Monthly Archives: June 2010

An opinion about international management. Seriously. It is.

I do dislike football opinions, which is why it’s all the more embarrassing that I’m returning to them on an almost-daily basis in recent weeks. It’s probably because there’s no football on today, so I have to fill the void with the sound of my inane, faux-informed prattle to make it all easier to get through. But hey – everyone has opinions on this whole England management stuff, right?

Now I don’t think Fabio Capello should be sacked. That would be the reactionist lunacy of most of the British public, not the reasoned judgement of someone who knows better (and who is also modest). One man does not account for failures of such magnitude as those displayed by the England national team, and a man of such proven managerial talents – in club football, this is – simply cannot be dismissed as “a bit shit” when he doesn’t immediately win everything in his first couple of years in charge.

But let’s go to hypothetical land here: Capello is sacked. Who should replace him? There has been much talk of many different people and many different approaches, but I would like to present my theory on one particular area: the personality manager.

The likes of David Beckham, Alan Shearer and Stuart Pearce have been dropped into the fray when talking about who would take over now Capello has gone (hypothetical land, remember). They have all been dismissed by many as the wrong choices: two failed club managers and a bloke with nice hair and no managerial experience whatsoever. ‘We should opt for someone with a proven club record, like “Lovely” Roy Hodgson or Harry “Cuttin’ Me Own Throat” Redknapp’, they say. But I disagree.

You see, I think the likes of Beckham, Shearer and – especially – Pearce would be just what England need. I don’t mean this solely for England, either – I mean it for international management in general. Managers who can rely on their aura, their reputation and their proven passion to win a game are surely far more suited to the part-time, transitory medium of management that comes with the international game.

The likes of Capello, Mourinho, Ferguson et al are obviously great managers, but I honestly do not think they can succeed on the international stage with the styles they maintain. Each works on a long-term basis of gaining trust and confidence in the players, getting them used to their brand of management and discipline and moulding a team as a single unit, ready to take on the league/world/whoever.

But this is something that takes constant contact – daily management. International management offers a few days to a few weeks at a time of having your squad assembled, stretched across ten or so games in a year. It’s not enough for trust to be earned, for discipline to be enforced or for a whole, cohesive unit to be moulded. That takes years; these guys have days.

Which is why I think the past stars are the route to go. As much as I laughed at the suggestion of Beckham as manager, I can see some logic in it. Tactically he could turn out to be a moron, true, but there would be no doubting his passion – and that would bleed out into the players, of that there is no doubt. The guy demands respect (until he opens his mouth), as does Shearer, as does Pearce, and each have shown through their playing careers that they would quite likely lay down their lives for the three lions… well, that one is mainly Pearce, but you get the point.

This ‘impact’ style of management is something that I think is far more suited to the international world. It’s a job that requires instant results and so it’s a job that relies on managers who can evoke instant confidence, instant passion – managers who don’t go for long-term results, but short-term inspiration. Look at Klinsmann in the last World Cup, or Maradona this time around  – or even Van Basten, to a lesser extent. All legends in their respective countries, all capable of igniting the fire inside their players – be it down to tactical effectiveness or just shouting “I AM A FUCKING LEGEND IN THIS COUNTRY, IMPRESS ME!” at them.

Fabio Capello, shouting at his players in broken English after they’ve failed to grasp the particulars of his well thought-out and nuanced tactical decisions will do nothing but confuse and annoy players. Stuart Pearce showing his Euro ’96 face when England are on the back foot will make them fight for the (I can’t believe I’m going to say this) pride of their nation.

But yes, just sayin’.


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A finely-honed comic missile of a duo

I have mentioned their names before in this blog, but I have never just said it: Stewart Lee and Richard Herring, as Lee & Herring, are the best comedy double act I’ve ever seen. There, I said it. Out loud. In words.

While some may dislike Lee for his monotonous, plodding delivery and how he labours over every single point made, and some may think Herring is an idiotic, childish, sexist berk, the combination of the two does two things. One, it makes it harder to notice these alleged faults, as both comic personalities cover each other’s bad points. Two, it helps you to realise they’re both actually brilliant comedians with finely honed stage personalities ripe to be misunderstood by the general public.

They were the double act that would spend lunch time on a Sunday dissecting the very nature of how to tell a joke, while at the same time having a go at boring, formulaic comedy:

They were the double act that – while Songs of Praise was on BBC One at the same time – would have far more interesting religious programming:

They taught me about the possessive apostrophe:

They showed me how Braveheart really ended:

And they had St George glassing a crow at lunch time on a Sunday:

One problem I have with their existence, however, is the fact that if other people see their act they will realise that every single thing I say in my life, ever, is because of them. It’s either a direct quote modified to suit the situation or just a few words or phrases here and there stolen wholesale. Lee and Herring reveal me to be unoriginal and a fraud. The bastards.

Fortunately this shocking admission won’t be noticed by anyone, seeing as this blog is read by nobody. HAH.


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A late entry to the Englandpinion pile

The analysis has all been and gone, it’s all said and done and all the rest of it. In fact, there doesn’t seem to have been as much of a post-mortem about England’s performance yesterday as I expected – likely because of massive embarrassment on everyone’s part (and definitely not just because I’ve barely watched or read anything newsy today. Definitely). But anyway, I haven’t had my say, so I’m going to talk about why England completely and totally failed yesterday.

  1. They’re shit and over-rated.
  2. They play too many games (see: all players from other leagues shining, all players from Premiership failing).
  3. All of them play in the domestic league, meaning they don’t actually know how to play anything other than English football.
  4. No one cared as much as Stuart Pearce (see image).

That’s about it, really. I could go into more rambling detail, I’m sure, but there’s nothing more boring than football opinions – as I’ve said before. But I will say, in relation to point two: look at how Robinho is playing tonight, and compare that to how he was playing at City/how he would be playing had he been there all season. It’s plainer than a Bulgarian pin-up (a Red Dwarf joke than no longer works as we now know all Bulgarians, and Eastern Europeans in general, are hot).

Anyway, that’s my two bits. It’s a short entry, but it could have been reeeeally long. So count yourselves lucky.

ITV are now literally discussing whether the British refs will get to the final. And now they’ve just made a joke I made ages ago. I’m no better than them. Sigh.

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England vs Germany ULTRA PREDICT-O-MAT

England vs Germany, innit. Let’s see how this goes down. Hopefully it will turn into a literal war, so all of those newspaper headlines and off-the-cuff remarks by commentators and pundits alike will be proven true. I’m sure that’s what they all want – well, it must be, given how quickly they turn to them. Though to be fair that’s more the English side – I have no idea what the German side of the press is saying.

But if it doesn’t turn into a war, it will be one of the few footballing fixtures that actually makes my blood ache along with all of the idiots in this country. For once it’s something I almost agree with the tabloids on. This is a serious rivalry by matches that have been played while I’ve actually been alive, rather than just clinging on to a 40+ year old victory. Euro 96 was heartbreaking. I wasn’t even that into footy in 1990 but I still remember how sad I was when England lost that.

I know it’s not cool to like football if you pretend to be open to more intellectual stimuli – “overpaid Neanderthals FNAR” etc. – but I do like it, and this fixture does make me quite passionate about the game. So that’s my prediction, really. I’ll get a bit het-up, then I’ll get even more het-up as I have to leave 15 minutes before the end of normal time, thanks to having to catch a FIVE HOUR TRAIN (not that I’ve ever mentioned stuff like that before) back to Bournemouth. That’s sure to be the greatest last fifteen minutes of a game of all time, isn’t it?

It’s odd that I’m posting this so close to kick off, thus making my Nostradamus-style predictions outdated as soon as they hit the public view. AH WELL.

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I don’t want to go there

This world is magnificent, beautiful, awe-inspiring and lots of other things David Attenborough has told me. It is the only one we have, and we only have a short amount of time to actually see the bloody thing.

So why is it there are some places in the world I just don’t really care about going to? I don’t mean like Somalia or Zimbabwe or Scotland or any other failed state situation – I mean genuine, proper, normal countries where you’re only quite likely to get knifed up. There are real places in the world that I just don’t want to go to. I have no interest in them.

This makes no sense. They are places I have never been – never seen. If I go about things in the way I intend to, I will never actually see them. So how can I be content in this attitude? Is it a damning indictment of me as a person? Does it betray my small town roots to the world at large (or just most of it, as the case may be)?

You know what – it probably does. I am a small minded gibbon of a man, and while I wouldn’t say no to a free trip there, I’m not going out of my way to take a trip to the likes of Russia, China, the Caribbean in general, Austria (that one’s for you, Anna), Greenland or Wales.

I do kind of want to go to North Korea though.


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I’m working on a theory in my Mindtank. It’s about arrogance – something I’m all to familiar with – and gigs. Not as in spectacles, though some of them can be quite the spectacle – no, I mean music gigs. Concerts. Shows. Whatever you want to call them. This Thinktrain has popped into my head a few times before, but it’s been re-ignited since I went to see The Gaslight Anthem last night.

See, being well cool and all that (ahem…) I’ve liked the band for ages (see here for the best interview I’ve ever done), but they’ve gone and done that thing that very few of the bands I like bother to do – they’ve got a bit popular with the plebs. What this has resulted in is an increase in the size of the Gig Bastions they play their musical notes in. No longer is it 150 smelly people in a reasonably small pub together – it’s now ten times that many cramped into a big smelly auditorium of furious Sound Wrangling. Also they smell worse, as there’s more of them.

What this means is that there are more people from different backgrounds, different walks of life and a broader selection of people that have taken bites from a different Decision Pasty to what we may be used to. Oh, and they dress differently too, like they’re real people or something.

Even though this is undeniably a good thing – Gaslight are a fine band, deserving a ride on any Success Minecart they may be offered – it does make for some interesting kneejerk reactions from the likes of myself and Anna (who accompanied me to the Harmonious Cabaret). Along the lines of: “they don’t look like the kind of people who would normally go to gigs”, or the more contentious “they look like they shouldn’t be at this gig”.

I call it Garrogance, and it’s something I’m going to hold onto til the day my Lifewell springs a leak.

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Futurama Begin Again

A new series of Futurama begins this evening in the US (Comedy Central, fact fans). This could turn out to be one of the best things to happen to TV in quite a while, as Futurama is one of the best animated comedy shows ever made – nay, one of the best comedy shows ever made, balls to the ‘animated’ part. It’s just magnificent.

The direct-to-DVD films released over the last few years weren’t that great. There was a bit of emotional, as contrived as it was. There was David Cross, which is always good. There was Bender. But they were lacking – they were fan-service and little else more, and barring the actual ending they made with Into The Wild Green Yonder brought nothing major to the series. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they made me glad there weren’t any plans for a new series at that point.

But now it’s here, now I’ve had time to get over how let-down I was by the movies, I am excited. I am excited. I’m willing to believe that the hour-and-a-half episodes weren’t playing to Groening, Cohen etc. strengths. They took a pretty threadbare plotline and stretched it over far too much padding, attempts at making quotable lines and repetition of Bender saying “me, Bender”. But it’s cut back down now to the 20 minute-ish episodes we all know and love.

This is where the strengths of the Futurama creators lie: a threadbare plot stretched over about 20 minutes and peppered with non-stop, eminently-quotable lines (which aren’t pushed on you as “PLEASE QUOTE THIS TO YOUR FRIENDS!”). Any show that includes lines like: “Leela, you look confused. And aroused.” “Weeeernstrom…” “WINDMILLS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY.” or “Someone likes snouts!” “Is it me?” doesn’t need to make efforts or intentionally aim to make the watcher remember what they’re hearing so they can repeat it further down the line.

Futurama isn’t a catchphrase show (hence the slight annoyance with the constant “me, Bender” lines), it’s just a show of fucking funny writing. Satire, non-sequiturs, plain weirdness, wordplay (“I am the greetest!”), genuine real-life maths, encouraging crime and generally being brilliant meaning there is absolutely no need to try and appeal to those who don’t want to get into it. It may not have worked from a commercial perspective initially, but in the long run it’s shown there is indeed an audience for the show: smart enough to get things, with good enough senses of humour to be able to laugh at real, actual jokes that have bases in both the storyline and the characters themselves*.

I really hope they don’t mess this up. I want more Anthology Of Interest episodes, or ones as good as the 80s guy episode, or (hold… back… the tears…) like Jurassic Bark. Please don’t let me down, Futurama. But even if you do, I’ve still got your DVDs to go back to and watch repeatedly, as I tend to do every few months. “Jam a bastard in it, you crap!” indeed.

*Compare Bender’s summation of “have you ever tried simply turning off the TV, sitting down with your children, and hitting them?” on Bender Must Not Be Allowed On Television with anything Peter Griffin ever does. The former is an example of rather unexpected comedy based entirely on what a character is actually like. The latter is an example of rather unexpected comedy that just makes up shit as it goes along in order to claw wildly at anything approaching a laugh. (I don’t like Family Guy, by the by)


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Leeds: the definitive review (7/10)

Sorry, yesterday was messed up and I forgot to do this. HMM.

Leeds is a city in the north of the England. It is full of people who have stupid accents, who say “won” instead of “one” and who go up at the end of every sentence as if it is being posed as a question. For example: “How are you?”

Oh no, wait.

Anyway, on visiting this fine city in the north of the England the other day I was struck by just how much like Leeds it is – another city I lived in for around three years. The same name, the same accents, most of the same shops – even the Merrion Centre. Amazing. There must be something linking the two, but I have no idea what it could possibly be.

As for my experience of this city in the north of the England? Top notch, I suppose. It’s not like I can blame feeling like shit on the place, is it? Well, I’ll try anyway. This Leeds place gave me a headache and made me not want to do anything other than go to bed. And going to Slam Dunk was an out and out bad idea. Something that should not have been inflicted on myself or others around me.

Still, we went near Harehills and didn’t die, and Pitza Cano was lovely for supper/breakfast, so it’s not all bad. I think the experience would have been improved if we were to have stayed for longer than just an evening/half a day, but that’s something I’ll just have to leave as blind speculation for now. The showers aren’t as good as in Stockholm, mind.


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The day papier mache head-based comedy died

Frank Sidebottom did not have a huge impact on my life.  If I were to claim he did, I would just be a grief-stalking nonsense-spouter of the highest order. One of those people who claims he was best mates with someone/listened to all their music/rated them as an actor just because they’re now dead. No, the impact Sidebottom had on my life was minimal – it was there, but it was minimal. I was aware of the man from a young age, I heard a couple of his songs, I forgot he existed through the nineties and most of the noughties, then he popped up on VideoGaiden and I remembered again. From that point, he would pop up in my head, reminding me of how you can be genuinely, wonderfully silly and not be written off by idiots at large as ‘wacky’ or ‘for students’. But, truth be told, that’s about all the impact he had on my life.

So why am I really rather sad that he died yesterday? I don’t give two shits about when celebrities pop their clogs – at least, not above a basic, human level. They’re people I don’t know, dying. That’s it. The only time in recent memory a famous person has died and it had a real effect on me was Kurt Vonnegut, a few years ago (I had to go for a sit down upstairs. That was fucking sad). So why has a man I never really paid too much heed to while he was alive managed to make me a bit glum by dying? I don’t get it.

Maybe it’s just because there’s one less truly original, shit-in-a-good-way, entertaining, happy, papier mache-headed idiots out there. Which means there are now none. The species is extinct. That’s always something to be sad about.

Oh, and read this for a better account of him.

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It’s here. I knew the days would arrive, as they do every year, but they hadn’t arrived with the force they normally do. As such I let my guard down. I became complacent. When it did strike, it was with the fury of a thousand nerds screwed out of a Q&A appearance by Edward James Olmos*. My body revolted, my face ejected all the fluids it could produce as fast as it could produce them and everything itched. Fuck you, hayfever.

But like I said earlier this year (this time last month, actually), I am trying new treatments. I am taking the fight to the pollen – though unfortunately not how I’d actually want to do it. With napalm. No, I’m adopting the newfound technique, as suggested by the also-suffering Swissgirl, of taking more than one hayfever tablet a day.

I know – it’s fucking mental.

But you know what? So what. If it kills me, it kills me – at least I’ll have died doing what I did all my life: trying to stop my nose from running as much as it always, always does. I considered lopping the schnozz off, but I couldn’t find a good enough knife. Or at least, a good enough knife that I would be allowed to use to de-schozz my face. As such, the only method available right now – as I’ve forgotten to bring my nose laser with me – is to take multiple tablets to ward off this pollenial incursion of epic proportions.

Wish me luck.

*Honestly, no idea why I went for this reference.

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