Monday, 28 November 2011

Gary Speed

I popped down to my local pub back in Birmingham yesterday afternoon to watch the Swansea v Villa game with an old school friend.

I got to the pub looked up at the tv screen to see the players having a minute silence. I asked my friend what this was all about, before he told me Gary Speed was dead. My first word was WHAT!!!

It's not everyday you hear news that leaves you totally stunned. For anyone who's into football, you can't think of a more unbelievable thing to happen. It makes no sense and comes totally out of the blue. The fact that he took his own life raises even more questions which may never be answered.

There's a few famous ex footballers who've had well documented problems with depression, drink and drugs. Without naming names, if you woke up to discover their death you'd be shocked but perhaps not hugely surprised.

The thing about Gary Speed, was that he appeared to be a solid, level headed and well respected professional without any previous stories of off the field problems. This is what makes his death so shocking and sad.

Gary Speed the footballer

As a footballer, I remember Speed being part of the Leeds Utd team that came up from the old Second division at the end of the 80s and took the old first division by storm, winning the League title in 1992.

He was a bit of a pretty boy footballer at the time, the type of player girls would fancy even if they weren't into football.

Throughout the Premier League era, Speed was always a permanent fixture, going on to play for Everton, Newcastle and Bolton. My appreciation of Speed as a footballer really started to develop during his later years at Bolton. Here was someone playing well into their late 30s at the highest level and not looking out of place.

To play in the top flight continuously for more than 20 years tells you a lot about his professionalism and passion for the game. I think that's what I really admire about him as a player, he wasn't a celebrity footballer, but just a great professional.

This whole story is incredibly sad.

Sunday, 27 November 2011


My sister told me about this video that's become an internet sensation this week.

It has to be one of the funniest things I've seen in ages.

A father and son were out in Richmond Park, London filming a herd of dear, when in the background you hear the voice of a middle aged man screaming at his dog Fenton, who's started chasing after the dear.

The video's gone viral, and now there are spin off versions featuring Fenton in films like Jurassic Park and American Warewolf in London.

You know a video must be big when in today's Sunday Times there was an entire feature on the video.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Federer still effortlessly brilliant!

I was at the O2 Arena last night watching the tennis at the ATP World Tour Finals.

I bought tickets a couple of weeks ago for the Tuesday night session, but I didn't know who'd be playing until after the draw had been made.

Imagine my delight when I discovered I'd be seeing Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal playing against each other!

I was expecting another epic battle between two of game's all time greats, so it was quite a surprise to watch Federer totally batter Nadal in under an hour, 6-3 6-0.

With the rise of Novak Djokovic, and fact that Federer hasn't won a Grand Slam for two years, it's easy to think he isn't the player he used to be.

After last night's performance that couldn't be further from the truth. Ok, Nadal was below his best but Federer was sensational - all his shots were played with an effortless grace, it was a privilege to watch.

I've never seen tennis played live before, but I really wanted to get tickets for this event. It's because the standard in mens tennis at the moment is so good, I felt I needed to take advantage of seeing the world's best when they're playing on my doorstep.

Already looking forward to next year. Will Djokovic repeat this year's achievements? Can Federer reclaim his number one crown? Will Andy Murray finally win a Grand Slam?

Whatever happens it's going to be another exciting year for tennis.

Monday, 14 November 2011

I'm back - A news round up!

I've been very quiet on the blogging front in recent weeks but now I'm back.

My journalism studying has taken priority as I prepared to sit my NCTJ journalism news writing exam.

Rather than commenting on the big news stories, my evenings have been spent writing endless practice news reports in preparation for my exam which I had today. Thankfully it's over, and I can return to my blogging.

Well, there's been so much to talk about. Look at what's going on in Europe, we're in an economic meltdown.

The problems with Greece have been well documented for months - but things are getting serious now, with the crisis in Italy.

We're living through a really significant period in European history, but I'm not sure whether people realise this. The entire movement towards greater political and economic integration between European countries is under serious threat.

What's really interested me is we've had changes in government in both Greece and Italy, but there's been no elections, and the people have had no say on the matter. It's the financial markets who've brought about this change.

They've had so little faith in those countries abilities to implement economic reform, that they've forced out the leaders of those countries. My question is: What ever happened to democracy?

What else has been catching my attention - The return of racism in football.

It's like we're back in 70s and 80s. We had the incident between Liverpool's Luiz Saurez allegedly racially abusing Man Utd's Patrice Evra. Then a few weeks later there was the incident in the QPR/Chelsea game in which and I again use the word 'allegedly' John Terry, England Captain, racially abused Anton Ferdinand.

Anyone under the age of 25 who follows English football has probably never thought about racism and football being linked.

For those of us who grew up in the 80's, racism was still a prominent part of the game but at the same time attitudes were changing.

I don't know what to make of this spate of new allegations.

And finally....A story that I couldn't ignore was that death of former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier.

There was a time in sport where to be heavyweight champion of the world was the pinnacle of sporting achievement. You couldn't be a bigger sporting star. The passing of Joe Frazier, reminds you of how far heavyweight boxing has fallen in terms of prestige and significance to the general public.

When you think of Joe Frazier, you immediately think of Muhammad Ali and George Foreman and an amazing golden age of boxing.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Europe in crisis - What's happened to democracy?

I've got a feeling that in 100 years time you'll have history students in universities across Britain and Europe studying the economic and political crisis that's going on at the moment.

It might not feel like it now but we're living in historic times that academics and scholars will be studying in years to come.

A few weeks ago I was thinking about what I was going to say about the Greek crisis and the Euro, but that's yesterday's news - now it's all about Italy!

Not long ago I was thinking about how the Greek people are suffering and how they're having to put up with austerity measures forced upon them not by their own government but by the demands of EU leaders.

It made me think that decisions affecting their lives were being made by unelected leaders from the European Union - hardly democratic!

I've started to notice that this problem of a lack of democracy is being spoken about more and more by commentators.

Over in Italy it was becoming increasingly obvious, that Silvio Berlusconi had no real plans to tackle Italy's debt, but he wasn't kicked out of office by Italian voters. The financial markets did that, after they lost faith that he could introduce the economic reforms needed in the country.

In his place we have the 'technocrat' economist, Mario Monti. He might be the man to tackle Italy's debt crisis, but he's not been elected by the Italian people.

Many Italians will be glad to see the back of Berlusconi. Even as a non Italian you could see he was an embarrassment to the country, but it would still have been better if the Italian people removed him at the ballot box.

I've never considered myself to be a Eurosceptic - I'm generally all for greater European cooperation, but Europe is in a mess and greater economic and political union seems to have made things worse, particularly in terms of democracy.

I think many European leaders have let their voters down over the years, with excessive government borrowing and spending, and now tough decision are being imposed upon people who were unaware of what was really going on.

The problem is that many of these tough decisions are being made by faceless financial investors and European Bureaucrats who have never been elected by anyone.

That's not how democracy is supposed to work.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Joe Frazier - A true boxing legend

On Wednesday night, I was watching a re-run on ESPN, of the classic first fight between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1971.

It was being shown in tribute following the death of Frazier earlier this week.

The name Joe Frazier is just a legendary name within the history of boxing. His status is even greater as his peak coincided during a truly golden age of boxing in the 1960s and early 70s.

If this wasn't the case how do you explain the amount of news coverage his death has received.

Watching the fight, what struck me, is just how far boxing and heavyweight boxing has fallen in terms of sporting significance and popularity.

Not so long ago, to be heavyweight champion of the world meant you were arguably the biggest sports star on the planet, but not anymore. The way boxing is today, it's unlikely it will ever reclaim its former status.

As much as he was a great boxer what really defined Frazier was his rivalries with George Foreman but more significantly Muhammad Ali.

Within all great rivalries you need a clash of styles and personalities and you had that with Ali and Frazier. Ali and the charisma, the charm and the talk.

Frazier had none of this. He was more of your no frills, down to earth, everyman. Dare I say it 'Ordinary Joe'. Having read and heard the comments from boxing experts on Frazier's skill and bravery as a fighter, I've now got an even greater respect for what he achieved, and what he means to boxing history.