Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Hodgson Injects Feel Good Factor

Following the most demoralising season in my lifetime as a Liverpool supporter, there is a strong sense of optimism currently surrounding Anfield ahead of the new season. Roy Hodgson may not have been every Liverpool fans first choice as manager, but he has started his tenureship in impressive style. The impression is that Hodgson is a 'hands on' manager and one whom players enjoy working with. And unlike Rafael Benitez he is open, honest, and on good terms with the media. He conducts himself with dignity and maturity, preferring not to answer questions in riddles or 'double speak'.

There is of course much work to be done to restore the club's pride after an embarrassing 2009-2010 season. Hodgson has moved quickly to shift much of the dead wood at the club including Degen, Aurelio, Itandje and Insua. One would hope the likes of Reira, Ngog, El Zhar, Plessis and Kyrgiakos will follow suit. Encouragingly, Hodgson has made it clear that he intends to inject a more British feel to the squad, remembering the new Premier League rules on home grown players. The recent signings of Jonjo Shelvy, Milan Jovanovic, Joe Cole and Danny Wilson together with Steven Gerrard's commitment to the club represents shrewd business and have given the fans reasons to look forward to the new season.

This was always going to be a crucial summer for Liverpool in terms of appointing the right manager, making the right changes to the playing staff and successfully selling the club to a suitable owner. The ownership issue in particular is an absolute priority and it is clear that the club can only really move forward once Hicks and Gillett have departed Merseyside. I have long since learned to avoid the wild optimism that used to dominate Liverpool's pre-season, but I can genuinely say that that I am already looking forward to our first game against Arsenal on 15th August.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Railway Investment Must Be Maintained

An efficient, reliable and quality transport infrastructure is one of the cornerstones of a civilised society and essential for economic growth. The recent pledge by Transport Secretary, Lord Adonis, to radically improve the most neglected major railway stations is a welcome sign of a commitment to investing in Britain's rail infrastructure. Adonis recently conducted a tour of the 10 major stations most in need of upgrading as identified in a report for the DfT. Importantly, it was stressed that this will involve not only more reliable timetables and newer trains, but more modern and comfortable stations. If the UK is to meet its ambitious carbon reduction targets, persuading people to switch from their car to the train will be crucial. Other European countries are already well ahead of the UK. In Spain, for example, the report notes that "high speed lines offer consistent world class travel from modern stations to modern trains and regenerated cities". Railway stations are vital transport interchanges, providing access to key retail centres and enabling urban regeneration.

The input of local communities, particularly where there is currently a lack of provision, should be actively encouraged by politicians and planners alike. The key point is that railway stations should not be planned in isolation, but should form part of an integrated strategy incorporating the street networks around the station. They should be pleasant spaces in which to wait, with adequate access to all forms of public convenience. This should form the basis of emerging local development plans, with the overall aim of allowing smaller stations to become safer centres of activity which people will be more inclined to use. Railway stations serve a much greater purpose than merely allowing commuters on and off trains. Amidst all the public sector spending cuts, this Goverment and the next must not forget the important role of the railway infrastructure in promoting sustainable economic growth.