Tag Archive: football

Death Of A Good Man

The death of any person at the age of 42 is something of a tragedy, when they leave families behind it is even more so.  It happens, and all too frequently figures in 2008 showed 5,377 deaths attributed to suicide, for men the figure is 17.7 per 100,000 population (it is 5.4/100k in women).  The 2008 figures were said to have risen due to the economic crisis and the effect this was having on people but I believe this is grossly over-simplistic and brushing the issue under the carpet where it has been for many years.  We will see when figures for Greece are revealed that show whether or not the rates have risen from the (M5.2/F0.9 in 2009) The trouble with figures is that they are flat, they have no person attached to them but when one of those deaths is high profile it is at least more likely to come to the attention of a wider spectrum of people and may, possibly, throw a spotlight on the matter of suicide and its causes, for a while.

Certainly the case of Gary Speed’s suicide seems to have caught everyone in the public eye by surprise, at least those who are saying anything.  What is interesting is that the world of sport including people that have been quick to class themselves as friends (and I have no reason to doubt their sincerity) have expressed their shock and concentrated on how much of a nice guy Gary Speed was.  This is pretty much the norm when someone dies, naturally they will not be interviewing people who either did not know or did not get on with the deceased.  Speed was described by more than one person as “the nicest man in football.”  Some hours before his death he had appeared on BBC’s Football Focus, which appears to have made his death shortly thereafter even more of a head-scratcher, the inference being who could have known, he seemed to have so much to live for.  This tends to be the stock response from people when dealing with a case of suicide.  It is true for them it is usually a bolt from the blue.  Should it be?  There is often the belief that there will have been cries for help that could have been heeded, “if only I’d done… this/that …perhaps I could have stopped it, perhaps I should have helped.”  But people who are actually going to commit suicide do not let others know in advance, they do not warn those around them because they do not wish to be stopped, there is rarely any cry for help at the time.

The fallout is one of loss and guilt, it makes those left behind feel bereft and powerless, those a little closer to the person in question do often have anger and the feeling of being let down by all the shit that has been left behind, it is seen by many as an ultimately selfish act.  This is not how the person will have seen it, of that I am almost certain, in fact usually it is the diametric opposite.  I do not know what was going on in Gary Speed’s mind that would have caused him on this occasion to have taken his own life,  I do not know if he might have considered it before or how long he may have been struggling.  I do not know if his situation is the feeling of hopelessness and the sense of being a burden to those he loved around him which can often be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.  Did he see his removal as the only option to stop the hurt caused to those he cared about.  This may seem strange in the case of someone with a good job, a nice house, family, prospects, all the things most people aspire to, but aspirations rarely include what mental health condition you may have when you grow up.

If we look at the number of people we see in high profile jobs and tally it with the known 1 in 4 statistic then it would be no surprise that a large number of them may have mental health conditions.  If Match Of The Day has three pundits and a presenter then one of them statistically is likely to have or have had a mental health condition.  The lack of this being addressed shows that whilst progress has been made it is still taking a long time due in no small part to the stigma that still accompanies mental health conditions and hidden disabilities.  High profile figures are wary of declaring such conditions for fear that it may harm their image and thus their careers.  Given the ignorance and intolerance in wider society they have grounds for such concern.

To hear some of the comments about Gary Speed’s case shed some light on it.  For example On Match of the Day 2 today Mark Lawrenson stated that “he was such a normal person a normal family man… to achieve what he’s done and be normal…”  I’m sure that Lawrenson does not mean ill with his tribute, he thinks he is being sensitive and preventing Gary Speed being thought of as a weirdo.

There is never really any good that comes from a death but one can only hope that these deaths are not entirely in vain, perhaps they might prevent others from taking the same path, or assist those left behind in such cases deal with it better.  I do not know if Gary Speed ever sought, or got, help, but perhaps his death might allow some people a brief period where they are not quite so ostracised and misunderstood, as a long time captain of most of the teams he played for it might be seen as setting a fitting example.

Song Of The Day ~ Thomas Tantrum – Hot Hot Summer

Football’s about money
and not the game at all
pretty soon it’s academic
if they ever kick a ball

Russian billionaires
launder funds through wealthy teams
and supporters see new signings
like the coming of their dreams

but this isn’t entertainment
and it isn’t for the fans
and putting smiles on youngsters faces
is not the zenith of their plans

as the bread line gains each day
ever more recruits
so the game is being raped
by the men in fancy suits

the sums that they are paying
would build hospitals and schools
but the profanity of this
is they’re not breaking any rules

is it right to pay admission
to watch such a sordid game
and so to line the pockets
for those who only care for fame

is not the true supporter
one who spends their hard-earned cash
on the supper for their children
not prima donnas on the lash

but the money isn’t wed
to Man U or Liverpool
and if you think they care for Britain
then you surely are a fool

Song Of The Day ~ Stereophonics – A Thousand Trees

I am fairly amazed that in the case of 3 news items I have heard this week there appears to be the strong impression at some form of surprise, as if many people cannot fathom why certain problems have manifested themselves. From my perspective I find this hard to believe as to me even a cursory examination would reveal uncomplicated explanations.

The first item was regarding euthanasia – always an emotive subject, but to the fore this week because it emereged a British woman with a terminal brain illness booked herself into a clinic in Switzerland to die. This has been seized upon by the media for its moral ambiguity that can be debated to death. What no-one ever seems to take into account is why is it so surprising that people in pain, be it physical or mental, seek to relieve themselves of this pain? Most of us in our lives have sought alleviation of some kind or other for any number of ailments, what if such medications and such were not available for our condition, what then? Or what if you were simply too tired to go on fighting, maybe you’ve been strong maybe you haven’t, everyone has a threshold in the end, what do you do when you reach it?

I think it is inconceivable to take this matter to debate without mentioning at all the fact that a vast swath of the world’s population are under the (mis)apprehension that the afterlife is going to be nirvana and a respite from the burden of this world. Why then shouldn’t people think that death is the answer to free them from their shackles? After all we are increasingly taught to go for the things we desire, what if what one desires is clearly not obtainable, or does not seem obtainable in this world? Now see for me this is not a quandry, I shall cling to life with every sinew in my body because I believe this is all you get and I’m too shit scared to go into the oblivion of non-existence thank you very much, I’ll stick around if it’s all the same. However I might feel differently if I were deprived of the ability to communicate and each day simply involved pain management.

So, on the one hand religion teaches us that if you are a virtuous person you’ll get your reward in heaven and that this world is a mere prelude for the next and then society attempts to put the ball and chain on you making suicide immoral and thereby telling you that no matter how shit things are now there’s no easy way out for you, Sunny Jim, you’ll stay here and like it. Doesn’t add up from what I can see, someone please explain.

The second piece of news which whilst not at first obviously conected was that Sven Göran Eriksson the embattled England football manager has added weight to recent claims that corruption is rife in football including a spate of managers receiving bungs from agents to transfer the right players. Eriksson joins Luton Town Manager Mike Newall and QPR boss Ian Hollaway who had already alleged the same thing. Interestingly Eriksson appears to carry a great deal more weight than the other two managers because now an enquiry is to be launched, whilst previously Newall and Hollaway’s evidence had illicited precious little active response from the game’s governing bodies on account, they said, on there not beeing any concrete evidence. Of course the Premier League has stepped manfully in to conduct the enquiry headed by…. itself. Hmm, no conflict of interest there then.

Again the question must be asked if the allegations are proven to be correct and I have little doubt that they are, why is anyone surprised? There is a huge amount of money involved with football these days, players at the top level command annual salaries that most of us will not earn in a lifetime, agents take their cut of this and rarely go short. Big businessmen get involved and pump large sums of money into football clubs, now correct me if I’m wrong but if they were looking to cultivate a philanthropic image my guess is that they’d pump this money into some worthy charity, museum or such like. The whole football system has become a large business venture for profit-making and money-laundering, thus rendering it entirely in sync with all the other modern day businesses.

And then there’s Big Brother which continues to feature heavily in newspapers. Whilst it may be slightly less directly covered in the more aloof broadsheets it is still a strong pull and no surprise that on the day many tabloids are running damming “exposees” etc. on Big Brother contestant George Galloway that The Guardian choose the same target but a different story, there’s being that the Serious Fraud Office have a lot of documents from the US Senate committee regarding allegations surrounding the Oil For Food program. It would of course be churlish to assert that if the Americans had proof of wrongdoing backed up by documentary evidence why did they not declare it when George was over there lambasting them. The point is that this Gaurdian article didn’t actually contain anything newsworthy other than the shipment of the documents here, there was no evidence of anything new coming out that may have an effect on any prosecutions just a lot of rumour, speculation and hypothesis. That sort of information is welcome in an editorial where the ‘what ifs…’ and ‘possiblys’ can be discussed ad nauseam but it is not news and should not be presented as such, the same way that a possible photo of George meeting a bad man at a time when he was not supposed to be a bad man and was being met by a lot of other bad men who are yet to be judged as bad men, is not news either.

Of course much has been made of Big Brother and certainly tempers have run high in what I have seen of it which does to be fair only correspond to a total of about 2 hours, much of which was primetime viewing where the events are suitably sensationalised. Would I like to chat politics with George Galloway, yes undoubtedly, would I like to live with him, I suspect not. But then I don’t like to live with anyone, I’m a miserable bugger and by the looks of it, so is he. Why should anything different be expected? Far from being an avuncular older statesman Galloway comes across as an aggressive, self-assured, querulous and opinionated man, but at the same time he comes across as passionate, committed, erudite and human. I can cope with Galloway the dogmatic, cantankerous politician precisely because I feel that he is exhibiting the traits that most people who aspire to high political office will exhibit. I don’t imagine any serious politician is the life and soul of the party anymore than I imagine that anyone who is the life and soul of the party makes a very good politician. Tony Blair has to be a prime example of someone who is totally obsessed with the spun image of him that he is careful not to leave a hair out of place or a smile faked badly and thus the substance of his politics is minimal. Would he make a Big Brother contestant that everyone loved? One can only speculate for such a politician would never allow his/her guard to be down in public like that.

Having been off sick of late I have had the misfortune to see parts of the Richard & Judy show, for those not familiar it’s the equivalent of Regis and Kathy Lee. Richard and Judy are hardly synonymous with the most refined or informed of debates, and yet they do seem to deem themselves fit to sally forth with some zeal in the character assasination of George Galloway. I am not saying this is necessarily a conspiracy but at no point have I heard anyone say anything about the political issues that George stands for which is after all his job. There has been much debate about George’s censorship by the Channel 4 directors team who have without question chosen to show the most ridiculous parts of George’s participation and his arguments especially when at their most petty. But again, why would I be surprised, their agenda is for this sort of thing and not for the swaying of the youth to an anti-capitalist message

Sadly I am totally underawed that the program has led to such vitriol. I think regardless of motivation George’s appearance on the show has done him precious few favours and done little to enthuse any of the audience to make them more inclined to listen to the message he claims to wish to propagate. In fact from where I’m standing he has given the media (one of the very greatest politcally reactionary forces in the country) adequate ammunition to riducule and besmirsch him in what will undoubtedly be the beginnings of a campaign designed to ensure he does not retain his seat at the next election. I cannot see how anyone will remember the substance of any of his arguments over the sight of him playing a cat or in a pink leotard. Personally I think his participation in these particular tasks was admirable in so far as I hardly think it would have done him any favours had he refused. The Hobson’s choice in this regard was one of his own making and one he could surely have seen coming unless he is unbelievably naive which I cannot believe, or too bothered about his ego to see it coming or think it’ll stop him. Again, I don’t judge too harshly on the ego point, to believe that you have a future in mainstream high-office politics you have to have an ego, otherwise how can you believe that you can ably represent the people you are standing for?

I guess the underlying message behind all 3 of these items is, once again, that you reap what you sow. This is not seemingly a message popular in the current world, cause and effect seems scarcely mentioned as the system and everyone within it blunder on like a juggernaut until such time as they run into something bigger and more immovable than them, hopefully we can get at least some people out before that happens.

Song Of The Day ~ Kingmaker – Armchair Anarchist

Fulham Vs Bolton

Craven Cottage SW6

Date: 27/11/2005   —   Free   —   Other

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I had been looking forward to this game for a long time. A couple of months ago I was given the inside track on a competition to win 2 tickets to see Fulham play Bolton which I then went and won! What’s more it was for full corporate hospitality, lunch in the lounge and seats for the game in the directors box.

The last football match I attended was in 1988 when I watched Wimbledon defeat Liverpool in the FA Cup Final at Wembley along with another 93,000 people. It was always going to be a little tricky to live up to that and after Wimbledon’s demise I wondered if I’d ever go to a game again. Fittingly the man who lifted the FA Cup that day was the Wimbledon goalkeeper Dave Beasant who is now a Fulham coach and was evident on the touchline for much of the match.

I was actually born in SW6 (on the Fulham/Chelsea border) so this was something of a homecoming, I went to school just across the river from Craven Cottage and frequently rowed past the ground. But supporting Fulham was something I came to later in life, tho’ it seems I made the right choice.

After my usual forgetting something incident I was forced to drive a little quicker to the ground but made it in good time, parked in the director’s parking area in a local school near the ground and got in the minibus which drove us to the ground along with some of the other guests and old pros. All locals tho’, you could tell by the accents, it’s an accent I haven’t heard in a long time.

I was expecting a cold buffet lunch, cucumber sandwiches and all that, and fairly bog standard hospitality but I was very pleasantly surprised, we received a glass of champagne on arrival and lunch was Lancashire Hot Pot with potato gratin and carrot and swede mash, it was bloody top, washed down with a glass of cabernet sauvignon and followed by bread pudding.

At 2pm we went out to watch the game, perfect position just by the half way line at a good height to see but near enough to be close to the game. I had forgotten how much I enjoy the atmosphere. The only problem was the weather which was bitter and because the ground is right next to the river you get a chill breeze.

We were all buoyed by a Brian McBride goal in the 4th minute, perfect start, gets the crowd going and everybody’s happy, except the away fans but we don’t really care about them! Fulham were in fluid mood and the game was exciting and all one way traffic. It wasn’t a surprise when McBride doubled the lead and his tally on 19 minutes. A second goal is always a relaxer, you feel you have a buffer and with this and Fulham playing well the crowd were in good voice and everything seemed right with the world, at least for most of the near 20,000 crowd.

With Bolton you always expect a pretty physical game and that proved to be the case, it was at times very scrappy in midfield but by and large they didn’t cause us any problems in the first half and their only attacking opportunities came from dubious free kicks. We could have had more goals and played well enough to deserve them but none were coming and we went in 2-up at half-time.

Whilst many went to find burgers and hot dogs at half time, we got to go back into the warm at the lounge and were served with tea and coffee. The second half was a rather different game, Bolton played aerial and we were just seemingly content to break up their attacks, there was little panache to much of the half and that seemed to suit them far more than us. There were a lot of stoppages and Bolton players seemed to go over very easily whilst Fulham players scrapped for balls, this could be my subjective view from the halfway line!

Our keeper whilst a good shot stopper didn’t seem to have a decent strategy for goal kicks, constantly hoofing up to Brian McBride and making it all seem predictable. Fulham do not have the height up front to merit such a strategy and we lost the chance for a lot of attacks this way.
You could kind of see a goal coming, although on the few occasions we attacked we looked far more dangerous than Bolton did. But it just felt like one of those game where we would concede. The fact that it was an own goal was irritating, that it came in the 90th minute at least made only for 4 agonising minutes before we were put out of our misery.

All in all I enjoyed the game, I have been long used to defending my side for playing scrappy but effective football and grinding out the results against sides that were far better on paper. In Fulham there is more flair when they use it and they can be genuinely skilful and entertaining to watch. But the infuriating aspect of letting leads slip and a shaky defence is no stranger to my football memories and I do feel that this is a club where I can feel at home.

Mark Crossley – 6 – Solid enough in shot-stopping but kicks were often wayward and punts downfield were usually a hiding to nothing.
Moritz Volz – 7 – Pressed forward and looked like a good old-fashioned wing-back, possible question marks about his ability to track back in defence though.
Carlos Bocanegra – 7 – Didn’t have an awful lot to do but looked reliable and secure.
Alain Goma – 6 – At times looked a little slow but due to a lack of Bolton attack not troubled much.
Liam Rosenior – 6 – Quiet and never put under much pressure.
Papa Bouba Diop – 7 – No booming long shots but physically strong and towering in the air.
Tomasz Radzinski – 7 – Set up the first goal and always tried hard, had a very quiet seond half
Steed Malbranque – 9 -Returning to proper form this season Steed ran everything at the midfield, tries for every ball, dogged, skillful, Fulham’s talisman and best player on the pitch.
Luis Boa Morte – 6 – The captain looked a little flat, did nothing wrong but not his usual powerful self, subbed due to injury after an hour
Collins John – 7 – Tried hard, lots of pace made a lot of runs and space that sadly Crossley didn’t pick up.
Brian McBride – 9 – Scored both goals and caused the Bolton defence all sorts of problems, linked up with Collins John and Steed Malbranque well.
Sylvain Legwinski – 5 – Came on for Boa Morte, looked slow and indecisive, would be harsh to blame him too much for the own goal but typified his day really.
Heider Helgusson – 6 – Only had about 5 minutes and I’m not sure he touched the ball.