all this, but keeps it quiet. I am a bit of an adherent of positive psychology, and, believe it or not, I do tend to accentuate the positive, but that doesn't mean that you should ignore the negative. If something isn't working, you have to look at why it isn't working, and change or get rid of the negative aspects, Sometimes a situation looks disastrous, but only needs a bit of fine tuning to improve things, which doesn't mean that a drastic overhaul isn't sometimes required. There is a famous quote by a famous golfer "the harder I work, the luckier I get", I'm sure our players adhere to that philosophy.

I keep reading Eck extol the virtues of Cameron Jerome. This is good, it is necessary, but, as well as praising him, I hope he is also gently pointing out his faults, and helping him to work out ways in which he can improve. I hope that he does it with all of them, as individuals and as a collective. I hope that,despite appearance, he isn't willing to settle for mediocrity.

According to the recently departed chain smoker and philospher C├ęsar Luis Menotti, there is a right wing and a left wing way to play the game. Eck is a right winger. Menooti has said, "Right-wing football wants to suggest that life is struggle. It demands sacrifices. We have to become of steel and win by any method … obey and function, that's what those with power want from the players". That is Eck, in a nutshell.

Menotti, who reminds me of Gary Megson, a bit, also said, "I maintain that a team is above all an idea, and more than an idea it is a commitment, and more than a commitment it is the clear convictions that a coach must transmit to his players to defend that idea. So my concern is that we coaches don't arrogate to ourselves the right to remove from the spectacle the synonym of festival, in favour of a philosophical reading that cannot be sustained, which is to avoid taking risks. And in football there are risks because the only way you can avoid taking risks in any game is by not playing: and to those who say that all that matters is winning, I want to warn them that someone always wins. Therefore, in a 30-team championship, there are 29 who must ask themselves: what did I leave at this club, what did I bring to my players, what possibility of growth did I give to my footballers? I start from the premise that football is efficacy. I play to win, as much or more than any egoist who thinks he's going to win by other means. I want to win the match. But I don't give in to tactical reasoning as the only way to win, rather I believe that efficacy is not divorced from beauty"

This a man who won the world cup. He knows shit.

Friday, May 27, 2011

When The Stars Go Blue

I've been banging on about Israel Nash Gripka in various places, and I shall continue to bang on about him, because his new album, is rather fucking good. If you liked Ryan Adams earlier work, you might like it, not that you should think he is anything like Adams, he isn't; he has a similar voice, but is very distinct. Actually, he is also similar in that he has no fear of changing tone and pace. It's magnificent, anyway. Don't tell anyone about him until I've had a chance to see him live. I don't want a bunch of lightweights turning up to harsh my mellow.

A couple of years ago, me and the Mrs and the kids and some pals and their kids stumbled drunkenly (only me and my mate were drunk, actually) into a tent late at night. It was a Friday night, and it had been a very long day, driving, putting tents up, drinking, watching ace bands. We only popped into the tent on a whim: we found that everyone in there was dancing and smiling and looking glad to be alive, and, soon enough, so were we, because Herman Dune were on, and lighting the place up. I mention it, because they have a new album out, and the Guardian is streaming it, for free, and it is currently lighting my kitchen up.

I passed a test today. It was an online test. It was ridiculous. I didn't read anything, didn't put any effort in, skipped every section until I got to the actual test part. Oo er, I thought, I need 80% to pass, maybe I should have read at least a couple of the modules. Didn't matter. Passed with 98%. Would have been a hundred if I hadn't inadvertently clicked the wrong answer on one of them. It wasn't a lark, it was a proper, work related test, which now puts me in a position of some distinction, and I tell you, it is a worthless test. Passing it signifies nothing. Don't tell anyone though, it might just drop me in the shit.

I mentioned the other day the dour Swedish thriller I started. It was Minds Eye by Hakan Nesser. It wasn't dour, it was ace, and it was great fun. I started at about 8 o'clock Wednesday night and had finished by 8 yesterday. I very rarely zip through books that quick, which shows how good it is; it shows that Scandinavian crime doesn't have to be bloated and in need of a good edit. It is a bit gloomy, but it is genuinely funny, in parts, and the hero and his subordinates are wonderfully droll characters. Written years ago, hopefully there is a whole back catalogue in translation. I put Nesser on a par with Camilleri, that's how much I enjoyed The Minds Eye.

I was going to say I won't post about the Blues again until August, but that would be ridiculous, especially as the European games probably start in July. I'm looking forward to an exotic trip to Neath, Besides that, I can't stop thinking about the fuckers anyway. I don't like Nick Hornby. I thought football was managing perfectly well before he stuck his middle class beak in. I can't begin to tell you the myriad ways in which his appalling book aggravated me. There is a moment in the even more wretched film of the book, when his lady asks him what is he thinking about, and he spouts some bullshit about poetry or philosophy. He then admits that he was thinking about Arsenal. That bit resonated. I empathised  with it

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wide Open Plain

I said, the other week, something along the lines that the internet still fills me full of wonder, and an example comes along straight away. Months ago, I was browsing Amazon; my guess is that I was looking for something similar to Daniel Woodrell, and I find the alternative suggestions that Amazon offer up pretty much on the mark, which is good news for Amazon and bad news for my bank account. Anyway, whatever I was searching for, one of the alternatives offered was "The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart" by M Glen Taylor. I bought it, on a whim, and it has sat there, unread for months, but it has been read now and it is for this that I thank the internet, as without it, I would have remained unaware of this brilliant book

From time time, you come across a book or an author that just knocks your socks off, Ken Bruen, Daniel Woodrell, Joe R Lansdale, Fred Willard, and in particular, Newton Thornburg spring to mind. Taylor is up there with that lot, I'm a bit pissed off that he has nothing else out that I can afford yet. I discovered Lansdale and Bruen late, and then had months of gleeful catching up to do.

It's a bit ironic that I wanted something to restore my good humour and faith in literature after my mood had been soured by John Irvin. I had ploughed through his massive, epic, tale of simple but brilliant, backwoods folk, always having to stay one step ahead of the law. So, what is this Trenchmouth about? Well, it's about a simple, but brilliant backwoods character who has to spend his life one step ahead of the law.

The two books couldn't be more different though (although the blurb recommends it to fans of Irvin). Trenchmouth is written with pace, vim and verve, his use of language is brilliant, and I kept finding myself re reading sentences, just to savour them. All the characters, apart from the scoundrels, are sympathetic, and you root for even minor players. It reads like an epic yarn, but it is funny in parts, it is profoundly poignant in parts, and it never hesitates to stick it to the motherfucking man. I loved this book, I read it too quickly, and now I'm trying to get stuck into another dour Swedish thriller, which, frankly, is putting me in another bad mood.

The football season may be over but the bickering and the endless analysing isn't, in fact, it has only just begun. Message board aficionados seem to have forgotten that Blues were relegated. We can't afford to lose Eck, the chief scout has been sacked and he was alright, according to some. We can't afford to lose Foster, we can't afford to lose Johnson , we can't afford to lose Ferguson, we can't afford to lose any 'em by the sound of it. It seems that to a lot of people, this bunch of chumps that we have managing us, coaching us, scouting for us, and playing for us are all blameless. They have become heroes. I'm fucking baffled by it, actually.

I've read a couple of things today that have reminded me of Ecks stubbornness, or, if you like, loyalty. I'm thinking here of Jerome and Ridgewell.  I really like Ridgewell, I think he has really improved as a player, I think we missed him when he was out, I think he tries really fucking hard but I don't think he will ever be a quality full back. Same with Jerome, runs fast, but will never be a top class footballer. But they have been first choice for us in their positions for a season and half in Ridgewells case, and longer than that in Jeromes.

Some might say that this shows admirable loyalty, and it probably does. Some might say that he has tried to buy or play different strikers, and he has, but  they don't get the same number of chances to settle  into the side as Jerome. The left back situation is really baffling though; it seems that he would rather play anyone there than the one bloke he actually bought as a left back, when he first arrived, 3 years ago. I dunno, maybe I'm being harsh, but to me it looks a little bit like complacency; like a willingness to settle for second best, to tolerate the mediocre, and it has got me a bit worried.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Dead And Gone

I finally finished the John Irvin. God, what a slog. I wouldn’t recommend it. It all got a bit tedious and for large chunks of it, Irvin was just showing off. I find Martin Amis and Will Self do this a lot. They dazzle us with their skill and expertise as wordsmiths, and you spend half the book admiring their craft, as opposed to being engrossed by it.

The football season was a bit of a tedious slog as well, for Blues fans anyway. Not all Blues fans; some Blues fans will recall only the victory in the Carling Cup and will forget the sheer misery and drudgery of the long journey from August. That’s fine, I wouldn’t blame ‘em for that. It’s not as if our history is laden with trophies, and for most fans, a victory at Wembley in a major (OK, a little bit major, a little bit minor) final could well be the absolute highlight of their Blues supporting career.

I’m a bit less forgiving. There are fans out there who are more tolerant than me, who point out that the injuries we have had endured, the signings that didn’t quite come off, and the untimely bans, have all hit us hard. I say that apart from one purple patch last season, we have been awful to watch, and we weren't exactly pretty in the purple patch. Even yesterday, fighting for our lives, we were ultra cautious. It is our lack of goals that got us into this mess, so what did we do in the deciding game of the season? We tried to avoid defeat. We put all our efforts into not conceding. Even when we equalised, Eck was about to bring Murphy on, even though it was extremely likely we would need another goal. In the end he realised we did need another goal, and sent men forward, but the last 5 minutes of an away game, in the last game of the season isn’t really the time to start swashing yer’s a bit late in the day.

Being a Blues fan, I’m used to disappointment. I’m well acquainted with the Immutable Law that the bastards will always let you down, and, having been gutted for about half an hour after the final whistle, I adjusted. We Blues fans aren’t in it for the glory. I don’t really care who we play, so long as we are playing. I enjoy supporting the Blues, I enjoy going to the Blues, I enjoy the matchday experience, I really don’t care who we are playing. So it’s OK.

Except it might not be OK. It might be, but it might not, no one really knows. Our owners seem to be a bit secretive when it comes to finance. There have been reports that they don’t have a pot in which to piss, and they really haven’t done or said much to persuade me that these reports are inaccurate. Blues fans with bigger brains than me have analysed whatever financial information is out there, and have declared that these reports are nonsense, and that big London media is simply engaging in a witch hunt against little old us. I’m not convinced, and I would like the board to now tell us what their plans are for the coming season. It would be nice to know what’s coming. Good or bad.

The position of Eck also concerns me. The press has been muttering over the last week that he will be on his bike whatever the outcome of yesterdays game. I won’t shed any tears, either way. Bad luck hasn’t got us relegated, our ultra cautious style of play has and Eck is responsible for that. Someone pointed out that we scored less goals last season in finishing 9th than we did this season. That is not a stat I feel particularly proud of. So, if he goes, he goes, but I wouldn’t urge it. If he stays, I hope he realises that we need to be a bit more potent, but I can’t see it happening; he seems a bit stubborn.

I mentioned the other day that when Eck arrived I like his honesty and his dignity, but he said a couple of things this season that have baffled me. Sometime around January, he had a little moan about the strikers, and said that we create enough chances, we just don’t take them often enough. This is just plain wrong, and, if he really believes what he said, it is worrying, because our problem has been creating chances. I’m not a huge admirer of Cameron Jerome, but sympathy has to be extended to him, as every chance he misses is magnified, because it means more than it would for other clubs, because it might be 3 fucking weeks before another chance comes his way. Then, yesterday, he said relegation “is not a fail” Well, that’s just barking. I’m getting a bit worried about his mind set.

Whether he stays or goes, I hope a decision is made very quickly. This is no time to fuck about. We need to get on, and plan for the coming season. Those that are going should go, quickly, those that are arriving should arrive, quickly. We need a cohesive squad and we need them all together from day one of pre season training. We don’t want a bunch of strangers lining up with each other on the first day of the new season.

Some fans are worried that we might lose our stars, which begs the question, what stars? I genuinely believe that our biggest problem will be getting shot of them, not keeping them. Foster and Johnson apart, which of these players, who have barely created a chance, never mind a goal, for two seasons, will be in demand? Which of them have enhanced their reputation? Gardner, possibly, but I couldn’t see him being more than a squad player in any other team.

You could almost have an intermediate league, between the prem and the championship, made up of about 10 to 15 teams like us, made up of players who aren’t quite good enough for the top half of the prem. Most of our current players fit that bill, so, if we keep most of ‘em, as I suspect we will, we should be really strong next year, but who know what will happen? Yesterday is over, today is a new day, and a new beginning, I have no idea what is around the corner, but fuck me, I’m looking forward to it.

Onwards, boys, if not necessarily upwards!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Country Blues

Last year, I think it was last year anyway, (my whole existence is a bit vague, to be honest), I saw the Canadian band, Elliot Brood at the End of the Road festival. They were the first band I saw, at about 5 o'clockish, having spent the afternoon sitting by the tent, in the sunshine, gently pickling the liver. Blown away is a much overused, not to mention retro, phrase and I don't like it, but I was blown away. They were as good a band as I have ever seen and they had the couple of hundred who witnessed it absolutely bouncing.  Bouncing like crazy. At fucking 5 o'clock in the afternoon! As far as I know, it was their only UK gig so far, the bastards; but, I can forgive them their absenteeism, because they are allowing us to download their new single, for free. I recommend you give it a whirl. It only gives you a flavour, but it is some flavour.

As I type I am listening to the new album by 17 Hippies, and to coin another retro phrase, I am really digging it. It is great stuff. If you remember Edward 11 and the Red Hot Polkas, or if you like Manu Chao, it will be right up your street. Obviously, none of the 3 sound remotely like each other, but it is that crazy mixing up of genres, and lovely vibe, a vibe born of love for what they do, that they share. Very highly recommended.

The Felice Brothers are geniuses, as everyone knows and Simone is already one of the all time greats. Not just a brilliant songwriter and seriously enigmatic performer though, he is also a very good writer. If you don't believe me have a listen to this story, which was commissioned by the BBC as part of it's Bob Dylan massive fucking overkill. Only available until next Wednesday though.

We need to talk about Eck. When Sully went after Eck, I thought he was aiming a bit high, but doing so deliberately (I think he's doing it now, vis a vis West Ham). I don't think he believed that a national team manager would actually join us, but it was good publicity for him and an indication to the fans that he was aiming high. I think Eck surprised him when he bit Sully's fucking hand off. I was dismayed. I don't know if it's my catholic upbringing, but I didn't like the fucker. I knew nothing about him, the proddy bastard, but I didn't like him anyway. Mostly, I believed he played negative football and also thought that he got a bit lucky with Scotland.  (please note there is a jocular remark in the above, and nothing to get upset about)

When he arrived, I decided I liked him after all. I liked the cut of his jib. He presented himself very well and seemed honest and dignified. He didn't regard the fans as idiots (he may have changed his mind since) and unlike the previous manager, didn't label his critics on the terraces (if only) as disgraceful. He also looked like a dapper gent, again, unlike the previous manager, who tended to look like a pantomime dame, after a particularly rough night in some house of scrumpy.

His first result was a good one, a very unlikely win away at fucking Tottenham. YES! A WIN! AWAY! AT TOTTENHAM!  It can be done………….come on all you merchants of doom. you masters of misery, show some fucking belief……….anything is possible and it ain't fucking over yet.

Sorry. Got a bit sidetracked there. In the end, Eck took us down. We forgave him. The team was in freefall when he arrived, and he was dapper, and he gave good interview. Already though, there were worrying signs of his negativity. When he arrived he said he wanted to see the team pass the ball, then after the Totenham game, he said he was happy to see 'em pass the ball but he didn't want to see 'em pass it that much! We had Zarate at the time, a very exciting player who caused panic in every defence he played against; trouble is, not too many defences were required to panic, as Eck barely played him

There were those who said he was an idiot on account of this, others said that this was no time for inexperienced dilettantes . No one knows the answer, but it was a sign of his mind set. The following season was interesting. Eck got us up, but it was possibly the most miserable promotion campaign in history, with many calling for Eck's head half way through the season. The problem was negativity. We played very negative football, but managed to grind out enough results to get automatic promotion, by the tiniest of gnats cocks.

Nevertheless, everybody loved Eck again. We started the  season, and progressed through the new season, playing very negative football. But, in the middle of it, we set a record for avoiding defeat. Eck was now a heroic figure. Everybody revered him. One might have been tempted to point out that, as impressive as the achievement was, we had hardly been slaughtering teams. It was not Real Madrid circa 1963. It was catenaccio  writ large. It would have been foolhardy to point this out though. One cannot argue with success, and, to have had a little whinge would have led to one being strung from the nearest lamppost by ones own innards.

Once the good run was over, the season petered out, annoyingly. We barely won another point. Still Eck is revered. He is revered for that run and he is revered for winning the league cup. He is sort of revered for getting us promotion too, most people seem to have forgotten that he took us down in the first place and ignore the misery he inflicted upon us, even in winning promotion. Now, he looks like taking us down again, and, even if he doesn't, our league form has been utter shit and our style of play has been embarrassing.

I don't think many would agree with my analysis, and I am happy to concede that I might be wrong, but, there is a question that is as persistent a beggar as any homeless dude with a scrawny dog and a bit of string. How does a bloke who has only had half a decent season get away with it? Even the half good season was fucking tedious, if we are being honest. No other fan but a Blues fan could possibly have gained any pleasure from that run. I doubt that there was a run on replica shirts in downtown Shanghai.

I don't count the promotion season as a good season, because in all honesty we really should have been getting promoted with the money we had available to us, compared to others, and I have not forgotten the howls of outrage at some of the piss poor performances we had to endure. I don't count the cup run either, because we played against type in those games and  actually had a bit of a go (is there fucking lesson there?)

So. Half a good season, and, possibly, another relegation. I never advocate sacking managers and I don't advocate sacking Eck, but, whether we survive or not, you would have to wonder if he can keep his job. He can stay or he can go for all I care. Blues don't even flatter to deceive all that often; we will always be also rans, and, to some extent, it doesn't matter which chump in the game of managerial musical chairs ends up in the seat with our name on it. They are all much of a muchness. It may as well be Eck as anyone else, but, to be honest I would prefer someone with a bit less dignity and a bit more imagination.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Old Tom Cat

I've been reading John Irvin's "Last Night in Twisted River". Bloody hell, what an absolute monster of a book. I don't seem to be able to finish it, and it's not for the want of trying. For the last 4 nights I have been convinced that there is only about 20 minutes worth left, but it just goes on and on: like driving down the M50 at midnight, after a Blues defeat, the this trip doesn't seem to have an end. Frankly, I am getting a bit pissed off with.

It's actually a good book, and it comes as no surprise that an Irving book is lengthy, but maybe his reputation is so great that no editor will touch it. Maybe it is a masterpiece and I am too dull to get it. If you like Irvin, you might like this. I hadn't read any of his for years and this came as a pleasant surprise. Until I lost patience it was immensely readable, populated with pretty recognisable, oddball, if not particularly likeable Irvin characters. It covers a huge sweep of history as it follows a father and son across states and decades, as they attempt to escape the murderous intentions of a crooked cop, and it has quite a lot of fairly profound stuff to say about the nature of families, and relationships, and love, and minor mistakes, and huge errors of judgement. Maybe it is the great American novel. There is no danger of me giving the end away, as I doubt I'll ever get to it.

For light relief, I have been dipping in and out of Shotgun Honey, and I recommend you do to.

Neither long, rambling novels, nor short sharp pulp is quite taking my mind off the Blues though. Now that I've calmed my mind, I'm really enjoying it. What a fantastic end to the season. We could have something riding on it until the last kick of the season. If we stay up it will be brilliant, if we go down, well, we've all got used to the idea by now. Last year everything just petered pointlessly out, Mcleish didn't even enliven proceedings by giving youngsters or fringe players a bit of experience. I'd much rather be enduring all this uncertainty. The close season is long enough, without it starting early because there is nothing to play for. Roll on Sunday.

There is actually a really positive side effect to the uncertainty; it has put a stop to all the endless posts on message boards advising that we should sign some lower league nonentity because he has just managed to pass a ball accurately in a play off game.

I've been hearing, and reading, rather a lot about David Brooks this week. I had never heard of him before but he turns out to be a celebrated right wing commentator at the New York Times, and he has written a book called "The Social Animal" which, apparently, is much beloved by tory brainboxes like Michael Gove.  It has had a fairly uncritical reaction so far (although it gets a right good kicking in the article I linked), it will be interesting to see how, or if, reaction changes as more people read it.

Just noting the blurb about Brooks book, it reminds me a bit of Martin Seligman, godfather of positive psychology. His new book seems to be getting panned left right and centre, but I find the book that made his name "Authentic Happiness" is invaluable, although it is much mocked. Reading the book won't make you happy, but I genuinely found that utilising just some of the techniques he advises changed peoples perception of me completely and some aspects of my life improved dramatically. It all looks like quackery, but, even though Brooks appears to be a right wing nutter, I won't dismiss him yet.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Restless Feet

Bugger me. It was a bit of a let down yesterday. Many Blues fans are in despair over it, which shows a bit of a lack of historical perspective. I was really, really pissed off yesterday and the more I drank the more pissed off I got, which, if nothing else, shows that alcohol is never the answer. I’m not so pissed off today, I have come to accept that, well, it’s the fucking Blues innit? 
Some people are saying that this relegation (many have already resigned themselves to it) has taken them completely by surprise and that is what is so upsetting, but it hasn’t taken me by surprise. Even before we started losing with alarming regularity, I was saying that we are drawing too may home games, and I recalled the season that Saunders took us down, when we drew game after game after game and slipped into the bottom 3 on the very last day of the season. Draws and goal difference did for us.
Since our record breaking run ended last season, we have been shit, and supporting Blues has been a pretty miserable experience: not because of the results, but because of the style of play. Fuck me, I support the Blues, I don’t expect glory, but I do expect us to show some spirit. I accept that at the moment panache is too much to expect, but it is the lack of this very quality that has been pissing me off.
There are those who are bemoaning the lack of fight and bite we showed yesterday and some are complaining that the players lacked courage. It’s true, we seemed utterly bewildered by events yesterday, right from the kick off and had no idea how to respond, and we certainly didn’t get snarlingly into Fulham faces, but I think we have lacked courage all season. Not courage in the sense of aggressive harrying and forceful tackling, but courage in the sense of being brave with the ball, and being brave in making attacking runs into the opposition half. We are not brave enough to take a chance, and to get on the front foot and anticipate half chances. 
It was evident yesterday that when we had the ball, we had no idea what to do with it. Tiki taki it was not. We constantly passed the ball sideways, or backwards or straight into an opposition midriff. We really needed to get at them, but we didn’t know how, and this has to be a legacy of our style of play, and the consequence of playing percentage football, looking to win free kicks, corners and throw ins. Jerome was out, so the usual tactic of booting it into the channels, in the hope that his muscular presence will gain us a set piece opportunity, wasn’t available, and we were demonstrably bereft of alternative ideas.
Some people are blaming the strikers, with the theme being that Phillips is too old and Derbyshire too shit, which is a bit unkind. Maybe their runs were not intelligent enough, maybe they didn’t have the wit to find space, but, maybe, the midfield just were not up to the job of adapting their style, and offering either enough guile or support to the front two. A front two who have barely started a game all season, a front two who we couldn’t really expect to be match sharp, or attuned to the nuances of each others play, or the play of the midfield.
We aren’t where we are because the cup run took it out of us, or because Derbyshire and Phillips found themselves in the team yesterday, or because of injuries, or because of bad luck, or because other teams have put together unlikely runs of results. We are where we are because, for at least a season and a half, we have been poor. We have not created enough chances; and, when we have taken a lead, we have lost all ambition and sat back and invited teams to find a way around or through us, which, with depressing predictability, they have usually managed to do. I don’t say we have played with fear, because at times we have been indomitable, but I do say that we have played without courage.
So it all comes down to the final game next week. Football is perverse enough, and Blues are certainly perverse enough for the outcome to be far from certain. I wouldn’t put it past Blues to win, and still get relegated, and I would not be at all surprised if we lost and still managed to stay up. If we do manage to survive, I hope the euphoria of an unlikely escape doesn’t blind either fans or staff to our deficiencies. We need a complete change of approach. Some fans will tolerate boring draws and narrow victories if it means premiership survival, but our style is not only unedifying, it is fucking undignified, and many people won’t be prepared to keep forking out to watch it. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I bumped into a man, a very, very good man, earlier, and he said, why aren't you blogging anymore, and I said something like, "dunno, too exhausted, half the time, and between message boards and social networking sites, I haven't got much else to say, and, why take 140 words to spout shit when you can utter it in 140 characters". He said, and then his Mrs said, "no one is pissing you off anymore, you aren't angry anymore," and I said, "actually, I never was angry, I just enjoyed a bit of a rant, it meant nothing." They scoffed.

Every now and then, not often, people will ask me why I don't blog anymore, and they will indicate that they miss my nonsense. Not many people, admittedly, very few people, in fact, but some. And my buddies from Sainsburys have a point. When I blogged a lot, every single day, in fact, I was full of bile, and I was full of wonder. I have learned, the hard way, not to post a load of old bile, but I am still full of wonder.

I started blogging pretty much when blogging was invented, and I started blogging mainly because I was driving everyone on various Birmingham City boards mental. Everything I came across on the web amazed me, even photos of cute cats, and, every time I came across anything new, I would post it on a message board. In my defence, I would come across some seriously good shit, but, nevertheless, it got on everyones nerves, and people would tell me, rather rudely, I thought, to fuck off.

Then blogging was invented, and here was a place for me to enthuse, and to vent. I would post daft link after daft link, and I would post my opinions on everything, and some of my opinions verged on the intemperate.

Some people liked this stuff. I got an honourable mention as a top British blogger in the Guardian (bear in mind, there were only about 3 British bloggers at the time) and I got lots and lots of hits, over 100, every day. And if I posted on mefi, bless my soul, hundreds would visit.  It might not seem like much to you, but it seemed like a hell of a lot to me.

I moved from Blogger to Typepad and for a while, the shit I typed was really popular, and I had several hundred a day visit, and I was chuffed; then, after about 2 years I moved back to Blogger. Typepad just deletes your account when you stop paying. I would get emails from people saying why are you selling chairs? and, where's yer blog? There was no blog, not on Typepad, and if you looked for my blog, you were redirected to a chair seller,

Back on Blogger, visitor numbers dropped, not that I cared overmuch, I wasn't really after visitors and I have never tried to make cash from the blog; I still had visitors, but several things had changed. First,  every man and his dog had gotten access to the internet. Second, no one needed me or anyone else to post them in the direction of good stuff, interesting stuff, quirky stuff…………it was all becoming part of the mainstream web experience.

And, crucially, I became less overtly angry. The fact is, the boastful fact is, that  I wrote some  good stuff at that time, but the good stuff I wrote was nasty, and it was aimed at people. People would say," I can't wait for the next instalment," and I would think, there are no instalments. It wasn't nice and it wasn't fair.

It was well written, and, often, hilarious (even if I say so myself) But it was nasty. I took a very conscious decision to knock all that stuff on the head, and not to be a cunt anymore. And this is the result. I can't think of a single thing to fucking write! It's not that I am not pissed off at the world and everyone in that stops me writing, it's that if I am not being nasty, I may as well be fucking mute, I can't think of anything to say.

And, unsurprisingly, no fucker comes looking anymore, plus, I really am too old and tired to try and build a following.

So. Lets have a go at not being nasty. The web still fills me with wonder. I find so many books and so many authors that I just never would have heard of,  I should get on my knees and thank the universe for its munificence every day. It gets better though, twitter will point you in the direction of an author, and authors might even tweet and say hello, and point you in the direction of good stuff that they have heard of, which will never hit the mainstream. Then you can buy it, really cheap.

It's the same with music. People think I am wilfully weird in my taste. I think others are wilfully weird in settling for what the BBC or the student union tells them is hip. A few months ago  a Blues fan satrted following me on twitter, and I followed him back. Probably 30 years between us. He lives in Derby, I live in Cwmbran. did we talk about Blues? No. We talked about obscure country music. The dude has disappeared, but in our short acquaintance, he directed me to some seriously good stuff. 2 people, disconnected, years apart, who would never meet or connect in real life, found some mutual benefit in a brief online acquaintance, and enriched each other lives. Possibly!

There are loads of other reasons to love the web and to love life, but it's all too easy to focus on what is shit, and, as a pretend writer, to just rant. The task is, if I want to keep on with this, is to be as sharp and witty in celebrating life, as I was denigrating it. I'm going to give it a motherfucking go. Mind you, I wouldn't hold my breath!

Heres a very good reason to love life and to celebrate the web………….Robyn G Shiels. This man is some kind of a genius. He writes wonderful songs and sings them in an very, very distinct and impressive voice. I don't think he is a young man, I suspect he has been around for a while. I think I know shit, but I didn't know this shit. I heard him on Radio Ulster, then sought him out on spotify and tweeted regarding his brilliance. he has since tweeted me a link to a new song of his.

The angry me says, how come the radio, even the so called intelligent radio, is full of shit when guys like this (thousands of the fuckers) are about. The new me, the tolerant me, says, aint life fucking grand, all this good shit, all this availability of radios stations, and spotify, and social networks, are enriching my life in ways that would have been unimaginable at the Wednesday night discos with the Greboes and the townies at the Speedwell in 1974.

That video at the top is a bit special too. It wasn't Jules Holland that alerted me to him. It was the interweb.