England’s New Dawn: Part 2

A few months back, reacting to Cappello’s departure, I triumphantly welcomed England’s new era. Under Harry, England could chop out the dead wood and take a new, young, exciting squad to the Euros – where they could play a new brand of stylish football, under light pressure and with limited expectation…

I could not have been more naive and wholeheartedly wrong.

In actuality we have hired a dull, average manager, who in turn has picked the tired, uninspiring ‘same old’ squad… same OLD squad.

‘The Ox’ apart, Roy has wheeled out the same faces.

Germany in 2006 (and 2010) drew out a blueprint that England should have followed – take a risk in youth. Experience is over-rated, and let’s be honest, we have absolutely no experience of how to succeed at a major tournament anyway. The only hope we had was to fill the squad with exciting young players, with nothing to prove and with the freedom to play – just like those young German sides.

So what would I have done?

I would have welcomed England’s new dawn. I would have hacked up the old squad and started with a blank piece of paper. Rooney, Ashley Cole and Gerrard would have made it – but around them I would have built a fresh new side.

I would have axed Downing, Terry, Defoe, Walcott, Lescott, Milner, Lampard and Glenn Johnson and given new, exciting “in form” players a chance. Jagielka should not only be in the squad, he should probably start. And Micah Richards is just the kind of strong, direct versatile player we need.

And where are Aaron Lennon and Adam Johnson? Their speed, skill and direct running have already proved effective at international level. Daniel Sturridge is dangerous from the bench, and even Matt Etherington and Danny Graham excite me more than the average Downings and Milners of this World. It’s a pity two of our most exciting prospects, Kyle Walker and Jack Wilshere, are injured, but even without them we could have tried something new.

We have some good strong players, and in Hart, Cole, Parker, Gerrard and Rooney (after 2 games) we would have a core around which in-form young players could have expressed themselves and excelled!

If Downing and Milner start the first game, I am switching off. I’m bored of Roy already, and although he has lots of (average) experience – as I said earlier, experience is overrated anyway…

“…You can’t win anything with kids!”

Where Were You When You Were S***?

You always remember your first day at university.

I wasn’t particularly nervous. I had been living away at boarding school for a few years, so was already reasonably independent…and extremely confident. So I strode into my new halls of residence with my chest out and head up.

I was scanning everyone and was happily stunned by the array of attractive ladies (my boarding school had been an “all-male” affair). But despite the hoards of eye-catching blondes, as I walked into the JCR two individuals stood out and grabbed the attention.

And they weren’t women, far from it, they were big lads – northerners – dressed in full Manchester City kit – shirts, shorts, socks and boots!

It was a Sunday and these two second years had already settled into their seat to watch City’s first match of the season. I couldn’t resist, I grabbed a can of super-strength lager and sat down with them.

For the following two hours I was regaled with stories of City’s few highs and many lows. They were ‘proper’ fans, and they actually took pride in their teams heartache, failure and persecution. They weren’t envious of their neighbours ongoing success – quite the opposite – their teams struggles and failures drove their passion.

Looking back, I probably should have joined the elite set and charmed some of the gorgeous girls in the hall bar. Others judging me on that first afternoon would have formed an obvious first impression – beer swilling football thug (which wasn’t true, I was just too timid to step out of my comfort zone).

But until about 3 years ago, Steve and Tony were the only passionate Manchester City fans I have ever met. However, especially over the past three weeks, I have noticed something very strange happen. Facebook and Twitter seems to be awash with photos of people I have known for years proudly sporting their 2012 City shirts. They are even photos of babies decked out in mini strips and wrapped in scarfs.

In fact at least one of these ‘passionate fans’ was there that September afternoon in 1999… Sitting in the bar charming some of the aforementioned blondes!

On Sunday I wanted City to win the league, largely because I am getting bored of United’s dominance (& because you can’t help but enjoy a smug Ferguson squirm). But their hard earned title shouldn’t be for the old flirters, with their brand new City baby grows – it should be for fans like Stevey Hough (who 13 years later I did email to congratulate).

I really hope he got a ticket, or at least sat their last Sunday afternoon in his 1999 shirt, shorts, socks and boots…

Celebrities – Credit Where it’s Due

We all enjoy bemoaning celebrities.

The sordid world of super injunctions, loose morals and media manipulation fuels our anger towards these money-grabbing dark icons. Giant cars, flash parties, MTV cribs, rich lifestyles… Let’s be honest, we are all a little envious too!

Well last night I got a tiny taste of it all through an invite to the Stoke Park Classic Party.

If you’re unfamiliar with it, Stoke Park is a spectacular estate just outside the M25 – home to a beautiful golf course and a magnificent 19th Century hotel and spa. And yesterday it played host to the Stoke Park Classic Golf tournament, an invite only exclusive event. Although my invite didn’t extend to the tournament (which is a good thing considering my lack of golfing ability) I did manage to wangle a call up to the after party (thanks to the kind people at Jaguar – one of the major sponsors).

So suited up I found myself sipping cocktails, sharking canapés and rubbing shoulders with a host of celebrities from the world of sport and tv.

This story has a sub-plot and a very upsetting one. I work with a girl, an amazing girl, who has been locked in a battle against a very rare form of heart cancer – Jo is a determined fighter who will never give up. Although I don’t know her well (barely at all) her blog updates give everyone an insight into her unbelievable strength and personality. I’ll insert a link to her blog at the end of this update – it is inspirational.

A number of  her friends and my colleagues have been working hard to drive attention to her fight – and have managed to get a host of celebrities and public figures to show their support for Jo by simply agreeing to a picture holding a “Go JB” message. Through the power of blogging, twitter and facebook they then publicly showcase her incredibly brave battle.

I was with one of her close friends last night and had an opportunity to offer something to this. Together we roamed the room and meekly approached a few of the big names. Without fail they all quickly agreed and offered up a part of their appeal and popularity to help a girl they have never met. So DJ Spoony, Will Greenwood, Tim Lovejoy, John Regis, Dougray Scott, Ieuan Evans, Jamie & Louise Redknapp all posed with their “Go JB” placard.

What’s more they were all so approachable, amenable and much more normal than I could have ever imagined. They weren’t self-absorbed, prickly and ignorant – they were all warm and helpful. And Will has already retweeted his photo, pushing Jo’s message out to his 73,000 followers.

So let’s stop with the celeb bashing – yes there are some nasty feral celebrities, but then there are also plenty of rough immoral “regulars” too…

…and then there are some amazing people who we should all value and support! http://myacheybreakyheart.tumblr.com/

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Content with Popoularity

This afternoon I received an interesting comment on my last blog entry (see England’s New Dawn & the comment by descartes1).

Today in England Fabio and Harry have dominated every headline. But have the broadsheets, tabloids, broadcasters, tweeters and bloggers (myself included) been guilty of pedalling popularity over genuine news?

I’m a big fan of the BBC’s broad coverage of news and current affairs, but today they are certainly as guilty as anyone of promoting England’s search for a new national team coach at the expense of all other items. The dreadful footage of shelling in Syria has been bumped further and further down the agenda to make way for the inane opinions of average ex-footballers on England’s current management dilemma.

Don’t get me wrong, many people care passionately about Fabio’s successor, but at the same time most have absolutely no interest. This morning millions of people will have tuned in for their daily digest of relevant British and World events, but have been met with a gurning Garth Crooks lamenting our chances at Euro 2012. As a football fan myself even I am bored of this blanket coverage. I’m also genuinely interested in the Levenson Inquiry, The Bank of England’s interest rate announcement and the plight of innocent Syrian civilians, but they have been blacked out to make way for more football. So is this irresponsible journalism, celebrating uneducated popular culture?

This blog has helped me understand the reasoning behind the universal media’s decision. I try hard to be relevant, to vary my content and to at least push out a few credible posts each week – but when I do nobody reads them! They’re dull, pointless and void of controversy. However whenever I try and analyse the Six Nations, Redknapp’s accounts, or another woeful cricket performance people log on – they read, like and comment on every post in their hundreds. I can’t win – I have to either bow to popularity and keep writing about sport or persist with responsible blogging and write solely for myself…

And I only write a simple blog, I’m not trying to increase viewing figures, circulation or ad revenues!

So sorry, I will continue to analyse the popular headlines is a vain attempt to drive up my hits, and only occasionally slip in a relevant yet very boring update (just like this one).

England’s New Dawn?

So Fabio’s gone.

It’s difficult not to blog about this today. I have been saturated with news, reaction and detailed analysis of it since about 7pm last night. It’s the top twitter trend, the BBC’s headline piece and will no doubt be on the front page of every paper.

Did I like him? Not really. Yes, he had the best win percentage of any national manager and has only lost 6 games during his charge. He should have stirred pride and gratitude from the English public…but he didn’t.

The FA made a massive misjudgement when hiring Capello – he wasn’t the first foreign coach, but he was the first who couldn’t actually speak English. Fabio may have had a loveable personality and an eloquent way of communicating his passion for our national team, but we had no way of knowing this – as it was all lost in translation.

And this was also the root of the team’s disharmony. How could he motivate, or more importantly communicate complex tactics, through a combination of pidgin English and a translator? These are the two most important factors in managing a national side (who have a few weeks to grow team unity and an effective game plan). No – Fabio’s record was down to luck…he was lucky enough to preside over a good batch of English stars at the top of their game. He was always going to beat Slovenia when his line-up included Terry, Cole, Rooney, Gerrard and Lampard.

So what next? Redknapp got slice of luck himself yesterday – not enough evidence to convict him over his dodgy dealings. He’s the favourite of the players, bookies and the public – in many ways it has to be ‘Arry or the FA will be fighting uphill again from the start of another reign.

But whoever gets the job, they are actually in an almost unique position for an England manager. The golden generation are no more – the stars of 2010 are largely past their best: Rio, Lampard and co. are struggling to even hold down a regular place with their clubs. Harry (we hope) will inherit limited expectation, a clean team slate, a major championship qualification, and a long list of potential new new stars (Wilshere, Sturridge, The Ox, Phil Jones etc.).

In fact Harry Redknapp could be the luckiest man in football – everything has slotted into place. And Fabio can now fully concentrate on his other commitments, like his role as a puppet on the Dolmio adverts…

Played by Hooligans…

How many times have I heard that old adage:

Rugby – played by hooligans, watched by gentleman
Football – played by gentleman, watched by hooligans

The problem is, as an English sports fan, the saying no longer holds true.

The first line probably still applies. The general rugby fan is reasonably wholesome, more interested in a family day out and a few warming pints than goading opposition supporters and storming local pubs. And the English rugby team certainly proved at the recent Rugby World Cup that they can still be classed as hooligans. Mike Tindall and co. managed to not only make fools of themselves (tossing dwarves and snogging locals), but they also let down the wider English public and even managed to embarrass the Royal Family. Well done Mike!

The major problem with the saying focuses on the football team. Yes the hooligans still rule the terraces (despite the best efforts of the family stand and numerous ‘kick it out’ initiatives), but unfortunately the same idiots now also perform on the pitch.

Almost all the current crop of big-name England internationals have at least one major front page headline to be proud of. Our (former) captain John Terry has a long list of misdemeanours, culminating in his current race row. But he’s not alone, Wayne Rooney has had a few Grandma prostitutes, Gerrard a few nightclub brawls, Ashley Cole managed to cheat on Cheryl, and Giggsy (yes I know he is Welsh) cheated on his wife with his brother’s…not exactly gentleman are they?!

And it gets worse – the current crop of sporting stars now have a new outlet, a new hi- tech opportunity to embarrass themselves and their clubs… their social network, and in particular their twitter accounts.

And who is the leader of the sporting digital generation? Joey Barton, a man who must never be referred to as a gent. Well done Joey, we know you once read an abridged copy of the sayings of Nietzsche and yes, your uncle is gay, but this does not make you any less of a dreadful thug. Joey’s list of bad boy antics make JT look like Mother Teresa – he once slapped a 15year old Everton fan, and even put out a cigar in a youth players eye! How can he be the twitter icon for the new generation? He should be in prison!

It seems us English sport fans have only one hope – our cricket team. Please don’t let us down Alastair, Andrew and Stuart, we need to cling to your clean cut image as long as we can…you are now our only remaining sporting gentleman.

Bald and Graceful

It’s bloody cold in London today. I am currently standing on the platform at North Sheen station, once again wishing I had worn some gloves. Gloves would seriously affect my ability to ‘iPad type’ but i think I should start making that small sacrifice.

But one important item of clothing I simply cannot live without is a hat. As a child I started collecting a bizarre array of headwear – and maybe I was somehow subconsciously stockpiling for an inevitable bare-headed future…

When I look back now the signs were there from an early age. My stylish undercut, centre-parting and curtains in the mid-nineties was always a little thin, but it was at university when the effects of my hereditary condition really started to take hold. My dad sports an impressive combover, and my maternal grandfather pulled off a classic ‘Bobby Charlton’ sweep – I had no chance. And I feel sorry for my little boy; no doubt he will share his family’s folic curse, in fact you can already see it in the hairline.

Aged 19 I was devastated – I was proud of my wolverine look, but it simply couldn’t last. I finally took the monumental decision to hack it all off, and have never looked back. Helped by a symmetrical head I have rocked the ‘Phil Mitchell’ look for ten years now – as a proud bald man.

So I was disheartened to see Wayne Rooney fight so hard against his retreating hairline – you will never catch me transplanting hair from my arse to my head. Although, if I did, I would bare a striking resemblance to Pat Sharpe from Funhouse…