Sunday, January 30, 2011


ALL IS NOT LOST

Take yesterday`s football, for example.   Pride of place once again goes to  rampaging Gillingham, who beat Dean Holdsworth`s Aldershot 2-1 at Priestfield to cement their place in the play-off spots in League Two.   There seems to be no stopping Andy Hessenthaler`s team who were, once again, the only winners of the teams that Snopper Street care about.  

Charlton made an overnight trip all the way up to Rochdale in Lancashire for a League One game, only for the game to be called off at a 9.30am pitch inspection following heavy frost.   So, our pacy flanker, his chums, friends and family had a wasted journey, which is odd, as I always assumed that `oop north,` with their diet of tripe, onions and black pudding and their penchant for whippets and pigeon fancying, the natives of Rochdale were made of sterner stuff.   No matter, at least Charlton can claim that their unbeaten run under new manager Chrissy Powell, continues.

My beloved Saints, without my own attendance due to my principle of refusing to allow any of my cash to find its way to Old Trafford (yes, I know all about noses, spite and faces) were live on Sky for their FA Cup match with Manchester United.   Despite leading 1-0 at half time, the Saints were eventually undone 2-1, thanks to some panic substitutions by United, tiring legs and missed opportunities.  No complaints - almost the perfect result;  bowing out of the Cup following a creditable showing, allowing us to concentrate on the league.

There were, I suggest, two or three differences between the sides.  One was the quality of the bench - United could have called on Rooney, Berbatov, etc., having already brought on Giggs and Nani;   Southampton had Fraser Richardson along with untried  youngsters in Ryan Doble, Aaron Martin and Oscar Gobern.   Then there was the gulf which exists between the Premier League and League One, not just a gulf in class but also financially. And there`s the thing - after years of financial problems culminating in Administration, Southampton are now debt free, balancing the books and living within their means.  United are £765million in debt and rising.  

But in the end, it was what happened on the pitch that mattered to the players and the fans of each team yesterday at St. Mary`s.  For Manchester United, they go marching on to the next round of the Cup.   For Southampton, whilst it might be tempting to find solace in patronising phrases such as  gallant losers, plucky lower league minnows, call them what you will,  it was  a day to be proud of the team, the stadium, the support and the club.   So, despite the old saying, "Show me a good loser and I`ll show you a loser," all is most definitely not lost.

Friday, January 28, 2011

HERE IS THE REAL NEWS..

Someone somewhere decides what is news and what isn`t.   I sometimes wonder whether they - whoever they may be - have any real sense of priority.

Yesterday`s BBC TV News included various items - some relevant, some not. And among the less relevant were items about Sky TV`s massive leap in half-year profits and as a result, Rupert Murdoch having to fork out more cash if he wants to have full control of  Sky;  his likely problems with the Competition Commission; the aftermath of the Gray/Keys afffair; celebrities having their phones hacked;  stuff about the upcoming Oscars... and so on.

It wasn`t until we were well into the second half of the `news` that mention was made of the fact that the 350th British death had occurred in Afghanistan since the start of the conflict there.  Another sacrifice;  another grieving family; another human tragedy.  And treated almost as a footnote to what someone somewhere considered to be more important.   And that might be the real tragedy of our times - that `celebrity` continues to take precedence over what should be real news. 

 No wonder we don`t know where we`re going.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

NOT GUILTY - HONEST..

I hear on the local grapevive that my neighbour has been having trouble with her drains.   All blocked up apparently.  Nothing flowing as it should.   An emergency call-out resulted in a scandalous allegation that the cause of the blockage was some kind of discarded `comfort wear.`


No good coming round here with any wild accusations of things I haven`t done, for Snopper is innocent!!   And what`s more, as a former practitioner in the dark arts of environmental health, he is fully au fait with the  Disposal of Incontinence Pants (Prevention in Drains) Regulations, 1985.

Try further up the road.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


A LESSON FOR FIFA ?

Despite the fact that it hasn`t been built yet, there`s a lot of fuss about what to do with the Olympic Stadium once next year`s Games are over.  There are competing bids from Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and also West Ham United.  Spurs want to knock the stadium down, then build a new one on the site that will be for football use only.   West Ham want to keep the Olympic Stadium as it is and just move in.   And all the while, smaller clubs like Leyton Orient must be concerned about the prospect of one of those big clubs moving closer to their manor.

But there`s a problem.  When the Olympic bid was made, there was a clear commitment for the Olympic Stadium to remain as a multi-use facility, as part of the legacy of the Games for the young people of that part of east London and beyond.   A decision on the future use of the 2012 Olympic stadium, scheduled for Friday, has been postponed as the Olympic Park Legacy Company says it needs more time to study rival bids from Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham.

Whether the decision is postponed or not, the fact remains that we had at least a moral commitment built in to the successful bid to host the Olympic Games.   Indeed, the Chairman of London 2012, Lord Coe, has said, "It's serious that we deliver what we said we were going to unless we're prepared to trash our reputation. It'd be very difficult for us to be taken seriously in the corridors of world sport and arguably beyond if we failed to deliver what we promised."  Nice one, Seb.

And therein lies the nub of the issue.   For whatever the merits of the competing football club bids may be, surely the important thing is to keep the promise made and, in this instance at least, display a reputation for straight dealing.   It seems to me we have an opportunity here to display integrity in the face of divisive financial expediency and if we take that opportunity then we send out a clear message to those other sporting bodies for whom transparency and integrity have perhaps been in short supply recently.

Our reputation as a sporting nation might well be greatly enhanced by hosting a successful Olympic Games, but that reputation can so quickly be tarnished if we go back on a clear commitment for the wellbeing of our young athletes of the future.

Monday, January 24, 2011

THE TIDE TURNED AT LAST?

I`m surprised that anyone has been surprised at the sexist remarks dished out by Richard Keys and Andy Gray (pictured) in the direction of Karen Brady, the West Ham Vice-Chairman, and especially Assistant Referee Sian Massey, who was officiating in the Wolves v Liverpool Premier League game on Saturday.

It has always puzzled me how Gray has held on to his job as a pundit for Sky Sports for so long.   Or, indeed, how he ever got the job in the first place.   His problem is that he`s not very good at punditry.   He has a gift for stating the bleedin` obvious, telling us what we have just witnessed anyway but doing so in a kind of patronising caledonian gurgle.   It`s almost as if he thinks he is gurgling to a room full of female assistant referees who, in his mind, need to be instructed on what has just taken place in the game.   He also says, "I have to say....." a lot, when he doesn`t have to say anything at all - he`s better off leaving it to the excellent Martin Tyler, who really does know how to commentate on tv.

If this latest episode means that the tide has finally turned against Gray and his neanderthal style of analysis and delivery, then I for one will breathe a sigh of relief.  For what we pay in Sky subscriptions, we deserve a whole lot better.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


WE`RE ON A ROAD TO NOWHERE..

Arrgghh!!!   My turn to wear the sackcloth and ashes this week.  Every time the Saints make the long journey to Tranmere Rovers` Prenton Park ground, somehow the words of David Byrne`s `Road to Nowhere` come hauntingly to mind.  For Tranmere are the Saints` bogey team.  Try as we might, we always find Tranmere difficult to break down  on their dodgy pitch, so much so that our most recent encounters with them on the Wirrall have resulted in four defeats, one draw and just one solitary win, which was way back in 1959.  I can even recall us being 3-0 up at half time in a cup game, only to lose it 4-3 in the dying minutes.

So no real surprise to learn that in yesterday`s 2-0 defeat we were awful, lacking any guile, desire or passion with the players` minds seemingly more concerned with playing Manchester United next week than getting the Tranmere monkey off their backs. 

In other Snopper Street footy news, the super soaraway Gills continued their impressive run of results with a hard earned draw away at Torquay, which keeps them  there or thereabouts in the mix at the top end of League Two.   Mr. Slightly must now be over the moon, having spent the early part of the season with acute parrot sickness.

But the one victory for Snopper Street yesterday came courtesy of Charlton, seeing off Plymouth Argyle, whose pilgrimage to The Valley proved fruitless.   Charlton`s 2-0 win was helped by yet another goal from our street`s icon, Scott Wagstaff, who pounced on a defensive blunder to put his side one up, bringing his season`s goal tally to nine, which is an excellent return for a normally wide flanker but who was given a more forward role yesterday by new manager Chrissy (The Addicks Legend) Powell. 

The jungle drums are rumbling;  rumours are gathering pace; whispers on the streets are beginning to suggest that the Saints are showing an interest in Waggy and perhaps see Charlton`s golascoring pacy pouncer as a natural replacement for departing prodigy Alex Oxtail-Chamberlain, who seems to be off to Arsenal for a shedload of wonga.   If the opportunity arises, Waggy should jump at the chance to join Southampton not only for the football but also for the playboy lifestyle on the sundrenched south coast, a whole world away from the drab urban jungle of SE 7.

For both the Saints and for buzzin` Scott Wagstaff, the `Road to Nowhere` includes the inspiring and enticingly portentous phrase:-

"And we`re not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

EXIT STAGE LEFT..

Well, I said I thought I would be disappointed and I wasn`t wrong.   After four hours of gentle `grilling` by the Chilcot Inquiry yesterday, Tony Blair left the building to pursue his nest feathering, speech giving and legacy searching, in stark contrast to the families of the armed forces personnel present in yesterday`s audience who must forever grieve for their loved ones lost in Blair`s quest to cosy up to, of all people, George W Bush.   But then I guess it takes one to know one.  

I`m not sure we learned anything new yesterday and I suppose we must now await the final report of the Chilcot Inquiry to see what they have made of it all.   It might be a long wait, but hope against hope that it doesn`t turn out to be yet another whitewash job, a la Hutton.

I think the most worrying aspect of yesterday was Blair`s assertion that `we` ought to be taking military action against Iran.   Hasn`t he done enough damage already or is he latching on to the likelihood that the current talks between Iran, the US, Russia, Germany, France, etc., concerning Iran`s nuclear programme look like ending in failure?   As those talks are allegedly led by Baroness Cathy Ashton, the Grand Pooh Bah of European Foreign Policy, then dismal failure looks a good bet.

Quite apart from the Blair theatricals, yesterday`s news seemed to be dominated by the resignation of one Andy Coulson as David Cameron`s Communications Director.   As if anyone in the real world, outside the Westminster bubble, could give a hoot.   Then there was the case of Alan Johnson`s bodyguard being suspended from the police amid allegations that he was having an affair with Mrs. Johnson.   Now, in Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Burlusconi is in trouble with His Popeness for allegedly having affairs all over the eternal city.   Perhaps there`s an opening there for Alan Johnson`s bodyguard to see that Silvio doesn`t get up to any more mischief.

So, all the world`s a stage, that`s for sure and if all the men and women are merely players then maybe some of them should simply leave the stage, exit left and leave the rest of us in peace.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

HI DE HI..

In a week that more and more resembles a vaudeville, the star turn has yet to arrive on stage.  We`ve already had the high camp of Elton, David and their baby, we`ve had the Ross family photographed en masse displaying their multi-coloured look-at-me hair and their unbounded joy that their 19-year old daughter has vowed to follow the leanings of Sappho.  

As almost the perfect counterpoint to those right on examples of modern day society (or is it just a London thing?) we also had the extraordinary outcome of the court case which decreed that deeply held Christian values must, in law at least, come second to the rights and values of certain minorities.

But tomorrow, cue drum roll, we will see Tony Blair once more as a witness to the Chilcot Inquiry into the events leading up to  the Iraq invasion.   Now, I`ve some time for the Chilcot Inquiry.   It`s been going for 14 months now, has interviewed loads of witnesses and read through forests of paper.   There`s something almost patrician about the Inquiry`s members and so far they have conducted themselves with a quiet, restrained dignity.

But I wonder if quiet, restraint and dignity are really what are needed now we`re approaching the end game.   We already know there were no WMDs, despite Blair`s assurances to Parliament.   Dark uncertainties still hang over the death of Dr. David Kelly and now that Blair is back and walking among us again, now is the time for Chilcot and his chums to not only really get to the heart of the issue but also to be seen to be doing so.

It seems there are two major issues that need to be clarified once and for all.   The first is whether Blair chose to ignore the Attorney General`s advice, along with the Attorney General being marginalised because Blair didn`t like what he was being told.   The second is why on earth the messages passing between Blair and Bush, which have been seen by the Inquiry members,  should not be made public.   It smacks of something to hide and I can`t see why the decision whether to publish should be left in the hands of a paid official, albeit the Cabinet Secretary.  

But tomorrow I expect we will see yet another `performance` from Blair;  one that in the past may have been convincing but that these days may simply be viewed for its shallowness, for Blair is no longer seen as a strident politician, no longer the potential saviour of the Middle East conflict, no longer the `straight kind of guy,` he once proclaimed.   Instead we have a showman, an illusionist, a purveyor of smoke and mirrors, whose priority seems more and more to lean towards self-preservation, self-gratification and self-assurance.   It`s all self, you see.   But then it may always have been thus.

If tomorrow, like last time, turns into yet another fol-de-rol, another stage for Blair to display his theatrical bent, another in a long line of vaudeville acts, then that should not be condoned or accepted either by Chilcot or anyone else, for too many lives have been lost over Iraq, too much blood spilt in a dubious adventure and too many questions left unanswered.  Somehow I suspect I`ll be disappointed again. 

 Ho de Ho.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

DROPPING THE BRICK..

As a footnote to my recent football posts, I have noticed a significant change in the policy adopted by our local hard working pacy wideman Scott Wagstaff to his goal celebrations.

In his 24 appearances for Charlton so far this season, he has netted seven times, which has given him the chance to experiment with his goal celebrations.   In the early days of his burgeoning career as a netfinding flanker, his celebrations were understandably muted - ranging from the disbelieving, through the querrulous to the default air punching.

However, as his scoring has developed over the season, so too has his celebration, culminating in the choreographed effort he put in after scoring against  Sheffield Wednesday on 30 October last year.  After he had found the back of the net, he proceeded to celebrate by `doing the brick.`  This seemed to consist of standing stock still for a few seconds before falling over and lying prone on the ground.   It caused much interest in media circles and included an exclusive interview on TALKSPORT with Paul Hawksbee and Andy Jacobs a few days later.   The full extent of this in depth interview can be heard here:-

http://www.talksport.co.uk/radio/hawksbee-and-jacobs/blog/2010-11-01/wagstaff-i-enjoyed-celebrating-doing-brick

However, things have now moved on and Waggy`s goal last Saturday in the return match with the Owls was conspicuous by the absence of `the brick.`   It seems the brick has been dropped, to be replaced by a kind of communal  cuddle with his team mates, involving much hugging and other forms of close contact.   All of which might actually be more in keeping with his buzzin` gay icon status although it remains to be seen whether future celebrations confirm that status or whether they will revert to a more individual form of expression.

I`ve often been puzzled as to why football clubs can employ managers, coaches, dieticians, masseurs, physios and all the rest but never seem capable of employing  goal celebration specialists, as it is such an integral part of the modern game.   Maybe with Charlton`s new management team finding their feet, that is an area they should be exploring because one thing`s for sure.   On the assumption that Waggy might score at least one more this season, we just can`t go on like this.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


OH, I SAY !!
A cliche`d  view of yesterday`s encounters...

Five points out of a possible nine for the afficionados of Snopper Street yesterday on a day that saw conflicting fortunes for our football teams.   Pride of place once more goes to Gillingham (it`s getting to be a habit) as they took all three points from their home game against the Cobblers of Northampton Town.   Their narrow 1-0 win by the only goal of the game took their recent rich vein of form to just one defeat in the last eight games.  

No wonder Gills manager Andy ("Hess") Hessenthaler is declaring that `this is promotion form` as his charges establish themselves in the promotion play-off positions following a spirited turnaround from their early season disappointments.   Rumour has it that yesterday`s home crowd at Priestfield was boosted by the return of a `Woody` bedecked  supporter who has slinked back to the terraces now that his heroes have returned to winning ways.   

Our street`s local iconic pacy flanker and his buddies made the  long journey to South Yorkshire to take on Alan Irvine`s Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.   Our hard working wideman scored for Charlton early on,  burying an angled shot into the back of the bulging net leaving ex-Addicks custodian, Nicky Weaver, grasping thin air in a desperate attempt to deny Scott Wagstaff`s goalbound effort.   Charlton went two up before a spirited revival from the Owls saw the game end in a 2-2 stalemate and leave the Addicks just outside the play-off positions.

As for me, I toddled down to Southampton to see the high riding Saints play Paul ("The Guv`nor") Ince`s Notts County.  Another goalfest was eagerly anticipated by the 20,000 plus crowd at St. Mary`s after the midweek 6-0 drubbing the Saints had handed out away to Oldham.   But Ince had other ideas and so he played five across midfield, parked the bus on the 18-yard line and invited Saints, minus the influential Adam Lallana and Dean Hammond, to break them down. 

Although chances were created, they weren`t put away and at this level, if you have promotion abmitions, then you really should capitalise on the chances that come your way.   It ended as it began - 0-0 - and Ince will be the happier of the two managers at the end of the day.   As for Saints gaffer Nigel Adkins, he was abe to take some positives from a disappointing result, although to be fair it does mean that the Saints need to get back on track and take the three points on offer at Prenton Park next Saturday  against struggling Tranmere.  

So, well done to the Gills, who must now travel to Devon next week to play Paul Buckle`s Torquay at Plainmoor in what promises to be an important test of their promotion credentials, whereas Charlton will be entertaining the other Devon side, Plymouth, in what could turn out to be a pivotal game for beleagured Pilgrims boss Peter Reid, as he comes up against Chris Powell, the legendary Addicks` player, now newly installed as their manager.  

At the end of the day, I can hardly wait for next week, to be fair.

Friday, January 14, 2011

RUNNING AWAY ?

Here`s a conspiracy theory ;  it concerns the games between Southampton and Charlton Athletic in the upper reaches of League One.   It started over the Christmas period when the Saints were due to play Charlton at The Valley.  The team got there in good time, along with 12 coach loads of Saints fans, only for the game to be controversially postponed by referee Andy d`Urso 40 minutes before kick-off on the grounds that there was a bit of ice where the linesman would have to run up and down and it might cause him to fall over.   So that game has been rearranged for the evening of 22nd March.

Next, according to the fixture list, the return game at St. Mary`s was due to take place on Saturday 29th January, but on that day the Saints play Manchester United in the FA Cup.  So, that game was rearranged for earlier that week, Tuesday25th, just four days before the cup game.

In the meantime, Charlton have sacked their manager Phil Parkinson and have just appointed Addicks legend Chris Powell to the managerial hotseat.   And guess what?   The rearranged Tuesday game has now been rearranged again, at Charlton`s request, and will not now be played until the evening of Tuesday 7th April, when I`ll be away on holiday in Cornwall.  I`m sure it`s deliberate.

You could almost be forgiven for thinking that Charlton`s hierarchy, along with our local pacy hard working gay icon and his chums, might be trying to avoid meeting the high flying Saints, now lying second in the table, unbeaten for eight games, scoring 19 goals in their last four league games and conceding only two.  Just like watching Brazil.

 No official reason has been given for Charlton`s reluctance, so I am left to conclude that they need time to get sorted out under their new manager or they suspect that, by late March and early April, the Saints will already have secured promotion and not be too bothered or they will have lost their rich vein of form.  But just in case, they may have spotted the long range weather forecast and are busy alerting referee Andy d`Urso to the possibility of icy conditions along the touchline around early Springtime.

Well, I said it`s a conspiracy theory.


TEACHING MATHS IN BRITAIN..

This `came my way,` and I couldn`t resist passing it on:-

1. Teaching Maths In 1970
A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100.  His cost of production is 4/5 of the price.
What is his profit?

2. Teaching Maths In 1980
A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100. His cost of production is 80% of the price.
What is his profit?

3. Teaching Maths In 1990
A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100. His cost of production is £80.
How much was his profit?

4. Teaching Maths In 2000
A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100. His cost of production is £80 and his profit is £20.
Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

5. Teaching Maths In 2005
A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habit of animals or the preservation of our woodlands.
Your assignment: Discuss how the birds and squirrels might feel as the logger cut down their homes just for a measly profit of £20.

6. Teaching Maths In 2009
A logger is arrested for trying to cut down a tree in case it may be offensive to ethnic or religious groups not consulted in the application for the felling licence. He is also fined a £100 as his chainsaw is in breach of Health and Safety legislation as it deemed too dangerous and could cut something.   He has used the chainsaw for over 20 years without incident.  However, he does not have the correct Certificate of Competence and is therefore considered to be a recidivist and habitual criminal. His DNA is sampled and his details circulated throughout all government agencies. He protests and is taken to court and fined another £100 because he is such an easy target.

When he is released he returns to find itinerant travellers have cut down half his wood to build a camp on his land. He tries to throw them off but is arrested, prosecuted for harassing an ethnic minority, imprisoned and fined a further £100. While he is in jail again  the rest of his wood is cut down and sold on the black market for £100 cash.  Several tonnes of rubbish and asbestos sheeting are left behind when the site is finally vacated and when the forester is released from prison he  is warned that failure to clear the fly tipped rubbish immediately at his own cost is an offence. He complains and is arrested for environmental pollution, breach of the peace and invoiced £12,000 plus VAT for safe disposal costs by a regulated government contractor.

Your assignment: How many times is the logger going to have to be arrested and fined before he realises that he is never going to make £20 profit by hard work, give up, sign onto the dole and live on benefits for the rest of his life?

7. Teaching Maths In 2010
A logger doesn’t sell a lorry load of timber because he can’t get a loan to buy a new lorry because his bank has spent all his and their money on a derivative of securitised debt related to sub-prime mortgages in Alabama and lost the lot, with only some government money left to pay a few million-pound bonuses to their senior directors and the traders who made the biggest losses.

The logger struggles to pay the £1,200 road tax on his old lorry. However, as it was built in the 1970s it no longer meets the emissions regulations and he is forced to scrap it.

Some illegal immigrant loggers buy the lorry from the scrap merchant and put it back on the road. They undercut everyone on price for haulage and send their cash back home, while claiming unemployment for themselves and their relatives. If questioned they speak no English and it is easier to deport them at the government`s expense. Following their holiday back home they return to the UK with different names and fresh girls and start again. The logger protests, is accused of being a bigoted racist and as his name is on the side of his old lorry he is forced to pay £1,500 registration fees as a gang master.

The Government borrows more money to pay more to the bankers as bonuses are not cheap. The parliamentarians feel they are missing out and claim the difference on expenses and allowances.

You do the maths.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

GOOSE AND GANDER..

I was interested to hear yesterday of the prospect of HM Gov. tightening up the law on trade union ballots.   There`s a lot of fuss in high society about the dark threats coming out of some union bosses that strikes might be called to coincide with the Royal Wedding in April this year and the Olympics next year.   And we really can`t have that, can we?

So, David Cameron says he will look at the arguments for amending the law so that a strike can only be held provided at least half of those union members eligible to vote in the strike ballot have, in fact, done so.   That way, it`s claimed, we will have a truly democratic decision which we can all respect and I have to say that I agree with the principle of what`s being said.

But on the basis of what`s good for the goose is also good for the gander, I wonder whether that same principle will be applied to all forms of voting procedures, so that, for example, a Member of Parliament can only take his or her seat in the Commons provided that at least half of the constituency electorate has actually voted in the election.

Somehow I doubt it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


DEEP MID WICKET..

It was very tempting to go on about England`s Ashes victory in Australia, but I refrained from doing so partly to spare the feelings of my antipodean friends and partly because experience has taught me to treat those twin imposters of both victory and defeat  not only the same but also with caution.   In any event, Australia have infinitely more pressing matters to concern themselves with over the flooding in Queensland.

Nonetheless, watching the cricket unfold on television encouraged me to revisit my own personal shrine of the sainted game and so yesterday, I took Barney back to `my` old cricket ground from all those years ago.   It was well over 50 years ago that I played for Basted Cricket Club and, indeed, had the honour of being their captain before I was whisked away to spend 731 days at Her Majesty`s pleasure doing my National Service.  In those days, the club had its idiosyncratic ground on a hillside overlooking the Bourne valley deep in the Kent countryside.  The ground was owned by what was then Odhams Press, a large publishing organisation that had its distribution centre down the valley.

The cricket we played was simply for the fun and the love of the game - no leagues, no sledging, playing to win but not falling into despair if we lost, respecting the opposition  and just enjoying each other`s company in those idyllic surroundings.  We played on Sundays and on the mornings before the afternoon games, I used to go to the nearby Crowhurst Farm, borrow the tractor and hitch it up to gang mowers so the outfield could be made ready whilst others would be preparing the playing strip.  After the game, we would repair to the Golding Hop pub, just along the road, where the home made cider was so strong that the landlord would only ever sell you three half pints.

Yesterday, I noticed the changes half a century has brought.  The club moved years ago from the rough hewn ground at Basted to the more manicured surroundings of Tonbridge Sports Ground.  I hope the club is still going, in which case it is now well past its century.   Odhams Press ceased to be years ago and the ground, along with adjoining woodland where cabbage fields used to be, is now part of Basted Mill Woodland Walks - a semi-formalised recreation area.   It`s owned by the local borough council who, along with no less than three local parish councils, look after the area for public use. 

There is a helpful notice board giving information about the flora and fauna to be found there and I noticed that even some of the trees in the woodland have little labels on them saying what kind of trees they are.  Mainly wooden ones, I guess.  All a bit formal perhaps, but at least the area will remain available for old romantics like me to visit, stand on where the square used to be, conjour up the sound of leather on willow and recall those glorious days all those years ago with good friends playing the beautiful game.

I stood there yesterday and wondered where all those team mates might now be - Eddie McKellow, Tom Merrit, David May, Dick Harvey and his brother Eric, Bernie Maycock, Jimmy Ford, Roy Willard, Norman Brown, Tony Allen, Brian Webb, Peter Clout and his Dad, Jim, who was our umpire, Peter Hudson and the rest, along with wives and girlfriends who made the tea.   I suspect and fear that most of them may now be in the great pavillion in the sky, but their memories still remain on that quiet Kent hillside where the game was played, the sun seemed always to shine and where the spirit of cricket and all that it meant was honoured and revered.

Told you I was an old romantic !

Monday, January 10, 2011

AN ENCOURAGING WEEKEND

This weekend`s football has been memorable for the Snopper Street afficionados of Gillingham, Charlton and Southampton.  Both the Saints and the Addicks were in FA Cup action, with Gillingham continuing their League Two programme with an away game at  Stockport County. 

The Cup matches were intriguing.  On Saturday, the Saints pulled off an impressive victory against Premier League Blackpool, winning 2-0 with goals fro Lee Barnard and our very own Brazilian, Guly do Prado.   Much of the pre-match hype surrounded Blackpool boss, Ian Holloway`s decision to play a weakened team against the Saints.  In the event, he made nine changes from the team that played their last game....but Saints manager Nigel Adkins made eight changes himself to the team he put out last time.   Saints reward is a home tie against Manchester United in two weeks time. 

The United fans forum headline is `Southampton have the honour of playing the Red Devils....`  which just shows their appalling arrogance.   I don`t think I`ll be going - as the gate receipts for FA Cup matches are shared 50-50 between the two clubs, it means that half my ticket price will find its way to Old Trafford.  And I`m not prepared for any of my cash to go to the most blatantly arrogant football club in the world.  So there!

Charlton, after a difficult week that saw the dismissal of their management team, despite the club lying close to the top of League One, went to White Hart Lane yesterday to take on a rampant Tottenham team.  Perhaps the 3-0 defeat for Charlton was predictable, but the pride we feel here in Snopper Street is for our street`s hero, Scott Wagstaff, who was given a free role to harrass the Spurs back four, put pressure on the opposition and disrupt the Spurs` free flowing passing game with his non-stop running.  

 Scott and his team mates came out of the game with their heads held high, having acquitted themselves well against stellar opposition and they will have grown from the experience.  I`m reliably advised that Scott exchanged shirts with Jermaine Defoe after the game.  I`m sure Defoe is as chuffed about it as Scott is.

But perhaps pride of place this weekend might well  go to Gillingham whose 5-1 win at Edgeley Park on Saturday saw them back to winning ways after their narrow 1-0 defeat at Wycombe last time out.  Six wins in the last seven matches is surely promotion form?

If only every weekend was as encouraging.

Saturday, January 08, 2011


TAXING TIMES..

Just when we taxpayers thought the MPs expenses row had been sorted, a couple of things come along to remind us that there is still a way to go.   The last few days have seen some startling throwbacks to those heady days when our news was dominated by taxpayer funded duck houses, moat cleaning and late night adult film viewing.   Yesterday we had the jailing of cheating ex-Labour MP David Chaytor, who quite blatantly swindled the taxpayer out of something like £30,000, so although there are still a handful of court cases pending, at least one of the accused MPs has had his collar felt followed by his just desserts.

But perhaps more worryingly for those who thought the expenses business was now under control, we have had a series of `minor` MPs bleating about the activities of the Independant Parliamentary Standards Authority, set up to independantly deal with the whole business of their expenses.   I suppose to some extent, IPSA might be independant, but given that it was set up by the Government in the first place and also given that Tory mediocrities like Nadine Dorries have threatened that IPSA `will be sorted` if it doesn`t do what such mediocrities are demanding, I have some fears for its wellbeing as a truly independant organisation. 

MPs have reduced IPSA staff to tears over the elements of the expenses rules they object to – including those relating to their family life, the definition of the 'London area' and the budget for renting a constituency office.   It seems to me that our elected representatives should have rather more pressing matters to concern themselves with, rather than whining about their expenses claims, especially when they enjoy decent salaries, subsidised everything and a lifestyle that most of us can only dream about.

BUT - and it`s a big but - to be fair, there is a system in place to independantly monitor the expenses antics of our MPs.  It may have its faults, it may need the odd tweak to make it work properly, but at least it`s there.   All of which is a far cry from the shameless gravy train that continues to chuff along in the EU, where sadly little or no attention is given to the excesses that go on in that remote Alice-in Wonderland.  

Closer to home, we have now seen the Budget for Kent County Council for the coming financial year. It was launched at a televised press conference the other day and whilst it might not have been the most riveting news item of the week, it was probably the most photogenic.

Now I confess not to have studied the small print, but it`s a budget that seeks to attack the spending restrictions imposed by the Government whilst at the same time keeping Council Tax in check and maintaining essential services.   No easy task and, perhaps predictably but very sadly, 1500 KCC  jobs are likely to go, causing the inevitable problems for those staff directly affected.  

Now, like our MPs and the mandarins of the EU, our Kent County Councillors are entitled to expenses of their own - attending meetings, travelling, subsistence, conferences, study tours, hospitality and the rest.   I just wonder whether, buried away in their huge budget, there is any hint that our elected councillors are making at least a gesture of understanding towards the local taxpayers by volunteering the odd cutback in their own claimable expenses.   If so, what an example it would set, not just for the taxpayers of Kent but also for those further up the food chain who cannot be taken seriously as elected representatives all the time they whine about having to do the right thing by those who elect them.   After all, we`re all supposed to be in it together in this Big Society.  Aren`t we?

Friday, January 07, 2011

WHEN STAN MEETS OLLIE

Tomorrow afternoon at St. Mary`s promises to be an interesting occasion in more ways than one.  The Saints entertain Premier League side Blackpool in the next round of the FA Cup - a competition won by both clubs in the past.   I remember Blackpool winning it in 1953 in what has been known ever since as the Matthews Final, when the late, great Sir Stanley Matthews turned the game on its head by producing a masterclass of wing play to enable Blackpool to beat Bolton Wanderers 4-3.  

It was just after my Dad had bought our very first television set - a small screen black and white job with a kind of magnifying glass stuck onto the screen so as to make the picture a bit bigger.   He always claimed that he had bought the tv so that my Mum could watch the Coronation, but I think his real motive was so he could watch the Cup Final.

Anyway, Blackpool are currently doing well in their first season in the Premier League and Saints are lying second in the League One table, but even so the gulf between the two clubs is considerable.   Blackpool`s priority is to retain their Premier League status, whereas Saints` priority is promotion out of the third tier of English football.   So the respective motives for tomorrow`s game will be interesting.   Already Blackpool manager Ian Holloway has said he will field a weakened team, which might even things up a bit and might see the inclusion of former Saints players Brett Ormerod, Stephen Cranie and Jason Euell to appear once more on the St. Mary`s stage.

But the real entertainment might come from the respective team managers.  Ian `Ollie` Holloway has carved a niche for himself as a `character,` with his broad Bristolian accent getting broader still, the further away from Bristol he travels.  Ollie tells it like it is.  What you hear is what you get.  Some of what he has to say is mirthful, tongue-in-cheek winding up, but some is straight to the point, challenging the authorities and fighting the tangerine corner.
And then there is Saints manager Nigel Adkins, with his Stanley Unwin-esque sentence mangling and use of obscure phrases which have become essential parts  of his pre and post match interviews.   So, given the doubtful importance of tomorrow`s result on the pitch, I`ll be looking to see whether Stan or Ollie comes out best from the fine mess their teams might get them into. 

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

....AND SO THAT WAS CHRISTMAS?

Maybe I should feel a tinge of shame for admitting relief that the season of alleged goodwill is finally over.  But it has gone on for too long, what with the `build up` that seemed to have started around September time when the first Christmas cards appeared in the shops;  Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year`s Eve, New Year`s Day, the Monday Bank Holiday....it`s all too much. 

Now that it`s all over, workers are back at work and kids are back at school, Mrs. Snopper and I can go shopping to restock our supplies of Complan and incontinence pants without fighting our way through frantic queues.  And so it`s time to look back and pick out just a few of the things that have scratched the surface of my consciousness in the last couple of weeks.

It`s been a mixed bag really.  Good things included seeing friends and family - if nothing else, Christmas seems to be the catalyst for bringing people together if only once a year, so that was good.   Other good things came courtesy of sport - the last refuge for those unable to do nothing.  The cricket in Australia and the fortunes of my football club brought a welcome relief, which brightened the grey, dark winter days.

We`ve had our share of tragedies - the floods in Queensland, the murder of Jo Yeates, the continuing loss of life in dubious conflicts, the sad and untimely loss of Pete Postlethwaite.

We`ve also had some of the more bizarre, such as the gripping news that Sir Elton ("Arise, Sir Reg!") John and his husband David Furnish are having a baby by a surrogate mother. Now I guess these days it`s `cool` that people can do pretty much what they please but I`m afraid that `news` left me feeling just a tad uncomfortable - as much by the public exhibition of unrestrained excess as by the feeling that, however pleased with themselves the happy couple may be, there remains some concern for the all round wellbeing of `their` child.  And apparently, there are more on the way. 

And how could I miss yet another example of the small minded pettiness of that other knight of the realm, `Sir` Alex Ferguson?   Preston North End had little choice but to bring an end to the stewardship of their club by Ferguson`s son, Darren, following a string of poor results leaving them at the bottom of the Championship table.   And `Sir` Alex`s reaction to his son`s sacking?  Why, to instantly recall three Manchester United players who had been on loan to Preston.   It simply confirmed that despite being  knighted for services to Tony Blair, Ferguson senior simply has no style, no class, no dignity.  Happy Christmas to all those in Preston.

And we`ve had some bizarre political shenanigans too.  We had the ConDemNation coalition government relaxing planning laws, so that there are now loads of things you can apparently do in the Big Society without planning consent - I quite expect to see an exploratory drilling rig being assembled in next door`s garden, just in case. 

 HM Gov. have also decreed that local councils should relax parking fees and parking restrictions.   They have hailed it as `the end of the war on motorists,`.....just at the same time as they impose a VAT increase on the price of everything, including petrol, along with yet another hike in fuel duty to save the planet from global warming as we shiver our way through the coldest winter for over 100 years.  They should know by now that with yesterday`s rain we did not come down.

So it was a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly......I must leave you to decide which of my yuletide selections fall into which category.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Sunday, January 02, 2011


WISH YOU WERE HERE, ROY?

It`s almost forty years ago since our three sons were very young and times were hard and I could neither spare the time nor the cash to pursue my lifelong devotion to Southampton Football Club.  It was just to far to travel to The Dell, took too much time out of a crowded weekend and would cost more than I could afford - especially if at least two out of our three sons might have liked to come along as well.

Instead, I used to go and watch Maidstone United, our local club just a few miles from home.  It was convenient, cheap and the football was entertaining.  At the time, the Stones, as they are still known, were riding fairly high in non-league circles such as the Southern League, Gola League and the Conference.   After a while, there was a brief flirtation with the Football League Division Four but after a couple of seasons the club, as it was then, went bust and that was pretty much that.   These days, the club that rose from those desperate ashes are again struggling in the lower reaches of the Ryman League, still without a ground of their own but still battling on.

I sometimes feel a little awkward these days that, with my sons now well in to their 40s, I now do have the time and the resources to allow me my regular and self-indulgent visits to watch my beloved Saints but I sometimes feel I should still be supporting Maidstone in their difficult times, as they provided me with such enjoyment all those years ago.  But, as a football club chooses you rather than you choosing one yourself, I`m afraid it`s Saints every time, ever since I first went to The Dell in 1946 with my own father.

But I wonder how Roy Hodgson feels about  it. In the very early 70`s, Roy was part of the successful and hugely entertaining Maidstone team that my sons and I used to follow.   In the picture above, Roy is seen in the back row, fifth from the left.  In those days, he was a steady, thoughtful, reliable left back - just some of the qualities he has displayed in a distinguished managerial career with a host of clubs including Bristol City, Malmo in Finland, FC Copenhagen, Inter Milan (twice,) Grasshoppers Zurich, the Swiss National Team, Blackburn Rovers, Fulham and now Liverpool.

So he`s not daft, he`s been around and he knows what he`s doing.   He`s having a troublesome time at Liverpool but it`s hardly surprising given the inheritance from Rafa Benitez, the merry-go-round of American owners and a squad of players who, with one or two notable exceptions, seem themselves to be troubled.   Roy is under intense pressure to please the Liverpool faithful who seem, sadly, not to recognise the quality of the man they currently have in the Anfield hotseat.  Like anyone settling in to a new challenge, Roy needs time, patience and support, but those commodities seem in short supply these days on Merseyside, which is a pity.

And so I just wonder, after all he has achieved in his 63 years as a manager and gentleman of restrained dignity, whether Roy Hodgson isn`t simply at the wrong place at the wrong time and I wonder too if he ever looks back on his playing days at London Road, Maidstone, as wistfully as I do.