Apologies for my tardiness, I've been away for a few days and also managed to do what every English person abroad does - get food poisoning, hence my lack of recent posts. Mind you, I was slightly surprised to be suffering from the dicky-tummy syndrome when I'd ventured as far abroad as Scotland... They really are taking this independence lark onto the next stage now.
I opted for the train to Glasgow, which was a rare luxury for me, letting miles and miles of countryside whip past the outside of the window without any of the stress of having to get to a place at a particular time. I managed to do civilised things like read all of the Sunday paper in one go and even read some fiction (although the line between news and fiction is increasingly blurred). There were a few downsides, the odorous man who got on the train at Preston, the closure of west-coast route for the way back meaning that the journey was extended by an additional three hours, and the tea at a thermo-nuclear temperature, but that was far outweighed by the joy of people watching.
One example of this was three guys who got on the train at Edinburgh, laden with cans. The discussion started before the train left the station about football, and they didn't stop for breath until they got off at Newcastle. By eavesdropping it was apparent that they were Hearts fans, they were going to SJP to watch Toon v Everton because they wanted to see a Premiership game (lads, you picked a duff one 0-0 and a dull game), they hated Rangers and knew loads about all European football. The think was that these weren't teenagers playing out a latest fad, one of them was in his 50's and the other two were mid-30's. It's easy to be glib and suggest that football stops them talking about the 'real' things... but the passion that they had for 22 men kicking a mock pigs bladder about the pitch was enormous.
This week on the NUFC front has seen more of the Llambias charm offensive take place - an reduction in the season ticket costs, a interview with the local radio station (and available as one of those new fangled podcasts... Whatever next!) and finally an admission that the debacle with Keegan has hurt the club, the management and the team. No doubt, it will also hit the finances of the club in the longer term as well. Its taken six months for this admission, no doubt the board tried the 'if we ignore it, they'll go away' approach, but there was no way that would work, then they tried the 'if you don't like us we'll leave' approach... Which also failed. So, now its the 'ahem, sorry about that' approach. He had the good grace to admit that the PR was naive - but that just showed the lack of understanding. Too little, too late... damage has been done, and I'm not sure its repairable. Trust has gone.
Contrast Llambias' and NUFC's stance with what has happened at Aston Villa this week. They trek to Moscow with an under-strengh team and get dumped out of the Uefa Cup. Needless to say the 300 Villa fans who shelled out to follow their club felt more than a bit duped. Villa's response? Invite all those fans to attend a dinner at the club, meet O'Neill and the players and they've immediately diffused any negative PR. Simple isn't it?
Footnote to my Glasgow trip - check out a new band Skint and Demoralised. Great songs, great lyrics and a great night out.