Saturday, 7 November 2009


The first woolly-hat day of the football season. It was cold at Villa Park and at half-time the thinsulate beanie emerged from my reporter's bag for the first time since last winter. The match was a good one - though not for Bolton Wanderers who lost 5-1.

The press box at Villa Park doesn't provide a good view of the whole of the pitch but today four of the game's six goals were scored at "our" end and we got a good eyeful.

I don't think this game did a lot for two men hoping to go to the World Cup with England. Bolton centre-back Gary Cahill did not impress, whereas John Carew of Villa did - and Carew's form means Emile Heskey will find it even harder to get the games he needs to cement his place in Capello's squad.

Today I came across the name Amisco for the first time. Amisco is not Bolton's latest signing, it's the name of a sports analysis system which competes with Pro Zone. Most football fans know about Pro Zone, the system that uses video and data-processing to inform coaches' analysis of each individual players performance in every match. I thought Pro Zone had the market to itself but Amisco is clearly a lively competitor, having Villa as one of its clients. It has just signed up its first Championship client, Swansea. I chatted to Amisco's UK manager Chris Bradley who told me that Swansea regularly complete over a hundred more passes per game than their Championship opponents. Interesting info, and it gave added pertinence to the Swans' 3-2 win over Cardiff which was playing on the TV in the Villa Park press lounge.

A minute's silence for Remembrance Day was impeccably observed. My mind flicked to a visit I made to the Normandy beaches a couple of years ago. Looking over Gold beach, where the British landed on D Day in 1944 (pictured top), I thought of my late father-in-law Tom, who came ashore that day in a tank, splashing off a landing craft and facing the worst of the German artillery. As I scanned the empty, peaceful sand it hit me like a hammer in the stomach that if he hadn't survived that day I would not have my daughter today, or my two lovely granddaughters.

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