Apr 06

What was I saying about Torquay?

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Okay, here’s what I was saying about Torquay, basically that I don’t believe they will go down as they are perennial escape artists of the bottom division, especially when Barnet are involved.
Last three results:
Macclesfield 0-2 Torquay
Torquay 1-0 Wrexham
Torquay 4-0 Stockport.

See! They are still in the relegation zone at the moment, but by one goal. WALK AWAY Ian Atkins!

(If you are a betting man, Macclesfield are 7-1 to go down, and they are nowhere near as safe as a their seventh from bottom position suggests).

Apr 06

I Used To Know A Girl Called Sophie Gardens

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The rest of the world must be looking upon Wales as “that country where England go to play sport”. Not just happy to host the FA Cup yet again, it appears that the Sophie Gardens cricket ground in Cardiff is to not only get test status, but host an Ashes test in 2009. Good luck to them: though Old Trafford lovers will be miffed (are there any lovers of Trent Bridge except lovers of the completely random). One assumes that much of the redevelopment coming to Sophie Gardens is to up its capacity some what.

Which brings me to an audacious plan hatched by a friend of mine last week regarding the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. What to do with it. West Ham and Spurs at the moment don’t want it, and Leyton Orient (despite previously finding Wembley home for a brief period) couldn’t fill it. Frankly we will not need a 100,000 capacity athletics stadium, and it seems a bit of fanny dangle to just keep it for local School. But with the running track turfed over and a pitch flown in, it could easily become a cricket ground to rival the MCG. Offer it to Essex (though they might have trouble filling it) make it the home of 20:20 or One-Day Cricket, and play an Ashes test there. The fact that there are currently eight test venues, with Durham not far off, may cause a problem, especially with two already being in London. But imagine an Ashes test in a stadium like that!

Apr 06

My Mini-Me

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Football Manager 2006 comes equipped with a very large and memory-consuming data editor. Ostensibly this is so you can tweak stats and update your teams with new transfers, managerial changes etc. in advance of the next upgrade. You can also add entirely new players in, and I’m sure most players start by loading this feature and putting themselves in the game.

I was no different – except that the very idea of me playing football went well beyond laughable several decades ago, Crafting “Tom Ewing” of Leatherhead FC was still my way of getting to grips with the data editor – good on-the-job training as the help file refused to load. I tried to imagine a more athletic version of me, and what my strengths and weaknesses as a player might be. I always was picked for defense, so I made him a defender, left-sided cos I’m left handed, reliant more on brain and bulk than on pace or skill – since I thought that this idealised sporty me might have become quite fit and strong, whereas in no parallel universe would I have become fast. It was an enjoyable bit of mental exercise, a harmless trip into the counterfactuals of ones own life.

I then sorted out his club and player likes and dislikes, and turned to his abilities and potential. I kept the stats low, envisaging a clogging lower-league career for my alter ego. Next was current ability – I gave him a low rating, and then ‘potential’ – from “-10 to 200”. Realism took hold again, and I slotted in -10: even as a fictional footballer, I was going nowhere.

Except I didn’t realise, because I hadn’t used the data editor before, that the numbers “0-200” on this stat refer to definite potential, and “-10 to -1” mean “randomise it”, with the lower the negative stat the higher the likely potential. “-10”, in other words, is incredible raw talent.

So young Tom Ewing, while still not the fastest, has blossomed over 6 fictional seasons into an “England U21 starlet”, with Spurs and Arsenal battling for his signature. It started reasonably enough, with a spell in Doncaster Reserves, but he’s now worth several million. The occasional news updates on his progress feel quite embarrassing – I feel like Roy of the Rovers dreams have been thrust unwanted upon me (though I’m not so embarassed as to take him off my ‘shortlist’ and stop monitoring his progress). Worse, I sneakily feel as if I’m cheating by having him in the game, even though he’s never played in any of my teams or even against one. Next time I start a game I’ll have a poke in the data editor and reset young Tom to a more reasonable level – but for now I’ll guiltily enjoy his apparently unstoppable footballing progress.

Walk Away

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Things are getting tight down at the bottom of League Two (nee Division Three* nee Division Four). Having plummeted down there in the last few months, my team Barnet are bobbling just above the two team relegation zone. One win and one loss over Easter weekend places them back in fourth from bottom, but as a glimpse at the table will show there are almost eight teams in with a chance of going down. Propping up the table, slightly adrift, is Torquay – Barnet’s previous nemesis who sent us down in 2000. Which is why I don’t trust them being down there and want at least a couple of teams as a security blanket.

I particularly don’t trust as they have got a new manager, and new managers can often turn things around albeit briefly. Briefly is all it will take down there. Anyway, a quote from Ian Atkins new Torquay manager: “If someone gets shot in the street, do you help them or do you walk away and take the easy option?” My advice: walk away Ian, walk away.

*Amusing to see that from a URL perspective the BBC still think of League Two as Division Three!

Apr 06

The 90s Revival

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I just got a belated birthday present from my kindly colleagues – a copy of Trivial Pursuit: THE 90s, in lurid shiny green box. “The decade of your life…” it says – a truly depressing thought, as a lot of the 90s were personally and impersonally pretty dire. “Remember when it was all about Generation X and the end of the century?” Good work Mr Copywriter.

But that’s not what you want to know: you want to know what kind of fannydangle the makers of TP have come up with to jazz up their game. Trivial Pursuit is successful because it is elegant and simple: these might as well be swear words when you’re trying to shift new bits of kit.

The Trivial Pursuit 90s edition is very heavy, this is partly because its pieces are now made out of shiny metal, though the actual widgets are still garish plastic. The two fit together queasily, which you could also say about the board art, a horrible mix of bad ’90s’ images (omg a sneaker) and trad TP cherubim. The categories are: Global Village, The A List, Breaking News, Retail Therapy, Sound And Vision and Winners & Losers.

Now for the dangle – there is also another layer of complexity added in whereby cards are colour-coded for early, mid and late 90s. Quite how this works I don’t know but to bulk things out more the three decks of cards get their own plastic carry-cases, in the shape of giant grey wedges. The whole thing is enormously ugly, a real triumph of eye-popping garishness over the boring old restraint of the Genus edition.

Oh, and the board has cheapo gold embossing.

Despite this I am of course very eager to play it. Fancy a game?

Apr 06

Almost beyond superstition

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I imagine there were some TMFD-ers at the Greys – Exeter game last night, to whom I extend my comiserations. However, as I caught the first ten minutes on TV in a pub, I knew that even the hardcore fans probably did not hold out much hope for the result. You see Exeter City never win when their game is being televised. I will refer back to club historian Hopkins, but since I believe he told me this sad state of affairs, it probably is true.

Footballers, and footballing fans, are a superstitious mob. But this is almost beyond superstition. So whilst the Greys result may well spell the end of Exter’s promotion hopes, let me add my superstition into the mix. If Barnet continues their poor form we will almost certainly be seeing them next year. Turn that into a definite if all that stands between us and staying up is relying on a result from Torquay.

Apr 06

Stage One Glue Making

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It was odd watching the Grand National having not put a bet on. It just becomes a very long, exceptionally random horse race – which is of course its appeal to the betting public. What was nice to see was that after all the controversy over “the race that never was”, they still haven’t really improved the start. As far as I can see the only difference now to the way they used to start the race is
a) the tape is high-visibility orange
b) the old giffers holding the tape wear gloves
Hence, yet another false start.

Also nice to see that my sure-fire for picking a winner came up trumps again. If you get the form guide in advance and consider the going, the age of the horse and the reputation of the jockey. Then ignore it and bet on all the jockeys whose silks are predominantly green. Let’s see if the bookies remember that next year.

Apr 06

The Real Actual Pop World Cup

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The grand tradition of cashing in musically on the World Cup is thriving in England but traditionally fails to capture the imagination of Mr J Foreigner. This year though the hosts have made a little more of an effort with the release of THIS purporting to be by notorious “pervert lion” Goleo.

Unfortunately it’s a version of Bob Sinclar’s very horrible “Love Generation” so Goleo will have to work pretty hard to make it any good. But the sleeve does tell us new facts about our leonine flasher friend. Firstly his shaggy crotch looks somewhat bulgy on the sleeve, secondly he is billed as Goleo VI for a reason which downloading may yet uncover. Watch this space, and also watch out for the rolling review of shoddy England gimmick singles (top billing: Joe Fagin’s “That’s England Alright”).