Read my Poetry

In Pursuit of Glory

A heart beats beneath a trio of lions
Hope. Excitement. Belief. Disbelief.
The future lies unwritten. Glory is plausible.
Glory is within reach.

It is a dream, and most dreams fail.
Most dreams fade.
Most dreamers cannot force their dream onto reality.
Most dreamers lack the wit, the invention.
A dream is a glimpse of a purer world:
A world of larger than life heroes,
A world where heartwrenching effort yields reward.
A dream is a vision of a world without heartbreak.

But dreams do not all die – the best persist.
This moment will persist.
We will look back on the memory of  a dream.
When glory was within reach.

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Football, FootballOpinion, Uncategorized

Three Lions

I’m aware that England probably aren’t going to win the world cup. We’re probably going to fall short in some way. But today, we can dream.

As a Hartlepool and England fan, I don’t have much experience of winning things. But sometimes the experience of pursuing glory is its own reward.

In 2005 I felt frustration when Hartlepool lost a playoff final to Sheffield Wednesday, but also intense pride that my team had pushed a bigger, richer club so close.

In 1996 I was in tears as England lost to Germany. But looking back as an adult, I feel pride at the times when England were bold, and pushed the strongest, most well-drilled teams in world football so far.

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FootballOpinion

Legacy Issues – How Hartlepool United Made it to the Brink

News emerging over recent weeks have revealed that Hartlepool United have some major financial issues to overcome in the next few weeks. Ian King of TwoHundredPercent.net has a good summary of Hartlepool United’s situation. As a fan I’ve a few more things to add.

First of all, a bit of recent history. Going back years Pools were owned by IOR, an Aberdeen-based oil company who subsidised the club’s finances. The spending was never anywhere near as much as al Fayed at Fulham or Whelan at Wigan, who were in the lower leagues around the same time, but enough to help compete with Cardiff, Sheffield Wednesday, Bristol City etc.

IOR’s motives seemed to use Pools as corporate entertainment (showcasing their business skill in the process) and as a tax write-off (Pools made losses of around £1m a season under their leadership despite going up and down divisions, which seems too steady to be coincedental.) The impression grew over time that IOR had gotten bored of Pools, and were happy for us to tread water. There was disaffection with them long before they sold the club.

A deal was initially struck for the club to be sold to Stephen Murrall and Peter Harris (known as The Monkey Hangers 2014 – a business set up for the purpose of buying the club). Gate money was transferred into their accounts during the transitional period before the formal takeover, which led to the deal collapsing. In financial terms this is classed as ‘self-dealing’, and was one of the reasons that they were later jailed.

Continue reading “Legacy Issues – How Hartlepool United Made it to the Brink”

FootballOpinion

The Language of Statistics

In November 2012 I wrote about the use of statistics in football, and the backlash against them, for the now defunct Bornoffside.net. You can read the article in its original context via the Wayback Machine, or by scrolling down. Some of my examples feel a bit dated, but otherwise I’d stand by what I wrote.

Over recent years, the use of statistics in sport has become increasingly common. Match of the Day and Sky Sports routinely present us with the basic stats at the end of matches – shots, shots on targets, fouls, etc. These stats are useful, insightful to a point. Even if you see the stats at the bottom of a print media match report, you can get a sense of how balanced the match was, whether the winners deserved their win.

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Opinion

Why is There not More Football Fiction?

What are the best novels written about football? If you’ve got a contender in mind, odds are that it’s either a little-known book from a little-known author, a novel which doesn’t centre on football but only features it, or The Damned United.

Understandably a fair amount of what’s out there is football fiction books for boys – which makes sense given that it can be an all-consuming interest at that age. I read and enjoyed a few of Michael Hardcastle’s novels when I was growing up, lightweight novels centring around junior boys’ teams that I remember enjoying reading, but which left no lasting impact on me.
There also seems to be a market for football hooligan books, but realistically that’s centring around a subculture tangentially related to football rather than the game itself.

The football fiction that break into wider awareness tends to receive more ridicule than praise. For example the football manager Steve Bruce self-published a series of novel starring a football manager (Steve Barnes) who keeps getting dragged into murder investigations. The ridicule they’ve received is is a little unfair. Not because the books are good, which doesn’t seem to be the case, but because they seem to have been written for the fun of writing them, completing a trilogy during 1999.
Bruce isn’t alone as a footballer dipping his toe into the world of fiction. Theo Walcott, Jimmy Greaves and Terry Venables have also written novels about football – the latter being the fantastically titled They Used to Play on Grass.

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Comedy

The Leaky Wiki: 2022 Qatar World Cup NOT Chosen as a Result of Bribery

The Leaky Wiki, a satirical website which I wrote for between 2011 and 2013, eventually fell apart, somehow unable to make huge profits despite internet sarcasm being in high demand and low supply.

Using the Wayback Machine I’ve combed through the wreckage, recovering what was mine, which I’ll re-publish here on my blog in the coming weeks and months.

My first piece for The Leaky Wiki came back in November 2011, a distant time, very different from today, when there were questions about why Qatar had been chosen to host the 2022 World Cup. It’s like another lifetime entirely.

 

Qatar World Cup NOT Chosen as a Result of Bribery, Leaked Emails Show

2014_FIFA_Announcement_(Joseph_Blatter)_6 by Marcello Casal Jr.                Taken from Wikimedia CommonsShocking emails have been leaked today, which show that Qatar was chosen as host of the 2022 World Cup, not because of bribery, as had been previously widely assumed, but because FIFA delegates genuinely believed them to be the best choice as host.

Critics have pointed out that the bid was plagued with problems as Qatar had no existing football infrastructure, and the heat regularly reaches fifty degrees Celsius in the summer. Sepp Blatter even announced that they may play games indoors, and alternately may move the whole competition forward to January.

‘It just made sense that Qatar was chosen because of bribery,’ commented one leading Premier League footballer, who asked to remain anonymous. ‘I mean, I’m no brain cutting person, I struggle to keep track of which Page 3 girl I’m banging. But even I know that when choosing the hosts, it makes sense to make sure the players will be able to stand up during matches.’

These new revelations have shaken what little faith there was in an organisation that has elected Sepp Blatter as it’s president 4 times, with many administrators wondering why Qatar would be chosen were it not for financial self-interest.

‘Qatar has no football history or infrastructure,’ said one leading English FA administrator. ‘I’m the guy who keeps suggesting we put David Beckham forward as part of our bid teams, despite his sounding like a ten year old girl, and not a very bright one at that. But even I can’t understand how the delegates can be so stupid. We had all thought that the fact that we were promised more votes than we received for our bid was a betrayal, but I’m starting to think that the delegates didn’t realise our ‘donations’ to their domestic football programmes were meant to be an implied bribe. Honestly, I have no idea how you’d work with that kind of person.’

In related news, other emails leaked at the same time reveal Saudi Arabia to be a frontrunner to host the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

FootballOpinion

Looking Statistically at Cardiff’s Summer Signings

Another quick Squawka link. Cardiff City Football Club have been a bit of a basket case in recent weeks. The chairman, Vincent Tan, while not sacking the manager, Malky Mackay himself, seems to have been pantomining a display of what ‘constructive dismissal’ looks like, briefing against him in the press, before growing bored with his performance art and sacking the manager outright.

Cardiff fans at the 2012 League Cup final, wearing their traditional colours of not red.
Cardiff fans at the 2012 League Cup final, wearing their traditional colours of not red.

One of the mad chairman’s more legitimate complaints was that Mackay overspent on summer recruitments. So, writing for Squawka, I’ve taken a statistical look at their summer signings.

Click here to read Was Cardiff’s Summer Spending a Success?