Wednesday, 15 September 2010


This is the last post on this blog. From now on I'll be concentrating my fire on my Twitter page - less depth admittedly but less time-consuming as well. Please follow me at and I also blog on the Isle of Man TT and Manx GP at

Thanks for visiting this blog.

Thursday, 8 July 2010


World Cup media highlights:
Oliver Holt's feature in the Daily Mirror describing taking two lads from Soweto to a World Cup game.
Nicky Campbell's interview on 5 Live with a veteran ANC freedom fighter. The man couldn't stomach the mildest questioning about the South African president Jacob Zuma and walked out.
Mark Lawrenson's TV report on the original Spion Kop.
ITV's World Cup 'Sing Africa' theme.
Graham Taylor - turned out to be the top pundit of the tournament on both 5 Live and his Daily Express column.
Michael Calvin - the shrewdest writer at the World Cup, much to the benefit of his Sunday Mirror readers.

Biggest irrelevance (after England, France and Italy) was the BBC's costly studio. In this age when virtual pictures can be called up from anywhere at any time, the physical location of a big-event studio surely doesn't depend on the view any more. Last night we had Lineker, Hansen and co sitting outside an empty stadium in Cape Tpwn while the action took place a few hundred miles away in Durban!

Monday, 28 June 2010


I'm not joining the mob screaming for Capello to be fired. Not yet. It is only right that the FA should give themselves two weeks to reflect on the situation. What is key is whether, in that two weeks, Fabio shows he has learned anything. If he doesn't, then fine - time to order the horse's head. But if he shows that he has taken on board lessons from South Africa then the FA would be daft to dismiss him. We'll never get anywhere by throwing coaches overboard every two years. Capello has never had a group of international players away at a tournament before. Now he has, and he knows what to expect next time. That experience will be priceless and the FA must look for evidence that Fabio has taken it on board before making any decision.

Sunday, 27 June 2010


I know today was a disappointing day for English football but that doesn't excuse BBC 5 Live ignoring a superb performance by the England cricket team in their 6.30pm sports news. The bulletin started with the result of the European Grand Prix - a few hours' old by then, and then a recap on the football result. The cricketers' win over Australia at Old Trafrford which clinched the one-day series didn't get a mention - despite being the most recent item of sports news. If my sports journalism students had produced such a flabby effort I would have been shocked.

Couldn't have had anything to do with Sky having TV rights to the cricket while the Beeb were showing the football, could it?

Sunday, 9 May 2010


There are few sights in sport more rewarding than a three-pointer dropping cleanly through the hoop. We're talking basketball here, and the long shots that hit the mark came from the deft fingers of Trey Moore and James Jones as Everton Tigers pulled off one of the sporting achievements of the year to win the British Basketball Championship final last night.
Persuading that ball to pass through the hoop for two points is tough enough from close quarters, but when a player takes the gamble and goes for three from further out it is a sweet sensation.
And just as sweet that Everton Tigers should win a title when logic said they had no right even to be there. The Tigers were hit by significant financial problems back in September. So massive credit is due not just to the players and their coach Tony Garbelotto but also to the club's general manager John Cooper and backer Martyn Best of Liverpool PR firm Paver Smith.
I was watching from the heart of the Tigers support at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham as Everton trampled all over their underdog status and gave opponents Glasgow Rocks a similar hammering. As an object lesson in taking a game by the scruff of the neck this could not be bettered. With Garbelotto prowling the sidelines like a demented tarantula they were up 23-9 after the first quarter and 45-28 at half-time. Then the Rocks rolled back to wipe out the deficit and, early in the final quarter, take the lead. Momentum now with the Scots and their kilted followers? No way. The Tigers dug deep for one last time, Moore sank another three-pointer and it was all over.
Back in the 1980s James Jones's dad Jeff was a quality performer with a previous incarnation of basketball on Merseyside. The then Liverpool Basketball Club, brainchild of a sports scientist Vaughan Thomas and an incorrigible optimist Colin Bentley, created a real buzz. It didn't last and it would be naive to assume that yesterday's result in Birmingham will guarantee the new team eternal life either. But sport is about seizing the day, and this day, this season, belongs to the Everton Tigers.

Thursday, 6 May 2010


It’s polling day in the UK but for some of us the vote that really matters has already been announced.

At one minute past midnight the news was officially released that Chester FC’s supporters organisation, City Fans United, has been awarded the lease of the Deva Stadium by the owners, Cheshire West and Chester Council.

This was not a “gimme.” There was a rival bid from a Danish consortium who had useful support from Jan Molby and Mark Wright. But the council has taken what I believe to be completely the correct option.

Had the Danes succeeded there was a real risk that football would disappear from Chester for ever. Supporters and the public at large have been so enthused by the CFU campaign that it is doubtful that many would have rolled up to see matches staged by a set-up parachuted in from abroad.

The fans can take massive credit. Last August they were angry, disillusioned, and most significantly isolated. Antagonised, then alienated, then scorned by the ill-fated Vaughan regime they felt helpless. But they got together. They held meetings and people turned up in droves. They looked at a future without the great game and didn’t like it. They discovered a real appetite to keep professional football alive.

Clever, sensible, articulate people emerged to lead and organise. Suddenly, things were happening. Lines of communication with the public were established. Money was raised. Outings for kids were organised. All good, positive developments the like of which the dying regime could never have emulated.

Most important of all, a credible business plan was formulated which has convinced the council that the fans are the correct custodians for the future.

Comparing the situation today with that of a year ago, this is a dramatic and astonishing victory for football supporters.

I congratulate CFU and wish them every success. They don’t need me to tell them that the hard work is only just starting. But in the best football tradition, they should take each day as it comes and that means enjoying today to the full, a great day to be a football fan.

Sunday, 2 May 2010


Sport is all over the front page of the News of the World today. The paper’s legendary investigator Mazher Mahmood has world snooker champion John Higgins in the dock over allegations of match fixing.
According to Mahmood, whose previous victims include Sven Goran Eriksson, Higgins and his agent Pat Mooney were suckered by a typical NOTW scam and ended up agreeing to lose certain frames in certain matches in the future. This would enable a betting syndicate to clean up.
If true, the claims would be a severe blow for snooker. In fact even before the investigation has started the sport has been damaged. On the day when the World Snooker Final began, everyone was talking about foul play and not the match.
No doubt many will be as angry with the journalists as they are with Higgins. Messengers still tend to be shot. Especially when the paper has not actually uncovered any corruption which has already taken place, but instead set a trap and lured the snooker men into it.
So a lot hangs on the proof. Higgins claims his conscience is clear, Mahmood parades evidence from filmed conversations.
The outcome will be fascinating and if the NOTW has indeed flushed out a corrupt champion then that is a good result for journalism. Either way, it does the sporting world no harm to know that Mahmood and his ilk are out there. Which sportsman, when offered a bribe in the future, will be able to avoid the sneaking suspicion that he might just be on the end of a NOTW scam, and decide that the best policy is to stay on the straight and narrow?

Saturday, 1 May 2010


It was a sad day for the city of Preston on Friday evening when the National Football Museum locked up for the last time. The concrete cavern built into Preston North End's stadium will remain in partial use as a repository for artefacts, but the displays now move to the Urbis Centre in Manchester.
It's a blow for Preston and a blow for the idea that the wealth of a nation should be spread the length and breadth of that nation. Concentrating everything in metropolitan centres is great for the metropolitan folk, but there is more to our country than that. Having the NFM in Preston was part of a wonderfully English pattern in which you can visit St Ives and find a world class art gallery or go to York and find a magnificent railway museum.
The economic reality was different and, in the end, compelling. Not enough visitors came to Preston. The NFM on its own was not enough of a magnet. Manchester will, I am sure, be different. People visit Manchester for many reasons and while there, a good proportion will find their way to the new NFM.
My company did a fair amount of work for the NFM a few years ago, and the work we were asked to do pointed up some of the problems. We filmed the annual Hall of Fame ceremonies in three consecutive years for the Museum's own use, but on no occasion was the event held in Preston! We trekked to Blackpool, to Bolton and to Liverpool to film fabulous events attended by the glitterati of football and many top media people. Why on earth were these people being invited to every which place EXCEPT Preston? The argument was that Preston did not have anywhere big enough to host the event, which for many simply emphasised that Preston was the wrong place for the museum in the first place. But surely the Hall of Fame should have been used as a gilt-edged opportunity to drag the good and the great to the museum itself, even if it meant putting up a giant marquee on the Deepdale car park.
The other weird thing was that the museum didn't seem to know what to do with the footage once we'd filmed it. Every year we not only filmed the presentations and speeches but conducted exclusive one-on-one interviews with the big personalities, everyone from Sepp Blatter to Sir Alex Ferguson to Dixie Dean's daughter Barbara. What use has been made of that footage? They asked us to put together a short promo which was used to attract sponsors but to the best of my knowledge a large amount of exclusive material has never seen the light of day, and probably never will.

Monday, 26 April 2010


Funny how a news story takes on a whole new perspective when you find yourself caught up in it.
Even so, I thought Sky's response to the genuinely breaking news of the volcano ash cloud was pretty feeble.
We were staying outside Albufeira on the south coast of Portugal when the story, as it were, blew up. That Thursday evening we were glued to the hotel TV which had Sky News, anxious for information. But Sky were obsessed with the build-up to the first of the political leaders' debates and didn't seem able to change gear to reflect a genuine story spilling out all over the northern hemisphere.
"Breaking News" said a graphic. We all sat up. "Gordon Brown Leaves Hotel," it continued. We shook our heads.
As for BBC World, the channel is great if you are into Far East money markets. But like Sky, hard, detailed, factual reporting of the crisis that left thousands of Brits stranded far from home was difficult to spot.
This lack of definite information made the task of getting home much harder. It was stressful not knowing what to do for the best. Outside a local bar they were quickly advertising coach transport to Calais for 350 euros. I didn't fancy that too much, especially as no-one knew how long people would then have to wait at Calais. Eventually we got a booking on the overnight ferry from Santander in northern Spain. This entailed a day-long, 1000-km drive which we achieved with time in hand thanks to the remarkably-clear motorways in Portugal and Spain. As the picture (top) shows, we visited places we didn't expect when we hopped on easyjet two weeks earlier. The biggest problem was the car hire company Sixt's initial refusal to allow us to take our hire car out of Portugal, followed by a demand for over 1000 euros because the car was being handed back in a different country. This has happened to countless other people and is an absolute disgrace. In the European Union there is no way that people should be penalised like this, especially at a time of crisis. What are the politicians doing about that?
At Santander someone who presumably already had a car booked onto the ferry had stuck up a notice reading: 1700 euros - I will drive you home. I don't know if he had any takers but some weary traveller had scrawled underneath: "Hardly the Dunkirk spirit"! The second picture is of the packed terminal of Brittany Ferries at Santander.
It took us three days to get home but we made it and it was a great relief to return to English soil on St George's Day. The extra days in the sun were certainly no picnic. It is not a pleasant situation, not to know how or when you can go home. And anyway, it wasn't very sunny.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010


Very good piece by the Guardian's David Conn today on the lesson that football can learn from Chester's demise. It's also really heartening to see so many messages of support posted by readers of David's piece.

Monday, 22 March 2010


So what is it like when your football club has been killed off? Surprisingly, it is proving quite uplifting. Not the initial stage of course, the o-my-god-what-will-we-do-on Saturdays-now phase, not the will-anyone-notice-we've-gone phase, and certainly not the underwhelming sight of those clubs still alive squabbling over the points they took off us before our demise, like mangey hyenas fighting over fleshless bones.

We've experienced all that and it hasn't taken long to leave it in the past. Let them fight over our points, the bastards. OK, maybe some of us haven't left it all behind just yet!

But the feeling of liberation is terrific. Chester City (in case you were wondering) doesn't have to cope with a regime which was seemingly hellbent on self destruction any more. That episode is history. Now we are seeing a new club emerge from the rubble, and it's happening amazingly quickly.

Months before the official liquidation of the club supporters saw what was going to happen. They've been preparing since August for the probability that a new club would have to be created. Now a raft of positive moves are being made, from talking to the local council about using the Deva Stadium to preparing an application to the FA to raising money to signing up volunteers and on and on.

Already the fans have dispelled any notion that somehow being a fan prevents you from running a football club. City Fans United already have fund-raising and communication systems that the previous gang couldn't even dream of. Money is coming in, loyalty is being inspired and enthusiasm is being regenerated.

The chances of a new club kicking off next season are improving by the day.

One interesting barometer is the fans' online forum Devachat. For months any thread would barely surive a handful of posts before bickering and insults would grind it into the mud. Now, articulate and informative threads are the order of the day, with fans debating topics like the new name for the club, the colours of the shirt, the badge, ticket prices and so on. People feel a clear sense of ownership now, and engagement, and there isn't even a team on the pitch yet! It underlines what was missing for so long beforehand.

Incredibly, far from being a terrible time to support a football club, it is a wonderful time.

Thursday, 11 March 2010


Nice to hear one of the most famous pieces of TV sports commentary this morning - Barry Davies's commentary on Great Britain's hockey team scoring against West Germany in the 1988 Olympics.

"Where were the Germans? But frankly, who cares?" This ahead of England playing Germany in the hockey World Cup later today.

Shame that Five Live presenters Nicky Campbell and Shelagh Fogarty started talking over the very lines that made it famous.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010


I've just had a phone call from Radio City telling me that Chester City FC has been wound up in the High Court. Have done a quick interview for them in which I quoted the words of that one-time left-winger Oliver Cromwell who described the execution of King Charles I as a sad necessity. Old Noll should have been around today. Now it's onwards with a new club, hopefully to be run by the fans and playing at the Deva.

Long live the revolution.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010


Everton Tigers basketball team created a little bit of sporting history. Their match against Newcastle was the first time I have seen a clipboard used in a mass demonstration as a symbol of derision.

Clipboards of course are familiar at sports events. In my experience they are usually used as a hostile weapons by parking attendants. They appear when you roll up at some farflung sporting outpost, late and stressed. Stopping you at the entrance to the car park, ensuring that your car is obstructing passing traffic, the grumpy gateman will flourish his clipboard ostentatiously, scrutinise it like Fergie and his wristwatch, and then announce that my name isn't on the list.

At the Tigers game clipboards were brandished with even more enthusiasm than this. These were inside the arena, held up by supporters. They didn't quite have the impact of scarlet flares at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome but they did make their presence felt.

It turned out that one of the Newcastle players, with the enviable name of Fabulous, had got into trouble for seizing a coach's clipboard and throwing it into the crowd. So the Tigers fans taunted him with stationery. All good fun. Unfortunately it didn't distract Fabulous and co from winning the game.

Saturday, 6 March 2010


Looks like Liverpool will be getting its own Boxing Academy. At the Town Hall, where I was co-hosting the annual Liverpool Sports Awards, the council leader Warren Bradley happened to mention that a boxing academy is his next ambition now that the city has a string of upgraded sports centres, a running stadium, an indoor tennis centre, an Olympic aquatic centre and a gymnastics centre which is turning out a string of international stars. He wouldn't go into detail, but it is clearly an item on the agenda.

Meanwhile a former council leader, Mike Storey, wants Liverpool to have a Year of Sport to follow on from the Capital of Culture. Mike is now the Lord Mayor so I wouldn't bet against it haoppening.

Maybe it'll coincide with the opening of the Boxing Academy.

Thursday, 4 March 2010


Last night at Wembley it was cold enough to turn an eskimo's backside blue. I wasn't there on press duty, I was there as a punter and by half-time we were desperate for a hot brew. The queue took the whole of half-time to get us to the front, by which time the tannoy was already threatening that the refreshment bars would be closing any time soon. Eventually we got to the counter to discover that there were no hot drinks.

And we seriously expect to be hosting the World Cup?

Wednesday, 3 March 2010


Off to Wembley today to see England play Egypt and despite all the football I've seen over many years I am really excited about this. It's my first visit to the new Wembley.

First visit to the old Wembley was in the spring of 1967 when my dad took me to see England - reigning world champions - play Spain. I remember gazing up at the massive concrete ramparts. And that was only Jack Charlton. The stadium seemed pretty imposing too. We won, as we tended to in those days.

My stand-out professional memory of the old Wembley is my first commentary from there - the 1984 FA Cup Final in which Everton beat Watford 2-0. Funniest moment was the replay of the 1983 final. This was the year Steve Foster, captain of Brighton, went to court to overturn an FA ban which kept him out of the game against Manchester United. Foster lost but without him his team-mates held out for a 0-0 draw. This gave Foster the chance to play in a final after all, only for United to stroll the replay 4-0. "Stevie Foster, Stevie Foster, what a difference you have made!" came the chant from the United end. Wickedly funny.

It was always my dream to see Chester play at Wembley. It used to bug me, as a young fan, that small teams like Skelmersdale Utd had a better chance of appearing at Wembley than we did because they could play in the FA Amateur Cup. Then the Associate Members Cup was invented - aka the Johnstone's Paint Trophy - and I figured this was our big chance.

Well, if it was we never took it. We did reach the Northern Final one year, losing to Mansfield, an event I remember best for the handbrake cable snapping on my much-loved Ford Capri. And there was a famous near-miss when we reached the League Cup semi-final in 1975.

But Wembley is still the place to be and England will just have to cope with the added pressure of carrying all my Wembley dreams from now on.

Saturday, 27 February 2010


I was at Burnley v Portsmouth today and normally I'd be listening out for the latest score from wherever Chester were playing. But not today and not for some time into the future. Yesterday my club was expelled from the Football Conference and that is pretty much that.

Bad news is still bad news even when it is expected. I doubt if I am the only Chester fan who will remember for the rest of our lives where we were when we heard the news. Of course if you're not a Chester fan this may sound like so much hyperbole, but think for a moment: what if this was YOUR club? I was in one of the broadcast rooms at the University of Central Lancashire when the news flashed up on the screen. It was a horrible feeling.

Of course we all knew it was coming. It was obvious for months that the club could not complete the season. Appalling business practices, an atmosphere of violence and intimidation, and alienation of the supporters, had been going on for years. But it was still a hammer blow.

I suspect the football authorities will want to wash their hands of the Chester saga as soon as possible. I doubt if the national media will bat an eyelid. That would be a mistake. There are many lessons which can be learned for the benefit of other clubs. One is the over-indulgence of the football authorities who should have clamped down on the Vaughan regime much sooner. And even more deserving of penetrating questioning is the administrator who took over the club last summer and unbelievably sold it straight back to Vaughan, the very man who had created Chester's crisis in the first place. This was akin to giving a convicted arsonist a can of petrol, a box of matches and a pat on the head. Who regulates these financial wizards? The administrator - Refresh Recovery of Skelmersdale - should be forced to answer for its actions. They were supposed to make decisions that would keep the company going. They made decisions that guaranteed its demise.

Among other lessons is that it always worth listening to the supporters. The fans are the only ones who have come out of this debacle with credibility. Their reading of events, as expressed on messageboards and by the City Fans United group, has been spot on.

So we have been kicked out of the league, and rightly so. What next? Unbelievably, things could get even worse. In less than two weeks the Chester City 2004 company faces a winding up order. If the Vaughan family contest this, or manage to hoodwink the court into allowing them to continue, we will be left with the ultimate lose-lose situation - the club with nowhere to play but the Vaughans still owning the company. The best solution is for the company to be wound up, leaving the way clear for the supporters to launch a phoenix club and start the long trek back to respectability.

And even here the waters are muddy. A group of football enthusiasts from Denmark have arrived on the scene, banding together through Facebook to come up with the spiffing wheeze of buying a football club. You guessed it, Chester. The Vaughans claimed to have sold it to them a week ago. Clearly they haven't. But the presence of the Danes is an unwelcome distraction. There is no evidence that they have the money or the knowledge to carry this scheme through and it is hard to avoid the fear that they will bite off far more than they can chew if they proceed.

So our season is over, our reputation is trashed, and we have no idea if we can launch a new club or not. Football Association, Football Conference, the Vaughan family, and Refresh Recovery: you have a lot to answer for.

Saturday, 20 February 2010


At Goodison Park today to see Everton beat Manchester Utd 3-1. It was a really good display by Everton. Their mental composure impressed me most, that and the fantastic confidence of their young players who scored after coming off the bench, Gosling and Rodwell. With Fellaini and Cahill added to the injury list not many of us in the press room thought Everton would stop United, but Everton played with confidence in their own ability, despite conceding the first goal of the game. As a spectacle, this was so much more enjoyable than that aberration that took place a fortnight ago, the Merseyside derby, when there was more premeditated violence than an average mixed martial arts contest.
Rooney was out of touch, certainly not his usual awesome self. David Moyes revealed this week that Rooney rang him up a few months ago to mend fences after using his book to malign Moyes. One or two of my press colleagues wondered if Rooney has mixed feelings now about returning to Goodison - no longer determined to rub blue noses in it. The abuse level from the stands was well down on previous years too. Perhaps the penny has dropped with Evertonians that it isn't a good idea to wind the lad up. Whatever the reason, this was a terrific result for Everton.

Friday, 19 February 2010


Significant developments in the world of sports journalism. The BBC's position as the prime supplier of live football commentary has taken a knock. In the latest round of bidding for Premier League radio 'packages,' Talksport won two and Absolute Radio one. Talk will now have exclusive rights to commentary on the late Saturday matches and the lunchtime Sunday games. Absolute will air live commentary on the 'second pick' Saturday 3pm game, after the BBC has first pick.

Meanwhile newspapers' efforts to make money from online publishing takes another small step today as the Manchester Evening News offers an online e-zine celebrating 100 years of Old Trafford, Man Utd's home. The MEN is already selling a print version. The online publication, priced £1, has the same written content plus audio and video interviews. For the sake of the industry and its ever-shrinking workforce, I hope it does well.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


I'm digesting the news that Chester City's match away to Forest Green tonight has been called off because Chester couldn't raise a team. I confess to feeling a grim sense of satisfaction. Apparently several players refused to board the coach because they haven't been paid for months. Well done the players. They have cut the club enough slack already.

The owners have now managed to get the players on strike and the fans on strike. If this is not enough to persuade the FA to send in a trouble-shooter to sort things out then they will be even more derelict in their duty than they've been so far.

Things are so bad that the club's supporters have been moved to write to every other club in the Conference apologising for the club's abysmal conduct this season. Not that the fans are the ones who should be apologising.

This farce has arisen because of the appalling way the club has been run over the last few years, racking up debts while alienating everyone. Because when it went into administration in the summer the administrator (whose conduct should also be investigated) sold it back to the same people who had caused the crisis in the first place. And because even now the owners are refusing to negotiate a proper sale. Offering the club for sale at £1 without disclosing the extent of the debt is like asking someone to throw a petrol bomb into their own house.

The final insult is just around the corner - that we will probably go out of business just before we are due to play our greatest rivals. Wrexham are due at the Deva on Sunday. I'll be amazed if the game takes place. The police won't staff the game unless they are paid up front and there is no money.

What a way to go, with our old foes dancing on the grave.

Sunday, 7 February 2010


News that a top commentator has been (allegedly) assaulted by a top football coach is all the more surprising because the episode didn't involve Alan Green.

Instead of the BBC's outspoken Ulsterman it was Portuguese Jorge Baptista who was on the receiving end when confronted by the ex Man Utd coach Carlos Queiroz. The incident took place at Lisbon airport.

"I will continue to be the same commentator and say my opinions whether he likes it or not," said Baptista. Greeny was there in spirit, if not in person.

Saturday, 6 February 2010


Just back from Anfield after reporting the Merseyside derby. Liverpool won 1-0 and congratulations to them on winning despite being down to 10 men for most of the game. I was really depressed though by the vicious attitude of players of both teams. I've seen a lot of hard-tackling derbies over many years but this wasn't hard, it was reckless. Kyrgiakos' two-footed tackle put Fellaini out of the game - a disgrace. Carragher set the tone with an appalling tackle on Pienaar in the very first minute - should have been booked but wasn't. Pienaar later put in an equally bad challenge on Mascherano. In the second half Gerrard followed through on Pienaar who was on the deck and soon afterwards Pienaar jumped late into Gerrard and collected a second yellow.

What is the point of George Sefton, Anfield's renowned PA announcer, telling the crowd that LFC will not tolerate racism or homophobia if the players then go about their business with as much respect as back-alley hoodlums?

When the dust has settled Benitez and Moyes need to take a look at themselves and so do their players. This derby match was riveting in the way you can't tear your eyes away from a burning building, but if this was anything to do with the Beautiful Game my name's Pele.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


Forget John Terry (Wayne Bridge only wishes he could) but a more significant long-term story this weekend was the launch of 3D televising of football.

Sky took the plunge at the Arsenal v Manchester United game and the general response from the critics was positive.

You had to be in one of nine selected pubs to watch the 3D images and Kevin Rawlinson of the Independent felt it was worth while. "As Nani chipped in," he wrote, "the ball seemed to shoot out of the screen. It was a little too real."

"Spectacular was the only word for it," raved Alan McKinlay in the Mirror. "At the start it felt like Cesc Fasbregas and Wayne Rooney were shaking hands on the carpet just in front of you."

Frank Wiechula in the Express hailed the "crystal-clear cutting-edge technology" and proclaimed "the way we look at football will never be the same again."

The special black-rimmed specs might take some getting used to. "It looked more like the annual meeting of the Buddy Holly convention," wrote Rawlinson. But how quickly does the future become the past. "As the technology progresses you'll be able to throw the specs away," said McKinlay.

Martin Kelner of the Guardian has probably chucked his away already. He was "mildly underwhelmed" by the experiment, but admitted that seeing the 3D movie Avatar the previous night didn't help. "Football was never designed to compete with interplantary warfare and alien sex." There again, John Terry wasn't playing.

Sunday, 31 January 2010


Mr Jobsworth is alive and well and has moved to the DW Stadium in Wigan. I had the pleasure of making his acquaintance after spending several hours in sub-zero temperatures reporting Everton's 1-0 win.

When a match is over at Wigan Athletic, they close the public gangways and the press have to make their way to the press room, on the ground floor, by walking down the stand to pitchside. Once there, the press room is easily reached by going down the players tunnel and from there it is a few paces along the corridor.

This simple route is however off limits. Mr Jobsworth, in his lovely pink dayglo tunic, informed me that press were not allowed to go through the double doors across the tunnel. Instead I was to walk down the side of the pitch the length of the stand to the far end, do a u-turn, and retrace my steps the same distance inside the stand. This brought me out on the other side of the same double doors.

Well done Mr Jobsworth!

Saturday, 30 January 2010


I've launched a new blog for TT and Manx Grand Prix news, chat, pics and other bits and pieces. It's at i-ontheball will continue to rambl;e on about sport annd sports journalism, so don't go away!

Thursday, 21 January 2010


A thrilling League Cup semi-final at Villa Park with a two-goal lead being wiped out. Last night's seesaw action between Villa and Blackburn had my mind whirling back to the same stadium, same competition, same stage, 35 years ago. On that occasion it was my club, Chester City, who came from two down to level at 2-2. We had drawn the first leg 2-2 at Sealand Road. At Villa Park we looked down and out, as everyone had predicted, when the home team went 2-0 ahead. Then the late and much lamented Stuart Mason slammed home a Steven Gerrard-style rocket. Soon afterwards Jesse James turned in a loose ball from close range. I was in the press box and turned to the Liverpool Daily Post's veteran writer Horace Yates and said "I don't believe what I'm seeing here." Horace smiled indulgently, knowing that it would end it tears. It did. Ten minutes from time Brian Little snaffled a winner for the Villa. Even then Norman Whitehead went incredibly close to a third goal for us.

That season I'd spent a fair amount of time covering Chester's exploits and I'd been in the dresing room with the players after some fantastic wins. This time I went into the dressing room expecting a hubbub of activity and it was like a morgue. No-one was saying anything. The lads were sat on the benches, heads down, in total silence. The fact that they were devastated showed how close they'd been to Wembley and how realistic their chances of winning actually were. They had played superbly - a Fourth Division team defying all the odds.

A few weeks later the smiles were back when they clinched promotion - the least they deserved.

We had a great team, clever management in Ken Roberts and coach Brian Green, and a sensible board led by local florist Reg Rowlands.

The club today is unrecognisable. League position dire, finances worse, reputation shot to pieces, owners discredited, players unpaid and defecting, fans disillusioned.

Today the supporters' group City Fans United announced an overwhelming vote in favour of an official boycott of home games until the club is back in the hands of reputable locally-based owners. Well done the fans! Enough is enough, a stand is being made, and maybe, one day, we can start building a club which is again worthy of respect.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010


What was conspicuous by its absence throughout Sky's live coverage of Liverpool v Tottenham? Any mention of the parallel drama developing at Villa Park. No infobar, no updates, despite the Villa v Blackburn game in the Carling Cup turning into a 10-goal thriller. So far as the Sky viewers were aware, there was nothing to report.
This of course was the result of the Villa game being shown on the BBC. Sky were not going to publicise the offering of a rival channel, especially when the goals were flying in.
Gives the term "info bar" a whole new meaning really, doesn't it?


Forget the bidding for the players. By far the most interesting outcome of the auction of cricketers for the Indian Premier League is the signing of a deal to stream live coverage of the matches on YouTube.
Last year it was Setanta who carried live pics of the IPL. Their demise has left the door open and it is intriguing that it should be Google, YouTube's owners, who have marched right in. Until now YouTube has been regarded as a cheap, cheerful but not necessarily serious player in the world of moving pictures. That is about to change. And if they can attract an audience for the IPL, how long before they join the contest for horse racing, boxing, and even the Premier League?

Friday, 15 January 2010


Tuned in to Citytalk this morning to see how it sounded having persuaded Ofcom to allow them to play music on an all-speech station and having also shed a number of jobs. Oh dear oh dear. In the 40 minutes I was listening I heard a news bulletin, a sports bulletin, a music track, some celeb gossip (not local), adverts, the identical news bulletin again, identical sports bulletin again, same celeb pap again, couple of tracks - no presenter in sight, and all in all the most repetitive listening experience imaginable.

Better news is that Central Radio in Preston has escaped closure. Its owners UTV have sold the station to Niocom, a company based in Middlewich which also owns Dune FM in Southport. Hopefully it will prosper, if it avoids Citytalk's formula of guranteed switch-off after 15 minutes.

Sunday, 10 January 2010


Condolences to the family and friends of Stan Ocloo, the media officer who died in the Togo football ambush.

Thursday, 7 January 2010


With football matches being called off left, right and centre it is not a good time for freelances.

For me, January is turning into the bleakest of months. No game last Saturday because Setanta don't have rights for the FA Cup. I can't see my game this weekend, Burnley v Stoke, going ahead, thanks to the icy weather. Next Saturday I was down for Blackburn v Fulham but that has been pushed back to the Sunday when Setanta don't have a programme. The week after that it's the FA Cup again, so another blank week. So it looks like Wigan v Everton on the 30th will be my only action.

Fortunately I have other sources of income but the month demonstrates that bad weather and contractual issues, over which a reportEr has no control, count for as much as experience and ability when it comes to making a living.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010


The people who pull the strings behind the media activities of football clubs do not like making headlines themselves. So I doubt if Vicky Kloss, Manchester City's communications chief, is ecstatic to find herself top of the Charles Sale column in the Daily Mail today.

Charlie reports that Vicky was on the receiving end of one of Sir Alex Ferguson's infamous 'hairdrier' tirades after United beat City in September. Fergie was apparently ignited by City's 'Welcome to Manchester' advert featuring Carlos Tevez.

The column adds that Fergie chose the wrong target because the attention-grabbing advert was the inspiration of City's marketing department and nothing to do with Vicky. That is par for the course with Fergie. On the two occasions he shared the hairdrier with me it was not because of anything I had done personally; I just happened to be the next BBC person to come into range after Sir Alex had taken exception to reports by some of my BBC colleagues.

As Charlie also notes, Vicky is a former inspector with the Metropolitan Police so I doubt if she was unduly fazed by the encounter. Beyond perhaps wondering what Fergie would have done if United had actually lost the game!