The pie debate has been rumbling on FT since the dawn of time itself. For the uninitiated, the positions can broadly be termed the performativists and the formalists.
The latter attempt to draw a line that encompasses the common or garden pie in pastry with the shepherd’s, cottage and fish pie are doomed to failure. Constructions such as ‘a filling touched by at least one starch layer’ cause us to include lasagne and pizza. Two say that at least two dimensions must be touched leaves the shepherd’s pie out, as well as the pie in a pot beloved of pub grub, but still leaves ravioli in the mix. To say ‘to the most part or totally encompassed by a casing’ opens us to the possibility that a boiled egg is a pie.
The hard formalists (I pin my colours to the mast here) escape this tortuous taxonomy by being brutal with the scions of pie. We insist that pie means pastry, immediately kicking out pasta and eggs and other non-pies from the family. Harder formalists insist on the essential slice of a silo shape, to exclude a pasty, but even I think this is going too far.
It’s a cliche in football that a team is most vulnerable when they have just scored. It’s doubtful that the clichemongers had this in mind when thinking about just how vulnerable you can be.
It’s bound now to be described as like Beckham’s, but really, this sort of thing went on all the time back in the day. Before wall-to-wall saturation coverage, the number of goals captured on film was much less, so it really was a case of the best goal we got on tape, not best goal scored. As the number of top flight and non top flight matches was much lower, goal of the season could be won by non-top flight players.
One good thing from saturation coverage has been to be able to have these gems saved by those there, those not there, and no doubt the players themselves; Kids in the future will be able to see that their old dad could actually play a bit after all. And thanks to the interweb, the level at which the cameras are present is much much lower than it once was, meaning that this FC United goal from Rory Patterson was captured this weekend, like many of their others.
I’ve always been a bit of a letter writer and have had periods of being a bit of a radio phone-in caller (=when I wasn’t getting any attention from girls at school), so I’m rather pleased to have had a letter published in the London Review of Books, even if they did chop in half.
I re-read some of my first letters from my schooldays, and they’re scarily intense. I remind myself far too much of Adrian Mole. I don’t consider myself, Mole-like, to be an intellectual by dint of sharing the same letters page as Slavoj Zizek and Alex Callinicos, but I am a bit chuffed by it all the same.
I sent a letter to the Observer regarding a piece Claire Rayner wrote, but they didn’t publish it. But Claire did take the trouble to write back to me, which was nice.
Now, to make my tea, I need two good-sized mugs. I boil the kettle. The hot water goes into one mug first, stays for a few seconds so the mug is heated, then goes into the second mug. The tea bag goes into the first, hot, mug, boiling water is poured in, to within a couple of millimetres of the top, and the two mugs, one containing brewing tea, and the other containing hot water, are left to stand. After about five minutes, the mug of brewed tea is placed in the sink, where some new hot water (freshly re-boiled) from the kettle, is sloshed into it, so it overflows by about half a mug. This is to stop the well-brewed tea being too strong. The full-to-overflowing mug is now tilted a little bit, so it spills out enough tea to allow room for some milk.
Remember the second mug, full of the hot (now not so hot, but still quite hot) water that was used to warm the first mug? That is now emptied. The tea bag is fished out from the first ‘brewing’ mug, and placed in the bottom of the empty ‘warm’ mug, where a small splash of milk is poured over it. The effect of the hot tea bag, and still-warm mug, is to take the chill off the milk – and impregnate it with a mild tea flavour. To encourage both these objectives, the mug is picked up and swirled, put down for a few seconds, picked up and swirled again, and left to stand for a short while longer. The tea-coloured, warm milk is now poured from tea-bag mug to brew mug, which is given a stir.
The resulting colour is observed. A little more milk may be necessary, in which case it will go via the still-warm tea bag mug, into the brew mug. When the colour is exactly right, I will stir in exactly one rounded teaspoonful of golden caster sugar. The tea, which at this point is still far too hot to drink, will now be left to stand for at least five minutes, before a sip is attempted.
And when you come into the living room with tea for your guests, it turns out they all died several years previously.
Everton have a player called Dax Hoogerwerf who is from Blackpool. Meanwhile, in a cantina bar somewhere in a galaxy far far away, an old Jedi and his apprentice try and strike a deal with a space pirate called Jimmy Armfield.
This year’s World Cup Spreadsheet is now live. It’s being hosted on the Football Supporters International site, which is a guide for fans, by fans, produced by a coalition of European supporters’ organisations.
It’s easily the best one yet; the design is pretty good, the calculations work fine and it covers all eventualities except tossing a coin to separate teams tied after the previous 7 ways of separating them have not worked.
It’s totally free, and all I ask is that some kind soul buys me a pint; FT regulars in London have opportunities to do this for real, but since I shan’t be in every pub FT readers drink in (though one can try), there’s a donation page to buy me a virtual pint.
If you like it, then please feel free (=please please please) sent it to friends, post on messageboards and the like. It’d be dead good if you could.
In this interview, football agent Jerome Anderson responds to a question about there the bad impression of agents comes from.
He can only speak for himself, he says. ‘I had a place at university to study law’.
Well, thanks for clearing that one up!
At the risk of sounding like Julie Burchill, Football is a bit gay. Tom highlights the interesting references in the Runciman piece about this, and it really is a subject that doesn’t get much coverage**.
Slavoj Zizek once persuasively argued that the reason why the military were so against letting gay men into the forces was not homophobia, pure and simple. It was that the military is all about being gay anyway, but only works is everyone has the cover that it has nothing to do with homosexuality whatsoever. Letting out gay men risks making clear what everyone needs to stay implicit.
I think the same is true in football. The language is revealing here. Players caress the ball, and stroke it around. They’re routinely asked to talk of love and commitment, and are in ecstasy on a regular basis. Footballers don’t seem to be able to have sex without having their mates around to watch and join in. And they have bonding rituals which, like the military and the old Axa comic strip in the Sun, seem to be full of ridiculous opportunities to see someone get their kit off.
Like the military, teams are always about the sum of their parts. They all have to work together, and have to think of the greater good rather than their individual wishes. Indeed, part of the training of both appears to deliberately deaden the ability to think independently and follow orders, intelligence and critical thinking are actively derided; players shouldn’t say anything of interest ever. You don’t want to get all clever.
But you do want to be flash. Players are obsessed with each other’s outward signs, like peacocks eyeing each other up – the attractiveness of someone’s cars, clothes, houses and such like. It’s more, much more, than simple materialistic bragging common to any golf club or workplace.
The idea that Mourinho’s style creates something that players want to be close to, to retain the favour of is eminently feasible. The same is true of Cantona, and both have a charismatic element that comes from more than just accented English. When an opposition player spoke of ‘fucking Cantona’, it was more than an insult.
* – As heard at a Celtic pub in 2002 when Bobo Balde had the ball and was being urged to give it to Didier Agathe
** – There was, of course the Footballer Wives storyline about this, which was incredibly well researched and true-to-line; whoever advised them really earned their cash that week.
I thought the article that Mark refers to by David Runciman’s in the LRB was a necessary corrective to the myth of the manager he rightly takes to task. It’s analogous to the concept of the super-CEO.
Both make too much play of the effect one individual has and downplay the importance of chance, or the efforts of their subordinates and the the behaviour of external factors beyond control of the CEO/Manager. Both are self-serving myths in that are used (in business anyway) to justify stellar salaries at the top and downsizing at the bottom.
The myth in football is used to justify the idea that replacement of a manager is the solution. Ironically, the Leagues Managers’ Association would be far better campaigning to get their members acting like the big I am, as the idea that a judicious firing of a manager and the hiring of another will work wonders is encouraged by managers claiming such magical powers for themselves.
The interesting development is the type of person like Mourinho is, which contravenes a far more pervasive myth in football that the only person qualified to manage is the football man, who is grounded and suffused in the game. This invariably is an ex-player, and in a sense, the LMA is the SCR to the PFA’s JCR. Both are full of arcane rites, both are part and parcel of a system that they mutually reinforce, despite the occasional antagonism between them.
Mourinho is different. He wasn’t a player and doesn’t subscribe to the osmotic theory of management that managers arrive at a an understanding of the game through simply doing it. Mourinho prepares rigourously, and, whilst he can’t control every factor (despite presenting himself as being able to do just that) he works to remove as many elements of chance as possible. He’ll wind up referees, he’ll prepare dossiers for players, he’ll change teams around quickly in response to changes in the game. The main thing he does is prepare players to be able to deal with chance.
The simple truth between myth-making and Runciman’s statistical means is that the best teams win because they have the best players coached by the best managers. Good players can only go so far without decent management (hello Gerard Houllier!), whilst good managers can only take an OK team so far (hello Charlton!). Good managers sometimes don’t work out with good teams. It’s a funny old management matrix, Saint!
Which takes us back to the emblematic magical manager of myth, Bill Shankly, who said that a football pitch was no place for children. You needed adults who could take responsibility, make decisions and be trusted to respond to the game. Teams who are able to manage co-operatively on their own are best placed to master the variety of circumstances that could face them much better than dictatorial control freaks. As in football, as in life.