Thursday, 20 November 2008

Northern Ireland Slump Continues

Northern Ireland continued their slide back towards mediocrity last night with a grim 2-0 reverse against an average looking Hungarian outfit. Although I did not see the whole game, I am led to believe that it was a thoroughly depressing affair. Admittedly, the Ulstermen were without a number of key players, particularly in defence. But it is the general air of negativity that Worthington emits that is beginning to rankle with large sections of the GAWA. Nothing is ever HIS fault. Last night, it was the fact that a few players are not playing regularly for their club. And yet Sanchez was faced with exactly the same problem. There does not seem to be the same level of tactical understanding, discipline and work ethic within this team as there was under Sanchez. The players appear less confident and unsure of their duties on the field. Behind the scenes, it is widely known that the standards of discipline and professionalism in the camp have declined significantly under the current regime, perhaps reflecting the lack of respect the current squad have for Worthington’s management style.

Following a disappointing opening to their World Cup group Northern Ireland will not qualify for South Africa, and sadly the short term future does not look great. The only bright note is that the U-21 team recorded a stylish 3-1 victory over Scotland on Tuesday night. After 3 years of stability and relative glory, now may be the time to start rebuilding. But I am certain that Nigel Worthington is not the right man to oversee that rebuilding.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Toddy's Tips

With the going good, good-to-soft in places, it's hard to look past 11/5 chance Randy Bishop in the 1.30 Lifetime Hurdle at Fakenham. Irish flyer King Cyrus should not be ignored in the 3.30 meet, with trainer Jim Best having returned 5 winners in as many days. Saddler Christian Williams described him as a 'feisty little number' on Friday, and he is known for landing well on soft ground. All eyes, however, are on Saturdays Betfair Chase, with former Gold Cup winner Kauto Star a scorching 2/5 favourite. Fairly measly odds, but I'd lump big on it.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Hernandez's Haute Cuisine Part 2

Had a hard day at work? Why not reinvigorate yourself with a steaming hot bowl of Thai chicken and chilli soup. All you need is:

1 chicken breast

chicken stock

spring onions

garlic (crushed)

mixed chillies (sliced)

Thai fish sauce



coriander leaves

rice noodles (optional).

First of all bring the chicken stock to the boil and put in the chicken breast. Boil for about 10 minutes until the chicken is tender, then remove it and cut into bite sized pieces. Next throw the spring onions, chillies and garlic into the stock and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add a splash of the fish sauce and put the chicken back in and simmer for another 5 minutes. If you want, feel free to lob in some rice noodles at this point to bulk up the dish. Finally, squeeze in some lime juice, a tablespoon of sugar and some salt and pepper to season. Turn off the heat and sprinkle with chopped coriander leaves before serving in a nice big bowl and some crusty bread on the side to mop up. This is a fantastic, easy and healthy dish to restore your insides after a stressful day at the office.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Thompson Death Leads to Postponement

Todays news of the death of Dundee United Chairman Eddie Thompson is very sad. However, does it really merit the postponement by the SPL of the league game between Rangers and Dundee United at Ibrox on Saturday? It's difficult to believe that Thompson, a football man through and through, would have wanted the postponement of a fixture. No doubt a good many fans from overseas, particularly Northern Ireland, will have made travel arrangements at some expense. Coming not long after UEFAs farcical decision to order Atletico Madrid to play 300km from Madrid so close to Liverpool's Champions League game, you really have to wonder whether the football authorities at ALL levels take the fans (who after all fund the game to a large extent) into consideration at all.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Match of the Day

A number of observations from MOTD 2 last night.
1. Is it me or does Hansen come across as quite shirty and condescending on MOTD2? As if he is 'lowering' himself to appear on it.
2. Is it me or has Motson transformed from a national treasure into one of the most irritating commentators on TV? He appeared to be almost offended by the fact that Aston Villa had the temerity to even turn up against Chelsea. The way he described Joe Cole's opening goal was unnerving, faintly orgasmic and frankly embarrasing.
3. To make the BBC happy, why don't we just award the title to Chelsea now and be done with it? Forget about the rest of the season, 'Big Phil' Scolari is the man we all love, isn't he? And while we're at it, let's just forget about the fact Frank Lampard spent the entire summer whoring himself to Inter Milan (until Abramovich caved in to his wage demands). Don't worry Frank - all is forgiven! We love you really!
4. Where is Lee Dixon? Is it true that the BBC have axed him followiing his rant against William Gallas? Obviously we couldn't have a 'pundit' on the BBC actually expressing his opinion and displaying some passion, as opposed to sitting on the fence and churning out the same old cliches. Yes, Hanson, Shearer and the like are a much safer bet.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Faldo Flops

Congratulations to the USA Ryder Cup Team. A thoroughly deserved victory. Faldo is an idiot. Great golfer, but an idiot. Questionable fourball pairs and a dubious singles order. As predicted, Garcia's miserable form in major tournaments continued and he flopped yet again, not to mention Harrington, Casey and Jimenez. When will the media start to realise that he just isn't that great?

Sandy Lyle as the next captain.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

The Ryder Cup

Hernandez squeezed into his golfing slacks today and took to the fairway after a break of almost 10 years. Suffice to say I was quickly re-acquainted with the frustrations that can arise on the golf course and my swing was (let's be kind) 'rusty'. I hadn't forgotten everything however, and there were a number of sweet drives and long putts which would have drew applause from the gallery if there was one. I eventually carded a frankly embarrassing 104 (37+), a score not helped by the course conditions which resembled a quagmire in places (Clydebank Municipal). Hopefully I will pick up some inspiration from watching the Ryder Cup, which starts this Friday in Kentucky. The Europeans will go into the competition as favourites, having had a stranglehold on the Cup since 1995 (aside from the 1999 shenanigans). Ireland's Padraig Harrington is arguably the form player from either side this season, although Stewart Cink and Phil Mickleson have impressed in recent months. Team spirit will play a huge factor in winning the trophy, and in the respect I have a feeling Team USA will have the edge over Nick Faldo's European team this year. Europe's recent victories have by and large centred around the reliability of Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley, none of whom made the team this time around. Sergio Garcia is notoriously unpredictable, while Casey, Rose and Westwood are know for blowing hot and cold. From a Northern Irish perspective, it is disappointing that we will not see Darren Clarke or his cigar this year. We will though be able to cheer on the solid Graeme McDowell, and hopefully young Rory McIlroy will continue his ascent up the world rankings and make future teams.

Without wishing to sit on the fence, this could go either way. I have a hunch the Americans will perform better than some might expect, however I am backing Team Europe to record a narrow victory. Lets hope that if they DO win, they won't dress up in those ridiculous white polo necks and pink jackets!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Liverpool Must Improve - Quickly

Liverpool stumbled into the Champions League Group Stages last night, after an uncomfortable and frustrating 120 minutes of action. In my previous post I suggested Liverpool would have hit their stride by this stage, but this clearly has not yet happened. The team are still labouring through games, seemingly relying on the brilliance of Torres or Gerrard to rescue them. As has been highlighted on more than one occassion, there is a severe lack of width in the side. Which makes it fairly easy for the opposition to set their team up against us. All they have to do is pack the midfield with ballwinners in the knowledge that Liverpool have no threat out wide. Alas, when Benitez finally brought on Babel to play on the left wing, it eventually resulted in a superb goal. I am reminded of a statistic Gordon Strachan once pointed out, which is that about 70% of goals in football are scored as the result of a cross. It amazes me how any top flight manager cannot see the importance of providing width.

In other news, Liverpool appear on the verge of signing the Spaniard, Albert Riera, from Espanyol for £9m. Meanwhile Chelsea look close to tying up a £30m deal for classy Brazilian Robinho from Real Madrid. And this perfectly illustrates why Liverpool will not win the league either this season or any other season in the near future. The Londoners are able to spend big money on established world class internationals with a proven track record of winning championships. Riera had a disastrous spell at Manchester City a few seasons ago and is not considered for the Spanish national squad at present. As I have said before and will say again, money talks in the Premier League (something which Alex Ferguson is very well aware of). As Arsene Wenger has discovered in recent seasons, it is now no longer sufficient to scour the continent for promising young players and develop them into league winners. You simply have to spend big to win the English League title and that is not likely to change any time soon. So while the Merseysiders persist in spending money on decent but hardly world beating players, that 19th League title will continue to elude them.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Sub Standard Liverpool Fail To Impress

Liverpool's promising pre-season form was brought to a grinding halt in Liege last night, as they failed to break down the spirited Belgian Champions. Rafa Benitez will no doubt have been hoping to effectively close out the tie in this first leg ahead of a tough open to the League campaign, but his team were out thought and out muscled virtually from the first whistle. The new first choice pairing of Torres and Keane were left frustrated as the midfield failed to provide any kind of support at all. Such was Liege's dominance of the midfield area, the Liverpool back line were more often than not forced to launch long, hopeful balls into the final third. This is not the Liverpool way and certainly not the type of service Fernando Torres is comfortable with. Olympic gold hopeful Javier Mascherano was sorely missed, while substitute Gerrard was clearly not match fit. Nevertheless there should still have been enough quality in the team to at least take control of the middle areas and provide some organisation. The rookie midfielder and Patrick Vieira-esque Damien Plessis is undoubtedly an exciting prospect for the future who clearly features in Benitez's plans. However he looked a little out of his depth last night and may need to be eased into the team more gradually. It was only thanks to Pepe Reina that we were not severly embarrassed last night.

Overall I think this was a case of Liverpool being caught cold by determined and confident opposition. It should be remembered that this is the first competitive game of the pre season, and with a number of key players either missing or not fully fit, it is harsh to be overly critical. By the time of the return leg at Anfield the Merseysiders should be much sharper and I expect them to win quite comfortably. However, Liege look a well organised side so there is no room for error.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Cod Leaves a Pleasant Taste

Ever wanted to know everything there is to know about cod? As the blurb on the back cover acknowledges, to go out and buy a book on the subject of cod is to invite glances of suspicion. Indeed, I felt a tad self conscious whilst reading the book on public transport and always removed it from my bag rather surreptitiously. But all that stealth has been worth it. Mark Kurlansky's epic proved to be a little gem. He explores the role of cod in almost single handedly helping to develop communities circling the North Atlantic, most notably Newfoundland, Maine, Iceland and Greenland.

The gradual improvements in fishing techniques and their contribution to the establishment of well known brands such as Birdseye are captured in impressive detail, from the discovery of 'long-lining' in the 17th century to the invention of frozen food technology. One the most noticeable aspects of the book is the level of research he has clearly undertaken, which is astonishing. The book is filled with factual, tragic and amusing anecdotes which the author has seemingly dug out in countless libraries ranging from Boston to Copenhagen. Kurlansky even intersperses the main narrative with historical cod recipes at the beginning of each chapter, and a more comprehensive 'cookbook' at the end. The book was even the winner of the Glenfiddich 'Best Food Book' 1998.

Much more than a biography of cod, Kurlansky also adds a political dimension, tracing its role in the age of exploration in the 17th Century, the onset of the slave trade, the American Revolution and, more recently, the bitterly fought 'Cod Wars'. Of course North Atlantic cod is now a threatened species due to over fishing, mainly by the Spanish, British and Canadians. The closing chapters therefore provide a rather sombre counterbalance to the sanguine first half of the book, not just in terms of the startling rate of the decline in fish stocks but also of the difficulties of fishing communities in adapting to new ways of life. Poignantly, Kurlansky quotes William Durant from 'The Lessons of History' :

"The first biological lesson of history is that life is competition. Competition is not only the life of trade, it is the trade of life - peaceful when food abounds, violent when the mouths outrun the food. Animals eat one another without qualm; civilised men consume one another by due process of law"

This was an enjoyable and surprising account of the economic, cultural and political significance of an otherwise unremarkable species, and is recommended to readers looking for something different. Whilst I have no intentions of reducing my cod consumption, I will certainly enjoy my next fish supper just that little bit more.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Benitez Needs to Spend, Spend, Spend

Yesterdays £20m signing of Robbie Keane is a bold statement of intent by Rafa Benitez, but the Merseysiders are still well short of the quality required to win the Premier League. Keane is an experienced and reliable goalscorer in this division, and is in the prime of his career. I am confident he will forge a good understanding with Torres, as they are clearly both intelligent footballers. Although the price tag seems excessive, Liverpool fans have often criticised Benitez for spending his money on mediocre or younger players rather than players of undoubted and established quality.

The acquisition of Gareth Barry would strengthen Liverpool yet further, given his experience of English football. I remain to be convinced about Liverpool's other summer signings. Dossena, despite being in this mid 20s, has hardly pulled up any trees in Serie A, while Degen is, by his own admission, a better attacker than defender. Ngog is an untested 19 year old whose record at PSG was, to put it kindly, average. Cavalieri is a reserve keeper who will play in the Carling Cup. It is in the wide areas that the team are still severley lacking. In this respect I would have no complaints if Benitez were to bring the little Spaniard David Silva of Valencia to Anfield. Silva was, for me, one of the star performers throughout Euro 2008, and would provide a wider option for Gerrard, Alonso and Mascherano.

In many ways, whoever Liverpool bring in this season is irrelevant in terms of wining the title next season. That honour will once again go to Manchester United or Chelsea. However, the signing of Keane provides us fans with a traditional glimmer of hope and optimism - at least until November.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Anfield Transfer Policy Continues to Baffle

And so it continues. Another week and another inexplicable transfer involving Liverpool FC. Having spent the past 2 months in a public wrangle with Aston Villa over the extra £3m required to secure the signature of Gareth Barry, Liverpool this week completed the signing of another reserve goalkeeper from some club in Brazil for (yep you guessed it).......£3 million pounds! I wonder whether this guy - Diego Cavalieri I believe his name is - is the final piece in the jigsaw? With Cavalieri on board, Liverpool will surely romp home to Premier League glory next May with 5 games to spare. Or perhaps he will disappear in the ether next summer, just like Charles Itandje and countless other reserve goalkeepers the club have signed in the past 5 years. Perhaps if Liverpool used their money wisely - on players in key positions where we are currently weak, namely left midfield and up front, then we wouldn't be out of the title race by December every year and 20 points behind Man Utd by February, which as any football fan knows is exactly what will happen next season.

And another thing. So far we have sold Riise for £5m and Crouch for £11m, and bought Dossena for around £7m and Cavalieri for £3m. I believe this is a £6m profit, so how exactly are the club struggling to find the funds for Barry and Keane? Where is the Hicks and Gillett money? I was under the impression that they were brought in partly to srengthen our hand in the transfer market. If anything, Liverpool appear to have LESS clout these days. If the transfer budget is so tight now, I dread to think what it will be like when we start paying off the new stadium.

And as if to rub salt into the wound, Liverpool today appear on the verge of selling the highly promising Scott Carson to Stoke City for £3.5m, having rejected an offer of £7 million from Aston Villa no more than 9 months ago. And who is Liverpool's chief negotiator when it comes to transfers? Yes, the hapless Rick 'The Clown' Parry. Tom Hicks was absolutely correct in identifying Parry as a weak link in the Anfield hierarchy and he should leave asap.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Phew! For a minute there, I lost myself.

One of the first CD albums I ever bought was ‘The Bends’ by Radiohead. To this day it remains one of the centrepieces of my since expanded CD collection. Despite my admiration for the band however, I had never actually seen them play live – until last Friday night. Various accounts had suggested that their recent performances had been disappointing, and they tended to over concentrate on the less popular 'post OK Computer' material. Whilst their latest offering, In Rainbows, certainly marks a return to more traditional Radiohead territory following the electro-rock experimentations of Kid A, Amnesiac and Hail to the Thief, it still does not quite reach the heights of The Bends or OK Computer. That said, there are some corking tracks, my favourites being Jigsaw Falling into Place, Reckoner and Nude.

Playing to a crowd of around 30,000 in Glasgow Green in the evening drizzle, the Oxford quintet opened to 15 Steps, the opener to In Rainbows followed by Airbag. After what I thought was a slightly dodgy start – Thom York appearing to struggle with his microphone – they were quickly into their stride. The first half of the set did tend to concentrate on newer material, although the best of the past three albums were played, including There There, Everything in its Right Place and Jonny Greenwood's electrical storm of a crowdpleaser Idioteque, accompanied by an impressive light show.

The second part of the set focused on the older classic material, including Fake Plastic Trees, No Surprises and of course the sublime Paranoid Android which was played to perfection. The band reserved Karma Police until the encore, and with the crowd finishing the last verse, I thought this would be the last piece. But York, clearly enjoying himself, came out for a second Encore, performing a delightful acoustic version of 'Videotape' from In Rainbows. Despite a 2 hour set including 2 encores, the sodden audience did not fade and were left wanting more. This was certainly one of the best gigs I have been to for a long while, and ranks with U2 1995, Ash 1997 and The Prodigy 2005 in my top 5. It was a privilege to have witnessed one of the finest bands of my generation at their majestic best.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Euro 2008 Pundits Lacking Width

I have to say I am enjoying Euro 2008 so far. The football has generally been attacking (Greece apart) and there have been some fantastic games with quite a few last minute winners. It is great coming home from work knowing that no matter how shite the normal TV schedule is, there will at least be a game on - until Sunday.

One thing I have noticed is the propensity for a growing number of pundits to use the phrase "by the way". Andy Townsend is the number one culprit. I lost count of the number of times he used this phrase during last nights 'analysis' of the Turkey v Czech Republic game. He will say things like (paraphrasing):

"Nihat still has a lot of work to do, and by the way - what a great finish"

"Petr Cech by the way is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, and would catch that 99 times out of 100"

"Karel Bruckner, who is no mug, will be absolutely fuming by the way"

What is the point of saying this? Was Nihat's finish somehow incidental to the actual football match? It's one of these things that, once you notice it, really annoys you.

By the way Andy - you are a twat.

Monday, 9 June 2008

West Highland Way May 2008

I have recently returned from the well trodden 95 mile trek from Milngavie (north of Glasgow) to Fort William in the Highlands. Not being a particularly experienced walker, I set off with a certain amount of trepidation. Would my feet stand up to it? Will I tire after 10 miles? Have I packed my bag correctly? What is the terrain like? I did not know the answer to any of these questions but this was part of the attraction. The Day 1 walk from Milngavie to Balmaha on the banks of Loch Lomond was easy enough, although it took us the best part of 12 hours to reach our first campsite. On arriving I was to encounter our number one enemy throughout the duration of the trip - midges. These intensly irritating little beasts were, almost literally, a significant fly in the ointment. It is impossible to go 5 seconds without having to squat away a swarm of the buggers from your face/hair/legs/arms. Nightmare.

The 2nd day was tough. Our muscles had taken a pounding the previous day and we were feeling the effects badly. The scenery however improved dramatically, and the Loch gradually revealed itself in glorious sunshine. I was almost dead on my feet by the end of it, and was delighted to arrive at our campsite at Inversnaid 2/3 of the way up the Loch. A few drinks in a nearby hotel with a coach load of OAPs was very well deserved. The 3rd day saw us continue up the east bank of Loch Lomond - again in beating sunshine - and including a visit to Rob Roys cave. Out came the frisbee on a number of occasions, before we left the Loch behind and began the 2nd part of our journey through the rugged Munro country. We battled our way to the village of Tyndrum, whereupon we set up camp in a Wigwam and headed straight for the legendary Paddy's Bar.

Weather was on our side for most of our journey with only one afternoon on the 4th day requiring the doning of our waterproofs. After a relatively short day of 14 miles we decided to 'splash' out on a slap up meal at the Bridge of Orchy hotel. We followed this by treating ourselves to a night on the single malt and engaged in some drunken banter with a group of Americans, also on the WHW. Come the morning, and after a now routine sweep of the midges, we set off for Kinlochleven, a daunting 21 miles away. Having negotiated a rather misty Rannoch Moor and the notorious 'Devils Staircase' against the backdrop of Glencoe, we soon found ourselves descending to our penultimate destination at the picturesque town of Kinlochleven - a mere 14 miles from Fort William. With the thought of only one more day in our unwashed underwear to go, spirits were high at this stage as we settled down for a night of darts, pool and Guiness.

I had imagined that I would get through the last day on adrenaline, but it was gruelling. My right ankle by this stage had developed an unbearably sharp pain and every step was a struggle. As we staggered up an old military road, the spectacular sight of the highest peak in the UK, Ben Nevis, gradually came into view. The end was in sight. However, we had not bargained for a seemingly endless series of winding forest trails. It was another 3 frustating and agonising hours before we gingerly shuffled over the finish line. Not quite the cigar chomping sprint finish I had envisaged!

Tired bodies, aching muscles and wandering minds were evident in us all. However, it was a memorable trip with a great bunch of lads and a privilege to experience the beauty of the 'real' Scotland - arguably unrivalled anywhere in the British Isles.

To see my full photo album of the trip, feel free to visit my Facebook page.

Day1 - Milngavie to Balmaha

Day 2 Balmaha to Inversnaid

Day 3 Inversnaid to Tyndrum

Day 4 Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy

Day 5 Bridge of Orchy to Kinlochleven

Day 6 Kinlochleven to Fort William

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Chelsea Still Managerless

With almost every coach in Europe ruling himself out of the vacant Chelsea post, I would like to put forward the perfect candidate...........


Thursday, 15 May 2008

Rangers Reputation in Tatters - Again

There is nowhere to hide for Rangers FC. The ingrained bigotry of a large section of their 'supporters' will be beamed around the world for all to see. The events in Manchester last night have left me almost embarrased and ashamed to be a follower of this famous Glasgow club. So much so that I am rapidly losing interest in Scottish football and the culture of drunken violence that it cannot shake off. It's one thing to have a few pints and engage in a bit of banter whilst following your team. It is quite another thing to attack innocent car drivers, rob local businesses and attack police with anything not bolted to the ground. The only thing that keeps me supporting them is the fact that I do not wish to be driven away from the club by these cretins.

As the prominent Scottish sports journalist Graham Spiers points out, the club have tried almost everything to rid itself of such vermin, but in my view Rangers will never lose this element of its followers from the social underclass. Alcohol and intoxication, and the primitive tribal aggression it precipitates, is deeply embedded in the Scottish mindset. Although it could be said to be a problem for the whole of the UK, it seems to be particularly raw in Glasgow. What struck me in the bar I watched the game was the number of female fans perpetrating the aggression and bigotry. That said, they can hardly be described as female. They waddle about menacingly with their pints of cider intent on getting as wasted as possible - there is not a trace of femininity in them at all. I myself was verbally abused by one such disconsolate lady when returning home after the game, simply for having the audacity to wear a suit (which I was wearing as I had gone to the pub straight from work).

So, all the hard work done by Rangers FC over the past 6 or 7 years through a variety of campaigns, has just been undone in one night of madness. All this is great news for Celtic of course. Players across Europe will take note of last nights events and probably list Celtic ahead of Rangers as a preferred destination, although that may already have been the case.

This is Graham's article in full, from the Times Online, and it is worth documenting:

"The chaotic post-match scenes at the Uefa Cup final in Manchester must be utterly galling for those thousands of Rangers fans who follow their team with pride and distinction, yet who must wonder how on earth their club is to be rid of the social poison at its core.
These recurring incidents of delinquent behaviour with Rangers fans on the road are becoming tedious as well as depressing for those of us who chronicle this football club's fortunes. It doesn't seem to matter what Rangers as a club try to do - and the Ibrox board have explored every conceivable road recently - they simply cannot gouge out the primitive element among their followers.

By sheer chance a colleague and I stumbled upon the clashes between Rangers fans and the riot-police around midnight in the centre of Manchester on Wednesday night. Earlier, in the media centre, we had received reports of a Zenit fan being stabbed, and of a number of Rangers supporters being apprehended over that incident, but what we found in the centre of town was something else entirely.

Three of us had gone back to a hotel to pick up some luggage and, one block away, the clashes between fans and the police were in full spate. We drove into a grid of wailing sirens. One Rangers supporter said to me: "It's like a war-zone down there. Some windows have been kicked in and there's fighting with the police." One colleague went off to pick up his bag and returned 10 minutes later, slightly shaken after having to pick his way around the chaos.

The experience earlier in the day in Manchester on Wednesday was also depressing. The blight of bigotry has haunted Rangers FC and, while the club has pleaded and pleaded with fans to stop singing their sectarian dirges, the evidence of Manchester city centre over that period suggested they have made little progress in winning this battle. A range of songs which bellow about "Fenian bastards" and "F*** the Pope" remain the routine chant of too many Rangers supporters. You couldn't walk 50 yards in Manchester city centre without being assaulted by one such chorus.

This is a sensitive subject for Rangers. The club has begged Scottish reporters and editors to play it all down, because it "harms the image" of Glasgow and Scotland. Rangers themselves have hired a PR agency over the last two years, asked to perform what is euphemistically called "damage limitation" when it comes to these repeated embarrassments for the club. The PR boys have a tough job.

As a club Rangers are very familiar now with having to issue declamatory statements in the aftermath of such scenes as Manchester. A recurring phrase - and it was used again by Rangers yesterday - is that it is "a small minority" which ruins it for the rest.
The problem for Rangers is, this isn't a small minority of fans at all, but a large minority of them which indulges in such drunken, or aggressive, or bigoted behaviour. It is an on-going blight upon a very proud and distinguished Scottish institution."

As a sideline, congratulations to Zenit St Petersburg - a fully deserved victory.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Hernandez's Haute Cuisine

Potatoes are one of Mother Earth's most versatile edible gifts. I love few things more than a nice big steaming, creamy pile of mash. The beauty of mashed potato is that making it is easy, fun and flexible. For the perfect mash, boil some floury potatoes such as King Edwards or Maris Piper until tender - usually about 20 minues (test with a knife). Drain, peel and mash, then add a large knob of unsalted butter, 3 tablespoons of creme fraiche, one tablespoon of dijon mustard and a liberal amount of chopped flat leaf parsley. Season with 4 or 5 scrunches of black pepper (salt should not be necessary) and mix the hell out of it until smooth and creamy. Your mash should slowly slide of the spoon when held vertically. Perfect with a couple of thick butchers pork sausages :-)

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Exiting the Abyss

It is now 4 full days and nights since my return from the city of Carlisle. Unfortunately the mental scars and psychological effects are very much evident. I have lost my appetite. I have become distant, confused, unfocused, de-motivated. I am slowly losing the will to live.

The day began in relaxed fashion. Bellies full after a fry up and cup of tea, we merrily set out for our first pre match ale. It was delightful. A few more jars in various establishments and we soon set off to Brunton Park, via an unsuccessful sleeping bag collection trip. Pre match atmosphere. Colourful, friendly, families, horns, flags, balloons, stuffed mascot foxes. Kick off. Rumours of favourable scorelines from other matches permeate the stadium. YES, DONCASTER HAVE BEEN PULLED LEVEL! IT DOESN'T MATTER, FOREST HAVE PULLED FURTHER AHEAD. Final whistle. Sadly Carlisle failed to gain the 3 points required, with a rotund Darren Anderton pulling the strings for Bournemouth in the midfield. In the end it would not have been enough anyway, with Forest winning elsewhere. Then the pitch invasion. Angry men, eager to salute their heroes one final time this season, voice their displeasure. Atmosphere begins to turn sour. Oh dear.

Pub. 6pm. Need to work quickly. Heavy elects for full bottles of wine (no messing about). The educated locals enter the fray, clad in Ben Sherman short sleeves. Ted Baker sweaters. The bars begin to fill up and the atmosphere adopts a sinister tone. Never mind - lets go for a Chinese and recharge our batteries/line our stomachs. THIS WAS A VERY GOOD MOVE IN HINDSIGHT. Our party is reduced to one Heavy and one Toad, so inevitably the quiz machine gets a feed. Thankfully we avoided any unsavoury incidents. And so to the end game. Heavy and Toad enter the Globe bar, popular with goths, students, Scousers and bikers. Did I mention the barman is a wife beater and apparently a high ranking member of the BNP? Perhaps not, but it would not surprise me. Drunken games of pool ensue, accompanied by unfortunate juke box choices. We Built this City on Rock and Roll.

3AM - chucking out time, Heavy and Toad wander ahead, get lost, respect the Queens Highway before slashing heavily in our friends back porch. Sleeping bag and wine collected from a mad Scousers living room. Heavy and Toad return to base, and set up camp in the sparsely decorated/furnished flat. Toad waits until Heavy is asleep then does the gentlemanly thing. He enters Heavies sleeping bag, removes his trousers.....retrieves the door keys from his pocket and heads out to Rouge :-) Sunday, although lethargic I am buoyed by a Liverpool victory and crawl to the train station an broken man. I love Carlisle.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Cumbria's Dark Secret

This Saturday I will be taking a huge leap of faith into the unknown as I venture south of the border to visit a friend of mine in deepest, darkest Cumbria.

I travel with intense trepidation following my previous sojourn, which threw up a number of unpleasant sitations. Myself and a companion by the name of Roger B Smith travelled to Carlisle late last year, intent on enjoying a relaxing and leisurely weekend with a few friends, away from the humdrum of our daily grind. What transpired was a night of undiluted and unimagineable horror. Even the bravest of men would recoil in terror on hearing of this tale. I don't intend to go into detail (it's far too terrifying), but having been suddenly abandoned by our inebriated host, we were left without food, shelter or clean water. We were forced to fend for ourselves in the heart of a strange city and seek temporary refuge in some of the north of England's seediest and decrepit establishments.

On eventually finding our designated shelter, and having had to wade through endless piles of fresh human excrement whilst fighting off local savages, we forced entry through an upstairs window and attempted to set up camp. But our problems had only just begun. It quickly became apparent that we would have to endure a night of discomfort perhaps only understood by Bear Grylls or Ray Mears. Did Scott or Amundsen have to use telephone directories as bedding on the way to the Antarctic? No - they had sleeping bags and tents. It is simply impossible to put into words the feeling of sheer helpnessness on waking at 5am and discovering an empty pizza box draped over ones torso in the manner of a blanket. Sadly my friend Mr Smith is now suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the ordeal.

All that is history though. The official reason for my visit this time is to attend a football match. The real reason however is the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol. I can only learn from past mistakes and come fully prepared this time, which is why I have wisely invested in a Berghaus v2000 Explorer Pro Sleeping Bag (£699) complete with a Dreamland Deluxe Pillow set.

Smith and Streat (below) - Happier Times

Douglas P Streat is a man without fear. A man without limits. A man who refuses to bow to social norms. An enigma. Here is a man who will toss full vodka bottles into remote agricultural holdings in a bout of sheer drunken aggression, only to return the following morning to retrieve it once sobriety sets in. Here is a man who drinks full bottles of Sambuca as a pre-breakfast tipple. Here is a man who regards three bottles of wine as a 'light refreshment'. Here is a man who thinks nothing of defecating on a public thoroughfare. Douglas P Streat is a man amongst men.

Liverpool Fall Short, Over to Rangers

So, Liverpool are out of the Champions League and so this bloggers interest in the English league ends until the new season in August. Why can't I support a harmless, normal club like Ipswich or QPR with none of the stress and tension involved in following the Reds? As harsh as it sounds, Riise's last minute own goal at Anfield did in the end cost Liverpool a place in the final. It changed the whole complexion of the tie and allowed Chelsea to sit back and play a tight formation, depriving the Reds key players of space. The extra 3 or 4 days preparation and rest for Liverpool's players did not show one bit. If anything, it seemed like Liverpool were the team who had just played a tough and energy sapping title decider. They somehow lacked the drive and urgency of Chelsea, especially in the first half. Gerrard and Torres again were disappointing overall. Does this prove my suspicion that 'resting' players before key games is actually counter productive in that it disrupts their momentum and takes the edge off their game? Yet again, the team only started pressing when it was too late. A familiar trait with Benitez's teams. But I will keep the faith with Rafa, at least for another season. With heavy summer investment I think we can get closer to the top two. The side did well to get to the semi finals but were just lacking that extra bit of quality.

Enough of Liverpool though, I must pick myself up and dust myself down in anticipation of Rangers' 2nd leg decider against Fiorentina. The tie is delicately poised, although Fiorentina are favourites to progress. However Rangers have proved they are a competent side away from home in Europe, and with Barry Ferguson and Kevin Thomson back from suspension, the midfield will hopefully provide more creativity for the front two. The game could go any way. I've had enough footballing stress for one week so hopefully the Teddy Bears will score a goal nice and early to settle my nerves and then wrap things up with a couple of killer goals from Stevie Davis and Bazza in the 2nd half. Somehow I doubt things will go so smoothly……..

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Depleted Rangers Seek Euro Glory

Rangers take on Fiorentina in what is arguably their most important game since a European Cup Semi Final 16 years ago. At the start of the season, most Rangers fans would have taken the UEFA Cup rather than the league title, given that European successes are much rarer feats. However, with captain Ferguson and Kevin Thomson suspended, and the treatment room resembling an episode of Holby City, the Light Blues are having to stretch resources. They should still be able to put out a decent side though, with Stevie Davis, Whittaker and Hemdani patrolling the midfield. However they will have to perform a lot better than they did on Sunday against St Johnstone. The Viola are an exceptional side, currently vying for a Champions League spot in Serie A. Ex-cocaine addict and Chelsea flop Mutu has rediscovered his goalscoring touch in Italy and will need to be watched closely by Weir and Cuellar.

Concerns have been raised by the away side over the pitch, and this could be to the Gers advantage, being the more direct and physical of the two sides. Up front, I'm relying on Darcheville to work the line as usual and Walter Smith will have to decide whether to deploy Novo or Cousin to share the load. My hunch is he will go for Novo for his pace and trickery. He rarely playes Darcheville and Cousin together, while the clubs top scorer Kris Boyd is evidently not fancied in European games. It should be a cracking game and hopefully all football fans in the UK, regardless of religious persuasions will be firmly behind this great and quintessentially British Scottish club.

Liverpool Can Still Progress

John Arne Riise's ludicrous own goal 4 minutes into injury on Tuesday was hard to take for Liverpool fans. However, judging by the performances of the two teams, the Reds should go into the deciding leg with a lot of confidence. Although they have not scored at Stamford Bridge for 8 games, that doesn not mean a thing. Chelsea have found it difficult to score against a resolute Liverpool defence in recent years, and all it takes is a goal from the away side, preferably in the first half, to put them firmly in the driving seat. Apart from the injured Aurelio, Benitez should keep the same team and formation. Alonso and Mascherano gradually took control of the midfield on Tuesday, although Chelsea will be boosted by the return of Michael Essien from suspension which poses a problem for Benitez.

One player who stood out for me was the ever dependable Jamie Carragher. His committment and attitude is vital to this Liverpool team, and he generally had Drogba in his back pocket for most of the game. Carragher will be required to be at his best on Wednesday night. John Terry's late booking will hopefully make him subconsciously aware that another will rule him out of the final and thus allow more freedom for Torres and Gerrard. I am fairly optimistic that Liverpool can get the result they need to progress, although it will be one heck of a nervy 90 minutes. Better get a spare pair of undies just in case :-)

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Zimbabwe Woes

Congratulations to Robert Mugabe on developing an innovative new election system. If it becomes clear that you have lost an election, simply refuse to declare the result, lie low and wait until the world's media gets tired of covering the story and thus remain in power indefinately. I can't believe no-one has thought of that before!

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Another Bloody Love Letter

I've just finished reading Another Bloody Love Letter by Anthony Loyd. Loyd is a well travelled foreign correspondent and this is his second offering following My War Gone By, I Miss it So. This time round he provides us with a taste of life as a reporter in wartime Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan.

Rather than a commentary on the motives and justifications for each war, the book is more an account of his experiences on the front lines of the worlds most dangerous conflicts. More specifically, it is a quest for the meaning of true human courage, and his ongoing search for personal gratifiction. There is an air of self loathing throughout the narrative and a sense that he regards his job not as one carried out through personal choice but as a duty to his soul. The writing is fluent and colourful and the book moves at a pleasing pace. This is because he tells the story through a combination of individual tragedies, near death experiences, unlikely friendships and journalistic exposes on the machinations of working for war lords.

Loyd impressively conveys the secret 'pleasures' of war, and I found it fascinating to read how he embeds himself in the various groups, in particular the Kosovo Liberation Army and the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. The section on Kosovo is especially dark and harrowing, and the atrocities of the Serb Army is recounted in vivid and unforgiving detail.

How he managed to emerge unscathed from his numerous encouters is something of a mystery to me, and one wonders whether he has used a little journalistic license in exaggerating certain situations. He appears to be driven by the adrenaline of the war zone, and implies that it is a kind of alternative to heroin, to which he was previously addicted and which lurks ominously in the background throughout. Indeed, he is in his element when navigating minefields with unscrupulous interpreters or dodging RPGs in the mountains of Afghanistan, preferring that to the boredom of London, and the unbearable temptation to relapse into heroin use that comes with it.

Another Bloody Love Letter may not be a politically balanced account of the respective conflicts, but the honesty and flair of this book made it an immensly enjoyable read, and I am looking forward to reading his earlier effort 'My War Gone By', provided I can get my hands on a copy as it does not appear to be stocked by any major store, including Amazon!

Friday, 11 April 2008

Rangers on the Brink of History

Rangers’ remarkable UEFA Cup run continued last night with a stunning 2-0 victory over Sporting Lisbon. The Light Blues will now face Italian outfit Fiorentina in a two legged affair, for a place in the Final at the City of Manchester stadium against either Bayern Munich or Zenit St Petersburg.

The Gers survived an early scare after Leidson struck Allan McGregor’s left hand upright, but the Portugese posed little threat after that and were generally confined to long range efforts. After a tight first half, Jean Claude Darcheville pounced on the hour mark to send the travelling Rangers support into delirium. Sporting, now requiring two goals to progress, pushed forward with more urgency but Rangers held firm and sealed the tie in the 90th minute after Whittaker danced through the tiring Lisbon defence to end matters. The two outstanding performers last night were the rugged but impregnable Carlos Cuellar, who must surely be due a call up to the Spanish national squad, and the Ulsterman Steven Davis, whose cross led to Rangers crucial opening goal. The Ballymena man has slotted in seamlessly to the first team and has formed a formidable partnership with Barry Ferguson in the middle of the park. His neat passing and tireless running are perfect attributes for Smith’s preferred tactical set up, and every Rangers fan will be hoping his loan move from Fulham is eventually made permanent.

Rangers are by no means a pretty side to watch, but they are ruthlessly efficient. Walter Smith rarely gets his tactics wrong and must get enormous credit for navigating the team through a hectic fixture period. There surely cannot be a team in Europe who have played more games this season than the light blues. Indeed, with a healthy lead in the SPL and a quarter final date with Partick Thistle in the Scottish Cup, Rangers are still on course for an historic quadruple, a feat which would guarantee the current team legendary status. Whilst there is obviously still a long way to go for that, what is certain is that the pendulum has well and truly swung towards the blue half of Glasgow and the misery of the Paul Le Guen era has finally been completely erased.As they say in Govan, “OH THE BLUEBELLS ARE BLUE, ALL THE BLUEBELLS ARE BLUE…..”

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Brown Will Not Attend Opening Ceremony

It appears an apology is due from me to the Prime Minister after he has confirmed he will NOT be attending the opening ceremony to the Olympic Games. Perhaps he has read this blog. However, he claims this is not on account of his opposition to the Chinese regime but because it would be a "waste of taxpayers money". Yes Gordon, of course it would be!

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Brown Should Stand Up to China

The Olympic torch will pass through London this weekend as part of its journey to Beijing. China intends to use the Games to prove that it is a succesful, forward thinking and modern society ready to take on the mantle of the world's new superpower. Unfortunately this is far from the case, as suggested by an Amnesty International Report:

"It is increasingly clear that much of the current wave of repression is occurring not in spite of the Olympics but actually because of the Olympics"

In addition, the IOC team who are currently in Beijing to assess its readiness for the Games have reported that the Olympic program has wholly failed to act as a catalyst for reform. Serious questions must now be asked as to why this brutal regime were ever awarded the Games in the first place. As Sam Leith of the Telegraph points out, this is a regime which not only seeks to suppress truths, but seeks to suppress the free exchange of thought between its citizens.

People such as the boat man Steve Redgrave and jogger Kelly Holmes will spout out the usual nonsense about "not mixing sport with politics". But the Olympics Games is a profoundly political event, which is what makes it so special and separate form the World Championships. The decision to bid for the Olympics is taken at a Governmental level, funded by Government and the social legacy is perhaps the most important factor in the awarding of the Games. How can it be anything other than political? The torch itself symbolises political freedom and harmony through sport, so it would be farcical acknowledge it given China's consistent human rights abuses, most recently in Tibet. I also somehow doubt they will be lining the streets of Darfur in celebration of the torch.

The shocking events in Tibet cannot go unpunished and it is important that the Games are not afforded any legitimacy, as was the case in 1936 in Berlin. In this respect Germany's Angela Merkel has to be commended for deciding to boycott the opening ceremony, while French President Nicholas Sarkozy has indicated he will also stay away. If Gordon Brown and indeed George Bush had boycotted the ceremony it would have sent a powerful message and been a huge embarrassment for the Chinese.

I for one will not be watching a single minute of the Games and hope it is a disaster, and that is nothing to do with the fact that half the athletes will undoubtedly be drugged up to the eyeballs. Hopefully the intense focus on the country for those couple of weeks will serve as a reminder to the Western world that China cannot yet be trusted and must be treated with caution. Once again, the all talk no action Gordon Brown has failed to stamp his authority on the world stage which is why he will be remembered as one of the most lame Prime Ministers in living memory.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Fuggin Mohammed Al-Fayed

Why do we constantly have to be subjected to this utter moron? I've resigned myself to hearing the latest from the 'Diana Inquest' on an almost daily basis, but is it really necessary to give this buffon any more publicity than is necessary? He is clearly bonkers. I would even say he is mentally ill. Prince Phillip a Nazi! How dare he come over to our country, bully the authorities into issuing him with a British passport on account of his wealth, bugger off to Switzerland whenever his tax bill gets too much and then farcically accuse our Monarch of conspiracy to murder. What a wanker!

Monday, 17 March 2008

Hotel Rwanda

Bill Clinton recently confessed that his one biggest regret during his Presidency was failing to avoid the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Almost 1 million Rwandans were murdered in the spring and summer of 1994, as the extremist Hutu's embarked on the systematic slaughter of the minority Tutsi people. Hotel Rwanda portrays one mans account of the horrors of this tragedy, and the failure of the UN to control the ensuing chaos.

Paul Rusesabagina (played impressively by Don Cheadle) is the Hutu manager of a successful hotel in the Rwandan capital Kigali, which is forced into becoming a makeshift refugee camp as the fighting intensifies. He attempts to maintain normality whilst simultaneously hiding almost 1200 refugees, many of whom were Tutsi's. However, once abandoned by the UN, this proves too tough a task amid the horrors happening literally outside the gates of the hotel. His survival to that point had been prolonged on account of him being a Hutu and notable member of the community. Once it becomes clear that he is harbouring Tutsi's, he himself becomes a target and the Hotel is set upon. Rusesabagina is thus forced to protect himself and those inside the Hotel through a combination of bribery, smart lies and phonecalls to powerful friends.

There are some deeply moving moments, such as that when the French army extract the Westerners from the Hotel, leaving the local Rwandans inside the hotel thus condemning them to almost certain death. One of the most disturbing points of the film is towards the end, when Cheadle and his driver are returning from collecting supplies from the warehouse of a corrupt businessman. In thick fog, it appears they have taken a wrong turning onto a bumpy track. On stopping the vehicle and stepping outside however, it becomes clear that they are in fact on the correct road, and the bumps are caused by something altogether more horrific.

Overall, I felt the screenplay lacked a certain depth and felt rushed despite clocking up almost 120 minutes, and too many of the key characters were not terribly well developed. The dialogue is a tad clumsy in parts - for example in a scene towards the start when Joaquin Phoenix's American character asks for and is given an idiots guide background to the Rwandan crisis. Surely as a war journalist he would already have known that??! In fairness though, this was obviously aimed at providing the viewer with a brief introduction, although it could have been handled more cleverly. Then there is the stereotypical lesbian-esque Red Cross worker, who is seemingly killled by a land mine mid-movie, but miraculously re-appears in the final scene in true Hollywood style. Despite the films shortcomings, it is still an interesting account of a difficult subject and I would recommend Hotel Rwanda for anyone seeking an understanding of this dark chapter in Africa's recent history.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Liverpools Path to Glory: Benitez v Wenger

Today's Champions League draw has thrown up a number of interesting matches. Roman Abramovich's Russian Roubles have worked their magic in Nyon once again with Chelsea handed a virtual bye against outsiders Fenerbahce, while UEFA have ensured that Manchester United will not face English opposition en route to the final. Liverpool will be glad to have avoided Manchester United, Barcelona and even Chelsea at this stage, but Arsenal have proved a tough nut to crack for Benitez. With a league game at the Emirates sandwiched between the home and away legs, the two clubs will certainly become well acquainted with each other. It is unlikely that one club will win all three encounters, so Liverpool must seize the initiative in the away leg by getting at least one away goal. Benitez will be desperately hoping that Gerrard and Torres can maintain their rich vein of form for the remainder of the season. There is a feeling that Liverpool are now playing with a lot more freedom, now that the 'distractions' of the Premiership title and FA Cup are gone.

Contrary to popular wisdom, I feel that having the home leg second is if anything a slight disadvantage, as the home team can set their stall out to defend the 1st leg without conceeding, knowing that an away goal in the 2nd leg, which tend to be more open, gives them a huge advantage. This was perfectly illustrated by Rangers in disposing of Werder Bremen in the UEFA Cup. Some suggest that Arsenal will tire as the season draws to a conclusion but I fail to see the logic in this - the Gunners are one of the fittest teams in the Premiership. Instead, their big weakness lies in the centre of defence. Senderos often makes Titus Bramble look like Frank Baresi, and Gallas is prone to lapses of concentration, whilst Kolo Toure has been struggling for fitness all season. In addition, their failure to collect 3 points from any of their last 3 league games suggests the wheels on the bandwagon might be starting to loosen.

Liverpool should go into the games with confidence, having ousted the Serie A runaway leaders Inter MIlan in the previous round, and I am optimistic that Rafa will once again come up against his traditional semi final foes, Chelsea, for a place in the final hopefully against Barcelona.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

The One Show

Does anyone watch The One Show (shown at 7-7.30pm on BBC 1 funnily enough)? Normally I would only have this on in the background whilst waiting for something decent, like football, to come on or whilst clearing up the dishes. Christine Bleakley is as bland as a damp teabag, but recently they have had as guests two of the greatest rock GODS of all time in Robert Plant and Roger Daltrey! I never though I'd hear the legendary Led Zeppelin frontman talking about the declining sparrow population on a sofa with the amiable MOTD 2 presenter Adrian Chiles. Fair play to them for pulling in the big names when it really matters. Makes my weekday evening housework all the more enjoyable. Of course, I'm absolutely positive that his appearance on the show had nothing whatsoever to do with the recent release of his album, Raising Sands, in which he duets with Alison Krauss.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Trump's Golf Plans Hit the Rough

American tycoon Donald Trump's £1 billion plan to build the "world's best golf course" at the Menie Estate north of Aberdeen has caused considerable controversy amongst the planning fraternity and environmental bodies in Scotland. Predictably, opinion is fiercely divided on whether the economic boost to the local economy would be outweighed by the environmental impact. The application was initially backed by Aberdeenshire Council's planning committee, but subsequently refused at the Infrastructure Committee. Incidentally the Head of that Committee, Martin Ford,has since been sacked. The Scottish Government have now announced that there is to be a Public Inquiry to decide whether the plans should indeed go ahead. This has led to a great deal of confusion surrounding the planning process and the legitimacy of Ministerial intervention into live applications.

On the one hand, certain members of the public are sceptical as to why the SNP Government had to intervene, with suggestions of sleaze and dodgy dealings. The Trump Organisation meanwhile have expressed their "disappointment" that the application will come under the scrutiny of an inquiry. This will no doubt be an lengthy process, and it could take up to 2 years for the Inquiry to take place and the Reporter to make a final recommendation. But it is entirely appropriate and normal that such a scheme is 'called-in' and handled in accordance with planning law. Mob rule from over zealous environmental lobby groups should not distract planners from their duty to make a fair and reasonable assessment of the application. As the head of the Royal Town Planning Institute in Scotland, Alistair Stark, recently observed:

"There was a substantial body of opinion that the planning authority should have reached a decision that reflected the majority opinion in the area. This is not an acceptable way to take a planning decision"

Stark's comments reflect a wider public misconception that planners should 'do whatever the prevailng public opinion' is. This is plainly not the case. Whilst public objections must obviously be considered, ultimately, it is the planners role to use his or her professional judgement to determine whether any proposal is beneficial.

No doubt the residents of North Antrim in Northern Ireland will be watching the outcome with keen interest, since Trump has stated that he will take his scheme to the Giants Causeway should his Aberdeen plans fail! I wonder how that would go down at Stormont?

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Wishing Eduardo a Speedy Recovery

I would just like to wish Arsenal’s classy striker Eduardo a full and speedy recovery, after his horrific leg break last Saturday. The silky Brazilian-born Croatian has taken some time to settle into the Premier League, but was finally beginning to establish himself in the Gunners first team thanks to his clever movement and sublime finishing. But this is the type of injury that every footballer dreads the most, and one almost had to look away from the screen as the incident was shown in super slow motion. The injury evokes memories of David Busst’s similar injury in 1996, although in that instance the break was higher up the leg with Busst having sustained 3 compound fractures after being hit by two players simultaneously. Interestingly, the ex-Coventry man recently revealed when commenting on Eduardo that it was not the actual break that ended his career, but the infections he suffered during the healing process that forced him to quit. Indeed, his bone had fully healed within a year. Whilst there are no guarantees that Eduardo will be able to resume his career at the highest level, the noises coming from the surgeons and physios all seem positive. This is good news for Eduardo who will no doubt receive the best medical treatment available, and hopes to be back in action within 9 months.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Ruane a Waste of Space

Only in Northern Ireland could a woman like Catriona Ruane (or Katrina Rooney to give her her proper name) hold the title of Minister of Education. My understanding of the political scene in Northern Ireland is far from extensive, but reading from afar, her performance so far beggars belief. Her recent interview with the Belfast Telegraph perfectly illustrates just how inept and clueless she and her 'advisors' are. To say that the media are "scaremongering" by pressing her on timetables for a replacement transfer system is ridiculous and offensive in the extreme. Ruane apparently does not understand the meaning of public accountability and seems to think that having the status of Minister is some sort of privilege. It is surely every parents RIGHT to know exactly how their children's very futures will be decided. And it is a primary role of the media to quiz Ministers on such matters where there is any element of doubt. Yet according to Ruane, parents are wrong to be concerned and the interfering media should keep their noses out of matters until she informs us "in due time". I have no doubt that the reason the public have not yet been told what will happen is because Ruane doesn't actually know herself. Is this yet another case of Sinn Fein picking and choosing which 'rights' they think the people of Northern Ireland should be entitled to?

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Brit Awards Sham

I inadvertently caught part of the Brit Awards last night on ITV, with the whole event appearing to be nothing more than an Amy Winehouse love-in. Obviously these awards are fixed but what disturbed me most was the sheer unprofessionalism of the whole thing. It seemed that everyone, including the award winners, award givers, guests and even the presenters (the Osbourne Family) were absolutely inebriated! Now I realise that this is the entertainment industry and those taking part are not expected to conduct themselves like respectable politicians, but the lack of respect shown to the viewer disgusted me. One award giver literally stumbled on stage, clumsily grabbing the microphone and attempted to describe the nominees. He failed miserably, missed his cue and simply growled "ahhnnd the winner is...." The abhorrent Winehouse herself, obviously ravaged by self pity, could barely stand and her singing was mumbled and incomprehensible. At the end she eventually dedicated her 'performance' to her darling (incarcerated) husband Blake (who was recently rushed to prison hospital having overdosed on heroin). But apparently, I am reliably informed, she is a tortured genuis. The one notable exception was Kylie Minogue who in fairness looked stunning and brought a modicum of gracefulness to the ceremony. But as a whole it was, in my opinion, a glaring reflection of the current state of British society - totally lacking in self confidence.