Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Football Flunkies

And the dust has settled on England's ignominious exit from the European Championships – just in time for them to be drawn against Croatia again in the forthcoming World Cup campaign.

Just excellent!

My abiding memory of the match last week was right at the end. As a dejected, and shortly to be unemployed, Steve McClaren walked towards the tunnel, the camera followed him and then swung around to show the England substitutes coming down from the stand to commiserate with their defeated colleagues.

There was John Terry, first choice centre-back along with his friend, and co-centre-back, Rio Ferdinand nicely wrapped up against the cold. They were injured. So, apparently was most of the first choice team. Poor McClaren must have thought the entire, proverbial latrine composed of layers of compressed and fired clay had fallen on top of him - to have lost – and to have lost because almost his entire first-choice team was unavailable.

Has anyone noticed these players made a swift recovery and were playing for their clubs within a week?

The club v. country argument is the crux of this failure. McClaren couldn't say so and jeopardise his massive payout from the FA, but he must have thought it. As long as England allow the clubs to manage their best players they will never manage to qualify for anything.

Rocket science it ain't!

Imagine this scenario – McClaren takes his players for training three weeks before the crunch match. This does not, of course, guarantee that no-one will be injured in training, but it does, at least, give him a fighting chance!

Makes sense? Good, but it is unlikely ever to happen. As long as the Premier League run English football they will put their interests first. Don't forget it was the FA, who supposedly are in charge, who allowed the Premier League to break away from the rest of football in the first place! Shame on them for abrogating their responsibility. Now, they are stuck – they can neither influence significantly the monster they have allowed in their midst nor get rid of it. They are doomed to institutionally facile snipings around the edges whist the clubs merrily do whatever suits them best.

Since most of the successful managers, Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal, are all foreigners, what makes anyone think they will spend time and effort insuring that their England players remain injury free and match ready for the important occasions!

It's insane.

For all we know, Abraovich's puppet at Chelsea might be told to declare key players unfit so Russia has a better chance to qualify. Did it happen? Who know, but it can't be ruled out!!

Mr Barwick may entice another manager – but unless the FA really want to take control of English football, nothing will change,

Blogged with Flock

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Drop your tomahawk

Looking at my recent record in predicting the fortunes of the Kansas City Chiefs, readers can be forgiven for ignoring the rest of this article.

Actually, if anyone is still reading, my record is worse than abysmal – particularly when predicting the outcome of games against tomorrow's opponents, the Indianapolis Colts.

This season I have been particularly upbeat. Back in October I waxed lyrical about the talents of our new wide receiver, Dwayne Bowe. I explained that with his pass-catching ability to contend with opponents would not be able to load the box to stop the run and, therefore, Larry Johnson would find running room and the Chiefs passing attack would be revitalised.

Some of this has happened!

Young Mr Bowe is leading the rookie wide receivers in the NFL. Whilst he is not putting up planetary-orbiting numbers, he is certainly providing the deep threat I was so enthusiastic about. He is progressing very nicely.

I confidently predicted that the Chief's defence would be much better. Lot's of quality players had been recruited through the draft and free agency. With an adequate defence the Chiefs would be a real threat and a shoo-in for the play-offs.

The defence is better. In fact, it is actually quite good. Stats don't tell the whole story, but there is no arguing with the fact that opponents are not scoring at a great rate. The Chiefs defence, once the notoriously “Red Sieve”, has firmed up to become more than adequate.

So, Mr Clever-Clogs (I can hear you screaming), kindly explain how the Chiefs reach this point of the season with a 4-5 record and find themselves with an away game at the Colts this week to try to get the season back on track.

Fair enough.

I'll give it a try.

1) Quarterback. The Chiefs don't have one. It was obvious in the pre-season that Coach Herm Edwards wanted to trade Trent Green and install young Brodie Croyle as his number one guy. He managed to unload Green to Miami (where Trent promptly received a career-ending re-occurrence of a smash to the head – which goes to show how dangerous this game can be and how smart Edwards was to unsentimentally unload Green); but, despite his best efforts, he could not convince even himself to install Croyle as number one. The job went to Damon Huard who has just been benched and Croyle will take over. This is nine weeks too late. Coach Edwards should have started the season with Brodie and said, in effect, we'll lose some with this guy now – but later on he'll get us to the playoffs. Now young Croyle has no chance. He may get murdered by the Colts defence and face crucial games against San Diego and Denver with zero confidence. Coach got this one wrong. Big time.
2) Running back. Chiefs are now down to one. The Priest Holmes pre-season saga was as interesting as it was educational. Priest, a franchise running back, was forced to (in effect) try out for the team and he made it. Just when Chiefs fans were mopping up the little bit of mouth-watering dribble that was on their chins, ecstatic at the prospect of Holmes and Larry Johnson teaming up in the back-field and terrorising the opponents' defence; Johnson gets injured, is out for some time and Priest is left on his own to carry the load with an offensive scheme that is tailored for another, very different, type of running back. What was one of the real strengths of the team has disappeared. Chiefs can't run the ball effectively. Ergo – young Brodie, barring a miracle, will have to throw. Unless the running backs produce, Croyle may spend the afternoon picking nylon threads (the RCA Dome in Indianapolis is an artificial surface) from his teeth and wishing Larry Johnson were healthy.
3) Offensive line. Gone south. Or, at least, so far over the hill that they are three blocks south of the line of scrimmage. This is really disheartening and disappointing. Chiefs have had outstanding offensive linemen for a decade. They have protected the QB when there was functionally no running threat. They have opened holes for (first) Holmes and (later) Johnson to post big numbers from the running back slot. Now, seemingly, it is all gone. It's a balancing act – coaching and finding the right players, but the Chiefs have spent so much time, effort and money on improving the defence and the receivers somebody forgot that without an O-line you are not going very far in the NFL. This will take some time to fix.

That just about sums it up. In these three vital area, the Chiefs are well-short of either expectations or predictions.

It is just possible that the Chiefs will win this week in Indianapolis. Unless someone is giving you say 10-1 or a 20 point spread, I wouldn't bet on it.

With the season half-gone the Chiefs are just about half-crocked. As Shakespeare said, “If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Get your Christmas drink in - now!!

Gordo's after your wallet again!

Yesterday's news was dominated by the concerns expressed about binge drinking and the effects it is having on the nation's health.

Health chiefs are queueing up to recount the dangers of binge drinking among the young. The Centre for Public Health at John Moores University surveyed young people and found that they regularly “pre-loaded” up on drink at home before spending the rest of the evening necking pints.

Professor Mark Bellis concludes that while city centre pubs and clubs are making efforts to control binge drinking – nothing is being done to reduce the sales in off-licences and supermarkets. This, he contends, is the real problem. Drinkers are already pickled before they embark on an evening out. He points to the “ridiculously cheap” price of alcohol in supermarkets as the prime cause of drunks populating our city centres in the evening.

I say: hang on to your wallets! A big rise in the duty on alcohol is right over the horizon.

The logic is not hard to follow. Good Old Gordo has just about sucked the life out of the duty on petrol and diesel. There is no room for manoeuvre on income tax or national insurance. The economy is slowing and house prices (chief arbiter of the nation's feel-good factor) are falling. (It's enough to drive anyone to the bottle!) To cap his day, England are about the be knocked out of the European Cup before they even get there – and by Abramovic's Russia no less!

It's not a good time to be PM. You can almost visualise the scenario where Gordo quits and begs Tony to come back and fact the music – the music for which he wrote the notes!

So, searching for some way to balance (only figuratively) the books, GOG needs a scapegoat. Cheap booze for the masses may be it. At least, he thinks so.

Wait a minute! Isn't this the bean-counter who has kept the duty on booze below inflation for the last ten years? Isn't, then, GOG the one to blame if booze is too cheap and fuelling a “let's get it down our necks fast” culture!

Answer? Yes!

Best case – in the next budget the duty on alcohol will be raised substantially. Worse case – GOG will find a way to raise the duty now – before the Christmas rush so he can really rake in the cash!

Remember, you heard it here first.

I wonder if it's possible to bet on an above-inflation rise in the duty on beer, wine and spirits in the next budget?

Can't stop, bit short of readies, must get down to William Hills before it closes – there is some easy money to be made if they will take the bet.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Fourth Estate


Continual amazement best describes the press statements “released” by members of victims' families.

I just don't understand.

In this troubled world, a world of 24 hour news coverage populated by the inane and inept reporters such coverage engenders, I simply cannot understand the statements attributed to the families of the victims of tragedies.

Imagine – if you can – the scenario. A member of your family (heaven forbid!) is the victim of an accident/terrible crime. The press turn up on your door. They ask for a statement. What do you say?

I know what you don't say: no-one ever says, “He was a pain in the bum, and we are glad he's gone”. Fair enough. You wouldn't expect anyone to say this, even if it were true. You'd be amazed if anyone did say they were totally nonplussed by the absence of a loved-one. It just isn't an appropriate response.

So, why bother to ask?

Does the family's “eulogy” actually add anything to the story? Is the coverage worthy of a Bafta just for doing the asking? Do the viewers really need to see the auntie/uncle/family friend spouting the same shock/horror/amazement in order to be able to empathise with the family? I think not.

So, why is it done?

It must be simply to pander to the prurient interest of the masses.

Part of what makes us human is our unique ability to empathise with others of our species. We, alone in the animal world (seemingly), are able to imagine what others of our kind are doing, suffering and thinking. Therefore, we can imagine how someone else is feeling. Most animals can not do this.

For example, on the African plain, when the lions have managed to snare a zebra after a long chase, the rest of the zebra herd never, ever stop running and imagine what it feels like to have your leg bitten off by a lion. We would and we do. It's part of what makes us what we are.

So, the viewers are imagining how they might feel if a member of their family or friends were a victim. They don't need someone to tell them how to feel. It comes natural. The rest is just superfluous.

I almost feel sorry for the reporters who have to ask these silly, insensitive questions.

Blogged with Flock

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Moore Steaks Seared

Sicko Slams the NHS

Michael Moore is rarely out of the news. His particular brand of docu-drama has a following, not just in North America, but around the English-speaking world. He does what he does very well.

He has turned his own particular brand of hostile indignation on the American system of healthcare. His film is called Sicko and he has made more than a few this side of the pond feel a little sicko at his thesis. He contends that the European system of publicly-funded heathcare is so rosy and so superior no-one but a fool could stop himself from copying it. He may be right, but he also may be being economical with the truth.

Writing in the Sunday Times, columnist Minette Marrin is scathing about Moore's methods in painting such a gloriously white picture of the N.H.S. She rightly points out that there are big problems in the National Health and the tons of money thrown at it by Messrs Blair and Brown have hardly produced a system worthy of unreserved envy.

She's missed the point.

Michael Moore is not producing a critique of the NHS, he's proposing improvements in the American healthcare system. He is wondering why some system of publicly financed healthcare would not better than the shambolic, wasteful and expensive system Americans are saddled with at present. This is the criterion upon which his work should be judged – not whether the NHS is all-delightful, all-delicious, all-conquering and all-munificent. Obviously it is not. Equally it is manifestly better than what's on offer in most other countries.

It's not surprising that American politicians are not queueing up to adopt an NHS-type solution to America's healthcare problems. Assuming they speak to their UK counter-parts they must know that the real down-side to the NHS runs deeper than concerns about day-to-day running difficulties (GP's inflated salaries, wards infected with C. dificile and MRSA, nurses leaving faster than they can be trained, crazy bureaucratic decisions that compromise patient care – to mention just a few). No. The real problem with the NHS is that politicians are seen to be responsible for the healthcare of the nation.

Any American politician wanting to commit suicide, please form an orderly queue.

For; if the USA were to adopt any version of a national health service, the blame for every mistake, every short-coming, every poor clinical judgement would move miraculously from the doctors to the politicians. That's the NHS.

Michael Moore's particular talent is unashamedly finding those parts of American society that need improvement and ruthlessly exposing them. He's probably not the person to put in charge of fixing anything. He's not a very good analyst. He sometimes pretends to have all the answers when he doesn't.

That doesn't mean his ideas are dishonest or naïve. It just means that he is making documentaries and not policy.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Benefiting from a bouncing, dead cat

What a difference a few weeks makes! Watched Norwich City against QPR on TV a few weeks ago and they were beyond awful. Since then they have dispensed with a manager, been criticised by all and sundry, lost a few more games and generally brought the fans to the brink of complete apprehension.

Imagine the trepidation they must have felt when faced with the Old Farm Derby on Sunday against Ipswich! At least they got a new manager, Mr Glen Roeder – lately of West Ham, Newcastle and who knows where else.

Even a dead cat will bounce.

Certainly in the first half they played better and should have scored. Predictably, they found themselves 2 down instead.

Grim is not the word!

Two good goals saved them in the second half – and it could have been even better. With a little luck they could have easily won. Never mind, the local press is full of praise and full match reports if that is what you require.

Here we will discuss dead cats.

Or, dead ducks, if you prefer. Mr Peter (Gruntie) Grant is the duck in question. There is no doubt that seeing the team's performance on Sunday must have made Gruntie throw up his roast beef and two veg! These were essentially the same players who couldn't kick a ball for him. They surrendered at every opportunity. They were dreadful, and worse.

How must he have felt when they came storming back to grab equalizing goals? Betrayed? Banjaxed? Bemused? Befuddled? Or, just plain buggered!

It is now clear where the blame should go for the perilous state of the team: right in Delia's meat pie. Will the board own up to having to it all wrong in the Gruntie era?

Not likely. They will do the usual. Sing the praises of the new manager and hope the fans will forget what a mess they have presided over.

Good luck to Mr Roeder. Hopefully he will do more than just benefit from the dead cat bounce. If so, it will be despite the mad management of the board.

Blogged with Flock