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Independence Day

Scotland in Roy of the Rovers

The football comic strip released in the style of a beautiful A4 annual, ‘You Are The Ref 3‘ was released to coincide with the World Cup in the summer, giving an international flavour to the iconic drawings from illustrator Paul Trevillion (Roy of the Rovers) that accompany Keith Hackett’s refereeing dilemmas. Apart from being pre-spray it is contemporary in every other way, with great artistic impressions of modern players and a sidebar with answers to the queries about the laws of the game.

Amongst the cartoons of today’s superstars (and Mesut Ozil) there is also the face of the occasional legend from yesteryear: Beckbenbuer (West Germany), Eusabio (Portugal), Pele (Brazil), Cruyff (Netherlands), Bobby Moore (England) and Sylvester Stallone (Allied Forces). All players, apart from the novelty of Stallone, whose teams were in the World Cup. For anyone who remembers the cartoon strip from years gone by it is easy to remember back to older columns where, for example, Steve Archibald, Mark Hughes and Pat Jennings featured, as they did for club and county. While none of their nations qualified in 2014, for football fans, it has always been easy to understand that within the United Kingdom there were different countries.

So, as the Scottish Referendum has taken most of the news coverage in the fortnight (suddenly, despite being on the agenda for over a year), the fear being whipped up against the idea that a nation, a once famous footballing nation no less, shouldn’t be given its own independence, appears illogical. It is an arrogance that has come from left, right and down the centre and may be an example of one area where football is centuries ahead of the political class.
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Charlie Brooker: I Can Make You Hate

In The Simpsons episode “Homer vs. Lisa and the Eight Commandment” Homer laughs at some bland unfunny observational comedy on TV masquerading as a joke and says “It’s funny because it’s true.” The Homers of this world have kept average comedians on prime time television and their creative accountants in work for years. Most observational TV stand-up isn’t especially funny or clever unless it has a cutting edge; Charlie Brooker does have a cutting edge and uses the better medium of writing as a showcase for his talents, with observational material coupled with spurts of polemic that is consistently funny.
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Football Column – Panic

The Football Column after the Transfer Window suggested panic on the streets of Salford.

On Sunday evening Falco was apparently being hawked all around Europe by Monaco, like someone trying to shift a spare ticket the night before the event through texts, social media and phone calls to every contact in the book. Not the way any normal business would treat one of its valuable human resources; it seems there is as much security in being a footballer as backing up your device to iCloud.

But a weekly pay packet in the region of £235k a week will soften the blow for the player. United had to match a tax-free principality to make up Falco’s wages but continuing their desperate spending of the last three windows that appears to have been of little concern. On Monday they were like a boy in the supermarket with eyes too big for his belly. No point worrying about five portions of fruit and veg or even five at the back when there is over-priced Colombian coffee flavoured luxury doughnut to fit in the basket alongside the jammy dodgers.

What makes United’s spending even more ridiculous since last summer is the waste of Shinji Kagawa. Last summer they paid three times as much as they should have for Maroune Fellani (£27.5m), after failing to unsettle Everton into letting Leighton Baines go when Fellani’s contract release clause meant he would have been a little less expensive at half the price. With Fellani and Carrick behind Kagawa, allowing Rooney to play up front with Van Persie, Moyes had the perfect opportunity to play 3-4-1-2 and make the most of his assets. He even had Jones, Vidic and Evra, players who would have been comfortable in a back three. But Moyes didn’t do that and rather than thinking outside of the box, he was more intent in lumping it in there.
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Football Column – Fleet Fox

As Match of the Day (MOTD) turned 50 in the last week it drew both praise and criticism; the eighties graphics were a highlight in the birthday edition, with even the right-back named before the left-back, taking us back to common sense basics. In fact MOTD’s many good points come from not throwing the baby out with the early-bath water, notably reverting back to its best theme tune from 1970 after playing about with it in the eighties, a mistake even the BBC’s otherwise superior Athletics coverage still hasn’t learned from.

Like Athletics, MOTD has an intelligent, natural broadcaster with Gabby Logan (also sometimes a stand-in on MOTD) and Gary Lineker perfect for their roles. More on Lineker to come, but MOTD’s weakness is inconsistency in punditry. Athletics give us Michael Johnson, Tennis offer up John McEnroe and Sky Cricket have a whole team of great analysts, but MOTD is only brought to life during international football. In the World Cup Clarence Seedorf was a breath of fresh air, and in the past Terry Venables and Trevor Brooking were the non-playing stars of Italia ’90’, having to explain to the slow-on-the-uptake Jimmy Hill that Chris Waddle and John Barnes were more dangerous having a bit of freedom in the final third than chasing back full-backs.
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The Honourable Woman

The Honorable Woman

With his debut, The Shadow Line in 2011, Hugo Blick created one of the great British TV dramas, a genuine thriller with conspiracy at its heart and an uncompromising sinister force that created suspense throughout. Blick’s follow up, The Honourable Woman, was four years in the making and daring enough to be centred around the Gaza, a complex enough centrepiece for an eight-hour documentary to effectively deal with, much less a drama with over half-a-dozen significant characters.

As timing had it, the early, sometimes slow-paced, episodes were in danger of being over-shadowed by the shocking real-life events on the news bulletins that followed its airing with hospitals, schools, playgrounds and UN shelters being regularly bombed in a one-sided national assault on Palestine. But the premise of The Honourable Woman was a central character, Nessa Stein (played by Maggie Gyllenhall) independently striving for peace amidst constant examples of brutal collateral damage, not  least to herself. Continue reading…

Football Column – EPL IPR OG

Football Column – EPL IPR OG: Man Utd ban tablets & laptops, the Premier League ban vines but the memorable moment of the opening weekend was viral footage.

Last Friday, on the eve of the new Premier League season, a Premier League spokesman said it would be clamping down on unofficial footage posted online while in the same sentence plugging that content would be available at a price from two brands of a global newsgroup. While it is reasonable the Premier League want to protect the value of the intellectual property rights they auction off, their comments actually go further than worrying about pirate streaming and copies of replayed goals – they also object to the paying punter sharing footage they have captured themselves.
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Football Column – A Few Good Men

A pre-season return for The Substantive Football Column.

The Premier League had a launch party today. It’s not entirely clear why. It’s nothing new and the media that report on the launch cover the Premier League on a daily basis anyway. A suited Mike Reilly demonstrating how a black can of whipped cream can vanish when sprayed on astro-turf doesn’t justify Richard Scudamore picking at cocktail sausages while having a dig at La Liga, boasting how many $200 tickets were sold for a pre-season friendly and no doubt checking his emails on his mobile device. Continue reading…

Undercover

Undercover Guardian Books

The secret network of police that come across as more David Brent than Tim Roth in spirit, but who had few scruples in living a double-life.

Two weeks ago the latest report from the police investigation, Operation Herne, confirmed that the Metropolitan Police carried out secret surveillance on grieving families following 18 separate deaths, including those of innocent victims Stephen Lawrence, Ricky Reel and Jean Charles de Menezes. The unscrupulous lengths that undercover officers went to, often on seemingly harmless targets, including the revelation that the Lawrence family were spied on after he was murdered in a racist attack, were first brought to light by journalists Rob Evans and Paul Lewis.

Their book Undercover gets into the detail of a network of spies, not the Thirty-Nine Steps but a state funded bunch of detectives, mainly blokes, who took on their roles to manipulate, deceive and change the lives of citizens, with relish. It was a lifestyle that appealed to the wandering star copper with a hungry heart who could lead a double life armed with a stolen identity of a dead baby, the ready-made back story of a long-distance dying relative that would lead to a quick escape, a van to ferry the perceived poor do-gooders around, a tidy expense account and a James Bond style watch that would record conversations of their new friends and lovers. Continue reading…

Racing Hard

Racing Hard

Last weekend the Tour de France started in Yorkshire before coming to the Capital on Monday via Cambridgeshire, Essex and Enfield. Now, with the magic combination of mobile phones and social media, you didn’t have to be there to get a great insight, with photos and videos posted from numerous different vantage points on the routes on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. It wasn’t always so. When the Tour came to Tunbridge Wells in 1994 for anyone who wasn’t there newspaper reports gave a rarer glimpse of what it was like being there as bikes came round at pace on local streets. William Fotheringham’s piece at the times tells of the community spirit and excitement on the streets that looking back it now seemed to be a forerunner for the atmosphere that was to sweep the nation when the Olympic Torch came round before London 2012. Continue reading…

Arcade Fire Hyde Park 3 July 2014

Arcade Fire Hyde Park 2014

It’s been ten years since Arcade Fire’s first sprawling album, Funeral, an instant epic that still stands up now; it remains one of the very best albums of this century so far, alongside the debuts of The Streets, The Fleet Foxes, The Strokes, The Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand. Unlike many others bands though, after a decade, Arcade Fire continue at the top of their game, making great new music and producing electrifying live performances.

Their fourth album, Reflecktor, released last year, is high quality and central to their current, long, tour, the European leg of which ended last Thursday night at Hyde Park. Back in London less than four weeks after two great sets on consecutive nights at Earls Court, Arcade Fire delivered in style again. Continue reading…



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