Cook and Vidic: Facebook friends

Not many people are aware of it, but the England cricket captain, Alastair Cook, and the Manchester United captain, Nemanja Vidic, have recently become Facebook friends. As a result, they message each other frequently…

AC: “G’day mate. How’s it going cobber”?

NV: “Cookie Monster, is that you”?

AC: “Awww, yeah mate. Look mate, been out here in Oz for too long and started sounding like an Australian. And my sentences have started rising up at the end in that really fucking annoying Australian way. Yeah, no mate. It is me”.

NV: “I see. How’s it going out there”?

AC: “Awww, look mate, two dreadful performances lately. Absolutely gutless, horrible performances. Shameful really”.

NV: “I think that’s a bit harsh my friend. We were OK against Everton”.

AC: “Awww, look mate I was talking about the cricket, not you lot. Two awful matches. Stadium had no atmosphere and hardly had any English people in it. Mainly people from the other side of the world”.

NV: “Yeah, I know. But Old Trafford’s been like that for years”.

AC: “Look mate, I’m talking about the cricket. OK”?

NV: “Oh right. Sorry”.

AC: “Awww look mate, it’s been a shambles since day one if I’m being honest. Yeah, no. An absolute shambles”.

NV: “I expect there will be some changes then”?

AC: “Yeah, no mate”.

NV: “Sorry, Cookie. Is that a yes or a no? You’re really starting to fucking annoy me with your Australianisms”.

AC: “Mate, sorry. Yeah, no… I mean yeah, they’re talking about Goochie playing now”.

NV: “Graham Gooch”?

AC: “Yeah, no. Awww look mate, I’ve told them it’s madness. I said it was ridiculous having some old fossil in your team whose best days were over 20 years ago, but the management are really keen that he plays. No idea why. How’s Ryan Giggs by the way”?

NV: “Yeah, Giggsy is fine. And he says your wife is fine too”.

AC:”Nice of him to keep an eye out for her, mate. Especially from 200 miles away. Must be doing his conkers in petrol money. He’s a fair dinkum guy. Look mate, I’ve got to dash. We’ve got a meeting about our Number 3. We haven’t actually got one at the moment”.

NV: “I know how that feels my friend. We have Patrice Evra”.

AC: “Awww look mate, it’s a real problem for us with the game in Perth coming up”.

NV: “We’re off to Perth tomorrow too”.

AC: “Really mate? Perth in Australia”?

NV: “No, my friend. The one in Scotland. The manager has arranged a friendly against St Johnstone. He reckons we could nick a draw, which is more than you’re going to do”.

AC: “Too true mate. But they’ve got a St Johnstone here too mate. Left-armed bowler with a great big moustache. Throws it down at you at a million miles an hour. Horrible bloke but he’s a fucking saint out here at the moment. See ya later, cobber”.

NV: “Take care my friend”.

AC: “Yeah no mate”.

Not even Joey Essex was dumb enough to try to hook Mitchell Johnson early in an innings

Not even Joey Essex was dumb enough to try to hook Mitchell Johnson early in an innings


The Plastics Factory

In January 2001 I was made redundant from a job I’d had for ten years. The pay-off was fairly good, around a year’s wages (after tax). Six months later I’d split up from my girlfriend, moved into the spare room at my sister’s house and still didn’t have a job. There was some cash left, but not an awful lot. I needed to earn some money. I’d applied for a place on a degree course at Portsmouth University but that was still three months away. The solution was, of course, to get a job in a factory that made moulded plastic, working 12 hour shifts. Obvious really.

It was Monday July 2nd 2001.

Me and a mate had gone to an employment agency and taken the first job they’d offered to us.

“It’s 12 hour shifts” the woman told us, in a way that, when you look back, was her way of saying “Are you sure about this”?

“Yeah, no problem” we replied.


We got to the factory that Monday morning and were “shown the ropes” by Lynne, one of the supervisors. The factory floor contained a number of huge machines that, depending on which particular piece of plastic they were producing, spat out hot, foul-smelling plastic mouldings every few seconds or maybe a couple of times a minute. The job was to make sure that each machine ran smoothly (if there was a problem with a machine you had to notify someone) and then pack the bit of plastic into a cardboard box until it was full. A bloke called Jason showed us how to convert a flat piece of cardboard into a box into which you could place bits of plastic a few times a minute for twelve hours a day. It sounds better than it actually was.

Some of the mouldings had to be made smooth before being packed into the inevitable cardboard box. If your machine was making plastic handles for nail scissors, a tiny piece of hard plastic on the handle had to be nipped off before you packed it. For this task you had a scalpel which you used to cut off the offending article. On other jobs a small pair of pliers could be used for the same job. I won’t bore you with the whys-and-wherefores, just trust me.

Shifts started at 6 am and finished at 6 pm. There was a 15 minute break in mid-morning and again in mid-afternoon. Lunch was half an hour. It was mind-numbingly boring work, you’ll be surprised to learn. We got £5 an hour but paid no tax as we were students (or about to be). Some weeks you worked three days, other weeks four days. The four day weeks were like having your spleen ripped out and thrown to a pack of honey badgers. Overtime was occasionally available on Saturdays but I never did any. Jason did, staggering in after twenty-three Bacardi Breezers the night before to make up a thousand cardboard boxes for the following week.

The radio played constantly, and you could just about hear it over the drone of the machines. Dido’s “Thank You” and “Sing” by Travis were each played about seven times a day. It would have been enough to drive you mad, but you already were, because you were working in a place like that. If you had a few pints the night before (and you usually needed them after twelve hours of utter tedium) then you felt less than joyful as your alarm went off at 5.20 the next morning.

After a week, my mate had had enough. He’d been picking me up in his car in the mornings, so now I had to bike to work, which meant leaving home at least ten minutes earlier than I had been. At least it was the summer. Getting up in the middle of winter to cycle through freezing rain to spend twelve hours throwing plastic mouldings into cardboard boxes is surely a sign from God that you really need to consider throwing yourself under a train.

My workmates were an odd lot. Lynne smoked like a chimney and had a face like a pickled walnut. Jason got hammered on Bacardi Breezers, which I think was the only aspect of his life we ever discussed. The blokes who fixed the machines were a monosyllabic bunch who wore baseball caps and could have scowled for England. A supervisor, chief supervisor I think, called Colin came up to me at around eight minutes past six one morning:

“Everything alright”?

“Er, yes thanks” (He’d never asked me that before)

“Just wondered if there was a problem”

“No. Why”?

“I noticed you’ve been getting in a bit late”

He was right. A couple of times I’d clocked in at two or three minutes past six. An evening or two in the pub or snooker club had left me with only about five hours’ sleep. I’d rolled over and gone back to sleep, and left myself with the impossible task of cycling to work in thirteen minutes, including stopping for a sandwich and paper on the way. Fair cop, guv. I did think about asking him if he realised that I had “A” Levels and shouldn’t be doing this kind of shit, but I reckoned he might have reacted badly to that kind of talk. On reflection, I think that was the right decision.

Another bloke there was Dave. Dave was an ex-printer who’d worked in Fleet Street in the 70s and 80s at the height of union power. He’d been earning big money and all the overtime he wanted before Murdoch and Wapping messed everything up. Dave was what people call “straight talking”, a man who would have exited in the first round of any “suffering fools gladly” contest. He had a young grandson who had come round one day and then deliberately smashed some of Dave’s wife’s ornaments. Dave told me, totally deadpan and without a trace of comedy, that he’d simply phoned his daughter and said to her:

“Come and get this c*nt”

I have no idea how, but I kept a straight face. I knew that the merest trace of a smile would have been bad news for my continued relationship with Dave.

One day Dave recounted to me the story of how the Managing Director of the company had been doing his rounds on the factory floor one day (a rare event) at the same time that the machine Dave was working on had decided to go into meltdown. Dave was swearing away at the machine and the boss spotted this and mentioned to Dave, in a light-hearted way, that wishing him a “Good morning” was probably not a good idea.

“No, it probably fucking isn’t” replied Dave.

Another bloke there was called Ken. No-one was really sure what Ken did, but Ken had managed to forge a career in looking busy and carrying a broom around. He looked like Captain Birdseye but made much less sense. He wore a white t-shirt, white socks, white shorts and plimsolls. He looked like, at any moment, he would be shuffling onto the Centre Court and taking on Goran Ivanisevic. With a broom though, not a tennis racket.

Then there was Glenn, nicknamed “WG” or “WB” or something. I can’t remember why. Glenn was in his sixties and had retired from a good job. But his wife apparently wanted him “out the house and not under her feet” so he worked here, fiddling around with plastic mouldings when he should have been taking the grandchildren to the park or sunning himself in Spain. When he revealed to us, one lunchtime, that this job was “just to keep me off the streets” our mouths fell open in amazement. We’d all rather have been walking the streets than working in this hell-hole.

One morning, maybe half an hour into a shift, I went to slice off an offending small piece of plastic from a bigger piece of plastic and missed. The scalpel sliced through the little finger on my left hand and blood spurted everywhere. I wasn’t in the main factory but in a smaller factory next door and, at the time, was the only person there. This may have contravened Health & Safety regulations, but it didn’t occur to me at the time. If it had, I don’t think I’d have queried it with Colin. That conversation would not have gone well.

Anyway, I started thinking that maybe this was a sign that, with university only six weeks away, I should think about bidding a fond farewell to moulded plastics. The stench of the hot plastic as the machine spewed it out, Jason’s Bacardi Breezer stories, Dido’s wailing and the likelihood of not having ten fingers for much longer if I kept doing this job were all good reasons to quit. But, as I’d worked for only four days that year prior to 2nd July, perhaps mid-August was a little early to be going back to bed until October? I decided I’d crack on.

By early September you could no longer kid yourself that it was “summer”. OK, Ken was still coming in dressed as Jimmy Connors, but we expected nothing else. It was becoming decidedly autumnal, and the bike ride to work was becoming even less appealing than it had before. I’d started winding-up the night-shift workers as they arrived: “Only twelve hours to go lads” and the such-like was funny at 6pm as I walked out of the factory, but at 6 am when they greeted me with the same comments it wasn’t funny at all. I’d just about had enough.

And then it happened.

Tuesday 11th September 2001 must have started like any other. I must have cycled to work, possibly with a hangover, and probably arrived at 6.02am hoping Colin was on the bog reading “The Sun”. I probably looked at my watch after what seemed like hours of throwing warm bits of yellow plastic into a cardboard box, only to discover it was 7.23am and tea-break was still over an hour away. I probably ate a cheese sandwich and bag of McCoys in the staff canteen, realised that Juan Sebastian Veron (who’d just signed for Man Utd) earned more in an hour than I did in a week, then went back to the factory floor wondering whether it would be Dido or Travis providing the soundtrack to another exciting afternoon.

At some time that afternoon I realised that a pretty major news story was developing. Above the machine noise I heard scraps of information on the radio regarding New York and the World Trade Centre. By 5pm it had become pretty clear that a major atrocity had occurred and that hundreds, probably thousands, were dead. I’d not spoken to any of my colleagues about it, but decided I’d risk Colin’s wrath by strolling over to Dave to see what he made of the situation.

“Have you heard that on the news, Dave”? I asked

“Yeah” he replied.

Then there was a pause. Maybe I was expecting some insightful comment on the global situation, maybe just a “hanging’s too good for them”. Yeah, probably the latter. But what followed told me that I really needed to get out of that place. Immediately.

“That fucking Machine Seven’s playing up again”

Goodbye moulded plastics. It was absolute hell while it lasted.

Poster - 12 Angry Men_06

Dave was sick of Machine Seven. This time it was war.

Match Report circa November 1993

ENGLISH LIFE SERVICES 7    Short 3, Laming, Wood, McGuire, Chubb

SAN MARINO CLAIMS 2    Fluke, Luck



How a team like this can win 7-2 I just don’t know. Most said it would be a close game, but the word on the streets was that Claims were the new force in Zurich football. What transpired was a good old-fashioned Saturday night at closing-time whacking, which left Claims shellshocked and LSD extremely surprised. Before we go into graphic detail, here are the reasons LSD were being written-off, before a ball was kicked in anger:

(1) The world’s worst ever talent shortage. No Hardcastle (oh no!), no Wolf (oh blimey!), no Ford (oh God!), no Smith (oh well never mind!)

(2) Reputation. LSD are bad, really bad. Many’s the time Trev Harris has sent us to bed with no supper. Spectators and people parking their cars in the car park don’t get off lightly either. Rumour has it that we once even reduced Matt Sawyers to tears. Now that’s bad.

(3) No kit. LSD are a sartorial nightmare. Old LCD shirts, T-shirts, even a West Ham top. When it comes to gear, Third Division stuff.

(4) Jason Willis.


With Cave his usual prompt self (can’t this jerk buy himself a watch?) LSD fell behind when they all stood still to admire Claims’ first corner, ever. It was such a lovely, inswinging, dipping, looping corner that it just had to result in a goal. 1-0 down, everyone playing out of position, Claims rampant, the defence barely on first name terms. Things looked bad.

(At this point we must mention the supporters: Vicki, Jenny, Louise thank you. It was cold out there but you never wavered. Sharon, the sight of you sloping-off in our hour of need will be remembered by us long after you’ve forgotten it).

As far as the game went, class was always going to tell eventually. It did. SHORT equalised in his inimitable style, stopping his wild celebrations only to humiliate the fallen goalkeeper with a mouth of abuse. Shortly after, LAMING bundled the ball home after a “Hand of God” incident, seen only by the entire Claims team and no-one else. The 2nd half was utter annihilation, AC Milan v The Rose & Crown, Men v Boys, Class v Arse.

WOOD toe-poked one from 30 yards  to make it 3-1, before Andrews caught Coe in No-Mans Land to make it 3-2. Blame for this lies at Willis’ feet, as he took a throw-in whilst Bates was still in the car-park having just retrieved the ball. Thanks Jas. Looking forward to a friendly v Touchline. Now the fun began, Chubb and Sawyers went toe-to-toe (only one winner there) then Claims’ mini-version of Andy Bates started crying after one knee-high tackle too many. SHORT’s persistence made it 4-2 before one of those “Great Sporting Moments” that come along so rarely.

Carter found McGUIRE, whose shot bounced straight back to him off the goalie, and LSD’s very own Ian Wright made no mistake with his second attempt. McGuire was instantly mobbed by crazed team-mates, who had to be dragged off him after 5 minutes of sheer adoration. Willis then managed to fluff a penalty (class to the bitter end), before SHORT made it 6-2 with a close-range effort. His feverish attempts to convince everyone that it was “a great goal” were sadly wasted though.

With the game won, CHUBB opened his magic box, beat one, then another and another, then the first guy again, shot, got a lucky deflection and celebrated in arrogant style. At 7-2 the referee had seen enough and mercifully blew for time.

The bar beckoned, seductively.


Andy “Mr Blobby” Coe (9) Though I still reckon your wonder save from Mountifield was going wide, you played a stormer. You’re no “Cat” Smith, but beggars can’t be choosers. If Sugar Ray Leonard and Frank Sinatra can come out of retirement, I’m sure you can. And we promise not to insult you ever again. Fat bastard.

Les “Late For My Own Funeral” Cave (8) Started slowly, tailed-off in the middle, but stormed the last twelve seconds. Honestly though, very solid. Needs to invest in a trusty timepiece. A Ken Ebbens “Soccer Skills and Tactics” video wouldn’t go amiss either. Some good passing though. It kept passing me, anyway.

Mike “Bite Yer Legs” Ensor (7) Started like an uncoordinated wreck, but improved. Pre-season transfer from FLSD looks like a sound deal by Pat “The Manager” Chubb. Mike seems to have found his own private heaven at left-back. Now the question is, will “Scores on the Board Mr Ford” regain his place? Stay tuned.

Andy “Football’s Too Bloody Easy” Bates (10) Did all that was required, and then some. Playing at the back with The Three Stooges can’t be easy, but Norm carried it off perfectly. Made it all look so easy, Andy should advance to “GO”, collect £200 and enter the Life Services Hall of Fame. Class act again. But what about that T-shirt?

Jason “Who Glued The Ball To My Foot” Willis (8) I was going to be harsh, but I can’t kick a man when he’s down (ooh er, Mrs). As pointed-out afterwards, constantly runs out of pitch, maybe all that baby oil makes him keep slipping off? Missed a penalty, but so have some of the greats (Wright, Baggio, Carter). Sees himself as a lady-killing cross between Giggs and Cantona, but is really a girly version of Julian Clary.

Ady “Rabid Demented Mad Dog” Laming (8) Ady scrapes an 8 for being such a lovely bloke. He walks old ladies across the road, buys his Mum flowers, and says “Thanks” when a nut from Claims attempts to decapitate him. He was dead crap until he scored, then he changed into an all-tackling, running, hacking, whacking and chopping machine. I accept your thanks for my “hand” in your goal. Mine’s a pint, Ady.

Simon “I’m Old Enough To Be My Marker’s Dad” Wood (8) Despite the fact that it was also his marker’s “time of the month” Simon deserves no less. When I left to play for LCD he was a whippet, now he’s a sad old dog just waiting to be put down. A bit like Bagpuss. Except Bagpuss was a cat. I think. To compensate for loss of pace he’s acquired a shrewd footballing brain which tells him “the goalie’s crap, if I toe-poke it from 30 yards it’s sure to go in”. His partnership with Willis was a highlight of an entertaining match. Don’t retire yet.

Pat “Reformed Butcher” Chubb (10) You were going to get a 9, but Dom reckons you were the man of the match so I’m giving you the benefit. Also, I don’t want to be in midfield with you if you’re upset about something (assuming there is a next time). I’m not too happy about you trying to beat-up my mate Matt Sawyers but I forgive you. Sprayed passes around like nobody’s business, shame that McGuire was the intended recipient all the time. Scored a corker, and didn’t desert me when I was in need (most of the game).

Andrew “Let’s Introduce Some Culture” Carter (8) A fair reflection on another debut performance. I’ll remember the through ball to McQueer long after I’ve forgotten his goal. Was occasionally caught in possession, and put in trouble by some dodgy service from defence. Enjoyed the huge space left in the Claims midfield, but would be surprised if EBU allowed me the same space. Would be a 7, but what about the shirt? I can get you some cheap from a man I know in Romford Market, The idea Xmas pressie. Go on, just sign here…………………………………………………..

Danny “Can I Play At The Back Cos I’m Not A Goalscorer” Short (9) You are a natural. Natural what I’m not sure. If scoring goals ever goes out of fashion, you’ll be the guy with the 1982 Stay Press and gold tie-pin. My tip for top scorer this season, all the lad needs is service from midfield (hint) and an able strike partner (big hint). Takes his goals like Mick Quinn on a good day. Poacher extraordinaire.

Jason “No Pace, No Skill, No Aggression, But One Goal From A Classic Carter Pass” McGuire (7) A natural finisher (not). Makes “The Care Bears” look like drug-crazed Hell’s Angels. He’s just so determined to stamp his name on any game. Claims don’t mind losing 7-2, but letting in an attempt from McGuire? That’s embarrassing. Used to get picked for his luminous shin pads, but now it’s goals goals goals that get him picked. Being sexually assaulted by Short after his goal will no doubt live in the memory.

Match Report circa 1994

RAMPANT REDS (1) 8         Short 4, Wood, Pattison, Carter, Bates.



Given that 8-0 should have been the half-time score, and that Claims only had eight or nine players (and I use the term loosely), wild jubilation should be abandoned in favour of disgust. By my reckoning we had roughly thirty, yes thirty, goal-scoring opportunities, at least fifteen of which came in the first half, from which we managed one goal. However, given that we had a few “squad” players playing in the absence of Hardcastle, Ford, Coe, Wolf and McGuire, a victory was all we could ask for.

The opening ten minutes were 80/20 in our favour, but after that we really took the game by the scruff of the neck, with Short going close. After twenty minutes, good work by Pattison, yes Pattison, enabled SHORT to convert from an acute angle, and celebrate in customary style by abusing the Claims’ goalie’s Mum, and shouting “Get in there” as loud as possible. From then until half-time a siege took place, though to be honest Cave did make two or three saves which can only be described as “Coe-like”. By half-time, seven Life Service players had had shots on goal, but only Short had found the Claims onion bag. Notable misses included Laming’s shot past the post after pelting fifty yards with the ball glued to his foot, Bates’ miskick with the goal begging, numerous Wood raids ending with the familiar sound of the ball hitting the fence behind the goal, a weak Carter shot with the goal at his mercy, a save by Beagley after Pattison worked himself an opening, etc, etc, etc. The general feeling that the game was being played in the Twighlight Zone rather than Alexandra Park reached its peak when the half-time whistle blew with the score still stuck at 1-0.

The pattern continued in the 2nd half, Short and Bates contriving misses when a goal would have been bread & butter for someone of the calibre of the missing McGuire. Then, suddenly, things changed. SHORT found himself on the end of a dream ball from Bridger, turned, and rolled the ball like a Nick Faldo putt inside the Claims post. “Get in there”.

From the kick off, the rampaging Short set-up WOOD, and it was 3-0, and Claims could hear the familiar sound of the floodgates beginning to creak open. SHORT’S pre-match worries that this could be his first game against Claims where he didn’t score a hat-trick were put to rest when he rifled in LSD’s fourth, again from an acute angle. “Get in there”.

At this point, LSD’s new striking sensation Simon Pattison was starting to feel the pace. Claims knew he was the man to target, and over an hour of late tackles, elbows in the face etc had reduced “The Huddersfield Hit Man” to a shambling wreck. Luckily for him, his route off the pitch , having finally given-in to cramp, took him through the Claims penalty area during another LSD raid. Wood found Short, who found Laming, whose weak shot seemed to have been saved. However, the ever-friendly Claims goalie allowed the ball to squirm away, and yes, you guessed it, PATTISON, sharp as a fish, prodded the ball over the line, prompting a celebration not seen since LSD last played Claims, when McGuire found the net.

At 5-0 the game was obviously won, but there was still time for SHORT to take his season’s tally to ten with a fine finish. A rare Claims attack then allowed Cave to cynically hack his man down, and escape even a yellow card. The ref was obviously in no mood to test LSD’s new-found “goody-goody” image, preferring instead to remember past encounters which had almost ended in a bloodbath when a Life Service player was cautioned. Anyway, Cave successfully feigned injury for long enough to allow everyone to forget why the game had been stopped.

Ever alert, CARTER made it seven for Pat Chubb’s Red Army, before BATES received the ball in the box, faked panic, shimmied, and stuck the ball away, allowing LSD to maintain their average of eight per game against the poor, unfortunate Claims goalie. Apparently, by now someone had phoned the RSPCA to complain about our disgraceful cruelty to dumb animals. The ref decided to blow for time, before our goal difference began to resemble Manchester United’s.


Cave (9) A sound, often spectacular display by Mr Late himself, who made numerous saves when the score was 0-0. His commitment to the cause may no longer be doubted, especially after a body-check that could still get him charged with GBH.

Bridger (9) Drafted in to replace the expectant Ford, turned-in a classic performance of grit and skill. Surely worth a place on the bench at least for future games. Beaten once all match, battled as if his life depended on it. Ford must be worried.

Ensor (8) Tackles like an angry pit-bull, but his distribution is lacking on occasions. Seems confused when there’s no-one within 20 yards, but much happier when there’s six people within five feet of him. However, can’t be faulted for heart or determination, anything less than this mark would be outrageously unfair.

Ebbens (8.5) Another solid performance, backed-up by the returning Chubb.His return to form has coincided with his recent marriage. Jason McGuire should think about this. Never reached the heights of his colossal performance against LCD, but never had to. Worthy of this mark.

Chubb (8.5) First game for four months, dodgy back, unfit, playing in defence: all excuses we’re likely to hear from him over the next few days. In truth, never really extended, though as with Ebbens, the competition was poor. No-one could have expected more, though a couple of long range efforts were enough to scare the corner flag.

Carter (8.5) Slotted into his preferred Beardsley role after a dodgy start. Often spoilt for choice when deciding who to put through on goal, so sometimes decided not to put anyone clear. Goal was pure Shearer.

Bates (9) A typical performance, scored, set-up a bagful of chances, took the piss out of Pattison’s cramp walk. Has too much talent to be playing with the likes of us. Revelled in the space in midfield, which sometimes resembled the Sahara.

Wood (8.5) Workmanlike, in the last half-hour was given the freedom of the right flank. Still needs to work on putting crosses in the air occasionally. Speed remains however. A thoroughbred in a team of cart horses.

Laming (8.5) You thought I’d forgotten that miss, didn’t you? Goal at his mercy, just run towards it and roll it in. Not Ady. Ady pulled the trigger from 18 yards, and grazed the wrong side of the bar with a surface-to-air missile. A rare error from the Mad Dog.

Pattison (8) Forget McGuire. This man’s the business. His finishing skills honed to a razor’s edge, his touch a sight to behold. You could tell Claims had resigned themselves to defeat the moment he ambled out onto the pitch in his baggy tracksuit bottoms and pre-shrunk T-shirt. The new Vulture.

Short (10) OK, so it was Claims, they only had eight or nine players, their defence was out to lunch, the space he was allowed was almost an insult. However, Sniffer can’t be blamed for all that. Four goals, surely another Golden Boot on its way to his mantelpiece, an assassin in front of the sticks. I’ve tried to justify a lower mark, but can’t. Take a bow son.

The digital revolution will not be televised (unless you’ve got the right SCART leads)

It’s a long story but we had to get a new TV a while back. The old one wasn’t broken, and as I speak it sits upstairs in the spare room in perfect working order (I am open to offers). And it’s gathering dust. Oh boy, will that thing gather some dust over the coming weeks and months and, quite possibly, years. People used to take the mickey out of it because it wasn’t the size of the Jumbotrons in Times Square or Piccadilly Circus, which apparently you absolutely must have these days if you don’t want to be regarded as a lower life-form, someone to be pitied and who should be sitting in a shop doorway somewhere rattling a tin of coppers. We didn’t care though, as it suited us and didn’t take over the front room with the regulation in-yer-face dominance that is apparently compulsory with goggleboxes these days.

Anyway, we’ve got a new telly now, bigger than the previous one but still not the size of the one they have at the All England club for all those odd people who travel all the way to SW19 from Kazakhstan or Bolivia just to watch the Andy Murray match from “Henman Hill”. Our new telly is, of course, a “flat screen” type (the slightly curved screen of the old one didn’t pose me any particular problems but apparently “curved” is no longer “in”). It should go without saying that the new one is incredibly pleased with itself and has all sorts of functions, games, drop-down menus and things you can sign up to if you can be bothered. I can’t.

Now comes the fun.

When people start talking to me about “SCART” leads I glaze over immediately. Speaking to me in Lithuanian about train-spotting is infinitely more interesting and much more likely to be understood. SCART leads are the favourite subject of people who never quite made it onto computer helpdesks. They are the domain of people who play “World of Warcraft”, people who prefer to spend two hours painting their latest Lord of the Rings character figure (usually an orc wielding an axe) when the World Cup Final is just kicking off. Nerds. If you understand SCART leads then you are a nerd, and your right to appeal against that judgement is hereby denied.

Anyway, we appear to not have the required amount of SCART leads anymore, though with the old telly we had plenty of the damn things. The space behind the telly looked like a snakes’ wedding reception, but now it appears not even all those leads and wires are enough. We need more. Until then we can’t plug the DVD player into the telly. I can’t quite remember the details but it’s something to do with the set-top box (which is quite new) not having enough holes in it to plug another bloody lead into. Ah well, at least the internet router is still talking to the microwave, and the dishwasher hasn’t upset the Playstation. Not yet anyway, but it’s probably a matter of time.

As already mentioned, the new TV has all sorts of extra bells and whistles that the old one didn’t have. Among these are a Facebook App, which means I can get onto Facebook if the two computers in the house are both being used (at the time of writing, both these computers get along fine with each other, but I guess it won’t be long before we have to buy a SCART lead in order to get them talking again). So, I can get onto Facebook on the telly. But can I get off Facebook on the telly? No. I have not yet discovered the way to log-off. So not only can burglars take everything if they manage to get in one day (assuming they don’t trip over all the sodding SCART leads and break their bloody necks) but they can also get onto my Facebook account and send all sorts of nasty messages to a bloke I once had a drink with in a Peterborough pub back in 1996. Fantastic.

So now my four-year old son is watching his collection of DVDs on the laptop, while I wrestle with my Facebook account on the telly. If anything sums-up the whole sorry mess, doesn’t that do it beautifully?

It’s all enough to make me just want to disappear upstairs and listen to the good old radio. Except of course it’s a digital radio. And, being a digital radio, it suffers from interference to at least the same extent that the old analogue radio did in the dark ages before we reached the promised land of the wonderful digital revolution. Putting it in a certain place on the window-sill causes it to tell me “Station not available”. Moving it an eighth of an inch to the right solves this problem to the extent that anyone speaking sounds like they are broadcasting live from the wreck of the Titanic, without breathing apparatus, whilst being attacked by an angry giant squid. If, however, I move the radio to the left of the mirror, evacuate all metallic objects from the vicinity, open the window, then sit in bed with my left arm slightly raised, the quality is magnificent.

It’s enough to make me want to strangle someone.

With a barbed wire SCART lead.


They’re creepy and they’re kooky,
Mysterious and spooky,
They’re all together ooky,
The Scart Lead Family.

Six things I just don’t “get”

“Everyone’s different”.

“If we were all the same the world would be a boring place”.

“Different strokes for different folks”.

Yes, yes, yes. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sometimes scratch your head and wonder “Why”?

Here are six things that I just don’t “get” at all. Sorry.

(1) Going to a “gig”

Nope, I don’t get it. You’re paying to go and watch a musician or group of musicians play some songs that you’ve already got on CD/DVD/download at home? Why? You already know which songs are going to be played, don’t you? So you pretty much know what’s going to happen? Isn’t that like going to a football match when you already know what the score will be? Pointless. And the beer will be about £4.50 a pint. And there’ll be loads of dickheads there. Don’t do it. Stay home and watch the 1980 Cup Final on ESPN Classic. West Ham win 1-0, Brooking with a header.

(2) Going to McDonalds*

I am partial to the odd burger and chips. Those mobile vans outside football grounds get a lot of business from me. But what I don’t get is the whole McDonalds experience. A plastic environment with some demented clown on posters all over the walls and staff that are too busy checking their spots in the mirror or flobbing into the salad to pay much attention to you. A dreary, depressing experience that has somehow wheedled its way into the nation’s consciousness as an ideal place to take the kids for a “treat”. The ideal training environment for human beings who want to be reincarnated as battery hens.

*Some people call it “Maccy D’s”. They should have their toenails pulled out with pliers.

(3) Technology for the sake of it

Many technological advances have been of great benefit to us. Others have not. Some people think technology can solve any “problem” they may have. They are wrong.

“Made a cup of tea and can’t remember whether you put sugar in it? There’s an app for that”. Yeah, or I could just take a sip of it and find out.

Want a motorised fork that twirls your noodles or spaghetti because you can’t be bothered to? There’s one out there. I’m not joking.

Then some pillock will be on Dragons’ Den with a device for removing belly button fluff. I have something already. Fingers. Now sod off you weirdo.

Which brings me to sat-navs. People spend ten minutes in the car plugging the damn thing in and booting it up just so a disembodied voice which talks to them like they’re a dog with fleas can tell them how to get to London. It’s London for crying out loud!

(4) Cats

“War, what is it good for”? sang Edwin Starr. Well, Edwin, war has a lot more going for it than cats do. Although a cat war would actually be something I’d pay to see (unlike a Coldplay concert at the O2 or going to see Robbie Williams at Knebworth, both of which come below “Lethal injection after twelve years on Death Row in Alabama State Penitentiary” on my Christmas list). Yes, a big cat war with the bastard ginger tom from a few doors down on one side and a pack of rabid lions on the other. Or maybe the black and white vermin from next door against a fully-grown male Bengal tiger that hasn’t eaten for three days?

Open your fridge. Remove a piece of cheese. This piece of cheese will show you the same amount of affection as the average cat will. But the piece of cheese won’t shit in my garden. See what I’m saying here?

(5) People who push the button at crossings when the damn button has already been pushed

“Hmm, there are people waiting across the road. The “WAIT” sign is lit. I know, I’ll push the button repeatedly, just in case”.

This must be the thought process these people go through. Do they think the rest of us are standing across the road like disorientated lemmings hoping that someone will appear who can push the button the correct way? Do they exhibit this weirdness in other parts of their lives? How long do they give their washing machine after the “Start” button has been pushed? A second or two? How long do they give their oven to get up to 250C? Ten seconds perhaps?

(People who push the buttons at crossings on empty roads at four o’clock in the morning fall into this category too. There are no cars about for miles yet they still MUST push the button and then cross before the bloody green man has appeared anyway).

Unthinking robots.

(6) “Comedy” ringtones

“Ha ha! Yes, your ringtone is a really amusing catchphrase from a popular comedy show. And you downloaded it last night. OK. Yes I heard it, thanks. It’s really funny. Yes, it’s funny the second time as well. No, I don’t want to hear it again. No, really I don’t. Not so funny the third time, is it? OK, as I was saying” …

“Yes, it is funny. Now, as I was” …

“Yep. Can we just”…

“Yes, everyone in Accounts thinks it’s great too. Yes. Except all you did was download it, you didn’t write it did you? You won’t be getting any royalty cheques will you? You just downloaded it. A monkey can probably do that”.

“Please don’t …”

“Right. You have three fucking seconds to turn that thing off before I snap your fucking neck like it’s a cocktail stick riddled with woodworm and then dump your lifeless body in a skip”.

“Thanks. Anyway, we were in McDonalds before going to the gig and Dave showed us this new app on his phone where you can pretend to toast a marshmallow …”

" fast food chain under God, indivisible, with fries and narrowed arteries for all"

“…one fast food chain under God, indivisible, with fries and narrowed arteries for all”

Boston bombing: true political correctness in all its Fox News glory

“Political correctness gone mad”.

A favourite right-wing cliché, usually used by some empty-headed columnist or snivelling little Tory arse-wipe to describe the actions of someone who was probably just trying to make someone else’s life a little more bearable. The “do-gooders” (as we are obliged to call them) who want to run everyone else’s life (allegedly) are often charged with being “politically correct” when they ask that someone stop using racist language, or perhaps wonder aloud why women continue to be paid less than men. Forget it. The most insidious, malevolent, damaging and downright cancerous form of “political correctness” we have is the result of the media and politicians agreeing about the things that you just can’t say about “terrorism” or the “War on Terror”. And the Boston bombing on 15 April proved it yet again.

But let’s get one thing sorted: killing and maiming your fellow homo-sapiens is wrong. I don’t care what your cause is, or what your “God” has told you is permissible. Ending the life, or significantly diminishing the quality of life, of another human being is not acceptable except in the most extreme cases, such as self-defence. Remember that if you get the urge to accuse me of “sympathising with terrorists”, a favourite mumble of those in the upper echelons of politics and the media whose real problem is actually people who they think are sympathising with the wrong kind of terrorists.

Irrespective of the wrongs of the Boston bombers, there remains an obligation to analyse the repetitive, asinine and frankly nonsensical comments in respect of the bombing from those in positions of power. Many believe that when they comment on an act that is undeniably wrong that they themselves receive a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card, allowing them to remain free from negative comment, because everyone is “united in grief” and “determined that justice be served”. These are the banalities behind which they hide, with further security provided by the certainty that anyone not toeing the line must be a “terrorist sympathiser” or someone who has chosen the wrong side in the war of “with us or against us”. A flag always helps with the credibility too, and they’ll wrap themselves in one as soon as they can.

That “they must not be allowed to win” will be trotted-out by someone or other within minutes of the latest outrage. Often this will be a politician who travels around in a limousine akin to a tank, yet whose own personal security detachment is being “beefed-up” as he speaks. Joe Public enjoys no such privileges, yet it is Joe Public who must be urged to not let “them” win. How would Joe Public do that anyway? Buy some armour-plated limousines? Make speeches behind bullet-proof glass? Allow himself to be unduly concerned by the fact that he just watched his eight-year-old son bleed to death? One thing is for sure, the price of denying “them” their victory is only ever paid for by good old Joe Public. Thanks Joe. I would shake your hand, but I’m safe in my bunker right now.

For the politicians themselves, have they ever actually defined what this “victory” for terrorism would look like? If not, then they haven’t thought enough about the trite nonsense that they burble almost as a reflex action. If they have, then I wish they’d share it with us.To force the population of one of the major conurbations of the world’s most powerful nation into a 24 hour “lockdown” when you’re armed with a rucksack, a pressure cooker and some nuts and bolts strikes me as a kind of victory, though of course to say so is heresy.

The real political correctness that pervades modern Western society (forget not being allowed to sing “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and other such myths concocted by conservative nitwits) is that which denies people the right to question exactly who is winning the “War on Terror”. It’s a political correctness rooted in right-wing orthodoxies: that terrorists never win (even when they do), that terrorists “hate our freedoms” (uttered by a President whose own coup in 2000 was as significant a strike against American democratic values as there has been in decades), that democracy, or their version of it, cures all ills. This is real political correctness and we seek, cowards that we are, not to challenge it. Not when we could be getting all worked-up about kids wearing goggles whilst playing conkers.

Automatically, when a bomb goes off or people are shot and killed, the leader of the wronged nation will describe the latest act as “cowardly”. Often it is, but not always. Were kamikaze pilots cowardly? Are suicide bombers cowardly by definition? If so, where does that leave bomber pilots 30,000 feet above Iraq who press the “X” button and are on their way home before the family of shepherds below are fully incinerated? Are they heroic because they used their video game technology to a high standard? Blowing yourself to bits in pursuit of a cause is undoubtedly extreme and in most cases an act of evil, but is it any worse than lining-up the cross-hairs in your state-of-the-art tank and watching the enemy, in their three-decade-old version of the same vehicle, morph into well done steaks in the blink of an eye? Sorry, but I’m not going to allow lying, dishonest politicians and their compliant media friends to define “cowardice” and “bravery” for me. But thanks all the same.

The Boston bombers succeeded. Sorry, they did. A nation that fell for Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” bullshit on the USS Abraham Lincoln a decade ago (yes, a decade ago) might not want to admit the unpalatable truth, but what’s new? The bombers were not planning the end of Western civilisation, so that fact that that particular edifice remains intact does not necessarily mean they failed. The 9/11 hijackers succeeded too. Again, it hurts to say so, but let’s not be so “PC” that we try to pretend that they didn’t. 7/7/05 in London? Victory for the bombers, and to deny it is to exhibit a level of delusion that would probably see you elected onto the executive board of either NewsCorp or Al-Qaeda, depending on your personal preference.

The empty rhetoric of Western leaders no longer strikes a chord (if it ever did) with people who are fed-up with being told that black is actually white. If I was laying in a Boston hospital right now, perhaps with a limb or two missing, perhaps minus a son, I reckon that I’d be feeling like “they” won. Any politician who tried to tell me anything different could go and fu… er, perform an act that is physically impossible for the overwhelming majority of men. But he should try it anyway.

If obliterating Iraqi villages with a cruise missile is “victory”, then I’m afraid that the carnage in Boston is a “victory” for the terrorists. But they’ll never say so, our proud champions of political correctness. They’ll keep on peddling their lies.

In the wake of the explosions in Boston, the Fox News website carried a news article by Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice. In the article he stated:

“Yet, our obsession with political correctness, with a strong desire not to  offend our enemies makes our self-defense immeasurably more difficult”. 

You see? It’s the strong desire not to offend its enemies that leads to bombs going off in American cities. If only they had offended more of their enemies, killed a few hundred thousand more innocents, devastated a few more Third World cities, toppled a few more dictators who they’d previously funded for their own ends, insisted on a few more World Bank doctrines being foisted on poverty-stricken peoples around the globe and not been so damn wishy-washy about the whole thing.

Obvious really, isn’t it?

Two more victims of the USA's determination not to offend its enemies

Two more victims of the USA’s determination not to offend its enemies

Big Eric’s in a pickle again

Remember when the Tory Party was known as the “party of law and order”?

I do, as it was something you often heard in the 1980s when those fine and trustworthy members of the Tory Party (Aitken, Archer and Hamilton among them) would never turn down the opportunity to remind us that they were what was stopping us all from being murdered in our beds, and how eternally thankful we should be. Well, times change. Now they are much more “relaxed” (as Peter Mandelson would no doubt put it) about breaking the law. Well, what I mean is that they are if they think there may be a few votes in it for them, which as we all know is all that really interests them once the expenses claim has been processed. Step forward Eric Pickles.

Mr Pickles is the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, a very “PC” title for someone whose party are so painfully “anti-PC”. He could easily be a “Little Britain” comedy character, and I have no doubt that “Spitting Image” would have had a field day if fatboy Pickles had been on the Westminster scene back in the 1980s. If Kenneth Baker was depicted as a slimy slug on that programme, then surely Pickles would have been a grotesque and flatulent snorting pig with his face constantly buried in a bucket of truffles. When Pickles was asked whether the Cabinet’s jubilee gift to The Queen of some table mats was appropriate, given that she probably already had quite a few, Pickles replied “One can never have too many table mats”. That’s true enough, if you are a big lump who spends more time at the trough than thinking about the details of the next witless piece of nonsense that’s going to spew forth from your fat gob. This is a man who once claimed that living 37 miles from Westminster justified claiming a second home allowance, because the journey took four hours. This was utter rubbish and a complete fiction. He also claimed that he had to be on time for work, as if being on time is an option for the working population who aren’t MPs. Anyway, Lardmonster got away with it, probably because so many other MPs (from all parties) played the same underhand and dishonest game as the corpulent gargoyle and they didn’t want to rock the boat. When it comes to the crunch, MPs stick together, regardless of party affiliations.

Now the contemptible oaf is back in the news with his belief that parking tickets shouldn’t be handed-out to motorists who have parked (illegally) on double yellow lines because they are just popping into a local shop for a newspaper or loaf of bread. It’s populist claptrap, designed to appeal to the increasingly weird persecution complex that motorists seem to be developing in this country. Pickles makes no reference to all the people who are inconvenienced on a daily basis by the tossers who can’t be bothered to park where they are supposed to park. No, stuff them. And stuff the people with children who can’t see over the top of an illegally-parked Chelsea tractor whilst trying to cross the road. Stuff anyone who may have caught the bus to work and is sitting in a traffic jam caused by thoughtless arseholes who insist on parking directly outside the shop they want to visit. Stuff them all.

Pickles has given the green light to the “I’m going to do what suits me and to hell with anyone else” dickheads who infest modern society, whether they are dropping litter in the street because the nearest bin is ten whole yards away or whether they are putting out their bins a day early because that’s what they are going to do and f*ck everyone else. Quite how a traffic warden is supposed to know that someone is only going to be five minutes, or ten minutes, Pickles hasn’t explained. And he never will, because he is the very essence of the modern politician, talking in general tones and in populist cliches rather than attempting to consider the detail or reality of what he is proposing.

I for one am sick and tired of motorists who seem to think they are, at most, one step down from political prisoners in China or Burmese opposition groups. So many of them have a nauseatingly high level of self-pity, outraged as they are by the wicked idea that someone should dare to tell them where they should and shouldn’t park their precious bloody cars. And most of them are male. Self-absorbed, selfish, arrogant males who think the world revolves around them and that they have a “human right” to park where they want. And with supreme irony, the major political party that regards the phrase “human rights” with most disdain is the party of Eric Pickles, a man who would do and say anything if he thought it might make him a bit more popular. The Tory Party (if Pickles is to be believed) now regards parking where you want as a “right” but things like torture and freedom of expression as not worthy of the same consideration, hence Theresa May’s recent nonsense regarding withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights. If anything better sums-up the self-centred and Clarksonesque type of pea-brains that the Tory Party are so desperate to appeal to then I haven’t heard it. Yet.

There is no human right to park where the hell you want to because you’re too lazy to walk to the local shops or park somewhere that means you aren’t inconveniencing or endangering other people. And anyway, if these shops are “local” why do you need to be going there in your car in the first place? Petrol is just so expensive these days (as motorists never tire of telling us) and yet motorists are still prepared to make journeys by car rather than on foot. Seems like the petrol companies have set their prices at a reasonable level, doesn’t it? Supply and demand and all that. In my world a child’s “right” to cross a road safely or the “right” of someone travelling to work not be held-up by morons appeal more to my sense of justice than the “right” of some pillock in a mobile penis extension to park where he wants to because walking a hundred yards is too taxing.

Why is a government that is constantly telling us that this that and the other are bad for us not telling us to leave the car at home and walk to the local shops?

Surely they realise that we aren’t all the size and shape of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government?

"Park where you want and vote for me"

“Park where you want and vote for me”

The Magna Carter

For a blog subtitled “The world according to me” there’s a worryingly low amount of stuff in it that describes exactly how things will be when I am in charge (yes, “when”). So here’s my 10-point manifesto for a better Britain. Actually, it might not be for a better Britain, but it will be for a Britain that I prefer to the current one, based as it will be upon my revenge on the many people and things that are currently pissing me off. Which is, I reckon, all that really matters.

(1) Illegally-parked vehicles:

It will be perfectly legal to cause criminal damage to any motor vehicle that is parked illegally. Any vehicle parked where it should not be parked shall have no standing in law whatsoever. Where the said vehicle is a scaffolder’s truck or a supermarket delivery van, anyone causing damage to the vehicle will not only be immune from prosecution but will also receive a £200 Marks & Spencer voucher, paid for by the owner of the vehicle. Anyone using the “but my hazard lights were on” defence will be forced to re-take their driving test. Twice.

(2) Politically incorrect:

Those boasting about their own political incorrectness shall serve a three month prison sentence. Such boasts are the preserve of ill-mannered bores and will no longer be tolerated in society. The sentence will be doubled should the guilty party be heard to say that “you can’t say anything these days”. A sentence of one year shall be available to the judge if the words of Enoch Powell have been invoked but the guilty party is unable to say exactly what those words actually were.

(3) Mobiles, iPods, skateboards:

Those caught using mobile phones whilst driving or cycling shall be incarcerated for one year. Those caught using a mobile phone whilst being served in a bank, shop or post office shall serve three months in prison. Identical sentences shall also apply to those using iPods in such situations. Males over the age of 14 caught skateboarding shall be subject to a £500 fine. This fine will be doubled if the act is being performed on a public highway.

(4) Cats:

Owners of these highly dubious creatures must have their animal(s) micro-chipped and a tracking device implanted in the animal. Failure to do so will result in a £5000 fine and the animal being destroyed in a controlled explosion supervised by the Royal Engineers (at considerable cost to the owner of the cat). At the end of each calendar year a record will be published that will list the properties on which the animal trespassed during the previous year. Each case of trespass shall cost the cat owner £1, which must be paid to the property owner upon whose land the pointless creature trespassed.

(5) Dogs:

Dog owners who allow their dogs to shit in the street and who then fail to clear it up will be forced to sing “How much is that doggy in the window”? repeatedly for an hour in Trafalgar Square on the second Tuesday of each month. They will then spend the rest of the day with a pooper-scooper in hand traipsing around London’s hundred shittiest streets (as listed in “The Good Dog Shit Guide”, available from all good booksellers for £12.99).  Only once they’ve collected an amount of doggy-do that weighs the same as their own loveable mutt will they be free to go home. (The only exception to this law will be in very rare cases of white dog poo which you hardly ever see these days, do you? This must be left wherever the dog has deposited it until the sun bakes it so extensively that it starts to look like chalk, goes all powdery, and the stupid kid from over the road uses it to write his name on the pavement).

(6) Self-service checkouts:

All goods purchased at supermarket “self-service checkouts” shall automatically qualify for a 10% price reduction, as the customer is effectively doing the work that used to be done by a member of staff. When an alarm sounds due to an “unexpected item found in the bagging area” and this item is found not to be “unexpected” at all, the customer will be under no obligation to pay for any of the goods. At the end of each financial year all supermarket losses made as a result of this policy will be reimbursed by the people who manufacture the self-service checkouts at B&Q, as they most definitely deserve bankruptcy.

(7) Pavement cycling:

Grown men who cycle on pavements will have their bikes painted pink and fitted with stabilisers. For the following six months they will be obliged to cycle at least three miles per day (on roads not pavements) on the aforementioned vehicle whilst wearing a “Peppa Pig” cycle helmet. Any car driver who knocks these offenders off their bikes during this six month period will be deemed to be the innocent party in the collision, regardless of the circumstances. Any damage to the car will be paid for by the cyclist or, in the event of his death, by his grieving relatives.

(8) Pubs:

People who walk into crowded pubs, push straight to the bar and then expect to be the next person to be served will have the word “WANKER” tattooed on their foreheads. Pub bar staff will be forbidden to serve a “WANKER” in a pub until every other person in the pub has been served, even people who walked in after the “WANKER” did. Pub bar staff who continually ask “Who’s next”? in a crowded pub on a Friday or Saturday night shall have their wages from that particular shift donated to a central fund that pays for research into why it is that some people are so shit at their jobs but never, ever seem to get sacked.

(9) Buzzwords and cliches:

The following will be punished with custodial sentence of three months, if uttered in public:

“Going forward”, “elephant in the room”, “bandwidth”, “take ownership”, “singing from same hymn sheet”, “low-hanging fruit”, “outside the box”, “at the end of the day”.

In addition, companies who produce “mission statements” that contain the following will be fined £100,000 (after they’ve been fined £50,000 for producing a damned “mission statement” in the first place):

“Synergies”, “transparency”, “solutions”, “customer-focused” (no, you are profit-focused, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but please just stop bullshitting), “added value”, “best practice”.

(10) Drive-through fast food outlets:

Banned. Sorry, that’s the end of it. You’ll be wanting to take your precious bloody car to bed with you soon. Well, you can’t. And if you want to pay for ground-up horse willies and pig sphincters in a sesame seed bun you still can, but you’ll just have to get out of your stupid car for a few minutes. Walk somewhere, dumb arse. It won’t kill you, unlike the dross you’re about to pay for and eat. And don’t give that stuff to your kids, they’ve got you for a parent so they don’t need any more shit in their lives right now. Idiot.

Hmmm. I feel better already.

Yeah. With a few tanks.

Yeah. And don’t stop.

Strike up the bland at the Tesco Clubcard Arena

Fancy a trip to the Britannia Stadium? No, me neither.

And before all you hundreds of thousands of Stoke City fans start moaning that I’m doing your great club an injustice, I’m not talking about the qualities of your football team, just the name of the stadium. The Britannia Stadium is named after an arm of the Co-Operative Bank, an arm that will apparently be amputated by the end of 2013, due to “re-structuring”. I assume it will become the “Co-Operative Stadium”. Well, there’s something to look forward to. Everyone being “co-operative”. How nice. And how horrifically boring.

Corporate branding is the coronary artery disease of modern football. Every Tom, Dick and Harry Ramsden wants to get in on the act. They want to prove to you how “cool” they are, how in tune they are with the modern “footie” fan (though of course anyone who calls it “footie” should be disembowelled with a hockey stick) and how pleased they are with the new “partnerships” they are forging in order to provide “football-based leisure solutions” to the mugs, er people, who pay fortunes for their season tickets and the pleasures of being bombarded with yet more corporate remedies for insomnia. And the stadium names reflect this so depressingly well.

“The Emirates” has passed into the football lexicon, as has “The Etihad”. Both are named after airlines, of course. So how soon will it be before they are both re-branded as something sexier in order to “better communicate our vision statement to our stakeholders” or some other vapid piece of management-speak? If your stadium was “The Pan-Am Arena” back in the 1970s or “The British Caledonian Stadium” then you’ll understand what I’m getting at. Grounds used to be named after the road, or maybe the area of the town, that they stood in: “Highbury”(Arsenal), “Maine Road”(Man City), “Leeds Road”(Huddersfield). Others just had names that you immediately identified with that club, like “The Goldstone Ground”(Brighton), “The Baseball Ground”(Derby) or “The Den” (the latter being Millwall’s old ground which I visited once as an away fan: I still give thanks every day that I made it out alive).

Alas, these places are no more, and the game is poorer in spirit as a result, even if it means bags more cash for the clubs and the chance to sign a Chilean striker who will not be able to “settle”. New stadiums popping-up everywhere have, on the other hand, given clubs the opportunity to use a bit of imagination when naming the new place. How typical that few seem to have risen to that particular challenge.

“The Roker Roar” (Sunderland) has been replaced by the “Small outbreak of applause at The Stadium of Light” (a name already used by Benfica in Portugal). Those who stood on Highbury’s North Bank in years gone by must now sit in either “Upper Level”, “Club Level” or “Lower Level” at The Emirates, unless they have wormed their way into the “Diamond Club” and can sit in an executive box to watch the team being beaten by Swansea, Bayern Munich, Blackburn, or whoever is in town that day. They don’t even have an “End” anymore. It’s like someone reaching inside your chest and ripping your heart out, while you stand there nodding politely and handing over a steady stream of £20 notes. They must be mad, these fans. Sorry, these “football consumers”.

In addition to those already mentioned, here are some more mind-bogglingly dull names that have appeared on the scene lately:

-Swansea’s “Liberty Stadium” (named after some local property developers)

-Newcastle’s “Sports Direct Arena” (named after the owner’s business in selling flammable tracksuits to overweight, sweaty people)*

-Coventry’s “Ricoh Arena” (Japanese electronics firm)

-Huddersfield’s “John Smith’s” “Galpharm” “McAlpine” (depending on which way the wind is blowing they name their stadium after beer, pharmaceuticals or construction companies)

-Derby’s “Pride Park” (named after the soulless business park on which it stands)

-Bolton’s “Reebok Stadium” (again somewhere named after a company that sells sports goods to people whose idea of exercise is walking to the chippy)

-Leicester’s “KP Stadium” (surely by now someone has put up a sign in the club office that says “You don’t have to be nuts to work here, but it helps”) which should not be confused with Hull’s “KC Stadium”. As if that was possible.

All of these places are, of course, wonderfully-constructed arenas. They all provide “conferencing facilities” of course, because “conferencing” (i.e sitting around and talking all day about a problem that you could solve in half an hour if you really wanted to) is a growth industry. Who could turn down the chance to escape from the call-centre for a day and instead get on the company bus to be transported like cattle to the out-of-town football stadium, where tedious middle-managers, each with the charisma of an ironing board, “conference” you both before and after a healthy lunch in the executive suite?

I may well be on my own, but don’t the names just leave you cold? Don’t they just sum-up perfectly the cynical nature of the “brands” that football clubs have become? The horrible talk of a “partnership” with brand X, Y or Z that produces “synergies” whilst “delivering” on their “mission statement” should have no place in football, or any sport. There’s no imagination, just “name the stadium after our brand”. Well excuse me, but that’s just shit.(And while I’m at it, I don’t want to know about “five-year plans” that clubs have copied from businesses that sell breath freshener or sausage rolls. Real “five-year plans” in Stalin’s Russia often ended with the responsible underling never being seen again. Whinging that your star worker/midfielder was injured for eight months tended not to be regarded as a good excuse for failure. So stop calling the outside chance of reaching the play-offs “a key element of our five-year plan”. Thank you).

I say “enough” of these branded stadiums and let’s get back to proper stadium names like Highfield Road, Filbert Street, Burnden Park and Plough Lane. If you want new names, “Ashburton Grove” sounded nicer than “The Emirates” does, and “Eastlands” was better than “The Etihad”. Nothing, of course, will ever be able to compete with “The New Den” for a total and utter imagination failure, but as we’re talking about Millwall that shouldn’t come as a surprise. That said, I must exempt Southampton FC from any such criticism. After they left “The Dell” (which I never really liked as a name) in 2001 they named their new stadium “St Mary’s”. As any Portsmouth fan will tell you, “St Mary’s” is the local hospital where Southampton fans go for treatment after matches in Portsmouth involving the two teams.

So at least someone is showing a bit of creativity.

* bought the naming rights and soon realised that to call the stadium the “Wonga Arena” would quite possibly be corporate suicide. They have re-named it “St James’ Park”, reverting to the old name.

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