Saturday, May 31, 2008


This was the despairing scene repeated throughout the suburbs of Southampton and beyond when the news broke that Nigel Pearson`s contract was not going to be renewed and that, instead, the future of Southampton FC would be placed into the care of two unknown Dutch coaches.

Jan Poortvliet played for Holland in the 1978 World Cup Final and his mate Mark Wotte played for Feyenoord at the highest level of Dutch football. Since they stopped playing, they have been coaching various teams in Holland, Belgium and latterly in Wotte`s case, in Qatar.

But no experience of coaching in England, no experience of what it takes to survive in the Championship, but they are cheap and it is this last quality which has appealed to Saints Chairman Rupert Lowe on his comeback from the wilderness. It seems that we can have these two for a combined salary which is less than Pearson was being paid, so that`s alright then. Re-arrange the words economy and false and you get an idea of how most fans see these appointments.

But it is the refusal to renew Nige`s contract which has angered most Saints fans. At last we had a manager who instilled some discipline into the team, whose contacts made it possible to loan good, experienced professionals like Chris Perry, Chris Lucketti and Richard Wright who were influential in our last day survival from relegation. Nigel also showed a lot of passion, tactical awareness and exemplary man management.....but all of these qualities were rejected by Lowe and his equally failed counterpart, Michael Wilde, in favour of the cheap option. They clearly could not resist the BOGOF offer when it came along.

So I think that may be it for me. No longer will I be a season ticket holder at St. Mary`s at least all the time Lowe is in charge of the asylum. Nigel`s departure is the last straw in a long line of disappointments, not to say embarrassments, which include:-

- relegation from the Premiership
- dreadful managerial appointments (eg. Steve Wigley, Harry Redknapp, Paul Sturrock and even Sir Clive Woodward)
- Krankie-esque statue, now thankfully put right
- overpaid players caught stealing cash from the staffroom of a Southsea nightclub
- constant boardroom squabbles

So, enough is enough - for now at least. There seems to be the whiff of yet another takeover which might see the departure of Lowe once again. If that happens, then the landscape will change once more. But I fear it may be far too late for any hope of returning to the friendly, family-centred community club I have known and loved for more than 60 years.

And the one person I really feel for in all of this is the sadly departed Nigel Pearson who did everything right....until Lowe came back to ruin his dreams as much as mine.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


"'In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes." So said Benjamin Franklin in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1817. And how right he was.

Yesterday, we had two prime examples of both certainties - both deeply depressing in their differing ways.

First, we learned of the death of Sydney Pollack who passed away at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 73. Pollack was a very distinguished, highly respected member of the film world. As an actor, director and producer he had a whole string of critically acclaimed successes to his name and the loss of his talent and professional integrity will make for a poorer film industry. Just picking two of his contributions from such a long list is difficult, so I have gone for a couple which stood out for me on a personal level.

The first is `Absence of Malice,` which Pollack directed in 1981, producing memorable performances from Paul Newman and the wonderful Wilford Brimley. It was written by Kurt Luedtke, who went on to win an Oscar for his screenplay for `Out of Africa` - another of Pollack`s. The second is the memorable performance Pollack himself gave as an actor in Kubrick`s `Eyes Wide Shut`, pacing his performance as the dubious Ziegler exactly in tune with Kubrick`s tempo for that beguiling film. A sad loss, Pollack`s - but the memories will linger on.

Sydney Pollack

The certainty of taxes came home to roost yesterday with the protest launched by hauliers against the rising price of fuel. As a motorist, I have long held the grievance that the tax and VAT taken by HM Gov. amounts to something like three-quarters of the cost of a litre of petrol. They now propose to compound the felony by introducing a further 2p tax later this year as part of the ongoing `fuel escalator` charge allegedly to combat climate change.

But the point has now been reached whereby the escalator is seen as simply yet another tax on top of all the others. It`s effect on global warming is virtually nil, so what`s the point of it? But it seems the government may be wobbling about this and so they should. However, do not be deceived, dear reader. If the tax is not increased by this measure, then the tax take will simply stand still, whereas it actually needs to be reduced. Gordon Brown`s contention today that the solution is to get more oil out of the North Sea does nothing to address the current situation, is long term, misses the immediate point and simply won`t do.

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Gordon and his chums really must try harder, for there is at least perceived malice in this issue on the part of the government, who really shouldn`t be allowed to continue to `govern` with their eyes wide shut to the real world.

Monday, May 26, 2008


I don`t belong to many clubs or societies, mainly out of a determination to uphold one of my family traditions of `never joining any club that would have me as a member` - the other being `if at first you don`t succeed, give up.`

But one society who did accept me into their fold was the John McDouall Stuart Society, which I joined some years ago as a result of a long held admiration for this diminutive Scot and his companions who pioneered the crossing of inland Australia from the south coast to the north and back again and, in the process, established the route of the overland telegraph and the Stuart Highway.

Stuart`s achievements did not come easily. He went on six expeditions, enduring unimagineable hardships, before finally realising his ambition. As a result he is, quite rightly, revered in Australia as a national hero. There is an excellent website produced by the Society at which gives more details than I have room for here. The surprising thing is that Stuart has been all but forgotten in the UK apart perhaps from his birthplace in the small town of Dysart in Scotland.

Now, last night on BBC 2, a new series by that intrepid bushman Ray Mears (pictured above) began by retracing some of the steps taken by Stuart in his journeys through the unknown dead heart of that great continent. And most revealing it was too - the distances, the flies, the constant search for water, the perils awaiting the unprepared. Ray Mears did well in bringing the country to our screens and giving just a hint of what it must have been like for Stuart and his men.
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But perhaps the sheer scale of Stuart`s achievement was slightly hidden behind Mears` comforting Range Rover and the rest of his survival kit. I don`t complain about any of that because it would be impossible to faithfully re-enact the realities of Stuart`s own experiences. Mears gave us a `Pom`s eye view` of the outback which was informative, instructing and helpful in perhaps exposing Stuart`s achievements to a wider audience - at least here in the UK.

Last night`s programme ended with Mears, having made an awning from a canvass sheet suspended from conveniently overhanging trees, bringing his day to a close with a nice cup of tea and a sit down. Well, he is a Pom after all.....but then so too was Stuart, whose end of day routine might just have been a little different.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sad news. Another three visits this week to ace vet Dave Cocker has ended with no great progress with Henry`s heart problems.
He is still reduced to just a couple of very short walks on the lead each day and still taking a concoction of pills to keep him going.
Dave confirmed what we had suspected anyway, which was that there is no way that we can expect Henry to make the 350 mile journey to Cadgwith in Cornwall, where we were due to go for another holiday. And once we were there, we wouldn`t be able to go very far. So we`ve had to cancel it.
It`s a pity because we have been looking forward to revisiting one of our favourite places in the world but throughout his nine years of life, Henry has always come with us on holiday and there`s no way we can leave him behind in kennels or with kind neighbours.
I have a feeling we will also be cancelling our next holiday which is due in the first week of June. God willing, Henry will still be with us then but the prognosis is not very encouraging for the longer term. We are due to revisit Bowood in North Devon, where we have been with Henry a few times before but, to enjoy it, the ability to go on some decent walks is essential. Sadly, that doesn`t seem possible for Henry any more but we are determined to look after him and make his remaining time with us as comfortable and enjoyable as possible, for however long that may be.
So, sorry Cadgwith and Bowood but it can`t be helped. Another year perhaps.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

From our Golf Correspondent

An afternoon of mixed fortunes for Snopper today in what might be termed an eclectic round of golf at Poult Wood.

After his triumphal return to the fairways a couple of weeks ago, he was today unable to complete the full 18 holes due, he is quick to point out, to circumstances beyond even his control.
Despite a promising start, which included some spectacular drives and a few thumping clouts down the early fairways, his and his partner`s game were a little becalmed by the time they reached the 7th tee, where a small gathering were forming an orderly queue waiting their turn to tee off. It seemed there were some serious hold-ups ahead although the root cause of these delays were not readily apparent.

Information received from an on-course warden disclosed that there were two `societies` causing most of the problems. One was a `society` of no less than 26 lady golfers and the other was a group of 18 from the nearby public school. Sadly, but perhaps predictably, this intelligence caused Snopper`s frustration to come to the fore when he was heard to mutter some unfortunate remarks which, in another context, may have been worthy of yellow if not red cards. Well, I`ve seen them given.

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Lady golfer with basket

It`s alleged that Snopper took exception to so many ladies being allowed on the course at any one time. "I don`t mind the odd one or two," he vouchsafed, provided they were there primarily for decorative and screening purposes, but he felt that 26 was perhaps bringing the game into disrepute.

As to the public schoolboys, he was genuinely surprised that they were not in school pouring over Latin, Greek or something equally useful. He thought about reporting the incident to the school authorities but was disuaded from doing so when advised that the boys would likely be given a damned good thrashing if their little adventure was discovered.
Schoolboy golfers

By the time they had reached the 13th, Snopper and his partner had had enough of slow play and the effects that had had on their game which by then had reached laughable proportions . So they called it a day and promised to try again perhaps next week by which time they hoped the course management might have revised their policies concerning groups of ladies and public schoolboys coming between Snopper, his partner and an expectant gallery. Is that another pig I see flying over my window?

There are, it seems, many forms of madness, as there are many forms of stupidity. And sometimes it`s difficult to distinguish between the two. So I`m not quite sure which category fits the antics which will be played out in Moscow - of all places - this evening.
I refer, of course, to the final of the Champions League between Manchester United and Chelsea. Both teams come from England, of course and ended their domestic season in first and second place respectively in the Premiership.
So why on earth are these two clubs, each with their massive following of supporters, having to make the long, expensive journey to Moscow to play one another, when there are perfectly good stadia in England which would be much more sensible? I guess this form of madness is down to the powers that be in European football - UEFA. Perhaps they should have had a word with the carbon footprint brigade.
Frankly, I can see nothing at all appealing in watching these two teams of pampered millionaire poseurs, each with their mumbling incoherent managers playing each other on some foreign field in front of their baying hordes of followers. So I won`t bother. I`m sure the hundreds of other TV channels will be much more rewarding.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The smug, self-satisfied smile on the face tells a story. A few years ago, Rupert Lowe (pictured) was more or less hounded out as Chairman of Southampton Football Club following relegation from the Premiership and a string of poor results in our first season in the Championship (really Division 2.)
I particularly remember the home game against Ipswich Town, when during a lull in proceedings on the pitch, a good three quarters of the spectators rose from their seats in response to the cry, "Stand up if you hate Rupert." Or words to that effect. I confess I was among those standing.

And there were good reasons for my doing so. They included my disappointment at the poor management decisions Lowe had taken following the departure of Gordon Strachan, the lack of investment we needed to consolidate the advances Strachan had made and the parlous state of the football being served up not just against Ipswich but also during most of that season.

Now, last week, Rupert and his chum Michael Wilde - another former failed Chairman - regained control of the boardroom in a bloodless coup which obviated the need for an expensive Extraordinary General Meeting. I had feared this might happen, not just for the prospect of failure being revisited but also because, as I see it, the Chairman of the club is the public face of the club. It is he who represents the club to the wider world and, in turn, represents people like me who are not only shareholders but also lifelong fans. And I genuinely object to being represented by someone who has already failed us bigtime and who presents to the world an image of duck-shooting buffoonery.
But....and it may be a big but....if my normally reliable sources are to be believed, Rupert and Michael are going to sit down this week and discuss Nigel Pearson`s contract as manager. I have a lot of time for Nige - and I hope he can be persuaded to stay on decent terms. He already knows we have no money to spend on new players and he knows Rupert was not in favour of him being appointed in the first place, but if he can bring himself to agree terms, then it may soften the blow of Rupert`s return.
I am, however, reminded of the the parting words of another ex-manager, Graeme Souness, who was less than effusive in his description of Rupert by saying, "Who ever heard of anyone in football called Rupert?" Trouble is, we seems to be stuck with him again. Smile and all.

Poor Henry really isn`t feeling himself. We`ve had three visits now to ace vet Dave Cocker who, having retrievers of his own, has become very fond of Henry over the years and gives him the best possible care and attention.
Henry`s heart condition is getting under some semblence of control but, whether it`s the medication or something more worrisome, the fact is that Henry has been very quiet and depressed for a few days now.
The upshot is that he has to go back to Newnham Court Veterinary Centre tomorrow morning and be left there while he has an ECG and other tests to see if there are more complications with his heart condition.
And all the while, he isn`t getting the exercise he has been used to - he`s restricted to just two short walks on the lead twice a day. And all the while, we`re not getting the exercise we`ve been used to either. The days seem long and the `social` element of dog-walking has been absent.
Still, we mustn`t worry about the effects Henry`s indisposition is having on ourselves - even despite the fact that our upcoming holiday in Cornwall with him hangs in the balance - instead we just concern ourselves with Henry`s wellbeing and hope that tomorrow might bring some more heartening news.
And all the while, the Newnham Court bill continues to mount up. But we have Henry insured with Tesco`s pet insurance and it will be `interesting` to see whether they cough up when we finally put the claim in. Every little will indeed help.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The language of football has developed over the years until now it has reached cult status among those of us who are aficionados of the cliche. Of course, football`s very own language goes back to the heydays of early radio commentaries, Raymond Glendenning, Herbert Marshall and all. "And Matthews jinks his way past the full-back, gets to the by-line and delivers a pinpoint cross onto the head of the onrushing centre-forward, who nods it goalwards, giving the opposing custodian no chance of keeping it out," was just one memorable phrase that lit up the airwaves of my boyhood.
When I played, I was what was then known as a right half. Pity really, because in the modern day language of football, I might have been described as a box-to-box midfield dynamo with a good engine and an eye for a pass. Much more flattering than `right-half`even given the countless times I could have done better in the final third by being on the same wavelength.
I`ve noticed a trend recently for the cliche to become part of the political language as well. I`m not sure it`s intended, but I guess if a phrase is repeated often enough, then there`s a fair chance it will achieve cliche status. Just recently, we`ve had such gems as "I`m just getting on with the job," or "the voters have sent out the strongest possible message," or "we`ll listen and lead" or even "we are building for the long term." The list goes on but a swift analysis discloses that they are all soundbites with no substantive action to follow them up.
At least in football, there are conclusions to virtually every promising move. Some bring disappointment, others elation. In politics, it seems, we have the words but no end product at the end of the day. They`ll think they could have done better than that when they see the replay. To be fair.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


No wonder they look happy. News today that Speaker Martin`s wife has been let off the hook following the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner`s ruling about some of her expenses. Mrs. Martin racked up a bill of £4,000 of taxpayers` money in taxi fares as she swanned around London on shopping trips allegedly for official functions.

The Commissioner, John Lyons, has come to the conclusion that this expenditure was "reasonable" and did not break any rules. So that`s alright then. Isn`t it?

This is the same Mrs. Martin who incurred something like £50,000 in taxpayer-funded air fares in the last three years - £24,000 to-ing and fro-ing between London and her home in Glasgow and £25,000 on foreign trips `supporting her husband.` When these apparently "reasonable" and non-rule breaking expenses were reported a little earlier this year, a Commons spokesman said: "The burden on a Speaker's family can be great at times." Quite so.

Monday, May 12, 2008


The weekend papers have been filled with claim and counter claim about the antics at the highest levels of `government` - a word used advisedly. I find it all rather disconcerting. People who don`t need the money are bringing out books about their `experiences` in high office and are paid large sums for the serialisation in national newspapers. It`s all stuff I don`t really want to know about and, for me at least, it has the opposite effect to that which may have been intended.

Now, I`m no fan of Gordon Brown but I do find that this constant sniping of him as a individual is at best distasteful. There must be a `tipping point` at which the persistent kicking of a man when he`s down turns into something akin to sympathy. A dangerous trend, I fear, for those in the highest office are expected to show leadership, clarity and purpose rather than be the subject of any personal sympathy for their plight, however much they may have brought it upon themselves.

Be that as it may, Brown seems to be the subject of at least two truisms. The first is `be careful what you wish for, for it may come true.` He has ached for the post of Prime Minister for years and now that he has achieved the office, he seems out of place, uncertain, uncomfortable. The second is the Peter Principle - the one that says that "in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence."

Life and its experiences have taught me many lessons. One of them was to come to terms with yourself, your strengths, weaknesses and the limits of your own ability. That way, even when tempting offers come along, you can avoid the pitfalls of blind ambition and the ravages of Dr. Peter. I am constantly surprised that self-perception and knowledge of oneself seem confined only to the most discerning among us. Quite clearly, they are qualities in short supply among the corridors of power. Rather than trying to please some of the people some of the time, maybe they should simply try to know themselves a little better all of the time?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

No question about it - Nigel Pearson must be given a new contract to stay at Southampton....or we run the real risk of losing one of the brightest, most passionate young managers in the country.
Now, any `normal` football club - and especially one which has just escaped relegation thanks to the tactics, selections, man management, discipline and belief installed in its players by the manager - would sit down at the end of the season and give thanks to the man who has secured at least something of a future for them. But Saints are not a `normal` football club.
As things stand, I think Nige`s contract was only to the end of the season; the Chairman and Board of Directors face dismissal at an extraordinary general meeting scheduled for 16th May, the players have gone off on holiday without knowing who will stay and who will go....and the fans, oh yes, the fans, are simply left in limbo once again. SNAFU time once more.
If Rupert Lowe comes back to haunt us as Chairman, he has already stated that, because he was unhappy at the process by which Nige was appointed, then Nige will not be reappointed . Nose, spite and face come to mind yet again. If there is another God besides Matthew Le Tissier, then surely he will see to it that Rupert does not get his wish and that Nige can stay with us for the long haul. At the end of the day, I just hope it won`t be too late, to be fair.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The law of Sod strikes again. Here we are in early May. After months of waiting, the warm, sunny, beautiful weather has arrived here in rustic Kent. Perfect for strolling through the apple orchards, camera at the ready to capture the bugeoning blossom on acre after acre of serried ranks of apple trees.
And what happens? Henry our Golden Retriever goes and gets ill. Over last week end, he wasn`t feeling well, refusing food, just laying around. So, off to see ace vet Dave Cocker again. Dave kept Henry in for scans, blood tests and disgnosed an enlarged heart. In fact, says Dave, "Henry`s heart is all over the place." There were also some other contributory liver and other problems, so Henry has been on loads of pills and under firm instructions to have complete rest until we were able to take him back to see Dave again today.
The latest news is that Henry feels better in himself, the fluid on his abdomen has gone away but his heart is still playing up quite badly. So, the heart medication has been increased and I think it`s a question of getting the `dosage` right. We`ll see what the progress has been when we take Henry back to see Dave again next Monday.
So far, £298 and counting.....but the loyalty, the companionship and the sheer pleasure of being out and about with a good friend is priceless. I hope for both our sakes, Henry can get through this and enjoy life again soon. And Sod`s law can be put back in its box.

Monday, May 05, 2008

There`s a fairly nondescript building which I have passed countless times on my walk to and from Southampton Town Quay to St. Mary`s Stadium. The plaque on the wall outside says it all really. The White Star Shipping Company were the owners of the Titanic, of course, but what is particularly stark is the telling last line which confirms the loss of 549 Southampton people in the disaster.
The building is up for sale. I hope and believe the City Council will ensure that the history of the building will not be compromised by any plans new owners may have for it.
An odd feeling to pass this sobering spot after the euphoria experienced earlier at the Stadium yesterday. It reminded me that, after all, there are more important things than football.


Wow!! What a day. The picture shows just a few of the 31,970 fans at St. Mary`s yesterday, when Saints hauled themselves out of the relegation zone to secure their place in the Championship for next season. A close run thing against a Sheffield United team that still harboured hopes of reaching the play-offs, so it made for a proper football match with each team having something important to play for.

There are newspaper reports galore to provide more details of the game itself(eg. ,) which Saints won 3-2 after coming from behind thanks to two goals from Stern John (yes, he of the grumpy disposition) and Marek Saganowski, who scored his first goal since October with a brave diving header to bring the scores level after the Blades went ahead.

The victory sparked wild scenes of celebration amongst the Saints faithful, the inevitable pitch invasion and the players reappearing from the changing rooms for a `lap of appreciation.` It was at this point that the motives might have become clouded. The PA announcer declared that the players wanted to show their appreciation to the supporters for all the `tremendous support` they had given over the season. Just as well, for any notion of a `lap of honour` would seem misplaced with the team having so narrowly avoided relegation to the third tier of English football.

So, another season comes to an end and I now await developments on two fronts which will determine whether I renew my season ticket. The first is whether duck-shooting buffoon Rupert Lowe makes a return as Chairman of the club and the second is the fate of two youthful players caught on camera allegedly stealing cash and other items from the staff room of a Southsea nightclub. Their case comes up before the Portsmouth beak next month.

I will not condone either the reappearance of the already failed Rupert or the continued employment of the two malcontents should they be found guilty. My continued loyalty will depend on such principles being upheld. Nose, spite and face come to mind?

Friday, May 02, 2008


You can feel it in the air. Each time you turn on the tv or the radio, nothing else apart from the election results as they tumble through to their conclusions. There is a myth in the broadcasting industry that suggests that they truly believe that most of us are in the slightest bit interested in the minutiae, the forensic sephology, the microscopic extrapolations, the expert opinions, the laughable graphics and the Ryman League-esque attempts on the part of presenters to try and make it all interesting.
Now, in a former life, I had the odd bit to do with elections - local, national, European - even Parish councils and a couple of things always intrigued me. For example, the almost Victorian `props` used as part of the voting process, including blunt pencils on string in polling booths, tapers and sealing wax to do up the parcels and seal the ballot box at the end of the day.
But it was the attitude of candidates and their supporters on the day that caused some mild amusement. Some of them took on a kind of `superior` officialese both during the voting day itself and at the count afterwards. Others adopted a stance of mild bewilderment and It made me wonder about the motives that compel people to want to serve as elected members on local councils.
Now, of course, there are those who do it out of a genuine conviction and a desire to serve their local community and good luck to them. But I suspect they are in the minority, for there are others who do it just for the kudos, the glory, the probability that it shores up other parts of their failing lives. And then there are those who are talked into doing it without realising what they are letting themselves in for. And, of course, there are those who only do it for what they can get out of it.
Without categorising them - I leave you to do that - it is however a matter of wonder that, on the national scene, our electoral system can throw up such bizarre absurdities as Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper, the Ozzy and Sharon of the Westminster village.
Ozzy and Sharon
At least here in my area, the local council has had the foresight to arrange it so that we only have local elections once every four years and what a relief that is, for whilst I have to live with the current febrile atmosphere pervading the airwaves and the predictable reaction of party hacks to their triumphs and disasters, at least I haven`t had candidates knocking on my door, bits of paper shoved in my letter box, poll cards being delivered and renewed exposure to the sealing wax regime of the cabbages and kings. Small mercies indeed.