This is my new blog page. Each topic below has a title, perhaps a subtitle and a brief description. If you want to read more then just click the .. erm .. read more link.
Who Are We Seeing Again?
Wondering who actually comes to our Fringe shows...
So I know I havent written in here very much, so I guess its now time I rectified that, and what better time to do so, than when all across the country the majority of comedians are going through the most worrying moments of their year... Our Edinburgh Festival tickets have gone on sale.
As you know, I'm taking my debut show up to The Fringe in August at The Stand Comedy Club, and as my tickets went on sale a couple of weeks ago, I was curious as to who would be buying tickets to come and see me for an hour. I can't imagine someone seeing my name in a brochure and then them saying "Oh my god, we need to get tickets to see Tony Jameson".
I was amazed to realise that I sold over 120 tickets for my Leicester and Glasgow shows, and this got me thinking, how have I done this? I've not been on TV. I don't have a particular 'fan base' in these cities. In fact, I din't even have a single poster or flyer up. I realised that I'd actually sold all my tickets through Twitter.
As my show is called Football Manager Ruined My Life, whenever I tweet about the show, the company responsible for producing the game, Sports Interactive, kindly retweet on my behalf, opening up my 'appeal' beyond comedy fans, to fans of the game.
On the face of it, these people may not be seen as your regular comedy club goers, but they are turning up to the shows, laughing in the right bits, and enjoying a night of stand up comedy. Sure, some of the references in the show are niche in order to stick with the title of the show, but I was conscious whilst writing the show that I needed to keep the underlying theme broad enough to attract audiences who have never played the game.
Will this work? Only time will tell. I hope that I'm not alienating potential audience due to the title, but I suppose if people are turning up to comedy regardless of who's on, then I guess thats a good thing.
Tickets for Edinburgh Festival are available here http://www.thestand.co.uk/fringe
A Change of Stance on Football
And why Im not going to rant anymore...
I realise that I don't populate this blog as frequently as I probably should, but I think that I've now found the reason why.
I thought that I should write about Villa, and that would be great, but recently, I've realised that all that has done is a) alienate people who don't care, and b) has made me lose Twitter followers by the load.
So why am I mentioning this then? Well, I've decided to take a change of stance.
This all came about over the Christmas period, when Villa were seemingly taking the 'season of good will' to the extreme by allowing whoever played us to hammer us into submission. I had to make a choice at that point. Did I want to become the person who every Saturday tweeted an abusive message about how angry he was, or, did I want to change my stance and say 'fuck it, I know they're shit, so why let it bother me anymore?' And that's exactly what I've done.
I'm not so much giving up on football, but there are far more greater concerns of mine now. Why should I allow myself (and my mood) to be governed by people who earn a ridiculous amount of money and care a hell of a lot less than the supporters who go to watch them?
I accepted that relegation was inevitable, and I do still feel that is what will happen to Villa. Will I cry in May when that happens? Nah, not any more. They don't deserve Premier League status, and with comedy, I have something I now love even more than football.
I feel sorry for those who go every week, but for me, the love has gone, and for the sake of my sanity, I'm going to distance myself from the game. I'll watch as a fan, but tweeting every weekend about how angry and upset I am just isn't going to happen any more.
Experience vs Quality
What do the fans really want?
So this is my first blog of the year, and I would've loved to have started it without SSN showing the goals from another one of Aston Villas list of embarrassing results playing in the background. Our season, like other teams, hasn't exactly been a walk in the park, and if it has, that park has been littered with used syringes and dog shit all over the pavements.
The fans have been trying their best to keep faith with Paul Lambert, but as the transfer window swings open, the fans are giving it what for again.
For a club that bought players from League 1 and unknown foreigners, some are now claiming that the only way Villa can avoid the drop this season is to sign players with Premier League experience rather than youth. But what I'm thinking, is, is it Premier League experience we're after, or is it Premier League quality?
For me, Premier League experience certainly counts when you're down in a relegation battle, but that doesn't necessarily tally up when you look at closer. For example, players like DJ Campbell, Kieron Dyer, Titus Bramble, Alan Hutton, Shola Ameobi, Dean Whitehead, etc all have Premier League experience, but lets face it, unless you were absolutely mad, there is no way any manager would consider these players good enough to be used as a first team option.
Where I feel fans of all clubs get confused, is what they actually want at this period of time, is Premier League quality. Take Newcastle, for example. Last season they looked great (granted, part of that was that everyone else in the league was awful - see Liverpool this season), with a team built around good cheap buys from France. Cabaye, Ben Arfa, Cisse, and now Debuchy. None of which had Premier League experience when they signed, but they were deemed to be good enough to play well in the Premier League. Debuchy is Frances first choice right back, afterall!
For me, what a manager needs to look at when bringing players in, is, are these guys going to be better than what I've already got? If they're signed from a different country, are they good enough to hit the ground running? Everton, for example, didn't take a 'risk' on Felliani, as it was well known that he had a lot of talent. Whether Everton realised quite the player they had bought may be another thing, but they certainly weren't put off by his lack of Premier League experience.
Infact, Everton are a very good example that Premier League experience isn't the be all and end all. When they signed the likes of Tim Cahill, Joleon Lescott, Phil Jagielka, Landon Donovan, Steven Pienaar, Nikita Jelovic, none of these players came with a wealth of Premier League experience. If memory serves me rightly, there was only Jagielka who had played one season with Sheffield United. Donovan, had only played in the MLS, Jelovic was playing SPL and almost signed for Leicester. Cahill and Lescott were both plying their trade in the Championship.
For me, its not always about experience of the league you're playing in. If you're good enough, you're good enough.
As the transfer window has has only been open for 9 days, its difficult to judge who will strengthen their squads enough, but one thing is for certain, there's going to be a lot of deals to be done. Some will please the fans, some wont, but ultimately, that's the way the game is and each manager can only be judged at the end of the season.
We got a point
But we'll celebrate it as if it was 3...
Last night, Aston Villa managed to achieve something we haven't in quite a while. We got a point in the Premier League. Lamberts young lions battled and fought to a hard earned draw against in-form Arsenal at Villa Park.
So why am i celebrating a single point? Well, the truth is, there hasn't been much to celebrate at Villa Park for the best part of three years, so any remote positive can, and should, be blown completely out of proportion.
Statisticians will point to the fact that if the league table was based on results at half time, Aston Villa would be 5th in the league. Unfortunately for us, football is played over 90 mins, and during the second half, we have conceded 17 of our 22 goals we've leaked this season. How can this be explained? Easy, a lack of experience.
As our performance against Manchester United two weeks ago proved, we can attack teams and get ourselves in front. Infact, we went 2-0 up just after half time, and such is the lack of confidence in this young team, I tweeted 'I know now we'll lose this game 3-2'. What happened? We lost 3-2.
Arsenal have been in form in recent weeks, and as Arsenal fans will testify, a drop in form is always just around the corner for them. For some reason, Arsenal are more than capable of this. For Villa, the fact we got a point can be seen as the start of a run!
Our next three games will probably shape our season even further. They are massive games. At home to Reading on Tuesday is a must win. I even celebrated Wigan scoring their 3rd against Reading last night as it meant that if we got a point against Arsenal, we'd move out of the bottom 3. This is how bad things are at Villa Park.
Following the Reading match, we travel to QPR, which, until Friday, would have been a game I'd have been quietly confident of winning. However, the fact they've now installed 'Appy 'Arry Redknapp as manager, I think the atmosphere at Loftus Road for his first home game in charge will be too much for our young squad. We'll buckle, they'll win, and everyone will either laugh at us, or praise Harry as some sort of managerial messiah.
After QPR, we have Stoke, which is always a big ask. Stoke get labelled as a rugby team, but I don't think that's the case anymore. Yes they play to their strengths, but now that the human cannon ball of Rory Delap no longer features, I think they try and play it a bit more now. We need a result there, especially as we're at home.
There are signs that our young team can develop into a decent side, but with an alarming lack of experience, this season is going to be another one where we spend most of the time looking over our shoulders and at other teams' results. No-one has a divine right to Premier League football, but surely a club like Aston Villa doesn't truly deserve to spend another season down in the doldrums.
Dreams Can Come True
Turns Out Football Manager Does NOT Ruin Lives...
As you know, I'm currently writing a show called Football Manager Ruined My Life that I'm planning on taking up to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.
Why did I choose to do a show on Football Manager? Well, this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Football Manager series, and that was a stark realisation that I had played every version, so therefore, had spent 20yrs playing the same football management simulation.
As anyone who has ever played the game will testify, there are moments that will fill you with unbridaled emotion that you just don't think straight. That euphoric moment when you've taken a non-league club all the way to Premier / Champions a league glory, for example, is a reason that many players of the game lose their grip on reality.
Some, myself included, have even gone as far as applying for a real life management job, based purely on their Football Manager credentials. The most famous example of this, was when a Middlesbrough fan wrote to their Chairman, Steve Gibson saying that he should be given the chance to replace Steve McLaren back in 2006.
Steve Gibson showed us that some people in football do actually have a sense of humour, and despite rejecting him for the job, cited the following rational, 'Quite frankly we were of the opinion that your tenure with us would have been short lived, as your undoubted talent would result in one of the big European Clubs seeking your services'.
We all fail to even get an interview, or do we? Say hello to Vugar Guloglan oglu Huseynzade, a 21yr old Swedish lad who has been handed the reigns at Azerbaijan side, FC Baku.
Not only did he fend off competition from former France international, Jean Pierre Papin, the incredible thing about this story is that he got the job based on his Football Manager CV! Well done that lad.
This, my friends, is proof that dreams can come true. If anyone reading this is connected to a football club (unlikely, I know) when the time comes to replace your current manager, please do feel free to get in touch and I will send you my credentials. After all, he's only been playing the game for 10yrs! Bloody amateur ;)
Meanwhile, do keep your eyes out for my Football Manager Ruined My Life show. I'm sure this lads achievements will undoubtedly feature at some point.
Di Matteo not good enough...
And neither is Mark Hughes (but we already knew that)
So once again, the billionaire owners of football clubs decide to wield their axe on their managers due to results not being good enough.
The managerial merry-go round is something football fans, and managers, the world over have become accustomed to. However, this week, the news of Chelsea sacking Roberto Di Matteo left a sour taste in the mouths of many us.
The main reason for the sympathy afforded to Di Matteo by football fans, isn't because he's a legend of the game, or even that good a manager, its simply because 6 months ago, he managed to get Chelsea to park the bus all the way to become Champions League winners. No-one in the game thought that this feat would be possible, and yet, despite all odds, he managed it. Then came a summer of uncertainty at Stamford Bridge. Who would take over on a permanent basis? Di Matteos stock would never be higher, and some speculated that he could walk into any job in the world. He didn't, he stayed at Chelsea to sign a 2 year deal. I'm sure even he thought that he might last longer than 6 months.
Abramovich has made a reputation on being harsh on managers who don't achieve his goals. Ranieri, sacked for finishing 2nd. Ancellotti, won the league and FA Cup, yet still faced the boot. Big Phil Scolari, fired. Avram Grant, took Chelsea to a Champions League final, and was still sacked.
What do owners expect these days? You can't win everything all the time. Especially if you buy shit, and that's the problem with Chelsea. I'm not saying that the signings of Hazard, Oscar, Mata, etc are bad players, but they don't have a striker or even a decent defence. Torres just isn't the answer yet. He's lost his love for the game (that much is obvious), so to put all the pressure on his shoulders just won't work. They miss Drogba, and they should've replaced him rather than a multitude of midfielders they didn't really need.
The biggest shock of the whole story yesterday, was the fact that they hired Rafa Benitez! A man who has never won the Premier League title, made enemies with Chelsea fans when at Liverpool, and more worryingly, signed an 18 month contract despite everyone knowing he'll only last til the end of the season when Abramovich once again tries to court Guardiola. Good luck Chelsea, you're gonna need it.
Oh, and Mark Hughes got sacked cos he's shit.
Man Citys Champions League exit
Brought on by bad transfers and a feeling of superiority...
This week saw Man City get dumped out the Champions League group stages. Should we be surprised? No, of course we shouldn't.
Since Man City won the league last year, the sense of superiority eminating from the Etihad has left a lot of football fans almost wanting them to fail. Yes we cheered when they won the league because it was funny to see Fergies face at Sunderland, but, deep down, no real football fan wanted them to win the league.
Fast forward to now, when, after a summer of, lets face it, poor signings, the writing is well and truly on the wall for Mancini. The cracks were papered over by a 5-0 win against Villa last weekend (the linesman had a remarkable game and may well start this weekend against Chelsea), but the fact remains that Man City just aren't good enough to win the Champions League.
Last season they showed intent to buy the title (as every club who has ever won the title has done), buy bringing in players such as Aguero, Yaya Toure, Silva, et al. This season, who did they buy? Maicon. 3-4 years ago, yes, the perfect signing. A wonderful marauding full back. However, he's now 31, and doesn't seem to have the legs for the Premiership. Nastasic. Could well become a very good defender, there's no doubting the boy has talent, but given that Kompany and Lescott formed such a formidable partnership at centre half last season, it seems obvious to all bar Mancini that the fact they're conceding goals is because he broke that partnership up needlessly. Scott Sinclair? Is he really going to be pushing David Silva or Nasri out of the team any time soon? Of course not. Javi Garcia. Good player, but personally, I think they were better with de Jong.
Its the way football works. Yes its a squad game these days, and there's no club in the world who can survive on just 14 players (I do remember one team who did do that and ended up winning the European Cup, but that was in 1982 - it was Villa!), but when you buy new players now, especially when you're the champions, you need to buy as good or better than what you've already got, and I don't think Mancini did that this summer.
Will they win the league again this year? Maybe. It seems to be between them and United again. United have problems in midfield. City have problems at the back. It'll probably go to the wire again, but perhaps City fans need to remember that a little under 10 years ago, they were playing in the 3rd tier of English football, so expecting to win everything all the time is being a little ungrateful.
Is it as bad as its cracked up to be...
So, its Thursday. I'm still trying to write for my first preview of my solo show which I'm doing next week in Nottingham. Trying, is the operative word here. See, I'm hitting a wall. Is it writers block? Is it fear that I don't believe in my idea enough? Or is it the fact that I'm just procrastinating, and need a massive kick up the arse?
Potentially, all three are true. However, I'm just going to focus on the last one.
As a self employed worker, the only real boss you have to answer to, is yourself. I'm a great boss. 'Can I have the morning off, Tony?' 'Course you can, you're a valued member of my team and I need to keep you happy in order to get the best out of you'. This is the kind of bullshit I'll play in my head on a daily basis.
Normally, I'm not too bad, although today I do feel as though I've hit frustration point. So much so, that I've actually looked at what I've done today to 'avoid' doing work.
- Emptied and re-loaded the washing machine
- Clipped my finger and toe nails (they weren't that long, just long enough to justify a clipping)
- Searched for podcasting software for my iPad
- Ignored the fact that I downloaded podcasting software yesterday and still haven't used it
- Played two games of FIFA
- Drank four cups of coffee
- Debated whether at 3pm it was an acceptable time to start drinking under the guise of 'being creative'
- Decided that I probably shouldn't start drinking, but would eat a big bag of Doritos
- Wrote this blog
- Constructed one, possibly two, plausible reasons as to why I haven't written much today when Mrs Tony comes home and asks what I've done with my day
As you can see, the creative process is a difficult one. I'm trying to keep focused, but something keeps dragging me away. Is it ADD? Is it the fact that I'm just a lazy twat? Hopefully next week I'll have done enough to justify my first preview, otherwise I'm gonna feel like a weapons grade bell end.
First look at Football Manager 13
I've not written here in a while, this is why...
So I'm aware that I've been pretty lax in keeping this blog thingy up to date. Infact, despite having a great time during the Edinburgh Festival, I didn't even have time (or use my time more constructively) to write more in here.
However, I now do have news.
As you'll probably know by now, I'm already planning next years Edinburgh show, which I'm calling 'Football Manager Ruined My Life'.
This was sort of a pipe dream at one point, until I met Miles Jacobson, the Director of Sports Interactive, who convinced me that a show about FM could well work. Infact, I think the fact that he lovingly sent me a preview copy of Football Manager 13, suggests that this is exactly what I'm going to do.
So what are my first thoughts on the new incarnation of the football management simulation that has sapped 20 years of my life so far?
Well, in this version we welcome two new game modes. Challenge and Classic.
Challenge is pretty straight forward. You're given a certain challenge to complete, whether its avoid relegation, remain undefeated, or win a trophy with a bunch of youngsters. I've only had a bit of a play about on these, but they certainly seem like something that could be quite fun, especially if you're not looking for that total immersion that happens with the full blown game.
Classic is a stripped down version of the full game. Remember Championship Manager? Well its quite similar to that. There's not as much in-depth stuff as the full game, so its a good way for newcomers (or retro players) to dip their toes into FM13.
But the main thing, is obviously the full game. Has it changed much? Is it just a new database?
Well, given that my Blyth Spartans career happened on FM10, there's a lot of features that seem brand new to me (even though I did play a bit of FM12).
The main new features, are the addition of a Director of Football. Yup, that's right. Your clubs chairman may well hire someone to buy your players for you or to add a wedge between yourself and the board. I can see this being quite an interesting addition to the game, especially as I like to work from the bottom, up.
They've also looked at transfer deadline day. As you know, in the real world, twice a year Jim White from SKY Sports News becomes the most excited man in the world. Clubs scramble to get last minute deals done. A sense of panic engulfs supporters wondering whether their team is adequately prepared for the campaign ahead. This has now been implemented within FM13. The game clock stops a lot more which gives you time to do some business last minute. Its a nice feature.
Training has been given a bit of an overhaul, and there's a real sense of getting under the skin of football management.
The levels of interaction have again taken another developed step. It feels a lot less like you're just pressing the same four answers to skip the press conference bit to get to your game. I also like the way you can talk to your squad whenever you like. Some of the answers / replies still feel a bit generic, but hey, these guys have done a hell of a job to create this game so I'm not one to complain about a feature like this.
Given that Blyth Spartans got relegated last year (maybe they should've hired me afterall), I chose to have a bit of a play about with AFC Wimbledon. Part of me wanted to create a new 'Crazy Gang', but when I was scouting for players, all that went out the window when I saw a player I had signed for Blyth on my previous version. Martin Camano. An Argentinean centre half. A player I dubbed, 'The Northumbrian Colocini' (I presumed he had big curly hair aswell).
I'm really enjoying FM13, and yes, it'll probably go through a few more tweaks before release, but I'll be honest, this game is certainly going to be another game that will keep me away from my notepad for an obscene amount of time.
With that in mind, I feel its only fair to plug my Football Manager Ruined My Life show.
I've got the first preview run through in Nottingham @ The Canal House on Tuesday 23rd October. It would be great if you could come. There's a link for tickets here.
The show will also be appearing at Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival @ The Crumblin Cookie on Tuesday 12th February. Tickets available for that one soon.
We're also hoping the show will be part of the Glasgow Comedy Festival in March, and I'll be trying to get it out as much as possible before embarking on an entire month at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. I'm happy to take the show wherever, so if you've got a venue and could draw a crowd, get in touch!
It's the Fringe!
And a few excuses as to why I've not blogged recently...
Yup, that's right folks, it's August, so that means that every comic worth their salt (and also those who aren't) go on a really lovely holiday to Edinburgh for a month long trip to try and convince the general public that they're worth paying money to see.
I've done the Free Festival for the last three years, but this year its different. This year, I've been given the loving embrace of The Stand Comedy Club. An entire month in the company of the best comedy promoters in the land. Marvellous. Sounds a blast. Well it is. For example, the first three days of the festival, myself and my comedy wife for the month, Miss Katie Mulgrew, were sharing a dressing room with Harry Hill! And you know what, he's a bloody lovely fella.
To be honest, I've not really blogged in a while as a) erm, I don't know, and b) this is the first time I've actually been in the flat since the Fringe started 4 days ago. 4 days you say, Tony? Does that mean that you've spent your time boozing and smoothing? Well not quite. Thursday was the official launch of the festival, so naturally it was only fair to pop into The Stand for a coupe, of cheeky ones (they are technically my employers for the month, so it would be rude to refuse a free drink).
After Fridays show, myself and Miss Mulgrew hitched a van to Belladrum (it's up near Inverness),cot play the Tartan Heart Festival with Izsie Lawrence, Julliett Meyers and Jay Lafferty. What was it like? Well, the tent was massive. The front row was kids, and it was one of those were you go 'I'm gonna do my time regardless of what happens.' to be honest, they were OK. Yes it was odd, but what festival gig isn't?
Saturday, I was straight into the car after the show to drive back down to Saltburn where I was compering a gig for Pete Vincent. Lovely they were. Slightly older. Slightly restrained, but fun nonetheless. Yesterday, was nuts. I'd driven up from Newcastle (having stayed there the night before rather than doing a round trip to Saltburn and back), and proceeded to just squeeze in the 4 gigs yesterday. Our show as great though. Lovely audience, really up for it. The best of the run so far. This, by the way, is in no doubt, down to our fantastic flyers. @smethy off of Twitter and Jenna. What stars. They are so good, I even sen an email to say how good they are.
The Fringe is into its first official week now, and I'm extremely glad to say that a) we've sold tickets for our shows, and b) people seem to be enjoying it. Mulgrew and I made an agreement before we came up, that if we could sell 10 tickets before the start of Edinburgh we'd be happy. I'm pleased to announce that we surpassed that figure easily, and ticket sales have been beyond our wildest dreams. The average audience number for the festival is 6, and we're still (somehow) above that everyday. Niven at The Stand said to us today that we're 'better than average'. We knew he meant ticket sales, but fuck it, it's going on the poster next year.
Gotta run now as Jim Smallman is bringing pizza round for some boys chill out time.
The Day I Hosted Tony Jamesons Northumbrian Assembly
And the pictures The Stand staff drew of me to celebrate...
Remember when I said a little while ago that I hosted Tony Jamesons Northumbrian Assembly at The Stand? Well basically, to make me feel nice and welcome, the staff at The Stand decided to draw some pictures of me. Below are what the staff lovingly came up with.
Warning: most pictures contain at least one cock.
I suppose they all mean well.
Bye bye Rangers
And the reasons why its actually bad for Scottish football...
Well, its all official now. Rangers will no longer be allowed to compete in the Scottish Premier League next season, and its looking increasingly like they'll be plying their trade in the Scottish Third Division. As the SPL announced today their intention to invite Dundee to Scotlands' top tier, this is a story that comes loaded with emotion.
Rangers have obviously been relegated due to severe financial irregularities. However, the SPL seem to have forgotten that they gave Dundee a whopping 25 points deduction when they went into administration for the second time in seven years. Given that I've got a lot of Scottish family, who all just happen to be Celtic fans, means that my allegiances north of the border fall firmly at the feet of the Parkhead giants.
So surely I should be over the moon given the demise of Rangers? Well not exactly. See, the problem comes in that this will have a dramatic knock on effect with every team in Scottish football. We know the SPL isn't the greatest league in the world. Infact, given that I'm 32 and have a knackered knee after a snapped cruciate ligament, the overall standard of the league is still something i wouldn't look out of place in.
With this in mind, naturally, broadcasters are hardly throwing high levels of money to show the games. Realistically, if you had a choice of watching Fulham vs Stoke or Kilmarnock vs Aberdeen, I think its safe to say that most viewers would opt for the Fulham vs Stoke game. So with this in mind, given that there'll be no more Rangers, the only actual glamour tie in Scottish football, the Old Firm derby, is now a thing of the past. Scottish football has been a two horse race for many years now, and now there is no Rangers, unless Celtic decide to not play in half of their games, the chances of Celtic failing to win the SPL any time after Christmas is now less likely to be seen than John Terry guesting on the new Wu-Tang album.
There's also the issue that with no Rangers in the SPL that the smaller clubs will lose far more money than first thought. Not only will broadcasters be paying less money to showcase Scottish football, but the smaller clubs will see a drop in attendances. For example, when Rangers were in the SPL, teams like Kilmarnock, Aberdeen, Dundee Utd, etc could all look forward to a full house when Rangers turned up. Now theres no Rangers, where are these smaller clubs going to find the extra 10,000 fans per match they would have received? Naturally this is going to be an issue.
Theres also the problems of putting Rangers in the third division. With a ground the size of Ibrox, filling it week in week out against third division opposition is going to be tricky. Plus Rangers will now no longer be able to rely on additional revenue from European games (they have been banned for. Number of years).
All in all, its a bit of farce really. Yes Rangers deserved the same punishments the SPL dished out to Livingston when they went bust, but as a football fan, its a shame to see the impact that this will have on the game throughout the country.
As Rangers died, so did Scottish football.
Drawing dinosaurs with kids
Just another week in comedy...
So its been about a week since I last wrote something in here. Bad form, I know.
I guess I should probably let you know whats been happening then. Well, we had more rain. Lots of rain. Not as much as when Newcastle flooded, but still lots of rain. I had to drive to Stafford that day, and after an absolute bastard of a journey, I was very thankful that a) the gig was amazing, and b) the promoter had gone out and bought bottles of Punk IPA especially for me! What a thoroughly lovely bloke. To be fair, the compere did say that all we need now is a bottle of 'McLeish out' and then my Twitter feed would be right infront of me.
I've also been previewing this week with Mulgrew. Im confident that the show is really starting to take shape now. We've got a few more previews left to iron out the odd bit of material here and there, but as Edinburgh is now only three weeks away, te excitement levels are rising faster than the banks of the River Tyne last week.
So thats the normal stand up stuff taken care of, but on Sunday I did something very different. I did Comedy Club 4 Kids.
Given that I used to be a lecturer before doing this, I guess dealing with kids isn't too far removed from my previous experience levels. Add to the fact that I love drawing dinosaurs and you can start to imagine where this might be going.
Essentially, I got children to create a dinosaur, then we improvised a little story for them. It was great fun. I'm certainly hoping to do more of it in the future as I had a great time.
I suppose its only fair to put the pictures up then isnt it?
To put this into context, the previous day I had also agreed to go clay pigeon shooting for the first time. July is clearly my month for trying new things.
It all got a little 'end of the world'...
So yesterday was fun. We ended up having a crazy ass storm in Newcastle, which left a wave of devastation and much of the city and surrounding areas flooded.
It was mental. As the skies darkened, the rumbles of thunder began to sound at around 4pm. A few minutes later, the lightning came. It didn't just end there. Along with the thunder and lightning, a storm of biblical proportions decided that it too was going to have a bit of a play. The rain lashed everywhere, so much so, that it felt like my house was going through a car wash.
Take a look at the video below. Some lads actually managed to film lightning striking the Tyne Bridge!
As I say, it was utter carnage. The streets of the city centre flooded. The river Tyne burst it banks. The train stations roof caved in and flooded the train station. The Metro Centre flooded and had to be evacuated. The Tyne Tunnel had 1.5ft of water inside it!
Take a look at this video of Dean Street where a man hole cover burst. We ended up with an unplanned water fountain.
And for a final one, here's Heworth metro station where you can see cars have sunk!
I suppose its understandable that I didn't make it to Bradford for my gig last night. I saw about 300 people stood at Central Station at 11pm still struggling to get home. I've never seen anything like it. The fact that looking out of a window today you wouldn't have guessed there was anything yesterday.
In true northern fashion though, everyone just got on with it and threatened to 'chin' any lightning. Still not sure if you're allowed to wear a coat in weather like that.
Take a look at http://tyneandwear.sky.com for loads more pictures and videos of yesterday. Its really scary looking at it.
Meeting the bloke who 'ruined my life'
And deciding that I'll probably be writing a show about it...
So yesterday I had the privilege of meeting the man responsible for ruining the last 20 years of my existence. That man, is Miles Jacobson, the studio director at Sports Interactive, and the man behind the latest Football Manager series.
As you probably know, I'm a serious Football Manager addict. In August, Back Page Press mark the 20th anniversary of the game with a book called 'Football Manager Stole My Life', which I'm proud to say I'm part of. This, however, is only part of the story. During the initial discussions with the publishers about my input to the book, I mentioned that I may be considering writing an Edinburgh show called 'Football Manager Ruined My Life'. Essentially this will be a show highlighting all the 'normal' things I can't do, because instead of learning them, as I was too busy playing video games. For example, I can't change a car tyre, but I can tell you exactly what stats you'd need for a top quality holding midfield general.
When I spoke to Miles yesterday, i mentioned this idea again, and he seemed very keen on the idea. So, I guess what I'm trying to decide now, is, can this show work?
What I need to establish, is:
a) Is there a market for Football Manager related humour?
b) Just how much FM chat should I incorporate into this?
c) Is it better to just keep the material fairly generic whilst using FM as a 'coat hanger' to link the show together?
d) Does anyone have anything they'd like to contribute to the show? (Similar to the contributions for the book)
e) Does anyone have a contact for Nii Lamptey and Freddy Adu?
If anyone reading this has any suggestions of what they think might be funny, useful, or even just some constructive feedback, then please do feel free to drop me an email.
England are out!
And London can suck my balls...
So, its all over for the Three Lions for another tournament. Good. pundits, commentators and fans can complain about a 'lack of luck', a 'long, tiring season', 'Rooney only being available for two matches', but its probably time to face up to a number of reasons why England don't do very well.
The most glaringly obvious one, is a lack of talent. Compared to other countries, Englands players are not good enough. There's only really Joe Hart and Ashley Cole who are truly world class i.e. could walk into the Barcelona side. Rooney, despite what everyone seems to think, is not world class. In the big games he goes missing. He's scored one goal in three tournaments, and that was a one yard header against Ukraine.
Tactically, England are a mess. 4-4-2 is such an outdated system to use at international level. At that level, there is an emphasis on ball retention, which England are unable to do. The stats back this up, as bar Greece, England had the lowest possession stats of all the countries at Euro 2012. They also faced more shots than any other nation.
I'm not going to lie, I am glad they're out. Not that it makes much of a difference, as once again their qualification group for World Cup 2014 is stupidly piss weak, so I suppose its a given that they'll be at the World Cup. Scotland, on the other hand, won't be there. As a race, we're too pale, so there's no point sending us over to Brazil. We'd melt. We'd need more last minute call ups than England did at the Euros. Still, if we do qualify, and our squad do melt like Ginger candles, then that perhaps opens up the possibility of me getting a call up!
I didn't watch the match on Sunday, but from the highlights I've seen, Italy outplayed England at everything, and should've really had the game won in 90 minutes, never mind the addition of extra time and then the penalties. I missed the match as I was down in That London again filming Chapter 2 of Jim and Brileys Progress wrestling promotion. Its was another fantastic show. They managed to pack nearly 300 people into this rock bar in Islington, which, by the way, has the nerve to charge £4.30 for a pint of pissing Red Stripe! Seriously. Red Stripe. London prices can suck my balls.
For me, the highlight of the show was death match specialist, Jimmy Havoc, putting his opponent in the Crippler Cross face made famous by the late, Chris Benoit. It wasn't just me who approved, the 300 strong crowd even started a 'we miss Benoit' chant. Given that it was the 5th anniversary of his death (he killed every member of his family before taking his own life aswell) it seemed surreal and somehow funny that this chant would take place. Still, not as good as Mark Andrews having to deal with the 'Drago Malfoy' chants.
There's not really much happening today, but it would appear that tennis is now back on. Tennis is shit, so I wont be commenting on it. Oh, I'll tell you what is interesting though. I got an email from a lady called Nina, inviting me to perform my Football Manager routine at a games conference on Wednesday infront of none other than Miles Jacobson, the creator of the bloody game! I'm gonna ask him if he knows just how much of my life I've missed out because of that game.
Got a preview tonight, so should probably go and write some more bits for it.
Reasons why England WILL win the Euros
Despite the fact I don't want them too...
So we've got down to the knockout stages of the competition, and the remaining nations will have one eye on their next opponents, whereas some nations will be keeping the other eye fixed on winning the tournament overall. After beating Ukraine on Tuesday night, I'm now convinced England will win the Euros.
1) If they get past Italy, they get the chance to play the Germans or Greece in the semi finals. My money was on Germany to win the tournament overall. They'd beat England easily. However, sods law probably comes into play here as Greece are more than capable of boring the opposition to death like England, and will probably end up beating Germany. This means, an easier semi final for England who will probably win by a deflected goal off Rooneys arse. Fast forward to a match in the final against Spain who will refuse to play with any strikers again, and England will stumble to victory in that.
2) Tactically, England will bore the opposition to death. Now, I'm an admirer of the 4-5-1 or 4-2-3-1 tactics that most teams are using these days, however, England have decided to only adopt this as a defensive strategy. Against Ukraine they had a paltry 28% possession. Ireland had 27% possession when they got hammered 4-0 by Spain. England had roughly the same in a 1-0 victory. I suppose if you just sit back then eventually your opponent will just give up. It's like that episode of The Simpsons where Homer becomes a boxer and just waits for his opponent to tire before just pushing them pushing them over for the win.
3) Luck. Everyone will bang on and on about how England never have any luck. This isn't true. In 1966 you had quite a bit of luck with the help of a Russian linesman. Every qualification group there's luck to be drawn against teams such as Lapland, my old school team, and the remains of Rangers. Add to this, the element of luck that was awarded on Tuesday. Ukraine had a goal disallowed as John Terry 'heroically' managed to clear the ball from inside the goal before it hit the net to deny the Ukrainians a 1-1 draw (a result which would still have taken England through). Naturally England fans were claiming that it makes up for Germany in the World Cup. Yes it does. Now it's 2-1 England in dodgy decisions.
4) Defensively they're very strong. Credit where credit is due, they probably have the best back four of the tournament, and in Joe Hart, they possess one of the best goal keepers in the world. I still think John Terry is too slow and gets caught out of position too many times, but Gary Cahill will become his long term successor anyways.
5) The fact they're going to do it just to spite me. As you know, I'm a Scotland fan, so watching England is always something that winds me up anyways. The media expectations of England are never in keeping with the reality of world football. England aren't good. I'm sorry to say it, but they're not. Infact, England wouldn't even finish in the top 4 of the Premier League.
So there, that's my rationale for why England will inevitably win the Euros. Naturally I hope they don't (they still haven't shut up about 1966) but I guess only time will tell.
10 days is a long time in football
Apparently there's a tournament going on...
I'll be honest, here. My intentions were to write a daily blog keeping up-to-date with the goings on at Euro 2012, however, I haven't actually seen that much of it.
While I've had some gigs pulled because of the Euros (England matches seem to be a personal favourite), other gigs have gone ahead, which means out of all the group games (bar the final two matches tonight in Group D - bloody England) I've seen a total of 6 matches in their entirety at this tournament.
Before the tournament kicked off, my money was (and still is) on Germany to take the trophy. My outsiders were Russia, who are now sadly eliminated. People talked about the Dutch being solid and should do well. Yes, they should, but as its a major tournament, the Dutch once again fucked up in spectacular fashion, finishing with a grand total of 0 points. An honour only Ireland also managed to replicate this year.
The Spanish seem to have been written off. Potentially due to the fact that Barcelona didn't win the league (as the Spain side is technically just Barcelona minus Messi), or perhaps more interestingly, the fact that Spain decided to field no strikers against Italy. Yup, that's right, Vicente del Bosque has clearly been watching Alex McLeish in order to perfect the highly ambitious, 4-6-0 formation. Thankfully, in true McLeish fashion, Spain managed to win the match 1-1.
Thunder and lightening halted play for over an hour at the France vs Ukraine game. FA officials were already hoping they could use that as an excuse if England lost against Sweden. Unfortunately, England won, and now they feel that they will win the tournament. Not bad for a squad that would barely challenge the top 4 if it was a Premiership team.
From the bits I've seen, its been a really good tournament. Yes there's been anti-football (Greece), but there's also been a lot of expensive attacking flare on show (Russia, Germany, Denmark!). The biggest worry, was always going to be the fans, and sadly racist chanting and violence have been reported. More worringly, is that Nicklas Bendtner got fined £100,000 and banned for 1 match for showing a sponsor on his underpants when he celebrated scoring a goal! A fee much higher than any of the nations charged with racist chanting and violence outside the stadiums. Its utter madness.
The group stages come to a close tonight, and hopefully I'll be able to watch some of the knockout stages.
Oh yeah, and I saw the Olympic Torch the other day by accident. Very under whelming. I thought someone was running through the streets warning us that we've come under attack from the Vikings again.
Paul Lamberts Lime Green Lions
Villa announce new kit, and its err, lime green...
That's right folks, Aston Villa have announced their new home away kit for the upcoming 2012/13 season. Our contract with Nike has ended, so we signed up with Italian sports giants, Macron (yeah, Macron...makers of such world leaders as West Ham, Charlton, Leeds, etc) to design our new kit.
I've had a bit of time to digest the new designs, and personally, I'm slightly disappointed. Naturally, the view of Aston Villa fans is that we're moaners. This is sort of true, in the sense that it is true.
The home kit, to me, looks a little disjointed. Given that Macron have designed the West Ham kit, there was always going to be a challenge to make our shirts look different. To me, it feels like the design doesn't really fit. Its lots of little ideas that don't really flow together properly, so I feel that the shirt is a tad busy. I must admit, though, that I do love the stripey socks.
As for our away kit. Well. There had been several rumours that we'd be sporting lime green for a our change kit, and a few fans aired their viewpoints on the Villa forums. However, I think it almost works. I know its not the nicest kit in recent memory (France away from last year being the coolest away kit I've seen in a long time), but its certainly not the worst. Infact, the last time we had a green away kit, it was combined with black stripes, red pin stripes and a dirty great big Muller yoghurt logo smeared on the front of it. This, by comparison, is a million times better.
When the league fixtures were announced yesterday, it now seems only fitting that our first match of the season is away to West Ham (get the lime green kit on display from day one), and our campaign is closed away to Wigan (and get the lime green kit out for the last match too). We've top and tailed the season in lime green.
I for one, am looking forward to the start of the new season. Yes our kit isn't great, but so what. At least we've already managed to come up with chants such as 'we glow in the dark, we glow in the daaaaark, Aston Villa, we glow in the dark', 'stripey sock my lord', and 'Paul Lamberts Lime Green Army'. We might be moaners, but at least we're inventive.
Paul Lamberts Claret and Blue army
Villa unveil new manager...
He's here! Aston Villa have announced the man who will replace Alex McLeish as their new manager. Step forward, Paul Lambert.
As football fans know, Lambert has one of the hardest jobs in football... to improve on 4 home wins all season.
I'm excited by the appointment. Yes I was seduced by the prospect of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as he was a name we had never seen linked with a Premier League club. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. He could revolutionise Villa. Transform our play. Unearth some hidden gems. But it would be a massive gamble.
As the story transpired of planes landing in fishing villages, offers being made / not being made, and 'family decisions' stopping the appointment of OGS, it became apparent that Randy had a number one target, and that man was Paul Lambert.
I like Lambert. He has many of the good Martin O'Neill qualities that I like. He's firm. Not afraid to upset people. Won't take players slacking off (are you listening James Collins, Stephen Warnock, Richard Dunne, Gabby Agbonlahor?). He gets his teams winning by any means possible. He's a Champions League winner as a player. And, more importantly, has lead Norwich from League 1 to 12th in the Premier League in just 3 years.
The area I am interested in, is in the transfer market. MON spunked a load of money up the wall on shite. Houllier bought well, but couldn't get the team playing. McLeish also managed to convince the world he had no money to spend, yet still managed to spend £20million. If Lambert is successful in the transfer market, he will be a success at Villa Park.
He's a man who is tactically astute. He knows that he can't get the current squad to play beautiful one and two touch play, so I wouldn't be surprised if we revert back to our tried and tested, counter attacking style. After a year, however, I would expect that Lambert would have identified new players who can evolve the squad into a new era.
I think this move screams evolution rather than revolution.
I like the fact that I have a fondness for Villa again. I'm genuinely looking forward to the start of the season (something I have been unable to do since the day MON walked out).
Hopefully we'll get a couple of new players in early doors and the Villa evolution can begin in earnest. Finally, the words 'Proud History, Bright Future' can be said again.
When the private jet follows the trawler
The owner gets involved and OGS stays...
So it looks like Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may not become the new Aston Villa manager afterall.
After a busy start to the week, where Randy Lerners private jet was spotted in a fishing village in Norway. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and his wife were flown to Birmingham for talks about the Villa job. He then went back to Molde to face tough questions from their owner who threatened to pull all their funding out of the club if OGS took the job. Oh and then he had to manage Molde the next day. Wednesday saw another twist in the saga, as OGS claimed he 'Villa wanted to discuss things further, but the time isn't right'. He also cited 'family reasons' for the reasoning behind not taking the Villa hot seat.
Now, I love a good conspiracy theory, and as such, I'm not 100% sure that this deal is dead in the water. There's a couple of things that just don't add up for me. First of all, Molde still have two games to play until the season break for the Euros. Is this what he meant by saying 'the time isn't right?' Also, he cited family reasons as a rationale for not wanting the job. Would this be the same wife that travelled with you to Birmingham for 'initial discussions with Randy Lerner', and then the same wife who accompanied you to dinner with the Molde owner on Tuesday evening? Also, if relocating back to England is not an option for OGS, why does he have a clause in his contract that says he's free to leave Molde if an English club comes in for him?
My take on the situation, is that if we haven't appointed a new manager by June 1st, we may well see a further development in Norway and OGS may still come in. This will have given Molde a little bit of time to line up a new manager and OGS doesn't lose much face with the Molde supporters.
If, however, it isn't to be OGS, then who are the other possible candidates?
Roberto Martinez name has cropped up again. I'm undecided on this. Last season I'd have said yes, lets get him in. But after watching him play most of the season in the bottom 3, escaping from the drop zone in the final two months of the season, I don't think the Villa fans hearts could suffer another season flirting with relegation again. Add to the mix the fact that Liverpool seem keen on him, and Dave Whelan is a bit of knob head, I think going back for Martinez (a manager who turned us down last year) is potentially not the right move.
Roberto Di Matteo has now joined the list of potential candidates following his Champions League success with Chelsea. While its true that Di Matteo has re-invigorated the sinking ship at Chelsea, it is also fair to suggest that all he had to do was to go 'back to basics' with a team that know how to play together. He didn't do anything spectacular, and although he has beaten Barcelona twice and Bayern Munich, I feel that he couldn't 'park the bus' with Villa as our defence is one of the worst in the league. We'd get battered. Add to this his less than successful time at West Brom, which culminated in him getting the sack, and subsequently turned down for interviews at Championship clubs, I think Di Matteo is chancing his arm while his stock is high.
Paul Lambert, the Norwich manager seemed the most logical step, but a little closer inspection suggests maybe not. He reacted angrily to questions about his future at a testimonial for Adam Drurey this week. What I like about Lambert is that he's straight talking. He sets his teams up to get the best out of what he's got. He likes being the underdog. Sound familiar? I think he's a little too similar to MON, and as such, I can't see Randy putting up with it. After the much publicised fallout between Randy and MON, I can't see him appointing another manager who he's going to fall out with.
The rank outsider, and my personal favourite (I know it might be pie-in-the-sky, but I don't care), is AVB. Aston Villas Boas. It just works. The club have said they're looking for a 'young, vibrant manager', and who fills that criteria more than the 'new special one'? Yes his time at Chelsea was littered with controversy. He didn't get on with the 'old guard', which ultimately lead to his downfall. I think given the current crop of out of work managers, AVB is the best we could possibly think about attracting. Even if we don't get him, we should at least be asking for the chance to talk to him. Offer him the idea of a project at Villa. He'll need financial backing, but the supporters would be more than willing to give him the time to redevelop the philosophy at Villa. For me, he's the outstanding candidate.
Hopefully Randy wont muck this appointment up like he did with the last two.
Chelski win European Cup
And John Terry wins Jim'll Fix It...
So there you go, on Saturday, Chelski celebrated the biggest achievement in their 10 year history, by finally landing the Champions League trophy in Munich.
The Champions League, as you know, is Europes top prize. On Saturday it was naturally contested by the 2nd best team in Germany, and the 6th best team in England. Kind of takes the piss a little bit, doesn't it?
Despite not watching the game live (I was working in Manchester at the time), I have now watched the final, and to be honest, to say Chelsea deserved the trophy is slightly contentious. While it is fair to suggest that tactically, Chelsea were spot on, absorb the pressure and try and hit on the break, it seemed like I was watching an Italian team rather than a team who plays in England.
After successfully parking the bus infront of their own goal against Barcelona twice, Chelsea replicated this achievement at the Allianz Arena. The Germans had 35 shots at the Chelsea goal, whilst the Blues only had 9.
Despite having a goal ruled out for offside, Bayern took the lead with a headed goal from Thomas Muller 10 minutes from time. The home fans must have thought that their name was on the trophy. However, with 2 minutes of normal time remaining, The Drog headed an equalising goal to send the game to extra time. Say what you like about Drogba, but 11 goals in 10 finals suggests that he is THE player for big matches.
In extra time the game took another bizarre twist as Drogba clipped the ankles of Ribery to concede a penalty. Former Chelsea midfielder, and the oldest looking man on the pitch (despite only being 26, Robben looks like a 45 year old man, and always has), Arjen Robben saw his penalty saved at the second attempt by Petr Cech.
And so the game played out, and penalties were required to settle the tie. Never back against the Germans, is often the cry, but on Saturday the Germans buckled. The pressure of playing infront of their own fans got to them, and when Mr Bayern Munich, Bastian Schweinsteiger saw his penalty come back off the post, it was was down to Drogba to step up for the final penalty. As cool a penalty as you're ever going to see, especially given the pressure, saw Chelsea become only the 5th English club to claim Europes biggest prize.
With the trophy being ready to be handed out, the match took another bizarre twist as suspended captain, John Terry, made his way to collect the trophy wearing his full kit as if he'd actually played the match. This sort of looked like he had won some kind of Jim'll Fix It prize, but the most harrowing thing about this event is the numbing sense of inevitability of open spots up and down the country using John Terry turning up to an event as the new 'Oh Gazza has just turned up with a fishing rod'.
So there we have it. The football season is over. Chelsea have won the European Cup, and Fernando Torres has now come out and said he wants to leave. When will he ever be happy? who knows. If Drogba is to never play for Chelsea again, then he has left on the ultimate high. Roberto Di Matteo may or may not be offered the full time managers post at Stamford Bridge. Its safe to say that there are still many un-answered questions, even in Chelsea's proudest hour.
I suppose its also fair to offer sympathy to Spurs fans, who, despite finishing 4th, have now been demoted to play in the Europa League after 6th placed Chelsea won the Champions League. Fair? Of course its not, but thats how football works. Blame Liverpool for this stupid ruling.
King Kenny is gone
Scousers mourn the loss of their manager...
I know this is slightly late in coming, but I feel its a good idea to comment on the situation at Liverpool football club.
With Villa sacking McLeish on Monday, Tuesday saw Liverpool wield their axe on Kenny Dalglish after, what can only be described as a poor season. Or can it?
Let me start by saying, Liverpool used to be a massive club. They still are a massive global brand. But in terms of being an attractive club to either a) join as a player, or b) join as a manager, maybe not so much. History plays a big part in football, but there must come a point when history pales into significance of the here and now. With that in mind, Liverpool have not won a League title in over 20 years. Sure, they won the Champions League 8 years ago, but didn't they also finish 5th that season? Yup. This season they finished 9th (on points they were closer to the bottom 3 than the top 4), got to an FA Cup Final and won the Carling Cup after taking a Championship club all the way to penalties. Not really that good is it?
What's gone wrong at Liverpool? They changed their owners from Hicks & Gillette, who many fans still see as the reason Rafa Benitez left, and have been acquired by the Fenway Sports Group who also own the Boston Red Sox.
When FSG bought the club they needed to make a massive statement to the fans to get them back on side. That decision was easy, hire the man that all Liverpool fans hold in God-like status, Kenny Dalglish. That appointment, however, was seen by those outside of the football, as a) a predictable appointment, and b) surely a short term one? Kenny hadn't managed a football club for about 10 years. What did he know about the modern game? Not enough, it would appear.
Dalglish wasn't brought in on his own. Damien Comolli was brought in to oversee the transfer activity at Anfield, and a new era was set to begin.
Personally, I'd have given Dalglish the remainder of the 2010/11 season to 'stabilise' the club, then say 'thanks Kenny, we appreciate that, now we've managed to get Manager X in charge.' However, FSG decided that wasn't the option. They gave him last season aswell, which in my opinion, was too long. Comolli scouted the best talents to bring to Liverpool, but unfortunately they wouldn't come, so he spent over £100m on the likes of Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam, Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez. All of whom, have not performed sufficiently.
As Liverpool are now looking for a new manager, I've had the privilege of listening to radio phone-ins and pissing myself laughing at the delusion of the Liverpool fans, who constantly call in to shout 'just get Guardiola, he'll do it cos its Liverpool.' No he wont. He's just left Barcelona. Arguably, the greatest club side we've seen in history. Will he really want to join a Premier League team who aren't even guaranteed to compete for the Champions League spots? Of course he's not. Same with Mourinho.
So the question now, is, who is the right man for Liverpool? Its a bit of a difficult question to answer really. While I acknowledge that Liverpool are no longer the big draw, they are still 'big enough' to think big. There's a lot of talk about Martinez (whose stock has risen considerably following Villas approach for him last year), Lambert (good season with Norwich), and only yesterday, Brendan Rodgers, whose Swansea side play some wonderful football, announced he wasn't even going for an interview.
My feeling is that Liverpool fans will not tolerate a 'project' manager. Look at how they treated Roy Hodgson. If they were to hire someone like Martinez or Lambert, and results stayed as they have this season, then come December, Liverpool will have sacked their manager and the search begins again. Liverpool fans want (rightly or wrongly) a big name manager. Jupp Heyncks? Jurgen Kilnsmann? AVB? Who knows. What is evident, is that with a slightly growing sense of ill feeling towards FSG from certain sections of the Kop, this appointment will be scrutinised by everyone in football.
In order to answer the question of who the next manager will be, the fans will probably want answers to the following question, what are the ambitions of FSG? If they want to be challenging for the Champions league spots and / or the title, then Martinez is not the answer. if they want to build slowly, then maybe he will be. Either way, Liverpool will not be topping the table next season regardless of who they instal in the hotseat. Their squad is a million miles away from a Top 4 squad, and that will need to be addressed, but what 'big' players will come to play Europa League football?
Its going to be an interesting summer.
Roy picks his first England squad
Warning, contains Stewart Downing...
Tuesday afternoon saw Roy Hodgson announce his first England squad will that will go to the Euros for a couple of weeks and come home without a trophy. This statement is not based on his squad selection, but based on facts.
Naturally, as a Scotland fan, I tend to hate the media hype surrounding the England team. Every tournament the nation is greeted to countless adverts suggesting you all 'eat Mars bars to support England, drink Carling and Carlsberg to support England, take an extra mortgage, just to support England.' Understandably, no company or media outlet would ever suggest that England will not win a tournament.
Anyways, I digress. Hodgson chose his squad, and to say there were a couple of surprises is an understatement.
Joe Hart (obvious), Rob Green (really?), John Ruddy (bit out of the blue)
Johnson (can't defend), Terry (racist and not all that any more), Lescott (a brick wall), Cahill (future England captain in my humble opinion), Jagielka (versatile), Baines (back up left back), Cole (best left back in the world), and Phil Jones (I'm a big fan, but people have slated the decision).
The key area here is no Rio Ferdinand, and no Micah Richards.
Personally, I'd have dropped Terry aswell as Ferdinand and have taken Micah Richards.
Gerrard (named as captain also - potential swan song?), Lampard (oh here we go again), Parker (if fit - if not, on stand by is Jordan Henderson, yup, that's right, Jordan Henderson), Downing (0 assists, 0 goals, £20m please), Barry (Mr Reliable), 'The Ox' Oxlade Chamberlain (good talent, probably their for tournament experience), Walcott (still not reaching his potential), Young (someone has to win dodgy free kicks or penalties), and Milner (please come back to Villa).
Its a fairly predictable midfield to be fair, but hardly inspires anything new. Many England managers have picked similar midfields and have always found the problem of accommodating Gerrard and Lampard in the same team. Looks like Roy is doing the same. The only way I can see them working in the same team, is if you drop Gerrard into the holding midfield role with Parker, and play Lampard at the top of the three supporting midfielders.
Rooney (can't play in the first two games, but if you don't take him then you probably miss out on tones of sponsorship), Carroll (2 good games at the end of the season meant he's included), Welbeck (promising, but not really a goal scorer) and Defoe (used to sitting on the bench, so expect more of the same).
Notable exclusion, Peter 'The Robot' Crouch. Now he might not be every ones cup of tea, but on the international stage, his goal scoring record stands up. There was also a late clamour for Norwich Citys Grant Holt, who was the second top scoring English striker in the Premier League this season.
This is the key area for me, as it really gives an insight into the lack of quality English strikers around at the moment. Where are the goals going to come from? For me, this is why England will get to the Quarter Finals and come unstuck.
Hodgson has probably gone with a safe squad. No major surprises (bar the fact there's 4 Liverpool players involved), but I think that they will struggle to score goals. If anything, it demonstrates the overall lack of quality of English players at the moment. While their is no doubt the Premier League is one of the top leagues in the world, this has only become the case as the best foreign players have come over. If the league was still predominantly full of British players, then the football served up wouldn't be half as entertaining.
I'm quite looking forward to the Euros, and will be keeping as up-to-date on my blog as I can.
The Baby Faced Tactician
Villa edge closer to new manager...
The managerial merry-go round is well and truly under way.
With both Aston Villa and Liverpool both looking for a new manager, the talk of Martinez to Liverpool is gathering pace. With this in mind, Villa fans probably thought that our intentions had turned back to Paul Lambert once more. Word is that we had sounded him out, and he was keen on the move. Whether Deliah would allow this or not, remains to be seen.
However, on Thursday night, a new name entered the frame. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Remember him? The Baby Faced Assassin. One of Manchester Uniteds most prolific strikers, and the archetypal 'super-sub'. As a player, he was well respected by the football community. When he announced that he could no longer play, Fergie instantly offered him a role as a coach at Man Utd. He took the role, did his coaching badges, and promptly won the reserve trophies for Utd. From here, he was then courted by his home town club, Molde. He went back home to Norway, and lead Molde to their first ever Tippilagen trophy in their 100 year history. To put this into context, that's like taking Villa to the top 4 at the first attempt.
So as Solskjaers name started to gather some pace on the rumour mill, Villa couldn't exactly keep it a great secret. Randy Lerners private jet was photographed at Kristiansund airport. Kristiansund is a small fishing village, and private jets very rarely turn up there. Once this was confirmed as being Randys jet, the story gathered more and more pace. I was very surprised by the reactions of the Villa fans. We were over the moon!
As I've already written about the Liverpool fans expectations of their new manager, at Villa Park, we now have a very different outlook on what our new manager should be. After sitting through the tripe that was served this season under McLeish, all Villa fans are now in agreement that we want a young, vibrant manager who can build something over a few seasons. We're willing to give a new manager time to get things right.
Solskjaer, from what I can gather, has had his Molde side playing some brilliant football. He obviously had the eye of a manager from his days at Utd. This may sound strange, but I think that because he spent so long on the bench, he was able to read the game better. He knew exactly where the weaknesses in the opposition were, and how to exploit them, hence his ability to score goals when he came off the bench. This has no doubt transferred into his managerial philosophy. Sure, its a risk, but its an exciting risk. Its quite refreshing to hear a name that we wouldn't have though of. It shows that Randy is taking advice from 'football people' rather than business people.
While Solskjaers name has come completely from left field, I feel that this could prove to be a master stroke by Villa. The Premier League seems to be changing. Managers are no longer setting their sides up to play 4-4-2 counter attacking football with direct balls down the channels or to a big man. The football has changed as we adopt a European 4-2-3-1 formation (a formation that I feel gives sufficient defensive cover, and the ability to switch to a 4-3-3 when on the attack). Look at clubs like Swansea and Wigan. They could easily try and lump their way to safety, but they don't. They want to get the ball on the deck and play football. As a football customer, I want to be entertained. I know it won't always work, and you really need the players who can play that way, but I'd rather watch my team passing the ball and holding possession than simply hitting long balls to Heskey to hold it in the corner.
Obviously, we don't know who Solskjaer will be looking to recruit, but I'm sure he'll be aware that our midfield needs some steel and a bit of creativity. This, for me, would be the first thing I'd look to address. I'd also be keen to ship out the 'bad apples' and get them replaced.
If I was to draw up a short list of potential players to bring in, I'd be looking at the likes of Jordan Rhodes (40 goals in a season for Huddersfield), Lewis Dunk (promising centre half from Brighton), Junior Hoillet (bigger clubs will want him, but we can give him first team football), Craig Gordon (free transfer and good back up to Shay Given), and possibly Jack Collison from West Ham. If there was a bit more money available (generated through player sales), perhaps I'd be trying to look at Nigel de Jong (won't be needed by Man City next year), and why not bring James Milner back?!
So we wait to hear what the official announcement is, but the prospect of Solskjaer coming in has really got me interested in Villa again. So much so, infact, that I've started a new career on FIFA as Villa and also a new Football Manager 12 game, again as Villa.
What an end to a season
City win the title in Fergie time...
So there we have it. Another Premier League season has drawn to a close, and what a way to finish the season.
It feels like forever since the remaining Champions League spots, one relegation spot, and also the title still needing to be decided on the final day of the season. Some are saying its been the best Premier League season in history, and while I don't quite agree with that, it has certainly been a fantastic campaign.
Firstly, I should send commiseration to Bolton Wanderers for slipping out of the league, having failed to win away to Stoke on the last game. The Trotters have had a terrible season, not least compounded by the absence of Fabrice Muamba, but they feel like a Premier League side. I wish them the best of luck for next season, and hope to see them back in the top flight very soon.
As for the Champions League places. Congratulations to Arsenal for securing 3rd spot, and well done Tottenham for holding onto what may turn out to be a Champions League play off spot. I also feel its appropriate to send congratulations to Newcastle fan finishing in 5th. A position that fans of the club must never have thought possible when Alan Pardew was appointed, but in true Geordie fashion, the Newcastle fans now believe he's the messiah and was always the right man for the job.
And that leaves the title. While I don't agree with the amount of money (and the reasons behind it going to Man City), I must admit that I celebrated when Aguero scored the winner to clinch City their first title in 44 years. In a fantastic display of male multi-tasking, watching both the Man City and Man Utd games at the same time, I genuinely found myself rooting for City.
It seemed like they were going to choke, as Utd were a goal up at Sunderland, City struggled to break through against a QPR side in need of 1 point to secure their Premier League status. When Zabaletta somehow managed to squeeze the ball into the net, the title race was on. With Cisse equalising just after half time, you could imagine Howard Webb celebrating at The Stadium of Light as Utd were now looking likely to take the trophy. That was, until, Mr Mentalist, Joey Barton decided that there was no point playing for the rest of the match, and got himself sent off for performing moves that wouldn't have looked out of place in a WWE ring rather than on a football pitch.
That, however, wasn't the only twist. As football fans, we all know that its never 100% straightforward. Step forward Jamie Mackie to make it 2-1 QPR with half an hour to go and set up a grandstand finish. With the Utd Sunderland game only having 3 minutes of time added on (rather than the usual 5-6 minutes Fergie usually insists on), there was 5 minutes to go at the Etihad. The final whistle blew at The Stadium of Light, and Fergies men celebrated clinching the title.
Meanwhile, back at The Etihad, City were throwing everything at QPR. This culminated in a 90th minute equaliser from Edin Dzeko, and a little over 90 seconds later, the ball broke to Sergio Aguero in the QPR box for him to fire in the 3rd and hand City their first title in 44 years. The scenes at Eastlands were incredible when the final whistle went, and fair play to them. City have played the best football this season, and in Hart, Kompany, Toure and Aguero have an incredible spine to their team.
People have said that City have bought the title, but then again, every club who wins the title has bought it. Utd bought it. Blackburn bought it. Chelsea bought it. Arsenal bought it. Now City have bought it.
Well done City. So now its the off-season, its time to reflect on this season, and look forward to next term.
He's finally gone!
Bye bye Alex McLeish...
Its now 100% official. Aston Villa have grown some balls and sacked Alex McLeish.
The appointment was always going to be met with destain from the Villa faithful, (not, as the media have been trying to portray), the fact he managed Birmingham City, its down to the fact that he's a terrible manager.
Looking at McLeish, in his 3 seasons of Premier League management, he's been relegated twice, and took Villa incredibly close to making it 3 out of 3.
Every manager is judged on results. So lets look at them.
7 wins all season (the worst in our history - only Wolves won less)
4 wins at home (the worst in our history)
38 points (the lowest in our Premier League history)
Finishing 16th (the lowest in our Premier League history)
37 goals scored in the league (less than 1 goal per game - only Wolves scored less)
Basically, not good enough.
The Villa fans were very vocal in our disapproval of him coming to the club in the first place, but Randy and Faulkner chose to ignore us. I feel that, given the dreadful season, and the decision to now sack him, is a massive 'We told you so' from the fans to the board. Randy and Faulkner need to remember that they don't know much about football. The fans, in the main, do.
Randys next appointment is even more important than replacing Houllier. If he mucks up his next appointment, the Villa fans wont just stop at the manager getting sacked, it'll be the board that we want out next.
Ultimately, fans get their own way. I've been very vocal, perhaps too vocal at some points during the season, but now I can get back to supporting the club I love.
I've heard that we've spoken to Paul Lambert at Norwich, which I wouldn't be adverse to. We need to rebuild the squad, and that will take time, and money. Two things that fans and the club can't agree on. Fans want success instantly, and the clubs can't afford to pay the money required to do that. As a collection of fans, our expectations have now been lowered. We all feel that we'll take a season of transition, and hopefully we can get a good manager onboard who can start to re-build the pride in the club.
Very exciting pre-season ahead now!
If anyone needs me, I'm going to the Brew Dog bar to celebrate McLeish Out Day!
Roy-t man for the job
My puns are terrible...
So after what's felt like an eternity, the English FA finally got round to naming their new manager to lead them to another international tournament failure. As expected that man was Harry, oh actually its not Harry Redknapp, its the other bloke, Roy Hodgson.
Yup, that's right. The media had been calling for Redknapp ever since Fabio Cappello decided to leave, and when Spurs form plummeted quicker than a space shuttle re-entering orbit, everyone thought that Redknapp had the job in the bag. Harry had managed to get his court case for tax evasion acquitted, and many saw this as the sign that he was destined for the England job. However, many people were probably unaware that the FA had decided that there may be another contender to his crown.
Roy Hodgson, one of footballs journeymen, has managed no fewer than 374 clubs during his remarkable 800 year career. A statistic that the FA were right not to ignore. Not only has he experienced tournament football (I believe it was during the first ever Olympics), he's also won trophies, managed on the continent, dealt with deluded fans who seem to think they've got a God given right to win things (Liverpool), and can speak several languages. But language is the thing that some people have focused on.
The Sun ran a front page headline on Wednesday that highlighted the fact that Hodgson has a slight speech impairment. This has naturally received a backlash from certain sections of the general public, so much so, that I got invited onto BBC Radio 5 Live this morning to discuss this issue. I did feel a slight sense of irony, given the fact I'm a Scotland fan. What they wanted to know, was were The Sun justified in running with the headline? My standpoint was very much along the lines of (and I'm para-phrasing here) 'Its a shite gag anyways'. Rather than debating whether its PC or not, shouldn't we look at the fact that people who a) read The Sun, and b) write for The Sun, are intellectually stunted anyways.
Ultimately, whether this has added more pressure onto Roy Hodgson remains to be seen, but one day, the jingoistic tabloid press would do well to run a story along the lines of 'England not good enough to win trophy, so lower expectations'. I think people would appreciate that.
Best of luck, Roy. You're gonna need it.
Cisse 2 Chelsea 0
Tonys goal of the sea on awards...
So last night I had gone to the Brew Dog pub for a couple of beers and a Scotch Egg with @smethy before wombling off home for dinner and a night in front of the TV watching the football.
As I put the TV on, the pundit regaled the news that Lionel Messi (by completing his 3000th career hattrick) that he has now scored a whopping 68 goals for Barcelona this season alone! The man is a machine. And at 24, he's only going to get better.
The Spanish football finished, and after quickly flicking the channels to see a remarkably well looking Fabrice Muamba walk out onto the pitch at the Reebok Stadium just under two months after suffering a cardiac arrest on the pitch (poetically, against Tottenham) was such a wonderful sight. The torment his family and friends must have gone through is unreal, and your thoughts do go out to all those connected to him. Bolton, however, couldn't get anything going, and lost the match 4-1. A result which actually works in Villa's favour in terms of our Premier League survival.
Anyway, I digress. The reason I'm explaining this, I received a phone call to replace an act at The Stand at short notice. No bother I thought, lets do it. Newcastle were also playing Chelsea last night, and a quick check of Twitter suggested that Papis Cisse had scored a goal of the season contender for his first goal.
Fast forward to me coming off stage at the end of the gig, to be shown on a friends iPhone the incredible strike that Cisse did for his 2nd goal, and my jaw hit the floor! What a goal. Now there's no arguing that Newcastle probably picked up the buy of the January transfer window. Whether they can hold onto him or not, remains to be seen. But what a player he's turning out to be.
So with Cisse's hook volley firmly lodged in my brain, I began to decide on my top 3 goals of the season.
1) Crouch vs Man City
Its not just the fact that Crouch had to manoeuvre his 126ft frame to get over the ball, on the turn, and then swing his massive legs around before unleashing a volley from a ridiculous angle that just sailed straight over the best goalkeeper in the league. Its the fact that he plays for Stoke, against Man City, and at the time of the match when he scored, it was completely against the run of play. An awesome strike.
2) Cisse 2nd vs Chelsea
Part of me wants to really credit Shola Ameobi for his chest lay off, but lets face it, if you're going to even attempt the sort of shot Cisse did last night, you've got to be a bit special. It looked like a volleyed version of Roberto Carlos' free kick against France. The bend and dip was immense. A stunning strike.
3) Suarez 3rd vs Norwich
No-one likes Suarez, lets just make that clear. But to score the goal he did for his hattrick against Norwich the other night was nothing less than sublime. Yes players have scored from the halfway line before (Beckham, being the obvious, but Mark Hudson scored from even further out for Cardiff vs Derby County a few weeks back), but Suarez made it look effortless as it looked like he had no back lift at all. Naturally he probably celebrated by mouthing something racist.
Why am I mentioning these goals? For one reason only. They were all better than Rooneys over head shin kick last year. Yes it has become one of the Premier Leagues most iconic images, but lets face it, when he jumps up, he gets himself into a fantastic position, foot over the ball, and once it smashes of his shin pad it sails into the top corner. Yes its a good goal, but its not the best goal, and its certainly not even the best over head kick. Ask Doug Ellis, he invented the bicycle kick afterall.
Drawing our way to safety (just)
And other reasons why McLeish is shite...
Saturday saw Aston Villa take a 'massive' step towards securing their Premiership status with a fantastic 0-0 win away to local rivals West Bromwich Albion.
After a really bizarre match on Tuesday where we managed to not only take the lead, but then find ourselves 2-1 down 90 seconds later, feeling at the club has really hit rock bottom. The Villa Park faithful made their opinions of McLeish very clear on Tuesday night, with boos and abuse akin to what Gerard Houllier had after he'd only been in the job for about 3 months.
Now I'm not exactly saying that our fantastic 0-0 win was the only deciding factor in the fate of Aston Villa's season. There was the goalkeeping heroics of Alan Hutton, who proved more useful with his hands than with either of his feet at any point of the season. Thankfully this somehow went unsighted by the ref, but then again, so did the penalty we should've had.
Results seemed to go our way aswell. Brazil (formerly known as Wigan) hammered Newcastle 4-0. Bolton almost upset Sunderland but were held to a 2-2 draw at The Stadium of Light. Thankfully though, the award for keeping Villa in the Premier League goes to QPR who spectacularly capitulated against Chelsea. They were so bad even Torres could score a hattrick. And then there's Blackburn. Poor little Blackburn. Funded by a little chicken company, decided that in true McLeish fashion, the best way to win is to not take any shots. They lost 2-0 to Spurs.
So as we move into the final two games of the season, it would seem that we may well stay up. How? Well because the Premier League has this fantastic achievement of every season ensuring it has three incredibly shit teams. Thankfully this year, we have been helped by the fact that there have been three teams worse than us. Not that we are completely safe. Its 'unlikely' that we'll go down now, given how much QPR and Blackburn need to do, but if anyone is capable of relegating a team from nowhere, its the one man wrecking machine that is Alex McLeish.
To celebrate his achievements at the club, the supporters have organised an Alex McLeish day for the Spurs match on Sunday. Sorry, did I say Alex McLeish day? I meant McLeish Out day.
Details of which can be found here...
Remember, McLeish isn't just for Christmas, he's been fucking us up all season.
Lets get our voices heard so that Randy and Faulkner might finally realise that hiring this idiot was more stupid than buying an English football club with no knowledge of the sport.