Sunday, May 12, 2013

Not sorry to see you go Sir Alex!

This has nothing to do with books, art, running or movies, but as every journalist, politician & celebrity wants to give their verdict on ‘Sir’ Alex Ferguson, I thought I’d give mine.

Let’s first put this into context. I’ve a Mancunian mam. Now, whilst she is completely ambivalent about the game, I have other relatives whom I love very much, but who are very much RED! I have fallen foul in the past of making silly  hurtful Facebook comments which were clumsy and that is not my intention with this post. It’s also fair to say that back in the seventies, before my love affair with Pompey began (affairs never end happily) City were my team.
I remember in the half-term holidays, getting the Number 16 bus from my Grans in New Moston to Moss side to stand on the Kippax and watch Lee, Bell, Tueart, Marsh..the list is endless. They were far superior to United back then, whose supporters used to console themselves by finding  entertainment off the pitch by systematically dismantling away grounds and smashing windows as local terrorised terraced house dwellers cowered behind sofas (nice, but also conveniently forgotten)

We've taken Norwich!!

I also remember getting a kicking at White Hart Lane as a 13 year old after Paul Power beat the offside trap and Pat Jennings consecutively to give the sky blues a surprise point!
Hypnotic eyebrows!

So I accept I’m biased.

I’ll counter this by stating that one of footballs all time showmen is Eric Cantona, and I loved watching him, unsure whether you were to witness devilish magic with the ball or the devil off it. Likewise Ryan Giggs (apart from extra curricular dalliances) David Beckham (apart from extra curricular dalliances) and George Best…ah.

No, here’s my gripe with United and in particular Ferguson. You had the quality to win without having to apply bullying, intimidation and thuggery to achieve the success.

Case in point: Roy Keane. Look at this photo of a game which United actually won, but the little man in black has just done the unthinkable and given a penalty to the other team.  If Keane was in the stands, adopted this stance, and hurled abuse at the away fans he’d be out, he might even be on a charge. 

'Ya know da feckin rules ref, ne feckin penalties to de uder syde!'

This is not the behaviour that I want to see my children replicate, but there are 600million supporters worldwide who, the majority, were prepared to turn a blind eye...for the greater good. (A United win)

But this type of behaviour was only ever half heartedly condemned by the Boss.

There’s something romantic about united, particularly for people a little older than me who remember Munich, and please, there is never an excuse to ever mock, provoke, devalue this awful tragedy as certain other teams fans do, but I’m afraid I missed that, so my view is somewhat hard headed but watching a game of football should be entertaining, and not something that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Ferguson has always had players who have looked to pushed the boundaries with regards to physical intimidation: Norman Whiteside, Paul Ince (well he thought he was the guvnor) Gary Pallister, Steve Bruce, That annoying little Irwin fella (cant remember his first name and can’t be bothered to Google it) Paul Scholes etc. Oh and lets not forget Wayne Rooney, now there’s someone you want your little lad to aspire to be, yes?

Case in point: Think it was last season, I had been running in the morning, and I’m recovering on the lounge floor (doing my stretches like a good boy) and I turn on the telly to see what the score was in the lunchtime encounter between United and those likeable east end chappies in claret and blue! Shock, WHam were leading, but then along came Rooney, and two goals later, it’s the reverse. But what got me again was the contorted expression on Rooneys face, which he pushed into the Sky camera mans face whilst unloading a string of expletives and once again adopting the thuggish ‘C’mon then!!’ pose favoured by yobboes captured on CCTV on a Saturday night or matchday & displayed on YouTube for our edification.
Wayne Rooney  - Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney charged by Football Association for foul-mouthed goal celebration

But he was excited because he’d just scored a couple of goals and won the game.

But that’s his job?

This week I’m pitching for a big investment case. Imagine the scene if I get it.

 ’Mr Cobb, we’d like your company to manage our assets’

 ‘YEEES, F***ING Get in yOU F***ING C***!!! F*** F*** etc etc.

 Just doing my job.

Going back a bit further (even pre SAF) Bobby Charlton looks like a surly bugger. There's a wonderful book called 'Manchester United Ruined my Life' by  Colin Schindler which is a delightful tale of good honest Manc fandom and liberally littered with good tales from Old trafford Cricket ground to, but in that book, Schindler tells the story of meeting Sir Bob and not being impressed.

(Actually that reminds me: I leant this to my ex Pastor (good bloke, keen utd Fan) and he never gave it me back!! You know who you are!!!

So, Mr Ferguson. For endorsing Thuggery, intimidation (I haven’t gone into the things YOU have said about refs) Bullying, Gamesmanship, I am personally glad to see the back  of you. Enjoy your horses.

To United fans. I wish you all the best. You now have a fantastic manager who, although dour, could not just emulate, but better SAF. I sincerely wish you well, particularly in Europe.

I on the other hand will be unaffected anyway, as I start a new adventure discovering the delights of Rochdale, Accrington & Dagenham. You know what, I can’t wait!


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Wild at Heart?

Ok that’s book number nine so far this year. Since my last blog I finished The Trespassers by DH Lawrence and all I would say about that book is that if you are having an affair with someone and you think you might find kindred spirits in Sebastian & Helena you will be sadly let down.
'I did not have sexual relations with this woman'
My last post was more about the author than the characters, and it’s not really a book which particularly grabbed me and bettered me in any thought provoking way, so, not for the first time, it simply became a challenge to get through it as quickly as possible, so as not to waste too much of my life which I sense is now in the latter half of its course!

I’d only read one Christian book this year, so when I received a gift from a wonderful hero of mine which was the latest offering from John Eldredge, I was keen to promote it to next on my list. Eldredges finest hour was a book called ‘Wild at Heart’ which I confess I have read four times as I had never encountered writings which so summed up the challenges, hopes and dreams that a man has, but who also wants to know more of his creator. In a nutshell, we are all wearers of masks, as a way of protection against ever having to address the wounds that we carry from our Fathers.  

No seriously, I'm fine!
I know many people who have changed their lives on the back of that book!

Funny, I didn’t feel the need to address my wounds with my old man. He’s eighty something for goodness sake, does he need me dumping guilt on him in the name of catharsis? Don’t think so!

Anyway, it’s still a good book, and it’s just good to read a Christian writer who empathises rather than preaches or prescribes.

Okay Okay, i believe!

In fact apart from Philip Yancy, Eldredge was the writer I would most seek out. That is, until the awful ‘Way of the wild heart’ and that cringe wrenching moment when he describes his sons thirteenth birthday when he writes of  presenting the young boy with a gun, followed by a sword, and then some cake. That’s the moment when you realise why about three quarters of the worlds population hate the yanks! I mean, I know plenty of really good American people, but they’re not English are they! We would settle for cake.  

So, I hadn’t read anything for a few years, and reading ‘the Utter relief of Holiness’ was a bit like getting a letter from an old friend. However, I’m sorry to say that Jay EE has regressed into the prescriptive camp, and his examples were all pretty standard with the proximate cause of the exampled problem typically being previous sexual abuse or some drunken Dad. I didn’t feel any kind of connection, and I’m not convinced that we can blame al the ills of the world onto our folks. That’s simply not fair. However I do believe JE has the right to blame all his ills on his drunken dad, and that’s fine.  

It’s weird that I write so cynically having just spent the weekend in one of the most spiritual & scenic places I know (& a little closer to me than Lindesfarne) Once a year I visit a retreat in Ely with some other guys. The city is about the size of Harpenden, so it has no reason to be called a city but for this incredible Cathedral which, because of the flatness of the surrounding area, can be seen for miles. You really get a sense of historic  pilgrims journeying there and catching their first glimpse from many miles back. 


I have returned refreshed, and challenged about certain areas of my life. As always, when men find the courage to speak up about their weaknesses and fears, they invariably find they are not on their own. Of course, openess, weakness, fear are not ‘manly’ so it can be difficult to remove the mask and reveal the real you. Hey, I’m sounding like John Eldredge! Perhaps I better read his book again? 

On a completely different note, what fantastic news that Mott The Hoople are reforming for a tour including a London date. But the O2? They’re not Take That FFS! Seventies bands should play seventies venues and for me, the Hammersmith Odeon (Apollo to younger readers) IS the definitive seventies location. It worked so well in 2009, and they sold out all four nights. Methinks this has something to do with age, and it being easier to do one gig than four in the smoke, but guys, sorry but it’s a bit of a sell out. You are often quoted as being a big influence on the punk scene that followed you, but this action is definitely punk-less.  


I’d love to take a stance, but with Ian hunter now 73, and the drummer Dale Griffin too ill with Alzheimer’s, you have to throw your principles out the window and buy (4) tickets. This really could be the last time I ever see them.