Benitez: Boo or Back?

Rafa Benitez has been appointed Chelsea manager, and some of their fans aren’t happy to have him. Benitez was booed at the weekend by his own fans, and Trizia Fiorellino, chair of Chelsea Supporters’ Group, has been trying to organise a refusal to accept him as manager.

Why is Fiorellino so set against him?
When Liverpool manager, Benitez said

“We don’t need to give away flags for our fans to wave – our supporters are always there with their hearts, and that is all we need.
“It’s the passion of the fans that helps to win matches – not flags.”

Fiorellino, discussing that statement this week, has said

“I feel it would be best for the manager to come out and fully explain his comments about the supporters. When he was the Liverpool manager, what he said was more than banter. I don’t think managers should get involved in that kind of thing.”

‘More than banter.’ Presumably he means worse than banter?

This is from a supporter of a club whose most beloved recent manager was Jose Mourinho.

I get that sometimes attempts to wind up opposition fans go too far, into tastelessness. Just at the top end of the English league, Alex Ferguson has been taunted by opposition fans referring to him as ‘Taggart’, which Manchester United have made formal complaints about in the past. Arsene Wenger, as a result of his Arsenal team developing young talent, has received chants of ‘Arsene likes kids’ from opposing fans. Giving that chants directed at the opposing manager are almost always insults, whether strong or playful, it’s doubtful that opposing fans who sang that were merely making a factual observation.
During the recent London derby when West Ham play Tottenham, an historically Jewish club, West Ham fans chanted in support of Adolf Hitler and hissed – presumably in imitation of gas chambers.
I don’t believe that there are that many genuine Nazis in West Ham’s support, it was almost certainly an incompetent attempt at playful banter gone horribly, horribly wrong.

I don’t want to argue that because he didn’t invoke the Holocaust, anything Benitez wants to say is fine. But I want to illustrate how close to the opposite end of the spectrum Benitez’ ‘controversial’ statement was. He didn’t even say that Chelsea do need flags to help create atmosphere, which I can imagine Mourinho saying in similar circumstances. You have to really look hard to see the insult in that quote.

That is… Unless… Is a love of flags a deep part of Chelsea culture? (It’d make as much sense as the celery thing.) Is criticising the beloved and ancient Chelsea tradition of waving flags so deep a cut that it causes deep and lasting offence?
Or was the flag thing just some random boardroom attempt to create passion artificially, and was Benitez being more critical of this kind of artifice?

By all means, Fiorellino (and any Chelsea fans who agree with him), if your love of free flags is so deeply held that you want to force out one of seven managers to have won the Champions League in the last ten years, who won the Spanish league twice despite being in charge of the third horse in a two horse race, and came close to winning the league with Liverpool, go ahead. (He won the Champion’s League with a team that included Djimi Traore. Surely that’s better than what Di Matteo managed?)

There is in fact, a decent argument to be made that Benitez, who has been out of work for close to two years, is past his best, and shouldn’t have been given this chance. But I’ve not seen that argument weilded nearly as often in the past week.

Is it an absolute rule that whenever the media want quotes from a fan to ‘represent’ the fanbase, they seek out the most dangerously unhinged supporter they can find?


Eddie Howe’s a Talented Chap

After missing last week, this week sees a Lower League Fortnight on BornOffside.

Bournemouth have been in form under their new manager (but don’t seem to have properly disposed of the old one), David McGoldrick is in form for Coventry, Carl Fletcher’s job isn’t in danger at Plymouth, a Leyton Orient youth striker has been involved in a robbery, and Hartlepool United are all but confirmed as the first English team to be relegated this season. Oh, and Scunthorpe manager Brian Laws compared his team’s defending to the holocaust.

Come this way for The Lower League Fortnight: Air of General Negativity


In Which I Discuss Numbers as a Foreign Language

Over the weekend, an article I’ve written for BornOffside was published. Branching out from my normal area of lower league football, I wrote some all encompassing thoughts about the use of statistics in football.

You can read what I had to say by clicking here for Speaking Statiscally


The Neurosis of the Non-Fiction Writer

The neurotic author is so much of a familiar idea, it’s became a stereotype. The writer self-conscious about sharing their deepest, most innermost thoughts. Despite it not being as much a stereotype, I’m pretty sure the same applies to non-fiction as well – at least it does to me.

I’m getting to the stage where I feel like I’m hitting brick walls, or writing things to no real effect. There is, for whatever reason, a strain of both ‘what do I know?’ and ‘what’s the point?’ invading my thoughts as I sit to write.
Writing non-fiction means writing things that address the real, wider world (by definition) and so there’s a more than decent chance that there’ll be a lot of people out there who both know the subject better than I do, and will be able to point out numerous flaws in my writing.

I write a regular ‘Lower League Week’ feature for, which concentrates on the events surrounding the clubs in League One and League Two.
I think it’s a niche that’s underserviced, but i do feel at times that I’m not doing the subject matter justice, or that this time will be the one that I trip up and say something stupid and plainly false.
And there’s also the feeling that I’m running up against brick walls – no-one has yet seen fit to offer me money for the kind of things I’d write, meaning that, to a certain portion of my mind, the things I produce are valueless.

Of course, there is value beyond money.
And reducing all value to financial value is foolish and quite dangerous.
But it’d be nice to know that the things I create help bring in an audience, who bring in advertising potential, and that my work alone has enough value to justify giving me a few coins in return for what I’ve done.
I suppose it’d be different if I were writing in my day job, developing my skill and seeing it appreciated even if on mundane topics. But as it is, the skill which I think of as being my best, has very rarely been rewarded.
It’s only natural that this gets frustrating after a while.

In addition, a lot of the time, when what I write has been checked over and submitted, I get a sense that it’s ‘over’.
I would love for my writing to have more of a regular audience, to actively feel that my things are being put into the public domain, that they are not just technically out there, but actually inspiring discussion and debate.
Of course, particularly when writing about football, there’s the tendency for people to look at anything even vaguely critical of their club and see it as trolling, biased, or clearly wrong, without justifying why this is the case.
But a well-written article placed in the right place, can become almost a living thing, an embodiment of an idea or ideas, that prompts others to gather round it, take in the ideas, mutate them into something slightly different that the responder believes to more closely resemble the truth…
I’d quite like to be the inspiration for that kind of reaction.

Civilised debaters congratulate an opponent on a point well made

This has sort of happened to me, once – in around January. I wrote a piece for Denofgeek, about the glut of Sherlock Holmeses, about them being different aspects to the classic character.
Unfortunately for whatever reason I wasn’t able to log into my account with the site at the time, so I couldn’t properly respond and join in the discussions below the piece.
(As I remember, what I read was almost entirely good-hearted as well, which makes my inability to join in all the more frustrating.)

But I think, essentially, my problems stem from not producing things on a regular basis.
I need to get to the stage where people can think to themselves, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the site that does the plots of movies, according to Blake Snyder’s thingie’.
I need people to come in, like what they see, and feel confident they can come back later for more of the same.

There will be plenty of writers of non-fiction who feel that they get back more than they put in. The access to creatives and sportsmen, the ability to talk with those ‘on the inside’. Talking with a stranger, whether in real life or online, who read the argument you put together, and have them tell you they thought it was wrong, but thought-provoking, and thank you for writing it.
As it is, right now I’m pretty much nowhere. I intend to get somewhere, to at least reach the point where I feel like I’m getting more back, in terms of the energy I receive as a result of my writing, than I put into it.

So, what am I doing wrong?
It sounds incredibly unromantic, but I think that a great deal of success as a writer depends on being consistent, reliable, giving people some sort of fixed, scheduled, reliable product. I need to do that more – here on the blog in particular. I do intend to return more often to ideas I’ve started to play with in the past.
Of course, as well as being reliable, there’s an incredible amount of room for creativity, wit, invention and subversion inside of that.
But it all starts with showing up.


A Mixed Bag of a Lower League Week

The latest Lower League Week has now gone live at Born Offside.

In it, I discuss Michael Appleton’s record at Portsmouth, Tranmere beginning to struggle at the top of League One, Bury and Scunthorpe pulling away from the bottom leaving Hartlepool (who’ve just appointed a new manager) behind; belatedly praise Walsall for their good start to the season, chuckle at Rotherham’s heavy defeat, look at Bradford’s record in penalty shoot-outs and listen to Edgar Davids saying a naughty word. It’s a mixed bag of a column.

One of the first responses to ‘mixed bag’ on Wikimedia Commons. Another was a painting of Jesus being breast-fed.

Click here to read The Lower League Week: Doing a Great Job in Difficult Circumstances


The Dons vs Wimbledon

I’ve written an article over at Born Offside this morning. MK Dons were drawn against AFC Wimbledon in the second round of the FA Cup, and, having both won first round replays, the tie will now go ahead at the start of December.

If you’re a football fan you may know why this is a big deal. In 2002 the owners of Wimbledon, in the second tier of Englishfootball, not happy with the decent but not amazing crowd figures, pushed to be allowed to relocate to Milton Keynes, one of the largest towns in the country not to have a professional team.


Unlike in America, ‘franchising’ teams in this way is generally looked down upon, with many Wimbledon fans and neutrals considering their team to have been stolen away.

With the move all but confirmed, Wimbledon fans set up a new side, AFC Wimbledon, with Milton Keynes Dons being born from the carcass of the former club. AFC have been steadily climbing their way through the football pyramid, and now, for the first time, the teams will meet in the FA Cup.

I’ve wrote about the history, recent form of both sides, fans’ feelings, and the implications for both clubs’ seasons and the wider awareness of the conflict.

You can read about all of that by clicking here.


Writing fiction on a regular basis

I’ve been writing something for NaNoWriMo.Although I’ve been plotting and doing background work on character motivations for a while, I started actually writing quite late. It was the 4th (Sunday) when I started, and I feel like I’m picking up a little speed in my overall daily word count.

I do get bizarrely self-conscious in my writing, and, though it’s a cliche, it makes next to no sense. It’s something I enjoy, messing around in created worlds with created characters is probably my equivalent of gaming. (I’m atrociously bad at games like Skyrim and the like – in two different games in the past few months, when attacked, I’ve accidentally managed to switch camera angles when trying to hit back. It’s not a very effective fighting method.)

The format won’t end in a 50k novel at the end of the month; more a series of short stories based on an existing fictional world. (Classic Simpsons did it with movies, West Side Story is based on Romeo & Juliet, so I will accept no criticism of my plagiarism.)

I think I’m writing about 1,000 words a day now (albeit not all of them originally mine), and with a bit more focus, sitting down to speed write for half an hour or an hour, I’m sure I can up this.

But the little bit of nagging remains – that what I’m doing is daft, a waste of time. But I’ve already written one scene – entirely my own – that I think is pretty cool, and I’ve got a couple more that I’m excited to get to.

Writing is fun. That’s pretty much the most important thing to remember.

Writing – tis an act which brings great happiness and much joy