Saturday, 7 February 2009


i-ontheball has been a blog-free zone recently. My excuse is that life has been very busy, but I guess it is when you are busy that blogging makes most sense. It's been a hectic time at the university with teaching back at full speed. Students in Year Three have been on placements and it's brilliant to discover how well they have done. The vast majority have had work published or aired and the feedback from host organisations has been uniformly positive.

Football assignments have taken me to the City of Manchester Stadium, the Reebok, and today I'm off to Everton v Bolton to see if either team can continue their encouraging form of last time out. I was there a week ago to see Bolton edge a lively game against Spurs with a late winner from Kevin Davies. Is it my imagination or have there been more crucial late goals this season than any other? It seems that every other week I and my fellow reporters have to do a late, hurried re-write when the game turns round in the final minutes and the Bolton game was yet another one.

At least by going to Everton in person I should be able to see the entire game, unlike the ITV audience for the replay against Liverpool.

But then, that is not entirely true. The view from the press box at dear old Goodison is so badly obstructed that the amount of action we can't see probably equates to the amount that ITV inadvertently blanked out on Wednesday.

Which brings me to one of the most significant developments of the week, and I'm not talking about Dan Gosling's goal, or even Setanta's retention of rights to Saturday football (which is good news for me personally). This week also saw the conclusion of the public inquiry into Everton's plans to build a new stadium in Kirkby. There are compelling arguments on both sides, and much for Hazel Blears to consider before she announces a decision. But beyond argument is the fact that Goodison Park is no longer abreast of modern stadia standards. The press facilities are just one example. In the 1970s, when I first turned up representing the Bootle Times, Everton and Aston Villa had the best media facilities. Since then, Villa have motored on, Arsenal, Manchester United and others have overtaken, and Everton have stayed rooted in a bygone age. Something has to change.

Liverpool fans gave their verdict on the Kirkby plan by throwing socks onto the pitch on Wednesday. It seems this was a symbolic insult, mocking Everton's plans by identifying them as "sock-robbers," a derogatory term for residents of Kirkby (and not one I'd heard till this week). It makes me wonder if those Liverpool fans are aware that two of the greatest players, Terry McDermott and Phil Thompson, came from Kirkby. And where is Liverpool FC's own academy? In Kirkby!

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