Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Blog 19 - Stalking Celebrities on Twitter and causing an argument with one.

I hate Facebook. There, I've said it. Hate the damn thing.

It's a spammy, advertisement-laden, craphole of poor ideas siezed upon by idiots. The only good thing about it is that it gives you access to a (relatively) quick messaging system with your friends which is what I use it for solely. The minus side is that you get vague acquaintainces and people you hated at school shoving up friend requests which you're too polite and mature (yes, even me) to turn down and then you have to put up with their shite updates, thrown sheep, star sign updates etc. Therefore whilst I still use Facebook because my (genuine) friends are on there, I far prefer Twitter.

Quick 140 word updates of what you're doing, thinking, watching etc. It comes into it's own when you're watching a popular TV programme because many other people will be tweeting away with you at the same time about the same thing. Basically it's like watching TV with a group of friends, albeit with Twitter, you follow who you like. So as well as following the friends I have on Twitter, I also follow various famous people. The majority are writers, journalists, and comedians simply because Twitter was first adopted by the liberal, Guardian-reading contingent and so the Charlie Brooker's, David Mitchell's and Stephen Fry's are amongst the most followed and most comfortable tweeters around but it's now becoming more mainstream. Even footballers are finding Twitter a useful medium and so the likes of Norwich's own Grant Holt and Henri Lansbury are on there, tweeting about their days.

When I first started on Twitter it became a fun game to try and get a response from a celebrity. After all, they have no reason to talk to you, they have no knowledge of who you are, and they probably get responses from hundreds of people, so to get a response is a bit of a challenge. My first response was from Euan McIntosh, the bloke who played Big Keith in The Office, who's a prolific and very friendly tweeter and I can't even remember what it was about exactly but we ended up chatting about books and recommending books for each other to read. Which is not to say I'm best mates with "Big Keith of of The Office" who undoubtedly can't remember my name now, but it's an example of the kind of chat you get into with famous people. Sometimes it's easier than others like when you get Jimmy Carr asking if anyone had seen "Inception" because he was thinking about going to see it, and I'd just seen it, so I told him that if he'd seen "The Matrix" but wished it had been a little less complicated and had a pudgy-faced quasi-Italian man-boy in, then Inception was for him. He replied with "I'll add that to the "No" pile then!". Kerry and I had a competition one day to get a reply from the sexiest celebrity possible and I won with Shannon Elizabeth sending me a lovely message, including a little "x" at the end which I take to mean that she wants me badly. Bless her, I'll have to let her down gently what with this whole marriage thing...

Anyway, to cut a long story short, after two years or so on Twitter I don't make any effort to speak to celebs any more but by virtue of the fact that I follow quite a few famous people I reply to some of the things they say naturally anyway. Sometimes they acknowledge you and sometimes they don't and I don't mind either way. Today I responded to the Quarterback of my favourite American Football team, Derek Anderson of the Arizona Cardinals and actually received a reply, which was surprising as they get thousands of responses to everything they tweet because their fanbases are so huge. It's the equivalent of getting a reply from Wayne Rooney or, more likely someone human who can actually type and play football.

The background to know (and I'll keep this as brief as possible) is that Anderson replaced a legendary quarterback who retired at the end of last season and has been a disaster. He has a reputation as being a trouble-maker and I was surprised (and to be honest a little disappointed) when the Cardinals signed him. However, as bad as he's been, the whole team has had an awful season and for my money he's no more to blame than anyone else. He's made things worse for himself by appearing on TV laughing with a teammate on the bench as we were busy losing again and being characteristically fractious with the press when questioned about it, but I think that this was a lot of media fuss over very little. Anderson has been dropped once this season for a rookie QB, and then brought back in, and following a recent injury to Anderson and his back up, another rookie named John Skelton was brought in for the last two games. He played reasonably well in the first game which we won, and average-poor in the second game which we lost to the worst team in the league. Anderson is still the number one quarterback for the Cardinals when fit but is likely to lose his job at the end of the season and the Cardinals will almost certainly bring a new player in.

Derek Anderson tweeted this morning that he was in a queue at Starbucks that was moving slow as hell. I responded with "Has Skelton gone Hollywood after 2 games and sent you out for him then?!!". I didn't expect a response at all because, as I said, they get thousands of responses to everything. What I got within a minute was "U r so funny". Cool, I thought, he's obviously a nicer bloke than the media portrays him to be if he's bothered to reply. Then he sent a second tweet "Does it make you feel clever to talk shit to people you don't even know?"

What the fuck?!! I responded to say that I wasn't taking the piss out him and was just making a joke about the rookie getting ideas above his station, and to his credit he came back to apologise for being over sensitive but that he gets so much abuse every day on Twitter that he thought I was abusing him as well at first glance. I'm guessing that my sense of humour doesn't play as well in American either which probably exacerbated things but this is by the by.

The point I wanted to make is that, if you're Derek Anderson, what the hell are you doing going on Twitter? The NFL has 32 teams, all in the same league to cover the whole of the USA. Anderson has become a bit of a joke amongst the league and so 97% of fans will support other teams and will be lining up to rub his nose in it every time he posts. And of the fans of his own team, a good percentage aren't so enamoured with him either!

I looked at some of his recent posts on Twitter (you can do that, it's very high-vis is Twitter, although you do have the ability to direct message in private and block people from viewing you if you wish), and most of the time he goes on there, he gets into an argument with someone slagging him off. In fact I didn't find one positive interaction with anybody in his recent history! Understandable then that he's defensive to bad gags by hacky British tits like me. But why does he post at all? It's perfectly possible to post on Twitter under an alias and use that for friends only, which would mean that he wouldn't get abuse, but he cracks on regardless under his own name. Is it that he wants the attention in the good times? When he throws for a touchdown in a big game does he want the "way to go" tweets from overjoyed fans so much that he's willing to be abused the rest of the time? He said to one of his critics that he only comes on Twitter for fun and jokes, but his history shows that he has precious little of this when he tweets so why not use an alias and be an anonymous nobody like the majority of us? Perhaps that's the answer. There's a mild blurring of the lines between "untouchable" celebs and the rest of us when we chat together on Twitter but the line undoubtedly remains there. I think he wants to remain on his side of the line regardless of what that means.

A lot of people go on Twitter and abuse celebrities on there, and a number of high profile people have quit Twitter as a result, some returning, some not. Stephen Fry has stopped on a few occasions only to miss it and return. I don't do that. If there's someone I don't like I just don't follow them in the first place. (Katie Price is one whose musings are something I can do without, and I doubt whether I could stop myself saying something sarky in her case). Celebrities prove on Twitter how normal they are, with mundane tales of what they're having for dinner or how the snow has made their lives hell today, and they go on Twitter to kill a few minutes, to check in with friends or chat about random stuff the same as anyone else. I understand this and I join in with them and occasionally them with me. It's a relatively cosy and fun atmosphere which is why you don't spoil it by being an arse. And another reason why I prefer Twitter to Facebook.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all my friends on Facebook and Twitter, and to Derek Anderson, who I hope has a better 2011 than 2010.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Blog 18 - Strengths from Perceived Weakness

The older I get the more I realise that everyone has a cross to bear. Obviously everyone has their ups and downs in life but it becomes more and more apparant to me that very few of us come through life without some fairly hefty psychological scarring along the way.

I consider myself very lucky in this respect. Compared to a lot of people I've come through thusfar with very minor damage. There are some things I've gone through which have been trying and some people that have treated me badly along the way, but nobody I'd bother murdering as a result. (Although if Karma would like to give a couple of them facial herpes that'd be super.)

However, I have friends and loved ones who have been hurt. Not in piffling, frustrating ways, like me, but in profound ways. I have friends who have dealt with illness and injury that have been life-threatening (although thankfully, by a whisker, not fatal). I have friends who have suffered rape. I have friends who have suffered physical, psychological and sexual abuse. I have friends who have suffered miscarriages and lost children. I have friends who have attempted suicide.

The moral of this story is not "Don't be friends with Andy Head or you'll end up really fucked up" however. The thing is that more and more, I realise that my friends aren't a particularly unlucky or vulnerable bunch. They are simply and unfortunately, a product of modern society, and far from being unusual, they're actually barely in the minority. I feel priviliged that those of them that have shared their tragedies and problems with me have done, but I remain more and more convinced that none of them are as alone and isolated in their experiences as they believe.

One thing I've found through observing my friends is the amazing depth of character displayed by them all. This sounds like a patronising, cheap and easy soundbite as if I'm saying "Aah, aren't they all brave" but I genuinely mean it in the case of the people I'm talking about. Human nature being what it is, not everyone who goes through major trauma is brave, or deep, or a fighter, but the people I know are. Perhaps this is due to me and the fact that I'm a fairly open book when it comes to the people I do and don't like, and empty vessels and the superficial generally get very little attention from me. Maybe it's just luck or coincidence. I have known people who regularly behave like utter arseholes and answer any criticism of this with the excuse that they were called names at school or their parents got divorced and it made them sad. I don't tend to maintain friendships with these people. This isn't to say that these things cannot have a great effect on you, but knowing other people who've been through the same as them and who haven't turned out as a cunt, or who have been through far worse and yet don't seek excuses in their past to explain their current behaviour, I struggle to connect with the excuse-makers on even a basis of superficial politeness. Maybe that's a failing of mine in that I don't give everyone the respect that they deserve for their feelings. Either way, that's my decision however. I know too many people with genuine stories.

Obviously I'm not going to name names but just to give you an idea of some of these people and what they're like I've got some examples.

1) A woman who was raped and fell pregnant as a result and after making the difficult decision to keep the baby, she then tragically lost it to miscarriage. How the hell do you cope with that? How do you come back from that? The answer is, she copes remarkably well. She has mourned and healed beyond anything I would have thought possible. She has held down jobs, she has maintained a long-term relationship and gone on to be a mother. She has her down days. She suffers depression and there will always be a shadow behind her that will remain forever, but it doesn't define her. It's part of her, but it's not the sum total of her. I'm flabbergasted by my friend. She is an actual hero in my life.

2) A guy who, having thought of himself as being perfectly fine and normal all his life, suddenly got hit full-on by severe depression. His depression, brought on by circumstance, but due to chemical imbalance at it's core, quickly became all-consuming. The problem was that he wasn't comfortable with the modern touchy-feely culture of talking about your issues, or admitting you have a problem. When he had to take time off work the public nature of having to admit to the problem, as well as all the crap that was going on in his life anyway, was too much and he tried to kill himself. Fortunately he was found just in time. His courage was not the obvious kind. His courage was in picking up his life, getting back into work and family life and doing so whilst admitting he had a problem and suffering what was for him, the greatest indignity of people knowing what had happened. Again, he will never be the same again, but rather than fold against his history, he has moved on, one step at a time.

3) A mate who surprised me hugely recently by telling me how he'd suffered severe sexual abuse as a child. He is the last person in the world I would expect to have gone through something like that, let alone be talking about it. This is a guy who is hard as nails, the life and soul of the party and the kind of person that others turn to for help and advice. The events of childhood have cast a shadow over his life however, and come out in ways that aren't immediately obvious until you peel back the layers. He IS the life and soul of the party, but as much as that's who he is, it's also a convenient cover for his problems with drink. The drink is part of a self-destructive pattern he's in which also includes violence and attempted suicide. A lot of this is recent and he's at a low point right now and struggling to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

The thing is that I know that Number 3 is as strong as Number 1 and 2. He may not feel it right now, but he is. I hope he reads this and sees that people can go through appalling tragedies and come out the other end. He has a lot of people in his life who love him and care about him, and he has all the honesty and integrity that the first two people have. I don't know the future for him, but he's done well to talk about it and I'm honoured he has trusted me and I'm glad he's taken that step. Hopefully he keeps taking steps in the right direction because he's a lovely bloke and doesn't deserve any of the shit he's been through, not that anyone does.

In some ways I think fate has a way of giving some of the strongest people some of the worst shit to deal with, if only to be an example to the rest of us. Thankfully fate knows I'm a total pussy and has left me alone to all intents and purposes and long may that continue. Numbers 1 and 2 show me the kind of person that make me believe in mankind and it's possibilities. Number 3 isn't there yet, but has everything he needs to come through the present and be an example to others of what it's possible to live through and put behind you. He's a hero waiting to happen.

Thankyou to all the heroes in my life. You have strength that stretches further than you think.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Blog 17 - ADHD

I have to have a rant.

Years ago, when you had a naughty kid, he was known as a naughty kid. He was naughty at school and the teachers told him off, he was naughty playing out in the streets and a policeman would cuff him on the ear and send him home, he was naughty at home and the parents would probably do nothing which is why he was naughty in the first place. It was simple. Some kids would stay naughty and end up in prison. Some would grow out of it naturally and grow up all right. And some, by becoming known as naughty kids, would shame their parents into taking an interest and the family would develop together.

Nowadays nobody has to bother. If you have a naughty kid, you don't have to discipline them. If you're a school, you do a quick referral to a specialist who then sends them to a doctor who diagnoses ADHD in 5 seconds flat following a series of tests that 95% of the population would find makes them an ADHD "sufferer" (More of this later). If you're a policeman and Little Johnny is attempting arson at the age of 8 you don't cuff him because you'll get sued, or take him to the parents because if they had any sense he wouldn't be out firestarting at 8, so you take him to the station, get a referral to Social Services who pass him onto a doctor to diagnose ADHD. And if you're a parent of a naughty child, rather than admit they're naughty and that might reflect poorly on your parenting skills, you take the quick fix option. "Doctor, as soon as I've finished pouring a gallon of Sunny Delight down Johnny's throat when he gets home from school he goes a bit mental and runs around bouncing off the walls". 5 seconds later there's a prescription for Ritalin in Mummy's hand. A doctors endorsement that you're not a crap, lazy parent. It couldn't possibly be your fault that whilst you're watching back-to-back Jeremy Kyle, Little Johnny is busy feeding the hamster a months supply of Cillit Bang.

The worst thing is that some people genuinely have ADHD. They have my deepest sympathy. Because whilst they struggle with concentration issues and the frustration of completing tasks that most of us simply find a dull chore, they must know that virtually everyone they tell that they have ADHD is thinking, "bollocks, you're just a naughty kid making excuses".

I'd love to see some statistics on the socio-economic status of those diagnosed with ADHD. If ADHD were correctly diagnosed every time you would expect it to be as prevalent in every social grouping. How many people on a higher income have children with ADHD? In a social class where there is still a stigma surrounding these things, I suspect that there are far fewer occurrences of ADHD. That's not to say their kids are any better behaved than those raised by families on low incomes, just that the stigma of the class is likely to mean that they are less likely to want to label their child with "the naughty disease". The further down the economic ladder you go, the more likely you are to find families with ADHD children. The stigma of having an ADHD child is less if you already know other families who have ADHD children. And thus it becomes the norm rather than the exception. If nobody at the school has a go at Little Billy's Mum when he scribbles on the classroom walls because he's got ADHD, then why can't Johnny have ADHD too? Then they'll stop moaning at me when he repeats what he saw on the hardcore dvd's that I can never be arsed to put away at night. I might even get him diagnosed with Tourette's as well! Wonder if the Social will give me disability money for that?

Read through some court reports. We now have a generation of people in their late teens starting to emerge as petty criminals. Usually minor incidents involving drink, drugs, violence, criminal damage. And look at how many of those claim to have ADHD. Instant excuse. Get out of Jail Free Card. "I can't possibly be held responsible for my actions, M'Lud. It's this disease I'm cursed with that makes me an arsehole". And all the while genuine ADHD sufferers struggle with their condition trying NOT to use it as an excuse and make the best of their lives.

More work needs to be put into the diagnosis of ADHD. The doctors who diagnose it so quickly and easily aren't doing so because they want the current situation to be perpetuated, but because they're under pressure to get through all the appointments that are thrown at them, and the current ADHD tests are so broad and non-specific that virtually anyone can come out with a positive ADHD result. I've done an online test, as have friends of mine and we all came out with scores in excess of 75% positive for ADHD. Mine was 87%. I have an honours degree, have had several jobs where I've managed people and held considerable responsibility, have never had any run-ins with the law, or had any issues concentrating. I am however, a lazy bastard, and at times I can be a feckless twat, particularly when under the influence, and be driven to acts of minor mischief. I'm perfectly aware of this, and although I might not act like such a berk when I'm sober, it's not alcohols fault for whatever I get up to. It's mine for being a greedy bastard and drinking too much of something that I know has the capacity for sending me loopy. But according to the online test, I could easily blame it on ADHD. I'm not saying the online test is an exact match for that administered by a doctor, but from what I've been told by a friend whose child was tested and diagnosed and has taken the online test themselves, it's actually more in-depth than the doctors. We now have a generation of people who think they have an easily acquired licence to break the rules.

Blog 16 - Dad Stuff - Swearing

Anybody who knows me knows that I love a good swear. Is it because I'm an emotionally stunted man-child that uses adult language to cover up his developmental failings in an attempt to seem more mature than he is? Fucked if I know.

However, nowadays I'm a Dad, and so I have to take a view on swearing. Is it something I want my kids doing? How do you police it? Do you allow some words and not others? How much do I allow myself to swear around the kids?

I know the accepted view of society is that swearing is bad and kids should neither do it or be exposed to it. The problem is that I don't subscribe to the theory. Never have, never will. Swearing, for me, is wonderful. I love language, particularly the English language which is so rich in it's breadth and variety, and anything that can add to that is increasing something that's already brilliant. How many variations are there on the word "pissed"? "He pissed in the toilet", "I got so pissed last night", "I am so pissed off with my friend" "I didn't bring my umbrella and wouldn't you know, it pissed down". Marvellous.

The important thing with swear words is that they have power. Far greater power than the millions of mundane words that make up the bulk of normal language. Stand in the middle of a W.I. whist drive and say "profiterole" and nobody bats an eyelid. Even "bomb" or "fire" wouldn't make much of an impression unless you screamed it. But say "Piss-stained cuntflaps" and you'd better believe you have an audience. Instant power.

Which is not to say that I support using random swearwords for attention (although god knows, that's fun on occasion). In fact, I'm actually opposed to swearing too much because the more powerful words are used, the less effect they have. If I say "fuck" people are less surprised than if my Mum, who very rarely swears, does, and so when she swears it has far greater impact. My problem is that I can't help myself - I'm a swear glutton. I'm the Vanessa Feltz of cursing. I can't help myself.

Which begs the question then, how do I deal with this around the kids? The one thing I don't believe in is the hands-over-the-ears "la la la if I just say those words are bad then they won't swear" method which a lot of parents seem to subscribe to. It's naive and it's a parenting cop-out. The fact is that swearing is a part of the world around us. As soon as they get to school the kids all begin passing round new words they've learned and the coolest kids are the ones who know the most swear words. The fact is that my kids are going to swear. To them it's cool and grown up. I was the same at their age. Plus I still swear now, so it's hypocritical to say there are words I can say but you can't.

Recently we had the situation where during a car ride we played "I-Spy" and I saw a parcel. Nobody guessed it and when I announced "It's a parcel", Kerry (half-asleep) misheard and said "did you just say 'arsehole'?" in hushed tones. Bailey (3) overheard that and shouted "IS IT AN ARSEHOLED?" which she thought was hilarious because everyone else in the car fell about laughing when she said it. I've since answered questions from the eldest two as to what an arsehole is, but to be honest I was actually only confirming what they pretty much knew. Any child who has grown up with 2 parents who haven't had a break from changing nappies at all hours of the day and night for the past 7 years will have heard the phrase "stinky arsehole" on at least a few occasions I guarantee.

Rightly or wrongly, the view I'm following is that I'm going to allow them to swear in front of me. My reasoning is that I don't find swearing offensive, and they're going to do it anyway, so why have the pretence that I had with my parents? The only rules I'm going to apply to the situation are that a) they need to understand what the words mean and b) they need to know when and where they can use these words. At the age my kids are (6,5,3 and nearly 1) they don't know many swear words anyway, but they're picking them up all the time. Take "Shit" for example (and anyone who's worked for the government knows that you have to do that on a regular basis anyway #littlebitofpolitics). My kids know what shit means. If I was to ask Lauryn (6) whether her baby brother had done a shit, she's sniff his bum and tell me the answer. The fact is that I don't use that terminology and neither does she on a general basis because we usually refer to it as "poo" or "poo-poo". Because we have Bailey (3) who has not long been potty-trained, we've spent a considerable amount of time talking about "poo" in the past few months and as a result it's... well it's kind of stuck. I wouldn't have a problem if the kids were to say "Shit" in front of me because they know what it is, they know the right context to use it in, and they are aware that it's a swear word and that they shouldn't say it in front of certain people. I just don't think they need to make an effort not to say it around me.

The sexualised swear words are somewhat different. My kids (hopefully) don't have a clue what a Wanker is, and it's not something they'll understand for a few years, so I'd question them if they said that in front of me, and likewise I try not to use that in front of them myself. Cunt is one that I'll allow (although hopefully that won't come up for a few years), because at the end of the day, it's only a reference to a part of the body. The codicil with this is that they have to understand that society regards this as the "Nuclear" swearword (for reasons I've never quite understood) and that they have to be exceptionally careful when using it. Fuck however, is a tricky one. It's regarded as one of the worst swear words (The F-Bomb), and it is a sexual swear word, but it's also one of the most prevalent. People are always saying "I hate my fucking job" but unless they work in the pornography industry, they're not using the word in a sexualised way. "Fuck You" is an insult, not an invitation.

Cee Lo Greens new song "Fuck You" is about to explode when it's released. It's all over the internet already and it's one of the catchiest tunes I've heard in years and it's sweetened all the further by liberal sprinklings of swear words. If you haven't heard it already, check this out:


Fantastic song, right? And although a tame version has been released for radio play ("Forget you" substitutes for the title, and "Ain't that some shit" is replaced by "ain't that some shhhh"), you know that EVERYONE will sing the rude version regardless of which one they're listening to. My kids will become exposed to this and will sing it because that's the media age we live in. The song is going to be huge and will be everywhere. So do we pretend it doesn't exist for children, like a BFG that only adults can see or hear? Or do we be honest with our children, let them know that some words are swear words which will upset some people, but let them join in the fun of a catchy song that they'll hear about regardless of whether we like it or not? I'm letting them hear it, dance to it anhd even sing along to it if they want. They know they mustn't sing it at school or to anyone outside the house, but pretending it doesn't exist is a far bigger crime to me than saying a few words that other people don't like around people who don't mind them.

I'm sure many people will disagree with me on this, and to be fair I don't think my view totally reflects the Mrs' but it's my view all the same. I think most parents seem to make a lot of fuss about swearing when kids are young but as they gradually comprehend that they can't stop their kids awareness of swear words or the fact that they use them every day at school or around friends, they simply stop making the effort to correct them and allow it to happen in a gradual malaise of their own standards. I prefer to take the long-term view now and be open about it, but a lot of people will probably think this makes me the worst parent since Joseph Fritzl. However, a lot of people are fuckwits so I'm not that fussed.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Blog 15 - NFL 2010-2011 Season Preview

As you may or may not know, American Football has become a recent passion of mine and with the new NFL season starting this week, I thought I'd do a quick season preview for anybody else with similar interest.

I got into it a couple of years ago, but this is the first year that, since the Superbowl, I've stayed in touch with what's happening with the teams offseason, and with the draft, and so I'm fascinated to see how the Rookies perform as it's my first real draft class I'm watching.

So without further ado, here are my season predictions:

AFC East

1. New York Jets - The favourites for the division should win out. They've added some strong firepower in the offseason and moved some older names out. I can't see them going far in the postseason though and they'll be lucky to get a repeat of last years Conference Final.

2. New England Patriots - Have lost ground in the last year or two and a lot will depend on whether Brady can revitalise his passing game and if Wes Welker can get fit enough to make an impact. They're too good not to be a threat however and they've got a shot at a Wild Card.

3. Miami Dolphine - A lot of experts have them as dark horses within the division but I don't think they're quite there yet. Won't roll over for anyone but breaking teams down will remain a problem.

4. Buffalo Bills - If they're not selecting first in next years draft I'll be very surprised. Their team has more holes than a pikeys cardigan. Unbelievably when given a prime opportunity to sign a franchise quarterback in Clausen or Tebow in the draft they instead went for RB C.J. Spiller providing cover in what was not one of their biggest areas of weakness and ignoring the fact that they have the weakest selection of any team in the NFL in the most important position on the team.


1. Baltimore Ravens - Always strong, I can't see past them in the division and could be a good outside bet to win the whole shebang. They've managed to keep hold of good players and have probably the strongest backroom set-up of any team in the NFL.

2. Cincinnati Bengals - I fancy them to make it to the postseason as a surprise package. The Batman and Robin antics of Ochocinco and T.O. will take the headlines but it will be the consistency of Cedric Benson and Carson Palmer that will make or break the season.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers - The Big Ben kerfuffle has overshadowed the whole club and I'm surprised they haven't attempted a trade to give both parties a fresh start. The first four games without Rothlisberger will be tremendously difficult as they don't have quality back-up. I think it's going to be a messy season for the Steelers and I can't see them getting past the normal season this time.

4. Cleveland Browns - Mangini already looks like a sitting duck and I'd be surprised if he was still in a job at Christmas. The Browns are not untalented but they struggle with consistency over the course of a game let alone a season.


1. Indianapolis Colts - Efficient, professional, rarely over elaborate, and always in the mix at the end of the season, the Colts are to the NFL what Germany are to the World Cup. Probably one of the reasons I find no affinity with them at all! Led by the Iceman, Peyton Manning, with metronomically regulated passing, they will undoubtedly be playing long into the postseason.

2. Tennessee Titans - They have the best running back in the league and if Vince Young can produce the kind of season he is capable of at QB, then I can see them being a surprise package. My Wild Card for a Wild Card.

3. Houston Texans - Another team that experts are expecting big things of and I can't see it myself. Any team that signs Leinart has to be at a lower ebb than was first thought!

4. Jacksonville Jaguars - The line appears to have been drawn in the sand now and the Jaguars are not going to make too much of an effort until they're in a new city with a fitting fanbase. Del Rio is a good coach and they have some decent players but they drafted on conservative wages rather than on talent and they can't expect to be a competitve force as a result.


1. San Diego Chargers - A no-brainer in this division. Drafted well and Ryan Matthews looks set to have a huge rookie year. Could feature at Conference Final level but not sure they have enough to go all the way.

2. Denver Broncos - Tebow. You can't look past him when it comes to the Bronco's even if most observers believe his role will only be peripheral this season. A marmite character, I think he'll be the biggest thing in the sport within 4 years. Equally I agree that his contribution will be limited this year, but he has a galvanising presence and the club is on the up, and they have an underrated team which should do well.

3. Kansas City Chiefs - Quietly improving as a franchise, the signing of Eric Berry will be a long term aquisition of high value. They won't trouble the playoffs but should hold-off the Raiders in the Division.

4. Oakland Raiders - Had one of the best drafts of any team in the NFL and finally put Al Davis' wacky ideas on the back-burner. It will take a while for it all to gel however and next year will be one of slight but noticeable imporovement.


1. Dallas Cowboys - Could go all the way if they keep key men fit and if Romo can pull out a big season. He has the tools and Dez Bryant could be a major player if given a chance.

2. Philadelphia Eagles - Second best in an uncharcteristically weak division for me this year. I think the once-formidable Eagles are slipping and I can see them struggling to make the post-season.

3. New York Giants - Started last season well only to collapse down the track, I can't see things getting better before they get worse for NY. Not enough tools to mount a serious challenge.

4. Washington Redskins - Big changes at work and they look a million times better than they were a year ago. However, the changes will take a while to settle and it's a season of consolidation rather than dramatic advances in DC.


1. Minnesota Vikings - Favre's back for last season number 63, but equally the Vikings remain a force to be reckoned with. A really tight division between the top 2 teams, I fancy them to win out by a short head, although it'll be equal opportunities in post-season.

2. Green Bay Packers - Should comfortably make the play-offs and if things go their way a Conference Final or a Superbowl are not impossible. Consistency the key.

3. Detroit Lions - Traditionally amongst the worst they have been clever in recent seasons with the quality of player they have brought in. Franchise QB Matt Stafford has a decent rookie year under his belt and Ndamukong Suh has shown the kind of form in pre-season that could earn him a Pro Bowl call-up in his rookie year. They're still light years away from a play-off shot but one year at a time they're getting better.

4. Chicago Bears - With no 1st Round Draft pick they went all out in free agency and made some high profile signings, not least Julius Peppers. However there are so many issues that need addressing that even Peppers will be a band aid over a gaping wound.


1. New Orleans Saints - The team to beat now they're reigning Superbowl Champs, they'll find it an awful lot more difficult defending the trophy than winning it in the first place. I can't see them repeating and I think they'll do well to win a playoff game, but they're good enough to win in a weak division nonetheless.

2. Atlanta Falcons - Another fancied darkhorse, they'll have a shot at a Wild Card but they're very much a work in progress and don't have the personnel or determination as yet.

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Fancy them for a better run this season but still a long way from challenging within the division. McCoy is an excellent addition but they have too many holes and not enough matchwinners.

4. Carolina Panthers - An average team of average players who should perform average at best. If ever a team needed a marquee player to come in and act as a catlyst, this is it.


1. Arizona Cardinals - My team. They've lost some big names since last season and mostly replaced them with adequate if unspectacular alternatives. The draft was a success and the addition of Dan Williams is a cause for excitement. However the cloud over the club is the retirement of legendary QB and leader Kurt Warner, the implosion of the ever-disappointing Leinart as his aire-apparant, and the aquisition of the boom or bust Derek Anderson as the new leader of the offence. Personally I have enormous doubts about Anderson but I would love to be proved wrong. We still have the best defensive lineman in the league in Darnell Dockett and the best receiver in Larry Fitzgerald, but the QB hole is simply too big for us to get any further than the first round of playoffs. Only the lack of strength in the division will see us progress.

2. San Francisco 49'ers - Most people have them as the probable winners after a few years of Cards dominance, and they have worked the pre-season well in terms of personnel changes. However, as always, changes take time to implement and they will still have work to do to catch the Cards this season.

3. St Louis Rams - Another team with a world of improvement neccesary but if Bradford can perform they could have an unexpectedly average season.

4. Seattle Seahawks - A difficult fixture list will see them struggle and I think the Rams may even squeeze them out into 4th. Lots of work to do.

I think the winners overall will come from the Ravens or the Colts in the AFC and the Cowboys, Vikings and Packers in the NFC. At a push I'll plump for the Ravens to beat the Cowboys in the Superbowl. Although if the Cards want to surprise me, that's fine!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Blog 14 - The X Factor 2010

The X Factor has once more bounded back onto our screens, no longer the adorable sparkly-eyed puppy it once was, but an older fully-developed mongrel, smugly expecting to be a family favourite as always. Trouble is that the family have tired somewhat of their preening pedigree pet. We know where the farty smell has been coming from on a saturday night and it's not Grandad.

It's been 4 days now since the first episode of the new series and already the show has had 2 scandals of which you sense, neither was a pre-planned publicity stunt. We're far quicker to look for the flaws these days and the press are spearheading the push. But more of these later.

We start with the same tired format. Dermot O'Leary comes on and makes us forget that he was ever a promisingly entertaining presenter in the days of Big Brothers Little Brother and instead flogs himself to the highest bidder and in return has nothing to say except the hackneyed offerings from a bucket of cliches more well worn than the square foot of carpet in front of Simon Cowell's mirror. Dermot perfunctorily showers us with news that "more people than ever before have shown up to audition for a life-changing blah-de-blah" over the ubiquitous crowd shots of cheering, arm-waving psychopaths, that has a more soporific effect on the synapses than a lakeful of Ketamin.

Cowell's back with whiter teeth, higher hair, and an increasing grumpiness bordering on melancholy as he realises his cash cow has peaked and he's just riding the last few gallons of milk out of it's pendulously sagging udders.

Louis the Laprechaun has popped back up as well, looking as happy as a dog with two dicks. (Well he did sign Jedward after all). I'm actually gaining some respect for Walsh, based solely on the fact that he's so obviously gleeful about the fact that he is in all self-awareness, getting paid shitloads to mumble crap, and he keeps getting work! Nobody has a good word to say about Walsh's incomprehensible musings, yet he's there every week, playing the role of Benny-The-Ball to Cowell's Top Cat and coining it in. Good luck to him.

Cheryl Cole/Tweedy/Geordie Princess Di is there at the moment although her imminent televised malarial collapse keeps being dangled before us at every "coming up" segment with an alarming relish. I dread to think what the producers would do with Tommy Cooper's on-screen death. "And as Tommy goes off to the morgue, what will this mean for the groups?" chimes Dermot in monotone.

Danni Minogue is missing this series as she's been pushing out a baby, presumably to the bemusement of the midwives who have never seen a woman grimace with pain whilst looking like a startled trout. This has given Cowell the excuse to replace her on a "temporary" basis with various other uglier understudies to Cheryl. This week it was the turn of octagenarian basket-case Geri Halliwell to flap her gums with the her trademark pretension of intellect that would fit in perfectly in the common room of an upper-middle-class 6th-form. With goggly eyes and a skeletal frame, Halliwell looks like a "Before" picture for thyroid medicine. Every contestant was treated to her nonsensical ponderings on how to make it as a pop star, although tragically she never embued the contestants with the secrets of her own personal route to musical success, having big tits.

And so on came the lunatics, like hopeful cattle playing "What's the Time Mr Wolf" by the abattoir wall, they clomped on stage, mooed, pawed and grazed at the floor whilst Cowell and co plundered their magic 8-ball of stock phrases to heckle at the disappointing bags of flesh that were littering their eyeline. 4 days on I can only remember 2 of them, both of which were skinny girls with big eyes who sung strangely. One of these has since been found to have serious mental health issues which has led Cowell to sling her off the programme quicker than you can say "She- wouldn't-have-made-as-much-as-Subo-so-she's-not-worth-the-hassle".

This is small beans however compared to the furore caused by Scandal number 2 which came out yesterday that, shock horror, X-Factor uses vocal techology to improve contestants voices. "Thank fuck for that" is my only response. We all know that if/when they release their solitary cover song post X-Factor their voices will be more heavily doctored than Typhoid Cheryl on her deathbed. With that being the case, why make us suffer their inept flailings every week when there's an option to make a poor man's Michael Buble from a rich man's Shane McGowan? I want vaguely entertaining, not a preposterous illusion that any of them are talented enough to have a career.

I shall of course, watch as always. It's like low quality weed. You know it's not good for you and will give you a headache, but when it's right in front of you it somehow seems like a harmlessly compelling way to spend an evening.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Blog 13 - Norwich 2 Swansea 0

Quick review - Good game. 2 teams playing football, at times beautifully. Lambert obviously studied the tape of Swansea's previous performances and realised that they like to play from the back because every time they went to take a goal kick we picked up every member of their back four and any deep-dropping midfielders and made their keeper kick it which he didn't want to do. Likewise we did our best to press them all over the pitch. For the first half hour this worked well and we were in the ascendency. Then we started looking a little tired both physically, and more important mentally, which is a sign of how well Swansea pass and move, and we're not used to having to work so hard, particularly at home. For Swansea's part as well as they passed and moved, they had little penetration. Second half, both teams slowed the pace a little and it was again, fairly even. Then they got themselves a penalty which was worked for rather than conceded, but to be fair the ref had little choice and showed good common sense in only producing a yellow for Ruddy. The game then spun on a moment with a great penalty save from Ruddy, and City, fortified by a not wholly appropriate sense of injustice powered on to yet another great finish. Could have gone either way, but we took it and we won't say no to that.

Marks out of 10:

Ruddy - 8
Relatively quiet game but for that one fantastic pen save. Great for his confidence though when couple with another clean sheet. Really looking the part now.

R Martin - 6
Hugely difficult task in keeping Sinclair quiet and just about managed it. He'll face a lot easier afternoons than this.

Drury - 7
As with R Martin, had a tricky winger to keep tabs on and it was a mark of how well he did that Dyer was subbed. Typical Drury 7/10.

Ward - 9
Immense. Best performance for City so far, and like Ruddy he's settling into the team and system. Lost count of the number of important blocks he made and covered for those around him with great responsibility.

Nelson - 6
Typical Nelson. Wonderful in the air, awful on the deck, and was nutmegged several times. Fortunately for us Ward had his back and got us out of tricky situations.

Crofts - 7
Solid, composed, and quality. Protected the defence and not afraid to push forward when appropriate.

K Smith - 7
All energy, the heartbeat of the team. His passing on the move is improving as well.

Surman - 8
Great left foot and better dribbling than I expected. Finally someone else who can pick a through-ball as well as Wes.

Hoolahan - 6
Some people were unimpressed but I thought he had a decent game. Didn't have a lot of luck but kept plugging away and was always a threat.

Holt - 6
Quiet by his normal standards, but like Hoolahan, did enough to make them have to be constantly aware of his presence.

C Martin - 6
Not a vintage performance but his direct running almost created two goals in the first half.


McNamee - 7
Big contribution to allow us to get at them late on.

Askou - 6
Barely had a kick to judge on.

Jackson - 7
Fantastic finish for the goal and delighted for him to get off the mark. Pressure back on Holt and Martin to keep him out.

Blog 12 - Religion - Respect my views...

They say you should never discuss religion for fear of offending someone or causing an argument. Fortunately when you have no fear of either outcome it doesn't preclude the discussion in the first place.

I'm an agnostic. I don't think any of the organized religions are remotely close to providing suitable life guidance or answers to lifes great conundrums. Equally I find atheism too cynical (yes, it is possible for me to find something TOO cynical) and the purely scientific theory of evolution doesn't ring totally true. I accept general evolution as a fact of life, but I find intelligent design a far more likely explanation for life in all its forms than a slowly mutating gene pool. Anyway that's an argument for another day. As far as where I put my religious cross, I'm Agnostic. I think there is a higher power we're not aware of but I freely accept I have no concept of what form that could take.

What I struggle with, is how so many people genuinely believe in one religion or another. All of the major religions are based around stories and texts from so long ago, and there have been no occurrences of miracles or additions to the religions history or central tenants in centuries. If Christianity is right, why hasn't there been a good old miracle we can all observe for so long? Why no Saints with healing powers? Nobody walking on water? And the same for all the other religions. No elephant gods have turned up. Most people would settle for a talking squirrel just as a sign that there was something still happening in these dusty old belief systems. But there's nothing. Instead we have books written thousands of years ago, and every few days followers of each religion get together, someone reads a bit from the books whilst everyone listens, and possibly has a sing song and a collection, and that's religion in the 21st century. To me it seems ridiculous. You may as well base your belief system on the works of Shakespeare. In fact, had he ever stated that God spoke to him and told him to knock out Romeo and Juliet and call it Testament 3 - The Revenge, the population of Belfast could now be arguing about the Capulets opposition to the Orange Day Marches by the Montagues. It's that tenuous. Yet people genuinely believe. And not just nutters, sensible people. Intelligent people. People who have actually thought about religion and come to the conclusion that they believe in life as set out by The Torah, The Koran or The Bible. It's a leap of faith that's utterly beyond me, and indeed, my comprehension. I don't see how they accept it. Why is slightly easier. It must be nice to have the structure and rules provided by religion. If you do this, you're doing right. If you do something else, you're doing wrong. Obviously the devil is in the interpretation of that but maybe that's the cynic in me. There's also the comfort of being part of a community that is rapidly becoming less and less prevalent in todays globalised society. I can see why elements are attractive, but it takes a leap to go from wanting to believe in something to actually believing in it. But I accept that many people genuinely do.

Now with the vast majority of religions, if you don't want to be part of them, they keep their distance from you. Whilst they make themselves accessible if you have a genuine interest, they let you come to them. Fine. I have no issue with that. I may think what you believe is total bilge, but at the same time I have no more idea of the mysteries of the universe than any of them do, so you believe what you like. As long as you don't want to blow me up for not believing too, it's all good. My problem however, comes with the religions that actively try to recruit. And recently with the most famous of those, the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Now it's easy to pick on Jehovah's Witnesses. Most of us did it at school so we've got previous in that area. And some of their beliefs are so at odds with modern thinking that most people not of the religion will struggle to accept the relevance and plausibility of them as a serious religion. The obvious example is their refusal to allow members to receive blood transfusions following accidents, and some followers have even died rather than break this central tenant of their religion. Similarly a while ago someone at work refused to sign a colleagues birthday card because she doesn't celebrate birthdays. I hadn't known until then she was a Jehovah's Witness. It seems an odd thing for someone to be not allowed to do, but there you go. I like the person concerned and that doesn't change because they're a Jehovah's Witness, but equally I can't understand how they get to the position where they accept a religion which tells them that saying Happy Birthday to someone is a bad thing which they mustn't do. As far as I'm concerned from a secular position, wishing someone a Happy Birthday is not a religious statement. It's a meaningless milestone whose only relevance is charting our individual time on the planet. We mark it for no other reason than that it's a pleasant thing to do. The person involved isn't what I would consider a deep-thinker, and I think their belief is based around being raised by parents of that faith rather than by independant choice, but it still seems bizarre to me. However, she's a nice person, she keeps her religious beliefs to herself, and therefore I don't have any issue with what she thinks, regardless of whether it contradicts my own thinking.

However, there was an incident which happened last week which was hugely inappropriate and which led to my current musings. Kerry was at home with the girls when she got a knock on the door, and it was a woman with a child in a buggy and an older girl of about 5 or 6. The woman was a Jehovah's Witness with a stack of Watchtowers or whatever they pass round now. Now in hindsight this seems odd because they usually turn up in pairs (presumably for safety as much as anything), but this one was a lone ranger. She went through the usual "How are you today? I'm here to see if I can leave this pamphlet" schtick, and Kerry did the polite English, "No thanks I'm not really interested" but this woman was not easily dissuaded and turned it up a notch with "Why not?" and "You should be interested...". In terms of middle-class sensibilities this is a breach of protocol and not how the dialogue should go, so on these terms a (gentle) closing of the door with a disappointed yet stern frown would be the order of the day. However, this avenue was closed when the woman gave her child a nudge in the back. Our children, as per usual when somebody is at the door, sloped up behind for a nosy. (Bailey delights in greeting the supermarket delivery person with "'ello Tesco" regardless of their particular store). As soon as the woman spotted this she did the nudge, and the child as if on autopilot said "I want to play with the children" and attempted to run into the house clutching her own sampling of Junior Watchtowers. It would have been understandable if it was genuine but according to Kerry it felt so rehearsed and disingenuous that she knew the mother was using it as a pre-planned tactic to gain entry. Fortunately Kerry's child-obstruction reflexes are finely tuned and she was able to block like an NFL linebacker with a quick shimmy of the hips before closing the door on the grumbling woman who was in the early throws of attempting to make Kerry feel guilty for stopping this "spontaneous" joyful union of playful tots. Now I'm not saying this behaviour is typical, and all the Jehovah's Witnesses I've ever had on the doorstep have always been polite enough to take their leave as soon as I say I'm not interested, but the incident underlines why I personally am so unimpressed by religion as a whole and organized religion in particular. This woman has not only indoctrinated her own child before she was able to make her own conscious decisions on belief, but she has also trained her to play a part in attempted conversions of others. What gets me is not the cynicism of someone using a child in such a way as I'm perfectly happy to believe that whilst this incident is an exception rather than the rule, people in all walks of life are happy and comfortable to use children, animals, loved ones, and anything else to get what they want. What gets me is "Why?". Why did this woman think this was neccesary? Is she so certain that her beliefs should be universally duplicated that she has to train her child in an elaborate set-up to try and get to conversational first base with a stranger? What makes her so certain? And this is the problem for me.

We live in a society which desperately proports liberal values and the current favourite is Respect. With a capital R. Anybody can say anything and if you disagree it's almost expected that you have to disagree under the codicil "You have the right to your opinions and I respect your opinion, but....". In this case, I don't respect that womans opinion. I accept people being whichever religion they want to be, Hindu, Jew or Jedi, it's all rubbish in my book, but everyone can do what they want. But this woman has obviously decided that not only should she follow the teachings of her religion in that she will actively make efforts to bring others into the religion, she has gone a step further by introducing cynical tactics to do so. And she obviously believes that her beliefs give her the right to do this. Any sane person would surely have realised that no system of beliefs for everyday life is worth pushing your child to that extent. And again, I acknowledge that this woman was obviously a nut-job and not a typical Jehovah's Witness. But the fact is that very few things can make people behave so self-righteously or with such disregard for common morality as religion. As long as you say you have a belief in what you're doing, it seems to be that it's justified these days. Virtual Carte Blanche.

But at what point can you say "No, this is just bollocks"? If someone turns up purporting to believe in the Tooth Fairy and asking for a donation to support research into Tooth Fairy Studies, can you report them for fraud? Or do you have to "respect" them and leave them to pop round your gullible elderly neighbours house?

So under the terms of Headism, my new religion (no followers required, we have a very strict admittance policy), it's a basic principle that anybody who turns up at my door and behaves in a manner I deem inappropriate by my own morality is subject to a smack in the face. It's what my God would want. It may be inappropriate for most people, but I can't go against it. Please respect my views...

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Blog 11 - Norwich 2 Watford 3 Quick thoughts

Yes, I know I'm becoming a one trick pony with this and it's actually tragic how much thought a grown man puts into one topic, but screw it, it's my blog and it's cathartic. Am going to do one of these after every game to get it out of my system and then I can focus on something more interesting to blog about. Something more all-encompassing and challenging. Something intellectual and worthy. Like telly or sumfing.

Anyway thoughts from last night.

Watford played better than anyone was expecting, and their finishing and movement from the front two was exceptional. City looked good going forward and should be more than capable of opening most teams up. Defensively we were less impressive, and as predicted, Fox may be a capable passer but he provides scant cover in front of a central defence that has obviously not learned to play together. Special mention should go to Russell Martin who despite being a boo-boy target for no apparant reason worked furiously up and down the right hand side and consistently provided good width for us whilst also getting back to fulfil his defensive responsibilities.

Marks out of 10:

Ruddy 5 - Could have done better with 2 of the goals but equally can't be blamed for them either. Bryan Gunn looked wobbly when he started his career with us, so Ruddy can be given time to ease his way in. Some good stops.

R Martin 8 - As above, great buccaneering full back play.

Drury 7 - 7 out of 10 as he almost always is. More than comfortable at Championship level.

Nelson 5 - Caught out positionally a few times but also made some good blocks and scored a quality goal. Will need to do better to maintain his place with Askou and Whitbread breathing down his neck.

Ward 6 - Not a great game, but did enough to suggest that there's better to come. Positional issues will hopefully clear up the more he gets used to playing with his nw teammates.

Fox 6 - Good passing but also gave some balls away. Can see him dominating some games but will also cause us some issues with his lack of size and grit in what is a key defensive position. Not sure Lambert has this one right tactically.

Surman 6 - Exceptionally comfortable on the ball, he lost patience once or twice and tried to force some balls that weren't on. Worked hard though and not a bad debut.

Crofts 7 - Best of the debutants. Great engine and aggression. I think he's going to be a Drury-like 7/10 every week.

Hoolahan 8 - Great feet, sometimes overdid things but overall he was our best attacking option and looked the most gifted player on the park by a long chalk.

Jackson 7 - Good first game. Intelligent runs and good on the ball. Also showed a creative touch to set up Crofts goal.

Martin 7 - Worked hard and was unlucky that the service didn't quite give him the chances that he needed

Subs - Holt 7, McNamee 6.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Blog 10 - New Season Preview

Can't let the new season begin without a Head preview, Y'Army or no Y'Army!

Only about the Championship because it's the only league that matters this year.

So how do the mighty City look?

I'm very positive at this stage, which is nothing new on the eve of a new season, and indeed 12 months ago I was feeling similarly bright just before we got handed our arse courtesy of Mr Lambert. So what's different? Whatmakes us more likely to succeed now?

The simple answer is Lambert. I don't think that he's a football genius or somekind of tactical nostradamus just because he got us promoted last year. His record before City with Wycombe and Colchester was only briefly promising and when he arrived I was surprised by how well he did, as he himself has confessed he was. The positive thing with Lambert is that he's learning, and he's retaining good habits as he acquires knowledge. For a player who has been an international and played in the Champions League, you can see that the higher he moves up the divisions the more comfortable he's going to be with the tactics and the lessening of limitations of the players at his disposal. The players he has brought in are proper footballers and have added technical quality to the squad. The key this season will be marrying the skills to the steel which we also need at this level. As fans we've spent enough time in this league to know that you need the willingness to hoof it an stick a foot in as to play a killer through-ball at times and I'm eager to see ho our new lads fit in with this dual philosophy.

Ruddy in goal is a interesting choice and I've not seen nearly enough of him to gauge a proper opinion yet. He had a blooper against Everton but unless he starts chucking them in regularly I think we can write that one off as an isolated incident. He certainly comes with a better pedigree than Theoklitis did a year ago, and at 6ft 4in is less likely to be left flapping every time a looping head goes near the goal. In Lambert I'll trust on this one.

Steven Smith at left back is someone I've never seen, so again, I'll reserve judgement. Even if he's only good enough to keep Drury on his toes then he'll have done his job so expectations can be kept at a low level for Smith.

Elliot Ward is an awesome signing and if he can keep fit and get a steady run of games and minutes in a settled defence at the start of the season I can see him becoming a huge player for us for seasons to come. No hedging on this one. Ward is perfect for what we're trying to do and where we're hoping to be. Fantastic addition.

David Fox is a player I didn't expect us to sign but someone I'm delighted we did. Fox is a Man United youth product who plays with the comfortable, productive style of someone who has had that grooming. The criticism that has always been levelled at him is that, certainly in a 4-4-2 he doesn't have the legs or the tenacity to compete in the middle of the park. Good passer, but too lightweight. In our system he's going to play in what's been termed the Quarterback role. Like Darel Russell last season he'll sit in front of the defence. Unlike Russell though he'll take the ball from the centre halves to launch our attacks and has a handsome range of passing with which to do this. Whereas Russell was an anchor, dropping in to help the defence and stopping anybody trying to come through the middle of us, Fox is a gunslinger who will sit deep because it gives him space to work. Of course there will be times when he needs to defend, and how successfully he adapts to this will be another key to our season. If he looks too good in the role, other teams will start to close him down and limit his time on the ball and again, he'll have to adapt to that.

Andrew Surman was the surprise signing of the summer with most of us thinking that he was probably a bit too good for what we were expecting. Again this shows how positive Lambert is looking to be though. Like Fox he's a renowned ball-player with the question mark being whether he can dig in and fight. In this system he'll have to do just that but I can't see him having any problems. He's a player who for Southampton was always too good for the Championship, and the only question is whether he is quite good enough at the highest level. Like Ward, that's perfect for our ambitions.

Andrew Crofts was an interesting, and if I'm honest, a slightly underwhelming first signing of the summer. Having seen him play for Gillingham and Brighton I'd got him pegged as an aggressive and energetic runner in the middle but the more I see of him, the more I realise that he can play a bit too. He'll have to be on his game as well because his most obvious competition for a start is Korey Smith and I can't see him giving up his place without a good fight. I'm looking forward to seeing how Crofts adapts to being a smaller fish in a bigger pond. It can surely only be good for him to not be carrying a poor team and be with better players.

Which just leaves Simeon Jackson. An aggressive, direct, lightning-quick finisher, he's an entirely new option for our attack. I'm not entirely sure how he's going to fit in, particularly at Carrow Road because pacey strikers are generally better in counter-attacking teams and we're not set up to play in that manner. However, he has the weapons in his arsenal to score goals whatever the system and when you can add a striker who's capable of being a 20 goals a season man to a strikeforce already boasting two similar players you know you're going to have a decent "For" column.

All in all I'm very pleased and very positive.

As far as where we'll finish, the key will be staying injury-free and having some consistency of selection. The first part we can do little about although I'm mildly concerned that there is no target man to back up Holt for when he inevitably picks up suspensions. Likewise any absence of Hoolahan will knock us back considerably. However other than that we've got good competition everywhere else, and we're as equipped to cope with injuries as any squad in the league, and in most cases, more so. Lambert has shown last year that he believes in keeping a settled side as much as possible and again, that can only be positive.

The interesting thing for me is that whilst injuries to key players is our biggest/only achilles heel, most of the other sides have got far bigger problems.

Our opening day opponents Watford have no money, a diminished squad, an inexperienced manager and are going to be fighting against relegation.

Scunthorpe have performed miracles in staying up last season but with Hooper and Hayes gone I can't see them repeating that effort again despite having an astute and capable boss in Nigel Adkins.

Swansea had a play-off near miss last season based on hard work and defensive grit but with their (only?) creative spark, Leon Brittain gone and a new manager with a very modest track record in Brendan Rogers, I can't see them being anyting other than also rans.

Nottingham Forest are a lot of peoples favourites and Billy Davies is a proven manager but there are some odd goings-on behind the scene at the City Ground with talk of Perch being sold behind the managers back. They have a potential to implode quite easily, but should still be in the shake-up at the top end of the division.

I'd love to see Mark Robins succeed at Barnsley and as one of the favourites for relegation coming off a poor end to last season, expectations are low at Oakwell. I think they'll be ok but as far as providing a challenge to the promotion contenders they're a million miles away.

Doncaster are an ever-increasing force in this division and the permanent addition of Billy Sharp is huge for them. If they can cope with the increased attention and expectation they'll do well.

Preston are rebuilding and although I can see them being solid, it's too soon for them to mount any serious challenge.

Hull have given themselves a chance by getting Nigel Pearson and what they drugged him with to persuade him to take over as captain of the Titanic I'll never know, but if anyone can sort out a squad of overpaid freelancers and make them a team, I think Pearson could be that man. Could go either way.

Leicester replaced Pearson with Swansea's De Sousa. Both clubs did well on small budgets last year but I can't shake the feeling that this is a move in the wrong direction for the Foxes. I see them as mid-tablers making up the numbers.

Bristol City have surged up most bookies list of favourites but I don't see it myself. They're a good club with a decent infrastructure but I'm not sold on Coppell as saviour because of two outstanding seasons at Reading a few years back. James is a marquee signing but if he can't get some consistency from the rest of the team, in particular a porous defence, then it won't matter who picks the ball out of the net. May have a crack at the play-offs but don't count on it.

QPR have money and Warnock but both can be as much of a curse as a blessing. I think Warnock has done well to keep the squad settled and make careful additions and not make wholesale changes, and this evolution rather than revolution will help. Definite play-off contenders for me.

Crystal Palace are on their arses, both financially and in terms of experience and Ambrose alone cannot make a team. Burley will be looking at the bottom half rather than the top.

Middlesbrough have brought in more Jocks but this time have focussed on quality, and with Boyd and Bailey they'll be stronger than last season, and sould prove a genuine contender.

Cardiff look like they're holding things together on the surface but with Kennedy having to be sold to Ipswich just to guarantee that wages could be paid, plus Chopra angling for a move, Ledley gone and Whittingham seemingly constantly in talks elsewhere I think they're going to struggle.

Burnley are amongst the favourites but for me Brian Laws is a dead-weight as manager and will keep them from achieving their potential. I'm certain that he'll go at some point and from their point of view the quicker he does the better chance they'll have.

Millwall outdid themselves last season and don't have the tools to get above the lower reaches of the table.

Reading are a lot of peoples fancies after the success of Brian McDermott in taking over last year. I think second-season syndrome will kick in for them though and I think Play-offs will be their best hope.

Leeds are blowing their trumpets as usual but don't have the squad to back it up. I expect them to struggle a little and be mid-table at best.

Ipswich have the wrong manager and a poor squad. They should be the favourites with the resources they have but until Paddy o'Grumpy has taken his gloom elsewhere they'll continue to be inconsistent and unproductive.

Derby are struggling on and off the pitch and I think the situation there will get a lot worse before it can get better.

Portsmouth look to have the biggest problems of any club in the division but I have a feeling that Cotterill will plot a canny course through the stormy seas. They won't trouble the promotion contenders but they'll pick up points along the way.

Coventry are in flux yet again and I think Boothroyd will either take them on a massive up or a massive down. The Ricoh could be a good place to get a season ticket this year.

Sheffield United have experienced another season of expensive mediocrity under Blackwell and I can't see there being any difference again. Play-Offs at best, but more likely they'll dip a bit and finish lower mid-table.

Overall, I think Middlesbrough are deserved favourites and of the rest, Forest, Doncaster and QPR are the only other teams who are on the up for me. And I think we'll be better than any of those.

But then it is still pre-season...

Monday, 19 July 2010

Blog 9: I'm mental. No really..... I'm proper mental.

Every day at work I speak to person after person claiming various things. Some things are true, and an awful lot arn't, but one of the most heard claims is that someone is suffering from Stress, Depression and Anxiety.

These are probably the least believed statements by me and many of my peers, partly because they are so prevalent that by law of averages a large percentage must be bullshit, and partly because claiming stress, depression and anxiety is relatively easy to do and it's a ticket to convenient benefits.

We arn't there to make a judgement on whether these people are genuine or not and in fact it makes no odds to us whether they're faking it. But the underlying fact remains: as soon as someone says Depression, most of us think of it as a quasi- illness. I'm no better than anyone else in this respect. I disbelieve the stories, I assume a lot of them are lying through their teeth. (On a side bar, I don't believe 90% of ADHD claims either but don't even get me started on that bullshit...)

The thing is I should be more sympathetic than most. If anyone should give people the benefit of the doubt in this situation it's me. Because I'm a proper mental. I suffer from stress, anxiety and depression and have for the past decade, and for years beforehand without confronting it.

I don't speak about it, other than to a select few people. This is mainly because most people (like me) assume that if someone says they have depression it either means they're preparing the ground to go on a long stretch of sick leave at work, or they're looking for a big dose of sympathetic attention, neither of which I want people to think about me. So I keep it quiet.

But now I'm here blurting it out for all 4 people who may just bother to read my blog and one or two of them may not know this about me already and may even tell other people too. Why?

The reasons I want to make it a bit more public are twofold. Firstly, occasionally you find out that someone else you know suffers with depression and has been really battling against it at a difficult time but has never spoken to you about it because they, like me, keep it to themselves. This is frustrating because when I've been suffering it's really helpful sometimes to talk to someone else. Not a big girly blubfest, but just to mention it to someone and feel free to talk about it can be very therapeutic. Fortunately I have some good friends in this respect, and I've been lucky enough to be there for other people. But there are times when good friends have been struggling and I could have helped but we were both playing the non-admittance game, and to be quite honest it's shit. Secondly, I'm too old to be embarrassed by this kind of stuff anymore. I am what I am, and I am who I am. And whether I like it or not this is part of me so I'm not going to bother keeping it quiet. If anyone has a problem with it tough shit. If you know me and you think any less of me, I don't care.

I first got diagnosed 10 years ago. Scared the shite out of me at first because I had no idea what was going on. I'd just moved into a new flat, a few weeks later had met Kerry and a few weeks later she'd moved in with me. Happy days, or should have been. But work was just beginning to turn shite at the time and with all the changes going on I think everything came to a head. I had a week where I simply couldn't function. I was exhausted and run down. I presumed I had a fluey thing and went to bed, expecting that after a day or two, I'd feel better, get up and back to normal. But that didn't happen. And so I went to the doctor who said it sounded like a virus and signed me off for another week. And than another. And then on the fourth week he ran through some questions. "Do you ever..." this, and "How do you feel when..." that. Then he asked me where I worked and when I said "Norwich Union" he just laughed and chucked a truckload of pills at me and wrote me a sicknote for work which said "Depression" and I had to suck it up and deal with it, because I was going to have to hand it in at work and become one of those people that I'd always been suspicious and skeptical of. I went back to work, relieved that I wasn't dying of some mystery disease, but baffled by the fact that this was what I had because I'd never thought of myself as being someone who would get depression. I didn't think I fit "the profile". But I went back in, rightly or wrongly, and those initial four weeks are still the only time I've ever had off sick from work with depression.

It really didn't sit well with me, not just immediately, or for the next few months. I developed horrendous panic attacks which would show up for no reason and which would render me a sweating, breathless lunatic. I remember having lunch with Kerry one day and suddenly saying "sorry, have to go" before dashing out the door because I thought I was going to pass out if I stayed where I was for a second longer. Proper fucking nutcase stuff.

For months I kept going over it in my mind: how did I get here? I thought I was mentally strong, now I'm a fucking basketcase. What triggers are there that set me off? Surely there's something I can do to get rid of this? Some way to put this bloody genie back in the bottle. But there wasn't. And after a long time I realised this and came to terms with the fact that it wasn't going away.

It's with me for life now. My Black Dog (If it's good enough for Churchill, another mentalist, who coined the phrase, then it's good enough for me). And I'm fine with that. I can manage it. I have down periods, and then I have ok periods. I still sometimes have panic attacks which I keep quiet about because nobody wants to see a big sweating freaky mess so I'll keep them to myself. But otherwise it's just a normal part of life. A pill a day keeps the total wobblies away.

But I can cope. I've been lucky to have Kerry who's been amazing, putting up with my madness, my freakouts, and my sometimes overwhelming snappiness and melancholy. Love that woman. I've also had various friends, some who are non-mentals, some who are up-front mentals and some who are closet mentals who've helped me and who continue to do so.

Anyway, I've decided that whilst I'm definitely not making a song and dance about it, I'm moving from the closet out into the open. I'm a strong proud mental man and I don't care who knows it. And hopefully if anybody else is where I was 10 years ago and needs to talk about it, they'll feel they can with me.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Blog 8 - Start the day the right way.

Got on the bus this morning behind the usual collection of Eastern Europeans coming into the City to scab benefits and college kids spouting rubbish.

Went to go upstairs and in front of me was an attractive blonde 17 year old wearing a short floaty skirt.

God bless the bus driver because he jolted away from the stop so suddenly that the girl in front tripped up the steps (she was fine), her skirt flew up, and revealed that she had decided to embrace the day commando style. Far from being embarrassed, she brazenly stood up, smoothed her skirt back down, gave me a wink (facial), and went to sit with her giggling friends.

Carlsberg don't do Bus Rides, but if they did...

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Blog 7 - Nostradamus Head

A while ago (Feb 2009) I posted the following on the Pink Un Message Board. It got a good reaction at the time but looking back, I think a lot of our recent England World Cup shambles have vindicated the points I made here.

Plus it's an easy way to post a quick blog and I'm a lazy bastard...

The downfall of our game - a rant

The FA and the Premier League need to take a lot of criticism for the part they have played in creating situations like Saturday, where you have a team in dire need of points to fight relegation, and the majority couldn't summon up the fire and the fight to take the game to the opposition when the game was there for the taking. Obviously Norwich's woes aren't solely due to the players who couldn't produce on Saturday, but I'm talking in a wider context, as the same lack of fight can be seen at so many clubs up and down the country and even with the national team, and it's a growing problem that undermines football in this country.

One problem is that players no longer think of their being part of a club or area because their careers are so transitory. Even if you sign for a club permanently (e.g. Jason Jarrett for us), if you don't gel into the side immediately chances are you'll be lobbed out on loan to get gametime within six to eighteen months, at which point you'll have to move into a hotel for probably three to six months, leaving whatever family you have behind in a place they haven't lived for very long. Then when you do return, is it for first team football, or another loan spell away, in a hotel, while your Missus and kids cry on the phone about you never being there again? Eventually, you'll grow to resent the club that's loaning you out, and the clubs you're being loaned to.

Or if you are lucky enough to get into the team as a regular (e.g. Sammy Clingan) you're then at the mercy of the teams fortunes. If you find yourself doing well (and if you're a regular pick you can't be doing too bad with the size of most squads these days) then a bigger, richer team will be looking to sign you in which case you're moving again. Or at best, your team may be in line for promotion, in which case your stay is likely to be extended, but then you have the worry of whether the club will try and buy someone with experience of the league above who plays in your position. If your team does badly and gets relegated then you'll be looking to move to stay in the league and salary bracket you fought to get to in the first place. And if you do get to said new, bigger club, see paragraph above. And worst of all is when you're playing for a club who should be doing better but continually find themselves at the wrong end of the table, whose fans moan and are constantly negative, and who apparantly have no money and a paper-thin squad of loanees...

Players however have themselves to blame for this state of affairs by appointing agents who have routinely created monsters from young talented boys who go on to holding clubs to ransom, threatening Bosman escapes, sulky strikes or whatever it takes to get what they want. The more arseholes clubs see, the less they fancy committing to a contract for another potential nightmare ego, and they take the soft option, as City tend to do, of trying before you buy. Nine times out of ten it doesn't pan out because either the player is every bit as much of an arsehole as the rest, or is disillusioned even before he walks in the door, hating the lifestyle of a short-term traveller, and will probably consider he's doing the club a favour by being there and will only put in the effort he deems neccesary, which won't usually tally with the supporters, and the loan fails.

Add in the factor that thanks to the travelling rule for youth academies, small clubs who made the most of their youth systems like Norwich and Crewe have been completely shafted at the expense of Premiership clubs who now swallow up all the promising youth in the country (and in increasing numbers) and most youngsters are drawn into the role of traveller at young ages anyway. Live in Cambridge? Don't worry, that's only a short flight to Manchester airport. Based in Macclesfield? Don't worry, you won't have to play for Macc, because you're in range of Manchester and Birmingham and Villa and Man U are both taking on 100 youngsters this year. And whereas a few years ago it would have been ridiculous to travel these distances twice a week for training and then again for the game at the weekend, don't worry, because the potential pay rewards are so great that Dad's willing to risk his job and take time off to drive you. Or if you're really talented, the big clubs might even send a car for you.

Because of the vast numbers that now go through the big clubs nets, most of the players at Championship level and even a large proportion of those at L1 and 2 will have learnt their trade in a big clubs academy. This means that they will have been brought up to see how to carry themselves as a pro and as a man, by the current crop of Premiership footballers. So what we all end up with are over-privilaged young men who look upon their livelihood as more of a lifestyle choice than a profession. The look is as important as the job itself. Making friends with celebrities, appearing on Footballers Cribs and queing up for your crack at Danielle Lloyd is the day job, and in between that you try and fit in training and the odd game. And when the fans criticise your lack of effort, you sulk and move to another club, and another location where there are a whole new bunch of nightclubs and wannabe Danielle Lloyds desperate to look at the ceiling of a footballers crib for a night. Repeat ad nauseum.

Look back 20 years at someone like Gary Mabbutt, a one-club man, model professional and someone who had to cope with regularly injecting himself with Insulin before matches and training just to get onto the pitch. Could the modern footballer summon up the willpower to conquer such a problem? An everyday life situation for the hundreds of thousands of diabetics out there, but what would happen to Ashley Cole tomorrow if it happened to him? I imagine a barrage of "coping seminars" and three months off on full pay (funded by the fans) to get his head around it followed by a heartwarming hour-long special on Sky where he weeps comforted by Cheryl whilst we all discuss how brave the little soldier is to be even thinking of playing football again. Frank Lampard's mum dies (not pleasant, but not a totally unusual occurrence for a man in his thirties to have to live through) and shirts with "Pat Lampard RIP" are paraded around Stamford Bridge by his teammates on the day he missed the game due to her death. Admirable team spirit, and I have no complaint about his missing the match but for Gods sake!!! Would it have happened twenty years ago? An outpouring of emotion in a football ground for the passing of someone's mum who contributed nothing to the game of football except for the fact that thirty years ago she pushed out a boy who is now on the fringes of the England team and who can't take a penalty in a pressure situation? Of course not. Unthinkable.

Unfortunately, the players, the agents and the clubs have created the modern footballer and we, the fans, have to suffer through him. We have treated our young like little boys and we can't then expect them to become men. All the young talent is chauffeured into the big clubs, pampered and promised the world, the majority then get kicked out or sent on loan to places that don't pamper as well, and they look on it as an unwanted setback, an ordeal to get through rather than relish. Bitter and resentful, the lower clubs sieve through them by virtue of loans, prospecting for the odd nugget that contains both a measure of talent and residual integrity from before they got involved with the professional game.

Where have all the good men gone? We've let the growing wealth of the game, and in particular the big clubs, emasculate a generation. In the words of the England vice-captain and leader of the Champions of England and Europe, "You've been Merked".

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Blog 6 - I am a football snob

I am not frightened of snobbery; either the application of it against myself, or to be seen as a perpetrator in my own right. Most people who know me have probably realised that I don't tend to embarass easily and that I'm comfortable in "letting it all hang out" in public. So if a snob is what I am, in whatever form, I'm happy enough to be known as such.

I've been the victim of snobbery on many occasions. Socio-economic snobbery often kicks in when people find out that I'm not married to the mother of our 4 children, and that we don't own our own house, and that we do actually receive Child Tax Credit to prop up my wages. You see it in smug smiles, or phrases such as "you'll get there in the end". Where, pray tell? To the suburban perfection you obviously assume you've achieved. Well strap me in, that's a thrill ride I just have to get in on. Dick.

But the area of the Arts and snobbery is the one I really want to discuss today. Everyone has their own opinion on items such as music, art, literature, and films. And I'd bet that most wouldn't include football on the same list under the heading "Arts" either, but my blog, my rules. In most areas of the Arts I always seem to be mentally undernourished according to the accepted wisdom of what counts as an enthusiast.

Take music. I like music. I have an i-pod. It has songs on, and some of those even have melody and lyrics rather than smutty limericks or songs derived from barking dogs. My taste however, is almost universally derided by my peers. It seems that McFly and Lily Allen are not what the cool 33 year old father should be listening to. According to my more musically-infatuated friends, scruffy groups of youths hammering guitars and grunting maudlin monosyllables as lyrics make up the only acceptable form of modern music. A look at the acts on view at Glastonbury shows how far out of the loop I appear to be. I have never heard of Vampire Weekend (as a band obviously, as a concept it sounds quite fun...). Couldn't tell you who they are, or name any of their songs. Yet they appear to be a major influence on proceedings. The Gorillaz, I have heard of, and of the 2 songs I know, I thought they were a load of plinky-plonky gubbins for people who like electronic instruments without any story to the song. Not my sort of thing at all. Obviously then, my tastes are not the norm. Most people don't like my music and I don't like theirs. Fine. I can accept, musically I am an outsider. And that's ok. When people at a a party discuss music, I know that my role is to nod politely and never ever reveal what is going on in my head as it will undoubtedly kill both the mood and the conversation. Rhythmically I am an island. And that island is certainly not Ibiza like everybody else.

In terms of literature, again, I'm not normal. I read voraciously. At one point I was reading two or three books a week. But when, on occasion, somebody has attempted to speak to me about literature, I quickly aquiesce into a babbling fool wishing that the other person would bugger off and leave me to my misery. Because I know, and they know within seconds, that I don't like "literature". Jane Austen - Boring. William Shakespeare - Too much effort for too little reward. Any author with two initials followed by their surname - Sod that for a stultifying game of soldiers. Don't know it, haven't read it, not interested. Now if you want to talk about Nick Hornby, Dan Brown or any other lightweight author that has written a book since I've been born then I might have a chance. But it seems that the clarifying status for being someone who can discuss "literature" is that you have to know the oldies. The classics. I don't, so again, I take my position on the fringe of the conversation nodding like Stevie Wonder during an orgasm. I'll let THEM have literature. I like it, or parts of it, but I accept, it's not my thing. I'm not a force of intelligence within the zeitgeist, because I don't fully understand or appreciate it. Fine.

However, when it comes to football, I know my stuff. I've watched and studied the game in all of its minuteia for nearly 30 years. When football is discussed, I go from dormant backbencher to cabinet rabble-rouser in the twinkle of an eye. I'm not on the fringe of the conversation, I lead the conversation. My knowledge of the history of the game, the breadth of the global sport and it's driving forces whether it be political, organizational, financial or sporting mean that I aquiesce to no man. This is MY thing. And I realise that I am not the only person who feels like this. Loads of people are exceptionally knowledgeable about the game. However my problem comes with those that arn't but believe they are. That's where I become the snob.

Most people, when entering a conversation with me will touch upon football, because they know it's MY thing. And I appreciate that they make this effort to remember my interests and engage me accordingly regardless of their own level of interest or knowledge. It's a human kindness and god bless them for it. If they are someone I know is only bringing it up as a pleasantry, I will answer with equal non-committal yet pleasant platitudes, and move onto a more mutual topic of conversation. If I know they are a football fan, then I'll launch in with the full force of a discussion between peers.

The problem lies in the middle. Those people who say they like football, or even go so far as to profess knowledge on the subject, but in actual fact form all their opinions by listening to commentators like Andy Townsend or Paul Merson once every four years at the world cup, and whom any intelligent follower of the game will tell you, are pundits of the worst kind who need regular CAT scans to prove they shouldn't be using special buses.

I was accosted on the morning of the last England match (booked the day off as holiday in January as soon as the fixture was announced to make sure no fairweather bastard in the office beat me to it two weeks before the game) whilst doing the school run by another Dad who has never professed any interest in football before. "Watching the game today then?" he enquired. "Yeah, that's what flex days are for" I replied amiably. A pleasant exchange of conversation with a football outsider.

"It was rubbish the other night" he postulated. Now at this point I would have argued if I thought it was worth it. Yes the previous game had been poor, but I was firmly resolved against the national furore that Uncle Tom Cobley and all had opined, thinking it more symptomatic of a global shift in the pattern of the game which had witnessed many other favoured nations struggling to make progress as well. However, it wasn't worth me launching into this at this point. For one, it was the school run and I didn't have the time or the patience. For two, I knew that this guy didn't know anything about football, at least no more than the average doorpost. Any point that I tried to make woulod be lost in comparison to what he'd read on the back page of the Star about how we should be building pires to set fire to players upon their undoubtedly humiliating return to the country. The laymans knee-jerk reaction. But it was a safe opinion for him to espouse as it was in keeping with the majority. (At this point I was somewhat arrogantly, but self-awaredly in the minority that thinks it knows better than the majority. And I still am.) So I kept things civil, and nodded along. Don't get involved, just let him think he knows it all, bless him. Like when your child starts telling you how the science behind Father Christmas works. Don't spoil it for them, just pretend.

He stretched my credulity and ability to ignore things a step further when he then added "I reckon if we'd got 11 blokes from the forces and sent them out there, they'd have won, because they'd have the passion". And he was serious. This wasn't just idle chat. He actually had this as a real theory and wanted my input.

And thus the snobbery kicked in. I couldn't take part in this conversation any more. I was incapable of pretence. I was Einstein, he was someone who licks windows on the bus to school. My only polite escape was to pretend that I needed to make an urgent departure and leave at haste with just a touch if brusqueness to hide my distaste. My anti-social behaviour might be abhorrent to some, but I find it far ruder when people who have no idea what they are talking about try to despoil my environment with their ridiculous theories. Just as I know enough to stand on the sidelines and let "literature" types bang on about Chaucer or Amis, or when I keep quiet when "Elbow" are heralded as a brave new future for music when I only know them as a ball and socket joint, they should know enough to not try and talk football with me if they're not packing the full armory of knowledge.

There's not a set level of knowledge required and the world of football is very varied. I have a good knowledge of English football and players across all four divisions. Some people only really get involved in the Premiership and Champions League (Again, I regard these with a certain sense of moral superiority - they'll disappear as soon as Sky pulls the financial plug), and there are some fans who have a far greater knowledge of international and foreign football than I (those I doff a reverential cap to in the knowledge stakes). However, I am happy to have a discussion with any of these people, because they've made the effort to expand their knowledge in some way. They haven't just been told what to think by the press or thick mates who know as little as they do.

This is arrogance on my part, I realise. A presumed intelligence for which there is no actual qualification or proof. However I know, with the certainty that literature or music afficianados know when they speak to me, who knows their spuds and who is an unworthy bluffer. And I simply cannot and will not enter a serious conversation with someone like that on MY subject. Arrogant? Certainly. But that's how it is. There's an adults table and a kids table happening here. Know your bloody place.