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Football Ticket Prices & Empty Seats

England empty seats at Wembley Stadium

Football analysis can become awash with meaningless stats. Players can play great balls into dangerous areas or even clever reverse passes, but if players aren’t making the right runs, to a one-dimensional blogger it’s a misplaced pass. Likewise, a player’s movement and runs could be constantly causing problems to the opposition, taking players away that creates space for others, yet the I-pad coach is more concerned with touches on the ball, which in turn leads to bad decisions, that only the statto that can’t see the bigger picture defends. Andre Villas-Boas’ withdrawal of Aaron Lennon at home to Manchester United last season, Spurs’ most dangerous player on the day, is a case in point. Much more significant football stats were released this week though, with the BBC’s Price of Football Study. Continue reading…

Gone Girl

Gone Girl

Some have said Gone Girl is the story of modern marriage; others, fairly, note feature films including Play Misty for Me, Basic Instinct and Fatal Attraction have undertones of misogyny which don’t represent society and wonder if Gone Girl is cut from the same cloth. But it is neither.

In the second Moviedrome Guide that accompanies his introduction to Play Misty for Me in the sixth TV series from 1993, Alex Cox wrote about the above the tendency of those films: Continue reading…

Political Books Autumn 2014

Mark Perryman reviews the political books taking us into autumn 2014.

Unspeakable Things jacket

This autumn has been dominated already by two lots of morbid symptoms. The unseemly sight of Labour Unionism cosying up to the Tories, Lib-Dems, the financial and media establishment in defence of the ancien regime. Accompanied by UKiP’s spectacular and seemingly irresistible rise, now fracturing the Tory Right’s vote more effectively than ever, the protest vote that just won’t go away.

What possible cause for any optimism then? Because outside of the parliamentary parties’ mainstream there is a revived freshness of ideas. Two writers in particular serve to symbolise such brightness of purpose. Laurie Penny’s Unspeakable Things is the latest collection of her writing. The spiky subversiveness of Laurie’s journalism best summed up by her book’s sub-title ‘ sex, lies and revolution’. This is feminism with no apologies given, no compromises surrendered and a sharp-edged radicalism all the better for both. The Establishment by Owen Jones is every bit as much a reason for igniting readers’ optimism but also the cause of a quandary. Owen is an unrepentant Bennite, a body of ideas and activists with next to no influence in Ed Miliband’s Labour. The organised Left outside of Labour in England at any rate, borders on the non-existent. Owen is described on the book’s cover by Russell Brand no less as ‘ Our generation’s Orwell’, a bold yet fitting accolade. Yet Owen’s writing aims, like Laurie’s, at something beyond being simply a critical media voice. Quite how, is the quandary for both. Continue reading…

Camus, Clough & Counter Culture

Camus, Clough & Counter Culture

The independent football fan in the UK first began to have a voice and a community in the mid-eighties with the emergence of club football fanzines, following in the tradition of music DIY fan publications. The fanzine was an outlet of thought for the masses that were then the life blood of clubs, but were rarely heard other than for 90 minutes on the terraces.  Fanzines brought together the solidarity of the cause of following a club (usually through thin and thinner), humour and popular culture. Continue reading…

Magic in the Moonlight

magic-in-the-moonlight-movie-Emma Stone poster

Magic in the Moonlight, the latest in Woody Allen’s prolific output, goes back to the idea of a psychic making a living/killing from those looking for a meaning in life, a topic he last examined in You Will Meet A Tall, Dark Stranger. This time the rational voice comes from Colin Firth’s otherwise misanthropic lead character who reminds us early on that the only certainty in life is a visitor in a black robe, words Allen surely wrote himself despite the known license he gives actors to ad-lib in character. Continue reading…

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.
Continue reading…

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.
Continue reading…

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.
Continue reading…

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.
Continue reading…

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…



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