Latest Entries

Olympics: Tickets, Anyone Got Tickets?

As another batch of very high-priced tickets released today, in his latest Olympics piece on The Substantive, Mark Perryman suggests less tickets for sponsors, bigger venues around the country and lower prices would have given us a People’s Games. Continue reading…

John Scales – Euro 2012 Interview

Intelligent, articulate and with constantly insightful views on Football, it is easy to see why so many media outlets including Sky, ESPN and the BBC often turn to John Scales, as an ex-England International, for comments about the game.

Alongside Zinadine Zidane, John is currently an ambassador for Danone, and involved in the Danone Nations Cup, the largest international tournament in the World for 10-12 year olds that will host its World Cup Final in the national stadium in Warsaw, Poland, a couple of months after some of the best professionals compete there this summer.

He kindly took time out to speak to The Substantive ahead of Euro 2012, with his thoughts on the tournament which starts tomorrow. Continue reading…

Bruce Springsteen Profile

Ahead of Bruce Springsteen’s 2012 Tour coming to the UK this month, Alan Fisher writes about the enduring positive values that remain constant in the work of The Boss.

Rock music is fast approaching the Era of the Geriatric. Those stars from six decades of rock and roll who aren’t bloated on royalties or substance abuse are shlepping round revival tours, a pallid cardboard cut-out version of their former selves. Many make more money than they ever did in their heyday. Where the acts themselves can’t quite get it together or didn’t make it this far, tribute bands fill the vacuum. For those of us of a certain age, three chords over a snappy backbeat will always set the toes a-tapping but there’s no denying a lingering unease that we’ve heard it all before.

Bruce Springsteen has chosen a different option. At 62, he’s discovered a rich seam of creativity that shows little sign of running out. After a fallow period in the middle of his career, Springsteen can’t stop writing and touring. As a misunderstood punk-kid on New Jersey streets, the songs tumbled out faster than the embryonic E Street Band could keep up and forty years on little has changed. Albums, concepts, styles from full-blown storming rock through American folk to acoustic, his prolific energy puts his contemporaries to shame. His latest album, Wrecking Ball, released earlier this year, is his 17th studio effort, adding to a catalogue fans own including a cannon of live recordings and collections of previously unreleased material, and he’s already begun a world tour that comes to Britain this month. The album was number one in the States and they still queue overnight for tickets, even though he tours regularly. Seeing Springsteen perform remains special. Continue reading…

England v Belgium 2 June 2012

With balloons in the crowd, a strong focus on Royal Family look-a-likes and the Mexican Wave starting before the first fifteen minutes had passed, the general atmosphere in England’s match against Belgium less than a week before the start of a major tournament summed up the ambivalence towards the current national team. In fact there were so many paper aeroplanes thrown from the stands, made from the red and white ‘clappers’ left  in every seat, it is arguable there hadn’t been as much rubbish on the pitch of an England match since the display against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup.

However, real evidence of the low levels of expectation as the national side head towards the European Championship came at the end of the match; two years ago after England played Mexico at Wembley ahead of the 2010 World Cup the majority of the crowd stayed behind after the final whistle to fervently wish the players well before they set-off to South Africa. Steven Gerrard even commented about how he could see the determination in the eyes of so many that Wednesday evening. This time as the players started their walk around the ground, most had already headed-off despite the more convenient Saturday early evening kick-off, with polite applause from those that stayed.

And with news yesterday that a sixth player from the team that finished eighth in the League will now be part of an England squad challenging for the European Championship, as Martin Kelly was called-up to replace the injured Gary Cahill, it is no surprise there is such little anticipation and excitement, as the current England side takes on an uninspiring style, both on paper and on grass. Continue reading…

Ally Clow’s May 2012 Film Round-up

May began in a funk of April’s promise of rain and cold – perfect cinema weather in my book.  The success that Avengers Assemble enjoyed was down to great direction and script but it also had luck on its side being released bang in the middle of this dank climate too.  As I write, the heatwave most of Britain is going through has all but killed the UK Box Office figures for films such as Men In Black 3 and Moonrise Kingdom. Sacha Baron Coen’s The Dictator on the other hand made the most of a mid-May release date, avoiding any of the truly hot weather.  There were a couple of great remastered classics and even a rare 35mm showing of a Russian masterpiece with what seemed like half the UK’s film industry in attendance – a real event.  May kicked off in style however with Joss Whedon’s Avengers Assemble. Continue reading…

Olympics: the taking part

In Mark Perryman’s latest piece on the Olympics he questions the claim that that Participation will be a main legacy of the London 2012 Games. 

The Olympic Motto “The most important thing is not the winning but the taking part” represents many of the finest ideals of any model of sport as democratic, participative and accessible. As the Jubilee hoopla fades away the forthcoming summer of sport – Euro 2012, a serious British challenger to win the Tour de France, Wimbledon fortnight, overseas rugby tours to the southern hemisphere, a domestic test match series and the first, and last home Olympics for most of our lifetimes – will no doubt test those sentiments  to the full. A nation that invented a decent proportion of the world’s team sports has a perhaps not wholly unforgivable difficulty coping with the countries which it exported those games to, promptly defeating the inventor-nation. However adding in a martial and imperial tradition, and CLR James’ famous maxim ‘What do they know of cricket who only cricket knows’, indicates the need for a social and political context in which to understand the British as not the world’s best losers. Continue reading…

Arsene Wenger Profile

Sian Ranscombe profiles the man who single-handedly changed the culture of a football club.

I appreciate that a profile on a person is normally written without too much emotion or bias. I appreciated this long and hard while writing and rewriting the first paragraph for this profile – and then again as I rewrote the rewrite. I eventually decided it would be far easier to ignore this fact and go for it regardless. This is a profile on Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, unfortunately written by an Arsenal fan and, worse, one who would most definitely list Mr. Wenger right at the top in a list of ideal dinner party guests. Sorry.

In August 2011, Arsene Wenger was under fire. Journalists, football supporters, pundits and former players alike began adding their voice to the constantly simmering minority in expressing the opinion that Wenger was a man who had taken his job as far as he could. Some were respectful in their criticism, claiming he ought to be applauded for his achievements but equally that he ought to close the door quietly behind him as he bowed out. Others were less diplomatic in their views that he was past it. Football fans, a mildly insane bunch at the best of times, have an incredible ability to take any old fact and suit it to their own agenda. Some Arsenal fans claimed they wanted their Arsenal back. When pushed, few could explain exactly what this Arsenal they spoke and dreamt of was, but it sure sounded better than the current predicament to some. Continue reading…

Ordinary Boys

When Ron Greenwood became England Manager in 1977 he tried to replicate the success of the English Club side of the time by picking a team with six Liverpool players in his first game in charge. At the same time Roy Hodgson was in his first Managerial role, in Sweden, at Halmstead, but something must have stuck, because thirty five years on, Hodgson’s first match had five Liverpool players appearing at some point in the game for England.

Rather than being League and European Champions the current Liverpool side of course finished eighth in the League, a position that reflected their performances, which cricket commentators would describe as “ordinary”. And the tone of Hodgson’s overall squad selection – average and uninspired – was also the style of a pedestrian 1-0 away to a Norway side currently managed by long-ball advocate Egil Olsen. Continue reading…

Olympics: Race

With John Carlos, one of the Mexico ‘68 podium protesters, on a speaking tour of Britain, author Mark Perryman’s latest contribution to The Substantive describes the continuing relationship the Games has with race.

United on the Mexico podium by their fierce opposition to racism Tommie Smith, Peter Norman and John Carlos used the medal ceremony for what has become an iconic moment of public protest. Its durability as an image of anti-racism in sport and beyond is testament to the global platform the Olympics provided. Even before satellite TV and digital media, the dignified audacity of the three medal-winners became an overnight world-wide news story. Continue reading…

Negative

Saturday was billed as “The Day of Destiny” by Sky Sports, with two big football finals where in the build-up we led to believe the prize for the first one, the Championship play-off final, was bigger because of the financial rewards. A strange way to measure the prize in sport. On a similar note, Chelsea’s win in the Champions League meant they qualified for the tournament next year, which in itself will probably be worth around at least £20m in extra revenue than being in the Europa League; but you don’t get medals, open-top bus parades or a place in the Club’s roll-of-honour for increased turnover, although in Chelsea’s case, their finances have been key to their success.

However, even with the backing of a billionaire owner for nine years that allowed them to have the luxury of a £50m player on the bench despite a handful of suspensions, Chelsea’s approach to the game was that of an underdog looking for a giant killing, with defensive, negative tactics; and as Johan Cruyff told De Telegraaf, the outcome was one that no-one, other than Chelsea fans, could be happy with.

As with the game earlier in the day, when West Ham beat Blackpool with a late goal in a 2-1 win, the better side lost. Blackpool played some excellent football at Wembley, and like Bayern later in the evening, had their finishing been up to scratch on the day, would have run out comfortable winners. So it was nice that the following night Napoli beat Juventus 2-0 with a fluid, attacking passing game that stopped the Italian Champions completing a double, and going through their domestic season unbeaten with their often pragmatic approach. Continue reading…



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