Wednesday, 14 August 2013

I've No Idea What I'm Talking About Here And It Goes On And On And On...

This is an un-researched blog so don't waste yours or, more importantly, my time attempting to correct me on any points I make. However, please feel free to lavish me with praise for any valid points I do happen to make. I have an incredibly high tolerance threshold for praise.

So...(caveat - this post is not about Caitlin Moran but she was the catalyst for it).

Whatever you think of Caitlin Moran's selfless/vanity (delete as per your own preference) project, it didn't change anything - it raised the profile of the 'online abuse' - gave the media something else they don't fully comprehend, to comment about but it had flickered and died shortly after Moran and her acolytes resumed tweeting.

Remember the '1,000,000 people' that marched against the war in Iraq - they didn't change anything. The incursion still happened. We didn't find WMDs - quelle surprise. Then we voted in the Tories ('well, technically it's a coalition' -  blah fuck off blah). Go figure.

What about the Twitter hordes - of which I was one - who were angry yet hardly shocked at The News of the World hacking Millie Dowler's mobile phone - did we change anything? I mean, we've not had any more hacking incidents but are we to assume that it won't happen again?

Closer to home, for me anyway, Rangers fans who want Charles Green and his cohorts out of the club will not precipitate his exit with protest - no matter how many banners they take to games or derogatory songs they sing in his direction.

I think everyone that participates in protest tacitly acknowledges this too. Apart from the really thick ones, that is.

Us Western Worlders live in democracies. 
Democracy is as close to an ideal form of governance there is - that's the accepted wisdom, right? 
We can all vote once we're 18.
We have freedom of speech.
Freedom of expression.
Generally speaking, male, female, black and white, are all equal.
This is the way we want it, this is the society we created - we have it all. Don't we?


For all we do have, we are largely impotent.
Not Pele 'impotent' but we're as ineffective as his flaccid member all the same. (Thinking about this further (too far, perhaps) (parenthesis within parenthesis there - like a punctuation version of Inception) - Maradona would probably have been a better advertising campaign figurehead for Viagra when you consider his penchant for Colombian marching powder).


Want to write a critical news article about the government? Fine.
Want to protest publicly? Fill your boots. (apply for a licence).
Want to tweet that David Cameron is a cunt? Bash on.

Our protests achieve nothing but perpetuating the illusion that we, the proletariat, as a society, are in control of the world we live in. 
Maybe they're just enough to stir the blood and trick us into thinking we're serving a significant purpose on this planet. 

Most of us - especially me - get bored of any prolonged campaign for change surprisingly quickly. It's tiresome and we want to watch Mad Men or argue about just how disgusting Gareth Bale's transfer fee was.

We're the 'pre-grated cheese generation'.

The notable exception here are the people of Liverpool and their football club. Their unrelenting pursuit for justice wasn't just about Hillsborough - they represented 'us' versus 'the system' and it's that level of devotion to a cause that gets shit done.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, we've sacrificed the power to effect change for democratic civility. I'd say, generally, this is to our benefit. Murders and other shit things like that are relatively rare - and that's a good thing but we should acknowledge that it has come at a cost. 

So, if Moran wants change - she's gonna have to be more dogged than a 24hr silence on Twitter. 
If Rangers fans want Green out, we're gonna have to unite and force it to happen through the boardroom. 
And if we want to prevent our government taking action that is contrary to our wishes we have to Guy Fawkes them tae fuck - not literally, obviously.

We're living in The Matrix, people. Only nae cunt here is Neo.

Thursday, 2 May 2013


Here’s an opinion I’ve got. I’ll be honest, it’s not fully formed and I’m not even sure I subscribe to it but it is there, niggling away at me.

This is my Jerry Maguire moment, so...

I find it strange how much vitriol pours out when people talk about sportsmen or teams cheating. I find it strange because, ultimately, sport doesn’t matter. It’s just a distraction from the reality of life (bit bleak that – soz LOL but seriously, soz).

Sport is merely a massive reality soap opera in which we are all complicit. Referees, fans, regulatory bodies and even anti-doping agencies each play their part.
Think about it like this, what does your team winning and losing actually mean? I’m not saying we don’t enjoy or despair of it – we definitely do - but we must also know that, in the grand scheme of things, it’s irrelevant.
Win one season. Lose the next. So on, so forth. So what?

Who cares if Suarez dives or bites? If he genuinely makes you angry, you really should ask yourself some questions. Such as, 'is this what I want to spend my short time on earth being passionate about?' Like him or not, he’s provided more entertainment than Gary Neville  ever has – that includes when he’s fiddling about on his tactics board (which I also enjoy).

So what if Lance Armstrong took drugs to win the Tour De France? It’s only cycling and nobody give a shit about cycling anyway. No, just kidding, I’m sure there are folk that care about it (weirdos, mostly). But, how many really care? How many now care because of the attention Lance Armstrong attracted to the sport? (for the record – the ‘but what about cyclists who lost out on revenue because of Armstrong?’ can get tae fuck. I’m not interested in that angle at all).

So what if Barcelona have (allegedly) cheated by taking PEDs? We marvelled at the theatre they provided us with and it was unparalleled for a while. And that’s all it is - theatre. Not life and death. Not even close. We were entertained - is that not what we want?

Do you think any team in the higher echelons of world football is clean? Do you think your heroes care about you? If you do, you’re basically a Belieber and they are the worstcunts in the world.

So, all I’m saying is, don’t get bent up about it.

Well, don’t get TOO bent up about it. There is an appropriate level of opprobrium to keep your interest stoked and that’s what you must strive for, young grasshoppers. I’m not advocating sociopathic sports fans but a balance should be struck.

I enjoy the majesty and the travesty of sport in equal measure. At full time in a closely fought cup final, or a last day, relegation battle – I'm immediately drawn to beaten team (knowing coverage of the victor will be abundant in the coming days). I relish the deflation, the tears and the instant regret. I’ve felt it before. I know it’s gut-wrenchingly horrible but I also know it’s only temporary. We need the tragedy as much as we need the triumph. Each emotion is belittled in the others’ absence. The full gamut of emotion is what keeps us hooked on sport. Not only the joy and the good and the moral.

It’s just a TV show. The difference is, it's us, the viewers, that provide the narrative for it rather than scriptwriters. And that narrative is skewed heavily by individual and collective perception. So, when it's over, switch it off and enjoy something else. A conversation. A moment of meditation. A wank. Whatever.

I acknowledge, too, that this ramble doesn’t mean anything either. But that sweet, sweet catharsis soothes my soul.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Walter Smith - A Tribute

And so, the man who has guided Glasgow Rangers through some of the stormiest weathers in the clubs history has left but will he never be forgotten.

Though there will always be those who disparage achievements in Scotland, even his most po-faced critic must concede that Smith’s record transcends this rather narrow minded outlook. Although second to the great Bill Struth in terms of trophies won, Smith’s tally of 10 league championships, 5 Scottish Cups, 6 League Cups and a European final in around 12 seasons of management is no mean feat.

In 1986, when he first arrived at Rangers it was as Graeme Souness’ assistant. Souness, who had not lived in the country since the 70’s, needed someone who could provide an in depth insight into the game in Scotland, so Smith was a natural appointment. As able an assistant he was, you always felt that he was destined for more.
He didn’t have to wait long as Souness, offered a chance to manage his former club Liverpool, headed down south in April of the 1990/91 season. Chairman David Murray made the decision to maintain the continuity and offered Smith his dream job.

Later that year, Rangers won the league by one point, beating 2nd placed Aberdeen on the last day of the season.  Two goals from Mark Hateley secured the title and, many say, Smith’s career at Rangers.

The 1992 season saw Rangers famously despatch Leeds Utd, Eric Cantona et al, in the qualifying stages of the inaugural Champions League. Rangers would exit the tournament finishing second in their group behind eventual winners Marseille.

After enjoying nine years of complete dominance of Scottish Football, Smith announced that the 1997/98 season would be his last at Ibrox. The idea being, he would secure a record breaking tenth successive league title as a parting gift. As it transpired, an ageing Rangers side could only manage second place and in the Scottish Cup final, missed their shot at redemption by losing 2-1 to Hearts.

Smith’s first stint as Rangers boss had ended on a slightly sour note. Dick Advocaat and more investment would follow and Smith’s contribution, it seemed, was harshly and immediately forgotten.

Smith would go on to manage Everton for four largely unspectacular years and looked to have slipped quietly into retirement when he left Goodison Park 2002.

However, in 2004, Smith was offered the chance to replace outgoing Scotland boss, and unmitigated disaster and laughing stock, Berti Vogts. This seemed like the ideal role for someone in semi-retirement with the rigours of international football significantly less than the day-to-day running of a club.
To continue the ‘picking up the pieces’ theme, in 2007, Smith was offered a chance to return to Rangers following the brave but ultimately flawed appointment of Paul Le Guen.

Smith returned to a very different Rangers than he’d left nine years previously.

Le Guen had fallen out with club captain Barry Ferguson and lost the faith of the players and backroom staff that he’d inherited. On top of that, the signings that the Frenchman had made left a lot to be desired.
Le Guen was dismissed left by mutual consent by December and David Murray once again turned to the reliable Walter Smith as the man to save the club. The rest of this season was a write off. Playing for pride and restructuring the squad was all there was.
In the following season, after more re-structuring, Walter Smith led Rangers to their first European final in 36 years. Although soundly beaten in the final by Zenit St. Petersburg, this was an admirable effort and did much to re-establish Rangers reputation after several years of sub-standard European performances.
Partially as a result of this elongated European campaign and the re-scheduling of fixtures, Rangers, again, finished second in the league behind champions Celtic but only by 3 points (it was 14 the previous season!). As a consolation, the League Cup and Scottish Cup were added to the trophy cabinet to bring a successful end to a frustrating season.

In the next three seasons, Smith would lead Rangers to a hat-trick of titles against a backdrop of severe financial restraints which almost bankrupt the club.

This last season was one that was endured rather than enjoyed. Mired in accusation, excuses and ‘blame culture’, the dignity and professionalism that Smith conducted himself with has been a testament to the man.

Magnanimous, honest and open, after 45 years in Scottish football, his are the authoritative words of a man who has a full understanding of the micro and macro issues surrounding the shameful religious bigotry that poisons the atmosphere of an already overly passionate footballing environment.
Now, he is visibly tired of it all and has even said as much. Smith has nothing to prove at Rangers and, thankfully, as opposed to the denouement to his first spell at the club, he has left as a winner. In doing so, he has brought a far more fitting conclusion to the career of the greatest manager Ibrox has ever seen.

Thanks Walter. For everything.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

'United' - More Than Just A Name

Sir Alex Fergusons latest Manchester United incarnation are nothing if not fascinating. They are proving the time old and often ignored adage that a team collective can compensate for the limitations of individuals. They truly are greater than the sum of their parts.

It's this that creates the dichotomy amongst commentators, journalists and fans.

On one hand, we accept that, in football, results speak for themselves. To the pragmatist, this is the beginning and the end of the debate. On the other hand, we look at Gibson and O'Shea and wonder which other big club would have them in their way. We look at t Berbatov and say he doesn't score (or even play) in the big games. We see
Rio fit for roughly 30% of the season. We see a belligerent Rooney only flirting with his potential. We wonder what Carrick contributes at all. We chastise Nani for his theatrics. We are amazed that VDS, Giggs & Scholes are still going well into their 90's! We acknowledge that the Brazilian twins, Hernandez and Smalling have varying degrees of potential but display similar levels of youthful naivety. We almost forget that players such as Fletcher, Anderson & Hargreaves are even in the squad.

Whether it be age, experience, fitness, disciplinary record or form, each Man Utd player hasn't had far to look for his problems this season.

However, and it's an enormous however, when they are together, their problems almost cease to exist.

It goes without saying that Alex Ferguson is one of the greatest managers of all time (I'm not a fan of saying 'the best' - it's too complicated an issue to be definitive about) and this season, it could be argued, will be the setting for his greatest triumph.

The word Fergie used earlier this week was 'momentum' and that is a precious if intangible commodity to have. (Ask Liverpool fans about it. It nearly carried them to a Premiership trophy in 2008/09). This momentum is not achieved easily. No - it is borne of sheer determination and effort - both collective and individually.

This is the ethic that Fergie prioritises this above all else. If you are playing bad, run yourself into the ground - regardless of your performance, you can run and tackle and try. Never stop trying.
Once you have a whole squad that subscribes to this ethos it becomes very hard to convince them that they can be stopped.

Aside from this, the key to the performances is in Fergies management of each game. Every player knows what is expected of them and also what their role will be in any given position in any given formation.

On the face of it, when you see Giggs at left back, Valencia at right back, Rooney practically centre midfield or O'Shea on the pitch at all, that it is a case of square pegs in round holes but Fergie doesn't ask his players to do things they can't do. Giggs isn't expected to play at left back like Evra does. He'll do things differently. Better at some things, worse at others. The rest of the team reacts accordingly. Giggs isn't gonna fly past them on the left wing - he'll maybe come inside more, play passes but he'll be comfortable. Almost like evolution at work, they adapt to survive.

Now, we are appraoching the home straight and if you are still competing at this stage, you have a chance. All of Utd's graft has paid off and the squad that nearly everyone wrote off is in the mix.

Since Inter eeked out the necessary result in the Nou Camp in last seasons Champions League semi-final, I have longed for this season to be the one that would result in an unprecedented second treble that would surely mean Barcelona would be judged the greatest club side of all time - a recognition I feel they merit.

Only last night did I realise that the same may be said for Man Utd and the way things stand today, I would not back against them to do it.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The Curious Case of Mario Balotelli

I’ve read a lot of articles about the current and apparent ‘bad boy’ of football, Mario Balotelli, and I thought I’d add my tuppence worth. Hopefully, this is a different angle than has been considered.

I’ll start with a caveat, I don think Super Mario’s behaviour is becoming of a top level footballer and he seems to be far more trouble than he is worth. However, I think there is a problem in football with the way players with certain issues are treated.

In the late ‘80’s, we saw the rise of a flawed genius from Newcastle namely Paul Gascoigne.

Gazza was a brilliantly erratic player but one who found his most difficult opponent in his own head.
He was painted, by the media, though re-enforced by colleagues, as a clown. Indeed, his behaviour on and off the pitch would seem to confirm as much. But reading his autobiography, reveals a man who was quite clearly suffering from a mental disorder that was either undiagnosed or ignored.

As long as he was playing well, his foibles were ignored. It’s a largely unspoken truth in football that you can be forgiven for pretty much anything as long as you perform. The results driven agenda make it a true meritocracy but an amoral one.

This, in Gazza’s case, was merely masking a much larger problem. And, as has become apparent since his retirement, football was, as hard as it may seem, keeping him on straight and narrow. Sadly, his descent into a public laughing stock leaves football's reputation tarnished by association. Football is embarrassed by his behaviour and opts to bury its head in the sand rather than confront mental health issues.

For every Ryan Giggs, it seems, there is a Paul Gascoigne (or, more appropriately, Lee Sharpe). Young, gifted and then instantly rich and famous. All of this thrust upon them regardless of their capacity to deal with it.
And, likewise, for every Alex Ferguson, fastidiously controlling the hype, expectation and even the minutiae of the youngsters’ personal affairs, there are other managers and clubs who negligently overlook their responsibilities as, in a fashion, surrogate fathers in favour of milking as much as they can of such players without any consideration for their mental condition.

Which brings me back around to Mario Balotelli. His short career is littered with theatrical performances and these appear to have polarised opinion - from 'he's a complete tosser' to 'it's quite amusing'. However, we shouldn't caste him with either scorn or mirth (yet) as neither of these actually deals with the issue that is quite obvious: there is something wrong with him.

It has become de rigueur to vilify footballers for their earnings and easy life. We baulk when they suggest that they want to leave a club if they are unhappy, as if their contracts are written in blood yet very little attention is paid to players, like Balotelli, in understanding their mindset and how upheaval, lack of positive influences, education, intelligence, ability to adapt to new cultures, languages and scrutiny will affect them. They are, after all, human beings and susceptible to the same problems and vices as you or I. Their wealth does not buy them exemption from this.

Consider this, if Balotelli had a broken leg, we wouldn't criticise him for not being able to play but deep rooted, psychological problems are far harder to distinguish and their intangibility means they are rarely considered worthy of sympathy in this very masculine world but they are a real problem.

I only hope that football has progressed enough to not let what happened to Gazza, happen to Mario. Support groups exist for gambling, alcohol & drug addiction. These resonate with us because British society accepts these as issues while mental disorders are still stigmatised. To me, Balotelli is not a figure of ridicule or hate. He is someone that needs help.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

He Goes By The Name of Wayne Rooney!

The ‘Wayne Rooney saga’ brought the issue of players wages to the fore again last week.

For a while now, it has been en vogue to chastise footballers for the perceived obscene amounts of money they earn for ‘kicking a ball about a field’ and the lavish lifestyle that this can provide them but, for me, the wages they earn are fair and just.

What a lot of people (generally outside the sport itself) fail to acknowledge is the value that a player like Rooney brings to a club. He’s not just kicking a ball around (though when he does, he does it better than most – more on that later) but he brings along massive sponsorship opportunities, keeps the turnstiles (or their modern equivalent) busy and helps to sell replica merchandise by the bucket-load.

So, when people criticise Manchester United for handing him a new contract, they have to realise that his extra-marital affairs don’t, nor should they, matter a jot – this is a business. An entertainment business and the simple fact is that Rooney is of Box Office proportions.

Unlike many modern day pseudo-heroes in the form of pop stars, models, TV presenters, influential columnists and, arguably, certain Hollywood film stars, Wayne Rooney has had to work extremely hard to get where he is today.
The notion that footballers have a natural borne talent is somewhat a fallacy – granted, many of them may well have a particular aptitude for the game but that aptitude alone is insufficient to play at the top level for any extended period of time.

In short, football is not something anyone can be good at but those who are, still work hard at it – the ones that don’t (and there has been a litany of them) simply do not survive.

Rarely does a footballer come out of re-hab for a drugs addiction and have a meaningful career a la pop stars or actors.
No; footballer’s indiscretions are always treated more severely than the indiscretions of others and I can’t help but feel that this is due to some deep-rooted bourgeoisie resentment against the working classes making something of their lives.

Consider this - because Hugh Grant speaks with his trademark ‘awfully, awfully’ eloquent clumsiness his affability is seen as endearing and his liaison with a hooker in a car is forgotten because, well, ‘he was quite funny in Love Actually’.

Rooney et al are tarred and feathered because they are not erudite and that, coupled with their wealth, is reason enough for the media and society to look down their noses at them.

It’s spurred on by the same people who would rather their precious son or daughter spent four years achieving a degree in some non-descript course which has all the hallmarks of an aspirational nothingness vocation – fashion studies maybe or event organising – than they left school and became a plumber.

These are two 'industries' that the world would comfortably survive without – in fact, it would probably improve the planet by about 10% if we obliterated both of them and the horrible, cosseted, convinced-their-job-actually-matters oiks that proliferate these two non-contributions to society!

I for one, would prefer to watch the raw genius of Wayne Rooney thumping the ball into the top corner of the Newcastle net with an unstoppable volley than endure the very best Ben Stiller has to offer – yet nobody complains that Ben is overpaid even though he earned a reputed $40million last year!
For me, while I don’t condone (though equally, remain pretty ambivalent to) the actions of many footballers, what really leaves a bitter taste in my mouth is the endless whining from the self-righteous columnists in newspapers and magazines who act as if these young men are the first to have committed these sins. These ‘journalists’ are the worst – they are nothing but parasites living from the drama, pain and controversy of celebrities and have the temerity to criticise every action yet fail to comprehend that their job is dependant on it.