Friday, December 31, 2010

What I meant to say was... Happy New Year...

I had intended to write a mid-length piece this afternoon concerning the both the murder of Joanne Yeates and the publicity surrounding the investigation, but it will have to wait for another day or two now, always assuming that the matter will not by then be sub-judice and still of sufficient interest to justify my efforts in writing it.

The reason for my lack of productivity?

I'm afraid to say I have been one of the very many victims of this winter's flu outbreak and it literally knocked me off my feet; I haven't felt as poorly as that for many years - since the last time I had flu, I suppose - and as a consequence, my ability to concentrate, or even remain perpendicular for elongated periods of time, has been severely compromised.

In closing, and on a much happier note, may I wish you all a very Happy New Year, and I'll see you all in 2011.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to one and all...

Well, it's Christmas Eve and everything's bought that's going to be bought; so may I take this oppotunity to wish any regular readers, and others who may arrive here by accident, a very merry Christmas.

I hope it brings you all you wished for.

Time permitting, I'll be back in mid-week...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The sacking of Sam Allardyce: a clear injustice...

Hot (or as hot as it comes these days at the Throne) on the heels of my previous post about the replacement of Chris Hughton as manager of Newcastle United with the managerial luminary who is Alan Pardew, comes the dismissal of Sam Allardyce as manager of Blackburn Rovers.

Geographically speaking, the Rovers are my nearest Premier League football club and I know a great many people who support the club and who have done so since before Uncle Jack Walker rescued them from lower-league oblivion and turned them into the Champions of England.

Similarly, I often read the Lancashire Telegraph, the local newspaper, which reports extensively about the club.

Having done so, I have to say that Sam's sacking has gone down with the vast majority of Rovers fans like a pork pie would at a bar mitzvah, not just because they thought it was unjust (which it most certainly was, of which, more in due course), but because of the timing.

We are now just three weeks away from the opening of the transfer window on 1st January and the club's new owners, Indian millionaires Venky's, who have said they will spend up to£5m during that four week period, have appointed the club's number three coach - who most fans have never heard of - as caretaker manager. Who is he going to attract to the club?

They are in grave danger of turning the club - for which they paid out £42 million - into a national laughing stock before they've owned it for a month.

Anyway, in attempting to justify their sacking, Venky's have suggested that they wanted "a younger and more energetic appointment" to take the club forward.

Right, let's have a look at that, shall we.

Sam Allardyce is currently fifty-six years of age. Sir Alex Ferguson, unarguably the most successful manager of recent times, will be sixty-nine on New Year's Eve, Arsene Wenger, no stranger to success, is sixty-one and both Harry Redknapp, who is being spoken of as the next England manager, and Roy Hodgson are sixty-three; Sam is a relative strippling by comparison with them all. And let's remember, it was only a couple of days before his dismissal that Fabio Capello - who is of pensionable age - suggested Allardyce (or Redknapp) as the next England manager!

Frankly, that claim is rubbish and I think Venky's know it; they were just clutching at any straw they could to justify their unjustifiable sacking of a man they clearly intended to dismiss at their earliest opportunity, despite having promised to give him the time he needed to prove himself. in the end, they gave him about three weeks and four games, two of which were won and two, including the derby at Bolton last Sunday, were lost.

All of which brings me me back to my assertion that the sacking was unfair.

Blackburn Rovers currently stand 13th in the Premier League, five points clear of the relegation zone and just five points behind the Europa Cup placings. Had they beaten Bolton on Sunday, they would have been in seventh place; but that matters not a jot, for the owners had clearly decided Sam would have to go well before the final whistle went at the Reebok.

But that is only half the story. When Allardyce arrived at Ewood Park following the disastrous reign of Paul Ince, the Rovers were in the relegation zone, five points adrift from the pack and staring a return to the Chumpionship squarely in the face.

Allardyce turned that situation round and had the club safe from the drop with two games to spare.

Last season, his first and now only full one in charge at the club, he guided them to a tenth place finish - at least two places higher than he had been tasked by the board to achieve - and he achieved it on a shoestring.

Where's the justice in sacking a man with that record?

All that said, I know that the new owners can do with the club what they will; after all it is theirs, they own it lock, stock and barrel and they are free to sack whoever they want in an effort to take the club forward as they see fit.

But they would be well advised to be cautious, because they could easily antagonise and alienate their core support in England - the ones who actually pay to attend matches - and that will make their efforts much, much harder and could even see the entire enterprise crash and burn, and with it forty odd million pounds of Venky's cash.

It is a less than auspicious start and if the team doesn't win against West Ham United on Saturday afternoon, it will get much worse very soon.

A situation to keep my eye on, I suspect...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Another own goal, Mr Ashley?

The more I read about the manner in which billionaire Mike Ashley runs Newcastle United Football Club, the more I wonder how he ever became so rich, or having done so, managed to hold on to a significant chunk of his money.

My reasons for making that assertion are many, but are neatly encapsulated by the recent dismissal of Chris Hughton and his replacement as manager by Alan Pardew.

Hughton, the football aficionados amongst you will recall, was the man who took hold of the poisoned chalice which has long been the manager's position at St James' Park, after Newcastle were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the season before last, when no-one else would have touched what was a club in chaos, with a bargepole.

He proceeded, in less than twelve months, in transforming a team with a losing mentality into one which swept all before them in securing immediate promotion back to the financial promised land of the English Premier League; and he achieved it by spending about fifty quid.

Once back in the 'big time', Hughton steered his team to mid-table respectability, whist securing an away win at the Emirates over Arsenal and slaughtering their main rivals Sunderland 5 - 1 in their first encounter of the season. What's more, in doing so, he secured the support of the vast majority of Newcastle supporters; but sadly not that of the one who really matters: Chairman Mike.

Not content with the quietly efficient Hughton's work - and therein might lie his problem - Ashley peremptorily sacked him last week for no real reason other than, as the owner of the club, he simply could.

People saw Martin Jol, the former manager of Spurs, resigning from his position at Ajax and immediately thought he would have been heading for Tyneside to replace the unfortunate Hughton, but no.

Instead, Ashley appointed Alan Pardew, a man of scarcely higher profile than his predecessor, whose claims to fame as a manager include losing the FA Cup Final with West Ham, being relegated with Charlton Athletic and most recently, being dismissed from his role with Southampton, a club which now plies its trade in League One; fully two divisions and a literal world away from the Premier League.

Not only that, but in sacking the hugely popular Hughton, Ashley has also managed to alienate both the dressing room - you know, the room that contains the men who actually go out and play the games - and all but 1.5% of Newcastle fans as well.

I wish Pardew, a decent enough man, as far as I can see, a fair wind and as much good luck as he can get; because despite the five and a half year contact he has secured from the, shall we say Mercurial, Ashley, I think he's going to need it.

Friday, December 03, 2010

One down, three to go...

If you were ever in any doubt as to why David Chaytor and his fellow former MPs strove quite so long and hard - as far as the hideously renamed Supreme Court - to have the criminal charges against them for fiddling their expenses on a heroic scale quashed on the basis that they were a breach of parliamentary privilege, I suspect that the scales may have fallen from your eyes today, when Chaytor pleaded guilty to three counts of False Accounting at the Old Bailey.

This was after the ritual speech early in the process in which he expressed his determination to prove his innocence of what were charges based on misunderstandings and misinterpretation of simple, honest mistakes.

So he's not just a thief, but a liar, too. Surprise, surprise.

I wonder what the other three are thinking tonight...

Well? Let's have their names, then...

It is now becoming clear that a number of the FIFA conclave, possibly as many as six, had 'promised' their votes to England in the first round of voting, only to susbsequently vote for someone else. Rumoured to be amongst these liars - what else are they, saying one thing and doing another? - is the truly appalling and dishonest Jack Warner of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Asociation. That would be the same Jack Warner who has been mired in previous corruption investigations and a man whose disdain for all things English goes before him.

It is as well that his name has emerged from the omerta which has surrounded the voting fiasco which cost England the tournament, because I think that our FA should now grow a pair, man up, or whatever other label you may choose to attach to it and publicly name each of the representatives who said they would vote for the English bid, before reneging and voting for another one, possibly under pressure from the utterly nauseating Blatter.

What have we (meaning the English FA, of course) got to lose by adopting such a course? They've made it perfectly clear that we won't be hosting the World Cup finals any time soon (2030 at least) because can't win in a fair competition, even when our bid to hold the tournament was streets ahead of the competition, so no problem there.

But they may exclude us from even taking part in future World Cups, I hear some faint-hearts cry...

Unlikely. If FIFA is anything it is a rapacious money making machine and the English pounds spent by our fans and our television channels are very much sought after by Blatter and his kleptocracy.

No. Name the guilty men. Publish their names in the English press the FIFA panjandrums so clearly fear and despise for their unerring ability to expose their deceit and graft.

Then we can approach each of them individually and ask them, in the full glare of publicity, why they lied to our faces.

We cannot allow this issue to simply die a death, or the whole sorry caravan of deceit graft and self aggrandisement which is the governing body of world football will simply carry on as if nothing had happened, even after the hideous Blatter and Warner have disappeared into well padded retirement, rather than the secure 8' by 10' rooms that both of them so richly deserve.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Were you suprised? Really?

Is anyone actually, really surprised that England lost out to Russia (and all the other competing bids, as it happens) in the race to host the World Cup finals in 2018? Not disappointed - I suspect millions of us are experiencing that emotion; no, surprised, because I'm not.

By common consent, we appear to have submitted the best technical and commercial bid to host the tournament, but ended up receiving just two votes out of a possible twenty-two in the first ballot - one of which was our own, apparently(!) and were consequently eliminated at that stage.

Was it a form of revenge against the repeated exposures of alleged corruption, (simply type the words 'FIFA corruption' into Google and you get pages of links, such as here, here, here and here), amongst FIFA officials by our media, as suggested in the linked article by Mark Palios and David Davies?

Very possibly, although Graham Taylor – he of the turnip head – dismisses that theory, suggesting, "England have had little or no influence. We are considered to be arrogant and know-alls."

I suspect it may be a combination of the two, with a little palm-greasing thrown in for good measure; but whatever the reason, we were resoundingly rejected by all but one of those entitled to vote and that is despite our sending the next but one King of England, the Prime Minister and, in David Beckham, one of the most iconic sports stars this country has ever produced, to pitch for us at the final presentations in Zurich.

Well, so be it. As a football fan, I hope that the Russians stage an excellent tournament that we can all enjoy in seven and a half years’ time. Ditto the Qataris – a country with a smaller landmass than the Falkland Islands and daytime summer temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius - in 2022.

Meanwhile, I sincerely hope that Messrs Blatter, Warner and co are going to conduct themselves like Caesar’s wife from now on; because I can guarantee that every investigative journalist in this country is currently working out how to further expose them as the deceitful, grubby criminals they really are.

And please, let's not delude ourselves that we have any hope of hosting the competition again in 2030 - the next time we'll be able to bid. Leave it to the corrupt narco-states and third world tyrannies with which the FIFA voting panel have so much in common.