Apr 05

Where are they now?

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At this time of the year, my interest in what’s now termed the Championship increases a lot – the playoff final, in particular, is one of my favourite fixtures of the year. But there’s a depressing aspect too. You see the one match I ever saw at Wembley was a playoff final between my beloved Bristol Rovers and Huddersfield, for a place in this division, nine years ago. We were 2-1 down with a couple of minutes left when Marcus Stewart hit the woodwork. That was the end of our fightback. Huddersfield went up, we didn’t. We sold them Stewart in the close season, and we’ve been sliding downwards ever since. No money, no success, so we’ve been selling our best players regularly – most of them strikers. And they’ve all ended up in the Championship.

Jamie Cureton did well for a while at Reading, but has had less success at QPR (5 goals this year). Barry Hayles had a good top-level run with Fulham, and has scored 12 for Millwall this season. But watching Sky last night and as I write, two big games feature four ex-Rovers strikers. Last night Bobby Zamora, briefly at Spurs, now at West Ham (9 goals this season), and Marcus Stewart, who had one dazzling Premiership season at Ipswich, and has 17 for champs Sunderland this year. Today Wigan might join Sunderland in promotion, thanks to their great strike partnership of Jason Roberts (some top-tier experience with WBA, 19 goals) and Jason Ellington, with 23 the division’s top scorer.

I like to see ex-Rovers players do well – I enjoyed seeing three in the top division at once, for a while – but it is frustrating and rather bitter to look at us, lower half of the fourth level, more draws than anyone else this year, and imagine how things might be different if we had been able to hold on to just one or two of these players. Our top scorer this season is the gloriously named Junior Agogo, with 19 – maybe he’ll be playing two levels higher in the future too. I only wish I could believe that would be with us.

Apr 05

Won’t Play Your Silly Games

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We had an offsite middle management meeting in Croydon yesterday. It was everything you might expect an offsite middle management meeting in Croydon to be, including the dread words on the agenda “interactive game”. When you are a small child and dislike games, you are told that in real life you will have to do things you don’t like and compulsory games are good training for this. What they don’t mention is that the “things you don’t like” will in fact include compulsory games, without even the figleaf of exercise to justify them.

Actually I did bunk off the game yesterday – all four of our department’s representatives bundled into our head of charting’s car during a drinks break and made a run for it before the fun got underway. It turned out that the game involved creating and performing a short ‘sketch’ in which a business manager was received as a hero in the pub for something they’d done for the company. Everyone canvassed described it as excruciating. I guess the idea was to encourage us to take pride in our jobs but all these things do is put an embarrassing gloss on an otherwise productive day.

FUN MUST BE OPTIONAL OR IT ISN’T FUN. I don’t understand why this isn’t a universally accepted piece of common sense. There is nothing worse for morale than being forced to do something unneccessary and unpleasant in the name of entertainment: whereas if you get to opt out and then discover that you are missing out you’ll be much more likely to join the game next time. I’ve found that “creative” people in companies tend to be fiercely dogmatic, though: embarrassment or reticence is to them a sin that needs to be frequently and publically expunged.

Apr 05

Light Years Ahead

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Stadiums shared by two football teams have been seen as problematic for many reasons; one of the major objections is the difficulty in making a joint stadium feel like home for two groups of people. In order that the ground doesn’t offend half the users, it becomes neutral, and ends up loved by none. Maybe that underlies the novel feature of the Allianz Arena, soon to be home of Bayern and TSV 1860 Munich.

The stadium is impressive architecturally, with the exposed steelwork of the cantilever hidden behind a screen, creating a totally different shape to the building. Maybe British stadia are going for the exposed exo-skeleton look on aesthetic grounds, but it’s far more likely that it’s simply because it’s cheaper that way. As Simon Inglis points out in Engineering Archie, a book about the great British football stadium designer Archie Leitch, the cheap and functional always took pride over the aesthetic. British grounds were engineered, not designed. Not much has changed, it would seem.

But back to the problem of club identity; the architects behind the Arena have come up with an amazing solution; the screen transmits light, so the stadium

changes colour

depending on who

is playing.

I WAS A GOBLIN: Raise Dead

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It’s surely an indictment of something that the two pop-culture events I’ve been most excited about this year have been a comics series and Doctor Who. Certainly I’ve been spending more time than is perhaps healthy exploring my childhood passions: just after Christmas I impulse bought a copy of The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain in a service station, expecting – and getting – memory-rushes from the artwork.

So what’s going on? It’s one or all of three things. i) the degeneracy of my cultural receptors into soft-option mulch; ii) a period of self-reconciliation before I move on a happier and less guilty man; iii) a tour of childhood things before I become a father myself. Not that fatherhood is impending, hold the congratulations, but that is the plan.

The big question then is – would I actually role-play again? There was a flurry of discussion around this a couple of years ago, which never quite got serious. The idea of various Freaky Trigger writers getting together for a final game of D&D is not a great one: for one thing, we’d just end up getting drunk. (OK, maybe it is a good idea). If I was serious about wanting to play RPGs, I wouldn’t ask my friends; I would look in the Internet for a local group and go along. But I’m not serious about it. Am I? …No. It’s too much of a commitment, it would hardly be the same and by the time I stopped playing I had major reservations with the genre-bound attitude of most RPGs anyway.

So what was I doing last Tuesday downloading scanned-in versions of old AD&D modules? I3-I5, to be specific, the Desert Of Desolation series that touched every Arabian Nights and Egyptology button and provided me with (probably) my peak AD&D gaming experiences. I thought I was doing it to get those memory-bursts I talked about but only the maps and cover art were fully scanned, the rest was typed in (!) by some too-dedicated archivist. And to be honest I couldn’t even remember the covers that well. I vaguely scanned through I4 and felt a bit stupid: if I ever knew anything about module design I’d surely forgotten it. Really I downloaded the modules because they were there. I was so shocked to find them, and bandwidth is so cheap, that I clicked on them without thinking: a snapshot of consumption in a file-sharing age. Of course what I remembered wasn’t the rote descriptions and bits of cardboard, it was what my friends and I did with them. Or it was just my friends.

Apr 05

sick of being sixth…

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Bah, Stevenage and Aldershot both got late second goals as well, so we finish in the worst place (excluding relegation places obv), sixth, another year of conference…


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come on scarborough, come on leigh, do it for us, one of you…

(lee philips scored the second, he’s new, don’t really know much about him)


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COME ON! Stevie Flack (he used to be a boxer/bricklayer you know) puts city ahead 6 mins into the second half, cos i know we’ll score agan some sunny day!

we’ll score again, don’t know where, don’t know when…

TMFD1 comment • 1,253 views

OK, pretty dull first half although City seem to be having the best of it. I’m listening to BBC Radio Cumbria and their wonderfully pro-Carlisle presenters, who are currently wishing happy birthday to a chap in Cambridge listening on-line and telling another, listening in Germany (“on-line as well then i suppose” say the commentator) the attendance (around 8,000 apparently). Game is still 0-0, and Stevenage and Aldershot are both winning 1-0, so it’s not looking great, but there’s plenty of time yet and at least the Gargoyles are 1-0 down…

Up The Bleddy City!!

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Today is the last day of the season in the Nationwide Conference. For the uninitiated among you (overseas viewers, man u fans etc) the Conference is the fifth tier of English football and the highest where some of the players are still part-time (although around three quarters of the teams are now fully pro). It also has two promotion places into the fourth division the third division league two. As Pete mentioned his team Barnet have run away with the league and will be automatically promoted. Things are not so simple for the play-off places (2nd to 5th). Although Carlisle and Hereford are definitely there, five teams are fighting today for the last two places. As one of these teams is my team, Exeter City, I will be following the tortuous mathematical equations that will be played out this afternoon live for your pleasure…

At the moment the table looks like this:

    P GD PTS
1 Barnet 41 48 86
2 Carlisle 41 39 73
3 Hereford 41 27 73
4 Morecambe 41 19 70
5 Aldershot 41 14 70
6 Stevenage 41 11 69
7 Exeter 41 19 68
8 Woking 41 15 68

so, in order for Exeter to get into the play-offs, the following conditions must be met:

1. we have to beat Carlisle
2. either Aldershot or Morecambe must not win (draw is OK, because we’ll then have a superior goal diff to both)
3. if one of Aldershot and Morecambe win, Stevenage must not win as well
4. Woking must not beat our score by four goals

Easy… We also have far and away the hardest game of the five, against Carlisle (where TMFD editor Mr Tim ‘Opkins is cheering our glorious bauys on), but with the eternal optimism of the football fan WE’RE STILL IN IT!!!

further updates throughout the afternoon.

Apr 05

UH-OH: Celebrity Wrestling Ahoy

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Phoneboxes around the country have started advertising what promises to be ITV’s new version of Ice Warriors*. The idea behind it is quiet simply a wrong headed attempt to rip-off Strictly Come Dancing, the almost (but crucially not quite) improbably BBC hit. After all SCD resurrected a dead format, ballroom dancing on television, and added a bit of celebrity, competitive magic to it. Equally Wrestling is an old dead ITV format, which, by adding a few clebs battling it out in the ring should work.

Except the differences are slightly more clear when you consider what we are actually going to get. Genuinely rubbish wrestling, which by its nature will be fixed and possibly some behind the scene training on how not to hurt themselves when wrestling. I will leave it to Martin to eviscerate it as wrestling (if he dare): as a television idea it seems equally ropey.

But you can play an ITV video game version of it here. Which is ver ver boring. But you can play as Kate Lawler: The Trawler.

*A sort of Winter Olympics version of Gladiators from the late nineties which had a misguided plot element regarding dystopian humans froma an icy world coming back in time and teaching us the skills we might need to live in their world. Danni Behr freezing her knackers off in a mini-skirt & skates was no compensation for this grand folly.