Friday, September 30, 2016


It seems to be the case with us Saints fans that, when all appears to be going swimmingly, along comes an issue to make us think again.   The last five games undefeated - four of them wins - and five clean sheets including last night`s creditable draw away in Israel in the Europa Cup against a very useful Hapoel Be`er Sheva side.  The Saints are currently ninth in the Premier League and the future looked bright for the rest of the season.

And then along come the Telegraph revelations about alleged corruption in English football which have already resulted in the merciful departure of `Big` Sam Allardyce as England manager.  And now Saints Assistant First Team coach Eric Black appears to be implicated by allegedly `advising businessmen how to bribe lower league staff.` 

Mr. Black was appointed by Saints just a few short weeks ago as a qualified and experienced coach but also, crucially, a fluent French speaker which would be helpful to new French manager, Claude Puel, whose English was `patchy.`   Thankfully, M. Puel`s grasp of English has improved noticeably of late and so one element of Eric Black`s c.v. has become less crucial.

As I write, the Saints contingent is flying back from Israel and the club have yet to consider their position and of course it is tempting and perhaps premature to rush to judgement.   However, if there is a case to answer and the evidence becomes clear, the club will have little choice but to part company with Mr. Black if it wishes to retain its deserved reputation as an honest, family  friendly club.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Last night, whilst the brouhaha over the departure of `Big` Sam Allardyce was in full spate, an altogether different football experience was to be found at the Proact Stadium, home of Chesterfield FC - nicknamed The Spireites after the extraordinary spire on the local church.   The visitors last night were Gillingham FC, for whom our street`s local hero, Scott Wagstaff, plies his trade as a pacy flanker, fleet-footed wingback or midfield dynamo, depending on the manager`s selection, the nature of the opposition and the job he is required to do in any given game.

Now, here in our quiet Kentish conclave there is an eclectic mix of football supporters - West Ham being prominent, if a little on edge - along with my neighbour, who is a died-in-the-wool Gillingham fan and myself as a lifelong Southampton supporter.  But we all have one thing in common, which is to have followed the fortunes of 26-year old Scott Wagstaff over the years since his apprenticeship at Charlton, through loan spells at Northwich Victoria, Bournemouth and Leyton Orient and cementing his burgeoning career at Bristol City and now Gillingham.  Shades of The Return of the Native indeed..

Last night, the Gills found themselves 3-1 down deep into the second half but then Wagstaff produced two moments of inspiration to secure a 3-3 draw and a priceless point away from home in the depths of Derbyshire.   The first was to tumble under a heavy challege in the penalty area with such conviction that the referee, one Trevor Kettle, had no choice but to rightly award the Gills a spot kick, which was duly dispatched by Wagstaff`s former Bristol City colleague, Jay Emanuel-Thomas, aka JET.

The second - as deep into added time as the 96th minute - saw our local hero latch on to a cross and bury the ball beyond the despairing clutches of the Spireites` sprawling custodian.  And it`s becoming increasingly the case that moments like that, in the real football world rather than the tainted circus of the Premier League, remind us that there is life and joy and honest endeavour to be had beyond the avarice, the assumed entitlement and the deeply unedifying spectacle of the self-styled `best league in the world.`

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


I don`t know!   I leave these pages for a few days and when I return, what do I find?  It is, depressingly, that the main `story` exercising the press this fine September morning is not Syria or the Clinton/Chump head to head or the Labour `Party` Conference.  Oh no.  It is the allegations that England Manager, `Big` Sam Allardyce may have been a very naughty boy by trousering £400,000 for a shady deal with a football agency firm along with other misdemeanours.

Now all this apparently happened after his appointment but before he took charge of his first - and probably last - game as England manager.  I quite expect that he will claim exemption from disciplinary action on account of him suffering from asthma but I have to say I am not surprised that doubts concerning Allardyce`s `suitability` have come to light.

Just a few short weeks ago, following the announcement of his appointment, I ventured the dilemma as to whether watching football under his tutelage would bring back memories either of Jurassic Park or Back to the Future.  Well, his future now looks decidedly uncertain and without really wishing to kick a man when he`s down, I hope the Football Association do the decent thing and do what they should have done originally, which is to appoint an English manager for the England team who possesses attributes fit for the purpose.

He needs to know the game inside out, preferably having played it at a decent level; he needs to be personable, knowledgeable, articulate and possess an air with which the supporters of England football can have confidence.  Candidates may be thin on the ground but the FA should look to the south coast and have a word with those who run Bournemouth Football Club.  And the quicker they do so, the better.

Friday, September 16, 2016


......they would probably turn out to be like this one, which I managed to capture a week ago on a balmy, late summer evening on the south coast of Devon.......

No wonder I keep going back there.  And speaking of Devon, there`s a short piece of music by Patrick Doyle for the film score of the Oscar winning adaptation of Jane Austen`s `Sense and Sensibility.`  The short piece is called `Devonshire` and it captures the lyrical charm of glorious Devon.   Here it is.......

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


I was looking forward to this series, which is now in to its final stages of four films produced by BBC South West.  Now I am a proud member of the South West Coast Path Association, which exists - having been instrumental in establishing the 630 miles of coast path from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset - to maintain and promote the path for visitors and residents of the south west region.

And I`m the first to accept that it was always going to be difficult to condense 630 glorious miles into four half hour programmes.  But not for the first time, the BBC have failed dismally to capture the essence of a subject not only by cutting out huge chunks of the journey but also by pandering to the whims and fancies of a presenter who should know better.

They did the same with the `Coast` series which started off full of good intentions but drifted into programmes which were more about the presenters than what they were supposed to be presenting.  So far every edition of `Coastal Path` has seen the presenter, one Paul Rose, seemingly unable to resist doing things rather than simply walking the path and showing us what it`s really like.   

Tonight`s third episode saw him training with the military in Plymouth, snorkelling around Burgh Island rather than showing us the island, driving a train from Kingswear to Paignton and taking part in an RNLI rescue training  exercise.  After all that, there was not much time in a half hour programme to capture the essence of the coast path itself - its solitude, its changing character, its peace, quiet and the invigorating experience of just walking it.

It is an immense disappointment and so I still, very optimistically, look forward to a series of programmes that does just that.  The BBC won`t ever do the coast path justice - perhaps, having snaffled that Bake-Off thingy,  Channel Four might ?   

Monday, September 12, 2016


Last week we stayed at Bigbury-on-Sea, which is just opposite Burgh Island, shown in my photo above.   When the tide is out, it is possible to walk across to the island from Bigbury, which we did a couple of times and it`s well worth the effort.

The Burgh Island Hotel has a richly deserved reputation as a wonderful example of art deco architecture and decor and also for the clientele it continues to attract.  People such as Noel Coward, The Beatles, Churchill, Eisenhower and Agatha Christie, who wrote two of her novels whilst staying on the island, are among the most prominent guests.

The Hotel`s website shows far more about staying there, menus, things to do and all that and I`m sure that booking one of the marvellous suites for dinner, bed and breakfast is excellent value at £665 per night.   I`m not sure I will ever have the pleasure of staying there but if I ever do, then I will be determined to stay awake all night and maintain full consciousness, which strikes me as the only way to properly achieve value for money.....

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Just back from another week walking the south west coast path in south Devon.  We`ve been there many times before and hopefully will again, as it is one of the most quiet, peaceful and beautiful parts of the south west.   One of our walks was from Hope Cove, following the coast path towards Soar Mill Cove.  On the way out of Hope Cove I took this photo, looking back at the almost chocolate box village.......