Thursday, 27 November 2014

RIP Phil Hughes

CRICKET is mourning the loss of a player, no not a legend from yesteryear but a current player who went out with his bat on Tuesday morning.

Sadly Phil Hughes never returned to the pavilion but will always be 63 not out in the hearts and minds of all who knew him and those who had the pleasure of watching him.

The left hander was struck by a bouncer from Sean Abbott during the game, fell to the ground and never regained conciousness.

At this time the only blessing the cricket world can take is the fact he was apparently in no pain when he passed.

As well as the pleasure of watching him bat, I grabbed an interview with him following a man of the match performance for Worcestershire against Essex in 2012.

He'd already done an interview with Sky Sports but I approached him and after a 'sure mate' he spoke for five minutes, humble, honest and a guy who loved to play cricket.

The tributes show what a great guy he clearly was and my sympathies to the Australian team and especially to the lads in the Worcestershire dressing room.

Our thoughts should go to Sean Abbott as well, he was doing his job as a fast bowler, trying to unsettle Hughes and get him out.

The bouncer isn't designed to kill, a few inches in the other direction and all Hughes would have suffered is a 
headache.

As well as showing love and support for Phil Hughes family and friends, I hope we all remember Sean Abbott.

Heaven already had a damn good cricket team, sadly it now has a talented left hander to add to its ranks.


RIP Phil, sleep well

Monday, 24 November 2014

What to do with the misfiring Gunners?

IT'S fair to say Arsene Wenger has probably had better days at the office, an awful result again, shambolic defending and an increasingly vocal Emirates expressing their displeasure.

We don't do white hankies ala Barcelona or Real Madrid, but if we did there would have been more than enough on display to wipe up the red wine allegedly thrown at the Manchester United bench on Saturday evening, such was the anger at full time.

Why? Because yet again Arsenal have battered a team only to be caught out and beaten. If matches were played on stats and on paper Arsenal would have done the treble more than once.

But they aren't and again Arsenal huffed and puffed and just before blowing the house down decided to hold their breath some more.

Truth be told Arsenal should have been at least two goals to the good before the defensive calamaties but equally could have been down to 10 men as Jack Wilshere's fuse once again was lit far too easily for my liking.

Instead, a silly own goal gave United a lead they did not deserve and then Arsenal's lemming like attitude to push up the field gave United an easy second. It should have been three as Di Maria missed when it was easier to score.

What to do? Sack the manager? No, no our club owes Wenger more than that. Without him in 1996 Arsenal could have fallen away so badly we could have ended up like Leeds United.

But the time has come for someone at the Emirates to sit down with Arsene and ask about the future, does he want to carry on? Lately in after match interviews he is looking more and more like a man who doesn't have the answers he needs to find.

The problems aren't deep rooted, they can be fixed but Arsene needs to adapt his methods somewhat.

The back four needs training, to defend as a unit and to stop getting caught up field so often. Steve Bould is sitting there like a bubble in a can. Surely training can be adapted to allow one of George's legendary back four to nurture the current four incumbents.

A couple of a players need a kick up the backside. In my opinion one of them is Wilshere, if he put in as much effort into developing his talent as he does effing and jeffing referee's the kid would world class. I love Wilshere, a local lad done good, but his constant temper tantrums are beginning to wear thin.

Wojciech Szczesny needs reminding he's won nothing of note yet, the man is very good with the banter but frankly got a lesson in goalkeeping from David De Gea on Saturday night, another playing behind a rather porous defence.

Arteta is no longer a starter and certainly not captain. Mertesacker retired from German duty, is very vocal, give him the captaincy – if that doesn't 'motivate' him then maybe ask him to move on.

And buy, buy in January – Arsenal need a centre half and a defensive midfielder. Maybe just maybe something can be salvaged from what is beginning to look like a worrying campaign.


The 'Arsene Knows' banner still proudly takes its place at every home game. More and more though are wondering 'does he?'

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Thornberry isn't a snob, she's just stupid

"It's just one of many pictures I've taken on the campaign trail today. However if you're asking my personal opinion I like to think it shows the proud patriotism which exists in our country and what we shouldn't be afraid to embrace."

IF Emily Thornberry had said the above then tonight; she'd still have a job, the headlines would be about another Tory winning a seat for UKIP having defected and maybe some wavering Labour votes would have felt like their party did understand them after all.

Instead she came out with a stupid 'never seen anything like it' (what a flag?) comment, Ed apparently had a fit of pique and Labour look like a mess....again!

I'm not saying I'd do a better job than Labour's press office but my line is a huge improvement on the shambles which has dominated the airwaves all evening.

Truth be told this is just the latest chapter in a catastrophe of errors from a party which ought to be wiping the floor with the Government.

Cast your minds back, if this was 1996 Labour might be contemplating winning a seat like Rochester and Strood but would certainly be heaping pressure on a PM facing losing another by election to a defecting former MP.

David Cameron ought to have gone to be d this evening petrified at another potentially huge defeat and concerned some disgruntled colleagues might decide a change of leader was necessary.

Instead he lays his head thanking Labour for turning down the heat in the political pressure cooker.

To messers Johnson, Burnham, Cooper, Umunna et al - really? Do you really think this is the best your party can do?

Labour's slim chance of a majority has been shrinking for months. Tonight it disappeared, most probably for good.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Where's the remorse Oscar?

SO there you have it, a five year sentence for taking the life of his girlfriend in his own St Valentine's Day massacre.

But despite the media reports, it's not five years in jail ahead of Oscar Pistorius, it's probably 10-16 months in the clink and the rest under house arrest.

Is that all Reeva Steenkamp was worth? A beautiful, vibrant, charming young woman who was ruthlessly gunned down and never stood a chance at the hands of this borderline psychopath.

Yet all we hear is how how Oscar Pistorius has 'lost everything' and the frankly awful interview with his brother and sister last night which almost painted Oscar as the victim.

Let's spell it out very clear here, on the night of Reeva's death, Pistorius heard a noise, picked up his gun and stood and fired.

No calling out, no threats that he had a gun and wasn't afraid to use it, no chance for Reeva Steenkamp to identify herself.

Instead her life was taken in a volley of bullets and in a moment lives were changed forever.

Barry Steenkamp will never walk his daughter down the aisle, June Steenkamp has brought her daughter into the world and then buried her, a task no parent should ever face.

They have lost more than Pistorius ever 'lost' and it's to them our sympathies should be directed.

Pistorius has lost his commercial deals, the adoration of both a nation and a sporting world which marvelled 
at his efforts especially at London 2012.

He was a poster boy for many, and for many years was the torch bearer for the disabled to stick two fingers up to their impairment and live their lives fully.

Deep down I think Pistorius loved Reeva Steenkamp, but in court he presented mixed messages, tears and vomit when details of Steenkamp's demise were spoken of yet almost defiance and a projection of sympathy when he wasn't in the dock.

A lot will be written and spoken in the coming days, but the one fact remains. A life was lost on the night of February 14 2013.

RIP Reeva Steenkamp.


Monday, 29 September 2014

To lose one MP is careless, to lose two is Reckless

AND another one has gone, this time Mark Reckless ditches the Conservatives for the loving embrace of UKIP.

The Rochester and Strood MP spirited away under the cover of darkness from Westminster to land in Doncaster and be the latest to stand up and put the Prime Minister down on a number of issues.

Timing wise, Nigel Farage has hit the jackpot again. We had the 'surprise' defection with Douglas Carswell, this time it was the 'timed' defection, 3pm Saturday afternoon, just as the Sunday papers were being put together ahead of day one of the Conservative Party Conference.

To call the party management shambolic is an understatement, chief whip Michael Gove appears to be phoning MPs up, asking if they are planning to defect and accepting it when the person (defecting or not) says no.

Where is the bullish party management of opposition? Why is no one getting on the front foot and telling these MPs it would be folly to defect and hammer home the message Cameron is on their side?

Instead the party's approach appears to be sit back, let it happen, smear the defector and laugh that 'jolly old UKIP are being little scoundrels aren't they?'.

Everytime Grant Shapps stands up and says Reckless 'lied and lied and lied' or the Prime Minister calls the move 'illogical' and 'a vote for UKIP is a vote for Ed Miliband' another wavering MP wonders whether he/she should make the leap.

Those feelings will only strengthen if, as expected, Carswell romps back to the House of Commons in UKIP colours on October 8. I imagine those feelings could be overbearing should Reckless do the same sometime in November.

A vote for UKIP is not 'a vote for Ed Miliband' per se. UKIP is rapidly becoming a comfy home for former Tories totally disenfranchised with the current Conservative Party.

If Cameron and his inner circle haven't grasped that yet, they should and quick. Because by the time the Prime Minister approaches the lectern to deliver his final speech to the party before the General Election next year, he may of lost another MP.


The 'maximum impact' defection....

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Miliband wasn't inspiring, but he was clever

THE COMMENTARIART has spoken, Miliband was dull, boring and did not look like a Prime Minister in waiting.

They are right in the sense it was dull and boring as a whole but Prime Ministerial? Yes I think so, quiet and unassuming but with more gravitas than the previous 'Quiet Man' Iain Duncan Smith.

What they fail to appreciate is how the speech came across on the news channels, who need soundbites not great long diatribes.

On that Miliband scored big in my opinion, the line about Cameron not lying awake worried about the UK but about UKIP will have hurt and resonated with many voters.

And on Europe, Miliband's attack lines on Cameron would not only resonate with voters but with the Carswell section of the Conservatives who don't believe the Prime Minister is serious about reforming the 
European Union.

He was silly forgetting the deficit and immigration lines from the speech, his memory capacity is admirable but an Autocue is sometimes your best friend.

But those issues are front and centre of UK's voters minds so Miliband will have to talk about it between now and polling day.

Where Miliband was clever was in the use of the NHS, any Labour leader knows if they stroke the NHS, 
the members purr and the Tories cower.

The Mansion Tax - tobacco tax – hedge fund tax policy is economically sound and would provide a great big cash cow for the National Health Service.

As long as the party continues to press ahead with it, that alone should ensure Labour's core vote will at least have to think very hard before crossing to UKIP.

And it's a clever policy, it dares the Conservatives to oppose it knowing full well should they oppose they will be painted as the party of the rich and privileged and not caring about the NHS.

Thanks to the gift that keeps giving that is Grant Shapps, Labour are already ahead as the Conservatives released a poster saying Labour wanted to tax 'your family home'.....I I'd missed all those mansions in inner 
city London and Birmingham!

The criticism of the commentariart surprises me, we need to stop judging the parties on their conferences, a 
social gathering for four days.

I will be judging Cameron, Miliband and Clegg when the Prime Minister dissolves parliament for the election.


Only then should we assess those in the running for the biggest job in the country.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Scotland's vote is last act of a dying Government

THURSDAY will see a nation go to the polls faced with the biggest question asked of an electorate for many a year: Do they wish to break a 300 year old marriage and go it alone?.

There is no doubt the referendum on Scottish independence has been a good thing, it has energised people and got a nation talking about politics and voting.

But whatever the result, this week marks the beginning of the end of David Cameron's time as Prime Minister. Quite simply, the leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party could oversee the end of the union, that's a mistake I doubt even he can come back from.

Perhaps reports of his demise in the aftermath of a Yes vote are a little far-fetched, I doubt the British economy would sustain the news of Scottish independence and the resignation of a Prime Minister within 48 hours of each other!

But it would signal Cameron's time at the top was nearly over, the vultures are circling with Boris looking a shoo-in in Uxbridge and most of the cabinet are Osborne loyalists - leaving the PM with very few friends at the top.

Even Uncle Rupert appears lukewarm in backing the Tories with his hints that independence could be good for Scotland, knowing full well the damage a yes would cause to the Conservative Prime Minister.

David Cameron will become the first PM in history to lose not because the opposition was much more electable (Labour aren't) but because he's just made too many tactical errors.

1) He hasn't managed the coalition well.

Cameron needed Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats in 2010 but what he needed to do from the outset was make it clear, they contributed just 1/6th of the coalition Government and policy would be Conservative-driven.

Instead he has been in thrall to Clegg and let the junior partners get away with a number of statements such as their apparent u-turn on the Bedroom Tax. Instead of putting them on the spot and telling them to vote with their feet, knowing it would send them off the political cliff, he's allowed the Lib Dems the airwaves to try and rewrite history.

2) But ignored his party...

It's no co-incidence his party aren't happy. Conservative backbenchers wanted Tory rule after 13 years away, instead they got a Tory Government watered down with a bit of Lib Dem.

Many want to see him rule properly, but within 12 months the old rivalries spilled out and open rebellion ensured.

3) He shouldn't have introduced fixed term Parliaments

Fixed five year parliament has not worked, the party has begun it's last year of the current cycle with very little ideas, very little enthusiasm and with a reshuffle based on image not talent. Government's in this country only go into the fifth year in a desperate attempt to roll the dice and hope their fortunes change, look at Major in 92 and Brown in 2010.

Rather than five year fixed term, make it compulsory to hold an election every four years. The fortunes of the ruling party do rather improve at the end of four year cycles.

4) He ignored and then didn't grasp the UKIP threat

'Fruitcakes' and 'Loons' were the words used by the Prime Minister to describe Nigel Farage and UKIP....oh how he must regret that now.

Quite simply the PM and his party didn't recognise UKIP began hoovering up traditional Tory votes a long time ago. Farage represents the halcyon days of the Conservatives, big on business, tough on Europe and traditional British values.

He dismissed them until it was too late, now many have gone and won't come back but still Cameron and his team still disrespect UKIP. Cameron should get on the front foot, agree to the debates and agree to Farage taking part and use his considerable oratory skills to take UKIP apart.

If he carries on until May 2015 he will be a lame duck Prime Minister, propped up by a party facing disaster.

However, victory on Thursday could and maybe should be enough for him to change course, call an election and ask people the ultimate question: "Do you really want Ed Miliband as PM?"






Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Scotland deserves better than these campaigners

WATCHING the #indyref campaign in recent weeks has made me frustrated and angry.

No not because there is a very real prospect the historic union could be broken but because no one, be it a politician or 'expert' is actually talking TO the people of Scotland.

Scots basically are being talked AT, 'oooo don't vote for independence because this  and that will happen and it's all your fault' say the No Thanks team.

'Ach, don't listen to em, you should vote for independence as it will be great and we can do this that and the other' say the Yes team.

At no point in this campaign has either side said to the Scottish people 'here is our case and here's why the opposition are wrong in our opinion.'

The Scots deserve that and to be trusted to go away, consider it all and then deliver their verdict next Thursday.

I will declare an interest to say as an Englishman I hope our Celtic cousins decide to stay, but the outcome is nothing to do with me or anyone else south of the border.

My opinion is that if we stay together we should work together to ensure Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland too have much greater powers and can prosper both individually and together.

But should the Scottish people decide to vote yes then we have a duty in England to work with an independent Scotland.

To all the politicians and experts travelling north in the next week, don't waste your time delivering meaningless soundbites and 'warnings'.

Just talk to the people, Scots are the most welcoming and friendly people on the planet, show them some respect hey?

Scotland, everyone in England wants you to stay. We never have took your freedom and we won't do so now!



Hodgson deserves respect

MONDAY night showed why I have become so bored with the England national team.

No not because of the manager or the players but because of the sheer amount, to paraphrase Roy Hodgson, of "f****** b*******' that surrounds an England match.

Since he took over, Hodgson hasn't had a chance with some in the media who wanted their beloved Harry Redknapp to take the national job.

Why was beyond me, yes Hodgson's managerial career in England is hardly one to write home about but international ly the man has more than enough experience.

Whereas Harry has never managed north of the Watford Gap.....

Failure at the World Cup gave the press the ammunition they needed. At no point did they consider England had an awful group, things would have been different had they had Argentina's group of Bosnia, Nigeria and Iran or France's group of Switzerland, Honduras and Ecuador.

Through it all, Hodgson remained dignified and respectful to a media which frankly showed neither of those qualities to him. 

And now he presides over a young, vibrant team full of pace and enthusiasm and one which should excite us Englishmen.

Gone are the last of the 'Golden Generation' scarred by tournament defeats and raised expectations.

Yet to read the tweets and coverage before Monday night you'd think we'd lost the last five games in a row.

The headlines were already written, 'Basel Faulty' some wanted to hail it. But England delivered big time and well done to them for it.

The critics? Did they praise? No they backtracked and said Switzerland weren't that good anyway! 

England made a good start and arguablely with the hardest game out the way this young team can look forward to a relatively easy group, gaining confidence as a unit and hopefully entertaining along the way.

Remember the Germans? they ditched the old guard in 2000 and this hungry young team won the greatest prize of them all just over a decade later.

Maybe, just maybe, if we are all patient then a lot more than football may come home in years to come....

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Carswell defection shows Tory troubles

DOUGLAS Carswell's defection to UKIP has highlighted the very real problem for David Cameron and the Conservatives.

The darling of the backbenches, Carswell has been a thorn in Cameron's side for a while now.

Peace seem to have broken out when Carswell appeared to back the PM over his pledge for an in/out referendum should the Tories win in 2015.

However, something has changed in Carswell's mind. Either he thinks the party won't win in 2015 so has decided to jump now or this is some sort of weird stalking horse effort.

If Carswell wins for UKIP in Clacton, it could pave the way for other Tories to follow suit and persuade more traditional Tories to abandon the party for UKIP.

You might expect the Tories to respond, remind voters Carswell appears to have reneged on his backing for the party.

Instead the attack dogs were sent out online to attack Ed Miliband for 'not saying anything about Rotherham'.

We'll ignore the fact the party has called for the PCC to step down, that senior council figure has already resigned with more expected to follow....

And that sums up the Tories, when there is discord within the party, they lash out at Miliband and Labour. Carswell didn't defect because of Miliband, he defected because of Cameron and Osborne.

The killer line in Carswell's interview on Sky was the use of the word 'honest' in relation to Miliband's position on the EU.

The implication being Cameron isn't and that, whether the Tories want to admit it or not, is the Tories biggest headache.

If Cameron doesn't 'get it', then I'm afraid his dreams of an EU referendum will turn to dust.


Saturday, 23 August 2014

Mackay case shows football's failings

I HAD a bluebottle infestation in my wheelie bin the other week. Did I remove one and let the rest carry on? No I cleaned the whole bin....

Yet in football again a case of alleged sexism/racism/anti-semitism has reared up and the character assasination of one individual has begun.

Malky Mackay is now in the firing line and will probably be ostracised from football by the time we put up the Christmas decorations.

Now before I go on, if these texts are proven then Mackay, an otherwise articulate man should hang his head that his 'banter' comes straight from the drains.

But do we really think Mackay is the only British football manager sending such texts and having such discussions?

I'd put good money on a number of managers making sexual comments on a regular basis. I know of one current manager who left a previous job not because of mutual consent but because he quite fancied 'consent' with a married female.

Racism is a whole different matter but if Mackay believes this in private he certainly doesn't show it in public.

I've seen the phrase 'Wee Egyptian' used  to beat Mackay..really? Every Scot uses 'Wee' and Egyptian is actually someone's nationality...surely it can't be racist?

My point being though is we've been here before, sexism storm sees Richard Keys and Andy Gray go, racism sees Ron Atkinson sacked. Has football done anything about it? No, it's easier to have a storm then just make money again

We have to have a dividing line, either vet everyone and have them hand over every text they have ever sent or accept there is a line between public and private.

Is it right what Mackay is alleged to have sent? Of course not no. 

But football has to choose what it wants from it's people. If it truly wants to 'clean house' then it might be uncomfortable with what it finds...

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

RIP Robin Williams

I SUSPECT I was not alone in shedding a little tear on the passing of Robin Williams yesterday, knowing he will no longer grace our TV or movie screens with his madcap humour.

But there is a great sadness in me that again someone who brought so much joy to others left the world seemingly feeling alone.

This is not a criticism of anyone in his life, especially not this wife or children who are clearly shattered by the loss of a loving husband and father.

Depression is not something I truly understand, I think if you do you are often a sufferer of it. But my empathy for those who do is immense. I hear all the time how 'How he is he/she depressed when he/she earns so much money/has such an easy life/has a wonderful family/career.'

But that is far too simplistic view of the illness and does not take into account the one person who matters, the sufferer themselves.

Imagine if you will life as a major movie star or sports star, you reach a huge high in your career with an Oscar or a huge movie role or the winning goals to win your club a trophy.

People around you then expect that every time you walk in front of a camera or on the football pitch and you put pressure on yourself to deliver.

Should things not go well, a movie fails or the sports star gets injured, depression can lurk in the dark corner waiting to pounce.

No amount of fancy houses and cars, a whopping bank balance or gorgeous wife and kids will offset depression, you can't fight the big black shadow off that easily.

Everyone who is lucky enough not to have met this shadowy figure needs to pledge to understand those who have and help in anyway they can.

We talk and understand cancer openly, it's time we did the same for depression. Don't look at person's wealth or fame, look at the figure in front of you.

Robin Williams touched the lives of many, made many people laugh and cry in equal measure yet felt so troubled he felt compelled to end his life.

We should remember his comedy, his wonderful range of acting and the moments which made you laugh so hard you almost wet yourself.

But also remember his depression, if we can stop just one person from replicating what happened in a mansion in California on Monday in a council house in Leeds next week then we might have a better and more understanding world.

RIP Robin, thank you for the memories, you were a comedy legend who has gone too soon. I hope you have found peace now and that in time so will your family and friends.


Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Forgive Colin, he made a mistake

MANY words have already been written about the actions of Sky News journalist Colin Brazier at the weekend.

For those who may have enjoyed the summer sunshine away from the 24 hours news cycle, Colin was at the scene (one of many) of the downed MH17 plane and came across luggage.

He reached in and picked up some items, before common sense came hurtling into his mind and brought him back into the real world.

Throughout, Colin was live on television, walking around an horrific scene, no doubt had a producer in his ear talking to him and his own mind's filter ensuring he only described what was suitable for an audience and
vetting some of the more ghoulish sights.

Then it happened, he came across the luggage, his cameraman films it, and for some reason only Colin knows he reaches in.

What he did was immensley disrespectful and wrong let me make that perfectly clear, but within 30 seconds he himself said 'We shouldn't be doing this...this is a mistake' and pulled away.

In a world where apologies have to be dragged out of people or done to avoid commercial loss (hello Luis Suarez), Colin's sense of taste metaphorically whacked him in the crotch hard.

Within hours the broadcaster had apologised and today Colin has penned an article for the Guardian, not one of the News International stable which part owns Sky, but an outside publication.

“At the weekend, I got things wrong. If there was someone to apologise to in person, I would.” he writes.

Pretty conclusive but in the court of human opinion that is Twitter, people are already criticising the apology including a well known former footballer....who once had to apologise himself for an 'error of judgement'.

When you watch television news, think about what that reporter sees and you don't, that man or woman has to go home with those images in their mind as Colin will.

There is no excuse, Colin has not sought to wriggle out of it, he got it wrong badly but apologised.

If you want to get angry, get angry at those who shot a plane full of innocent people out of the sky.

Get angry at a nation which invaded another with no remorse, get angry there is yet more conflict in the
Middle East.

Get angry millions die every year in poverty, get angry the rich are getting richer with tax loopholes and the
like.

See? I don't see those responsible apologising for any of that...

Monday, 21 July 2014

Resign Alastair and become one of the greats

SOMETHING strange happened yesterday evening, I felt sorry for Alastair Cook.

Strange in the sense I have been a huge critic of the England captain since he emerged from the 5-0 Ashes whitewash not only stronger but seemingly in an unsackable position.

I despise the way he engineered Kevin Pietersen's forced retirement from the England team and his inability to take criticism, especially the 'something needs to be done' comment about Shane Warne.

However, looking at the broken man who trudged off Lords yesterday evening having again been exposed outside his off stump, I felt sorry for him.

Now he wouldn't want sympathy, no cricketer would, he just wants to rediscover the magic, hit a blisteringly huge hundred and lead England to victory.

But looking at Cook, I wonder whether he is destined to join the likes of Gower and Botham as great England players but average captains.

Captaincy does not sit well with some cricketers but does others and does lead to a slump in form however Cook is not out of form he is technically exposed.

Some have suggested a sabbatical from the England team while he goes back and gets runs for Essex and then returns as captain and opening batsman.

It just won't work for a number of reasons, primarily because Cook is not out of form he has a technical fault with his game.

But also the England captaincy cannot be done on a caretaker basis, if England are to succeed they need a regular full time captain – look at the mess when Vaughan was out injured.

Quite simply, England need Alastair Cook the opening batsman more than Alastair Cook the captain.

Cook has not become a bad player overnight just burdened by the captaincy and, I believe, the impending Pietersen book which reveals what really happened in Australia.

If England do go on to lose the second test today, Cook should be prepared to stand down as captain.

Free from the burden and attention I believe he is strong enough to come back from this slump and certainly get the 739 more needed for another record – England's highest run scorer in tests.

Cook is only 29 so should he rediscover the magic he could also be the first Englishman to 10,000 runs in tests.

Already the leading century maker for his country, Cook should sacrifice the captaincy in the pursuit of those records.

Some may say that is selfish, but every good 'Chef' knows when to change the recipe to make the dish better.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Clegg's 'axe to tax' comments are a cheap stunt

THE Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg wants his coalition partners to ditch the 'Bedroom Tax' otherwise he will scrap it in the 2015 Lib Dem manifesto.

That is despite his party voting for it every time it has come through the House of Commons.....

What has provoked this 'crisis of conscience' for the Deputy PM and his party, new DWP figures? A tale of woe from a constiuent or even politicians just admitting they are wrong.

Or is it the fact one opinion poll this week showed the Liberal Democrats on six per cent....that's SIX per cent.

From the heights of 2010 and 'I agree with Nick', the Liberal Democrats have fallen faster than Luis Suarez did into Chiellini's shoulder.

However, those of you hoping for the Liberal Democrats to stand up to the Conservatives and flex their muscles will be disappointed, this is nothing more than a cheap, vulgar and hypocritical stunt.

This is not the first time Clegg and his party have voiced their disproval, remember the Royal Mail?

Remember 'We stopped the Tories from introducing 16 'heartless' policies'?

Remember as well the Deputy Prime Minister was once heard telling the PM they had to stop agreeing as they would have nothing to disagree about in 2015.

Clegg knows the Liberal Democrats face the abyss in 2015, the protest votes have gone to UKIP, some have gone to the Greens or Labour, leaving them with not much to smile about.

He knows opposing it on the surface now and pledging to scrap it in the 2015 manifesto might tempt some voters back.

They shouldn't though and anyway the opposition have already pledged to scrap it should they be elected....

Truth be told if Nick Clegg is serious about wanting to scrap this he ought to threaten a confidence vote in
the House of Commons.

If the Lib Dems voted to scrap it along with Labour then there would be no confidence in the Government and potentially a snap election could be triggered.

Or interestingly, the Prime Minister, tired of the junior partners whinging could force a confidence vote himself.

Then the Liberal Democrats would be faced with a dilemma, vote to back it and probably lose the last of any credibility with the electorate, vote to scrap it and potentially face the electoral wilderness...

Mr Clegg, it's over to you!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

RIP Damien D'Oliveira

I GOT home from taking my wife to work to find Damien D’Oliveira, academy manager at Worcestershire CCC, had lost his two year battle with cancer.

Although it was clear Damien was ill, the news of his passing has come as a great shock and looking at the tributes on Twitter it’s clear it’s not just the cricketing world in mourning today.

From respected cricketing journalists like Edward Bevan and Steve James to the likes of Peter Oborne, the social medium was used to pay tribute to Damien and his family.

Son of the legendary England batsman Basil D’Oliveira, Damien’s own career never hit the international heights but he was a loyal county servant to Worcestershire.

And after hanging up his bat, ‘Dolly’ continued his and his family’s association with the county by becoming a coach and later academy manager at New Road.

I have no doubt there is a lot of sadness at New Road today as the Pears begin their match with Glamorgan.

All of the batsmen will walk to the wicket sad at Dolly’s passing, many will owe that walk to Damien’s work at the academy.

I was lucky enough to work as a journalist for the Worcester Standard for 15 months and during that time I was able to go to the club’s media day at New Road.

While there you could see how loved Dolly was by the players and staff such as coach Steve Rhodes and chief executive David Leatherdale.

You can’t be a journalist in the city without knowing how important the surname D’Oliveira is to the county, I was lucky to see it in action on the field first hand.

Basil’s grandson and Damien’s son is a fine leg spinner in the making and I hope his talent and the will of the cricketing gods combine to further Brett’s career.

Who knows, maybe the D’Oliveira name may once again grace and England team sheet?

My prayers and thoughts are with Damien’s family, friends and everyone associated with Worcestershire CCC.

RIP Damien, may you now be at peace

 

 

Saturday, 28 June 2014

PM in a muddle of his own making

IT'S not been the best week for the Prime Minister.

Following Andy Coulson being found guilty of conspiring to hack phones on Tuesday, the PM upset most of his European friends on Friday and heard how a former advisor had been sent to prison on child porn charges.

In a political world where all we hear is how bad Miliband is and how if he was doing better the Tories would be toast, I pose the opposite question, wouldn't the Tories be solid certainties for a majority in 2015 if Cameron was better at his job?

Think about it, the economy is slowing rousing itself from it's slumber, voters are warming to the PM's EU reform talk and the party is staying close to Labour in the polls.

Yet time after time Cameron is either guilty of or presides over cock ups which once again make you think about a change of owner of Number 10 in May 2015.

The Prime Minister of the UK should know a trial is not concluded until a verdict was given on all charges. Yet Cameron raced to get on TV on Tuesday to besmirch Coulson while a jury was still considering some of the charges.

Surely someone close to Cameron should have pulled him to one side and advised it was better to wait for all verdicts before he spoke out. To some it would have looked cowardly but in the long term it would have created an air of professionalism lacking in Downing Street in recent weeks.

And on the EU, Cameron is a hopeless diplomat, emboldened by his one triumph of getting the UK's contribution to the bloated organisation reduced, the PM tried a Thatcherite approach on Friday.

The difference is most of the EU leaders were scared stiff of Maggie, with Cameron they point and laugh and gently remind him he has to face his voters next year.

Truth be told the EU values our opinion about as much as I care for salad, Merkel and co will only listen if the PM returns to Brussels next June/July with a parliamentary majority and they no an in/out EU referendum is very much possible.

The PM thinks this tough talking on Europe wins votes, it does but only if you succeed. Failure's like yesterday only help Farage and UKIP hoover up more Tory votes.

Honestly, Cameron is a very good Prime Minister but when he loses next year it won't be because Labour won, it will be because he lost by making too many mistakes.

By May 2015, David Cameron might not only have lost the unlosable election of 2010 but he might lose his job to a gentleman not many people actually want to see in Number 10.

No tears for troubled Cook and ECB

READING Kevin Pietersen’s column in the Telegraph this morning, you ask yourself why he is not still part of the English cricket team.

Here is a man forced out of his role in the team not because of injury, loss of form or suspension but simply for being ‘not the right sort’ wanted in the new Team England.

Yet the article lays bare everything wrong with the current set up and actually, considering how disgracefully he was disposed with, he is quite supportive of Cook.

For those who think it’s a smear against the current set up, ask yourself this: why does Pietersen say ‘the same old negative stuff’? He recognises the efforts to move on from the Flower/Fletcher regime.

Cook’s captaincy is criticised but even then Pietersen attempts to be supportive when he says he can understand the reasons for the tactics to Matthews.

But he does hit the nail on the head when he suggests some of the senior players are struggling to offer leadership in the dressing room.

Because that is the biggest problem facing English cricket, Pietersen was willing to criticise the leadership on tour and was ostracised for it.

When it was all going wrong for England on Monday at Headingley, how many times did you see senior pros in Cook’s ear suggesting something different? Not many I fancy.

In keeping his job after a 5-0 whitewash, getting rid of Pietersen and being described as the ‘right sort of person’ to lea England, Cook has created a climate of fear.

People like Broad and Anderson probably don’t want to speak out now for fear of losing their England careers – if it happened to KP it can happen to them.

There is a climate now where you cannot criticise Cook, see his comments about ‘something needing to be done’ about Shane Warne.

The Aussie’s comments are strong yes but I am sure he said far worse from 22 yards away when trying to get a batsman out!

Yet there seems to be no one in Cook’s ear saying, sod the critics, shut them up by going out and getting a bucket load of runs.

Because in this situation of Cook’s and the ECB’s making, the criticism will only get louder and louder while the captain can’t get a run and England don’t win cricket games.

I think it’s already too late though, Cook looks finished and should England lose the test, ODI and t20 series against India he should go.

If he stays he might have to answer more criticism when KP bares all in October…..

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Suarez is an idiot

LUIS Suarez is an idiot

A FANTASTIC footballer who is lethal in front of goal yet he goes and does VERY stupid things.

To bite someone once is unfortunate, twice stupid and three times well just pain moronic.

Surely someone somewhere can say to this grown man that the time for biting was when he was a toddler and not a global football star.

There can be no excuse, the defender was pushing and pulling me? Newsflash Luis, that is what they do.

You have a god given talent, if a defender wants to get physical then embarrass him by sticking him on his backside and scoring a brilliant goal.

Don't start eating him! The ban imposed by FIFA is a farce as he can be transferred and he will be on a beach for at least three weeks before the punishment really takes effect.

The shocking stat for me is since 2010 Luis Suarez has been banned for 34 GAMES without picking up a red card.

Football needs Luis Suarez to sort himself out before he is remembered for the bad not the good.

And to be honest, the next time he does it, he might lose some of those teeth if a defender decides to chin him!


Monday, 23 June 2014

A hidden jewel in the Welsh countryside

After a couple of lazy days on holiday we enjoyed visits to Newtown, to Machynlleth and to a lovely nature sanctuary down the road from there.

Run by the RSPB, the Cors Dyfi nature project is home to the famous Ospreys Monty and Glesni who return each spring to mate and bring new life into the world.

Live web cams greet you in the reception to watch Glesni take care of her chicks who had hatched just day before our visit.

And the highlight is the walk through the reserve, where you can catch a glimpse of a water buffalo and other wildlife.

The wonderful 360 degree observatory is a sight to behold though (pictured) and allows for fabulous views of the Welsh countryside.





 
Perfect for adults and a great chance to educate youngsters about the natural world, the centre exists on donations alone. It's a wonderful day out with just a suggested donation of £2.50 per day.

Find out more about it using the links below, we enjoyed it immensely and hopefully baby Jacob will be going back when he is with us!

Friday, 20 June 2014

Why it's not the end of the World for England

WE are out of the World Cup football is not coming home once again but sadly England are after their final group game with Costa Rica on Tuesday.

Inevitably it took less than 10 minutes before the post-mortem began, we have held so many now you think we would prepare them in advance.

‘We should have picked Terry’, ‘Ashley Cole should have gone’, ‘It’s all Roy Hodgson’s fault’ and ‘They don’t seem to care’ are just some of the comments I have seen.

Yet no one seems have to have noticed we have lost narrowly to the teams ranked seventh (Uruguay) and ninth (Italy) in the FIFA rankings – England are tenth by the way.

The truth of the matter is against Italy, a cavalier England were ruthlessly exposed down one side by a nation which makes a living on the tactical side of the game.

And against Uruguay, the South Americans had two shots on target and scored with both, England had several and scored with one. It twas always thus in football…

You have to wonder how the game would have panned out had Godin been shown a second yellow card for his arm/slap on Daniel Sturridge after the blatant handball.

That is not an excuse, watch the game again and see how many times Godin is involved in defensive situations.

Defensively, England have been dreadful in this tournament and rightly punished but going forward the team have a youthful zest and vigour not seen for a long while.

And I don’t remember Roy Hodgson ever saying we would win the World Cup, nor any of the players for that matter so let’s nail some of these criticisms of Hodgson and the team.

‘We should have picked Terry, he’s a leader’ – John Terry voluntarily gave up the chance to represent his country and anyone watching the Premier League this year will know that against pacey strikers he was often found wanting.

‘Ashley Cole should have gone’ – Ashley Cole couldn’t get into a Chelsea team which nearly won the Premier League this year so why should he start as first choice left back for the national team?

‘It’s all Roy Hodgson’s fault’ – After every major tournament we call for youth and a new approach, Roy did just that after Euro 2012 and slowly introduced the likes of Shaw, Sterling, Lallana and Berkley. Yet now he stands accused of doing too much too soon and ignoring experience at his peril.

No wonder we label it the ‘hardest job in the country’ because he cannot win whatever he does.

Hodgson remains the best man for the job, a coach who has travelled the world and knows more about the world game than any other ‘English’ coach.

Perhaps if we as a nation stop calling the bloated, arrogant and money laden Premier League ‘the best in the world’ and realise we have no god given right to win anything then the work of getting back to the top can truly begin.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Farewell Paxo and thanks for the memories

JEREMY Paxman was one of the journalists on television that made me want to seek a career in the industry.

Tonight he took his leave of Newsnight and journalism is somewhat lesser for his departure.

Love him or despise him, no British television journalist could interview like Paxo.

Fools weren't suffered gladly, politicians were yanked 'off message' and crooks and liars were exposed.

Not many came out of a Paxman interview without a scar or several, careers were often broken at his hands.

Michael Howard was leader of the Conservative Party and one election away from becoming PM. Yet mention his name to 100 people and I would wager at least half remember the 'Did you threaten to overrule him' interview...

Type George Galloway and Paxman into YouTube for one of the best two minute of television you will see...

His capacity to eviscerate is legendary, some may say bullying but it was always in pursuit of the truth and holding politicians to account.

In closing this I wanted to make some pithy remark which of course he would have hated.

Instead I found a tweet from the wonderful broadcaster Alastair Stewart who said: "Thanks Paxo. When interested, focused & on form, never equalled. When bored & doubtful of some items, he spoke for many of us."

And the man himself in a Channel 4 interview explained his 'modus operandi' 

"Find things out, inform people and let them make their own judgement." 

Enough said!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

'Spirit of Cricket' is the real villain, not Sri Lanka

There has been plenty of debate about the 'run-out' of Jos Buttler in yesterday's ODI at Edgbaston with everyone from former England captains to Piers Morgan having their say.

But England are victims of their own stupidity and both teams are the victim of the airy-fairy 'Spirit of Cricket' which leaves the potential for conflict like we saw yesterday evening.

In no other sport are the laws of the game left open to interpretation like cricket.

Sri Lanka gave a batsman two warnings, he did it again and rightfully they appealed, as per the laws of the game.

Having had two warnings, Jos Buttler ought to have boxed clever and ensured it didn't happen again.

But we then had the farcical situation of umpire Michael Gough having to speak to Angelo Matthews asking
him if he wanted to uphold an appeal despite the dismissal being within the laws of the game!.

Matthews made a choice to uphold it, just as Stuart Broad chose to stand there when he was clearly caught at first slip in the first Ashes Test last Summer.

Broad had to live with the choice as will Matthews who can probably expect a lot of angry English fast bowlers in the two test matches which follow.

But the fact the teams are in this position is a farce, the Spirit of Cricket needs to be radically altered and spelt out to teams – my suggestion would be play hard, play fair and play within the laws of the game.

Broad doesn't walk 'It's against the Spirit of Cricket', Sri Lanka 'Mankad' Buttler 'It's against the Spirit of Cricket'...

The MCC and ICC need to man up and decide just what is and is not in the laws of the game and not continue with this farcical 'oh it is in the laws but dear boy it's not cricket' rubbish.

Otherwise it won't be too long before all this crops up again!

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Labour won on Thursday, just not well enough

Reading the newspapers and watching the news since Thursday, you would have been forgiven for thinking UKIP had broken all kinds of political records and the Conservatives had made gain after gain.

I’m afraid the truth for the likes of the Murdoch media and those who resent Ed Miliband is Labour won, well in some areas but failed to really go big in others.
The analogy I draw is Labour scored a century on a flat batting wicket but were bowled for 102 when a double hundred could and should have been possible.

But the headlines since Friday morning are frankly bizarre, Labour’s ‘nightmare night’ (they gained 300+ seats) and UKIP’s ‘earthquake’ (gained 150 seats and NO councils).
Those pale in comparison to the analysis offered which says UKIP will deny Labour election victory and will ‘eat into Labour’s core vote’.

Early on Thursday evening, Sunderland was used as the example of how Labour’s core vote was drifting to UKIP. That’s an area where, when all was said and done, Labour recorded 47 per cent of the vote….
The TRUTH is the UKIP threat is very real, very evident but it will impact on Labour AND the Conservatives.

Take a look at Essex on Thursday and Friday, many seats where David Cameron normally doesn’t need to worry about the Tory vote.
By 9am on Friday, Basildon’s Conservative leader had gone claiming his Prime Minister ‘didn’t get it’.

Both Labour and Conservatives need more seats to form a Government next year, but if there core vote is being taken by UKIP, a hung parliament again should be a very real possibility.
That’s why Labour’s performance should not be dismissed, the party gained councils in Croydon, Crawley, Redbridge and Cambridge and virtually wiped out any opposition in Islington and Manchester.

Yes not enough to win power, but a clear sign the party is recovering votes, look at the areas where Labour topped the poll, if this translates next year then Ed Miliband is Prime Minister.
The biggest anomaly at the moment is how will UKIP do next year, all the statistics suggest a good local and Euro performance is usually watered down come General Election.

Britain entered the unknown in 2010, no opinion poll can tell you the result of 2015, but one thing is sure, it’s better to be winning and topping the poll than struggling in second….

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

RIP Stephen, thank you for the memories

IN LIFE we have always needed people willing to go the extra mile, to wonder what is over the horizon and, most importantly, to make a difference.

Had we not had people like that, humans would still be stuck in caves - Stephen Sutton was one who made a difference.

At 19 and having being diagnosed with terminal cancer, it would have been very easy for him to lash out at the unfairness of such a horrid illness, go 'off the rails' and spend his final weeks and months fighting the injustice of it all.

I dare say there was probably anger within him that his journey in life would not reach many more stations on the route, it would be natural.

But Stephen chose to fight in one of the most unique, beautiful and memorable ways I can think of, he chose to raise cash for the Teenage Cancer Trust to help teens long after he had passed on.

It was an ambitious target of £1million.......no-one got the memo saying ambitious though and his fight and spirit and overall outlook saw Stephen raise in excess of £3MILLION!

Throughout he was both funny, engaging and at times brutally honest about cancer, all of which made people like me want to hear more.

I hope Stephen's efforts will of course lead us closer to ridding the world of this brutal illness or at least slow it down to keep loved ones with us much longer

But Stephen should be a role model for younger people, make a difference and life your lives to the fullest.

Too often young people are demonised by society when in truth there are many who are making a difference from a young age.

To Stephen's parents, family and friends I send my heartfelt condolences. I hope in time once this pain has lessened, the memories of a fantastic person will sustain you in your darkest memories.

RIP Stephen, you may only have been here for a relatively short time but the world was a better place for you being in it

Monday, 12 May 2014

Blue Moon rises to see off the Reds revival

So there you are, the end to yet another Premier League season, Manchester City triumph, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Everton and Spurs are booking the plane tickets for a Euro excursion while the trapdoor closed on the heads of Cardiff, Fulham and Norwich.

It's been an enthralling, captivating, surprising and dramatic season in the top flight, Manchester United's manager didn't get the six years he was promised and Crystal Palace and Sunderland went from doomed to mid-table comfort.

It was the year of the sack as everyone seemed to change their manager - some did well (Crystal Palace) while others left it too late (Norwich) or changed too many times (Fulham).

Ultimately it was a season where the best team overall won the top trophy. Manchester City have been consistent, threatening and capable of stunning runs of form and deserve their honour.

A lot was made about Pellegrini when he arrived, particularly he had not won the league and 'blew £200million' at Real Madrid to finish second to Barcelona.

The fact that Barca won the title that year with a RECORD La Liga points total seemed not to concern the scribes and opinion makers.....

The Chilean has united a squad full of egos and honed them into a potent outfit, a team capable of going even further next season. It's a season though where Yaya Toure and Aguero must have competent understudies as both world class players have been playing through the pain at times this year.

As for Liverpool, this season has not been a 'failure' despite what Alan Hansen said. Ask any Liverpool fan if going from seventh to second and within two points of a title is failure and I suspect you might get a rather sarcastic response!

Liverpool's only mistake this season was naiveity - Brendan Rodgers told his team to go for it against Chelsea when he should have played tactically, got a point and moved on.

But Liverpool's approach was understandable, they thrashed Everton 4-0, Arsenal 5-1 and beat Man City 3-2 by 'going for it' so why change?

Perhaps if the same happened next year, we may see a new more cautious Liverpool but if I was an Anfield regular I wouldn't be sad at the conclusion, I would be looking ahead to next season.

It's been a season to remember again, congratulations to Manchester City!

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Snooker needs a rest...day

I HAVE to say, I'm really enjoying the dafabet World Snooker Championships this year.

Wonderfully entertaining and engrossing, the snooker has kept my attention these last few nights. 

However, I can't help thinking snooker is missing a trick with regards the gruelling and at times, unfair, schedule.

Ronnie O'Sullivan finished his semi-final on Friday night after demolishing Barry Hawkins. The pair had the afternoon session on Saturday but it wasn't needed.

Meanwhile. Mark Selby had a fight to the death semi final with Neil Robertson which ended after 10pm on Saturday night.

After speaking to the BBC and the written media, Selby probably didn't leave until almost midnight.

So at 2.30pm on Sunday, O'Sullivan was without question was more fresher than Selby.

Is that right for the final of a sporting showcase? For me no. Both finalists ought to start equal in score and energy levels.

Barry Hearn has made many improvements in recent years to attract viewers and sponsors. So why not try a rest day?

Have the semi finals both reach a conclusion on a Friday leaving both finalists a clear day to rest and prepare to ensure the final is won by talent alone.

While the professionals rest, a Peoples Saturday could be held with exhibition matches and a celebration of snooker.

So when the final starts on the Sunday, both players are in the best condition and the Crucible crowd can settle down for a classic 

No other sport has such a tight schedule before its final. Surely snooker fans would consider a break of a different kind?

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Senna

20 years ago I cried, cried tears for a man I never knew, spoke to or had even seen in the flesh.

I cried when Ayrton Senna lost his life behind the wheel of a Formula One car, a car which he was particularly adept at driving fast while handling it with a silky smooth touch.

I was 12 years old, I knew of Niki Lauda’s accident, of Jim Clark’s death and had seen some big accidents, but the drivers always bounced up and out.

When Roland Ratzenberger lost his life the day before, my 12 yr old brain was sad yes but knew the drivers, led by Senna would pay him a fitting tribute the following day. How wrong was I?

May 1, 1994 was when us youngsters fully understood the danger of F1 and our fathers and grandfathers looked on knowingly, they’d been there.

In the era before Breaking News took hold, I remember the BBC coverage of the San Marino grand prix, the excited and irrepressible Murray Walker and the safe hands of Steve Rider.

Both knew Senna, to hear Murray’s voice go from his fizzy pop ‘anything can happen’ bounce to a slow, morose and at times emotional tone fully conveyed this wasn’t just a run of the mill accident.

And Rider went from the host back to a news journalist, conveying what was known and not speculation.

All of the time there was still, farcically a grand prix taking place! I can’t remember who won the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix and maybe no one else can either.

20 years on and F1 is more safer and no fan young or old has had to revisit that day, Schumacher had a huge accident at Silverstone in 1999 and only had a broken leg.

Cars go upside down, tyres puncture at high speeds, accidents still happen but this generation still go home at the end of the race.

Senna’s legacy is the fact that all F1 drivers still step into those machines, still go for that overtake, still push for that vital hundredth of a second off their lap time.

They do so with the fear, the fear it could be the last time they do, only when the fear becomes too much is it time to hang up the helmet

That’s something Ayrton Senna never got the chance to do. Thank you for the memories Ayrton, may you continue to rest in peace

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Applaud Alves, he's made the racists look like morons

I HAVE heard and read an awful lot about Dani Alves since Sunday night when he ate a banana.

Nothing wrong with that you might think, except he (a mixed race gentleman) ate it after it was thrown at him by a moronic waste of oxygen called a Villareal fan.

I won't insult anyone's intelligence by explaining why this is a hateful gesture but the column inches and debate since then has been staggering.

Many footballers and people in public life have eaten the yellow fruit to show their support, instead for the rich levels of potassium!

But some, ironically including anti racism campaigners, have said tougher actions should have been taken and the incident reinforced the problem of racism.

Rubbish! Dani Alves made the idiot who threw the banana look like a complete moron, if we as society make people who do things like this look stupid they will stop doing it.

No one wants to look like a tool on a public stage! If you feel the need to point out someone is different because of the colour of their skin, creed, sexuality or beliefs then I am sorry you are part of this progressive world.

To Dani and everyone else who has or is encountering racism, take them on with gestures not violence.

Whether its becoming President of the United States or eating a banana and then taking a corner kick, showing that vile insults won't stop you is the best way of getting back at the Neanderthals.

They'll die as morons, you might achieve everything you dreamed of!

Bravo Dani, bravo!

What happened to the ‘Happy One’?

When Jose Mourinho returned to Chelsea in the summer, he told the world he was now the ‘Happy One’ more than the self-proclaimed ‘Special One’.

It certainly seemed to be based on truth, hounded away from Madrid, not adored in Milan despite winning the Scudetto and a Champions League trophy – the Special One returned ‘home’.

But lately, the happy one is more ‘Mr Grumpy’ and it shows a side of Mourinho which has proven very unpalatable to many but overlooked by his many fans, including me.

When he arrived in England, I became a fan instantly – yes he was arrogant and cocky but my god did English football need someone like that!

Certain aspects such as his behaviour with Anders Frisk and Frank Rijkaard could be brushed to one side because he was good value and mostly charming.

But time in Milan and the frying pan which is life as a Real Madrid manager has made Jose bitter, angry and yes, a somewhat unpleasant man.

I stress, I am a fan, but in the last few weeks I think Mourinho has behaved pathetically and drew the wrong attention to himself and to Chelsea.

I normally back the British teams in Europe after Arsenal have been eliminated but tonight I could not wholly back Chelsea.

My opposition to a few players in the team is probably well-known but generally I did not want Mourinho to succeed tonight.

The exertion of pressure on referees, the bitter interviews, the search for malice in otherwise innocent questions in post-match interviews is frankly boring.

I hope Jose has a holiday this summer, I hope he shapes the Chelsea team to his way – at the moment he is dealing with a AVB, Rafa, Carlo Ancellotti hybrid of a team.

But I hope he remembers why he was so loved first time around and relaxes a little more next season and shows a little more respect to opposition managers.

Jose, this is not Madrid, our press pack are great fans of you, your supporters are totally behind you, let’s see the happy one next season hey?

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Newark – Farage’s great gamble?

Will he or won’t he? Will Nigel Farage stand and win the safe Conservative seat of Newark, give David Cameron a massive headache and rock British politics.

Or will he stand, lose and next year we will go back to talk about Labour, Conservative and the Liberal Democrats.
That’s the dilemma facing the UKIP leader tonight, stand and win and he grabs a paintbrush and to paint a new political picture from the UK.

Lose and we might all go, ‘well they aren’t up to much are they?’ – a huge bodyblow less than 12 months from the General Election.
Or to borrow from Blair, is there a third way? Could the party have Diane James line up for the seat, fresh from a very good performance in Eastleigh?

She is an incredibly articulate woman, a plain speaker and, unlike some, does not have any faux pas to hush up.
Farage could then take to the airwaves, explain he wants to focus on UKIP’s Euro election campaign and doesn’t want to be ‘part-time candidate’ and ‘the people of Newark deserve more’.

Unlike Eastleigh, Newark is safe Tory country giving UKIP a clear run at the Conservative vote, Farage can take the temperature of things are going because if she loses, well it was a 16,000 seat majority….

If she wins, Cameron gets a bloody nose and, allied to predicted poor Euro results, the Prime Minister could find himself distracted in the weeks ahead.
And wouldn’t Farage fancy a seat in the Home Counties anyway and the glory of beating the Conservatives on General Election night itself?

Saturday, 19 April 2014

The Moores has not made me merry

UNLIKE some of the media and certainly the ECB, I am not embracing Peter Moores and Alastair Cook ‘future of English cricket’ mantra.

Never before has a coach who was removed first time round been given the job for ‘a second go’, but then never before has a player been declared ‘unavailable for selection’ and not be injured, retired or banned.

This ‘future of English cricket’ mantra being spouted by Paul Downton, the new managing director of the ECB, is complete fallacy.

The new coach is someone sacked five years ago while the captain is still in position despite leading the team to a 5-0 whitewash in Australia.

Yet both have been paired together? It’s frankly bizarre and the ECB have effectively said Cook should be absolved of any blame when truth be told the buck should stop with him.

Moores also talked about being ‘open’ and ‘connecting’ with people, yet the moment KP came up it was clear there was no way back for England’s outcast.

My question is what has made ‘the outstanding coach of his generation’ suddenly attractive to an employer who jettisoned him five years ago?

The answer? He doesn’t like KP and fits the ECB anti KP mantra being spouted from every orifice, leaving facts behind.

So as a result we have a coach and captain who have blocked the route for KP to come back and already sent a message out that opinions and challenges to authority will not be welcome.

It’s a dangerous combination as in any team sport, not every member of a team will say yes, sir no,sir three bags full sir.

Is Wayne Rooney someone who comes in, does his job and goes home again? No he’ll speak out if things are going badly.

Look at cricket, were Gower, Boycott, Botham ‘easy to manage’? Of course not, but they were integrated into the overall set up to help win test matches.

This winter was not down to KP, it was done to a complete failure of the English cricket set up. From no one spotting how Trott was feeling, to the leadership on the field and to the atmosphere off it.

England didn’t lose 5-0 because they are a bad cricket team, they lost because  everything off the field was in near chaos.

Moores and Cook are the future? Don’t make me laugh!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Liverpool would be worthy champions

YESTERDAY's win for Liverpool against title rivals Man City propelled the Reds closer to their first title in 24 years.

The emotion at the end is understandable, there are many at Anfield who know how much a Premier League title is wanted.

And in this, the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy, a Liverpool title win would be especially poignant.

However you view it, and I have no interest in debating it, 96 football fans went to a football match and never came home. That is not a fate which should befall anyone.

At times yesterday it felt like Liverpool were accompanied by some higher power in their quest for victory.

But to simply suggest fate is on their side does Liverpool, the players and an exceptionally talented manager in Brendan Rodgers an injustice.

The team have come from nowhere to be one of, if not the favourites, for the title. If you had suggested that in August you could have been carted off to the nearest dark room!

Would they be worthy champions? Oh yes and I say that as an Arsenal fan!

Have they spent ridiculous amounts of cash to get where they are? No not in comparison to Man City and Chelsea

You barely see Rodgers annoy the FA or another manager like Mourinho is capable of or blame referee's like Pellegrini sometimes does.

Yes he slandered Lee Mason for his 'bias' but was soon more than repentant for what was a stupid comment.

Do they play nice football? Oh hell yes, the destruction metered out to the likes of Arsenal, Everton and Cardiff this year proves that.

Rodgers and his loyal on-field generals in Gerrard, Suarez and Sturridge are on the cusp of something very special.

I for one will be cheering them on to the title.


Friday, 11 April 2014

Javid promotion welcome but weakens PM

SO Sajid Javid is the new Culture, Media and Sport Secretary replacing Maria Miller.

On the surface it's a great move from the Prime Minister, David Cameron. A working class British Asian in a very high profile role.

Additionally Sajid is a great communicator, I should know as I spent two years covering his election and early days as Bromsgrove's MP.

It's at this point I will brag just a little, so impressed with his passion I predicted he would increase an already large majority...he did!

I have no doubt either that should the Conservatives lose the General Election next year, Sajid is an excellent 'outside bet' to become leader...

Whatever job he does he does well, a hard work ethic was driven into him by his father. I'm sure the same will apply to his culture brief .

However, I can't help but wonder if the PM has rather weakened his hand somewhat. 

The theme of next year's election will be the economy.

Given the Chancellor doesn't really devote that much time to the media, economic issues have often been left to Sajid to defend and defend well.

In a campaign where George Osborne will be managing election campaign as well as the economy, Sajid's absence could let Labour back on to the battlefield.

That remains to be seen though, congratulations to Sajid, good luck in your new role!

Do or die time

YES it's got that bad that a perfectly winnable FA Cup semi final against Wigan has got us Gooners nervous

Partly because of Wigan's rather good win over Man City but mostly because it's all gone rather wrong for the Arsenal.

Two months ago we were top of the league, motoring in the FA Cup and doing alright in the Champions League.

Then Arsenal went to Anfield and were demolished by a raging Red tidal wave...though let's not dwell on that hey?

Put simply Arsenal have to win tomorrow and probably the final to save this season. Failure and being beaten to fourth is too much to contemplate!

The record away against the top five this season is simply horrific and what's even more worrying is teams seem to know how to set up against Arsenal now.

Do you think Uwe Rosler's side will just 'have a go' or be set up to blunt Arsenal and then hurt them? (It's the second one...)

Wigan have nothing to lose and that makes them dangerous, remember Birmingham City???

Of course I think we will win, however should there be one more catastrophe round the corner then tomorrow could see the end of an era.

I have no doubt Arsene Wenger is stalling on the contract to see how the rest of the season goes.

Defeat tomorrow may just make his mind up for him....

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The countdown to Wrestlemania 30 is on

I THOUGHT I would blog about the WWE, stop reading now if you are going to say it's fake etc I know! It's a guilty pleasure of mine.

I haven't been a fan for a few months believing the WWE was losing focus and direction but my word are they bringing together the threads well.

Cena v Bray Wyatt is going to be my unexpected must see bout at Wrestlemania 30, I feared it would be dull, Cena gets beaten down and then comes back to win...

But the last few weeks has shown Cena is fantastic at bringing out the main event potential in Wyatt and really putting over the relatively young heel. Monday night on Raw was one of those iconic Raw moments we'll look back on for years.

Wyatt is a sensational heel, a hugely talented wrestler and with a huge push he could be a star for years to come.

Triple H v Daniel Bryan will be amazing, huge heel against massive good guy, will Bryan get his Wrestlemania moment? I would not be surprised if this becomes a brawl, Triple H will use all of his talent to make the crowd love Bryan more and more as the minutes go by. I wonder whether this would end up as a controversial finish and both will go forward to a four way match for the WWE title.

Those two against Randy Orton and Batista will be amazing, a huge brawl between he four best technical wrestlers in the company at this time. Who will win? I suspect it will be Bryan, the WWE have been ramping it up for months, like a bottle of fizzy pop you can only shake it for so long...

The Shield v Kane and the New Age Outlaws is going to be another epic, the technical brutality of the Shield is awesome, will Wrestlemania see the end of the Hounds of Justice though and a singles run for Roman Reigns?

Finally, Brock Lesnar v Undertaker, the Beast vs the Streak. This one has been a slow burner with many thinking it might be the turkey on the card. For me I think the build up is just right, WWE bookers have to take into account Undertaker's age and fitness so it's far better to under deliver in the build up and then over perform at Wrestlemania

Will the Beast claim the streak? Nope, expect some real hardcore wrestling but Taker to make it 22-0.

I'm paying for it again this year, a few weeks ago I wasn't going to! Let's see what happens

A mauling at the Bridge

A CATASTOPHE occurred at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, don't worry Mr Marriner I won't bring up your mistake!

No, what I mean is Arsenal got battered at the bridge, stamped on at Stamford Bridge, crushed 6-0 by Chelsea.

And Arsene didn't go and talk to the journalists afterwards! So the usual flurry of crisis columns were written and Twitter even went into meltdown over a baseless rumour which came out of Wenger cancelling his Monday press conference.

Certain Sun journalists went for the jugular over this, ignoring the fact the most-lauded manager in Premier League history, Sir Alex Ferguson, simply did not turn up for post match newspaper press conferences unless forced to.

Other 'experts' hailed it as the end of Arsenal's title hopes, the very same 'experts' who said they could not win it anyway!

Let's not beat around the bush, it was a rubbish result, a rubbish performance and a horrific scoreline. When you consider Arsenal have let in 34 goals this season, it's hugely worrying to know 17 of those have come in just THREE games.

Arsene and the squad need to reflect as they are all at fault, too many times this season they have failed to turn up on the big occasion, it's not solely down to the manager.

Many in the squad are not being pushed hard enough and are not pushing themselves hard enough, why for example is Vermaelen still captain when he has struggled to make the first XI this season?

The two things that do frighten me as a die-hard Gooner though is once Arsenal ship two in a big game they seem to be unable to stem the bleeding.

Secondly, for the first time in 17 years, Arsene looked out of ideas, frustrated again on the highest stage. How can a team that started so well against Bayern and drew in Munich fold so hopelessly?

The FA Cup now is pivotal to Arsenal's season, fail to win it this season might not only mean they will never win a trophy again but could see Arsene Wenger call it a day.

The man has never and will never break a contract but the fact his new deal remains unsigned suggests the Frenchman is considering whether to bring the curtain down on his reign.

A two-year-deal is reportedly being offered and I expect that to be Arsene's last contract as manager of Arsenal Football Club.

He clearly wants to leave his successor some transfer cash, talented players and success on the pitch.

Catastrophes like Saturday might end up pushing him towards the departure lounge sooner than he would like.

Monday, 17 March 2014

United’s time at the top is over…for now

Oh look everyone, another ‘crisis’ at Old Trafford, the end of an era, etc,etc,etc

United’s 3-0 defeat to Liverpool provoked the same sensational headlines we have been seeing for a few weeks now, ignoring the baton passing which took place.

Liverpool turned up at Old Trafford and fancied giving United a good kicking, which they swiftly did right where it hurt.

They are the ones heading for the top four while United will be reduced to pressing their noses against the Champions League window next season.

And yes, it is the end of an era, but that actually took place in May when Sir Alex Ferguson took his leave.

Now United players play without fear of Fergie and many have relaxed, comfortable with the titles they have collected.

The result? David Moyes has been left confused how a bunch of title winners now look, at times, like they couldn’t beat an egg.

Moyes needs to stamp his impression on the team but when so many are relaxed and with a defence which creaks more than the wobbliest of floorboards, it’s an impossible task.

That is not to say Moyes hasn’t made mistakes, buying Fellani to act as the ‘Here’s how we did it at Goodison’ guy doesn’t work in a dressing room full of Premier League champions.

And his sour disposition in recent weeks will help no-one, Fergie could battle the media because he had the comfort of many bits of silverware. Moyes has no such luxury.

But the time to judge Moyes is 12 months from now, after a whole summer with the chequebook, then and only then will it be his team.

Pick up any paper and they link United with Star A, B and C. Truth be told United need two full backs, two commanding centre backs and a ball winner for the midfield.

Do that and United’s spell out of the limelight might be as short as their odds of finishing out of the top four.

The biggest lesson from Sunday’s mauling surely came from the men from Anfield, ironically.

Liverpool are now on a charge under the stewardship of Brendan Rodgers, the sixth different manager to attempt to win a league title since the glory days of Dalglish….