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.