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Category: Football

On falling out of love with football…

Someone said to me the other day when I wasn’t watching a football match that usually I’d have on my TV that I’d have been watching it if they were trying to cook something. A fair point. For you see over the past few months I may have just become over saturated on football and I’m just footballed out. I sit here racking my brain trying to think of a game so far this season where I’ve been genuinely engrossed and I’m struggling. Not even the big matches have really grabbed me (although some games I have certainly watched and been more than entertained by).

I wonder if this is just a general malaise or whether it is more to do with me changing as a person. Maybe I’m growing up, maybe I’m diversifying but whilst years ago I was a football nut I think most who know me well will have noticed over the past few years (namely since I left my previous role of a Sports Editor) that whilst I still thoroughly enjoy watches some sporting events, they don’t rule the landscape as much as they did previously.

Take as an example last week. On the Tuesday I was in town doing some food shopping and saw a poster for a Dave Gorman gig the next day and instead of thinking ‘well Liverpool v Real Madrid is on otherwise I’d go’ I went home and looked up whether they had tickets left and when I saw they did I went ahead. I didn’t even think about missing a big time football match on the tellybox that I usually would factor into my thought process.

This isn’t an isolated incident. I have missed many football matches on telly recently to do social things instead. Obviously this year for the first time in three years I’m not working on radio broadcasts of games and maybe lacking that exposure to live action has been further part of the malaise but it has been a much longer process than that. I thoroughly enjoyed the early part of the World Cup as there was some terrific action and enjoyable matches before the coaches reined in the beautiful attacking play that dominated the early stages of that tournament.

Way back when the result of my team would affect my mood, now I am so disenfranchised it is ridiculous. If teenage me saw me now and how little I care about Pompey he wouldn’t recognise me and wonder what the hell had happened in my life for such a lax attitude to football to have come to the fore. I just think that as you grow up your interests and priorities change and whilst it is a slow change, you don’t notice it for a while until it is stark in your face.

I did contemplate whether it was just football or all sport that is I’m currently suffering a malaise from and looking back over the past few weeks there have been two matches where I’ve been totally into it. Penn State @ Rutgers and Denver @ Seattle. Both games I was completely into and enjoyed (and endured) them immensely. Had I not been unwell over the weekend and gone to bed early then I have no doubt that I’d have been completely engrossed by Penn State’s comeback but ultimate failure against Ohio State as well. Still though for me that is what, three games in the past couple of months that I was into.

This weekend sees Tom Brady v Peyton Manning (again) or more accurately Denver @ New England and I’m trying to get excited about it but I just can’t. I have no doubt if I’m at home I’ll watch but I can’t say I’m circling it in my calendar knowing that I can’t be doing anything else in the Sunday night window although lets be honest here, I don’t see me doing anything else in that window so no doubts I’ll be watching.

I was watching highlights of the 2010-2011 Ashes series on YouTube the other day and I immensely enjoyed that series. I watched so much of it live and was totally riveted by it. Looking back and there are several instances where England cricket away from home has done this to me so maybe cricket is relatively safe from this sport watching doldrums I seem to find myself in.

The thing is I must be into some other things to replace sport from my time and well maybe I am. I seem to be forming more of a strong political leaning and whilst I won’t say anger, I will say disquiet at what seems to be going on. The race to the bottom on immigration is repulsive from all sides of the political spectrum. I know politicians seem to think that you have to appeal to the lowest common denominator to win but that makes me feel sick and I am reading more about what interests me, not fiction, I’m not a fiction guy but non-fiction and enhancing what I understand and having a thirst for knowledge.

So maybe I’m just not the guy that I was and maybe I am just changing. Maybe it is just a phase, who knows but I certainly feel like I’m much less of a slave to the TV schedulers and that chain to the TV is a lot, lot looser than it was. We all change as we get older and we get new interests and maybe, just maybe, this has been going on for a while but I have just failed to notice it. The thing is when all is said and done is I am not upset about the changes that are seemingly going on. I am feeling like I might just be going through a bit of an identity crisis but it isn’t a bad one and it is just the evolution of me. Not even betting and the likes of Saturday Football Tips can keep me seemingly interested. In a way looking back I can see so much of teenage and early 20s me the now 30s me and maybe I should’ve evolved just a bit more than I have over the past decade…

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World Cup – The TV Battle – BBC v ITV

So far I have seen every minute of the World Cup bar a snooze during the first half of the Iran v Nigeria game yesterday. I also have read a lot of feedback on the presenters, pundits, commentators and co-commentators (otherwise known as summerisers to certain people who like a disparage me) so I thought I’d put my views forward for the seven people that might read this:


The BBC use a former Golden Boot winner, darling of English football, Walkers Crisps seller and all around Mr. Nice Guy. ITV use an overexcited 47 year-old Brummie. It really should be a slam dunk for the Beeb shouldn’t it? Well it isn’t. Gary has improved a lot since his shuttering start eons ago when he replaced Des Lynam as the host of BBC’s Football output.

There is nothing wrong with Gary but there is also a lot to say positively for Adrian (and indeed Matt Smith). Adrian’s style is certainly less relaxed than Gary’s but he certainly injects more of his personality. When they presented the pre-game show from the beach on Sunday afternoon, you saw Adrian in his absolute element and it was a thoroughly enjoyable pre-game.

Both the Beeb and ITV have more than competent front men. I have a feeling Adrian gets a lot of stick because a lot of people think that they can do better than him. Hosting live TV is not easy and I think he does an admirable job.


We’ll start with the cream of the crop – Thierry Henry and Lee Dixon. Henry has been the breath of fresh air that everyone expected him to be and shows why everyone is fighting over securing his services going forward. A Sky team of Neville, Carragher, Souness, Hoddle and Henry is pretty dreamy. Dixon is the class of the ITV field and we knew that going in once Roy Keane decided not to travel to Brazil.

Dixon anchors the ITV team and is the man who can put together some actual analysis and not just opinion. Something his fellow pundits seem to struggle with.

Away from the top pundits we have Rio Ferdinand who I’m just not warming to as a pundit, his defence of Wayne Rooney’s performance seemed to show that he is still too near to the team to be subjective. In what was a bizarro moment it was this exchange that shown Alan Shearer is not as awful as the popular opinion says. Shearer was adamant that Rooney has to get that effort on target in the second half and he wouldn’t let it go. Good for Alan.

Over on ITV we have Glenn Hoddle who has always been a more than solid pundit. I still don’t understand why he hasn’t gotten another crack at management – certainly at Spurs. Fabio Cannavaro seems to struggle speaking in English and Patrick Vieira is missing Roy Keane as they could have been a fiery pairing.

Of course there is also Ian Wright but he’s in the Robbie Savage mould of just being awful but keeps getting TV work. Robbie Savage had a stint at co-commentary last night and oy vey.


Guy Mowbray has been handed the gig as the top man at the Beeb again for this tournament but he is being dragged down by the choice of co-commentators he’s been stuck with. This is an issue across the BBC. Jonathan Pearce had an absolute stinker in the France game the other night getting all in a fluster regarding goal line technology. He needs to learn that silence is golden and a TV commentator doesn’t have to speak for every single second.

Over at ITV then Clive Tyldesley has been the top man since Brian Moore retired. There is nothing wrong with his commentary and he calls big moments well but I just yearn for Martin Tyler and/or Ian Darke who are both better but both commentating for non UK audiences once more this World Cup. ITV’s number two is the only one of these people that I have met during some work experience with 107.4 The Quay many moons ago – Sam Matterface. I still have very little idea how he rose from calling Portsmouth games on local radio to going to the World Cup as ITV’s #2 commentator but he has. He isn’t Jon Champion and he probably isn’t even Peter Drury but he isn’t horrific and is certainly better than Jonathan Pearce – although that isn’t saying much.


Phil Neville was given the chance to call England games after the auntie decided Mark Lawrenson was too dour for the top team. Then Phil Neville spoke and whilst what he said wasn’t actually that bad – the way he spoke was a real turn-off. The fact 445 people have complained to the BBC about him is a joke but it certainly wasn’t a great debut. Elsewhere the Beeb has Mark Lawrenson who is ok, Martin Known who certainly is not and the more than adequate Kevin Kilbane. They gave Robbie Savage a chance and er…yeah. I think the less said about that the better. Never again BBC. Never again.

ITV leads with Andy Townsend and whilst I think he gets a lot of very deserved stick, they might not have anyone better. They had Jim Beglin on staff for ages but got rid of him when he was in fact superior to Townsend and since then the likes of Clarke Carlisle have been given a chance to impress as they seem to really like the Matterface/Carlisle combination but I just don’t get it.

All in all I’d say the BBC probably has the better team and when it comes down to it I’ll watch the final on the Beeb I suspect. I think both channels can be comfortable with their studio outfit but when it comes to behind the microphone, the BBC has Jonathan Pearce who is a real turn-off but otherwise (bar Savage’s attempts) they are ok (I think Phil Neville will get better) but ITV just don’t have anyone bar Clive Tyldesley who I’d say was anything better than average.

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Andy Gray & Richard Keys singing ‘Get your tits out…’ to a female presenter (video).

Andy Gray and Richard Keys are ‘lads’ as some people would say. They are also clearly immature pathetic individuals. They got their comeuppance when there were leaks of videos of them talking about Sian Massay and then how Gray dealt with a female colleague. They disappeared from UK TV and are now presenting and commentating on Bein Sport in Dubai. They have disappeared from the public (or shall we say the football) consciousness for a good while now until last Saturday.

Last Saturday Andy Gray stepped into the commentary box alongside Ian Darke to call the Stevenage v Everton FA Cup game for BT Sport. Michael Owen was on holiday so Gray came in for a guest appearance. Now I know we’ve all come to realise how bad Michael Owen is in this role but having Andy Gray back alongside Ian Darke reminded us about what good co-commentary is. He was exceptional. Pairing him up with one of his two his long-time commentary partners in Ian Darke was a wise decision. It was like slipping on a very comfortable pair of jogging bottoms and slippers. The commentary was first rate. The sins of the past, whilst not forgotten, maybe forgiven. The general feedback was positive and doors were opened about Gray’s future and possible return to UK TV on a more permanent basis.

Step in another leak. This one comes from well over a decade ago and shows Andy Gray and Richard Keys singing ‘Get your tits out for the lads’ to Clare Tomlinson, who was at the time the main reporter for Sky Sports Football in the tunnel for the big games. You can watch the video below.

Now the timing of this leak is of course interesting. Just a few days after Andy Gray made a return to UK TV to overwhelming praise. This leak is clearly meant to derail any possibility of Andy Gray doing more work with BT. So the question is whether the leak is from the Sky hierarchy or whether it is a former colleague who was subjected to working with Gray during his time at Sky Sports. I’m relatively sure it is the latter.

The one thing though this video shows apart from how crass and vile these two men clearly are/were is that they were crass and vile for a long, long time. Sky obviously knew about it but they decided to ignore the problem. Either they chose to do so because they didn’t want to upset their talent or because they didn’t care. I suspect it is probably a bit from column A and a bit from column B.

Since Clare Tomlinson left her role as the touchline reporter for big games on Sky Sports, no women have played a key role in any of their major live sporting coverage as a presenter, commentator or reporter bar Georgie Thompson’s one year on Sky F1. Women have been involved in minor sports and in other roles but they’ve failed to break through in those big three roles. In all honesty Georgie might have been the right pick to front F1 instead of Simon Lazenby but they went for Lazenby. This is in vast contrast to the BBC where Gabby Logan, Hazel Irvine, Sue Barker and Clare Balding have all presented or still do present major live sporting events on the channel.

Sky clearly have a problem. I’m not saying they need to get rid of talent just to bring in women but they have to find better ways to bring through female talent in key roles. They clearly have talented women on staff with Sky Sports News. I am sure Hayley McQueen, Kirsty Gallacher, Sarah-Jane Mee and Natalie Sawyer to name a few could be excellent presenters on big live sporting events. I know they have had a little exposure in these roles but why don’t they get more?

I don’t want Jeff Stelling replaced in any capacity. I don’t want Ed Chamberlain replaced in any capacity. I don’t want David Gower replaced in any capacity. I don’t want Dave Clark replaced in any capacity. They are probably the four most well known front men sky have (Champions League, Soccer Saturday, Super Sunday, Monday Night Football, England Cricket, Darts, Boxing) but there are surely sports for these people to branch out from autocue readers on Sky Sports News. Dave Clark did, Simon Thomas did, Dave Jones did, so why haven’t any of the women?

I question the culture at Sky Sports and suspect it has been poor for many a year. This video shows someone knew (and I suspect everyone knew) how sexist and ugly the workplace was for women for many years. Nothing happened until videos started to get leaked. Had no-one leaked the Keys/Gray videos then I have no doubt they would both be at Sky. So I wonder what Sky Sports will do for women.

On the issue of Andy Gray then I’m completely torn. He is the best co-commentator on football we have. As much as I like Alan Smith, Jim Beglin and Gary Neville, Gray is the most natural in the business. BT have won Champions League rights from the 2015-2016 season and having Darke and Gray anchor their coverage would be a real good move. However the question of whether he is a changed man or not must play a factor. If he has then everyone deserves a second chance but if he hasn’t then the sexual objectivity he creates in the workplace is vastly more important than having a better pundit in the commentary box, even if it means putting up with the monotone and hapless Michael Owen for a few more years.

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Calling a Southend v Pompey game – a surreal experience

This week I had a quite surreal but pretty damn good start to 2014. On Wednesday I did something I always wanted to do – call a Portsmouth Football Club match for radio. When I was growing up I didn’t want to be a professional footballer but I did want to be around the game and in turn around my club. However there was one big caveat to that – I was calling it for radio in Southend and for presumptive Southend fans. Therefore my bias couldn’t be towards the club of my youth. Well I say that, I should rephrase, my voice should not show my bias.

It was also nice as a long time friend was in the commentary box calling the game for ExpressFM in Portsmouth, Bunky Bowers. I have known Bunky for well over a decade, going back to the days of when he was the press officer for Portsmouth and I was writing the Portsmouth page of, now and a completely different style of website. I was but a teenager back then. Oh those were the days.

So anyway I remember sitting there and wondering where my loyalties exactly lay. I am from Portsmouth and they have always been my team but I haven’t seen them play in person since the 2008 FA Cup Final. I haven’t lived south of London since 2009. Since then I have lived in Southend and commentated on their games for the past few seasons.

I was co-commentating and the lead commentator asked me on air where my bias lay and I said that I knew who the audience were so I’d be calling it that way. It isn’t a secret that Portsmouth are my team, it is often spoken about. I have however grown to support Southend to some degree due to the fact I live here, they are the team in the local paper every day and of course I call their games. I think it’d be hard not to grow a soft spot for a team in those circumstances.

As the game started though, I knew firmly where my heart was and it was with the 998 away fans and I was in my head rooting hard for Pompey. I did however keep in pretty straight on air and having spoken to those who heard it since, they agree I came over as neutral, which I said I’d do. I would call it straight down the line. I couldn’t actively root for Southend in this one.

Pompey started fast and were terrific early. I feared a heavy defeat before the game but it was wave after wave of Pompey attack. Jed Wallace, who seems very highly rated had John White in his pocket in the first half. He was outstanding. Crosses kept coming in, but not meh league two crosses, dangerous crosses and young Dan Bentley in the Southend goal pulled off a string of fine saves. That kid has real potential to move up the leagues in the coming years. Several corners were whipped in and caused Southend all manner of problems and finally a goal came from one, Sonny Bradley stabbing home. It was no less than Pompey deserved.

Phil Brown though didn’t wait until half-time to make a change and he went 4-4-2 and just before the stroke of the interval, Ryan Leonard, who had the best game by far I’ve seen him have in a Southend shirt, saw his effort deflected and send Trevor Carson the wrong way. It was very much against the run of play. The only other real chance in the first half for the home side was another Leonard run, from a Pompey corner where he ran the length of the pitch before being knackered by the time he went to take his shot. 1-1 at the break.

At this point I want out that Bunky turned down the free media sausage roll not once, but twice…and then after being asked, ‘are you sure?’ he took it and scoffed it double quick. I expected nothing less from Bunky.

Second half it was more even but Southend had more of the ball but weren’t creating the guilt edged opportunities to win it. Pompey looked very dangerous on the break and had a couple of big chances. When Jed Wallace cut in from the left and fired a shot that Dan Bentley just watched go past, I sprung up from my seat and gesticulated wildly as it smashed back off the bar. The people to my right outside the commentary box told me to calm down.

Then it happened. Deep in injury time Ryan Leonard drove a shot low and hard into the bottom corner and Southend won it. My co-commentator leapt from his seat as he enthusiastically called the winner for the home side. I stayed rigid in my position with my arm folded. As he summed up the goal call I then had to sound excited as I described the goal and I think I did it pretty well considering how disappointed I was inside. Pompey were very impressive and didn’t deserve to lose but Southend did what good sides do and won games they probably didn’t deserve.

For the rest of the season, for whatever games I’m down to do I’ll very much be in the pro-Southend camp. I want them to succeed not only because of having a soft spot for them, but also long-term in they get promoted then it raises the chances of the new stadium being built and that would mean a new commentary position, with possibly more room and maybe even not having pillars in the way that block our view.

All in all though it was a great advert for league two and a thoroughly enjoyable game to commentate on. Hopefully in the future they’ll be more Southend v Pompey games. It was great to finally meet a long time friend and then bumped into one or two other Pompey related friends. It was quite a surreal experience but it did show me that despite all the nonchalance I’ve had about Pompey due to the menagerie of interesting owners, my heart is still very much with the club and here’s hoping their stay in the bottom tier of league football is as short of possible.

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Guy Whittingham sacked and the innocence of Pompey goes with him out the door

So earlier this week Guy Whittingham was dismissed from his job as manager of Portsmouth Football Club. The former hero of the Fratton Park pitch has preceded over a disappointing start to the 2013/2014 campaign and finally was given the boot on Monday. This is because he had seemingly lost the support of the vocal proportion of fans.

Speaking to BBC Radio Solent, Mark Catlin said, ‘The team had completely lost confidence. It seemed to drain out of the team. As it drained out of the team, it drained out of the supporters as well and we just can’t have that.’

He went on to say that the club started off with a budget for mid-table but now has a borderline playoff budget, hinting strongly that this was the target and remit of the manager. When Guy Whittingham was sacked the club were seven points adrift of the playoffs with a game in hand. Oh my word. Seven points adrift in November with a game in hand. There was no way any manager could ever come back from that position. Sure was a good move by the board to panic and sack the manager.

I jest.

The thing is whether Guy was or was not the right man for the job, he wasn’t sacked because of his league position. He was dismissed because the board and the fans believe that Portsmouth are a big club and should be doing better. At the start of the season the team had a mid table budget and were only able to sign players on free transfers. Portsmouth cannot sign any player for a fee. So even to start with Whittingham was managing with one arm tied behind his back.

Am I impressed by all the players he brought in? No I’m not. As some of you know I now live in Southend and broadcast games here so get to see the club play a lot. Like Portsmouth they have financial issues and are unable to spend any money. Some of the players that Phil Brown has brought in on a free have worked, for example both full-backs, John White and Ben Coker were signed on frees this summer and are both better than anyone Guy brought in. Does this mean that Guy is a bad manager? No it doesn’t but it does go to show that you can bring in good free transfers. On the other side of the ledger, Phil Brown signed Craig Reid and I’m not sure he’s got the quality to be a good player in the conference let alone League 2.

When you are limited by who you can sign then the loan system is your life support system. A month ago Portsmouth and Southend were neck and neck in the division but now Southend sit in the promotion places whilst Pompey languish near the bottom of the football league pyramid. Southend have done two things that completed changed their fortunes, firstly they signed a guy called Rob Kiernan on loan from Wigan Athletic. He has completely changed the way the team defends and has made the team so much more solid at the back. Also they changed to a 4-3-3 formation and it is working.

Guy clearly wasn’t been able to either find the right personnel nor find the right way to train the defenders. Going forward Pompey have looked pretty good all season long but at the back they looked like they were at sixes and sevens. This was a problem that the manager needed to address, either by finding a good defensive coach or by finding the right players to play at the back. This was his biggest error in his tenure at PFC.

Still the football club itself is reeling a bit from this sacking and it doesn’t seem like they had anyone lined up. They got rid of him because they felt the fans were now not fully behind him and so they fired him. It shows a distinct lack of leadership at the very top of Portsmouth Football Club that they could fire a manager seemingly on a whim without having the proper procedures in place to ensure a smooth transition to a new man. It was sheer panic and pretty much what I’d expect from other football clubs, not the new fans owned Pompey.

Some of the names Pompey fans are talking about depress me a lot, Neil Warnock has cropped up on numerous occasions because he once said that he’d crawl over broken glass to be Portsmouth manager. Bit of a shame then that when the job was their for the taking he decided he didn’t want it. Warnock has had one good spell in charge of any team and that was Sheffield United. I don’t include QPR because with the resources available anyone should have gotten them promoted. Is Neil Warnock the guy that can take the club forward? No, no he isn’t. His track record isn’t half as great as people are making it out to be.

Another name out there is Martin Allen, who actually has history with Portsmouth having been a player and a coach at the Fratton Park club. He left under cloudy circumstances I think around 1999 if my memory serves me right although he did win an unfair dismissal suit against the club. Still do Pompey fans really want to bring him back in from the cold or does his impressive performance in getting Gillingham promoted with a team of free transfers negate any previous misconduct at the club?

I don’t know but all I do know is Guy Whittingham stepped into the breech and did a pretty good job last season with Andy Awford. I do wonder if the latter’s decision to step back down to the academy had a significant impact on the first team, my gut feeling is it did. I also wonder just how good the Pompey team would be as Awford stayed as Guy’s #2 this season.

Still what has happened as happened. The Pompey board have shown that they are like every other board in that the moment the fans want a manager out, they’ll shove him out of the door. Some Pompey fans believe that the club should be romping away with the division just because of the size of the crowds and the history of the club. The sad truth is the club has a lot of money to pay still and it will be a while until the club can stand on its own feet financially with no debts to pay. If the team could get promoted whilst having this weight tied around its neck then brilliant, personally just having a season of stability and joy in having a football team to watch was more than enough.

It seems though I’m once more into in the minority or at the very least the vocal minority. I didn’t expect to romp away with the league this season and I seriously question the fans that believed that we would. I saw people calling for Guy’s head after the first game of the season. It seems as though the fans can take over the club but the fans will always demand more from their team and the scapegoat will always be the manager.

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UEFA stick their middle finger up to UK Football fans as BT wins Champions League rights

Head of UEFA Michel Platini is no doubt cackling to himself this morning. He is probably the happiest person in the world that UK football fans have been screwed over apart from Jake Humphrey. This morning they announced that after a long and profitable business relationship with Sky Sports and ITV, UEFA have walked away and gone with the biggest bidder, the company who know they’ve paid money that they can’t afford to get the rights to broadcast all Champions League and Europa League matches from August 2015 to May 2018.

BT Sport are paying £299m a year for the right, which is around £100m more than Sky Sports bid and have made the splash that they were determined to make. They’ve made it clear what their strategy is, they want to lose money in the hope that a few years of losses will lead to profit down the line when everyone is getting their broadband via BT.

It is a massive gamble but they have worked out one thing – that live sport is the only television that people will still watch live. Other shows are often recorded and watched at a later date, but sport is still watched live. Coupled with BT’s approach to dominate the broadband market then they see it as a big long-term goal to couple the two. With two million subscribers already it sounds like a strong start for the company, but the truth is the majority of them are not paying for the BT Sport channels, instead they are getting them for free. This is not exactly great.

However this blog is about why it is sticking it to the UK football fan. With now no games live on terrestrial TV (although BT Sport do say they’ll put some games on FTA television) it means that the biggest European club competition now doesn’t have a home on FTA television. With the Europa League also out and the Premier League having never had a home on FTA television then football fans will be forced into paying for a pay TV if they want to watch any club football.

If you want to watch all the games though, you are now firmly pushed into getting not one, but two pay TV subscriptions. Now as it stands I already pay for both Sky Sports and BT Sport because I get my fibre optic broadband through Sky. So my bill just to watch all the sport available is already through the roof. After tax, national insurance, rent and food, my next largest monthly outgoing is on my TV/Broadband packages. I spend more each month on TV than I do on electricity and gas and we all know how much they cost these days!

If I didn’t have to pay extra to watch all the sport then I’d easily be able to have a fortnight in a 5* resort every year. The thing is I don’t mind per se paying extra for sport but I don’t like paying extra twice, that galls, it really does. At the moment though BT Sport is I think £9.99 a month, so its basically the cost of a Chinese take-away every month but they’ll have to put up prices to cover the insane cost of this deal surely? So will they double the cost?

At what point do I just say enough is enough? Will Sky scale down their charges when they don’t have Champions League football? So many questions and none of them I expect to be answered positively. At this point I think all we can hope for is some football tips to help pay for all the extra money we’ll be shelling out to watch all the live games we want.

The biggest issue though is BT Sport’s coverage has been shocking so far. Genuinely awful. They have spent so much money and all they’ve got right is Ian Darke is the commentary box. Darke is a fantastic commentator and is without a doubt a first-class lead. Darke, along with Martin Tyler are clearly a notch above anyone else commentating on football in the United Kingdom at the moment. So adding Darke’s voice to the Champions League isn’t a problem. However they’ve partnered Michael Owen will him so far and Owen just isn’t up to it. They have Steve McManaman in the studio twiddling his thumbs whilst Owen is alongside Darke, why? McManaman and Darke built up an excellent pairing at ESPN (USA) and would be a first class pairing for BT Sport.

Next up is the Mark Halsey situation. I like Mark, I like him a lot, but he’s really not comfortable in the gig that he currently has. Having a former referee in the booth isn’t a bad idea. It works well in the USA on the NFL but Halsey has no confidence. BT will surely look at this and maybe having him in the studio for Half-Time and Full-time analysis would work better.

Then we get to Jake Humphrey. A man so self-assured that he makes Russell Brand look like a shy cherry-blossom when he approaches women. Jake has that ‘matey’ approach to TV presenting, which isn’t bad per se, the problem is you get the feeling that it doesn’t work when the experts don’t seem to like him. When David Ginola called him a wanker behind his back after Jake delivered a cheap shot about his trousers then it said everything.

‘This is how we do it on BT Sport’ exclaims Jake at every possible moment, what Jake? You mean you do is a lot worse and in a far more unprofessional manner than Sky, ITV or even the BBC? I know the BBC is often castigated for being a bit matey, but at least you know they all actually get along. ON BT Sport is just seems like Jake is hanging out with the popular kids and wanting to be their mates and they just laugh and snigger behind his back. Jake should watch how well Ed Chamberlain fronts Sky’s Sunday and Monday coverage, he knows Gary and Jamie are the stars of the show and lets them talk and doesn’t jump in with nonsense. It allows the show to flow and Jake needs to learn this.

So basically the fans are getting screwed by having to pay out yet more money to watch European competitions from after next season but they will also be forced to watch inferior coverage of the Champions League. Sky’s coverage is first-rate and BT Sport will get nowhere near that in terms of quality. Only Ian Darke as lead play-by-play will not see a big reduction in quality and unless BT make a radical decision by giving James Richardson the gig as the front man, football fans will be forced to groan through Jake’s candor far more than anyone should have to.

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The Yoshi Story and why I think he could still have been a Pompey great…

Sometimes we have a logical (or even an illogical) gravitation towards someone. In terms of sport we we all root for teams but there are also players that we root for even harder whether they be on our team or that of another. For me there are many that fit this bill but none more so than a 5ft 10″ Japanese goalkeeper who was Japan’s answer to David Beckham.

I hadn’t thought about that man for years until Neil Allen wrote a column about him last week, which was published online last night, . You see that goalkeeper came and played in England. He signed for £1.8million in the autumn before the 2002 World Cup, which was to be played in Japan and South Korea. He didn’t sign for Manchester United. He didn’t sign for Arsenal. Not even Liverpool but for the big boys – Portsmouth.

He arrived to much fanfare. If I recall correctly the club even got Barry Davies in to MC his press conference. There was little doubt Kawaguchi was a good goalkeeper but there was a huge question mark surrounding whether he could survive the harshness of English league football and why Portsmouth were really signing a Japanese goalkeeper, when manager Graham Rix seemed happy enough with a 42 year-old who went down in stages.


The whole deal was about one thing – money. The affable 26 year-old was a pawn in a plan devised by Milan Mandaric to make money. Harry Redknapp, who was Director of Football at the time was sent to scout him and obviously came back with a decent enough report on the player. However in his recent autobiography as Neil Allen points out, he now claims that he fell asleep. Due to the fact that it is in his autobiography, I question the truthfulness of this statement as we already know giant swathes of it is made up.

So anyway he signs, for all the wrong reasons, but he’s here. He has a manager who doesn’t want him and is in a foreign country without anyone looking out for him, either on or off the pitch. This is a recipe for disaster. As many of you will know I am a huge baseball fan and when teams bring in Japanese players they will also hire a full-time interpreter to help them adjust both in the dressing rooms but also to the area, someone they can communicate with and spend some time socially with. None of this happened for Kawaguchi at Portsmouth.

His debut didn’t start well, a goal conceded after just 26 seconds but a win. The next game was a draw but his third game in Portsmouth blue was to this day still the finest I had ever seen by a Portsmouth goalkeeper. It was a Saturday lunchtime kick-off against Manchester City. City would go on to win the league at a canter and I’m pretty sure they were top when they visited Fratton Park. It was 2-1 to the good guys at the half but the second half it was all one way traffic and turned into the Manchester City attack (and primarily Darren Huckerby) v Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi. I would say attack Vs. defence but that would be overstating the role Pompey’s defence played in the game. The back-line was just dreadful but Yoshi was unbeatable, saving everything and putting in a performance for the ages.

I have no idea how many Pompey fans remember that game but it is still etched in my memory. That was a pretty forgettable season for one reason or another, the sad loss of the clubs incumbent goalkeeper on the eve of the season being probably the one that most remember clearest. There were highs, like the Prosinecki inspired 4-2 Bank Holiday Grimsby game and the 3-3 comeback at Wimbledon when down 3-0 with 20 minutes left. The lows though also stick in the mind, that Leyton Orient cup defeat and the 4-4 Barnsley game are the two games that spring to mind.

Neil Allen writes about 25 goals in 11 games conceded for Yoshi in his Portsmouth spell but people forget just how shit of a defence he was playing behind. In the subsequent seven games after being kicked to the curb, in came the saviour Dave Beasant and he promptly conceded 22 goals in those seven games, that is averaging over three goals a game, that is worse than Yoshi’s record. So either Yoshi was just so awful he battered down the confidence of the defence to a point where they couldn’t recover or they just weren’t very good in the first place.

We know Linvoy went on to be a Pompey legend but his career took off when Arjen De Zeeuw got his teeth into him and he helped mold Linvoy. The other names of central defenders in that team include the likes of Carl Tiler, Scott Hiley, a young Lewis Buxton and another foreign import who’d go on to star in Italy’s third tier before being suspended as part maath fixing, Allesandro Zamperini. The full-backs were Jason Crowe, an old and crocked Justin Edinburgh and a full-back whose confidence plummeted to depths usually reserved for me when I talk to pretty girls in Jamie Vincent. To cut a long story short, had Pompey signed Iker Casillas that autumn, fresh of his Champions League Final heroics, he’d have struggled behind that defence and lets not beat around the bush here, the midfielder was full of attacking flair but no defensive steal to protect that leaky back-line either.

Also remember the clubs goalkeeper at the time had already rubbished his new team mate in the local paper, not exactly the best quality team mate huh? I know no-one likes when someone comes in to take their job, certainly if you think you are better than them, but in a dressing room environment this already ensured that Yoshi was an outsider.

The odds were stacked against him from the start. Brought to the club because Milan Mandaric thought he’d make a lot of money. Brought to a club where the manager had no interest in him. Brought into a dressing room that didn’t seem to welcome him and brought into a team where the defence was as leaky as an England dressing room so it would seem.

He may have been short for a goalkeeper but last I heard Fabien Barthez had a pretty darn good career, he only won the European Championships and World Cup as the French national goalkeeper. He also won the Champions League with Marseilles. Height helps but it isn’t the be all and end all. He still has the use of his arms that attackers don’t and I’m pretty sure most goalkeepers arms are longer than a few inches, so therefore he still would have been able to leap over attacking players to catch and punch a ball, in fact this is one thing no-one disputes, the fact that Yoshi was ‘rubber like’ and had excellent spring.

Was he a natural fit for English league football? No. No he wasn’t, but was he given the opportunity to succeed at Portsmouth? No. No he sure as hell wasn’t. His signing was ill thought out and instead of putting him in a position to thrive and flourish, the club made bad decision after bad decision to erode the lads confidence and there is plenty of blame to go around from the chairman, to Harry Redknapp, to Graham Rix, to Dave Beasant and others. Had this been a coherent signing with plans in place to help Yoshi settle in a foreign country and playing behind at least a league average defence then he could have been a Pompey great. Now instead he is derided for being a goalkeeper that let in four to Leyton Orient.

This makes me sad. Pompey ruined his career all in the name of making a quick buck and whilst in the list of things Pompey owners have done to the club in the past two decades this doesn’t rank in the top tier, it is probably from a human standpoint the worst thing they did. They turned a national hero into an afterthought on the eve of a World Cup in his homeland, all because one man saw dollar signs light up in his eyes and thought all he had to do was sign him to make those dollar signs turn into cold hard cash and a lucrative revenue stream.

Sadly for Milan Mandaric unless you give the person whom you think is a great financial asset the best opportunity to succeed, then the investment will go up the swanny and that is exactly what happened. The club invested in Yoshi to sign him but never invested in either him as a person or him as a goalkeeper that that was their greatest fault.

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Harry Redknapp. A liar or a man who has a very dodgy memory? Thoughts on his Pompey/Southampton move.

This evening I was sat in the radio box at Roots Hall commentating over one of the most bizarre 15 minutes of football that I have ever seen. Southend came out after Half-Time 1-0 down but were 2-1 up within eight minutes. They would be 5-2 down just seven minutes later. Truly absurd football. Whilst calling the game I was leaning over watching the laptop of our colleagues at BBC London and I saw Portsmouth were 1-0 up away at Oxford. Late in the game I glanced over and I saw the Oxford v Portsmouth game was flashing ‘Goal’ and I awaited to see who had scored it and it was Portsmouth. I gave a proper fist pump as my co-commentator knew exactly what had happened.

You see I may call Southend games but I don’t hide the fact that I am a Portsmouth fan first and foremost. My love of the club may have waned whilst the glut of shall we call them ‘interesting’ characters owned the club. However the good guys now own the good ship Pompey and I now keenly read and watch the news from the south coast with interest.

Back in Harry Redknapp’s day though I was a Season Ticket in the Fratton End. I still lived down south and was working as a writer covering the club. They were good times. Whatever Pompey fans think of Harry now they’ll certainly say that our run to winning the Championship was a glorious year and staying up in the Premier League in that first year was pretty sweet. In Harry’s third full season though he left the club and would turn up along the M27 as manager of our arch-rival. Lets put it this way…Pompey fans…not overly amused by this.

Why am I writing about this today? Well Harry is serialising his book in the Daily Mail. One of the pieces is about his departure from Pompey and how the Pompey fans reacted and a couple of things jumped out at me:

Everyone had a rattle and they just went to enjoy the game. If that sounds a rose-tinted or nostalgic memory, I’m sorry, but it’s true. It was especially brought home to me when I was shown the door by Portsmouth in 2004 and Southampton offered me the chance to go there.

Now the thing is…Harry was never shown the door by Portsmouth. He resigned. He quit. He walked out of Portsmouth because he didn’t want to work for Milan Mandaric anymore. He didn’t like a Director of Football coming in over his head. One thing that didn’t happen was him getting the sack. How do we know this? Well because Harry said so at the time – and reiterated it when he was questioned by police in relation to his court case.

At the time he told BBC Sport:

It is something (resigning) I have been thinking about for a while. I made it without any pressure from the chairman or the board.

He told police in 2009:

He (Mandaric) got the hump with him because he brought in a director of football when I didn’t want one.

And he got the needle because I became bigger than him at the football club. He didn’t like that really.

Then we played Villa and we were 2-0 down at half-time and Milan — I had two friends sitting behind him — tore up his ticket into 50 pieces, threw it up in the air and said, “Why am I paying all this money for this rubbish?

So the next morning I rang Peter Storrie (the then chief executive) and said, “I’ve had enough of him. I want out”.’

Look I’m all for rewriting history. When I write my memoirs you’ll read all about how handsome I was as a young man and how women were fawning over me and jostling for my attention. That doesn’t mean it is true of course but we all like to remember the past more fondly than we possibly should.

He goes on to speak about the personal bile that he suffered at the hands of Portsmouth fans. A lot of it was over the top. I can’t defend a significant amount of Pompey fans for some of the things they said or did. However I’m not sure how Harry can honestly say that he didn’t think it would be a problem

I had all these very reasonable thoughts in my head as I left my new chairman’s house and I thought enough people would see the logic with me. If I couldn’t work for Portsmouth, this really was the next best thing.

He could’ve still worked for Portsmouth. He chose not to. When your boyfriend/girlfriend ditches you and starts seeing your arch-nemesis then generally you aren’t too happy . Football fans are pretty tribal so if you ditch them and move to the hated rival then expect some shit. Whether this is right or wrong isn’t something I’m going to debate at 01:04 but you have to expect it.

Harry is either incredibly naive or just has very little contact with the realities of the world. I don’t know which. He wrote earlier this week that he didn’t hold grudges but I think the general consensus is (and one I subscribe to) that he took the Southampton job solely to get back at Portsmouth. He was hurting and smarting by what he perceived as unfair treatment at Portsmouth (having a Director of Football brought in above him) but when he first came to Portsmouth he was brought in as a Director of Football over the head of the incumbent manager Graeme Rix. So he was fine doing that to someone else but when it was done to him it was extremely unfair. Gotta love it haven’t you?

He goes on to say…

Looking back, I think that maybe they liked me so much when I was there, that we had such a good relationship, that my leaving hurt far more intensely than the departure of another manager would.

They treated me like God because we had gone from being nowhere to being a Premier League team that had survived.

We had the best year, winning the title to get promoted, and I don’t think any of us felt we could top that. So when I went to Southampton it was as if I had betrayed all that affection.

They were too upset to step back from the situation and think: ‘Harry got pushed out because they brought this other bloke in’.

He did have a terrific relationship with the Pompey fans – he is right. He was treated well – he is right but he needs to remember that the most beloved manager for Pompey fans of my generation is Alan Ball, a man who also managed Southampton. The fact he managed us and them and then ultimately us again (just as Harry would do) didn’t matter to the Pompey fans. They (me included) adored Alan Ball for what he did in both his stints at Fratton Park. He always put the club first. This is why he was so beloved despite his Southampton connections. Harry cannot say the same with a straight face.

There is no doubt that Pompey fans were hurt and felt betrayed by Harry. I think it is probably fair to say overly so. For football is just football. However Harry should never say that Pompey fans treated him like a God. He was liked, but was he was respected and beloved like Alan Ball? I don’t think so.

To sum up Harry had good times at Portsmouth. Things went bad and he walked because he didn’t have everything his own way. He was never pushed. Never forced nor cajoled out of the door. He walked. He took the Southampton job out of pure spite considering he said at the time he wanted to take some time out to recharge his batteries. Yeah batteries take more than a few weeks to recharge. He came back, did a great job but that great job came at an even greater price and when he saw the writing on the wall he walked out again for pastures new.

Love him or hate him (or being entirely indifferent to him). Harry is an interesting character who is far more savvy than he likes to let on. He knew Pompey fans would not wish him well on taking the Southampton job. He knew they would vilify him. Did Jim Smith get some shit for taking the Southampton job? Sure he did but it was nothing like what Redknapp got because the fans had deep rooted respect for the Bald Eagle. That is something Pompey fans do not have for Harry and many sets of fans around the country seem to have a similar sense of indifference at best towards the current QPR manager and that isn’t just a coincidence…

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Why I’m genuinely excited about Pompey for the first time in years…

It has been a forlorn few years for Portsmouth fans. From riding high in the Premier League, winning the FA Cup, playing in European competition including just failing to beat Italian AC Milan to years of several different owners, administration, a drop down the divisions as swift as the short-shift I get when approaching a member of the opposite sex. I think it is fair to say that it has been a bad few years for the grand old club and for the fans who have been with them through thick and thin.

However here we are. At this time next week they will start their 2013/2014 campaign with a spring in their step. The club has finally been taken over by the Portsmouth Supporters Trust. It has been a long and very hard road, one that if I’m being totally honest I didn’t think was possible. Happily I was wrong, oh so very wrong and they pulled it off. The merry-go-round of shall we call them ‘interesting’ characters that have been involved with owning – or wanting to own – the club has ended and people are in charge who I firmly believe have the clubs best interests at heart.

With over 10,000 Season Tickets already sold for this season and word today that the opening fixture will be a sell-out is extremely encouraging news. The fans who were a bit like me and fed up of the previous regimes and giving them money are flocking back. The club never leaves you and even if you stop loving them you don’t ever stop caring. Now that care is once again turning back into love. I have followed the transfer moves in the club far more than I have in years despite the fact the club are in the bottom tier of the league.

However it isn’t just the on-field product that a large proportion of Pompey fans care about. They want to see the club at the heart of the community. They want answers to questions and for the first time in my lifetime as a fan I feel as though the communication between the club and the fans is a very healthy one. The playing budget was slightly increased in the past week and some fans were worried about whether or not we could afford it but Chief Executive Mark Catlin came out in the local newspaper and explained the situation fully. It has allayed many fans fears. This is what we want and happily the club seem to be very much on the right path now.

Sadly due to geography I’m unable to be a Season Ticket holder. If I still lived even say in the SW Trains region I would probably have returned this season. However I’m not totally down with four hours each way on the trains for each home match and also I have other football commitments regarding radio commentary. Hopefully when Pompey come to Roots Hall on New Years Day I’ll be behind the microphone calling that game but if Pompey could draw Southend away in one of the cup competitions I wouldn’t exactly be complaining.

Back to Pompey and even looking at the manager – Guy Whittingham is a guy I like and respect and can fully get behind as manager and leader of my club. No offence to any other manager since possibly Alan Ball but whilst some have done great things for the club, I never felt they truly loved the club. The Corporal I feel does. He signed a player from non-league Burnham Town the other day and said that he reminded him of himself when he first came to Pompey. Suddenly Ryan Bird is a player I’m rooting for hard and hoping he can move from non-league goalscoring dynamo to league two star.

Pompey are the betting favourites for the League Two title and whilst I think that maybe optimistic considering we have a small squad and an average playing budget, it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility. Whatever happens there is a lot of optimism both on and off the playing field at Fratton Park and I would like to put on record my thanks to all the people behind and involved with the Portsmouth Supporters Trust for making me love my club once again. The 2013/2014 season could be a lot of fun but even if we don’t win promotion we know that everyone involved is moving in the same direction and it is the first time we can say that for many a year.

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Jose Mourinho returns to Chelsea and personally I’m delighted.

Look. I’m no Chelsea fan. My loyalties are firmly with another team in blue currently plying their trade in League 2 but I love football and the Premier League has been missing something over the past couple of years. With the loss of Sir Alex to retirement the league needed a figurehead manager and who better than Jose Mourinho?

The one thing I want to say about Jose Mourinho is he has produced two of the most exciting teams I have seen in the past decade. His first Chelsea team with Robben and Duff marauding down the flanks, Drogba all powerful up top and the midfield power and pace of Essien and Lampard coupled with a steely determination and resolution of never being beaten until the final moment made them one of the most exciting teams the Premier League have seen.

In the 2011/2012 season he put together a Real Madrid team who scored goals for fun and beat possibly the greatest club side of this generation in Barcelona to the La Liga title. Yet again the team was full of strong players and strong characters and in the end it was the strong personalities in that dressing room that led to Real Madrid falling short of their goals.

That won’t be a problem at Stamford Bridge. His job at Porto, Chelsea and Inter Milan can all be said to have been fantastic successes. His legacy at Real Madrid is mixed but when you consider how great that Barcelona team were/are then he did a fine job in my eyes.

I’m positive Jose’s return to galvanise the club and also add some much needed spice to the Premier League. The nucleus is there to be a great team but they still need to be more secure defensively and they need a great striker. Whether that person is Fernando Torres or not we’ll see but when you consider that the kid Lukaku did great on loan at West Brom last year then he must be an option. You’d assume the Jose has the money and freedom to spend it on who he deems necessary and whoever that is I’m excited to see.

Whatever happens it will spice up the season. In a way it is a shame that he can’t go head-to-head with Sir Alex one final time and that Man City have sacked Roberto Mancini as that would have been fireworks. Still we have one of the most polarising and provocative figures in the game back in the Premier League and I for one can’t wait.

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