Saturday, March 31, 2012

THE WOOD FOR THE TREES..

Back from a week away in the New Forest.   We were blessed with glorious Spring weather and made the most of out time there by visiting the promised old haunts as well as some new ones.   I made return visits to places I knew all of 60 years ago - Hythe, Blackfield, Lepe, Calshot, Fawley where I first went to school - and some of the more popular places - Exbury, Beaulieu, Buckler`s Hard, Keyhaven, Hurst Castle and even down to Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset.

But what I especially enjoyed was to explore the Forest once more and nowhere better than the Ornamental Drive at Rhinefield and Boldrewood - shown in my picture below.

The New Forest is a very special place for all kinds of reasons.  It has a long and unique history along with its own unique character and it seems to be very well `managed` albeit by a tangled web of disparate `agencies.`   As you wander through the forest glades and lose yourself in the peace and tranquility away from it all, you are quite unaware of the complex management that lies behind that unforgettable experience.   But when you find out, you begin to wonder just how on earth the Forest has managed to survive and prosper for these past 1,000 years without the introduction of these layers of management.

The New Forest, almost paradoxically, is the country`s newest National Park and as such it has to have a National Park Authority, whose main purposes are`to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage, promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of the Forest and foster the social and economic wellbeing of the Forest communities.`

Of course, the Forest being a forest, the Forestry Commission gets involved as it is responsible for the management of the Forest Crown Lands.  There`s the New Forest Trust, whose aim also is to secure the wellbeing of the Forest, there`s the New Forest District Council, Town Councils at places like Lyndhurst, Parish Councils across the Forest, Hampshire County Council, the New Forest Tourism Association, Natural England and other wildlife conservation groups and on and on it goes.

Of course, to my mind the ones that really matter and know the Forest better than anyone are the Verderers of the New Forest whose ancient role has always been pretty much the same as all the other, newer agencies, whilst the New Forest Agisters are a small, skilled working group of just five men with a good working knowledge of the Forest and its depasturised animals.   Four of them are allocated a large area each and are responsible for overseeing all aspects of the New Forest ponies.

With all of these other agencies and authorities involved there`s the real risk of duplication of effort and resources, which the Forest can ill afford, but it`s a sign of the times that we deem it necessary to impose layer upon layer of authority whereas once a simple and effective structure with local people who knew the Forest did the job for so many centuries.  

The Forest hasn`t changed in a thousand years, but I wonder if it can sometimes see the wood for the trees of bureaucracy that surround it.   For much more, please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Forest

Thursday, March 22, 2012


OLD HAUNTS ..


I`m going to be away for the next week or so, staying in the village of Sway, deep in the New Forest.   In many ways it will be like retracing the steps of over half a century ago.   Despite being born at a very early age in neighbouring Dorset, I spent most of WW2 in a house at Blackfield, between Hythe and Calshot - see the map above, where my mother and I stayed with her sister and her husband.  


I still have vivid memories of the nightly bombing raids on the docks at Southampton and sleeping under the stairs with a junior set of earplugs.    After the war ended and my father returned from five years in a PoW camp, we moved the short distance to Hythe, where we spent many very happy years as a family in that `village by the sea.`

Of course, I`m still a frequent visitor to Hythe and to Southampton but I`m looking forward to once again exploring the New Forest and the Hampshire coast, which has so much to offer.   Who knows, we may also venture back into Dorset, check out my birthplace and revisit old haunts including Lulworth Cove and Purbeck 


Here`s hoping the weather is as kind to us next week as my aunt and uncle were all those years ago.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012


EIGHT GAMES TO GO...CAN THIS LAST ?




PosTeamPGDPts
No movement1Southampton383575
No movement2Reading382070
No movement3West Ham372168
No movement4Brighton38861
No movement5Middlesbrough37360
No movement6Birmingham371959
No movement7Blackpool371259
No movement8Cardiff37758
No movement9Hull37758
No movement10Leeds United381

Monday, March 19, 2012


Well, I thought it was, but today it has been shown to be otherwise.   Andy Scott had been manager of  League Two Rotherham United for about a year but following a 2-1 defeat to Oxford United on Saturday - a result that left Rotherham eight points off the play-offs - he was shown the door.

Now, Andy Scott has been around.   He made 355 appearances as a player, scoring 73 goals for teams such as Sheffield United, Brentford, Oxford and Leyton Orient.   When he turned his hand to management, he did particularly well at Brentford, being awarded BBC London `Manager of the Year` for 2008, Manager of the Month for April/May 2009 and runner up in the League Managers Association Manager of the Year Award for League Two in 2009.

But what is particularly poignant about his sacking today is that he was forced to retire as a player with the same heart condition - hypertrophic cardiomyopathy - that caused the death of former Manchester City player Marc Vivien Foe, who died whilst playing in an international match for his native Cameroon.   As a result of his own experience, Scott was invited on to Sky Sports this lunchtime to provide his own perspective following the collapse of Fabrice Muamba at White Hart Lane on Saturday, who might well  suffer from the same condition.


"I was very fortunate in that I was one of the two percent of people who suffer symptoms of the condition - for the rest, unfortunately, it is fatal," said Scott.   "With a condition like that, carrying on playing for me was a no brainer because of the potential for your heart packing up on you out on the pitch."


Following his playing retirement, Scott became a driving force behind the charity Cardiac Risk in the Young which for the past five years has campaigned for young players to be thoroughly tested.   He also spearheaded a meeting in 2007 at government level with all the football authorities to push for improved testing throughout the country in all age groups - a campaign which he champions very effectively, as witnessed by his appearance on Sky Sports today..


So there is much to admire about Andy Scott and it is more than regrettable that he has been the subject of such crass insensitivity by the Rotherham United directors in the timing of his dismissal today of all days.  



Sunday, March 18, 2012

  HIGHS AND LOWS..

The weekend`s sporting events have provided mixed fortunes both on and off the field of play.   The highs for me included yet another hat trick by Rickie Lambert Southampton`s Goal Machine (RLSGM) in a dramatic 3-2 victory over Millwall at the New Den, to keep Saints on top of the Championship table.

Meanwhile, Mr. Slightly`s Gillingham went to Whaddon Road, Cheltenham, and came away with an impressive 3-0 win to keep their play-off hopes alive in League Two.   And our street`s fleet footed wideman, Scott Wagstaff, laid on a pinpoint cross for Bradley Wright-Phillips to slot home in Charlton`s 1-1 draw away at Scunthorpe.

On the wider sporting front, I was pleased for Wales to clinch the Grand Slam for the third time in eight seasons but, of course, the occasion at Cardiff yesterday was marred by the genuine sorrow at the passing of Mervyn Davies, almost certainly the greatest Welsh captain and Number 8 there has ever been.   His death once again brought back memories of those unforgettable Welsh teams of the `70s - JPR, JJ, Barry, Gareth, the Pontypool front row, Phil Bennett, Delme Thomas, Ray Gravell, Merv the Swerve himself and all the rest who made that such a special time for Welsh Rugby. Watching the Welsh team yesterday I almost had the feeling that they were determined to win it for Merv....and it was wholly appropriate that they secured their triumph after this tragedy.

Yesterday`s other low point was obviously the collapse of Fabrice Muamba after 41 minutes of the Tottenham/Bolton Cup match at White Hart Lane.   As I write, 24 hours on, Fabrice is in intensive care and remains anethsetised in a critical condition.   Like everyone else, I wish for his recovery and I wish his friends and family well in these desperate hours of uncertainty. 

Football has, for once, behaved impeccably and great credit is due to the emergency personnel at White Hart Lane, to referee Howard Webb for taking the only decision open to him by abandoning the game, to the 36,000 fans at the ground for their understanding, their respect and their dignity in harrowing moments and to the officials of both clubs, who have acted with the good sense and restraint so often absent in the Premier League.

Most weeks, I`m unashamedly bullish about the escapades of RLSGM and his saintly chums, the unfailingly entertaining Gills and the progress of our street`s pacy flanker and the rampaging Addicks.   But this weekend has again reminded me that, however much I might care about football and the fortunes of Snopper Street`s teams, there are things which are much more important to care about.   And not just Fabrice Muamba, but all the others out there as well whose lives may be in the balance but whose friends and families hope and pray in the silence of anonymity.

Friday, March 16, 2012


MORE CELTIC FRINGE BENEFITS..

I was intrigued by the fuss being made about a number of NHS hospitals increasing their charges for car parking.   Not so much by the increases themselves but by the fact that they should be charging at all. 

I remember when my late mother spent her last few weeks in Basingstoke hospital and each time I visited, quite apart from the stress of the situation itself, I remember being stressed about the need to find enough cash to feed the parking machine and then to make sure I didn`t stay so long as to incur a punitive excess charge.

I confess to being one of those who claim that, having already paid for the NHS through our taxes, we should not then be asked to pay again to park.   It`s bad enough if you`re visiting a friend or relative in hospital, but it must be even worse if you`re unfortunate enough to actually be a patient.

But what really annoys me is the revelation that hospital parking in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is free and it is only if you are visiting a hospital in England that you have to pay for parking.   I`m not complaining about the fact that those in other parts of the UK don`t have to pay - good luck to them - but it really doesn`t help the cause of maintaining a United Kingdom all the time this kind of divisiveness goes on.   And with something as sensitive and important as this, surely a common policy throughout the UK would be welcome - preferably a free parking one!


Thursday, March 15, 2012


TIME WE HEARD ?


I think it was in July, 2009 that the Chilcot Inquiry into the events leading up to the Iraq War was set up, although it was November of that year before the first witnesses were called.  Those open sessions went on until February, 2011 - over a year ago - so I wondered why we haven`t yet heard about the publication of the Inquiry`s Report.

It seems as though the process has been beset with `difficulties,` including an ongoing wrangle with Government Departments about the declassification of certain material, and problems with the turnover of the Inquiry`s support staff.   Nonetheless, the `good news` is that, having concluded the public hearings over a year ago, the written and oral evidence received by the Inquiry members `is currently being analysed` and the report being drafted.

The not so good news is that the co-operation of Government Departments might at best be slow and reluctant and then there is the problem that, if the Inquiry wishes to criticise any individual (names on a postcard, please) then in line with the agreed protocol relating to witnesses, the individual would need to be informed of said criticism and offered the opportunity to make representations to the Inquiry before the report can be finalised.   

The latest information is that  the Inquiry has advised the Government `that it will need at least until summer 2012 to produce even a draft report - and very probably longer.   And so it seems we have all the classic hallmarks of fudge in the making - booted into the long grass citing problems of process and protocol, in the hope that by the time the `negotiated report` is finally presented to the Prime Minister, the great British public will have forgotten what it was all about anyway.

Until March 2010 - two years ago - the Inquiry had already cost £2,300,000 never mind `incidentals` such as the sum of £27,000 just for Tony Blair`s security when he deigned to attend, so the cost in the end is going to be very substantial indeed.   Now I won`t mind that if at the end of it all we get a clear, rational, informative, incisive report that we can trust and believe in.   Trouble is, I`m not that keen on fudge and I have the feeling we might well be getting quite a lot of it.   If we ever get it at all.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


ABSENCE OF MALICE ?


There`s a memorable scene in Sydney Pollack`s 1981 masterpiece, Absence of Malice, when an Assistant US Attorney General, James A Wells, played by the wonderful Wilford Brimley, turns up at the Miami Courthouse.   He`s there to investigate whether false evidence has been planted in the local newspaper designed to incriminate someone entirely innocent and whether, if so, the newspaper and the local District Attorney`s office have a case to answer.

During his inquiries, it comes to light that the DA`s office might have leaked a story to the newspaper, which then published it, which prompts James A Wells to declare, "You had a leak?  You call what`s goin` on around here a leak?   Boy, the last time there was a leak like this Noah built himself a boat!!"

I was reminded of this exchange yesterday when I heard the news that we here in deepest Kent are to be hit with a hosepipe ban from 5th April, due to the drought conditions as a result of months of unseasonably dry weather.   Now, we get our water supplied by a private company called South East Water.   They just supply it but it costs me about £350 a year.   Another private company - Southern Water - takes the water away in the form of sewage or highway drainage, for which I cough up about another £400 a year for the privilege.

I have just paid the first half year`s installment on each of these bills, but I did so reluctantly, especially as  Water Companies across the country are responsible for leaks which amount to a staggering 3,356million litres of water lost each and every day.   They`re not my figures, they`re from Ofwat, the water industry regulator.  I`m surprised Noah hasn`t been in touch.   

The legal definition of the hosepipe ban means "they cannot be used on gardens, plants, cars or boats for "recreational use"; to fill or maintain ponds, pools or fountains; and to clean paths, walls, windows or other artificial outdoor surfaces," so I might reasonably expect a rebate as the service I`ve paid for has been reduced, but I`m pretty sure I won`t get one.   

So I guess I will just have to shrug my shoulders and put up with it, but it seems to me that the ban, the £1,000 fine for transgressing it, the reduced service, the absence of a rebate and the appalling level of leakage all point to the fact that the customer once again with these utility companies comes a poor second to the profit motives for their shareholders.   James A Wells might call it malicious.

Monday, March 12, 2012


...AND I KNOW WHO`S DOING WHICH..


Most days when I take Barney for his walkies, we drive to different places where he can be off the lead and have a good scamper around - it not only keeps life interesting but also keeps him used to car travel.   Anyway, we have at least six petrol stations/garages within a five mile radius of home and as we have driven past at least three of them over the past week or so, I`ve noticed that the price of petrol has been going steadily up and up.   

Today, unleaded petrol was on offer at £1.39.9p per litre - an increase of at least 5p a litre over the last week.   I don`t know why they mess around with the .9 of a penny business - much easier to call it £1.40 a litre.   I think - but I`m not too sure - that works out at well over £6 a gallon.   Now we know that, for each £1 spent on petrol, 82p goes in taxes to the government, so I don`t complain about the price of petrol - I complain about the punitive amount of tax involved. 

But it got me thinking just how much tax I`m shelling out each month.   There`s the direct tax whipped away from my monthly pension before I ever see it;   the VAT on just about everything, the indirect taxes on things like wines, spirits, beer, cigarettes, insurance premium tax, betting and gaming duty, air passenger duty and the rest.   Fortunately for me, but not HM Gov., I don`t drink, smoke, gamble or fly anywhere and I`m not sure I could afford to even if I wanted to do all those things because the burden of taxation is becoming serious.

Other things that add to my frustration include, for example, the recently announced rise yet again in the cost of tolls for using the Dartford Crossing which was supposed to be free once the original construction costs had been met - which they were years ago.    And it doesn`t help when local councils reject pleas to forego increases in council tax and put them up anyway, none of which helps pensioners like me struggling to survive on a fixed income in the most trying financial circumstances.     

The cost of pretty ordinary everyday stuff like bread and milk has risen sharply and although I am nowhere near approaching penury, I can well imagine how difficult life has become for thousands of people across the country and especially at the wrong end of the social divide.  Seems to me that in the game of give and take I`m doing a lot of the giving and the tax man is doing most of the taking. So what`s the answer?   Well, it might be time to move to Greece where it seems others are doing the giving and the Greeks are being bailed out.

I wonder what Barney would make of that, especially as the world probably makes more sense to a golden retriever than it does to me.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

NOT SO FAST - PART 2

The plot thickens.   Not long after my original post about the wisdom or otherwise of handing the England manager`s job to `Arry Redknapp, along come some hints that things may not be as cut and dried as most of the clamouring punters believe.

First, Redknapp himself was reported to be in contract talks with his present club, Tottenham Hotspur, whose Chairman, Daniel Levy, seems genuinely keen for `Arry to stay at White Hart Lane.   The former Football Association chairman, Lord Triesman, has declared that Roy Hodgson `would fit the bill` for the England job which, as current West Brom manager and former Maidstone United left back, allied to his international management experience and urbane manner, he might well.   Hodgson has stalled his own contract talks with West Brom, as he feels it wouldn`t be right to commit himself until the Baggies are secure from relegation.

Now it`s perfectly possible to take all this stuff at face value, but being ever the optimist and avowed conspiracy theorist, I rather hope it means that Tottenham are making Redknapp an offer he can`t and won`t refuse and that Hodgson is keeping his powder dry awaiting the call from FA headquarters.   Today Redknapp`s son, Jamie, has expressed fears that the England role might cause too much stress for his dad, so he doesn`t seem keen.

It all points to the attractive notion that the FA power brokers might well be prepared to fly in the face of `public demands` and turn to the more acceptable option of Roy Hodgson.  

It seems also that Hodgson would be happy to work with Stuart Pearce et al behind the scenes at Wembley, whereas Redknapp would almost certainly demand to have his long standing henchmen around him - Joe Jordan, Clive Allen, Steve Sherwood and the inevitable Kevin Bond, who performs the useful function of being Redknapp`s `driver` from their respective south coast mansions to work every day.

All of that might just be a demand too high and unnecessary for the FA, so there is hope yet that we may, after all, get it right rather than get it soon.

Thursday, March 08, 2012


MORE THAN MOST..

It`s been a bad day.   One of those days when you really do wonder what it`s all about, what we`re doing in Afghanistan, how the  families, friends and brothers in arms of the six young men killed in action yesterday must now be feeling.

Now, I unhesitatingly share in the sorrow and grief as the number of casualties we have lost in that God forsaken, seemingly hopeless endeavour reaches 400.   Far too many, far too young and lost to us in what might result in a fruitless exercise of playing our part, doing more than our fair share, in the multi-national force engaged in this mad pursuit.   I know there are many others who share my own feelings that enough is surely enough, but the real tragedy will be that these 400 lost souls may well have been sacrificed in vain as the outcome for any sense of permanent `solution` seems ever more unlikely.

It all reminds me of the remarks alleged to have been made by John Reid who, as Defence Secretary in the Blair government,  is reported to have said that it would all be over in a matter of weeks without a shot being fired.  In fact and to be fair to him, there is no public record of him saying that he "hoped" British troops would be able to leave Afghanistan without firing a single shot.

What Reid actually said - as he described in parliament in answer to an enquiry from Michael Ancram, MP, in 2009, was that troops were there to help the Afghan reconstruction effort, and that they would be "would be perfectly happy" to leave without firing a shot.


But regardless of this nuance, more than six years on and in the face of our troop fatalities now reaching 400, this is the kind of phrase that seems bound to come back to haunt those in office at the time.   Now I am not a fan of `New Labour,` certainly not a fan of Tony Blair, most definitely not enamoured with Scottish politicians in the Westminster parliament; but I have no doubt that one person who mourns the tragic loss of so many of our brave, young men and women more than most, is the now ennobled Lord Reid of Cardowan.  

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


NO CHANCE...

It seems to be the season for compromising democracy.   We all know about dodgy elections - anything from banana republics electing `Presidents` through to the one party state that is FIFA and the endless embarrassment that is Sepp Blatter.   Now we have the gentleman in the picture above, giving us a finger and a vacant expression, the vaguely familiar Belgian Eurocrat, Herman Van Rompuy,  who has just been elected unopposed as President of the European Council.


Now Mr. Van Rompuy seems beset with delusions of adequacy, or maybe they`re just delusions.   For example, he declared in his `acceptance speech` that the Eurozone was `on the road to recovery,` which pretty much typifies the delusions to be found in Brussels.   But perhaps even more worrying was his assertion that national parliaments are now EU institutions.


"Decisions by one national parliament - be it in Germany or Ireland, in Slovakia or Portugal - are watched all over Europe.   Maybe not formally speaking, but at least politically speaking, all national parliaments have become, in a way, European institutions," he declared on the eve of his `re-election.`


Now if we lived in truly democratic times, we would expect to have an election for the post of President of the European Council, with rival candidates, different political philosophies to ponder and a choice of who we considered to be the most suitable person to hold this important post.   But not a bit of it.   Van Rompuy has simply been handed another two years in power without an election and once again the people of Europe have been given no chance to have a voice of their own.


Maybe I shouldn`t be too surprised given the recent examples of centrally imposed rule by the EU over Greece and Italy which are but two more in a growing list of instances where democracy seems to be compromised in order to further the political dreams of the Eurocrats, however unrealistic and out of touch they may be.


Watch out for Van Rompuy and his chums - they not only sound deluded but also a bit dangerous, especially to our fading national democracies.


Sunday, March 04, 2012


A BINARY DAY..

Over the years, the fortunes of Snopper Street`s footy teams have fluctuated between moon jumping and parrot sickness.   But I doubt whether, in all those years, there`s been  a day quite like yesterday.

Mr. Slightly`s battling Gillingham side made the long journey to cash strapped Plymouth and came away with a 0-1 win, thanks to a 30-yard screamer from Joe Martin.   This victory, hard on the heels of a remarkable televised game in the week when the Gills came back from 2-4 down with ten minutes to go to snatch a 5-4 win in the dying seconds, will hopefully see them return to the League Two play-off spots before long.

Meanwhile, the seemingly unstoppable Charlton made the not quite so long journey down to Bournemouth and came away with a 0-1 win thanks to a last gasp header from Yann Kermogant, keeping the Addicks pretty much out of sight at the top of League One.   The only disappointment yesterday was the continued absence of our street`s hard working pacy wideman, Scott (Buzzin six pack) Wagstaff who is finding it difficult to force his way back into the starting line-up all the time Charlton manager Chrissy (The Legend) Powell seems reluctant to change a winning team.

As for my beloved Saints, well they took a flight from Southampton to Leeds where in another televised encounter they came away from Elland Road with a 0-1 win over the Damned United, thanks to a thunderous volley from Rickie Lambert Southampton`s Goal Machine (RLSGM) and a heroic rearguard action from the Saints back four and in particular veteran keeper Kelvin Davis.   Those hard fought three points keep the Saints on top of the Championship, in real danger of promotion back to the Premier League.

So, yesterday saw a remarkable treble - nine points out of a possible nine;  all three victories away from home in each of three different divisions and with three identical scores - 0-1,0-1,0-1 - a Binary Day if ever I saw one.   I wonder what the odds might have been for an outcome like this or, for that matter, for it ever happening again.   I`m sure my neighbour Mr. Slightly, a financial wizard vastly experienced in the dark arts of having a flutter would know better than me.


Saturday, March 03, 2012


ALL QUIET ON THE WESTMINSTER FRONT ?


It`s a couple of years on from the great MPs expenses scandal and so it`s not really surprising that little has been heard on that subject lately.   Which is a pity, because details just released show the scale of expenses still being doled out to MPs at Westminster, along with some very telling examples of how at least some of them `still don`t get it.`

Figures included in the latest batch of data about these expenses show that for just the two months of October and November last year, £3,500,000 worth of MP`s expenses were processed by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.   Claims for mileage amounted to a staggering £92,000 and MPs also claimed £11,352 for taxis, this despite a supposed ban on the use of taxis `in all but exceptional circumstances.`


Among the `still don`t get it` category were claims by Labour MP Adrian Bailey for attending Remembrance Day services in his West Bromwich constituency.   Now Mr. Bailey is chairman of the powerful House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee and he was clearly showing all of those qualities when he claimed £13 for attending three separate services last November, along with a claim for £3.50 to attend the launch of a local Poppy Appeal in October.  These claims are apparently permitted under Parliament`s allegedly `tough new rules` and were therefore approved by the Standards Authority.


Now Mr. Bailey is a senior figure on Labour`s back benches and in addition to his £80,000 a year MP salary he also gets £14,500 for his role as the Committee chairman, but quite apart from the money aspect of his claims, his constituents might reasonably expect him to attend this kind of event voluntarily?   Not a bit of it, so we should not be surprised that he added the kind of claims that included £2.25 for `tea and cake` and another £3.35 for `cake, apple, coffee and two plums.`


And so it is surprising that, with the extent and type of claims being revealed as still going on, seemingly in the face of the furore of two years ago, we`re not hearing as much about them as perhaps we should.


Friday, March 02, 2012


NOT SO FAST !!

It`s not unusual for me to be in a minority of one, to go against the grain, but I`ve been a little encouraged by reports today that the Football Association are taking their time over the appointment of the next England manager.

It has been assumed that Harry Redknapp will get the job as the people`s favourite, his case being pressed daily by the media and, why, even those pillars of reason and perception Messrs. Ferguson and Pulis have publicly backed the clarion calls for Redknapp`s accession.

But the Football Association might, just might, have other ideas for it seems they may be casting their net a good deal wider than the confines of White Hart Lane.   Now this might just be the tried and tested process of setting up a process involving a number of candidates so as to demonstrate that the chosen one can be shown to be the best man for the job.   But on the other hand, their may be genuine issues surrounding Mr. Redknapp that are making the FA proceed with caution.

For example, there will be the hard bargaining that will inevitably be involved with Tottenham Hotspur`s hard nosed chairman, Daniel Levy.   Then there`s the prospect that the much travelled Redknapp will want to bring his sidekicks - Kevin Bond and the pugnacious Joe Jordan - into the FA headquarters with him, thus making his recruitment that more complex and costly, never mind what Spurs will make of it all.   And, of course, it is just conceivable that there might be someone out there who is better and more acceptable to the FA and to the nation than the seeming inevitability that Mr. Redknapp has become.

But perhaps the most telling doubts surround the suggestion that the FA`s Director of Football Development, Sir Trevor Brooking, has `reservations.`   And so the FA are right to take their time and get it right rather than get it soon and it strikes me that the best way to approach it is to ignore the mass clamour, the media assumptions and the advice of  the likes of Ferguson and Pulis.   And maybe, just maybe, with Sir Trevor on board, I won`t be in a minority of one any more. 

Thursday, March 01, 2012


THE BEST DAY OF THE YEAR?

I guess for some people, Christmas Day is their favourite day of the year.   For others, it might be a birthday.   But for me it`s today, 1st March, when the meteorological springtime of March, April and May begins.   Things are beginning to happen in the garden - my back aches from making a start on sorting out the winter damage - the temperature has been warmer, the evenings are beginning to draw out a bit each day and we have the whole of Spring and Summer to look forward to.   

Cricket returning is high on my list of things to look forward to and although this year will see the European Football Championships, the Queen`s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics, for me the things I will enjoy most are visits to the New Forest, to Cornwall (twice) and to the South Hams of Devon in September, when the summer will be drifting into Autumn and I will wonder where the time has gone.

It`s a good day today and it has confirmed my choice as the best day of the year. 

FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS...

It is with some reluctance that I again feature the bizarre image of Mr. John Portsmouth Football Club Westwood, along with one of his minders.   But once again his football club are in the news and once again for all the wrong reasons.

Now liquidation is not a very nice word.   Sounds as if it belongs more in Star Wars than in the dark recesses of the Football League but the Administrator appointed by the Court to sort out the basket case that is Portsmouth Football Club has today issued the stark warning that the club may not survive beyond April.   That is unless a buyer comes along with more money than sense to purchase the club and all its millions of debts.   This seems unlikely but in this mad world there might just be someone so myopically devoted to the Pompey cause that he or she would come to its rescue.   I can`t see it happening to be fair.

Today we learn that the parachute payments from the Premier League - amounting to over £2million - will not go to the club but instead will go to a former owner who is apparently owed this tidy sum.   And so another avenue of salvation turns into a dead end.

Now of course the Administrator might just be crying wolf but the outlook does indeed look grim and it seems the only hope is for either the Football Association, the Premier League or the Football League to cough up enough cash to see the club through to the end of the season, thereby avoiding the embarrassment of having a club go into liquidation during the season. 

If liquidation does happen during the season, however, then the effects on the rest of the Football League Championship will be intriguing, as all of Portsmouth`s results for the season will be expunged - another Star Wars word.   Now this will have the effect of West Ham losing six points, as they have beaten Portsmouth twice, whereas Southampton will lose just one point from the draw at Fratton Park in December (the return game at St. Mary`s has yet to take place.)    This should sort out the promotion battle between West Ham and Southampton very nicely indeed, thank you very much.   But I`m not sure I can see that happening either, given the wolf crying invoked today by the Administrator.

But whatever the next few weeks bring for Pompey and the blue few who, like Mr. Westwood, frequent Nottarf Krap, the future is at best uncertain and at worst short lived.   It seems that, at last, after years of mismanagement, ducking, weaving, creative accountancy and downright deception, the end might well be nigh.  So don`t ask for whom the bell tolls, Mr. Westwood - it tolls for thee.   Such a shame.