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Month: January 2014

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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Mr Mark Steel – A perfect example of why Labour can never win a grown-up debate

Ah Mr Mark Steel. A voice against Capitalism and a voice against the system. Allegedly a comedian but I support if Michael McIntyre can call himself a comedian then anyone can these days. I think it is fair to say that Mark Steel is a Labour man and it has heavily influenced his life. I have no problem with that, we are all shaped by our upbringings and our political ideologies. Some from all parties believe in everything they do and disparage anyone who disagrees wit them. This always galls me as I like to think there is something to be learned from so many views.

Why am I writing about this today?

Well the ‘funny man’ has written a piece in the Independent entitled If his 2015 manifesto is going to feature a load of pledges he can’t stick to, shouldn’t Nick Clegg at least have some fun with it? with the sub-title, If it’s grown-up to ignore what you said to get elected, why have a campaign at all?

It is exactly what you think it is, a poorly thought-out piece saying that because the Lib Dems didn’t win a majority in the House of Commons at the last General Election then they basically should have told the Tories to stuff it and allow the economy to funk for a few months whilst we had a second General Election where the Tories would have won a majority. That is what he thinks would have been the best way to deal with the issues of the summer of 2010. It is a shame that yet another person fails to understand what the basic ethos of a coalition is but there are plenty of those about, so he’s in fine company.

I remember the same ‘comic’ on panel shows such as Have I Got News For You? and Mock The Week deriding the Lib Dems in the build up to the 2010 General Election as a waste of space, because quite simply they couldn’t win and couldn’t see any of their policies implemented. David Mitchell is one that really resonates in the memory banks, going on about how considerate it was to have the Lib Dem party conferences before the Tory and Labour ones so all the political hacks could have a warm-up before the important ones. Oh my sides split.

Well a strange thing happened on the way to being irrelevant. The Lib Dems became relevant and boy did it piss off a lot of people. Not solely because they became relevant but because they sided with the Tories over Labour in terms of a coalition. Not to mention the fact that the election maths made a Labour coalition impossible, meaning only a rainbow alliance could have had the MPs to hold a majority and imagine that, Labour, Lib Dems, SNP, DUP, Plaid Cymru, SDLP, Green etc… – could these guys really all sit around a table and form a stable government? I think the chances of that are similar to those of me ever getting laid – PS: if you don’t know me then I can assure you, the odds of me ever getting laid are long, very long.

Also the country had voted for more Conservative MPs than any other party, surely this meant they deserved to run the country? They didn’t win the election outright but they were closer to the winners post than any other party. The financial situation at the time of the election meant that confidence and supply for an emergency budget wasn’t really a goer and a stable coalition had to be formed. The Tories and the Lib Dems were the unlikely bed fellows. Did that sit well with me? No, of course it didn’t but I could see that stable government was needed and this was the best route forward.

I can see why many voters were unhappy about this. A significant proportion of the Lib Dem vote wasn’t really a Lib Dem vote, but an anti-Tory vote. In vast areas it is a two-horse race and Labour voters lent their vote hoping to keep the Tories out of office. The fact the Lib Dems then went into coalition with the Tories meant they felt betrayed. This is just a pitfall of our election system that we could have changed but the country decided they didn’t want it to be changed. Sod fairer votes as it might favour the Lib Dems. Now of course many people are slowly figuring out that FPTP is going to screw UKIP and they are outraged again but I digress.

Could Nick Clegg have handled certain things better? Of course he could. Sadly though we don’t have a Stargate or a Quantum Mirror to go into a parallel universe and see how things would’ve shaken out had Clegg not had taken the Lib Dems into a coalition. However to turn around and say that he could write whatever he wanted in the 2015 Lib Dem manifesto because he didn’t see through his 2010 manifesto is just a fallacy, one linked to the authors lack of grasp of basic coalition politics. Not just coalition politics, but coalition politics with a very junior partner.

If Labour had gone into a coalition with the Lib Dems and benched some of their manifesto then would they be a bunch of liars as well? Yeah I wonder what he’d say to that…

However what really gets my goat about his piece isn’t the bollocks he’s spewing about how pointless the Lib Dem manifesto is, comedians have been doing that for years in various guises believing that a third party was easy prey for laughs. The fact the irrelevant party became a party of government just meant they had to find other ways to deride the party. That is ok. That is fair game in comedy apparently. Who cares about accuracy when you can get cheap laughs, oh look my trousers have fallen down, I need stitches in my sides it is so funny.

No what really gets my goat is the final paragraph and a bit and how out of touch and lazy it is:

To have any chance at the next election, even of saving his own seat in Sheffield, he’ll need to go much much further than that.

So instead of wasting effort compiling more promises, his one chance of saving his seat in Sheffield might be a collaboration with local heroes the Arctic Monkeys, in which he sings: “Oh what a scummy man, you can see it in my eyes yeah that I’ve got a nasty plan, I’d go into coalition with the bloody Taliban for a place in the cabinet. And you’ve seen me with Osborne and Hague, there ain’t no promise on which I won’t renege, students do better to vote for the plague ‘cos I’m a scumbag don’t you know.”

First of all, does Mark Steel really think that Nick Clegg is going to lose his own seat in Sheffield Hallam? I mean really? I know it’s cool to say he’ll lose his seat but there is absolutely no evidence to say that it is on the cards. He has a stonking majority, the party still does well locally and in 2012, which is probably fair to say will be the lowest point of the Lib Dems locally in this government, the party still pulled in 39% of the vote with Labour 16% behind in second place. In the five seats in the constituency, they all stayed solidly Lib Dem in 2012 and in a key by-election in 2013, when Labour and the Tories really attacked, the Lib Dems cruised home by 1,400 votes.

Now I know Mr Mark Steel loves his rhetoric and thinks that his view is the right view but at some point he’ll have to understand that wanting something to be true isn’t going to make it true. That isn’t how it works in the grown-up world. When it comes to politics, so much is child like and it depresses me but the most child like are the Labour party. They believe in polling data unless it isn’t favourable to them. When there is positive polling data they then use it like a blanket over the whole country to predict what will happen, neglecting the nuances of local politics, region by region, county by county, city by city, constituency by constituency, ward by ward, polling district by polling district.

So Mr Mark Steel, live in your own mind and hope against all hope that what you want will one day happen and you’ll wake up in a socialist state. It may well happen, well actually it won’t because the country doesn’t want socialism and in the past half a century the only Labour General Election wins have been when the party has moved away from the extreme left to the centre-left/centre but who cares about facts. When you live in Mr Mark Steel’s world then you can believe whatever you want to believe and if facts get in the way then the best way to deal with them is to ignore them. Who wants facts anyway?

This is a prime example of why I treat the Labour party with distain at the moment. They cry about the Lib Dems not being grown-up, when in fact it is them who are playing adolescent politics. This comes from a guy whose upbringing was very much in the ‘Anyone but the Tories’ mould but as it stands they are at least acting like a grown-up party, not just the MPs and councillors but also the memberships. My politics are centrist but if I had to lean left or right of centre then it would be left, however with the way the Labour party are acting at the moment I just couldn’t see myself supporting them.

Until the Labour party stop trying to play politics and start seeing politics as a serious business then I struggle to take them seriously. We all have ideologies but sometimes real world issues have to come above ideologies. For example if a 45p tax rate rakes in the most revenue for higher band earners then so be it. Proposing a 50p tax band that will bring in less money is just ideological claptrap designed to sound good and gain support whereas the finances say it’s a bad move.

I’m 30 and I like to think I’m relatively grown-up and that is how I act and that is how I like my politics. Until Labour acts grown-up then for me I think that maybe the best thing for the country in 2015 would be another Tory/Lib Dem coalition and lets be honest, there is no way I saw myself typing that three and a half years ago but Labour have just been so poor as an opposition and so lightweight on the economy that I’m not sure I trust them as much as I do the Tories and boy that is a scary thought.

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The story of the West Leigh by-election is the rise of UKIP

So here we are. UKIP are four months away from having potentially several councillors on Southend Council. 410 votes in West Leigh was a staggering result but the thing that is worth noting is that people on the doorstep weren’t canvassing as UKIP at all. The UKIP vote is silent but it is there. The disenfranchised vote is loud and unless the three main parties address this quickly then it will be carnage come May in local elections, although I still think in the General Election things will be slightly different.

In Southend, UKIP and the Independent’s are either in an unofficial nod and wink allience or they are not depending on who you talk to and what their mood is at the time you speak to them. However lets put it this way, the UKIP literature is rather similar to what the independents have been saying, just with added anti-immigration phrases thrown in for good measure.

West Leigh is not where you’d expect a strong UKIP vote and clearly they did well on a minimal campaign. We have seen this before in Southend is more favourable wards for them, but with the next local elections being on the same day as European Elections they will fight a more vigorous campaign that will see them make their Southend breakthrough.

Nationally though this news is positive for the Lib Dems. In areas where we work hard our vote seems to be holding up whereas the Tories vote drops with UKIP sweeping up that vote. So when you look at these Lib Dem/Tory battlegrounds then the Lib Dems can either hold or take them at the next General Election. For ages the hope that Lib Dems have been clinging to is UKIP can split the Tory vote and it is perfectly possible it can happen.

However for us locally this is a rude wake up call and all parties should have taken really note of this result. Even though they came 17% away from winning, the fact they canvassed so badly (and we did a lot of canvassing) yet came through so strong says so much. At the count the votes counted from ballot boxes today actually had UKIP right up there with the Lib Dems and the Tories but the postal votes were a lot stronger for the two other main parties.

As for Labour, well it was nice of them to turn up. 7% is around what we expected so that canvassing data held up well. We also thought we’d be nip/tuck with the Tories and who got their vote out today would win it. That UKIP vote though came right out of left field.

UKIP will win seats on Southend Council, they will win seats on many councils, they’ll send more people to the European Parliament than any other party, yet I firmly believe they’ll do all this not because people support them but because they are so disenfranchised. This is where the three main parties have to step up and better engage people on issues and policies. If we fail to do that then I fear for the future.

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A very close second place in West Leigh, so close yet so far away

Losing an election by 55 votes is never ideal but when you consider the last time this seat was up for election we lost by 500 odd then you can see that progress is being made. The Tories held West Leigh yesterday on a 26% turnout with 743 votes with the Lib Dems get 688. However the big story wasn’t who won and who came second place but who came third. I shall deal with that is a separate blog post.

I want to say a big well done to the Lib Dem team in West Leigh, who put up a terrific fight. We had people working Virtual Phone Banks, people coming in from Thurrock, Braintree and Colchester, swelling the numbers of local activists attempting to get the vote out. We knew the turn out would be low and the weather certainly didn’t help. The morning and lunchtime was rainy and at around half five we had a ten minute hailstorm that no doubt would have put voters off going out.

However the big LD news is how well we did considering our candidate had what the doctors described as a minor heart attack a fortnight ago. He underwent a by-pass operation on Wednesday and is doing very well in Basildon hospital and if all goes well he’ll be home again early next week.

Special thanks must be made to Leigh councillors Cllr. Crystall and Cllr. Wexham who both worked extremely hard canvassing. I know Cllr. Wexham wrote to 19 constituents who had passed on issues to the party during the canvass, which he then took up with the Council on their behalf. So even though we didn’t win, we still managed to help 19 people with issues that councillors can help out with, isn’t that what it is all about?

Plenty of others to name but I won’t name them all here, they know who they are. The most important thing is clearly our candidates speedy recovery from his by-pass and all the signs are positive. We mounted a strong campaign and ran the Tories extremely close. Had things fallen for us, certainly with the weather and Chris’s health then I firmly believe we’d have stolen West Leigh. That isn’t me typing through yellow tinted spectacles, that is just how it was going.

We can be proud of running a solely positive campaign. We said nothing negative about any party or any candidate. Chris just spoke about what he felt he could bring to the council and what his main concerns were for West Leigh residents. This is how I believe politics should be. I know negative politics works but I just don’t like it.

So anyway, so close yet so far away and now I best write the real news story of the night – the rise of UKIP…

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If Lord Rennard truly cared for the party and liberal ideals then he’d stand down.

Oh boy. This is pretty darn ugly isn’t it?

I will not sit here and type about what he did or didn’t do. I don’t know so I won’t comment on it. However one thing is what happens next and I feel as though I can have an opinion on that.

No one man (or woman) is bigger than the party. The party would be better off if Lord Rennard left the party. That is the plain and simple truth. If he feels as though his membership and the fact he is a Lib Dem peer is more important than either the perception of the party and/or the feelings of the membership then I would be incredibly disappointed.

It is something I have been thinking about recently, whether people are too comfortable in being part of the establishment and their own self-importance. He has to decide what is more important, the party’s future and furthering our liberal agenda or his own beliefs that he’s done nothing wrong and should be allowed to continue?

I fear that he’s comfortable in being part of the establishment. I certainly believe that he is extremely arrogant. Even if, and I stress the word if, if he actually did no nothing wrong and all the stories were untrue, the party will never go forward with him in the fold. All he can do is drag the party down. Whatever he does, he can’t help the party anymore. Even if he disappeared and came back quietly in a few years then it wouldn’t work.

Lord Rennard is toxic. Not toxic with the electorate but toxic with the progressives within the party. I have always seen the liberal Democrats as a party with progressive people at the helm and the more progressive people the party has in its membership and subsequently in key positions, then the more forward-thinking the party can be. Lord Rennard’s position within the party is such that the progressives cannot abide him.

He has to go. Quite simply if he stays on he is saying that he is more important than the party. No-one is more important than the party. So it is now down to his arrogance and sense of self-worth against views of the party he claims to represent. I’m sure some people would say that if he hasn’t done anything wrong then why should he go. Well that if seems like one giant stretch of an if at this juncture but even if that were true, then he should go for the sake of the party and for the people of the country. As liberals we want to benefit the country, I suppose all political groups would say that but if the party gets weaker and unhappier then it doesn’t benefit our hopes to make the country more of a liberal bastion for the 21st century.

So whilst I am an innocent until proven guilty guy, I really am. I have to say that if he is truly a liberal, he will understand that his position will hurt the liberal cause because the party will lose members and with that he should leave the party. If someone said to me that if I left the party that it would stop a lot of progressive genuine liberals leaving the party, or if I left then a lot of progressive liberals would join the party then you’d know the right thing to do.

The party has the goal of making the country, at local, national and European levels, a better place to live. That is our goal and surely deep down it doesn’t matter who takes us there but getting there is the key. Lord Rennard cannot help the party reach our goals. He quite simply cannot. For that reason and that reason alone he should take his bow and leave. If he feels as though he has been unfairly scapegoated then I feel for him, but if he does want to put the future of the party and our liberal agenda first then he’ll understand that making our goals is much harder with him involved within the party.

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Last night I nearly downgraded from Lib Dem activist to just Lib Dem member. I still might.

This morning I saw that Ben Mitchell had left the Labour Party and wrote about the reasons over on SpeakersChair and the timing for me couldn’t have been more apt.

Last night I had trouble sleeping. I often have trouble sleeping as my sleep pattern is crazy but it my brain was going. My whole thought process towards being a local activist was in full blown thought mode. Unlike Ben, I have no issues with being a member of a political party but being an active member locally is something I struggle with and when you get essentially belittled then you wonder what the point of it all is.

Ben writes, “Some of the fierce tribalism on display would make a hardened football supporter blush. It’s amazing how many activists are unable to accept that others have different opinions to them”. Is he wrong? I don’t think he is. I have been active in local politics for a few years now and I see an insane amount of tribalism from all sides. I’m a Lib Dem solely because I have liberal ideology. This isn’t abnormal as more people have a liberal ideology than any other in the UK but not all these people vote Liberal Democrat, let alone are members or activists.

However I don’t sit here and say all Tories are bad, all Labour people are wrong, all independents are self-serving or anything like that. I can’t have blind loyalty and tribalism when it comes to politics because that would be closing off my mind to other points of view. Who grows by not listening to people of differing opinions and learning what what they think? Very few people indeed.

When it comes to local politics, I actually think the person makes a significant difference. When you are voting for an MP, the candidates of course matter but to a lesser degree than locally. When you are a councillor, you have important business but you will be more accountable to your constituents. If people have a problem with tax, or jobs, or immigration, or the NHS, or education then in general their MP will have little influence on these matters. However if you have a problem with flytipping, bins, potholes, care homes, flood defences, car parking charges, pavements and the like then your councillor will have a far bigger impact. They can get these things reported, debated etc. far easier.

This is why I think local politics isn’t just about the party (or non-party in the case of independents). It is about the people. When you vote, I think voters should put considerable weight into voting for the person they believe will best work hard for them. Not just vote blindly for a party. Tribalism is all well and good but I’m pretty sure most activists would state that their are either councillors or MPs within their own party that they question the true ideology of. Heck the amount of Lib Dems who don’t think Nick is liberal just because he went into coalition with the Tories is proof enough of that.

Ben’s summed up by saying, “Being a party activist is ultimately about going along to meetings (where little of worth will be said or achieved), door knocking and leafleting in all weathers, in the knowledge that the people around you all want the same thing: your party in power at all costs. My chastening time in local politics has naturally clouded my views, but even before then I failed at the first hurdle. I didn’t want the same thing as everybody else. Or at least not forever. And in politics that makes you an outsider”.

He really sells it doesn’t he? I’m glad I signed up for this. He says many good things in his article and after last night it hit home. In my situation, we have a by-election here next week and hopefully Chris Bailey will win West Leigh ward, not solely because he’s the Lib Dem candidate, but because having got to know Chris over the past few years, I firmly and genuinely believe he would be an excellent councillor, not only for the Lib Dems, but for the people of West Leigh and in turn the people of Southend-on-Sea as a whole.

Now I haven’t been out on the doorstep canvassing but have been doing the work in the computer system to record all that canvass data. We have moved to a new computer system and I was asked to operate it. I don’t have a problem with this and I feel like it is doing my bit to help the local party. Last night we had a meeting and talk of how the canvassing was going came up and I went to give everyone the data and someone chirped up ‘I had forgotten you’ve stuck your nose in.’ Boy did it fester.

I can be blunt here but if I didn’t firmly believe that getting Chris elected would be a benefit to the people of the town, I’d have downed tools at that moment and stopped being a local activist on the spot. It pissed me off that much and showed a disgusting and belittling attitude. It may have been a throwaway line from someone (I won’t name them) but it just goes to show the problem in local party politics. I was going out of my way to help dealing with all the data and will probably be running the data system on polling day, in turn allowing the candidate to spend an extra 20 odd hours probably overall on the doorstep, talking to constituents to find out what their particular problems are, yet someone felt I was sticking my nose in. Why would any sane person put up with this?

I’m the youngest local activist. In Southend, the party in general is full of the older generation and if they truly believe that someone the party have asked to be the Data Officer, to you know, deal with all the raw data, is sticking their nose in where it doesn’t belong when it comes to reporting on data then we have a problem. I’ll be honest, this is seemingly an isolated incident/feeling and in general I have been welcomed in and my thoughts have been taken on board and not just cast aside as the thoughts of an ill-informed youngster. I like the idea of being a youngster. I digress. However I do struggle to see where the new blood will come from. I know of others who have left the local party over the past few years because they felt they weren’t either listened to or generally welcomed. Sad but true. I think however this is a situation not isolated to the party here, but to all parties in all areas.

Most young people who get enthused and excited about politics are willing to put in time and effort to get things done. Victories are celebrated and friendships made. Most of my local party probably joined as Young liberals 30+ years ago and stayed the course. However I see a lot of young Lib Dems these days leave the party around the country. They do this because they don’t feel appreciated, liked or wanted. Many have said its because of local issues more so than national ones. This is a problem some local parties will have more than others. Most of these people are still engaged with the political scene but are burned out of the tribalism and cliquishness of local parties.

New members should always be embraced. I will though say that new members shouldn’t come in and ‘rock the boat’ as it were. It is a tricky business. We’ve all been in groups where new people come in and upset the apple cart. It does take time to become comfortable with new people, whether they be young or old. So I do think that new members and activists need to take time to understand how things work but they should never be belittled or felt unwanted. That isn’t a way to grow and diversify.

So for now I write – and in turn I seethe. When people help they should be thanked and respected. I don’t even have too much of an issue with not being thanked (although I’ve got to say, I have been by pretty much everyone for work on the website and our new data system) but you’ve got to be respected. When you are told you are basically not wanted then we have a real problem and people wonder why others get disillusioned and drift away from party politics. Most don’t leave the party like that, they just slowly just drift away…

This is sad as last Friday I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening chatting politics with the last person I voted for in a General Election. It was good to just discuss politics and talk liberal philosophy and the future of the Lib Dems, both locally and nationally. Once more I felt enthused about politics but within a few days one throwaway line makes me question whether all the time is worth it. I could easily fill up my spare time with other endeavours.

I am a liberal and I am a Liberal Democrat. However am I really getting much out of being a local activist? This is something I question and I question more all the time…

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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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Bill O’Brien walks out on Penn State for the pros – cue meltdown


Well this sucks.

I was scrolling through my twitter as I couldn’t sleep and saw the report coming out from ESPN that the Houston Texans had come to terms with Bill O’Brien to become the next head coach of the franchise. O’Brien will be walking away from State College to chase his dream of coaching on Sunday’s, leaving behind a confused fan base unsure of how to react.

I must admit I am stunned. I never thought he’d walk out. I thought this flirting with the NFL was just that. He seemed like a man with so much integrity but it just goes to show that you never know what to believe. He was always going to bolt for the pros and we all knew that Sunday’s was where he wanted to coach but he had a job to do and I fully expected him to see the Hackenberg/Breneman recruiting class through to the end of their college careers.

Of course at the time of writing it is just a report out of Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter but I think we can safely say that this deal is going to get done. Now we move on to who might replace him and O’Brien’s legacy. We’ll start with his legacy, it is a very tricky to really work out what it’ll be. He held the programme together at a time when everybody thought it would completely fall apart. He turned Matt McGloin, he of the great quote, ‘Broadcast/journalism was my first degree. Being awesome was the second,’ into an NFL quarterback. This 2012 team will go down as one of the most revered in Penn State history because of what they had to deal with and O’Brien was the person who held it all together. However he looked 18 year-old kids in the eye and told them he’d be with them all the way through their college careers and then bolted on them after just one year. That stinks.

We have been spoiled in having Joe Paterno as head coach for as long as we did. Whatever his pitfalls, which may or may not have been significant, he was extremely loyal and whilst he did flirt with the NFL and even agreed to go to the Patriots, he never left and made it his life’s work to mould kids into fine young men and win a few football games along the way. As he once said, ‘Success without honour is an unseasoned dish; it will satisfy your hunger, but it won’t taste good.’

Bill O’Brien never bought into the Grand Experiment and that riled a tad. I think eventually Penn State will be the footnote of the Bill O’Brien story. He used us to get his dream job and to be fair in his two years in State College he did a fine job in righting the rudderless ship. The sourness though of sacking Ron Vanderlinden just before quitting himself leaves a nasty taste in the mouth and lying to teenage kids…yeah its not great is it?

Moving on to who replaces him, I’m firmly in the James Franklin camp. The guy can flat out recruit and he won at Vanderbilt, which is an extremely fine academic institution and was an afterthought in the SEC. He’s still a relatively young man at only 41 years of age, is a Pennsylvania kid and I think he would be very interested in taking on the role at State College, seeing it as a great long-term job as well. I don’t want to see any NFL rejects, certainly ones recently available out of shall we say, Tampa, Florida…

The man who’ll decide who to approach is Dave Joyner and he’s not exactly flavour of the month amongst the fan base. No-one seems to trust him to make the right decision and when Michael Mauti comes out and says if O’Brien leaves within 3-5 years then it’ll be Joyner’s fault, then that holds a whole lot of cachet.

All I know is it’s 4:20 in the morning and I actually have to get up tomorrow but I’m pretty pissed – as in annoyed – not drunk. We’ll see how this unfolds but this is all extremely disheartening.

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