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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…

Tour de France Books

Cycle of lies - book on Lance Armstrong

Cycling Anthology - Volume 4

As road cycling takes over Yorkshire this weekend ahead of a day in the Capital tomorrow, some Tour de France books recommeded by Mark Perryman.

There seems to be something about cycling that helps inspire fine sportswriting. Perhaps it is the landscapes and countries traversed, the solitude on a bike, the risk factor of a fall or worse, the extraordinary feats of human endurance, and human-powered speed too. Add a healthy dose of British elite level cycling success plus a dash of greenery and its no surprise that publishers are backing bicycling authors to deliver sales, for the most part with very good books too. Continue reading…

World Cup 2014: Land of Hope and Dreams

Fifa World Cup posters 1930 - 2014

That was the week that was, the best first week of a World Cup certainly since Espana ’82 when the entrants were increased to 24 and the competition grew to another level. It’s already, as some of us predicted, an open tournament, with no clear favourites. Before it began Paul Wilson wisely noted most teams, including England, had a chance and flair and progressive football may yet be rewarded. There have been high-quality clashes, games with end-to-end action, plenty of goals including a couple of world class ones, a degree of unpredictability, new rules that have benefited the games, and even, largely, good officiating, with the referee decision to let play go on in dying minutes of stoppage time in the Switzerland game as good as a decision as the soft penalty the hosts were awarded on the opening night was disappointing.

There are two certainties during any football World Cup: (1) People around the world will be united with a passion and interest in the global game. This is exemplified in bars in cities the world over every four years. Just as telling, in an hour plus bus ride through ethnically diverse and far from affluent towns in west London this morning, England flags were a constant with people wearing their colours for the nation where they live and work. Meanwhile, there is another category of people that always seem to pop-up while millions immerse their soul in a love of the game: (2) the passive-aggressive sneering cynics who look to discredit football at every given opportunity. What a blow for that second group this last week has been.

We can smell these naysayers from afar, as annoying and distinct as exhaled smoke. There are the landlords in pubs who originally don’t plan to show football but seeing their takings fall they begrudgingly turn their TV set on, presumably previously there as a fake decoration like a library book in an O’Neill’s pub or in case war breaks out and there is an address to the nation; having turned the telly, like a modern-day Basil Fawlty, they then insist on turning the volume down to zero, as football is beneath them. These are the type of people who have sneered at working-class kids like Beckham and Rooney earning money they can only dream of, but never mention golfers, motor racing drivers, or bankers or barristers or any other profession where having a more advantageous start in life may have played a part. Continue reading…

England Cricket – A Tale of Two Ashes 2013/14

Jimmy Anderson by Lilly Allen for The Substantive

A successful England test team was taken apart in Australia, leading to wholesale changes and three new call-ups for the first test of the summer against Sri Lanka this week. A look back at some of the key moments for the England team of the back-to-back tests against Australia that went from triumph to disaster.

Australia v England, The Gabba, Novemeber 2013First Day at The Gabba © Mel Gomes

It is hard to think of any England cricket tour that has produced so much carnage.

First Jonathan Trott, who looked like his was found out in the English summer yet still taken on tour, looked all at sea in the heat of battle at the Gabba and flew home the day after the first test. Another staple of the successful side, Greame Swann, whose intelligent, beguiling over against Ricky Ponting against Edgbaston in 2009 will long-live in the memory, found it hard to get any bounce or spin; he boxed up all his records and a head full of ideas after the third test. Steven Finn, a genuine match-winner, wasn’t given a look in before he was sent home before the one-dayers began. Andy Flower, who had hinted the tour would be his swan song as coach, didn’t even get to make the choice himself before being given his marching orders upstairs. Further changes followed, including the end for Mustaq Ahmed and a still despondent Graham Gooch; Ashley Giles hides his humble hopes now and Geoff Miller is no longer chief selector. And of course the most talented and successful England player of the generation since he practically clinched the 2005 Ashes on his own, Kevin Pieterson, was the convenient scapegoat. What dark arts he performed in the dressing room that meant the team couldn’t bat, bowl or field, we may only fully find out when the confidentiality clauses end. Continue reading…



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