Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year...

May I take the opportunity with this, my 191st - and last - post of 2008, to wish all of my readers (shouldn't take long!) and other occasional, or even accidental visitors to the Throne, a very Happy and prosperous New Year for 2009.

Thank you all for visiting and even more so to those of you who have been kind enough to leave me your comments - even the critical ones.

I hope to see you all again in 2009, or when I've sobered up, whichever is the sooner...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to one and all...

Well, all the shopping has been done, the tree has been trimmed and the relatives are arriving; so please allow me to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas.
I hope you all have an enjoyable day - I know I will!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Strictly compulsive viewing...

Well done to Tom Chambers who, together with his professional partner, Camilla Dallerup, has just been crowned Strictly Come Dancing champion for 2008.

It might be as camp as a row of pink tents, but I don't care; I thoroughly enjoy it and I have watched every single show avidly.

My personal favourite for the title (after Austin Healey was knocked out) was Rachel Stevens, who, over the course of the series developed into a quite superb dancer under the expert tutelage of her professional partner, Vincent Simone. But credit where credit is due; Tom and Camilla won the competition on the strength of a quite brilliantly choreographed and executed final 'show dance' which even blew the judges away.

Saturday evenings won't be quite the same now that the series has finished.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Reasons to be cheerful, part two...

Following up very briefly from my last post, last Friday's 'Christmas' drink with my pals went off without a hitch and much fun (and beer) was had by all.

And by way of a very welcome bonus, whilst wending our alcohol assisted way around Clitheroe town centre, I was delighted to see the Cross of St George flying from the castle flagpole, fully illuminated for all to see.

What's more, the flag of the English Nation (for such is what the CoSG is and what we English are) was still flying there at full mast on Sunday afternoon.

Proper order.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Jingle bells, jingle bells...

Well, it's coming up to that time of year again and I'm off out tonight (or should that be this afternoon, as we're meeting in the pub at 5.30!) with my pals for our (first) Christmas drink.

As you may have gathered, it promises to be a lengthy affair, with banter and mickey-taking aplenty.

As a result, postings may be a little thin on the ground for the rest of the weekend, as I work my way out of the doghouse with Mrs RToK...

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The hounding of Maria Gatland...

I don't imagine it will surprise anyone to learn that the Throne has nothing but contempt for the blood-soaked criminals of the IRA, but I have to say that this story about the 'unmasking' and subsequent hounding from office of Conservative councillor Maria Gatland, a former member of that organisation, leaves me feeling distinctly uneasy.

Mrs Gatland was born in Dublin and joined the IRA as an impressionable young woman, convinced of the legitimacy of their campaign to drive the British out of Ireland and thereafter to forge a thirty-two county Republic.

Yes, joining an organisation wedded to violent revolution - and make no bones about it, that is precisely what the IRA was - was incredibly foolish and arguably criminal, but at the time she did so, she was barely in to her twenties.

To her credit, she quickly realised the true, murderous nature of the organisation she had foolishly joined, when in July 1972 IRA bombers killed eleven people and injured scores more in a series of bombings in Belfast and as a consequence, she left the organisation which promptly sentenced her to death for doing so.

Understandably, she then fled Ireland and came to England, where within four years, she met and married her husband, with whom she built a new life, eventually becoming a Conservative councillor in Croydon in 2002 with the aim of 'putting something back into the community'.

In other words, having utterly rejected the murderous violence of the Provisional IRA at the cost of attracting a death sentence for doing so, she set about building a new and respectable life in England. A full thirty years after the scales fell from her youthful eyes, she sought and secured election to her local council in order to serve her community and make it a better place in which to live.

Whilst I appreciate that Mrs Gatland had been, by her own admission, a member of an organisation which was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of people and the torture of thousands more, both British and Irish, during the course of 'The Troubles' she had repudiated that membership within a very short period of time.

The question I pose is this; is there to be no rehabilitation, no possibility of redemption, for those like Maria Gatland (nee McGuire) who have realised the error of their ways and set about making amends?

Whatever anyone thinks about the IRA and those who were members of it, it took considerable courage - both moral and physical - for Maria Gatland to leave and condemn her former comrades for the callous murderers that they were, and in my view, thirty-six years down the line, she should be congratulated for that courage, not hounded from office amid a tidal wave of political point-scoring and nauseating righteous indignation.

A bit of trumpet blowing...

Back on October 15th I wrote this post, celebrating the fact that the Throne had received it's thousandth visitor.
In the same vein, I'm sure my regular reader will indulge me whilst I celebrate having received my thousandth visitor from this country alone, to say nothing of over two-hundred from America and just short of a hundred from Australia.
As I wrote in the October post, the figures may not be large by linked-blog standards, but they are both important and a source of some pride to me.
So once again, thank you all and please keep coming back!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Beyond parody...

It is widely recognised that there is no end to the inventiveness of defence lawyers as regards the arguments they are prepared to use to secure their client's acquittal, but this one from County Kerry must surely take the biscuit. Put briefly, two men were acquitted of drink driving offences, because it was shown that they may have inhaled alcohol fumes from their own urine at the police station, thereby affecting their blood-alcohol readings, whilst waiting to provide samples for analysis.

How long will it be before someone tries that one in an English court?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Kevin Myers on setting the Irish national agenda...

Another excellent piece from the Irish Independent's Kevin Myers, in which he asks why the vast majority of Irish people have allowed - and in some circumstances continue to allow - the tiny number of Republican extremists in their midst to set the Irish national agenda.

Please read it all, it is well worth doing so.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Today is Lancashire Day...

Today is Lancashire Day, marking the fact that precisely 713 years ago, the county sent its first representatives to parliament. To mark the occasion, the following proclamation was read out by town criers the length an breadth of the County Palatine:

To the people of the city and county of the Palatine of Lancaster. Greetings!

Know ye that this day, November 27th in the year of our Lord Two Thousand and eight, the 57th year of the reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Duke of Lancaster, is Lancashire Day.

Know ye also, and rejoice, that by virtue of Her Majesty's County Palatine of Lancaster, the citizens of the Hundreds of Lonsdale, North and South of the Sands, Amounderness, Leyland, Blackburn, Salford and West Derby are forever entitled to style themselves Lancastrians.

Throughout the County Palatine, from the Furness Fells to the River Mersey, from the Irish Sea to the Pennines, this day shall ever mark the peoples' pleasure in that excellent distinction - true Lancastrians, proud of the Red Rose and loyal to our Sovereign Duke.

God bless Lancashire and God save the Queen, Duke of Lancaster.

And as a proud and loyal Lancastrian, Amen to that, I say.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lance Corporal Frederick Pickup, 1891 - 1916

My mother's family hailed from Rishton, a small town of about seven-thousand souls, some four miles north-east of Blackburn. At the time of the 1901 census, my great-grandparents were living in the town with their son, Fred and their daughters, Clara and Kate - my grandmother.

Clara - my great aunt, and the only one of the three still alive when I was born - went on to marry a man named Frederick Pickup; and they set up home together in Harwood Road Rishton, no doubt entertaining hopes of a long and happy life together.

However, with the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Fred enlisted in the East Lancs Regiment and was despatched to France along with hundreds of other men from Rishton and the surrounding towns, to fight for his King and his country.

As I posted here this time last year, L/Cpl Pickup was killed, aged just 25, on 1st July 1916 - the first day of the Battle of the Somme - leaving Auntie Clara, as we always called her, a widow at 23 years of age.

It is due to men like Fred and countless thousands of others (including another 196 from Rishton alone) who gave their lives, not only during the Great War but in other wars and conflicts, that we can still (just about) call ourselves a free country.

And it is in memory of my great uncle Fred and his countless comrades who died in our name, that I will be wearing my poppy and maintaining a two minute silence tomorrow at 11.00am with a mixture of humility and pride.

I hope you see fit to do the same.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

He's done it!

Phew! Now that was close.

But Lewis Hamilton - an Englishman, of course - is the World Champion.

Congratulations, Lewis, your country is proud of you.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

St Crispin's Day...

I suppose the fact that today is St Crispin's Day gives added resonance to this story in today's Telegraph.

As I see it, it amounts to suggestions from revisionist (and mainly French) historians, that we English won the Battle of Agincourt, which was fought 593 years ago today, by committing what would now be considered war crimes.

My initial reaction would be to use one of my late father's favourite sayings, usually directed at me as I complained that my football team had somehow been cheated out of a deserved victory by some (allegedly) nefarious means...
"Look it up in the paper tomorrow, son; the result will still be the same."
That saying never ceased to frustrate me, mostly because I knew he was right.

But having given the matter further consideration, allow me instead by way of a response to turn to a famous passage from Henry V by William Shakespeare; arguably the greatest Englishman who ever lived, dealing with the thoughts of the English on the eve of the battle:


O that we now had here

But one ten thousand of those men in England

That do no work to-day!


What's he that wishes so?

My cousin Westmoreland?

No, my fair cousin; If we are mark'd to die, we are enow

To do our country loss; and if to live,

The fewer men, the greater share of honour.

God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.

By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,

Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;

It yearns me not if men my garments wear;

Such outward things dwell not in my desires.

But if it be a sin to covet honour,

I am the most offending soul alive.

No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.

God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour

As one man more methinks would share from me

For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,

That he which hath no stomach to this fight,

Let him depart; his passport shall be made,

And crowns for convoy put into his purse;

We would not die in that man's company

That fears his fellowship to die with us.

This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.

He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,

Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,

And rouse him at the name of Crispian.

He that shall live this day, and see old age,

Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,

And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,

And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'

Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,

But he'll remember, with advantages,

What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,

Familiar in his mouth as household words-

Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,

Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-

Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.

This story shall the good man teach his son;

And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remembered-

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition;

And gentlemen in England now-a-bed

Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Maintaining a strictly neutral and academic attitude towards this revisionist French nonsense I would comment thus: look the it up in the paper tomorrow morning, Frenchy; the result will still be the same!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A bit more stat pron...

My regular reader may recall that having put the flag counter on my blog in June, I allowed myself to entertain hopes of attracting a thousand visitors by Christmas.

I am very pleased to be able to report that the Throne recently streaked past that number more than ten weeks earlier than I had hoped.

My visitor numbers may not be large by linked-blog standards, but they are both important and a source of some pride to me.

So thank you all.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Should she stay or should she go...

There's an interesting story in some of today's Scottish papers, focussing on a suggestion made by Christine Grahame, the SNP MSP for the South of Scotland, that the remains of Mary Queen of Scots should be disinterred from their current resting place in Westminster Abbey and repatriated to Scotland.

She is supported in her view by a composer named James McMillan (of whom, I must confess, I have never heard) various historians and the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland.

What intrigues me is that Mary was so unpopular during her reign, punctuated as it was by at least one allegation of murder, that she was forced to abdicate in 1567, in favour of her then one-year-old son, James and flee to England to save her own life.

Unable to resist the usual attack on the perfidious English, Ms Grahame describes Mary as an iconic figure from Scottish history (no arguments so far) who was ultimately the victim of English plotting...

Err, no Christine, Mary was caught red handed plotting to overthrow Elizabeth and to seize the English throne and that is why a very, very reluctant Elizabeth had to order her execution.

Frankly, I have no strong feelings either way about Mary's final resting place. However, as all schoolboy historians now know, the infant son who succeeded her as James VI of Scotland subsequently inherited the throne of England on Elizabeth's death, becoming James VI and I and it was at his direction - the direction of (no pun intended) the last king of Scotland - that his mother's remains were interred in Westminster Abbey.

Perhaps he - her son - should have the final word as to where his mother's remains spend eternity.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

There's no pockets in shrouds...

I suppose that by now, virtually everyone in the Western world has had a bad experience with a call centre; I know I have. But the story I reproduce below, which there's no surprise for guessing originates in America, must just about take the biscuit.

A lady died this past January, and Citibank billed her for February and March for their annual service charges on her credit card, and added late fees and interest on the monthly charge. The balance had been $0.00 when she died, but was by now somewhere around $60.00.

A family member placed a call to Citibank. Here is the exchange:

Family Member: 'I am calling to tell you she died back in January.'

Citibank: 'The account was never closed and the late fees and charges still apply.'

Family Member: 'Maybe, you should turn it over to collections.'

Citibank: 'Since it is two months past due, it already has been.'

Family Member: 'So, what will they do when they find out she is dead?'

Citibank: 'Either report her account to frauds division or report her to the credit bureau, maybe both!'

Family Member: 'Do you think God will be mad at her?'

Citibank: 'Excuse me?'

Family Member: 'Did you just get what I was telling you - the part about her being dead?'

Citibank: 'Sir, you'll have to speak to my supervisor.' Supervisor gets on the phone:

Family Member: 'I'm calling to tell you, she died back in January with a $0 balance.'

Citibank: 'The account was never closed and late fees and charges still apply.'

Family Member: 'You mean you want to collect from her estate?'

Citibank: (Stammer) 'Are you her lawyer?'

Family Member: 'No, I'm her great nephew.' (Lawyer info was given)

Citibank: 'Could you fax us a certificate of death?'

Family Member: 'Sure.' (Fax number was given ) After they get the fax :

Citibank: 'Our system just isn't setup for death. I don't know what more I can do to help.'

Family Member: 'Well, if you figure it out, great! If not, you could just keep billing her. She won't care.'

Citibank: 'Well, the late fees and charges do still apply.'

Family Member: 'Would you like her new billing address?'

Citibank: 'That might help...'

Family Member: ' Odessa Memorial Cemetery , Highway 129, Plot Number 69.'

Citibank: 'Sir, that's a cemetery!'

Family Member: 'And what do you do with dead people on your planet?'

And you thought our call centres - or should that be Indian call centres - were bad!

Ps. The title of this post is a Lancastrianism roughly equating to "You can't take it with you."

Monday, September 29, 2008

That'll teach them...

A good mate sent me this recently by email. It made me smile so much, I thought it deserved a wider audience...

According to a news report, a certain private school in Taringa, New Zealand was recently faced with a unique problem.

A number of 12-year-old girls were beginning to use lipstick and would put it on in the bathroom. That was fine, but after they put on their lipstick they would press their lips to the mirror leaving dozens of little lip prints.

Every night the maintenance man would remove them and the next day the girls would put them back.

Finally the principal decided that something had to be done. She called all the girls to the bathroom and met them there with the maintenance man. She explained that all these lip prints were causing a major problem for the custodian who had to clean the mirrors every night.

To demonstrate how difficult it had been to clean the mirrors, she asked the maintenance man to show the girls how much effort was required.

He took out a long-handled squeegee, dipped it in the toilet, and cleaned the mirror with it.

Since then, there have been no lip prints on the mirror.

There are teachers... and then there are educators...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

FIFA: utterly spineless in the face of racism...

As I have written here before, the Throne will have no truck with racism or with racists, which is why I find the "punishment" meted out to the Croatian Football Association, following the abuse - consisting of monkey chants and the like - heaped on England's Emile Heskey during the recent international match at the Maksimir Stadium so depressingly inadequate.

The abuse Heskey endured was such that our FA made an official complaint about his treatment to FIFA, the world governing body for Association Football (or soccer for my North American visitors).

In announcing that it was fining the Croatian FA, a FIFA spokesman observed:

"Racism has no place in football. Fifa is determined to continue broadcasting this message around the globe and deploying all of the means at its disposal to eliminate this form of discrimination."

And in the next breath they revealed that the fine would be... £15,000. Yes, fifteen grand; about the same price as a new mid-range Ford Focus.

Pathetic enough, given the seriousness of the "Heskey" offence, but criminally inadequate when it is remembered that Croatian fans have something of a record in this area - they were fined a similarly trifling sum after their fans racially abused Turkish players during a match between the two countries at Euro 2008.

If FIFA was really determined to 'eliminate this form of discrimination', they should ensure that the sanctions for allowing behaviour of this sort to occur during international matches are far more severe.

My proposal would be that the first such offence should result in the offending national association being ordered to play all their home matches behind closed doors for the duration of an entire tournament, or a refusal to sell tickets to supporters of that country for the final stages of that competition. Moving on, a continued failure to learn he lesson would result in the deduction of of tournament qualifying points and finally, if the lesson has still not been learned, expulsion from international competitions, until the offending country's association could satisfy the rest of the civilised world that the problem had been permanently eradicated.

Somehow, I don't think fining repeat offenders fifteen grand is going to have the slightest effect on changing their fans' behaviour, because there is no incentive for the authorities in the nation in question to take the necessary steps ensure that it is.

Expelling them from international competitions and making them worldwide pariahs just might.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Excuses, excuses...

Sorry for the absence of posts for the last few days; I've been so monumentally busy at work that I have had little time for anything else, even at the weekend.

Fingers crossed I'll be posting normally again tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Pricing itself out of the game...

I can't say that this story surprised me at all, because as my regular reader will know, I am a keen football fan. I have been attending professional football matches since I was eleven and have held a season ticket at my local club since the 1974-75 season. Indeed, the purchase of that ticket formed part of my Christmas present for a number of years; which brings me to the point of this post.

Those early season tickets cost the princely sum of £10.00. Granted it was well over thirty years ago and was the ‘junior and senior citizen’ price, but it was well within the reach of most people.

My son is now sixteen and his ticket – amongst the cheapest in the country, I might add – cost me £180.00, with my own being considerably more expensive, but still, when compared to those issued by other clubs, very good value.

But over the course of the intervening thirty-three years, I began to notice that fewer and fewer people I had seen attending matches for years and years seemed to be there for the next one, or the next; and all those people had one thing in common: they were all clearly ‘working class’ men.

I’m afraid the reasons for the loss of those fans are easy to pinpoint: the emergence of the Premier League/ Premiership, with it’s ever increasing player salaries and wall-to-wall coverage on Sky Television.

The first of those things saw admission prices rise sharply over the course of a couple of years (to cover at least part of those swelling wages) and significant numbers of people could no longer afford to pay them.

Those rises have continued year after year to the effect that it is now commonplace to be charged £50.00 simply to purchase a ticket and it is frequently much more.

I don’t think you have to be a mathematician to work out that a family man on a take home wage of, say, £300.00 per week would have to think very hard as to whether he could afford to attend the match, particularly when it would be considerably cheaper, not to mention warmer and more comfortable, to simply stroll along to his local (if it hasn’t closed due to the punitive duties imposed by the Chancellor) and watch it on the big screen over a few pints.

I’m afraid that football has been busily alienating its natural constituency – the working class male – for fifteen or twenty years now and those men are now lost to the game as a live spectator sport. They will never come back to it, because they and the game have moved on and because they can no longer afford to go; they get their ‘fix’ on the television instead – often in their own homes now, too, because the price of a Sky subscription is often cheaper than physically attending matches spread across the year.

Of course, with the arrival of oil sheikhs and billionaires from Russia and America, the game arguably no longer needs their money; it has undoubtedly ‘progressed’ from a pie-and-Bovril sport to one populated by what Roy Keane memorably described, or should that be derided, as the prawn sandwich brigade.

Does the change of the game’s character and the loss of those legions of its former fans matter, when nearly eighty thousand people regularly squeeze into Old Trafford, or sixty thousand are shoe-horned into the Emirates?

For me, the answer is an unequivocal yes.

The game can ill afford to lose any fans, particularly those from the working classes who have been its life-blood for over a hundred years. To price such people out of attending is short-termism of the most idiotic kind, because when the money currently swamping the English game dries up, as surely it will, and the arriviste fans disappear with it, who will the game turn to then?

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Amir Khan: a stumble, not the end...

Sad to see Amir Khan, the Bolton-born boxer and role model for young Asian Muslims, beaten so quickly and comprehensively by Colombian Breidis Prescott at the MEN arena in Manchester last night.

Up until that knock-out (in less than a minute) by his more experienced opponent, Khan’s career in the ring had been one of undiluted success.

However, Amir – a Lancastrian, of course - is only twenty-one years of age and has plenty of time on his side to regroup and return to title-winning ways.

Very often, the most valuable lessons in life are learned though adversity and defeat; that is the challenge he faces this morning as he looks at his bruised face in the bathroom mirror.

I believe he is equal to it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Agony. Pure, unadulterated agony...

This week, I have been mostly suffering from…


Yes, that’s right, gout; that disorder suffered by blimpish, port drinking retired colonels and a certain much-married homicidal Tudor monarch.

Yes, that’s right, your eyes didn’t deceive you; gout. G.O.U.T.

And now that you’ve been able to stifle your giggles for long enough to wipe the tears of laughter from your eyes, let me tell the uninitiated amongst you (you lucky, lucky people) something about it.

It is, without doubt, quite the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life and whilst modesty and a desire to allow you to hold on to your last meal prevent me from going into any further detail, allow me to say, I am no stranger to extreme discomfort including, amongst others:

1. Toothache – a mere bagatelle
2. Severe cramp in the muscles of the small of my back rendering movement impossible – a trifling inconvenience
3. Post operative infection – bit of a nuisance

Unfortunately, I am also no stranger to its predations. I suffered my first episode before the age of thirty and between that age and thirty-seven or eight, it struck me a further four or five times. In the intervening ten years, I’ve only been struck a further three times, possibly because I started eating more sensibly and got myself fit.

But it still came, nonetheless.

It always begins the same way. I wake up in the morning to a vague, tingling stiffness in the large joint of my left big toe. If caught quickly at that stage with the appropriate medication (thank the Lord for NSAIDs!), a couple of days later and I’m as right as rain. Left untreated, by the second day, the toe is too stiff and painful to move and even putting a sock on is a procedure, carried out through gritted teeth.

By the early hours of the third morning, the agony – there is no other word to describe it – is so intense that the weight of the bed sheets on it is enough to wake me up creased in pain and the mere thought of putting a sock on is too much to contemplate, let alone a shoe.

The first time it struck me, I honestly thought I had broken my foot in some way, possibly by having it run over by a lorry when alcoholically inconvenienced; that is how much it hurts. Indeed, I have often mused as to whether it would be less agonising to take a blunt, rusty old knife and cut off the offending toe without anaesthetic.

Apparently, the condition is more common amongst the more intellectually gifted. I couldn’t possibly comment about that, but what I am sure of is that I inherited the gene which makes me susceptible to it (it is essentially caused by an inability to rid the body of uric acid) from my late father, who was also struck for the first time in his early thirties. Just for good measure, my pencil slim elder brother is also a sufferer. Unfortunately for my son, one of my brothers-in-law is also prone to the condition, so if, as is widely believed, it is inherited, the chances are that he can also look forward to becoming a sufferer in about fifteen or twenty years’ time.

What then of Mrs RtoK when I am in the midst of an attack, unable to walk at more than a hobble, my face a twisted mask of pain?

I don't suppose anyone would be surprised tolearn that she generally laughs at me, tells me not to be such a wimp and to try giving birth if I want to know what pain really feels like!

No change there, then.

Now where did I put those pills…

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Football predictions...

Well, all too soon, the holiday’s over and the sun and sand have once again been exchanged for the cooler, greener pastures of home.

I have to admit that whilst we were away, other than the odd look at the English papers, I didn’t really make too much effort to keep up with the news, so I thought that for my first post-holiday post, as it were, I’d have a look at another one of my passions: football. More specifically, the predictions made in the Daily Mail (which I read on the plane home) as to where the twenty Premier League clubs will finish come next May.

These are the predictions as made by Neil Ashton…followed by mine in red…

1. Man United (Man United)
2. Chelsea (Chelsea)
3. Liverpool (Arsenal)
4. Arsenal (Liverpool)

Not too much to argue with there, as to the clubs which will make up the top four and hence take the coveted Champions League places. My only quibble is that for all their loss of important players, I can’t see Arsenal being beaten into fourth place by a Liverpool team despite the acquisition of Robbie Keane.

Moving on…

5. Portsmouth (Everton)
6. Spurs (Aston Villa)
7. Everton (Portsmouth)
8. Man City (Spurs)
9. Aston Villa (Sunderland)
10. West Ham (Newcastle)
11. Newcastle (Man City)
12. Sunderland (West Ham)

Hmmm. Some interesting suggestions there. I can’t see Portsmouth finishing above Aston Villa or Everton and given Dr Thaksin’s current difficulties, Man City may be looking for a new owner with enough money to pay the wages at Christmas rather than dreaming about potential glory. I fear that Mark Hughes has jumped out of the relatively pressure-free safety of Blackburn Rovers into a financial maelstrom at City which could well see him leaving his new post before the nights start drawing in.

Other than that, the perennial suggestion that Spurs are launching a bid to force themselves into the top four is always a source of hilarity when it once again collapses in failure and to suggest that a poor West Ham team will finish tenth is taking London-centric reporting to new extremes of optimism. Sunderland, meanwhile will surprise a few people this season, whilst Newcastle will remain in steady mid-table position.

And bringing up the rear…

13. Middlesborough (Blackburn)
14. Wigan (Wigan)
15. Fulham (Bolton)
16. Blackburn (Fulham)
17. Bolton (Middlesborough)
18. Stoke (West Brom)
19. Hull (Stoke)
20. West Brom (Hull)

Intriguing. Dealing with the easier ones to predict, much the same as the top of the league, I suspect that the bottom three select themselves, for the simple reason that the gap between the Premier League and the Championship is now so wide, I cannot see any promoted club surviving until QPR come up, backed by the massive resources of Bernie Ecclestone, Lakshmi Mittal and Silvio Briatore.

That aside, there has been much talk in the press of a crisis at Blackburn Rovers in the wake of Mark Hughes’ departure and the transfers of both David Bentley and Brad Friedel. I have no doubt that they will slip from their seventh place of last season, but not as far as Ashton suggests. After them, I see their Lancashire neighbours in Wigan and Bolton - both clubs have strengthened considerably over the summer - followed by Fulham and Middlesborough, both of whom will finish several points above the relegation zone. Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me if this season saw the largest ever gap between the tem relegated in 18th place and the one staying up in 17th.

Of course, these are only my best, relatively well informed guesses…I will return to my predictions at the end of the season to assess my crystal ball gazing and doubtless demonstrate my profound lack of ability as a pundit…

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Off on holiday...

Off on my holidays now - back in ten days or so, when the Throne will be celebrating its second birthday!
See you when I'm back...

Monday, July 14, 2008

More stat pron...

Hardly earth shattering, I know, but I have just had my one hundredth visitor since installing the flag-counter in the side bar less than a month ago.

I was hoping - seriously - to have reached that number by Christmas and now I find that the Throne has been visited by readers from no fewer than twelve countries (ok, only once each from eight of them!) in a little over three weeks.

Dare I hope that the Throne will have celebrated its five-hundredth visitor by the end of the year?