Saturday, 26 December 2009

Blues 0 Chelsea 0

Football on Boxing Day, always a football tradition in this country. I went down to watch Birmingham at home to Chelsea this afternoon. I took my dad along with me as part of his Christmas present. It was quite a lively entertaining game for a 0-0, but I think we should be beating the likes of Chelsea at home!

But seriously, who would have thought at the start of the season we'd be drawing at home to Chelsea and extending our unbeaten run to 10 games! Good times at Blues!

Chelsea will be disappointed as they had enough chances to have won the game, but we certainly competed with them and had a few chances of our own. Having seen the replays, I'm still not sure why Christian Benitez's first half goal was disallowed for off-side.

I think like most Blues fans I'm amazed at how well the season is currently going. I still look at the League table expecting to see us in 16th spot anxiously looking over our shoulders at the bottom three, but instead we're in the top 10 with 29 points from from 19 games.

I'm not sure whether I should be looking down the table or up, but I'm still thinking that with three more wins that will guarantee our Premiership safety.

There's a whole different atmosphere down at Blues these days, and it all began with the Carson Yeung takeover. I have to admit I was a little wary of what to expect from him when the takeover deal went through, but I think that was more to do with the fact that he appeared to be such an unknown quantity.

Since he's taken over, both he and his management team have made a real effort to communicate with the fans and get them back on side following the rather strained relationship the fans had with the previous owners.

So yes, overall it's a good time to be a Bluenose, in fact it's a good time to be a football fan in Birmingham. I admit I have a grudging respect for what Villa are doing this season as well. (yes you did read that correctly) It's all good for West Midlands football, and hopefully the media can spend a bit more time focusing on us instead of the big clubs in London, Manchester, and Liverpool.

Up the Blues!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Christmas No 1 battle!

In today's Guardian I've been reading all about the battle for the Christmas number No 1. It's a straight fight between two different music cultures. On the one side there's this year's X Factor winner Joe McElderry and then bizarrely on the other we have the punk, rock, rap combination of Rage Against the Machine!

If you're wondering how an earth RATM's early 90s classic 'Killing in the name of' has suddenly emerged as a Christmas No 1 contender, it's all part of an organised campaign being waged against Simon Cowell and X Factor's recent monopoly of the Christmas No 1 spot.

Despite all of this, and the desire to stick two fingers up at Cowell and prevent McElderry getting to No 1. The campaign seems just as cynical and manipulative as anything that Cowell's previously done with X Factor.

The campaign was started on Facebook by a Tracy and Jon Morter who created a Facebook group entitled 'Rage Against the Machine for Christmas No 1'.

The group soon developed into a rallying cry for those people fed up with X Factor winners claiming the Christmas No 1 slot. The same thing happened last year with people trying to get Jeff Buckley's version of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' to No. 1 ahead of last year's X Factor winner Alexandra Burke.

I have to say I find it all a little childish. What's been created is an artificial battle that has nothing to do with people going out and buying a record based on its current popularity but rather a cynical attempt to prove a point to Simon Cowell.

So what if X Factor winners dominate the Christmas No 1 charts, if that's what the buying public want to hear then fair enough. It's up to other artists and record companies to produce and market a record that will appeal to the public for them to go out and buy it.

On a personal level I don't understand why the people behind the RATM campaign even take the charts so seriously in the first place! Again it's just the cliched idea that Simon Cowell is some sort of evil pop music svengali who's dominating the charts and preventing 'proper' artists from achieving success.

This attitude is more reminiscent of a 6th Form Common Room, full of silly students who think their musical tastes are culturally superior to most of the public, but then begin crying when their favourite bands start to become big and everyone including the masses starts liking them. It's time some people grew up!

There's a attitude amongst certain music fans, perfectly illustrated by the likes of the NME who always need something to define themselves against in order to demonstrate their superior musical tastes. These people can never be happy just listening and appreciating their own music. Instead they have to constantly tell the rest of us, just how bad shows like the X Factor are and the negative impact it has on the quality of the music charts.

As someone who has listened to music since the early 80s I know for a fact that there's never been an occasion where the charts haven't been slated by so called proper music fans.

Earlier in the week in an interview with BBC6 Music, RATM's guitarist Tommy Morello was quoted saying:

'I think people are fed up of being spoon-fed some sugary ballad that sits on top of the charts. It's a little dose of anarchy'

Is it really? Is this what anarchy looks like these days. Stopping an 18 year X Factor winner getting the Christmas No 1? It's hardly bringing about a new world order is it?

Besides, I'm not being spoon fed anything! I have my own tastes in music that I'm happy with and it doesn't bother me in the slightest whether what I like happens to be No 1 in the charts or totally obscure to the majority of the population.

RATM's lead singer Zack de la Rocha told Radio 5 Live that the campaign was:

'a wonderful statement... it says something about the real tensions that people are experiencing all over the UK and US as well, as people would love to experience something which reflects this.'

It really does wind me up to read such nonsense as the above statement, it smacks of pretentiousness to such an extent that I now want Joe McElderry to get to No 1 instead.

So for the first time in quite some time I will be eagerly anticipating this Sunday's Top 40 countdown, hoping that X Factor triumphs, something I never thought I'd hear myself saying.

Updated on 20 November 2009

Rage Against the Machine's 'killing in the name of' did become this year's Christmas No 1

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Women football managers

Could there ever be a day when a women becomes manager of a men's professional football club? Imagine a women managing a club in the Premiership. It might sound far fetched, but it may well happen sooner then some people think.

I was reading an article on the BBC website earlier this week, about the current England women's football manager Hope Powell who said she would consider coaching a men's team. The question is, would any male professional football club consider employing a women to manage the team?

According to rumours, Powell was in the running to take on the position of manager at Grimsby Town after it was reported that she was seen leaving a restaurant with the club's chairman John Fenty.

Hope Powell

Powell has been hugely successful managing the England women's team, and when I read this story I thought it was intriguing that she was being linked with potentially managing a men's football league club.

If that ever happened it would be such a huge news story and a significant event for football not just in this country but around the world.

As a black women, Powell would be a footballing combination of Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton all rolled into one. It would send out such a strong message in terms of equality and diversity within society.

Of course you can imagine the huge obstacles any female manager would have to overcome. I think mainly in gaining the respect of the footballers in the team. Despite her success with the woman's England team, there will still be those that will argue that her experience does not match that of managing a professional men's team.

Years ago, I remember watching a drama series on Channel Four called the The Manageress in which the actress Cherie Lunghi played a female manager of a professional men's football team. It was quite entertaining, but at no point did you ever think it could be a reality.

The programme aired 20 years ago, and since then the only women I can think of to have any real impact on the men's professional game are Karen Brady at Birmingham City, and the TV cook Delia Smith at Norwich.

We're probably still a long way off from ever having a female manager of a men's team, but if more women emerge such as Hope Powell, then the idea might not seem as far fetched as we might think.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Tiger's human after all!

It's almost impossible to avoid Tiger Woods stories at the moment. Everyday there's another revelation about his private life, another alleged mistress comes out of the woodwork. It's amazing that someone who previously had an image of being so boringly perfect and inoffensive has been leading such a colourful private life!

Since the story broke, I've been following the story mainly through the celebrity website TMZ. They seriously know their stuff, and what ever stories they run, seem to get picked up by the rest of the media.

I've never been a Tiger Woods fan. Not because I have anything against him personally. It's more to the fact that I can't stand golf!

I find the game totally boring, there's nothing about it that appeals to me. Following on from that, I've never found Tiger Woods remotely interesting either. If anything I've always found his public persona to be bland, middle of the road and boringly apolitical.

You might think that as the greatest player to have played the game, as well as being the first, and so far only black superstar in what's essentially a white middle class sport, he might have held some appeal to me.

Far from it. I still have no interest in the sport or him as a person!

The thing is, nobody really knows who Tiger Woods is. That's how I feel anyway. He's always come across as some marketing man's dream. The great golfer, who also happens to be black, who's so clean cut and upstanding. Yet behind that manufactured image he was really just some 'preppy fratboy'

I read a great piece on Woods today, by the media journalist Roy Greenslade in the London Evening Standard. He made a really good point about how Woods and other celebrities in such times of crisis always call for the media to respect their privacy.

In Wood's case he's made millions of dollars in endorsements and advertising contracts by promoting and marketing himself as this supposedly perfect, clean cut, no scandals sports star. This is his 'brand' which he's been partly responsible for in creating.

Greenslade's point is that he's traded and profited on his fame and persona, the fact that his personal misbehaviour has now compromised this image, means he can't have too many complaints about media intrusion.

In time this whole episode may do him some good. All that's happened is that we now know he's just like everyone else and isn't so perfect. I'm sure he and his marketing team will be thinking up some new strategy on how he can emerge from this setback, with his brand still in tact.

He might suddenly start appearing on talk shows giving interviews, presenting himself as now an ordinary guy like the rest of us who makes mistakes! I should be some celebrity PR guru myself!

Despite his current problems his sporting achievements will always outweigh anything else he does. All he's done is show he's just another sportsman who likes to sleep around. He's not the first and won't be the last.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

World Cup draw

So England will play the USA, Algeria, and Slovenia in the 1st round group stage in next year's World Cup. No England fan can possibly complain with this draw. The game against the USA will be a good test, but overall there's a lot of reasons to be optimistic.

I don't really know much about Algeria and Slovenia, but you'd expect England to be too strong for them. The USA game will be interesting. Already I'm hearing how it will be our chance to avenge our shock defeat to them in the 1950 World Cup finals.

Looking at the rest of the draw, like most people I'm pleased England avoided France and Portugal. I have to say I'm totally bored with playing Portugal in major championships!

Assuming England top Group C, they will face the runner up from Group D which includes Germany, Australia, Serbia, and Ghana. You'd expect Germany to top the group, but any one of the remaining three could finish second.

I'd prefer not to play Australia, purely on the fact that we have such a big sporting rivalry with them. The game would be too much like a derby match, and anything could happen.

As for the rest of the groups the most interesting is clearly group G with Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, and Portugal.

I'm disappointed that Ivory Coast are in such a tough group again, as I had high hopes that they could make a real breakthrough in this World Cup for African nations. Even if they get out of the group behind favourites Brazil, they're most likely to end up playing Spain in the Second round.

With Group G being the most interesting and nearest thing to a 'Group of death' I've decided Groups E and F are competing for the title of 'Group of Boredom'

Holland, Denmark, Japan, and Cameroon in Group E hardly sets football pulses racing, but the winner has to be Group F. In that group you have Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, and Slovakia.

The Italians always have a reputation for being slow starters. If they get off to another slow start it will surely be down to the tedium of the opposition they face.

In saying this, I'll probably still end up watching just about every game in the tournament regardless of who's playing!

Only six months to go, let the count down begin.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

The London Tube - A fight for survival!

A dog eat dog world, everyman for themselves! A Darwinian struggle for survival, where only the strong survive and the weak perish. Sounds like a nightmarish vision of a society gone wrong? Actually it's life on the London Tube according to a report published this week by the London Assembly, which revealed shocking levels of overcrowding on the underground!

Apologies to those of you who don't live and work in London and don't have to use the Tube on a daily basis. But for those of us who do, this report only confirms what we already know!

Perhaps my introduction was a little tongue in cheek, but I think most people will admit it can be a battle some days.

In the report entitled 'Too Close for Comfort' passengers told researchers that they 'suspended normal codes of behaviour' when travelling on the Tube.

One person was quoted as saying 'I'm a different animal on the tube..' All of this said as a result of the stress and challenges of the rush hour commute!

The two worst lines for overcrowding were the Central and Northern, which by coincidence are the two lines I use everyday to get to work!

No matter how stressful and uncomfortable some journeys might be, I can't say that I turn into a completely different person and abandon all my usual codes of conduct.

For me its all about going into your daily commute with the right attitude. Not that you're going to war, but you've got to be 'up for it' so to speak. A certain assertiveness is needed when travelling during rush hour.

I've lost count over the times where I might be running late, the next train is coming in 2 minutes and there's no room on the platform to move. I think to myself: 'I am getting on this train no matter what! This train has my name on it!'

I'm not going to literally fight to get on, but I'm going to do what I need to do within acceptable public behaviour to make sure I'm on it.

At the end of the day despite what the report has said and highlighted, it doesn't mean to say that anything is going to change soon, because it most likely isn't.

Since the first time I moved to London, the tube has always been overcrowded, but you just except it as being one of the downsides and frustrations of London life. London makes up for it in other ways. I also think packed overcrowded transport systems are just part and parcel of modern big city living.

To be honest I've been to other major cities around the world, Tokyo is one place that springs to mind. Overcrowding on their train and metro system is ridiculous, but they do redeem themselves by the fact that the words 'delay' or 'engineering works' simply don't exist.

You'd like to think there's going to be major improvements on the tube network in the next few years, particularly with the Olympics in 2012, but you can't help but be cynical about these things and feel that nothing will really change!

Tech Etiquette

I was sent a link to this article yesterday which I thought was quite amusing! It's called Ten Tips to Tech Etiquette, you can read it here.

I had to laugh and nod my head in agreement with some of the comments!

Having read the article, had to agree with the comment about Google. Office discussions and debates always seem to end these days with 'Lets Google or Wikipedia it!'

Definitely liked the comment on 'Drippy Facebook Losers' I had a bit of a moan the other week about the annoying friends request you get from people on Facebook.

Those requests from people you hardly know, or who you were never friends with in the first place!

The other annoying thing about Facebook is peoples inability to have a private life anymore!

Every personal thought and private details of someone's life, all have to be shared with the rest of the world these days. Lets learn to separate our private and public lives shall we.