Friday, 10 February 2012

Cry God for Harry, England and Saint Scott

Perhaps one of the most famous speeches in English literature is that of King Henry V encouraging his men to storm the French town of Harfleur during the Hundred Years War. The speech, penned by Shakespeare in approximately 1599 is perhaps best known for King Henry V calling his troops to charge “Once more unto the breach”, but it was his final rallying cry – “Cry God for Harry, England and Saint George” – which struck me as most pertinent. The besieging English army was in a precarious position, although 10,000 strong it was ravaged by sickness, had no strong foothold on the continent and faced the prospect of having to fight off a relieving French army,

The current state of the English national team is not too dissimilar… The squad hasn’t yet left for the continent but is already demoralised by internal conflict, ravaged by off the ball issues and with no leaders left to make stirring speeches. The rudderless ship that is the English football team looks like it might not even make it to Harfleur in 2012, let alone Poland and Ukraine. What we need is a new Henry V – or “Harry”, as he was affectionately known.

Fortunately we have our very own Harry more than able to unite the English dressing room and steady the ship on its way voyage to Euro 2012. The fans want him, the players want him, and the critics want him, but the question remains… will he heed England’s call?

Harry Redknapp is nothing if not a patriot, but the Spurs manager is continuing to perform miracles in the Premier League. With almost 2/3 of the season gone, Tottenham are in the Champions League places, riding high in 3rd – 7 points ahead of Chelsea and a massive 10 points ahead of bitter rivals Arsenal – and, as a football fan, you could understand if not forgive Harry if he turned a deaf ear to his country’s cries. On top of that, Tottenham have been very supportive of Harry, particularly during his court case for fraud and you do have to question whether any sane man would swap that kind of steadfast support for the poisoned chalice that is the job of England manager.

So will Harry take the job? Although he’s made a few telling comments – describing it as “the ultimate job for an Englishman”, and assuring us the FA will do “the right thing for the country” (I wonder what that would be…) when appointing Capello’s successor - of far more significance is what he hasn’t said. He’s placated Spurs, praising the support he received from them, he’s also said “It wouldn’t be right to focus on anything else but Tottenham” (quite right too - he is their manager!), but he hasn’t said he doesn’t want to be considered for the job (as Pardew and O’Neil already have), and he hasn’t said he wants to stay at Spurs. His silence is deafening.

At 64 you have to ask how many more years Harry has in the game, particularly given his health problems. It is very possible that this will be his only chance to manage England and, for someone who has always spoken of that job as the pinnacle for any English manager, I can’t see him turning it down.

Looking at it from a brutally pragmatic stance, he will also ask himself how much further he can take Tottenham. They’ve had a fantastic three seasons under Harry but without splashing the cash in the way that other top clubs are doing, and by sticking to their rigid wage structure (a stance which has much to commend it), you can’t help but think that what goes up must eventually come down. That’s not to have a pop at Spurs fans – they’ve got enough to worry about without supporters of rival teams (if West Ham can even be called Spurs’ rivals anymore…) sticking the boot in – I just can’t help but think that in the past Harry’s shown he’s too shrewd a football man to stay at an overachieving team (and they are, considering the money they’ve spent). This is especially the case when he has the opportunity to seize Immorality with England.

I’m putting my neck on the line here, but Harry will take the England job, possibly managing the national team alongside his responsibility at Spurs until the end of the season.

We all know what Harry will bring to the table and there’s no question that he’s the best man for the job – especially when you consider the collection of rather uninspiring English alternatives! – but, who will be his captain? I’d suggest he could do a lot worse than give the armband to Scott Parker.

Parker is a player who would give absolutely everything for the cause, like Harry, he seems to appreciate the importance of the national team to English football fans in a way that isn’t always evident in the current crop of players. He’s also likeable, a rare commodity in the England squad, a real leader on the pitch and is absolutely bursting with integrity. Following the Terry captaincy debacle we need a leader who both the fans and players can respect and get behind. Can you honestly say that Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole or Rio Ferdinand are worthy of the armband?

Give it to Scott. Give the managers job to Harry. Lets get the feel good factor back in English football. Let’s have a team that the fans deserve and can get behind. I’m not saying we’ll win Euro 2012 or the World Cup in 2014, but at least England would give it a bloody good go and show some passion for a change. So fill your lungs, pull on your England top and Cry God for Harry, England and Saint Scott!!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

False perceptions

After my first visit to Upton Park for two months I wanted to talk about one of "Big" Sam Allardyce's favourite topics... No, stop salivating, I'm not talking about his love of pizza, pies and all things edible, I'm referring to his constant winging about the false perception that his teams play boring football.

You see Sam "false perception" Allardyce, sounds very much like a stuck record. Unfortunately for us long suffering Hammer's fans he has several mediums through which he can promote his views, most notably his weekly (and quite frankly cringe-worthy) full-page column in the London Evening Standard. He repeatedly informs avid readers that there is a false perception about his much maligned long-ball style of football, and that he actually has West Ham playing some expansive and quite thrilling football. This anti-football tag he's branded with has been cultivated by the evil media, he tells us, it's a false perception, he tells us. Unfortunately, some people appear to have started listening to him.

Now I've got nothing against Sam as a person and I'm willing to accept that he is indeed plagued by false perceptions... perhaps the most obvious being his nickname "Big" Sam. For those of you who don't bother to watch the blink-and-you'll-miss-it whistle stop tour of the Championship and Leagues One and Two that is the Football League Show (and quite frankly, I don't blame you...), I'm pleased to tell you that his diet regime is going from strength to strength and the generally held view of Sam as "Big" is a false one - perhaps we'll start calling him "svelte" Sam? - however, the perception over his style of football isn't.

I was talking to a friend on Saturday night who informed me that West Ham are playing some great stuff at the moment. "No they're not" I replied, "we're rubbish". "Yes they are" he countered, "you're storming the League and you're going to win it". He said this with the absolute conviction of someone taken in by "Fat" Sam's propaganda offensive, and he isn't the first.

Since when did this man become credible?
Has everyone forgotten his assertion that he's too good for Bolton/Blackburn/Newcastle and is far more suited, with his exciting, free-flowing football, to managing Barcelona or Real Madrid?
Have they forgotten the years and years of dross that we all had to suffer watching his teams on Match of the Day? A leopard can't change it's spots, no matter what it tells you.

In truth, West Ham are playing terrible football. As we now reside in the relative obscurity of the Championship I'm sure some of you won't know this, but we are currently playing a fusion of boring Italian football (get a 1 goal lead and defend for the entire match) and boring long-ball Allardyce football (hooooof!). The result? Unsurprisingly, Boring football.

You see, this is the reason why I haven't attended a home game for so long, despite effectively having a free season ticket and a free lift to all  the games - In the words of Jessie J "It's not about the money... or about getting to the ground" (Ok, I'm paraphrasing...), it's just genuinely a waste of my day. I've been going to away games as regularly as normal - I can justify that as it's a day out with mates and doesn't revolve around the actual football on show - so I have been watching games and I do know what I'm talking about. I also follow Barnet and (luckily!) don't care what League my team plays in, or whether we win, lose or draw, I've been there, and will continue to be there rain or shine, sleet or snow... But only if the team tries to play football and shows some  passion. West Ham just don't under "Fat" Sam.

For this reason, I've been seeking solace of sorts at Underhill, the home of Barnet FC. Ironically Barnet also play speculative, long-ball, hit-and-hope football, but at least the team try. And it's easier to understand these kind of tactics from a League Two team than it is a team boasting established Premiership  players such as Mark Noble, Carlton Cole and Kevin Nolan. Barnet fans laugh at me when I tell them the football at Underhill is better than at at Upton Park. They tell me the ends justify the means, and that it's absurd to complain while we currently sit at the top of the Championship, but they wouldn't if they've seen what loyal Hammmers fans have been forced to endure this season. In fact, I can't believe that so many people continue to persevere with "Fat" Sam - our average attendances are nearly equalling those of last year, even if murmurs of discontent continue to grow.

While we still pull in big numbers both home and away (including six and a half-thousand at Coventry), our vaunted fans have had little to cheer this season. For the first time in my memory you can often hear a pin drop in the West Ham end and that is, quite simply because there is absolutely nothing to get excited about. I for one hope we don't carry on defying all logic and luck and continuing to stack up boring (and mostly undeserved) 1-0 wins by scraping by week in, week out... because the worst case scenario is bad - we get promoted.

You see, if "Fat" Sam keeps prattling away about what great football we play, then people, presumably, will continue to believe him... at least while we ply our trade in the Championship. Unfortunately, as soon as we find ourselves back under the glaring spotlight of Match of the Day, West Ham and "Fat" Sam will be exposed, and as much as I hate people telling me that West Ham are playing entertaining and expansive free-flowing football, I'd rather they remained in ignorance than saw the reality. Worse than that, we will go straight back down anyway as we are effectively, and it pains me to say this, a poor imitation of Bolton - we do what we do, but we don't even do it well.

If staying in the Championship is the price we have to pay to rid our great club of the curse that is "Fat" Sam, it's a price well worth paying.

Whenever I've been to Bolton, Stoke and other similarly grim northern cities - usually to see us trying to play football and showing a bit of passion, but eventually ending up losing - I've always thanked myself for two things; 1) I didn't live up there and 2) I didn't have to watch that appalling style of football week in week out.

Now it looks like the joke is on me.

R.I.P The West Ham Way

Monday, 16 January 2012

Allow me to introduce myself

First of all, thanks to everyone who has read my blog so far... I hope you've enjoyed. In the space of 24 hours I've stormed to over 100 page views so I'm well chuffed with that. The fact that I've been frequently going on myself and hitting the "refresh" button like a maniac has nothing to do with it...

How rude... I jumped right in without even having the manners to introduce myself. I apologise.

My name's Luke, I'm 22 and I come from North London. I'm ginger and I work for Mirror Group Newspapers (hence the hilarious blog name...). I've worked there for over a year now, so you could say I fell on my feet somewhat after finishing Uni... However it was more by luck than judgement as you will soon find out...

Until recently I was proud to say I worked in the most ginger department in Canary Wharf... Alright, there was only two gingers but we're only a department of three so it counts, OK! That's two thirds for god sake!! For once, I had cause to thank my hair colour as I think that's probably why I got the job in the first place, as I spent about half the interview going on about being ginger... and the other half talking about how I used to work in a pet shop but hated dogs and was allergic to cats... (but more on that in later blogs!). The other ginge recently went on maternity leave, and had a non-ginger baby... lucky kid!!

As you may have guessed, my hair colour has shaped quite a large part of my personality and I will partly be using my blog to publicise ginger issues, discuss my theories of gingerness and so on. 
Other key themes will be my love of football, and my (incredibly sad) attempt to visit all the 92 grounds in the English Football League -  I'm halfway already!! - which has led to me visiting sites of dubious cultural interest such as Rotherham, Gillingham and, worst of all, the toilet that is otherwise known as Tottenham. Let's be honest, why else would anyone go to any of these places. Ever?

I will also use this space to broadcast anything witty or amusing that I've thought up... sort of like a ginger Michael McIntyre. 
But funnier. 
...Needless to say these particular posts will be few and far between...

I've already mentioned my motivations for starting this blog but I feel I've unfairly missed one out... When I was at Notts Uni (the REAL Nottingham Uni, not the Trent scum) I used to do a weekly radio show with my housemate Andy on University Radio Nottingham (URN). The show was imaginatively named the Luke and Andy show (or the Andy and Luke show, depending on who you asked), and it just used to be about having a laugh, and talking utter rubbish!! The show is undoubtedly one of the biggest things I miss about leaving Uni and I'm hoping this blog will go some way to filling that microphone shaped hole in my heart. 

Until next time...

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Blogging beginnings

I have to admit, I never thought I'd write a blog... I also never thought I'd join the Twitterati, yet in the space of a month I've succumbed to both fads. Admittedly I was forced into the latter at work and haven't actually sent any tweets or added any followers yet, and my profile picture remains the "standard" egg, but I've been going on more and more recently,  and I can feel my egg is on the point of hatching.

As for blogging, it all started when I came across a secret blog one of my friends made and, naturally, I started posting silly messages on it, and telling anyone who would listen (including my boss who clearly didn't care...) about it's existence. Searching for a place to leave more immature hilarious comments I stumbled upon a mention of two shadowy and unnamed "friends" in one of his blog posts. On further inspection I realised one of these "friends" was none other than yours truly... And I was surprised to find that realisation sent an excited shiver down my spine... I was famous!! Well, sort of... And I thought it was about time to send out some tingles of my own.

(This was the second time I'd been a shadowy "friend" on a blog, and those of you who know me will not be surprised to find out that one mention placed me in a pub, while the other found me drinking excessively on public transport).