Saturday, 28 June 2008


This week I've spent some time in Dublin, I was lucky enough to go there with work, and then I tagged on a couple of days afterwards in order to have a look around and see what the city had to offer. As is so typical with me, the weather was bloody awful - almost constant rain, which curtailed my wanderings somewhat. So, I ended up doing all sorts of cultural things National Museum of Ireland, National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin Writers Museum. All of which I enjoyed, but still left me with time on my hands and starting to develop trench foot. So, I look refuge in a bookshop on O'Connell St - and as is my wont, I gravitated to the sports section.

I expected to find the football section stuffed with books on the glory of the Republic's world cup exploits and Manure books... I was wrong. Shelf after shelf of books on sunderland, Roy Keane and Niall Quinn. They seem to have transported the mackems from the North East of England to somewhere near County Mayo. I'd joked in the past about the mackems being full of Irish Manure rejects, but I was bewildered to see that the Irish seem to have taken them to their hearts. I'm starting to wonder when they will actually alter the strip from red and white to green and white... I'd bet that might be a safe option for an away strip (after all they won't be needing a European strip will they?)

So, as I flew back (via a spectacular thunderstorm at Manchester airport - gulp) I started to think about the power of the brand of football in general and the Premier League in particular.

A couple of years ago I watched Champions League semi finals in a bar in the Gambia in West Africa. An amazing atmosphere as both games were being shown, on big screens, side by side. So you'd have your eye caught by one game and then something else on another one. I think it was Chelsea v Liverpool and Manure v Roma. At one stage Rooney scored, half the place erupted with excited Gambians cheering for their chosen team - the guy in front of me had a Chelsea shirt on, which as soon as Rooney scored he tugged over his head to reveal a Manure shirt with the number 8 on the back. We laughed and made jokes with him about hedging his bets.

But all these examples show the way in which football spans countries and continents, its not just who owns the clubs, the nationality of the player that attract people to the game. Its the universal power of the brand that attracts people to the game. So the Dublin taxi driver as well as the barman in Banjul all ask "Will Keegan actually win anything for Newcastle?" The honest answer is probably not, but at least I was able to tell the taxi driver that we had finished above the mackems in the league for the longest time.

BTW - the picture above is James Joyce... I haven't read the Dubliners since I did my degree - this last week has encouraged me to re-read...

Saturday, 21 June 2008


Ok - I'm not claiming any special insight, any level of clarivoyancy or insider dealing... But what on earth is going on with the fixture list for the Premier League? If I can predict that on Boxing Day Newcastle will be playing Wigan or Bolton away... and it comes true, then there certainly is a rabbit off somewhere. I always thought that there was supposed to be a level of randomness about the fixtures - another myth blown away by the TV needs. Don't get me wrong, I live in the North West and the relative ease of getting to a Boxing Day at Wigan (as has happened this year) is fine with me, its the predictable nature of it that bothers me.

The season "curtain raiser" (© Sky TV) is at Manure... Oh well we'll have the same amount of points after that game as we had before... I wonder if we can manager to have a goal difference of less than minus 5 after that game. At least it looks like we'll be able to gently comment on the loss of Riverdance to Madrid... Some comfort at least

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Wish List

Another week trundles by, and no new players have come into the squad - and the man with possibly the most unimaginative chant* has left the club for Lazio. David Rozehnal was another of those players who flattered to deceive. Good on the ball, but he had no idea of the pace of the Premiership and he'll do well at Lazio. So, that's Ramage, Emre (maybe) and Rozehnal gone, Barton banged up and rumours about Milner and Duff on their way..

The squad is shrinking by the day - I can only hope that after the Euro's have finished there is going to be an influx... But I won't be holding my breath.

My wish list? Left back, centre half, creative midfielder and a centre forward... How about Philipp Lahm, Richard Dunne, Jimmy Bullard and Dean Ashton (I've thought for years that he is the natural successor to Shearer). Will any of these come true? Very unlikely. The latest rumours (which I don't believe) are around Oliver Kapo from Birmingham City, Eidur Gudjohnsen from Barca, and Andrei Arshavin from Zenit St Petersburg. Don't'exactly set the pluse racing do they? Anyway, Kapo will follow Steve Bruce to Wigan; Gudjohnsen will end up at Portsmouth with all the other journeymen and if Arshavin was any good he'd be on his way to Chelski.

Still, the fixture lists are out tomorrow. So that will give me some planning to do... I wonder if it will be Bolton or Wigan on Boxing Day? Cos that's what always seems to happen...

* Rozenhal's chant? "His tall, he's Czech, he'll break your **** neck - Rozehnal" The only accuracy in that statement was his nationality

Monday, 9 June 2008


Withdrawal symptoms abound... The Euro's are just a pleasant diversion - something to keep me going until mid August when the real fun starts again.

There is just something so wrong with those empty Saturdays (or Sunday's or Monday's depending on what Sky wants to do), no match to travel to, no Jeff Stelling to growl at, no euphoria/disappointment (usually the latter admittedly).

This weekend I've spent Saturday with by niece and nephew - I love them to bits, but somehow Indiana Jones wasn't the same as thrill of the latest from SJP... good or bad. So, despite all the disappointments of last season I can't wait until the fixtures for next season are announced (16th June, don't you know). It's that cruel mixture of blind optimism and misguided belief that is so beguiling. More savage amusement.

As for the Euro's? I'd love to Spain win. Why? Because they've underachieved for decades of course - remind you of any other team you can think of? Oh, and its time to forgive a nation for foisting Marcellino on us... they can't still be blamed.