Friday, 31 December 2010

Premier League half term report: Part 2

Here's part 2 of my Premier League review.

Clubs M - W

  • Man Utd - The ‘unconvincing invincibles’ is how I’d describe Man Utd this season.

  • Man City - Ignoring all the money and media scrutiny, Man City can win the Premier League this season.

  • Spurs - Some of the best games I’ve seen this season have involved Spurs.

  • Newcastle....continually try their best to show everyone they’re a joke of a football club.

  • Manchester City

    After years of plodding along in middling mediocrity, you can’t look at the back pages of the papers anymore without seeing another Man City story.

    Ignoring all the money and media scrutiny, Man City can win the Premier League this season.

    They’ve got the players, it’s just a question of whether they believe they can win it; and if the team spirit is there in the squad.

    If they’re going to win the league or come close then it’s obvious that Carlos Tevez needs to be on form and kept happy.

    I don’t really understand all the stuff surrounding his transfer request. I thought it was just a family issue, but there’s more to it then that.

    To be honest I’m getting bored with Man City. They're like neighbours down the road who’ve suddenly won the lottery.

    Now you can never get any piece and quiet because there’s always some drama going on at their place.

    Man City to finish second

    Manchester Utd

    The ‘unconvincing invincibles’ is how I’d describe Man Utd this season. Still unbeaten, but they’ve hardly setting the world alight.

    Despite all this they look in poll position to win the title for a record 19th time. The advantage that Utd have is that they’re the least flawed out of all their rivals for the title.

    If I was a Man Utd fan, my biggest concern would be Wayne Rooney.

    After the soap opera of the will he/won’t he leave, he’s signed a new contract but still doesn’t look anywhere near the form we associate with him.

    He’s hardly done anything for Utd or England since he got injured back in March.

    Dare I say it, is Rooney actually just overrated? Perhaps he’s just not as good as people thought he was.

    I think Utd will win the title, but Rooney needs to improve.


    This is nothing personal against Newcastle fans, but Newcastle continually try their best to show everyone they’re a joke of a football club.

    The sacking of Chris Hughton is without question the most ridiculous decision made by any club this season. The only positive is that his reputation shouldn’t be damaged too much.

    Before Mike Ashley’s decision, Newcastle were having a pretty good if slightly inconsistent season.

    Ashley’s claim that he wanted a more experienced manager might have made sense if someone like Martin O’Neill had come in, but Alan Pardew? His experience of the Premiership isn’t that great.

    Recent results have been quite poor, and with so few points separating teams at the bottom, Newcastle are going to be battling out like a lot of other clubs to stay up.


    Stoke get a lot of criticism for their style of play - there can be a lot of snobbery in the Premier League when you support a so called ‘unfashionable club’ and Stoke have been on the receiving end of this.

    I do have a lot of respect for Tony Pulis and what Stoke have achieved in recent seasons, although only Stoke fans can love their style of play.

    I watched the Stoke/Birmingham game on Sky earlier in the season – the beautiful game it wasn’t! In saying that, the second half was really entertaining.

    Stoke are having another good season. For so long, I looked at Stoke as being your quintessential Championship club, in a championship town.

    They’ve now re-invented themselves as a solid if unglamorous mid table Premier League club.


    Ignoring the 5-1 humiliation against Newcastle, it’s been a good season so far for Sunderland.

    They’re not exceeding expectations nor are they under-performing. They look on course for a top 10 finish, which is good progress under Steve Bruce.

    They don’t seem to be relying so heavily on Darren Bent’s goals as they were last season, and the signing of Asamoah Gyan looks a good move, even if he was over priced at £13 million.


    I wouldn’t normally advise anyone visiting London to take a trip to Tottenham, except if you want some footballing entertainment.

    Some of the best games I’ve seen this season have involved Spurs.

    Harry Rednapp thinks Tottenham can win the League. He must be the only person who thinks so.

    Rafael van der Vaart, must be the signing of the season. So many foreign players struggle to adapt to English football, but van der Vaart looks as if the Premier League is his natural home.

    You can’t talk about Spurs without mentioning Gareth Bale, who’s beginning to look world class. Funny how things can change, it wasn't that long ago people were saying Spurs always lost whenever Bale played.

    What can Spurs do this season? They can certainly beat Milan in the Champions League and progress to the semis (need to avoid Barcelona and Madrid).

    I can see them battling it out with Chelsea of Arsenal for the last Champions League spot.

    West Brom

    Everyone’s favourite yo-yo club!

    I went to the Hawthorns last September to watch Birmingham play, and was really impressed by West Brom.

    It’s been a great start to the season, with every West Brom fan beginning to believe this return to the Premier League won’t result in the usual ending of relegation back to the Championship.

    Unfortunately for West Brom their recent results have taken a dip, despite good performances. They’re getting dragged back down again.

    I would like to see them stay up this time, but they seem to struggle when Peter Odemwingie isn’t playing. They need to keep him fit – If they do they should survive.

    West Ham

    Where would West Ham be without Scott Parker?

    It would be all over for them without him, he’s been an inspiration. You still keep hearing stories of him going to Spurs, but he surely isn’t going to go in January.

    Bottom at Christmas, usually means relegation, but West Ham aren’t dead and buried yet. If they beat Wolves on New Year’s Day, it would probably take them out of the relegation zone.

    West Ham look a mess to be honest. I know David Sullivan and Karen Brady will eventually sort things out off the pitch, but there’s not much to inspire confidence on the pitch.

    Talking about inspiring confidence, everytime I see and hear Avram Grant on telly, I think ‘Is this man able to inspire anyone?’

    I can speak from first hand knowledge as a Birmingham fan to know, that Sullivan and David Gold don’t sack managers, but even if they manage to stay up, I can’t see Grant being in charge next season.


    What can I say about Wigan?

    At best Wigan are a League One club, artificially inflated by the money of Dave Whelan.

    They’re a poor side, but everytime I think they going to sink to the bottom of the table, they keep producing results that keep their head above water.

    I know every fan looks at certain clubs in the Premier League and thinks ‘I won’t miss them if they go down’ a lot of fans might think that about my own club, Birmingham.

    But with Wigan I really wouldn’t miss them if they got relegated, as a club I don’t think they bring much to the Premier League table.

    Sorry Wigan fans!


    Honest, hardworking, battling, no nonsense – words that spring to mind when you think about Wolves.

    They’re a mirror image of the manager Mick McCarthy.

    After losing to Wigan over Christimas I thought that was it - they were going down, but after beating Liverpool a few days ago they’re back in touch with everyone.

    Wolves concede too many goals and don’t score enough - which can only mean goodbye Premier League, hello Championship.

    As I write this they’ve got a massive game against West Ham on New Year’s day.

    With the league so tight, you can’t say that whoever loses will go down, but if one of them loses you've got to make them favourites for relegation.

    Thursday, 30 December 2010

    My top 10 blog posts of 2010

    As it's the last week of the year, I've decided to have a look at my most popular blogs for 2010.

    According to the stats, these are the blogs which received the biggest number of page views.

    There's one or two surprises, but it's interesting to see which topics have gained the most interest.

    1. Is the countryside racist?

    What a hot topic this was.

    By far the most viewed post of 2010. I wrote this blog in response to an article in the Sunday Times magazine.

    The Guardian picked up on the story a few weeks later, and I left a comment on the Guardian's website. This probably explains the high number of people who then clicked onto my blog.

    2. Rugby and football - Two sports, two different worlds!

    After going to Twickenham, my thoughts on the difference between going to watch football and rugby

    3. Charlie Brooker - Newswipe

    Charlie Brooker's brilliant Newswipe series on BBC 4

    4. New Drama Series - Any Human Heart

    Possibly my favourite book of all time, adapted into a great 4 part drama series.

    5. City break in Boston

    I spent a couple of days in Boston at the beginning of November. A nice city with a very chilled out vibe.

    6. A benefits revolution

    A bit of politics!

    The coalition government announce plans for a change in the benefits system.

    7. Student Tuition Fees - The debate nobody's talking about

    Well, I had quite a few lively debates with people at work after I posted this blog. Special mention goes out to Andre who felt very passionate over the rise in tuition fees.

    Said he was going to leave a comment. Hope he gets round to it.

    8. New shopping centre in the City of London

    I was surprised to see this post in the top ten. If you're ever in the heart of London's financial district check out One New Exchange.

    9. How many shoes do you have?

    Definitely one for the men out there!

    Had some funny conversations with lads at work on this one.

    10. Time to reform FIFA, but we have to do it from the inside

    A humiliating end to England's bid for the 2018 World Cup.

    England can still hold their heads up high, not sure you can say the same about FIFA.

    Wednesday, 29 December 2010

    Premier League half term report: Part 1

    As we're half way through the football season, I thought I'd give my thoughts on each club.

    It's been a very strange but fascinating Premier League so far. None of the big clubs have been that convincing, and as we come to the end of the year, it's still impossible to confidently predict who will go down.

    Clubs A - L

  • Chelsea ...a dip that turned into a slump, now looks like terminal decline for the league champions.

  • Arsenal - Don’t be fooled be the table that says they’re in contention, they won’t win it.

  • Aston Villa - A winter of discontent awaits... As a Birmingham fan there’ll be no gloating from me.

  • Blackpool - What a story this is.

  • Liverpool - In all my years of following football, I’ve never seen Liverpool at such a low ebb

  • Click on the read more link to read my thoughts in full.

    Full report


    I could write the same thing about Arsenal every single season.

    Don’t be fooled be the table that says they’re in contention, they won’t win it.

    As much as you can admire and respect Arsene Wenger’s achievements, he is unbelievably stubborn. Wenger still refuses to go out and buy a decent keeper and for that reason alone they won’t win the League.

    They’ve had some terrible results at home which makes you wonder whether Arsenal have the mental strength to become champions. I don’t think they do.

    Arsenal will finish third, get knocked out by Barcelona in the Champions League, and might win the League Cup, which after years of thinking it was a run out for the kids, they now feel they have to win.

    Arsenal will always play great football, we know all this. But if I was a Gooner I'd be starting to question how much longer Arsenal can go on playing beautiful football that wins nothing!

    Aston Villa

    A winter of discontent awaits Villa. As a Birmingham fan there’ll be no gloating from me.

    Martin O’Neill leaving just before the start of the season left the club in a real mess. There was clearly an issue between him and Randy Lerner over the club’s transfer policy and the amount available to spend on new players.

    There was also the issue of some of the high salaries being paid at Villa to players bought by O’Neill who were never getting a look in. I know a lot of Villa fans were unhappy that O’Neill appeared to have favourites who he would always pick

    Villa have started to look like a selling club with Gareth Barry and James Milner both going to Man City.

    Gerard Houllier’s come in, and things are getting worse for Villa. Has Houllier been out of the Premier League for too long?

    Certain players in the squad are making life difficult for Houllier (I'm looking at you John Carew) and his assistant Gary Mcallister. They either need to be shipped out fast or Houllier may be on his way out

    Only bright spot for Villa are the young kids coming through, should save the club a lot of money long term.


    The Blues, my own club

    There’s a number of reasons to believe Blues could go down this season. We don’t score many goals, have little creativity, never win away from home, and our star signing Nikola Zigic has been terrible.

    I’m still confident that we’ll stay up though. Our home form is the key, which by anyone’s standards is impressive, three defeats in the last 18 months.

    Secondly, teams that get relegated usually concede loads of goals. That’s something that Blues don’t do, our defence is our strongest point.

    Ben Foster in goal has been the player of the season so far, and the Scott Dann - Roger Johnson central defensive partnership is still in fine form.

    Staying up this season will be a success, but there are a number of issues that need addressing.

    There’s no pace in the team, particularly on the flanks. Up front, Cameron Jerome is too erratic, and Zigic on present form has struggled to adapt to the physical side of English football. If only Kevin Phillips was 10 or even 5 years younger.


    Under Sam Allardyce Blackburn fans knew what they were getting. The football wasn’t great or entertaining, but the team would be well organised, competitive and would still be in the Premier League next season.

    The sacking of Allardyce should have been the most ridiculous decision of the season - that honour has already gone to Newcastle. (I'll come onto that later)

    With Allardyce gone there's a big question mark hanging over the club.

    Under their new Indian owners, all that stability has been ripped apart. I can see them flirting with relegation now, but they should still have enough to stay up.

    Just being in the Premier League is an achievement for a club like Blackburn, they’ve been almost a permanent fixture in the league for the last 15 years or so. It shows how well the club’s been run.

    The new owners need to get real quickly or they could find themselves running a Championship club very soon.


    What a story this is.

    When Blackpool were promoted, I thought there couldn’t be a more ill equipped team to have come up and compete in Premier League history. How wrong I was.

    They’ve had some amazing results, and what’s been even more impressive is the number of wins away from home. They’ve scored goals and haven’t been afraid to come out and play

    Ian Holloway was always one of those lower league managers who was a bit of a ‘character’ the type that journalists love as he was always quotable and good entertainment.

    What’s great is that he’s now in the Premiership and showing the football world that he has some impressive managerial qualities.

    I keep expecting the Blackpool bubble to burst, but just when I think it’s going to happen they produce a result like yesterday, beating Sunderland away.

    It’s hard to see them going down now.


    Bolton the new media darlings, now that they’ve starting passing the ball around under Owen Coyle.

    Having a great season so far, I’d love to know what Coyle’s been doing with Elmander, he looked terrible wheb Bolton first signed him, now he looks world class!

    Perhaps playing a more attractive style of football might tempt more fans down the Reebok. With the likes of Villa and Everton struggling, this might be great chance for Bolton to finish in the top eight.


    A few months ago it looked like Chelsea were cruising to the Premier League title, but a dip that turned into a slump now looks like terminal decline for the league champions.

    They’ve had too many key players out injured, the likes of Lampard, and Essien have been hugely missed, but there’s suddenly no strength in depth with Chelsea.

    They got rid of a load of players last summer, but haven’t replaced them
    and there doesn’t seem to be much coming through from the youth team.

    The entire squad is too old, and Ambramovich hasn’t indicated he’s willing to spend the sort of money that he was doing a few years back. There's been a lack of long term planning with Chelsea.

    Unless there’s a dramatic improvement, I can’t see Chelsea winning the league this season. Qualifying for the Champions League might be the best they can hope for.


    I’ve always admired Everton under David Moyes. To use a boxing analogy, you could argue that ‘pound for pound’ they’ve been the best performing team in the Premier League for a number of seasons now.

    In terms of Everton’s size, resources, spending power, their results and league finishes have been excellent.

    They’re finding it tough going at the moment though – mainly because they don’t have striker. Saha always seems injured, don’t know what’s happened to Yakubu, and Beckford has found the step up from League 1 with Leeds to the Premiership pretty big.

    With the amount of foreign owners in the league it does surprise me why nobody has come in to buy Everton. With some real investment it would interesting to see how well Moyes and Everton could do.

    As it is, I can see them improving but mid table is perhaps the best they can hope for this season.


    It’s going to be a long hard season for Fulham. If the timing had been better, Mark Hughes could have found himself managing Aston Villa, but the Fulham job came up first and he took it.

    I always feel with clubs like Fulham, just keeping them up and competing in the Premier League is a form of success.

    After the achievements of last season it was always going to be hard for Mark Hughes. Fulham’s biggest problem is the loss of Bobby Zamora, their most important and influential player.

    I don’t know how much longer he’s going to be out injured, but without him they’re going to struggle. They should just have enough to stay up but it’ll be close.


    In all my years of following football, I’ve never seen Liverpool at such a low ebb. It’s going to be years before they really challenge for the title again.

    I thought Roy Hodgson was a really good appointment when he came in, but hardly anything has gone right for him. Perhaps it's a case of the wrong manager at the wrong club, at the wrong time?

    I don’t think Rafa Benitez left the Liverpool in a great state, so many mediocre players that should never have played for Liverpool.

    Fernando Torres has become a mystery. His form has been dreadful at times, and his body language hasn’t been great.

    I wonder whether Liverpool might be better off selling him and using the money to rebuild the squad - get some strenght in depth.

    Home form’s been good, (but lost to Wolves at home tonight) but away they’ve been awful. Hard to say whether Hodgson will last the season.

    Next summer will be crucial for Liverpool, possibly the most important pre-season in the club’s history and a chance for their new owners to show their ambition and plans for the future.

    Friday, 24 December 2010

    How long will the coalition last for?

    Another bad week in government for the Lib Dems.

    Poor old Vince Cable, he received a public slapping down by David Cameron and Nick Clegg following his comments about Rupert Murdoch.

    I haven’t decided yet if I agree with the Telegraph’s methods of using two undercover reporters to secretly record a conversation with Cable. The Business Secretary claimed he had ‘declared war’ on Rupert Murdoch’s attempts to take full control of BskyB.

    Under any other government Cable would have been sacked for saying this, but it looks like it's been decided the coalition will be stronger with Cable in it, rather than out.

    It’s no secret Vince Cable's found it difficult working with the Tories. Now more stories are coming out about other Lib Dem ministers privately opposing government policies

    For the first time since the government came to power, it got me thinking that perhaps the coalition won’t last a full term.

    How times have changed for Vince Cable. At the start of the year he was everyone’s favourite MP, Saint Vince, he could do no wrong, now he’s being humiliated in public.

    I’m sure the Telegraph were partly motivated to try and expose more divisions within the coalition, but it shouldn’t really be a surprise to people that there are policy disagreements between government ministers. Have people forgot how divided New Labour was between Blairites and Brownites?

    I have to say, I don’t get the attitude of some Lib Dem ministers. They’ve been given a great opportunity of being in government, but instead of trying to make the most of it, too many seem happy to complain about how difficult life is working with the Tories.

    Considering the number of seats won at the last election, the Lib Dems have had a disproportionate influence on this government.

    Despite this influence, the Party looks like it’s trying to prevent an emotional breakdown as it battles the internal conflicts of being in government with the Tories.

    You get the impression that some Lib Dems would prefer to be out of government but still have their principles. That's the easy option.

    You can shout from the sidelines knowing that you’ll never have to put any policies into practice or be scrutinised by the public.

    The more complaints I here from Lib Dems, the more I think the coalition might not last the course.

    David Cameron, and Nick Clegg may have a good working relationship, but they’re both leading parties whose backbench members are increasingly uncomfortable and unsatisfied with the current arrangements.

    There must be loads of Tory backbenchers who are sick of the Lib Dems having so much influence, but they're not making as much noise as their Lib Dem counterparts.

    If the coalition was to collapse there would have to be another election. I’d expect the Lib Dems to take a battering and strangely enough I could see Labour getting re-elected.

    It sounds bizarre as Ed Milliband hasn't made the strongest start to life as Labour leader. He’s still trying to define what Labour under his leadership stands for.

    But if the government’s cuts start biting and the public become more unhappy they may turn back to Labour, almost by default.

    The optimism of Cameron and Clegg in the back garden of No 10 celebrating the new coalition feels like a very long time ago.

    I think 2011 could be a long a very long year for the Lib Dems and the government.

    Sunday, 12 December 2010

    Currently listening to Janelle Monae, John Legend and Roots, and Kanye West

    Here's a selection of some of the albums I've recently been listening to. First up is Janelle Monae.

    I was listening to Giles Peterson's Radio 1 show a few months back when I first heard about her.

    Her debut album out at the moment is called Archandroid. It's hard to describe the album or Monae's style. I would say if you liked Gnarls Barkley and Cee Lo's recent stuff you'll probably like Janelle Monae.

    Archandroid is one of those albums that's difficult to pigeon hole, it's got a bit of everything, soul, funk, folk, electronica, it's just hard to categorise. Still a great debut album though.

    John Legend and the Roots - Wake up!

    I love the Roots, they're one of my favourite bands. I bought their latest album, How I got over earlier this year.

    When I heard they'd recorded another album with the RnB singer John Legend I knew it would be something I'd be interested in hearing.

    They've released the album Wake Up in which they cover a number of protest songs from the 60s and 70s. The idea for the album emerged during the 2008 Presidential campaign.

    The album tries to recapture the political and social messages that many Soul artists were tackling during that period.

    If you like that classic soul sound from that era, with a social message then this album is for you.

    I've uploaded the title track for your listening pleasure.

    Kanye West - Power

    Ever since Kanye transformed himself from hip hop producer to a hip hop superstar I've loved everything he's done, so I was always going to pick up his 5th studio album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

    What I've always loved about Kanye is that he always seems to have something new to offer with each album.

    Every album keeps in touch with hip hop's roots, but he's always pushing the genre forwards. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy continues along that path.

    Saturday, 11 December 2010

    My Favourite Blogs: Lens

    I'm always on the look out for new and interesting blogs, and I found one last week, when I discovered a photography blog called Lens.

    Lens is a The New York Times blog, with the aim of presenting visual and multimedia journalism from around the world in the form of photos and slideshows.

    I was reading an article about a South African photojournalist called Joao Silva who was seriously injured last October, after stepping on a land mine in Afghanistan.

    Friends of the photographer have set up a website to help raise funds to aid his recovery, Silva lost both his legs in the explosion. The website was launched last month and is offering Silva's work for sale as digital prints. So far the fund has raised over $10,000.

    Silva was injured working for the New York Times covering the war in Afghanistan. The article I was reading had a link to the NY Times website, which had a slideshow on its Lens blog of the photos Silva had taken just before he was injured.

    Click here to view photos on the memory card of Silva's camera before he stepped on the landmine.

    Looking at the photos it got me thinking about the importance of pictures in the reporting of news stories.

    After looking at Silva's Afghanistan photos I decided to subscribe to the Lens blog on my RSS feed.

    Everyday, I get updates on the latest slideshow photos from around the world. It's good to see what's going on in different countries, but in the form of photos rather than in news reports on television or in newspapers.

    Click on the links to have a look at some of my favourite slideshows from the last few weeks on the Lens blog.

    Pictures of the day: Norway and elsewhere 10/12/2010

    Pictures of the day: Haiti and elsewhere 08/12/2010

    Pictures of the day: Britain and elsewhere 07/12/2010

    Newfound colours for a portrait of New York 06/12/2010

    Newfound colours for a portrait of New York

    Pictures of the day Ivory Coast and elsewhere 03/12/2010

    Thursday, 9 December 2010

    Student Tuition Fees: The Debate Nobody's talking about.

    I've just been watching the 10:00 news on the BBC - more violent scenes of students protesting in Central London over the proposed rise in tuition fees.

    Prince Charles and Camilla have even been caught up in the trouble, with demonstrators attacking the Royal couple’s car as they tried to make their way to the theatre.

    Hardly a great move by the protesters. That’s what’s going to dominate the news headlines and overshadow all those who took part in peaceful demonstrations.

    I’ve been wondering when I should write something on tuition fees. I think this is as good a time as any seeing as the Coalition government won the vote in parliament today to raise fees.

    When it comes to tuition fees, I keep thinking to myself that nobody’s talking about the issue that’s constantly on my mind, which is this:

    How many graduates do we really need? And what is the purpose of a university education?

    What's obvious is the idea of a free university education is over for students in this country. Anyone wanting to go to university will need to make some contribution.

    The key point is the amount that universities will be allowed to charge students. Fees will potentially treble from the current figure of just over £3000 to an upper limit of 9,000.

    It’s likely that the most prestigious universities, those within the Russell Group are likely to charge some of the highest fees, which they will argue are needed in order to compete with the best universities around the world.

    That’s a strong argument, and it’s important that universities are funded properly in order to compete. The downside is that we might be creating a three-tier university system.

    I can see some people being put off from applying to the best universities because of the high fees, and will choose other courses at less popular less prestigious insititutions.

    If I was a student, or a young person looking at going to university in the next few years, the thought of graduating with between £30 – 40,000 worth of debt would scare the life out of me.

    I understand the argument that this could put off people from poor and working class backgrounds, but not all universities will charge the maximum fees of 9,000, and students won’t need to start paying back the fees until they start earning over £21,000.

    This sounds reasonable, but in reality most graduates are going to spend most of their careers paying off their debts.

    One thing I find annoying is the assumption that most graduates will eventually find jobs where they earn salaries way above the national average, and therefore will be in a position to comfortably pay off their debts.

    Nobody ever seems to focus on those students who might study arts and humanities degrees like English, graduate from a mid ranking university with debts of £30,000 plus; before spending their working career never earning much more than the national average.

    There are loads of graduates earning between £25,000 to £40,000 a year which are good salaries but not exceptional.

    Will these people ever pay off all their debts? I just think to myself, whether having a degree in such circumstances is really worth it?

    This is why I don’t understand why more people aren’t debating the purpose of university and asking how many graduates the country really needs.

    It seems this government like the previous one insists the country needs a large graduate workforce to compete with other nations in the global economy.

    Personally I think we have too many people going to university, and many people have grown up being told they need a degree in order to have any sort of successful career.

    There’s too much emphasis on having a degree in its own right, when the job market is really about relevant skills and experiences and constantly looking to maintain and develop those skills. It’s more important for the country to have a highly trained, skilled workforce.

    University degrees are too often seen as the be all and end all. Not surprisingly people are upset when they’re told they need a degree to be successful in life, yet see the tuition fees increase so much, they no longer think they can afford to go.

    People from poor, working class, and even middle income families will need to think long and hard about whether going to university is really what's right for them.

    Of course people from poorer backgrounds should be encouraged and helped to go to university, particularly the more elite ones, but people will need to really think about what they want from a university education.

    University can't be just an excuse anymore for people to 'mess about' for a three years before they enter the real world.

    Deciding to go to university will now become a serious life choice that will affect people for the rest of their lives. This is what needs to be discussed more, along with questioning the value of degrees rather than just focussing on the student demonstrations and tuition fees.

    Wednesday, 8 December 2010

    England take control of Ashes series

    Great to see England win the Second Ashes Test in Adelaide on Tuesday. You can't get a more comprehensive victory than an innings and 71 runs. England now go 1-0 up in the series.

    It's all looking good for England. I know there's still another three Tests to be played, but I just can't see Australia winning two of those matches to reclaim the Ashes.

    I actually remember the last time England won an Ashes series in Australia back in 1986/87.

    It's ridiculous to think this is probably the first time since then, that England have won in Australia when the Ashes series was still 'alive' so to speak.

    Not taking anything away from England's performances so far which have been great, what this series has really shown is the decline of Australian cricket.

    For the last 20 years Australia have completely dominated world cricket and we're now seeing the end of an era.

    I can't remember an Australian bowling attack that's as mediocre as this one. The fact that some Australians are calling for Shane Warne to come out of retirement only shows just how bad things are.

    As with all great sporting teams, there comes a point were it becomes increasingly difficult to keep replacing highly talented and successful players.

    It looks like Australia are going to spend the next few years in a period of 'transition' which might be hard for Australian cricket fans to accept.

    The Third Test starts in Perth next week. If England win which I can see happening, they'll retain the Ashes.

    Even if they don't win, I can't see Australia bowling England out twice in any of the three remaining Tests. That's what they need to do to have any chance of winning the series.

    After years of endless Ashes Test match defeats, the boot is finally on the other foot. Lets see how long England can keep it up.

    Sunday, 5 December 2010

    Time to reform FIFA, but we have to do it from the inside.

    Well how humiliating was last Thursday for England, in our failed bid for the 2018 World Cup.

    It's one thing to watch England perform ineptly on the pitch and rightly get knocked out of World Cup Finals, it's totally different when you see a strong and credible bid only manage to secure two votes from a possible 22 available and not even make it past the first round of voting.

    If we've learnt anything from last week's vote, it's this. Firstly, England has no political influence whatsoever within FIFA. We'll never hold a World Cup again until this changes.

    Secondly FIFA has reduced the World Cup to an embarrassing bidding contest where countries demean themselves by begging cap in hand for the once in a lifetime chance of holding the World Cup.

    It's worse than watching X Factor!

    Over the last year, I've been quite indifferent to this World Cup bid. Call it an arrogant English sense of entitlement, but I couldn't understand why our bid was struggling to gain any momentum.

    England's strength's seemed obvious. The best stadiums in the world, an infrastructure already in place, and a passion and footballing culture respected and envied around the world.

    Add to this our technical bid and presentation said to be the best, and it still wasn't good enough to get past the first round of voting! Totally ridiculous!

    In a press conference in response to England's failure, chief Executive of the bid Andy Anson claimed FIFA had told him England's bid was being killed by the British Media, following investigations by the Sunday Times and the BBC's Panorama programme into corruption within FIFA.

    England 2018 Chief calls for FIFA reform

    My first reaction is to think how arrogant must FIFA be if it thinks that countries with independent media can't investigate allegations of corruption within the organisation.

    It was good to see BBC Director General Mark Thompson come out today and defend the BBC's decision to screen the Panaroma documentary.

    Ok, the timing wasn't great but why should we be embarrassed about having a free media?

    If that's something FIFA are uncomfortable with, then awarding the 2018 World Cup to Russia is the perfect choice. There are few places in the world were being a journalist is more dangerous than in Russia.

    The truth is England had no chance of winning this bid. The decision had been made a long time ago and it's clear that FIFA is keen to take the World Cup to new territories.

    We've had Japan/South Korea in 2002, South Africa earlier this year, so there's logic in taking it to Russia. I understand that, I just wish FIFA would be more open and honest about these things.

    As for the Qatar holding the World Cup in 2022 - that's a nonsense. What possible reason is there to have a World Cup in Qatar or anywhere in the Middle East?

    If you look at the reaction of the UK media, particularly the Press then many of our opponents can argue that we're all bad losers.

    Perhaps we could go away and accept our defeat with quiet dignity, but on this occasion why should we?

    FIFA's an organisation that is mired in corruption allegations, doesn't know the meaning of the words transparency or accountability, with members who act as if they're untouchable and above public scrutiny.

    It would be easy for England to stand on the sidelines screaming abuse at FIFA. It's understandable to ask, who wants to be part of this organisation?

    The truth is we're only going to change things by gaining more influence, and that means having prominent figures from English football working at the highest levels of FIFA.

    A policy of splendid isolation won't work for anyone, we need to get involved, become more politically savvy and change FIFA for the better.

    England's bid was far from perfect. To begin with it lacked focus, and we've probably been naive about the politics of bidding for the World Cup.

    In saying this we still produced a bid that was highly attractive and the idea of a World Cup in England sells itself. There's no reason for us to feel embarrassed.

    Returning to England's bid CEO Andy Anson, he gave this advice to other countries considering bidding for the World Cup.

    I would say don't bother [bidding to stage a World Cup] unless you know the process is going to change.

    I have to agree.

    Read some of the press reaction to England's failed bid