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.

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Eating up the Real Estate


This just in:

NEW YORK – October 28, 2012 – NBCUniversal, via the NBC Sports Group, has acquired the exclusive U.S. media rights to the Premier League through a multi-year agreement that begins with the 2013-14 season, both parties announced today. Per the agreement, NBCUniversal becomes the exclusive English- and Spanish-language media rights holder to all 380 Premier League matches across all platforms and devices in the United States.

“The Barclays Premier League is the preeminent soccer league in the world, and is on the cusp of exponential popularity growth here in the U.S.,” said Mark Lazarus, Chairman, NBC Sports Group. “NBCU will provide the broadest programming and promotional commitment that the league has ever experienced here in the United States. The Premier League provides NBCU with best-in-class content for 10 months of the year across our far-reaching broadcast, cable and digital platforms. This is a perfect match.”

Ah yes, Mark Lazarus. I wondered if he’d be making a comeback.

Anywho, it always warms the cockles knowing that the round ball game is making yet another attempt to become popular in the States. The sport is currently played by about 73 billion girls but always seems to fall way short of becoming a mainstream attraction, when up against Pro Football, Hockey, Basketball, Mass Indiscriminate Shootings and Course Fishing. And talking of little girls playing the game, I did enjoy Fernando Torres’ contribution to competitive sport yesterday.

So let’s hope that NBC, taking over the coverage from Fox (bless ’em) can boost the ratings that at some stage down the line Yank soccer players become global names – just like Clint Dempsey isn’t and that ginger fella with the stupid ZZ Top beard wasn’t. However good or bad the NBC coverage is, they’d do well to top Mike Sweinberger and Randy Wakeman III, the masters of the onion bag chat.Tragic to report that these two guys are no longer on air, having themselves been dropped by Fox/Sky, yet David Pleat and Garth Crooks are still in gainful employment.

Whole lotta airtime on that soccer ball.

Woe is Me


Oh Dear, there does seem to be a lot of moaning about, doesn’t there ?

For starters, our footballers are getting upset because the country fell in love with our Olympic medallists but doesn’t show the same love and affection to our highly paid players of our national game. Apparently, we don’t show the soccer boys the same respect on or off the field as that which we offer the you people who enjoyed their ‘famous for 2 minutes, thirty-three seconds’ moment at Olympic Park.

The public, so the argument goes, showed empathy, sympathy and tenderness to these otherwise unknowns, most of whom had given up everything in their quest to earn a little bit of heavy metal, not to say a little piece of sporting history. We adored those who seem overcome with joy when they receive an award for coming third, yet we don’t display the same affection to our football-playing heroes. No, I can’t understand it either.

Unless…

…Unless it’s because we’re sick of the over-paid, sexist, racist, cheating, cuckolding, mercenary, diving ,falling, screaming, crying, stealing, drunk-driving, violent, bitter, niggly,(did I mention cheating ?) unsporting, pampered,self-centred, selfish, spoilt, spit-roasting, ungracious, disingenuous, stab-you-in-the-back-when-my-contract-finishes aresholes that they are.

Ahhh. That’s better.

Meanwhile, Sherlock Holmes‘ has the right ‘ump. Or at least the geezer who played him does. The actor Benedict Cumberbatch (now there’s an East-End name if I ever heard one) has said in interview that he is considering leaving the country because people keep accusing him of being posh. He only ever, apparently, lands posh roles. People seem to think he’s from the Upper Classes. Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch feels he has been mistreated and mis-pigeonholed as a toff. Heaven forfend.

In a world where people are losing jobs hand-over fist; in a country where the Government, the Banks, the Police force, the National Press and who know who else are being exposed daily as corrupt and fraudulent; in a world where 25 million kids are officially starving; does the fact that someone labels you as a ‘Posh Bloke’ really matter one jot ? Methinks he protest too much.

I’m sorry Benny (as I know he likes to be called – well it’s preferable to ‘Dict’) is a tad miffed at the suggestion that he was born with a silver salver in his mouth. His roles in the aforementioned Sherlock, the truly woeful War Horse and in Tinker Tailor… do tend to give the audience the impression that he is rather well-bred. Maybe he just affects speaking well, acts beautifully and is really the eldest son of Bob Hoskins and Katie Price ? I don’t really mind, and I suspect no-one gives a toss about where he comes from. He’s actually rather good at what he does, and most of us are fully aware that there are people among us who speak well and proper. We don’t care, do we ? (Fortunately for me I have never possessed an accent, posh or otherwise, at which anyone could pour scorn on).

So I looked him up on that wiki thing (no, not that one, the legal one). How impressed was I ?? Not only is his mum Wanda Ventham who, apart from being a 60s and 70s pin-up was in Carry On CleoCarry On Up the Khyber and was Cassandra’s Mum in Only Fools and Horses, but his dad played Colin Pillock in Reggie Perrin. What a pedigree !

L-R Benedict’s mum and dad: Colin Pillock and Wanda

Benedict: Do me a favour. Shut the fuck up and keep on acting and living over here. No-one loves a moaner, do they boys & girls ?

norfsarfADVERT

Time to Chuck in the Towel


It comes to all of us at the end. Whether it’s because the state tells you that you’re too old for employment, or when your body isn’t able to carry on – even when your mind thinks it can. Some of us are lucky enough to be in a job which allows us to choose the timing of our retirement. For most of us, the decision is out of our hands.

If you’re a journalist or even a photo editor, you can probably work until your eyes or your liver can take it no more. For some of us, the age of 46 is probably as good an age as any at which to retire; others will go on until they snuff it at their desks/the bar/toilet cubicle. Lots of us can’t wait to go, but there are those who wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if not go to work.

If you’re a high court judge you can go on and on until you’re deaf, frail and incontinent. Come to think of it I dunno why I don’t apply. Even politicians seem to go on for as long as they please, though if you stay on too long you risk become a figure of fun as did Michael Foot, Ted Kennedy, or Nicolas Sarkozy.

Boxers are often guilty of staying in the game past their sell-by date. Surrounded by spongers and yes-men, not enough are told not to fight again. Who’d ever tell Mike Tyson “don’t go into the ring again, Champ, or you’ll get a whopping” ? Not me, that’s for sure. Left with cowards and scroungers, Champ decides to have ‘one last fight’ and more often than not suffers the inevitable clobbering.

While we’re on sportsmen, there are those who have the foresight to plan ahead for that time when they no longer compete. Some become successful TV pundits:- John McEnroe, Richie Benaud, Gary Lineker or Michael Johnson spring to mind; Some become fvcking awful ones: Colin Montgomery, Michael Vaughan, Willie Carson. Then there are some who are so desperate to become TV stars they’ll appear on anything, anywhere to further their career: Tessa Sanderson, Matthew Pinsent, Kriss Akabusi but fail even to become children’s entertainers.

Some leave sport altogether and are quite happy to work in the real world, like one of my boyhood heroes, cricketer (and Ashes winner) Chris Old who works in Sainsbury’s supermarket. Not very glamorous but he’s happy.

For some, of course, the end doesn’t come when you want it to. One day, you’re part of office life, getting the tea for everyone and chipping into the Derby sweepstake, the next minute the guvnor calls you in and tells you that the Bell has Tolled for you. Yer outta here. You are surplus to requirements and you are to be replaced with a younger, sleeker (cheaper) version. It’s a horrible and humiliating way to go. And many can’t take it.

Rio Ferdinand is convinced he has still got what it takes to be an international footballer. His boss, or rather, his former boss, or rather the new bloke in the office who doesn’t want to be Rio’s boss disagrees. The new England manager didn’t pick Ferdinand for his squad to compete [sic] in the upcoming European Championship (singular: There is only one Championship being competed for and therefore is spelled Championship. Not Championships. Ok?)

I digress again.

So not only wasn’t he picked for the original squad, but when the bloke who’d replaced him in the team dropped out through injury Rio wasn’t picked then either. In fact it’s probably safe to say that if all 18 original players dropped out, having succumbed to a virulent strain of Green Monkeys Disease, Rio still wouldn’t get selected. He is not wanted. His time has come.

Rio is fuming, He thinks he should play. His agent thinks he should play (shock) and has told the world’s media (well, T’BBCSalford who are the only ones listening) that it’s a disgrace that his man has not been selected. At 34 years of age, Ferdinand knows this will be the last ChampionshiP he had a chance to be selected for. Whether it’s the pulling on of the England shirt again , running out onto the big stage for one last time, or falling asleep half way though the either half (it’d become his party trick), Rio wanted one last chance to show the world what he could do. Sadly, it was never to be.

A combination of his regular attacks of narcolepsy during corner kicks, and the fact that his playing partner is on a charge of racially abusing Rio’s brother means that manager Roy Hodgson was never gonna select both. When a sleepy black bloke is up against a violent, racist, white bloke it seems that whitey will win the day. Thank Allah that John Terry’s court case has been delayed until after the tournament, eh ? What a stroke of luck.

Whatever the reasons behind it, Rio has just got to get on with his young life, and find a new direction in which to channel his…er…talents. Cricketer and legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar has been sworn into the Indian Parliament, making him the first to enter parliament while still playing. Sachin is a humble, personable, brilliant sportsman, regarded as a God in his own country. Rio differs from Tendulkar in just four ways. Though all is not lost for Ferdinand in that respect. If the British Labour party can have Oona King, Diane Abbott and Paul Boateng as MPs, Rio may yet be able to find himself as the least self-serving and most appealing black representative the party has had for many a year.

So having said all that, who was it who couldn’t find it in themselves to gather Cliff Richard, Paul McCartney, Grace Jones and Shirley Bassey together and say “I’m sorry guys, but you can’t sing any more”? One suspects it should have been to Gary Barlow, but you can’t blame him for crumbling in the face of legends. I speak of, of course, of last night’s Jubilee bash. Possibly one of the most diverse concerts I have ever witnessed, both in content and quality. To hear Alfie Moon (no, neither had I before) and Willi.i.am (ditto) knock out a decent tune, only for the joyous atmosphere to be punctuated by the excruciating wailing of these four (and I’m being very kind to Elton John) aged, has-beens. 12 hours later, my toes have only just started uncurling after McCartney’s performance. One presumes he got the gig purely because Lennon and Harrison are dead, but that is surely no excuse for what he gave us last night. He sounded better at Live Aid – and his microphones failed on that occasion.

If Ringo isn’t busy flashing ‘V’ signs, perhaps he could climb off Barbara for a second and tell his old mate that enough is enough. Obviously the irony of Ringo criticising someone else’s musical talent won’t be lost, even on the purple-haired former unidexter-shagger, but someone’s gotta do it.

As for Cliff, Grace and Shirley: Surely they’re talented enough to realise how bad they have become ? Surely, Shirley. It was woeful. You have all been decent at what you do, but now you’re not. Honest. Cliff sounded like me, pissed in a bar on a mic at about 11.30, dancing on the bar and singing Old Shep. Shirley looked and sounded like me. And the hoola-hooping Grace Jones needs sectioning.

And finally, please don’t think this is age-based criticism. It’s talent-based. You had it once, now you haven’t. Simples. You only have to think back to Englebert last week. THAT’S how bad you lot were last night. Everyone’s different, with different bodies and talents. Tom Jones is very old (he knew Elvis, in case he hasn’t mentioned it) but he can still belt out a number like he could 40 years ago. He even remembered his Welsh accent, which some will find nice. So I’m afraid McCartney has got to be told that it’s all over. Although he might try to make the England squad. He’s got a better chance than Rio.

Jumpers for Goalposts


Ah, those were the days.  When we used to have a kick-about in the street outside my house, there would invariably be someone who wanted to be Peter Osgood, one who’d play as Peter Lorimer or Georgie Best or even  Derek Hales (well I had to look up to someone, didn’t I ? and I reckoned I was better than Killer was, anyway.) We didn’t have anyone who was hard enough to pretend to be Dave McKay.

Take a look at one of the great sports photos of the 70s. There’s old Dave about to throttle that little-shit-of-little-shits, Billy Bremner – no softie himself. But where Bremner – like  Ron Harris, Nobby Stiles and anyone who put a Leeds Utd shirt on – was a kind of slide-my-studs-down-your-calf-and-into-your-achilles-when-ref-isn’t-looking-sorta-bloke, Big Dave was a sort of snap both your shinbones in two if you try to get past me, in front of the ref, the linesmen, the opposition bench, the BBC TV camera and four JPs and still argue the toss that I played the ball first-sorta-bloke. A very very tough bloke. A great photo.

McKay is reported to be in poor health. It will be a shame to lose another character of my childhood. A reminder of when football was a contact sport, professional players could be built like Fannie Lee and still get picked for the side, and Alan Rough and Derek Hales were in gainful employment, somehow.

Wishing Dave McKay all the very best. Let’s hope the today’s millionaire show-ponies spend a little less time crying and rolling around on the grass this weekend. Big Dave would have given them something to cry about.

Foregone Conclusions.


It was a shock to wake up this morning (no changes there, then). No, I mean to say it was a shock to wake up this morning and discover Vlad the Putin had swept to an election victory in Russia, and once again the great man sits on the throne of the third biggest power in the world, after USA and FIFA. If only Barack Obama could be so sure of victory in this year’s election, but I guess there is no Jeb Obama resident in Florida who could steal the vote for him, so he’ll just have to trust  Minty Metro, the Republican Tool-of-Choice, to win it for him. Which he surely will ?

FIFA, of course have long-since had elections far more corrupt than that of either the Soviet Union or The Russian Federation, so we can expect Herr Blatter to remain in his position til he has accrued enough cash to be able to retire and hand over the reins to the Crook-in-Waiting, Michel Platini. Then, of course, we can all sit back and wait for Mad Michel to launch a series of decrees even more self-serving and dictatorial than his predecessor, Sepp the Swiss Soccer Swindler.

Who do I let these people get to me ?

Anyway, just to show that it’s not what you take out of life, it’s what you Putin, take a look on another on a theme. It’s quite fun, and includes a guest appearance from my old employer TIME, formerly of this parish.

Clement Atlee, Henry Cooper


The only time those two names will ever follow each other in a sentence.

Here’s another chance to hear the best bit of sports commentary ever, For those very few of you who haven’t heard this, treat yourself to a listen of a speech by Bjørge Lillelien, a commentator for the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation. His boys (the Norwegian football team) had just beaten the ‘mighty’ England in a world cup match in 1981. Purists will note that, since then, no-one in the world is remotely surprised when any team at any sport beats the mighty England team at any port whatsoever. And never will again.

But at the time our Bjørge got a little excited.

…and now back to you in the studio.

The Official Weedkiller of The England Football Team


Am I the only one not to have one ?

Driving around South-East London yesterday I became aware that I was sitting in the only car in a ten-mile radius not to have an English flag sticking out of it. World Cup fever has taken hold of the country, and in my little bit of it, there’s an epidemic of England soccer team-related merchandise threatening to turn every car,pub and terraced-house window into something which resembles BNP Headquarters.

As The Incumbent and I wandered around the supermarket yesterday it became more and more evident that, not only was the World Cup but two weeks away, but that we would be shirking our responsibilities by not purchasing some tacky item adorned with Cross of St George and therefore damaging our team’s chances of winning the whole bang shoot.

England Mars Bars, England CocaCola, England lager, England deckchairs, England flags, England cups, England mugs, England spoons, England dishwasher salt, England loft-lagging. I think it’s getting a little much, don’t you?

I like to think of myself as a patriot (though actually typing that feels strange) and proud of my country. Back in the 80s and early 90s I used to envy the Dutch, Scotch, Irish and the like who felt no embarrassment wearing their colours, donning the badge or flying the flag for their homeland. Us English had a problem with all that (at least us decent English did). Our flag had been stolen by the nazis.

The National Front, a collection of neo nazis, dullards and skinheads, had during the 70s somehow stolen our flag and national emblems. Back then, flying the English flag was tantamount to shouting Seig Heil and goosestepping down the high street. Euro 96 changed all that for good, thank goodness and since then English Football fans, the Barmy Army cricket followers and Shake ‘n’ Vac producers have been able to wear the colours with renewed pride and bandwagonjumpiness.

But why can’t we show a little class or decorum? There’s something rather elegant about the way a lone Stars n Stripes flutters outside American schoolhouses or government buildings. There’s nothing classy about two flags sticking out of your car, one plastered onto the bonnet, and your ugly fat missus having the Cross of St George plastered over her white, flabby back. Very sexy, I’m sure, love.

So we resisted the temptation to buy England flags, England shovels or England house insurance, much to the disappointment of the official check-out girl to the England Football Team. Money’s getting a little tight in Railway Cuttings and if I do have to sell up or rent out the place, I think I might improve my chances of getting a fair price by not putting a flashing “Come on Ingerland” sign in the window.

During the election I didn’t place a VOTE LABOUR poster in my widow either, for similar reasons but I kinda now wish I had. I take no great pleasure in seeing the fledgling QuisCon Coalition beginning to unravel….no, no who am I kidding? Of course I take great pleasure in it. Uncle Vince is looking as guilty as a puppy sitting next to a pile of poo, and he has the face of someone who deep inside is screaming “What have I done? What have I done?”. Suddenly all that Liberal support has disappeared like Saddam’s Republican Guard. Where did they bugger off too? There was Storming Gordon bracing himself for the mother of all fights, and when it came to it, it was all a mirage. Still, scheisters that they are, they ‘shocked’ everyone by getting into bed with the other lot, promising ‘new politics’ and a ‘new style of government’.

Well stone me ! You’ll never guess what ? One of our brave new leaders has been a naughty boy. David Laws has been up to the old tricks of paying loved ones for accommodation, and then claiming for it. No, no, no, Mr laws, that’s not right. That’s the sort of underhand behaviour which you and Nick the Rat (The London Olympic’s 3rd Mascot) were forever accusing the ‘old’ political parties of dealing in.

Take Him Down

What’s that? You were trying to keep your private life private? Oh ok: all in favour of that. I know it must be tough to be an MP and gay, or gay in any profession in this homophobic, bigoted country of ours. But, sorry, what’s that got to do with nicking £40,000 from the British taxpayer: to wit: me. Give me my money back and fuck off out of it. This has nothing to do with your sexual preferences, but everything to do with you being as bent as a nine-bob note, where the word ‘bent’ means crooked. You’ve been caught out having an extra-marital affair, and funding it with my cash. There are MPs on trial at the moment for their part in the expenses scandal (though we can’t read about them until the court orders are lifted) and YOU, Mr Outside-the-Laws can bleeding well line up behind them.

October 14th, mark my words: go down to Mr Coral and get yer money on the date for the next general election. This shower of shite will show themselves up to be what we all knew, as reliable as the England back four, as straight as a welsh put-in to the scrum, as trustworthy as Billy Bowden‘s light meter. Stay tuned for Cameron and Clegg poncing about in England shirts, playing keepy-uppy during PMQ’s. Meanwhile, I’m gonna start producing “BRING BACK GORDON” t-shirts.