England Find Secret Weapon

Those England cricketers who’d had the decency to see out the whole tour received a boost yesterday. Spied amongst the MCG crowd were some of the traveling supporters sporting new {and extremely reasonably priced) garb to cheer on their boys.

“Those shirts definitely made a difference to the way we played to” Said Alastair Cook, a part time estate agent from Rhyl (no relation).

Swanny fvcks off. New T-shirts arrive. England have best day of tour. Coincidence ? You be the judge. Shirts (available in the foyer and from all good stockists.)

photo 1

Captain Cooking

Hobart, Day 1: England 318-0 vrs Australia A (pronounced “Us-tral-ya Eh?”).
Cook & Carberry set the record for the “Highest 1st wicket Partnership by an England Pair against a Bowling attack Consisting entirely of Chuckers”.

Support your team. Loads of colours, sizes & designs on tees, polos and rugbys at www.genericlogocompany.co.uk


For We Are Young and Free

It’s been a rather enjoyable summer, all things being considered. If you happen to be a Pom, (which I am) and enjoy your sport (which I do) you find yourself in one of those periods in your life on which you will look back in years to come and wonder how the hell it all happened.

Of the three main sports worth talking about, The British Lions won the Rugby, GB & Europe hold the Ryder Cup, and England won the ashes before Alastair Cook had time to dust off his lucky Bobby Tambling jockstrap. In other fields, a Scotsman holds the Wimbledon Title for the first time since the Reformation, our naturalised Brits keep running, jumping and cycling faster than other counties’ naturalised citizens and, as yet, seem more adept at avoiding awkward questions about pills and blood transfusions than their fellow competitors.

This is all very odd indeed.

I am of an era where the word British was always preceded by “Plucky”, “Gallant” or “Useless”. There was a clear world order of things : 1) The British invented a sport. 2) The British got bored of playing amongst themselves, so took the game to the colonies. 3) The colonies (and anyone else who happened to be passing) beat the British.


A small boy asks for the autograph of the winner of the 1908 Reculver to Penge Bicycle Race.

And this was how it was since sport was invented. Americans held all the golf and the tennis titles (very occasionally helped by a German, Swede or Strine). The Aussies and W Indies were the best at cricket, New Zealanders won the Rugby. West German men dominated the football (mainly), East German Women triumphed at the swimming (manly) and everyone else won Olympic Gold at our expense (the exception being Moscow 1980 when no-one else turned up). 

Oh yes, of course, there were always exceptions which proved the rule. Occasionally you’d get a Daley Thompson or an Ian Botham who’d become world-beaters, but on the whole we were useless. Our coaches were useless, our stadia crap and all our sportsmen and athletes went to college in Florida because over there they had real grass and something called sunshine.

Leaving us with Torvill & Dean.


Mr & Mrs Jagger of Dartford, Kent, thoroughly enjoying themselves at a cricket match at The Oval, London 1972. Australia won by 5 wickets. Again.

Somehow this all changed. Somewhere between Shane Gould and Rebecca Adlington, between Mal Meninga and Johnny Wilkinson, since Rod Laver and just before Jock McSour, the British began to win things. Some genius in Westminster had the brain wave of giving money to each individual sporting organisations in the country for coaches, equipment and facilities. Invest in the country’s youth and watch it flourish.

Bugger me it works !

Of course, not all sporting bodies in the country got with the program. Some, like the FA and Football Premiership, reasoned that if we could attract enough mercenary and racist show ponies to our leagues, pay them so much money that, at the first flash of an agent’s instep, they’d drop you for another club. Only by playing against and alongside these players will our own boys improve and therefore, so the argument goes, will the National side improve and become World Cup Winners.

How’s that working out for you ?

But putting soccer to one side (putting it to sleep would be more humane) it does seem like something has worked. Our South Africans bat longer, run faster and cycle further between ‘comfort breaks’ than their South Africans; Our golfers (men and women) regularly pop across the pond to nick their silverwear; the Spirit of Seb Coe is still in the ascendency (in all parts of the land apart from my house) as young men and women who have benefited from our own little version of the GDR approach, run jump and swim faster, higher and longer than anyone else (well more than they used to anyway).

Most gratifying, of course is that this:


has become this:


It’s not just money that has caused this turnaround in fortunes, it is of course the attitudes of the Powers at Be. It’s the sudden (!) realisation that sport is great for the young, the soul of youth, and the heart of a nation. Winning is not everything, but is great for the spirit, and allows people like Cameron and Blair to use words like Feel Good Factor, and to jump on that bandwagon, drenching themselves and their political parties in the sweat and toil of others. (The reader will please note that during an Ashes Series, of course, winning is everything— but you get my drift). If school headmasters since Tom Brown’s days realised the importance of sport, why did it take until 1990 for any British Government ?

So as a finale to my summer there could have been no better received call last night than that from an old pal of mine who announced that unfortunately he’d had some people let him down, and he was stuck with two seats for the first day of the Fifth Test at The Oval today. “Would you and the missus like to go?” he asked, hopefully.  Being a good friend, I couldn’t see the poor man left with extra seats to fill. I threw my spirally cap and monocle into the ring.

Therefore this morning like Mick and Bianca before us (though hopefully slightly better-attired) The Incumbent and I shall take our places in the OCS stand for the first day of what promises to be a five-day-long party. Being 3-0 up already it will seem very odd that there is nothing to play for. CORRECTION:  there often used to be nothing to play for by the time we reached the Oval, but because the Aussies had already won the series. The boot with the big toe poking through the hole is definitely on the other foot this morning.

I don’t expect it to be a packed house. I’m looking forward to many a Strine Whine of “Oh look, anyone want 8 spare tickets ?” as I emerge from the Oval tube this morning. Memories of the vast expanses of empty seats at the MCG and SGC from 2009 tell us that your Aussie doesn’t turn up to see a losing side. He’ll have to get use to it. We did for years.

The English have included in their squad 2 relative unknowns — presumably to give them experience of carrying drinks out to the middle. The Aussie, bless them, have included 8 unknowns in their side — although 7 of these have already played 4 tests this summer. The ACB are busy trawling the practice nets and academies of Papua New Guinea, searching for more leg spinners and opening bats before their government pours them back into the sea. Let’s all hope that works out for them (the ACB, that is, not the government: The Government can go fvck itself).

World cricket is poorer for a weak Australian team.

Albeit funnier.


Enough with the Soccer Already

They say that every time an accountant is born, an angel dies. Or something like that. Well I’d like to add to and improve that well-worn phrase. How about “Every time the Football Season starts before the end of the cricket season or most people have taken their summer holidays, a puppy loses its ears”? Ok, it may be not quite as sweet or catchy as the original, but you get my meaning.

The People's Game returns

Ahhhh….The People’s Game returns

Yes, unbelievably (although someone writes this every year) the cries of “onmeeadsun” and “backdoorbackdoor” could be heard throughout the land this weekend, and not just from the open windows at Catholic Church Boys homes. The minor English divisions took to the field/pitch, whatever they call it on Planet Sky TV this season, and play was resumed as usual. Charlton Athletic lost, as usual, and youngsters in English streets had a kickabout inbetween cars and fell over for no apparent reason, imitating their heroes.  Lads in Scotland, who were fortunate enough not to be in the charge of the local priest, played fitba in the park in the style of their own local heroes: ran around in front of three bored (yet aggressive) bigoted onlookers, had no proper goalies and all went into administration afterwards.

And yet up in the Third World, the Manchester Third Test is still grinding to a halt, as is cricket’s wont. There are still two huge matches to come in this current cricket season. There are still 11 days of Aussie whingeing, England cheating and Deaf Dumb & Blind umpiring (Jimmy: Sure Bowls a Mean Short Ball) but you’d get good odds on Roman Abramovich sacking this week’s manager down at Chelski before Alastair Cook has taken his pads off for the winter.

Reculver - Twinned with Syria's Homs

Reculver – Twinned with Syria’s Homs

The Incumbent and I have yet to take ourself away on our our annual family summer trip to Reculver, and yet the pies and bovril are being re-heated at football grounds all over the country and I’ve yet to oil myself up and squeeze my slight frame into the newly-purchased 38″ Union Jack speedos (Matalan, 3 pairs for a fiver!).

I know it’s a plea that will fall on deaf eyes, a request which, like my application to be the new Dr Who, will remain ignored until Gallifrey freezes over, but is there any way that fitba, football, or even soccer can remain a winter pastime, so the rest of us can enjoy uninterrupted coverage of the Test Match series, the Croquet Season and our buckets & spades, at least until late September ?

No, I thought there wasn’t.

Born to Run

03_03_2000 - 19.11.29 -  - Loneliness_of_long_distance

So there’s this bloke.

I see him most mornings on my way to work. I alight from the train, walk out of the station, and within about 100 yards I see him, running in the opposite direction, presumably for the train. He’s about 35 years old, 5’6”, maybe 5’7”, wears a single-breasted charcoal grey suit, either a schoolboy-blue or light grey shirt, those spongy-souled, mock-hushpuppy shoes which should never be worn with a whistle, and has his iPod plugged into each ear.

He often sports the look of a worried man, and he is always running. Running, not in a jogging lycra-nazi, a fitness fanatic or a health-freak kinda way, but running in a fashion which would be familiar to Jerry Lewis fans everywhere, and of a man who is late for an appointment. I reckon I see him at least three or four times-a-week, depending on which train I catch, and he’s always somewhere between a fast jog and a slow sprint. Some evenings when I’m making the return journey, I see him running in the other direction. Presumably he’s late getting home too.

Each time he passes me I try to catch his eye with a nod, or a polite grin but he’s too immersed in himself and his troubles to take any notice. His eyes are firmly fixed on the pavement about 4 ft in front of him, presumably for fear of falling or tripping. In a flash of flailing elbows and ankles he’s gone, off to catch whatever it is he’s late for. He must humm a bit when he gets to work every morning. I hope they have showers at his office.

Roman Polanski has done his fair bit of running over the years, from the Nazis and from the Law, mainly, but now it seems he’s jogging days may be over. There’s been a lot of hurrumphing over his apprehension by Knacker auf Der Garten in Switzerland over the weekend, and I feel I may have missed a bit of the story somewhere. As I understand it, 30-odd years ago he was in a hot-tub in Jack Nicholson’s house with a 13 yr-old girl during a booze and drugs-fuelled party. Somehow, Roman has sex with the girl, it goes to court and he denies rape. Eventually he admits to consensual sex with a minor and is charged. Before he’s sentenced he does a runner to Europe, where he’s been ever since. Now Pc Trott has slapped the cuffs on him and our diminutive director may have to return to the States to face the music.

14_05_1997 - 05.37.06 -  - FRANCE_FILM_FESTIVAL

“Shame, Shame!” I hear you cry. “The poor man’s been through a lot. Mother killed by the Nazis, father in Aushwitz, girlfriend murdered by Charles Manson– hasn’t he gone through enough??” Well no-one would say that was the stuff of an Enid Blyton book, but he did have sex with a 13 year old, albeit 35 years ago, and doesn’t that merit some sort of punishment? “But wait! He’s a genius. He directed Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown, to name but two. His contribution to the Arts must count for something ?” Nope. Not round here, mate.

Mr Paul Gadd has had his request to go on holiday to France refused by the authorities. Paul is a well-known kiddie-fiddler and the powers-at-be are concerned that once in France, he’ll hop over the border the Spain, where I’m told the age of consent is, coincidentally, 13. When Paul had a pop career and went by the name of Gary Glitter, he gave literally some people enormous pleasure with his glam rock numbers. Several no.1s and a great line in Christmas retro concerts endeared him to many, right up until the time that he was exposed as having a serious interest in child porn. Gadd fled the tabloid press (and presumably hopefully, UK sex laws) to South East Asia. Sadly for him, a few years later a court in Vietnam charged him and convicted him with a number of obscene acts with minors. Should this bloke go free because of I love You Love Me Love or The Leader of Gang? I’m sure that there are many who had his picture on the wall of their bedroom throughout the 70’s, and think of the pleasure he brought to so many of the years. Tough.

You can’t blame him for trying to slip through the net from France to Spain though. It’s not the worst getaway plan I’ve heard of this week. Take the two brothers, Wayne and James Snell, who meticulously planned a bank robbery to such fine detail that all went swimmingly well. Sadly for the Brothers Dimm, they used James own BMW as a getaway car. The number plate? J4 MES. Only 78 passers-by remembered the car with the personalised plate parked outside the bank that day, which quickly led Knacker to the brothers’ flat where they were pinched, sitting beside a pile of readdies. Not quite the perfect crime.

Running, clearly, isn’t as easy as we’d like to think. Take poor old Graeme Smith, captain of the South African cricket team. Last night, his team were engaged in a rather entertaining little match against the Bastard English when, 3/4s of the way though the match, Mr Smith went down in cramp spasms. He does this a lot, his career has been dogged by cramp. He’s a big old lump, and probably not what other sportsmen might deem an athlete. Some might say he doesn’t take very good care of his body, given that a lot of cricket is played in sweltering conditions, inducing players to sweat gallons. Clearly incapacitated by cramps in his legs, Smith asked the England Captain, Andrew Strauss for a “runner”. Under the laws of the game, an opposition captain can grant a batsman a “runner” if that player has injured himself during the match, and so is unable to run between the wickets. It’s the sort of sporting behaviour which cricket in general, and us English in particular, are known for. Strauss refused (he was born in South Africa), Smith fumed, then hobbled up-and-down a bit and lost his wicket. England won, which is much more important than playing fair.

CRICKET England 41

It reminded me of a match a long time ago between Sri Lanka and Australia. The Sri Lankan skipper, Arjuna Ranatunga was fat. Fat and sweaty. A man who wasn’t built for running, especially in hot weather. He was built for eating, however he was still a rather good batsmen. During this particular match, Ranatnga had been batting for a long time, but was tiring visibly, and sweating audibly. So he decided to try a ploy that had worked for him before. He announced to the umpire that he had “sprained something” and requested a runner. The umpire turned to the Australia captain, Ian Healy, to ask if that was ok by him. “No it ain’t! ” exlcaimed the Aussie. “You don’t get a runner for being a fat c*nt”.

The prosecution rests.


He Just Couldn’t Quite Get His Leg Over

I can’t better this today. Graeme Swann rules.

From The Times September 24, 2009

India coach encourages sex before matches.
Richard Hobson, Deputy Cricket Correspondent, Johannesburg

It used to be said that sexual intercourse close to a sporting event sapped energy. But India’s players have been advised otherwise in a confidential document written by their coach that effectively tells them to boost their performances on the field by hopping into action off it.

The four-part paper written by Gary Kirsten, who has helped India to become the leading one-day side in the world, became the talk of the Champions Trophy yesterday as a taboo subject was thrust into the open. The relevant chapter is headlined “Does sex increase performance?” and the answer is explicit: “Yes it does, so go ahead and indulge.”

Kirsten’s reasoning is that sex increases levels of testosterone, which leads to greater strength, aggression and competitiveness. “Conversely, not having sex for a period of a few months causes a significant drop in testosterone levels in both males and females, with the corresponding passiveness and decrease in aggression,” he writes.

Andrew Strauss, the England captain, was caught unawares when an Indian television reporter asked him directly about “sexual practices” within the squad. “I don’t think it has come up in any of our dossiers ever,” Strauss, oblivious to his own double entendre, said. “I am not sure it is likely to either.”

Graeme Swann described the idea of more sex as “the kind of forward thinking the game needs”. The England bowler said: “I assume he [Kirsten] does not mean within the team. Wives and partners must be involved. If they [the ICC] want to make the game more exciting, fly in the wives and girlfriends or other parties to improve the standard of cricket.”

Mike Hussey, the Australia batsman, was more rueful. “I have been away from home for four months so I reckon I’ve forgotten how to do it,” he said. Hussey may, then, be interested in the part of the document that reads: “If you want sex but do not have someone to share it with, one option is to go solo whilst imagining you have a partner, or a few partners, who are as beautiful as you wish to imagine. No pillow talk and no hugging required. Just roll over and go to sleep.”

Advice is also that enforced celibacy affects performance. “You may experience that your mind spends more time focusing on the fire in your groin than on good sport practice, preparation and sleep,” the dossier says.

Dispersed to all 15 members of the squad, it quotes Tim Noakes, a professor and sports scientist at the University of Cape Town, as saying: “Sex was not a problem, but being up till 2am, probably having a few drinks at a bar while trying to pick someone up, on the eve of a game, almost always was.”

And it seems like the perfect opportunity to listen to this again: