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Saturday, 16 August 2008

Punch drunk

I’M normally quite a calm person, but the Olympic Games has got me fighting mad.
The Frankie Gavin weight farce; Bradley Saunders’ statement that he is glad he lost so that he could go home (this from an “amateur” who has received around £140,000 in tax-payers’ money to help get him to Beijing) and the over-fussy referees are bad enough.
Now there is talk of women boxing at the Olympics ..... and don’t even get me started on that computer scoring system. It's enough to drive you to drink.
It must be disheartening for boxers, a real body blow, when they land half-a-dozen good punches and get back to the corner to find it’s still a 0-0 draw.
The scoring works like this. Three of the five judges need to press their buttons at the same time for a punch to register.
Body shots don’t seem to count - even though you can knock your man out with a body punch - and combinations are just too quick to register.
To score you apparently need to throw single jabs or, maybe, an upper-cut will count .....if you are lucky.The computer scoring system was introduced to stop biased judging. Cheating basically.
But a judge can, in theory, just delay pressing his button for a fraction of a second. That way the punch will not score - but it will still register on his scorecard at the end of the bout.
For me, it has not solved the problem. It has simply ruined amateur boxing as a sport.
Still, I suppose it’s better than Judo.......

Monday, 4 August 2008

Desperate decision

ENGLAND have made the worst possible choice in Kevin Pietersen to replace Michael Vaughan as England skipper.
A bold decision or one born out of desperation?
And, if he was the only choice as skipper, what does that say about the current state of English cricket?
In case you haven’t noticed from his accent - like Tony Greig before him - he’s South African.
Yes, he’s got massive ability....but he’s also got an ego to match.
He has been at the top for three years now. And there is no doubting that he is an immensely gifted, exciting player.
But is he a team player? Does he bat for the team or himself?
You only need to look at what happened at Edgbaston to answer that question.
Instead of getting his head down and helping England to victory he tried to hit a spinner over the top to reach his century with a six. For me, that was a turning point in the match. He let the side down. Simple as that.
Ok, he’s averaging almost 55 this summer. But isn’t there is a real danger that the heavy burden of captaincy will affect his batting?
Look what has happened to Vaughan, Hussain and, to a lesser extent, Atherton, in the past.
Clearly, Pietersen has the natural ability to become one of the best batsmen in the world. But what qualifies him to become England skipper? How many sides has he captained?
And how long before he chucks his dummy - and kit - out of the window and heads for India?

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Over and out

IT’S hard to fathom the thinking behind Darren Pattinson’s call up for the second Test with South Africa.
This is a man who has not even served his apprenticeship with Notts yet. He’s almost 30 (the selectors are obviously planning for the future!) and only has 11 first-class appearances to his name.
If it's part of some great master-plan, I can't see it. And it’s hardly a case of horses-for-courses, is it? If the selectors wanted a man for that job, Matthew Hoggard was the obvious choice for Headingley.
It was a big ask for Pattinson - who will be replaced by county team-mate Ryan Sidebottom - and it was no surprise that he was taken off after bowling only three overs on the first day. Perhaps the occasion got to him. But he showed his worth by making the breakthrough on Saturday, trapping Amla lbw for 38.
And you can forget all the talk of Pattinson being an Aussie. He was born in Grimsby and that’s good enough for me.
Anyway, I didn’t see many complaining when Nasser Hussain (born in India) and Tony Greig (born in South Africa) were captaining England.
Or when Graeme Hick (born in Rhodesia) was playing in 65 Tests - plus 120 ODI’s.
And what about Allan Lamb (born in South Africa), Andrew Strauss (born Johannesburg) or Tim Ambrose (born Australia)? And how many of the Barmy Army would advocate kicking Kevin Pietersen out and sending him in to bat for his native country instead?
You can also forget the rubbish rumour that this is some kind of Notts conspiracy theory, to weaken them further so that they don’t win anything this season.
If that was the case, Chris Read - the best wicket-keeper in the country - would now be keeping wicket to Pattinson, Flintoff and co instead of that ‘batting sensation’ Ambrose - wouldn’t he?

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Remember Tom Finney?

I DIDN’T know whether to laugh or cry. Poor old, long-suffering Ronaldo a slave?
A slave on a miserly £120,000 a week at Manchester United ..... for playing football. You poor thing.
Just what planet is this young man on?
I suppose Sir Alex twisted your arm up your back and gave you Chinese burns until you finally cracked under torture and signed that new five-year contract?
Listen. If Sir Alex wants to make me his slave on £120,000 a week, I’d even throw in the ironing and cleaning for free.
It’s a good job Ronaldo wasn’t around in the 1920’s when the maximum wage was only £9. Footballers then had little rights. Yes, they were, in effect, slaves.
Ronaldo would do well to take a leaf out of Tom Finney's book. He worked as a plumber to supplement the £14 a week he earned at Preston. Finney went on to win 76 England caps and scored 30 goals. He retired in 1960 with a persistent groin injury after bagging 187 goals in 433 appearances for Preston.
He never won the championship or any other trophy as far as I can recall. Yet he was remarkably loyal and even rejected an offer from Palermo that included a £10,000 signing-on fee - a fortune way back in 1952.
It all changed, of course, in the 1960’s when Fulham paid the great Johnny Haynes £100-a-week and George Eastham won the right to move from Newcastle to Arsenal.
I’m still not sure about Bosman. But I am sure that things have got completely out of hand.
The amount of money being paid to Premiership footballers today is obscene.
Wayne Rooney, for instance, at 22-years-of-age, is reported to have got through a staggering £5m last year. To be fair, he did get married! He spent £3m on just 50 guests, who were flown in by five private jets, for his wedding to childhood sweetheart Coleen McLoughlin.
Her dress alone is rumoured to have cost up to £200,000, while £100,000 went up in smoke for the must-have fireworks.
Then there was Westlife. And don’t even get me started on the £100,000 his-and-hers rings they took back to their Cheshire mansion.
Good job young Wayne picks up around 130 grand a week from Man Utd come rain or shine then, isn’t it?
Although the pair - said to be worth £35m - did cop a few bob from selling the rights to the wedding on the Italian Riviera.
OK! magazine apparently paid £2.5m for exclusive access to the big day. Yes, the world has gone mad.
Like I said, with half the world starving, obscene is the word.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Jim’ll fix it

I MUST admit I shed a tear or two this morning when I found out that the dear old Queen couldn’t afford to decorate Buckingham Palace.
She’s apparently got leaky roofs, deadly asbestos, damaged guttering and dicky electrics and hasn’t touched a paint brush since 1948. (Should have got Rolf Harris on the job instead of wasting his talents on that royal portrait).
If Jimmy Savile (OBE, KCSG) is not free to fix it, there’s always Bob the Builder...... or Tommy Walsh might fancy a knighthood in exchange or doing a bit of labouring on the side.
After all, plenty have been knighted for doing less. Now then, now then.
Apparently things have got so bad that a piece of crumbling masonry just missed Princess Anne (oh well, can’t win them all).
The latest estimate is that it’s going to take £32m to fix - and that’s rising as fast as the damp.
It appears that even the Royals are feeling the effects of the credit crunch.
And it must be especially hard for Her Majesty to make ends meet. After all, she is down to her last £320m.
And I feel really guilty about it. You see, I only paid 66p towards the upkeep of the Royal Family last year.
And, when you consider that they spent over £6m just on travel last year (including £22,849) on a helicopter to take the Queen to the Kentucky Derby), the £40m "donated" by the nation doesn’t stretch very far, dies it?
The Royal Train alone sets us back over £26,000 every time it leaves the sidings.
Of course we can’t expect the head of state to sit on the tube. At 82, she has to travel in dignity and comfort.
But did our thrifty monarch really need to spend £1,018 an hour on a helicopter ride?
Now this may be classed as treason and I may end up in the Tower (how much is needed to repair that, by the way?) But why doesn’t Her Maj flog an old master or two; or the retail park near Windsor Castle that the Crown Estate has just bought for £92m? (Always wondered what the Q in B&Q stood for).
That would buy a few rolls of woodchip and a gallon or two of emulsion, wouldn’t it?

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Dedicated follower of fashion

NOW I’m no fashion guru. You can write what I know about Sir Paul Smith’s latest creations on a pin head.
And as someone who used to wear dessert boots, bell bottoms and an ankle-length leather trench coat, I’m probably the last person on the planet to criticise anyone.
But Royal Ascot? You tell me, what is all that about?
I must admit, I never did get Mrs Gertrude “Ascot hats” Shilling. But at least she was a character.
She was a colourful, eccentric who “amused” racegoers for years with the extravagant confections she perched on her head. (A giant daisy, a dartboard, a 6ft-high giraffe and teacup were some of her more sober creations born in collaboration with son David).
At Royal Ascot, the horse racing is only half the fun. The best bit is watching the ladies trying to outdo each other in the "fashion" stakes. It reached a new high - or is it a new low? - this year.
Once upon a time, a bare-legged lady or a gentleman without a hat would have caused consternation at Royal Ascot. Today the strict rules have been relaxed - you can now chat on mobile phones and even, god forbid, chew gum.
But to gain entry to the hallowed Royal enclosure - where divorcées were once barred from attending - racegoers must be recommended by someone who is already on the list.
Men are required to wear morning suit, national dress or uniform - brown shoes are banned, and top hats are still the order of the day. Although an estimated £100m is gambled during the event, there are no bookies in the Royal Enclosure. Convicted criminals and undischarged bankrupts remain barred from the inner sanctum.
It’s not quite so bad at the equally-snobby, strawberry-mountain, champagne-guzzling Wimbledon. But there has again been more attention being paid to what the likes of the Williams sisters and the lovely, leggy Miss Sharapova are wearing on court than how their backhand is working.
Serena W certainly double faulted when she appeared wearing a white trench coat over her tennis dress. While Miss Sharapova’s “tuxedo look” inspired by menswear certainly had the paparazzi in a lather.
She sported a cream jacket and long trousers...... before stripping down to play.
And now she's out. For once, I'm speechless.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Fab finish

SHED no tears for Italy. They got what they deserved in Euro 2008 - absolutely nothing.
They showed no desire to win against Spain from the word go and often packed nine men behind the ball - leaving Luca Toni as the lone “striker.”
They had obviously decided that Toni had little or no chance of scoring - after only one shot on target in 14 attempts. Defensively negative, they were happy to play in their own half.
They also went through their full repertoire of obnoxious party tricks (most of which were missed by referee Fandel). Diving in the box, shirt tugging, elbowing and faking injury. Frustrating the Spaniards and hoping to catch them on the break.
Not that Italy had the concession on diving. David Villa tested the referee’s patience once too often after going down in a heap, again, and was rightly booked. More yellow cards should have been brandished. It is the only way to stop the man handling, holding a shirt pulling at corners that have been a feature of the tournament so far.
The studio experts refused to accept that Italy were playing for penalties and extra time. But, bearing in mind that Spain had lost three previous tournaments - all on June 22 - on penalties, I’m not so sure.This should have been a cracker, according to the pre-match hype. Instead it was a tedious, terminal bore which did nothing for the reputations of many of the so called world-class players on view.
I excuse Senna, the 32-year-old Brazilian, who had an outstanding game. He kept it simple. And isn't that how football should be played?
As the game dragged on, I had the feeling that Italy would fiddle their way into the final again. But at least justice was done when Cesc Fabregas ended Spain’s penalty shoot-out jinx and sent them packing. Good riddance.
I just wish they would take Ronaldo, Tim Henman and Joey Barton with them.