Tuesday, 29 April 2008


...is, of course, Chester's triumph in holding promotion chasing Stockport 0-0 to ensure we survive in the Football League. Will tomorrow's back pages accurately reflect this, I wonder?

Sunday, 27 April 2008


At the end of BBC TV's "Match of the Day" on Saturday a smirking Gary Lineker invited us to enjoy a shot of Sir Alex Ferguson dropping his chewing gum on the floor of the tunnel at Stamford Bridge - then picking it up and popping it back in his mouth. If Sir Alex had not boycotted BBC inteviews for the last few years, would the Beeb still have shown that shot?

Just a thought.


My brief at the weekend was to cover the match at Manchester City where there was much talk of City having achieved their record points total for the Premier League. An impressive statistic which reflects well on Sven in his first year as manager. The achievement was widely reported in the papers and was also highlighted by City chairman Taksin Shinawatra in his column in the club programme.

But hang on a minute! How impressive is this tally of 55 points, really?

It is far from City's all-time best. It is not on a par with the 70 points they achieved under Peter Reid in 1992, never mind the equivalent of 84 points, converting from two-points-for-a-win, that they racked up when winning the old Football League in 1968. And that is taking account of the old format of 42 games in a season, compared to 38 today.

So why the fuss about the comparatively puny 55? Its only significance is as City's best tally since the formation of the Premier League in 1992 - and so is only of interest to those who run and publicise the Premier League itself. To anyone with a serious interest in football history City's record this season is, well, underwhelming.

I don't blame those who market and promote the Premier League for blowing their trumpets, but I do worry about the parading of meaningless stats as matters of historical importance.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008


They go out and meet people. The thought came to mind when I read the obituary of one of the UK's most respected football writers, Norman Wynne, who died at the age of 77. Norman was an outstanding sports journalist, who wrote for the People for over 25 years. Norman and his colleague John Maddock knew all the gossip on the football scene because they would get out of the office and find out what was going on. The obit printed in the NUJ's newsletter quoted John Maddock: "Norman spent every Friday night during the football season watching either Southport or Tranmere Rovers. He wasn't there for the game but waited for travelling managers or chief scouts to learn the latest gossip."

There's only so much that can be achieved by email.

Sunday, 20 April 2008


Despite strong competition from Avram Grant and Tom Hicks, the quote of the week comes from one of the students in Year Three of the sports journalism course at the university. He's been investigating the failure of young English talent to make it at top level in the Premier League and discovered that one big club has a scout who's known as the Martian - "because he's only interested in players who are out of this world."

Friday, 18 April 2008


A disgruntled manager is manna from heaven for journalists - even if it is the journalists he is disgruntled about! Chelsea's Avram Grant made the daft decision to throw a strop at his post-match presser at Goodison Park last night. Instead of dealing with routine questions in a co-operative manner he indulged in a monosyllabic yes-no interlude before informing a surprised radio interviewer: "I'm still alive. You cannot kill me." Looks like the media's underwhelming response to Avram has got to him. Some reporters, like Henry Winter of the Daily Telegraph, have been scathing about Grant for months. But if Avram wanted to get his own back, this wasn't the way to do it. Instead the papers gleefully went on the attack again with headlines like "Grant's losing the plot" (Express), "Avram Grunt" (Star), "Grumpy Grant" (Mail), and the Sun, tactful as ever, "Av you gone Mad?" All this after a match which his team actually won! Coming after Rafa Benitez's mantra "I am focused as usual on training and coaching my team," it's been an interesting season for press conferences.


It's one of the most frequently-asked questions, and it doesn't have an easy answer. But it always helps to keep a diary. That has come in handy for the national press this week. Unusually, we have had a midweek without Premier League matches, Cup replays, Champions League or Internationals. So most of the papers booked reporters on flights to Lesotho. Not that they have suddenly acquired a fascination for football in that African nation. The attraction was that the England coach Fabio Capello was there on a trip organised by the FA. Accompanying Capello meant the writers could gain much better access to the England coach than usual. And so it proved.

On Tuesday, Paul Joyce of the Daily Express filled three pages with Fabio's thoughts on Wayne Rooney (he doesn't take as many chances as he should), John Terry (he's not nailed-on to return as England captain) and players failing to turn up for England squads (they'll be banned from the squad in future. Can't see that one working). Today there was more, with Matt Lawton of the Daily Mail filing a moving piece about youngsters diagnosed with AIDS.

A week without football is always a challenge, but knowing it was coming, and finding an alternative source of copy, paid off.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008


It isn't often that the crowd makes the most notable contribution to a football match - at least, not in a positive way. I was at Pride Park on Saturday, covering Derby County v Aston Villa for Setanta, when the Derby fans came up with a stroke of imagination that would have impressed J K Rowling. Fed up with seeing not a single win since September, and equally frustrated that their team was now losing 0-4 midway through the second half, they decided to celebrate an imaginary goal. How they arranged this I don't know, but all of a sudden, as one, thousands of Derby fans leapt out of their seats, cheering and shouting, dancing, and generally acting as if their team had just scored the winning goal in the Cup Final. It was one of those surreal moments you see at football grounds on the last day of the season, when news comes in from elsewhere that the team's rivals in the promotion race have conceded a goal. In the press box we were all wondering what we had missed, while the Villa fans were dumbfounded for the first time in the match. After a few moments, the Villa support begain enquiring: "What the f***ing hell was that?" To which the Derby faithful responded: "You're not singing any more!" Which was plainly untrue, but it is what they would have sung if they had indeed scored a goal. At this point the Villa fans got the joke and chanted back: "Stand up for the Derby boys." Brilliant performance by both sets of fans - and it underlined the amazing fortitude of the Derby crowd, who again packed a sold-out stadium despite the team's relegation being confirmed.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008


Welcome to my blog. I have to thank - or blame - my students for inspiring this contribution to the discussion of sport. The other day I sat in on presentations they were doing as part of their assessment in Online Sports Journalism. Online is not a form of media that I'm adept at creating, although I love the potential it offers as a means of information and research. I was so impressed with the knowledge and technique that they demonstrated that I thought I'd better get started myself. So here it is. The aim is to offer my view of developments in the world of sport, selected not by the "news agenda" of the day but by what catches my eye, and also my thoughts on the way sport is covered by the journalists whose work is a daily source of information, entertainment, amusement and aggravation to millions.

Where will we end up? No idea. But I hope you'll check in from time to time to see what's going on, and add your own comments.