Monday, August 30, 2010


Firstly, a disclaimer, which is that the picture you see is not one of Barney, but one of his compatriot golden retrievers, name of Neville, who has made a discovery similar to the one Barney himself made over the weekend.

Yes, Cowpats. Now, throughout the nearly two years of his life, Barney has been places. Woods, fields, beaches, orchards - you name it, he`s been there. He has been in close proximity to assorted faeces but not once has he shown any interest in rolling in them. Until Sunday when, after too long an absence, we took him over to visit his heart`s desire in the form of Judy the Soft Wheaten Terrier. They hadn`t seen each other for some time so it was no surprise when they romped around enjoying each others` company and, being in the hidden depths of the west Kent countryside, we took them to Bore Place for a wander around the extensive `estate.`

It really is proper countryside around there - peace and quiet, rolling hills, spectacular views and everything you and a couple of adventurous dogs could wish for on a blissful late summer afternoon. Until we ventured through a field which had recently been visited by a herd of cows and for some quite out of character reason Barney decided to roll in one of their calling cards, with the inevitabe Neville-esque result you see above. Shortly afterwards, we were treated to a heavy shower which saw us take refuge on the leeward side of some oak trees.... but the rain seemed to have little effect on Barney`s new found camouflage, neither did a dip in the ornamental pond when we eventually got back to Bore Place.

But a good bath yesterday seems to have restored Barney`s coat to its normal fragrant state and our adventure just confirmed how good it is to see happy dogs enjoying themselves. It`s just like having kids again. I had thought of posting links to websites for dog shampoos or bovine avoidance techniques but in the end I`ve plumped for a link to Bore Place - please see - which will show a photo of the house and the aforementioned ornamental pond. Bore Place and its estate are well worth a visit - just be careful where you walk.

What a Bank Holiday weekend this is turning out to be! Don`t know where to begin really so I`ll start with Friday evening. We went to a wedding reception which was very nice, especially the food, but what drove us away was the noise from the `disco.` For some reason it seems obligatory to pump up the volume to such a pitch that the elderly amongst the gathering are forced out. Good plan, I guess. Worked on us anyway.
Took Barney for a long walk on Saturday afternoon after which I became seriously interested in the Test Match and Saints` progress against Bristol Rovers. First the cricket. I really enjoyed watching the world record partnership of 322 between Jonathan Trott and Stuart Broad. I said to myself that this game was confirming my belief that Test Match cricket is the highest form of the game, with the way the game can swing back and forth over five days and the opportunity it presents for players like Trott and Broad to build record breaking partnerships and for bowlers to have decent spells to show the variety and strength of their talent. The feel good factor was around, only for that illusion to be shattered by the allegations of `fixing` parts, if not all, of the game.
There are so many implications here and a long way to go with this story but I`m left with two `emotions.` The first is to feel genuine sympathy for the likes of Trott, Broad and Swann for having their remarkable performances being tarnished by the allegations surrounding the game. My other emotion is genuine sorrow for the game itself, which I have played, watched and loved for six decades and the hope that, if proven, these allegations might lead to returning the game to the honest, innocent days of my youth. But, I suspect my naivety is shining through already.
And so to Southampton Football Club. A thumping 4-0 win away at Bristol Rovers on Saturday had all the hallmarks of a promotion winning team finally getting the result their play has promised in these early stages of the season. Another feel good factor arrived, only for that one also to be dispelled by the shock announcement this morning that Saints` manager, Alan Pardew, along with first team coach Wally Downes and goalkeeping coach Stuart Murdoch have been `relieved of their duties with immediate effect.` It`s way too early for knee-jerk reactions or, even worse, for idle speculation about who might replace them, but I can`t escape the feeling that this might just have been the wrong decision at the wrong time for the wrong reasons.
Small wonder then, that I feel confused, perplexed, bewildered and not a little disenchanted about events in the sports I follow with a passion. I wonder what else the Bank Holiday weekend has to offer? Just watch this space.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A little buzzin` music

My action shot photo, courtesy of Charlton Athletic`s website, shows a touching embrace between local hero Scott Wagstaff and a team mate, following Waggy`s goal against Oldham Athletic last Saturday. But this item is not about Scott`s burgeoning footballing prowess but more to do with the singular honour granted to him by his club and the way he went about accepting it. It is, indeed, a telling story and one he will look back on as almost a rite of passage as his career continues to blossom. Or maybe not.

Following on his recent successes, gay icon pacy flanker Scott ( "Buzzin` Sixpack") Wagstaff had been selected by the club to choose five pieces of `music` to be played before the assembling crowd as part of their pre-match entertainment before the Oldham game. It seems that his taste in music is a mirror image of his pacy flanking, for he included the well known combo, Yolanda Be Cool vs D Cup, and another outfit called Outkast as well as claiming to be able to recite the Lil Wayne rap featured in one of his selections.

Now if, like me, the above represents something of a foreign language, then it becomes clear that Waggy`s selections might have been intended to impress his growing army of buzzin` sixpack admirers rather than the eclectic gathering massed on the terraces of The Valley. A while back, my good friend Hurting Slightly less of Leybourne and I offered our services to become the pacy flanker`s joint agents - an offer which was refused with a polite but dismissive snigger. However, had we been in charge of his affairs on this occasion, there`s no doubt we would have advised him to carry out some meaningful consultation with friends and especially neighbours before drawing up his `playlist.`

Our street has an interesting mix of characters and ages and one could say that it is as representative in its musical tastes as any Saturday afternoon football terrace is ever likely to be. I`m sure there are those who might just know their Outkast from their Yolanda Be Cool vs D Cup but there are also others who are tuned in to Barry Manilow, the Carpenters, Turk Thrust and his Ballroom Syncopators, the Bonzo Dog Doo-dah Band and even the works of the sainted Wolgang Amadeus. From those and others like them, a balanced selection could have emerged and Waggy`s musical reputation could have been rescued from the cul-de-sac into which it has irrevocably descended.

But all may not be lost as I will get my ghetto blaster to direct the sound of the Adagietto from Mahler`s 5th into Wagstaff`s nearby window. That`ll teach him.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I thought we were living in the worst economic crisis in living memory. Belts are supposed to be being tightened. Straits are becoming more dire. Jobs being lost, benefits being reviewed, the outlook, like the weather, seems cloudy with rain at times. There may indeed be trouble ahead.

Now recently, I have been in sanguine mode. Whilst I have continued to restrict my ramblings to important issues such as football, golf, Barney training and the obligatory rant about Fergie the football manager, I have done so in measured tones, displaying none of the inner turmoil that lies deep within my troubled psyche. But a couple of things have come to light that have rekindled the flame within and I know I should know better, for it`s not good for me, but I can`t let them go unreported.

The first concerns our old friend the European Union. The photo above is of Baroness Ashton of Upholland, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, showing all the gravitas, competence and sense of destiny befitting of someone in such high office. Her burgeoning non-elected, barely representative empire continues to grow in size and delusion so that it now requires a huge palatial office block in Brussels from which to discharge its role and its function.

Now, no-one I know is at all sure what that role or function consists of, especially bearing in mind that the nation states of the EU appear to have at least adequate, if not downright excellent, Departments for Foreign Affairs and Security. The simple truth is that we just don`t need Cathy Ashton and her chums, especially as we learn today that the office block alone is going to cost £8million a year to lease so it can hold the 7,000 staff and squander its annual budget of £8.7billion. And, of course, that`s just for starters.

Closer to home, we also discover that the new Independant Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), set up to deal with MPs` claims and expenses, has run in to trouble with its new regime of making sure that all such claims are legitimate. It seems the new procedures have angered MPs, who have been used to a kind of laissez faire approach to grabbing taxpayers` cash. There have been accusations of IPSA staff being bullied,verbally abused and subjected to a stream of `colourful language` by a number of the 650 MPs we seem saddled with. One MP went so far as to call IPSA Chairman, Sir Ian Kennedy, `a stupid expletive!` (Modesty prevents me from including the full version.) Despite the intimidation, however, IPSA are frantically working through MPs claims which only last week totalled over 4,000, resulting in £650,000 of taxpayers` money being doled out. And, of course, our MPs are still away from Westminster on their three months break from Parliament so goodness know what the bill will be when they really get going.

And so it seems that happy days are indeed here again for the political classes who still `don`t get it,` leaving me and all the others who pay for their whims and fancies, to shrug our shoulders and seek refuge in football, golf, Barney training and Fergie ranting, which I promise to get back to, now I`ve got that off my chest.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

From our Golf Correspondent

In reporting on Snopper`s golfing exploits over the years, I have never been able to decide whether he is displaying a talent for bringing ineptitude down to new levels or simply adhering to his oft-stated policy of "playing value-for-money golf by hitting the ball as many times as possible."

Yesterday`s events at Poult Wood may have given something of a clue as to the eventual outcome of those choices. After a two-year absence from the sylvan surroundings of the Tonbridge course, last week Snopper returned to playing 18 holes, having spent much of that time trying - and failing - to get to grips with the challenge of Hever Castle`s 9-hole Princes course. To be fair, last week saw him play a decent round and a score that, given his main handicaps of anno domini, avoirdupois and serial mediocrity, was at least acceptably in double figures.

Yesterday was, however, altogether a different story. Now it may be down to Snopper`s remaining ambition to record a score equal to his age which would require a score in the early 70s. Maybe that was why he was trying too hard but even he must surely realise that that ambition sets the bar too high. And so it proved. Despite applying his normal creative accounting methods, his liberal interpretation of the Royal and Ancient Rules of Golf and his ultra-flexible approach to handicapping, recording a score even remotely close to his age once again proved tantalisingly out of reach. As things stand, he will have to keep playing well into his 90s before that ambition is achieved. I suggest he goes back to the 9-hole course, where the prospects for achieving it seem much brighter and where ineptitude can be confirmed as Snopper`s default golfing policy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

With apologies to Stewart Lee

Sorry to go on about it but something struck me as particularly poignant on Saturday. When I arrived at St. Mary`s Stadium I thought I should spend a little time at the spontaneous `memorial` to Markus Liebherr, which took the now usual form of a large collection of mementos left by fans at the main entrance to the stadium.

By Saturday the collection of scarves, shirts, flowers and cards had grown to such an extent that an orderly queue had been organsised so that fans could pay a few moments quiet contemplation by walking around them. It was, indeed, a touching moment.

But I couldn`t help but notice that among all the items left in Markus`s memory, there was a red plastic duck in a see-through square plastic box. At first I thought it was perhaps misplaced, but then it occurred to me what must have happened.

Somewhere in the sprawling city, a Saints fan was so shocked and overcome with the news of Markus`s death that he, or she, said to themselves, "Oh, God. Markus is dead. I`ll have to rush out and buy a red plastic duck in a see-through square plastic box and take it down to St. Mary`s." As it turns out, it might just have been the most heartfelt gesture among the sea of all the others.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

It`s Saturday morning. In the palatial surroundings of Sydmonton Court, deep in the Hampshire countryside, the telephone rings.
"Hello. Lord Lloyd-Webber speaking."
"Andy, it`s Julian. Look, I`ve just finished recording Elgar`s Cello Concerto and I`m at a bit of a loose end, so I wondered what you`re up to today."
"Not much, Jules. Tell you what. Why don`t we get ourselves down to St. Mary`s this afternoon and see the Saints take on Leyton Orient?"
"Nice one, Andy. See you there."
And so it came to pass. As I took my seat in Block 8 of the Itchen Stand, I glanced behind me and there in the posh seats were the Lloyd-Webber brothers joining the other guests for what turned out to be an afternoon of mixed fortunes. We had the beautifully observed minute`s applause for Markus Liebherr and it was touchingly good to see a large gathering of his own family there for the occasion. There was a poignant and emotional atmosphere as the whole stadium - including the visiting Leyton Orient fans - paid its collective tribute to Markus and for what he had meant to Southampton Football Club, the city and Saints fans the world over.
As to the game, well it started brightly with Saints playing some of the best football seen for some time. They deservedly went ahead through Rickie Lambert Southampton`s Goal Machine (RLSGM) only for the O`s to level the scores a minute or two later. From then on the game deteriorated as strenuous endeavour was met by frantic defending, quivering woodwork and an Orient goalkeeper in inspired form. The end came with a flurry of yellow cards, desperation hoofing and a feeling of a game lost rather than ending in a 1-1 draw.
I wondered what the Lloyd-Webber brothers made of it all and I wondered too if the enduring mystery that is the Starlight Express of Southampton Football Club will ever fulfill the tantalising promise it sets before its expectant audience. But if, like me, you`re simply a Saints supporter, then I guess any dream will do.

Friday, August 20, 2010

These were the scenes earlier in the week as tributes were laid at the main entrance to St. Mary`s Stadium in memory of Saints` owner, Markus Liebherr, who passed away aged only 62. On Wednesday there was a memorial service held in St. Mary`s church, Southampton, which was especially fitting given that the church Young Mens Association gave rise to the club 125 years ago. The service was attended by over 400 Saints fans as well as Markus`s family and close friends.
We Saints fans have been here before, of course. Over recent years we have seen the passing of those such as Peter Osgood, Alan Ball and Ted Bates and before each home game after those tragic losses there has been the minute`s silence or the minute`s applause and proper acknowledgements of the contributions made by those to whom we gave our respect and thanks. Those times were more like family gatherings than going to a football match and it will be the same tomorrow, when Leyton Orient come to St. Mary`s. Once again, it will be one of those days when the result won`t matter anywhere near as much as simply being there to say `Thank You` to Markus for rescuing our club. Another family gathering of at least 25,000 is expected. And never will our thanks be more heartfelt.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Barney`s ongoing training leading to the Kennel Club Good Dog Gold Award (KCGDGA) is progressing. He now finds himself, at just 21 months, almost the oldest in the new group which has been formed from those very few, like Barney, who were deemed `not ready` when the gold test was last held, along with quite a few aspiring retrievers who have succeeded in passing the silver award and now wish to go on to greater things.
As supposedly one of the more experienced, last night Barney was called upon to demonstrate to all the others how to perform one of the more basic tasks demanded of the gold award. This involved having his blanket laid down some distance away and, on being given the command, going straight to the blanket and lying down. No problem. Barney does it perfectly all the time at home. However, last night when he heard Mrs. Snopper`s command to `go to bed,`instead of doing what he was supposed to do, he took the opportunity to have a scamper around he training field, saying `hello` to everyone and generally having a good time.
Never has the phrase, `Do as I say, not what I do` been more appropriate. There`s another old saying too, `If you become a teacher, by your pupils you`ll be taught.` I had the feeling that Barney`s pupils were less than impressed by his `demonstration` and it might well be that he will be picking up some tips from them, rather than the other way round. He is a happy dog though....and we really wouldn`t have him any other way.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Not since 2004 has `Sir` Alex Ferguson spoken on camera to the BBC. The golden silence that has lasted all that time began when the BBC screened a documentary which was critical of the dealings of Ferguson`s son, Jason, then a football agent. `Sir` Alex took offence at the intimation that his son was using his father`s position of influence to further his own career as a football agent and so, since then, all BBC post match interviews wth Manchester United have been conducted by a succession of Ferguson`s assistants such as Carlos Querios and more latterly by Mike Phelan.

Now all of that could be about to change, for the Premier League have introduced new rules for the 2010/11 season which requires club managers to personally give post match interviews themselves. Manchester United are away at Fulham this coming Sunday and the game is sure to be featured on Match of the Day 2 on BBC 2 on Sunday evening. It appears that one of the BBC`s football correspondents, Jonathan Pearce, will be given the task of commentating on the game and attempting to interview Ferguson afterwards, in line with the new Premier League dictat.

I wish him well and it should make for interesting viewing, given the marked contrast between Pearce`s infectious enthusiasm and Ferguson`s default Caledonian mumblings. I`ve given up watching Premier League football on television. I`m simply tired of all the hype, the excess and the tastelessness of it all. But I might just catch the end of Sunday night`s programme in the vain hope that Pearce might avoid unwarranted deference and Ferguson might show a measure of articulation becoming of a knight of the realm. But given the inevitability of plus ca change I might have wished that the Premier League had left their rules well alone.

Monday, August 16, 2010

It was, of course, the shrieking harridan that is Ann Widdecombe who alluded to Michael Howard having `something of the night` about him. A classic case of pot and kettle if ever there was one. And now it seems that Lord Howard, as he now is, has lent his weight to something which for many of us has long had something of the night about it.
I refer to the supposed suicide of Government Weapons Inspector, Dr. David Kelly, who was found dead in mysterious circumstances near his Oxforshire home in July, 2003.There was always a feeling that Lord Hutton`s Inquiry into Dr Kelly`s death just skimmed the surface of whatever those circumstances may have been before reaching its verdict of suicide. What made it more questionable was the total absence of a proper Coroner`s verdict, the absence of a properly constituted inquest and the 70-year ban slapped on the medical evidence given at the Hutton Inquiry.
So, the newly enobled Michael Howard, in lending his support for a properly constitued Inquest, has joined the growing ranks of those in the medical and legal profession who have been disturbed by the Hutton Inquiry`s conclusions ever since it was held. A while ago, I did a piece about this affair which I titled `The Gathering Storm.` It seems that the winds of doubt over the Kelly case are advancing up the Beaufort Scale and I wait to see what, if anything, the new Coalition Government will do about it. We need something that will lift the uncertainty away from the darkness of night into the light of day. I hope Lord Howard`s intervention might just help it on its way.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Watched the Leyton Orient-Charlton game on Sky last night partly because Saints play Orient next Saturday (my ticket arrived just now) and partly because our street`s local hero, Scott Wagstaff, was playing for Charlton. Here he is pictured celebrating his goal which effectively sealed Charlton`s 3-1 win, despite being down to 10 men following Christian Dailly`s second half dismissal.
Now we all know that football`s a funny old game and last night went a long way to lift my spirits following the untimely death of Saints` saviour Markus Liebherr and the resulting postponement of today`s game at Milton Keynes. I`ve mentioned before that Scott has been with Charlton for 12 years now and still he`s only just 20 and throughout that time he has developed through the youth teams, the reserves until now it seems that he has finally cemented his place in the first eleven. There might have been a few uncertainties among the Charlton faithful about Scott but surely last night`s performance has finally put paid to all that. His goal was quite stunning and the way he laid on the third goal in added time for his good friend Chris Solly was reminiscent of watching Brazil. Or even Saints. To be fair.
What was especially nice was that his family were at Brisbane Road last night to see Scott win the man of the match champagne from Sky tv and put in a performance and a post match interview that must have made them very proud indeed. Some of that pride has rubbed off on to the rest of our street this morning and, even as a Saints supporter, I can`t hide my real and genuine pleasure at seeing Scott doing so brilliantly in a Charlton shirt. Saints are currently a bit short in the pacy flanker department following Michael Antonio`s return to Reading. Maybe Saints` manager Alan Pardew, who knows Scott from his time as Charlton manager, might just make him an offer he can`t refuse? Hang on - there` a pig flying over my roof.

Friday, August 13, 2010


A week or so ago, I mentioned the recent research into the amount of choice open to us in our society, leading to confusion and depression among a growing number of people. Now quite possibly because I am among the terminally confused, a helpful piece of information has come to light, coutresy of which might help identify the type of confusion we suffer from.
Thanks to the work of Dr. Peter Collett, it seems people fall into one of five categories depending on the type of confusion from which they are suffering. People are either:-
Floaters - who get confused because they can`t see the difference between the things they have to choose between;
Flippers - these are people who are capable of making choices but can`t stick to the choice they have made;
Flounders - these are people who avoid the negative consequences of choices by not making any decisions at all;
Fixers - these are the people who are not afraid to make decisions, they weigh up the pros and cons, they don`t mess around, they sort out the priorities and then make an informed choice; and finally.....
Flooders - these are the opposite; they are awash with choices, flooded with alternatives, are incapable of sorting out their priorities and end up totally confused.
There`s a helpful quiz on which might help you decide which category you might fall into. As for me and I suspect quite a lot of my septuagenarian friends, I simply can`t make up my mind which category applies to me. Maybe it`s all of them? NURSE!!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


A day of two tragic losses in the world of football. First we heard of the sad death of Exeter City player Adam Stansfield at the age of just 31, following his battle with bowel cancer. A tragedy for his young family which has brought sympathy and understanding from the rest of the football community. Indeed, only a short while ago, I joined the tributes paid to Adam by fans of other clubs on the Exeter City Fans Forum.

And now it has just been announced that Southampton`s owner, Markus Liebherr, has passed away too. He was just 62. Just over a year ago, he bought Southampton FC and in so doing saved the club from almost certain liquidation, taking it out of administration, investing heavily from his reported £3billion fortune and making it possible for manager Alan Pardew to build a team that came within a whisker of the play offs despite a 10 point penalty deduction for being in administration and going on to win the JP Trophy on a memorable day at Wembley.
It`s no exaggeration to say that without Markus there would be no Southampton Football Club today. No more visits to St. Mary`s Stadium. No more meetings with old friends. Only memories of seasons past. Instead, Markus made the club`s reserrection possible and the secure future of Southampton FC will be his memorial. Thank you, Markus and may you rest in peace in the certain knowledge that you will never be forgotten by Saints fans everywhere.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


We heard yesterday of the extraordinary feat performed by the gentleman who took over two years to walk the entire 6,000 miles of the Amazon (4,000 miles of riverbank and another 2,000 going up and down hills, mountains and things) dodging snakes, scorpions, hostile natives and heaven knows what else en route. The fully paid up cynic in me leads me to question his sanity but I cannot question his courage, endurance and determination.
A little closer to home we also heard of yet another example of courage, endurance and determination by two friends who have finally finished walking the entire length of the South West Coast Path. Alex Elson and Sandra Fairchild began their 632 mile walk over ten years ago, starting from Minehead in Somerset. Shortly after setting out, Alex emigrated to New Zealand, but she promised Sandra that she would complete the walk, which she did with Sandra by returning each year for the next 13 years to do another section of the coast path.
Last month they finally reached the end of the walk at South Haven Point near Poole in Dorset. They had originally intended to complete about 10 or 12 miles each day and although it has taken them 13 years, in fact it was about 13 weeks of actual walking. Over the years, I have nibbled away at the south west coast path and next month we`ll be going back to Cornwall to do a few more bits. Now, I just know that I am more sensible than to even think of walking down the Amazon but I equally know that with a bit of forward planning, a few years to spare and a large support team, I might just manage to equal Alex and Sandra`s feat. Like Delia Smith, the SWCP is a national treasure and deserves to be explored in a leisurely and appreciative way. As I `do` leisurely quite well, I might just be up for it.
For much more on the south west coast path, see

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Over the weekend, the national treasure that is Delia Smith had some interesting things to say about football in this country. Interviewed on BBC Radio 4, she declared, "There`s something radically wrong with football in this country and it needs a major sort out." Asked what her `sort out` might be, she said, "I`d go back to the days before we had the Premiership, when it was about the best team winning. Nowadays it`s the Premier League and it`s all about money."
Now, Delia speaks as a longstanding fanatical supporter of Norwich City who themselves had a mild flirtation with the Premier League some seasons ago, so she`s been there and done it. And if any confirmation was needed of her assertions, then look no further than the newspapers who are vyeing with each other as to who can print the most about the Premier League`s new season which doesn`t start until next weekend. Pages and pages of it, pull-out supplements, careful analysis of each club`s prospects, article upon article about the new foreign imports , league tables on how much money each club has spent over the summer and the inevitable forecasts of which club will finish where at the end of the season. In short, the Premier League is nothing more than a product and far from being the self-styled `best league in the world,` it has simply become the `best football product in the world.`
I find it hard to see the attraction in the combination of a collection of foreign managers running teams of foreign players playing for clubs with foreign owners all in the name of the English Premier League. There is something deeply unattractive too about the antics of those few English players left in the Premier League. If it`s not their off-field peccadilloes, it`s their woeful inadequacy when it comes to representing the country on the world stage. Delusions of adequacy have seldom been more evident.
Which brings me to suggest that it might, after all, be better, more rewarding and certainly more identifiably entertaining to support a club in the lower reaches of the game without the constant anguish about losing a game or nine. It seems a curious ambition to want promotion out of a league where there is a degree of honest endeavour and an acceptance of a club`s limitations to one where money, hype, excess and false hope are the prime currencies.
My own club is not having a shirt sponsor this season. Instead, the team strip is a replica of the first ever strip worn when the club was formed 125 years ago. Blackpool, on the other hand, just promoted to the Premier League for the first time, are to be sponsored by Seems entirely appropriate.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

After a wait of, oh, at least three weeks, another football season is upon us. It started last night at Carrow Road, Norwich, where the home team lost their first game back in the Championship 2-3 to Watford. And this lunchtime, Sky begin their fanatical football coverage by showing Saints` home game against newly relegated Plymouth Argyle. It promises to be a tight game of two halves, to be fair.

Sadly for me, I can`t be at St. Mary`s today as we have a family wedding reception to go to down near Folkestone, so I`ll have to record the Sky programme and watch it later. I haven`t bought a season ticket this year - I get a bit weary with the long drive home in the depths of winter, so I`ll `cherry pick` the games I feel I can get to, probably starting in a couple of weeks when Leyton Orient are the visitors to St. Mary`s.

Expectations are running very high amongst the Southampton fans following last season`s impressive campaign and that could prove to be a problem. I detect that our billionnaire owner and our business high-flying chief executive will not tolerate anything other than promotion back to the Championship and it`s beginning to seem that decisions are being made for purely business reasons possibly without any `feeling` for the club`s reputation. For example, there are no facilities this year for season tickets to be paid in instalments; there will be a £3 surcharge for on-line matchday ticket purchases and just yesterday we learned that press photographers will not now be accredited to take pictures of games in progress, the press having to rely instead and pay for the images produced by the club`s appointed agency.
Whatever the commercial advantages of such moves may be, they seem to be shades of the nickel and dime, niggling stunts pulled by Rupert Lowe in the dark ages of our medieval period. For all the success that might be achieved on the field of play, the reputation of the club as a family friendly hub of the wordlwide community of Saints fans is important to us and I hope this is not forgotten in the club`s quest for `success.`

Friday, August 06, 2010

I watched some of the Test Match today. England had a good day, dismissing Pakistan for 72 and going on to make 112 for 2 at the close of play. It was entertaining from the point of view of an England supporter, but it made for painful viewing for those supporting Pakistan, either at Edgbaston, on tv or even back home in Pakistan.
Which brings me to my point. Now, we have all heard of the devastation caused by the monsoon floods in Pakistan - the worst for getting on for a century - with over 1600 dead, 12million affected and counting. It is a disaster of biblical proportions and quite rightly appeals have gone out for financial and practical aid to help those affected. It`s times like these that somehow bring the people of the world together and give us just a glimpse of what it might be like to belong to a truly worldwide community.
But a couple of things have disturbed me today. The first was the insistence of Pakistan President Zardari to continue his jaunt around Europe and meet David Cameron at Chequers to doubtless pursue their `meaningful discussions.` I did wonder whether President Zardari would not serve his country better by returning home and at least giving the impression of a caring, leading figurehead. I would like to believe that Cameron would not only understand but also agree where the priorities might lie.
The other thing that occurred to me, watching England`s demolition of the Pakistan cricket team, was whether they, the Pakistanis, really wanted to be here at all and whether their minds were not also back home and away from the cloistered environment that is cricket at whatever level the game is played. For cricket is a world of its own, away from the real world. It has its own rules, timetable, history, traditions, its own atmosphere and its own way of doing things. There are times when a cricket match is all embracing, locked in its own protective bubble and quite oblivious of the world beyond the boundary. Today, it seemed, was not one of those times.
Now it might just be that Pakistan are rubbish at cricket or that England have suddenly become world beaters. I have my doubts about either possibility, but I had the feeling today that the Pakistan team, rather than simply not wanting to be in Birmingham, should actually have been somewhere else anyway, where the need is greater and the priorities clear. They might, after all, do far more good back home than continue the relentless drubbing they are suffering over here. Playing yet another game of cricket somehow doesn`t feel quite right.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Seven. Of all the numbers in numberland, seven must be the most iconic. Just a few examples of its significance:-

- Seven days in a week
- Seven Pillars of Wisdom
- Seventh Heaven
- The Magnificent Seven
- The Seven Dwarfs
- The seven deadly sins
- Seven colours of the rainbow
- The Secret Seven
- The seven sisters
- The seven wonders of the world
- The seven year itch
- Blake`s Seven.......

.......and so on and so on. So it comes as no surprise to learn that, in football, the shirt with the number seven on the back is the one most prized. Over the years some truly great players have graced the number - the industrious Kevin Keegan, the incomparable Matthew Le Tissier, the flying winger Terry Paine and now, the goal machine that is Rickie Lambert - all of whom wore the 7 shirt for Southampton FC. Strange coincidence that, n`est pas?
And now our football mad street`s local hero, Scott ("Sixpack") Wagstaff, has been handed the number seven shirt for Charlton Athletic`s upcoming season. I`m sure he will wear it with pride and remember that, as yet another in a long line of pacy flankers, it is a rare and singular honour to follow in the steps of those great players of yesteryear, as he outpaces the opposition full-back, gets to the by-line and delivers pinpoint crosses for his striking partners to deliver their coups de grace. Except at St. Mary`s, of course.

I`m sure there have been memorable number 7s for Charlton in the past, but not being a paid up Addick, I can only recall Gordon Hurst and the lately departed Jonjo Shelvey, who has journeyed to LIverpool where he will doubtless become proficient in bench-warming. Oh, and there were George Best, Eric Cantona and David Beckham, of course, but I don`t want to include them in this as they played for Manchester United, aka the forces of darkness.

I was tempted to mention arguably the most famous group of seven in recent times; no, not S Club 7 but the stout men of the Trumpton Fire Brigade - Pugh, Pugh, Barney, McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb - but I suspect Barney and McGrew are one and the same, so there were really only six of them. So I`ll end this ramble through the number seven by reminding myself that Shakespeare`s soliloquy `The Seven Ages of Man` in `As You Like It` begins with the words "All the world`s a stage and all the men and women merely players...." and hope Scotty and his sixpack enjoy playing in the lucky 7 shirt on their chosen stage.

Monday, August 02, 2010


The report published the other day about the amount of choice we have leading to confusion and depression has got me wondering about a couple of things. For example, one of the things highlighted on the website dealing with this research, suggests that, `Interestingly, confusion actually decreases with age as people have more experience and confidence.` Now I`m sure that`s true in most cases, but as someone now in his `70s, I find that confusion decreases out of a combination of indolence and indifference as much as experience and confidence. In short, I am now experienced and confident enough to be indifferent about quite a lot of things.
Either that or I might be more than just a tad nervous of today`s technology and the bewildering complexity of it all. Maybe the real answer for my generation is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, as I am about to discover when I attempt to upgrade my mobile phone from the present only-a-phone one, to one which has more gadgets....and thus more confusing. I really should learn that the only way to avoid confusion and depression is to keep things simples.
But it`s good research and a good website to check out.
Technology and `society` are becoming so complex that we are being crippled by excessive choice, according to `experts` who have warned that , as a result, we are turning into a nation of `indeciders,` unable to make even the simplest decision and prone to depression.
The growing ranks of `indeciders` are defined by a professor from Bristol University as `a group of individuals suffering high levels of confusion whilst displaying an inability to be decisive, leading in some cases to depression.` Professor Harriet Bradley went on : "With a constant stream of new media, daily technological advancements and aggressive multimedia advertising, it`s no wonder over half of Britain thinks life is more confusing."
According to a survey, 42% lie awake at night worrying about what choice to make (I`m not among them) whilst 65% are particularly confused over the policies of major political parties (I am among them) and Bankers` bonuses caused most bewilderment with 69% admitting they couldn`t understand them (and that was just the Bankers.)
Well, I could have told Professor Bradley all that because, these days, I do find the choices on offer over even the simplest things to be baffling. Now I know I am among the ranks of the terminally bewildered but I went through agonies over deciding which computer to buy and am still going through them as I try to decide on a camera. It`s not that I`m indecisive - I just can`t make my mind up.