Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Is Wilshere Right?

At yesterday's press conference, Jack Wilshere stated his belief that only English people should play for England.

This comes amid the news that Manchester United's Belgium born winger Adnan Januzaj, could play for England in five years time under the residency rule. Asked about the possibility of this happening, Wilshere said: "If you live in England for five years, it doesn't make you English.
"If I went to Spain and lived there for five years I am not going to play for Spain.
"We have to remember what we are. We are English. We tackle hard, are tough on the pitch and are hard to beat".

Now this is all well and good but what the Arsenal man didn't make clear is on what grounds is someone English. So what does make someone English?. Lets take Raheem Sterling, the Liverpool winger was called up by England manager Roy Hodgson last year, however Sterling was born in Kingston, Jamaica and lived there for the first five years of his life. Going back a few years there was Owen Hargreaves. Although he had an English father, he was born in Canada and could have also represented Wales due to his mother.

Examples like these are littered all around British sport, particularly in the modern era. In July British sports fans were overjoyed as another Brit won the Tour de France. Chris Froome had triumphed in the name of Team Sky and Great Britain, but wait, Froome was born in Kenya and schooled in South Africa. Over the last few years England have had a number of Ashes winning cricketers including Kevin Pietersen, Andrew Strauss, Matt Prior and Jonathan Trott, who were all born in South Africa. Even the man who kicked the ball into touch to confirm England's 2003 Rugby World Cup win Mike Catt, was born and bred in South Africa.

England are not the only country at it, other examples include the German football side who are often full of Polish born players. The Irish cricket team have contained a number of players from the southern hemisphere and even the New Zealand rugby team have produced line ups full of players from the likes of Tonga and Samoa.

Whilst Wilshere's idea of only English people representing England is understandable, how can you tell whether someone is English or not. Times have changed and there is now an unmistakable grey area as to whether someone are the nationality they claim. I suppose for the majority of sports fans, if they are successful, it  doesn't really matter.

Monday, 7 October 2013

The End of Hinckley United

Today on Monday October 7 2013, Hinckley United Football Club is no more after officially being liquidated.

This news comes as no surprise to anyone aware of United's financial problems over the last few years, however it is a sad day none the less. The club's unofficial twitter account simply wrote: "At 11:15 this morning Hinckley United FC have ceased to exist. "Thanks to all our players, fans and followers for all your support. "Thank you and goodbye".

The Knitters are not the first club to suffer this fate, the original  Chester FC were wound up in 2010, Scarborough FC went out of business in 2007 and most famously Wimbledon FC although saved from the brink, were forced to move to Milton Keynes and changed their name to MK Dons.

Since football has become big business, there has been plenty of positives that have followed and made some clubs very wealthy. On the other side of the coin however, there are some great historical clubs who have not been able to cope with the financial pressures of the modern day game and I for one think that's a shame. It appears that this is fast becoming the generation of greed, with certain clubs and it's supporters getting caught in the firing line. This is really sad for the game and the authorities need to look at the financial mess more closely if they want to prevent other clubs going the same way as Hinckley.

If the town needs to find any comfort from today's events, then they need only look to two of the clubs mentioned above. A now supporters run Chester FC have risen from the ashes and last season gained a third straight promotion to take them to the top tier of conference football. After losing their club to Milton Keynes, Wimbledon's supporters formed AFC Wimbledon who have risen to the heights of League 2.

This is a dark day for Hinckley United fans, however the people of Chester and Wimbledon have shown with determination, belief and a little financial backing. Anything is possible.

Friday, 23 November 2012

India vs England 2nd Test Day 1

After last week’s uninspiring first test defeat in Ahmedabad, England made changes with the expected change of Jonny Bairstow coming in for Ian Bell and more significantly, Monty Panesar replacing Tim Bresnan.

Following Graeme Swann's success in the first test, Panesar's inclusion can be no real surprise given the history of Mumbai's spinners surface. The last English victory on Indian soil came in Mumbai with veteran spinner, Shaun Udal being the hero of that test with impressive figures of 4-14 in just 9.2 overs.

With India winning the toss and choosing to bat first, the impression was that it could be a long day in the field for England; however the visitors shocked everyone with the second ball of the day as they picked up a wicket. This was not just an ordinary wicket though, this was a wicket taken by Jimmy Anderson, a seamer!.

After Gautam Gambhir departed, the Indians settled for a while but then it happened, the Monty magic began. The dangerous Vierender Sehway was tamed by the charismatic, left arm off spinner as the crowd were treated to a trademark Panesar celebration. They didn't have much longer for a repeat performance as Sachin Tendulkar's stumps were rearranged leaving India 60-3.

After lunch Panesar hadn't lost his appite for wickets as he had young Virat Kohli caught at cover, fellow spinner Graeme Swann must have felt forgotten as he joined the party by bowling Yuvraj the very next over. Panesar wasn't finished for the day as he had skipper Dhoni caught at slip making his exclusion from the first test seem farcical.

With that England's flourish had finished for the day as India pushed on to close on 266-6 with the unmoveable Pujara and the impressive Ashwin getting a century and fifty respectivly frustrating England in the final session. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Ibrahimovic Against England, Best Goal Ever?

As Swedish talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic, scored his fourth goal of the night and wrapped up the win for his side, the crowd in the new, Friends Arena, gasped in awe of what they had just seen.

England manager Roy Hodgson called it a: "Work of art", Captain Steven Gerrard said: "It is the best goal I have ever seen live." In the dying moments of Wednesday night's friendly,  keeper Joe Hart ventured out of his goal attempting to clear English lines but all he could do was head the ball straight up into the air giving Ibrahimovic the opportunity to do this. The finish was spectacular, electrifying, superb, but was it really the best ever?.

Football's been around a long time and in that period we have seen many great goals and the Swedish striker's is among them. However there have been better and more significant goals scored, remember this was only an International friendly which in themselves are much ridiculed by Premier League managers due to the fact that only pride is at stake.

In terms of brilliance and importance two automatically come to mind, Diego Maradona's, 'Goal of the Century'  and Zinedine Zidane's, wondrous volley against Bayer Leverkusen. To put both goals into perspective, Maradona's effort for Argentina was in a World Cup quarter final against England and was a massive goal not only for footballing reasons, but also political (The Falklands war). After his hugely controversial 'Hand of God' goal, there was no arguing his second as he danced through the English defence. Former England striker Gary Lineker (who was on the pitch at the time), described the second strike as: "Probably the one and only time in my whole career, that I felt like applauding the opposition scoring a goal", that says it all really. Zidane's strike was in the 2002 Champions League final, the score was one all at the time and the next goal was going to be crucial. On the stroke of halftime, Zidane hit that fabulous volley and his Madrid side never looked back winning the final 2-1.

People will have differing opinions on the goal but in a few years time, how many of them will remember the effort?. Purely on the basis of importance, Ibrahimovic's goal cannot be classed as the greatest, it's up there in terms of quality but that's not enough as the greatest goals define legacies.

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Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Why Electing Romney Would Be Going Backwards

Today is the day of the 57th United States Presidential elections. The nominees, the current President Barack Hussein Obama (Democrat) and his adversary, Willard Mitt Romney (Republican) or just 'Mitt' to his friends.

Four years ago Barack Obama did what many had dreamed of but never thought possible, he became the first black President of the United States of America. The charismatic Harvard Law School graduate, strolled into the White House promising change for a financially crippled America following eight years of George W Bush. So has Obama been a success?.

Well not massively no, yes he's stabilized the economy somewhat but unemployment levels are still very high and with less jobs out there, some of his follows have lost faith. Obamacare has been controversial to say the least, the scheme will cost billions of dollars and despite the fact it will help the poorest citizens, a lot of Americans are furious at the idea. As former President Bill Clinton said however, Obama has done: 'A good job with a bad hand', a hand that was left for him by the Republican party.

Now to his opponent Mitt Romney, a 65 year old white Republican man born into a rich family, sound familiar? (see George W Bush). Romney is probably the kind of representative that the Republican party have wet dreams about, which must be worrying for the US public (if your not rich). Now as I've said previously, Obama hasn't been all he said he was going to be, however surely he has to be a better alternative than Romney.

If Mitt Romney was to become the 45th President of the United States of America, then any kind of health care for the poor will be one of the first things to go, actually anything helping the poor would probably go with the economy not benefiting. Romney seems the kind of man that is comfortable at upper class dinner parties in his expensive suit looking all mighty and powerful. This is not the person America needs right now (or ever really), they need someone who is willing to try and make really change happen and as for right now, that is Barack Obama because anything else would be a backwards step.  


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Skyfall: James Bond Review

Obviously this blog will contain spoilers from the film so if you don't want to know what happens i'd stop reading now.

After Daniel Craig's first two films I was seriously worried about Skyfall. Casino Royal and Quantum of Solace were fairly big let downs to say the least with the writers seeming pulling away from the original charm of Bond. Instead of a swarve, sophisticated secret agent, the James Bond character appeared to have become a ruthless hitman, like in one of those American Gangster films. Luckily in Skyfall things began to change.

The film opens with Bond in pursuit of a killer who seems to be working for the people who have stolen an hard drive from MI6. The hard drive contains information on undercover NATO agents in terrorist organisations (Although you don't know that at this point). The chase ends with Eve (An MI6 agent helping Bond) shooting at the killer on the orders of M, however she misses and hits Bond in the shoulder and knocks him off the train, into the water deep below, he is presumed dead.

Of course we know better than that and Bond was alive but not all well, he is living near where he fell and seems to have developed a drinking problem. Back in London, M is being pressured to retire by new Intelligence and Security Committee chairman, Gareth Mallory ( He will be important later). As M travels back to headquarters there is an explosion at MI6, killing some employees, this was after someone had hacked into M's computer.

There was no messing around with this start, we got straight into seriousness from the get go which was intriguing. It was also good to see a lot of focus on M throughout the film as she is a fantastic character, played brilliantly by Dame Judi Dench who had good chemistry with Daniel Craig.

Following the attack on headquarters, 007 returns to London as he knows that his country needs him (more on that later). Once back in action, Bond heads to Shanghai where he tracks down a man called Patrice (the man he fought at the start), He kills Patrice without finding out his employer but finds a gambling chip with his things and heads to the casino.

There he meets a woman called Sévérine who supposedly works for the man behind the attacks (It turns out she is a prisoner), after fighting off three henchmen 007 voluntarily gets imprisoned so he can meet the employer. The man behind everything turns out to be Raoul Silver, a former MI6 agent under M who she gave to China in exchange for some of her agents, in China Silva was imprisoned. Silva kills Sévérine but soon after Bond calls for backup with his gun from the new Q and captures Silva.

The new Q is a bit mixed for me (played by Ben Whishaw), although he seems to have good chemistry with Daniel Craig, there was definitely a lack of imaginative gadgets which is obviously the writer's fault and not the actor's. 

It turned out that being captured was part of Silva's plan as he managed to hack Q's computer whilst escaping. He headed to the venue of where M's public enquiry was being held, 007 was in hot pursuit but was trailing with Silva now dressed as a policeman. Silva entered the enquiry room with two other man and began firing, Bond arrived shortly after and helped Mallory and Eve bring M to safety. Once out the building, Bond drove M away to his childhood home in.......Scotland!.

Now you may be wondering about the exclamation mark, well James Bond is known for his love of England, it is mentioned in many films.  Now unless he moved to England at a young age I can't understand this logic as I can't think of many Scots that actually like England, nevermind love it.

Anyway we get a nice bit of nostalgia as Bond uses the Aston Martin DB5, the car that first appeared in Goldfinger which was nice to see for a fan of all the films. Once at Skyfall (His childhood home), Bond, M and old gamekeeper Kincade, set up ready for Silva and co to arrive. Soon enough they do and all hell breaks loose with an injured M and Kincade seeking refuge in the nearby chapel.  

Silva sees Kincade's torch light and follows with Bond again in pursuit (seems to be the occurring theme of the film). Silva seems ready to shoot and kill M and himself until Bond throws a knife into his back killing Silva, at this point Bond says the words: 'Last rat standing' referring to what Silva had talked about earlier in the film.

To end the film M dies of her injuries in the arms of Bond, she is replaced as M by Mallory and Eve turns out to be Moneypenny, so she takes the secretary job. To finish Bond gets the dog ornament from old M's will which persuades him to carry on in the field, this was a nice sentimental moment I felt after their seemingly distant relationship.

Overall I think it was a decent film, much better than expected and by far the best Bond film that Daniel Craig has starred in. It showed a lot more emotion this time and gave a few nods to the good old days. The new set up is different to the classic Bond films, however I suppose they have to move with the times and this is was certainly an improvement on Craig's other films. On a final note though, I know a lot of women have raved about this film and an hour in I could see why,  in nearly every scene Craig had his top off, if I wanted to see a man with his top off all the time, I would have brought an issue of Playgirl,  So hopefully for the next film the wardrobe department could spend more money on getting shirts and t-shirts.


Monday, 13 August 2012

Was The Olympics Worth It?

So after seven years of anticipation, the Olympics have come and gone in a blink of an eye.

As the build up to the games began to get into full flow, I along with many others were asking, would it all be worth it?. Now that the games have drawn to a close, I have my answer, one hundred percent yes it was worth it!.

These Olympics have given this country more national pride than I can ever remember in my lifetime, At first I wasn't convinced on the 'Inspire a Generation' slogan for the games but now I know exactly what they meant. Of course having the most successful British team since 1908 helped a lot which has given the children of today new heroes to look up to. Unlike the usual football 'heroes' the way the majority of the athletes from every country conducted themselves throughout the event is a credit to the whole Olympic movement.

Even before the opening ceremony, there were a lot of skeptics (me included) asking if we could do the games and ourselves justice. For the opening ceremony Danny Boyle had the answers, where's Beijing went for precision and perfection, Boyle went for a typically British feel with unforgettable moments such as Rowan Atkinson on the keyboard during the Chariots of Fire rendition and of course, James Bond escorting the Queen in her dramatic entrance which will live long in the memory.

Once the official business had been taken care of, the games of the XXX Olympiad were underway. We were treated to sixteen days of fantastic sporting action with highlights including the brilliant Usian Bolt retaining all his titles and of course the success of Team GB. For me though the Fourth of August was truly the golden day of the Olympics, the six gold medals starting in Eton Dorney which culminated inside the Olympic stadium as Ennis, Rutherford and Farah gave British Athletics surely it's greatest hour.

There were other stories besides Team GB, it was an end of an era as the legendary Michael Phelps competed in his very last meet whilst becoming the greatest Olympian finishing his career with 22 Olympic medals (18 Golds). Another great moment of the games  also involved Phelps but this time it wasn't about him. The reaction of Chad Le Clos and his father after his Gold in the 200m butterfly showed how much the Olympics meant and what it was all about. The pride in Le Clos senior's face after watching his son win will be one the iconic images for years to come. Also Phelps's dignity in defeat proved just what a great man he is.

There are many other unforgettable memories that will be taken from these games but as all good things do, it had to come to an end. The closing ceremony carried on from where the opening had left off with British national pride, this again brought joy to the British public and puzzlement to others. Legendary acts such as Queen, the Who and Ray Davies among others, ensured that the Olympics went out with a big party which even got Boris Johnson grooving.

So at the end of all this some have asked could we afford it?, Was it just a distraction?, Was it all worth it?. Well maybe we couldn't afford it, maybe it was a distraction but boy it was worth it because as Lord Coe rightly said: "When our time came Britain, we did it right."