1000 Shades of Grey
Friday, May 28, 2004
Brilliant Beneau 500 not out
Reading Frank Keating in today's Guardian, he quotes the great Richie Benaud's description of his commentating philosophy as: "Engage your brain before opening your mouth; never say 'we' if referring to a team; concentrate fiercely; and try to avoid: 'Of course'. . . 'As you can see on the screen'. . . 'You know'. . . 'I tell you what'. . . and 'Tragedy'. . . and 'Disaster'. . . The Titanic was a tragedy, an African famine is a disaster; neither bears any relation to a dropped catch."

Explains why he's been involved in 500 test matches in some way or another. Frank Keating also pointed at out that that's almost one third of all test matches ever played. Bloody hell.

They seek him here...
Given the unnervingly rapid approach of what may porove to be the final exams I take for a long time I'm not going to be posting stuff to the blog quite as regularly as before. Apologies to anyone who gets annoyed at this, but at priorities being what they are, my exams have to come first. I will still try and post as and when I can, but it may just be a bit more erratic, as I become more elusive in an effort to find peace, quiet, and the answer paper!

"Don't make me run, I've had chocolate"
I see the Commons Select Committee has delivered a report into the state of the nation's diet, and the growing "obesity epidemic". Their recommendations seem to be all well and good, but surely they miss the one group of people with the most control over what the nation's children eat. It's all well and good criticising the government, and the repeated closure of school playing fields and deprioritisation of sport in the curriculum can't help, but surely the buck must stop with the parents?

So what if children's television is bombarded with adverse for junk food, don't buy it for them. I know it's easy for me to say this (for a start I don't have any kids), but surely learning to say no will have enormous benefits to both a child's health and it's general approach to life.

If you teach them what to eat, or simply give them fewer fatty foods, and encourage them to run around more that would certainly help prevent children becoming obese. Parents must have an obligation to care for their children's health, whether that means looking after them when they get Mumps, or stopping them eating enough to collect every Happy Meal toy in a set. How can a small child know what it should and shouldn't eat unless someone teaches it?

Maybe the problem is that too few adults appreciate the importance of a balanced diet, in which case the government need to address that issue, but at the same time, parents need to want to learn, and for the sake of their children they need to learn fast.

I'm also sure that saying "no" to your child must be a very difficult thing to do, particularly when they are nagging you, but in life they will need to be able to deal with rejection, and the sooner they start the easier they will find it to bounce back. Would you agree if your child wanted to juggle knives (flippant perhaps, but you get the point)- no, so why do the nations parents seem perfectly content to agree to children eating fatty foods constantly: both carry health risks, but people appear reluctant to acknowledge that the food children eat will affect their general well being.

It does, accept this, and stop passing the buck.

Thursday, May 27, 2004
Every little helps
Keen-eyed observers may have noticed a section of my LINKS entitled "Worthwhile Causes". The basic premise of the websites listed is that my clicking on an item, you generate funding for a charitable cause, e.g. free mamograms, clear some landmines, etc. I'm not entirely certain about how this works (I presume it's based upon donations from advertisers), but I figure it's worth taking ten seconds out of your day to try and help. So go on, do something to make the world a better place, and allow the philanthropist inside all of us to feel like they're doing some good.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004
He once drove in to a train
So farewell then to Andy Griffin, who left Newcastle on a free and signed for Portsmouth today. Not perhaps the most cultured defender, but certainly an uncompromising one, which is always a trait I admire in a full back. It also should be noted that he's the only person I've ever heard of who drove his car into a Metro. Probably thought it should have moved out of his way or suffer the consequences, in much the same way as he regularly flattened players on the pitch.

I'm sure Laurent Robert won't be too sorry to see him go, the pair once having a fist fight because he objected to Andy's rather full on approach to tackling in training.

However, in the grand scheme of things we do need to be buying players of a better calibre in terms of their all round game, and so for that reason alone I'm not particularly sorry to see him depart.

Cash, credit or ...
Flicking between channels last night in a shameless attempt to avoid work I stumbled across Eastenders doing one of their double-header episodes. Last night saw the inevitable fall out from Kat's decision to sleep with Andy to settle Alfie's debt. Needless to say, Alfie didn't react too well to the news. By far my favourite quote from the episode was Alfie referring to how to pay his suppliers "Cash, credit or half an hour with the missus". Genius.

In truth the episode saw the two actors (whatever happened to the word actress by the way?) involved exploring a range of emotions, and was actually pretty heart warming in the end. It remains to be seen how the characters develop from here, and indeed the soap as a whole, which has been in something of a lull of late, but I for one would like to congratulate Shane Richie and Jessie Wallace for a cracking half hour's work avoidance.

Speaking of TV that I've stumbled on lately, I was somewhat unnerved to find a bloke I went to University with appearing on a programme (Combat Pilot, BBC2 7.30 pm on Mondays) featuring the training of fighter pilots by the RAF. Which was somewhat bizarre, if only because despite knowing people in all the armed services it still slightly unnerves my cosy life view that I know people putting their lives in danger on the whim's of politicians (some like George W who neither I nor they even get a choice in appointing).

Monday, May 24, 2004
What price loyalty?
I see Houllier has paid the price for Liverpool finishing fourth this season. In light of the fact that they were fifth last year, and have improved one place, were never going to catch Chelski after they spent all the money, and Arsenal who couldn't lose it seems somewhat harsh on him. What would Liverpool have to have done for him to stay in a job? It seems particularly odd that Liverpool are still apparently going to buy Djibril Cisse when they've sacked the man who wanted him in the first place.

Perhaps it's Newcastle who have got this wrong, and should adopt a more cut-throat approach to management appointments. Bobby's failure to deliver a trophy/ Champions League football seemingly insufficient cause for fat Freddie to hand him a P45, when if any of the so called "bigger clubs" in the Premiership can have cause to bemoan their poor season. We've dropped two places in the league, never really looked like winning a cup (although I'd like to think a fully fit squad would at least have had Marseille worried) and limped through the season following good performances with crap ones with infuriating regularity.

Real Madrid have just sacked Quiroz, who from what I can see has been undermined by his president's insistence on only buying one attacking player a season and relying on kids to fill the defence and bench each week. Mind you, they sacked Vincente Del Bosque, and he won the Champions League for them!

However, would Man Utd have won half as many trophies in recent years if they'd sacked Fergie back at the end of the eighties? Perhaps loyalty is the way that football clubs should go with managers, but only until they get to a certain stage. After that, they start to outstay their welcome, as Peter Reid did so magnificently with sunderland, and they should certainly never go back (as Howard Kendal proved at Everton).

What I think is certain is that with only one year left fro both Robson and Shearer it'd be wonderful to think that they could end their careers with some silverware. Unfortunately, unless we learn how to defend, concentrate for the whole 90 minutes, win away from home and invest in some quality both up front and at the back it's going to be yet another broken dream to add to the pile in terms of my aspirations for Newcastle Utd, both next season and beyond.

Recommended reading
On the back of a recommendation from Ben, I've had a look at the following blogs, and can heartily recommend them to the wider reading public. It's Wrong To Wish On Space Hardware is excellent, and I particularly enjoyed the sory of the worm, just make sure you haven't just eaten. I also thoroughly enjoyed I Don't Believe It, with the anecdote about yogurts striking a twang of recognition with anyone who has ever bought food with a partner, whilst studiously trying to avoid one flavour in a multi-pack, be it Cheese & Onion crisps, or Apricot Yogurt.

The facts speak for themselves
Whilst out and about on Saturday night, I met up with a friend of mine who'd be on the beers for most of the day as a result of watching the cup final. When I told him that I'd done an impression of him by staying in bed until almost midday he seemed to take great offense at the impression of him as some sort of slacker.

Went round to see him on Sunday at 6.30pm. Found he was still in bed, and when asked if he'd left his bed at all during the day, he responded with the immortal line "Only to throw up."

Make of that what you will.

Friday, May 21, 2004
Strike(r) problems ahead
As the club have decided not to offer Michael Bridges a permanent contract I can only conclude one of two things. We either have a great deal of faith in Michael Chopra, who with the departure of Bridges and the seemingly inevitable departure of Lua Lua will be fourth choice striker at the club. Or we have a new striker lined up to bring into the club during the summer.

Really we should be looking to bring on Chopra next season, or offload him if he isn't up to the job. However, in the event of a couple of injuries next season, we'll be left looking pretty thin on the ground next season, with young players such as Offiong looking unlikely to take the step up, and youngsters like Lewis Guy perhaps too inexperienced. (That said, I seem to recall that Shola made his debut when he was 19.)

Hopefully, Freddie will put his hand in his pocket and give Southampton the money that they want for Beattie, or find someone available for sod all money who can score lots of goals (fat chance). Otherwise we'll be reduced to relying on Dyer to act as a striker, and given his goal scoring record in the last two years that doesn't exactly inspire hope.

We can only wait and see...

Must do better
I see Craig Bellamy has demanded better from his team mates next season, and has also formulated his own views as to why we didn't do as well as we should have done this season. Whilst it's good to here the players demanding more from themselves, and indeed interesteing to hear that Viana also wants to stay and prove himself I'd be happier if I knew we were also in the process of investing in the squad.

Whilst obviously not as closely involved as Bellamy, it strikes me that we lack sufficient quality and /or depth in certain key positions. We could do with someone to cover the right wing and left back roles in case of injury to Ambrose/Bernard. We need a right back who is better than Hughes (nice bloke, but not a top class right back I'm afraid). We also need to replace Shearer sooner rather than later.

Given Craig's history with certain members of our coaching staff, I wouldn't be too upset if we were to appoint an Assistant Manager either. As with all things, it's a case of wait and see (and hope).

Thursday, May 20, 2004
Fists of fury
When he was a Newcastle player, Alessandro Pistoone was once given a sheep's heart by his team mates as a Christmas gift, because it was felt he lacked heart on the pitch. Looks like he's overcome that now he's at Everton. Maybe he's just been hanging out with the Rooney family a bit too much.

Other classic gifts from that party included a Zimmer Frame for Stuart Pearce, and a copy of Mein Kampf for Dietmar Hamman. Hardly surprisingly he left shortly afterwards. Don't footballers have the funniest sense of humour?

Back of the net
I feel it only right to draw your attention to the excellent Blog FC, which is both entertaining and well thought out. Go, enjoy, you know you want to.

Lording it up
It's that time of yesar again, when I'd rather be sat at home in front of the TV for 7 hours at a time than anywhere else (except at the ground, obviously). Yep, the first test match of the summer starts today. England, under temporary captain Marcus Trescothick entertain New Zealand at Lords, hoping that their newly found pace attack, led by fellow Newcastle fan Steve Harmison, will be more than a match for Stephen Flemming's tourists.

Of course, fro those of us stuck in front of a computer, it'll be a summer of listening to Radio4 longwave, and watching ball by ball updates online.

Also nice to see Geoffrey Boycott return to commentary after illness (and girlfriend beating - but we'll gloss over that one). He still can't rival Richie Benaud though.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Eurovision madness
For anyone who enjoyed Eurovision, I recommend Troubled Diva's account of the night. Says it all really.

Corner of a foreign field
So Sven's announced his squad. Nothing particularly contentious in there, perhaps a bit of a concern that we seem lacking in central defenders, but otherwise no real shocks. It looks reasonably sound on paper, so fingers crossed will do well.

From a Newcastle point of view, I'd have liked Kieron Dyer to spend the summer recuperating, and hope that he doesn't get injured, but conversely am sorry for Jonathan Woodgate, who deserved to feature having played so well for us when he's been fit this season. So well, in fact that Ben even goes so far as to call him our most influential player. Not certain about that, but only because I think we lose any semblance of an attacking threat without Bellamy.

Only time will tell if England have the quality of players to progress in Euro 2004, and provided they avoid any major injuries they certainly have a chance, but then so do Spain, Portugal, France, Holland, Germany, Italy and the Czeck Republic. Truly an open field. I just hope the tournament lives up to the hype.

Monday, May 17, 2004
Woody wants out?
So Jonathan Woodgate is reportedly unhappy at our failure to qualify for the Champions League. Join the club mate. Maybe if he'd stayed fit for the season we would have done so.

End of the Piers show
So Piers Morgan has gone. Presumably he'll find another job, either in the press, or quite possibly on TV. Reading Inspector Sands insightful views on the subject it does seem slightly galling that people who oppose the current war are slowly being removed from power, but the idiots in charge of the whole thing get to keep their jobs on both sides of the Atlantic, despite countless atrocities being committed.

If John Kerry had any charisma George W might be worried. Similarly, if Michael Howard didn't look quite so smug and sinister I think Tony might have a few more concerns. Sadly I can't see a change in government likely any time soon, and can only hope that Gordon Brown can oust Tony to at least freshen up politics in this country. Currently the whole thing feels stale and is tainted by a number of scandals (The David Kelly Affair being the most obvious).

If someone could also explain to me how Geoff Hoon is still in a job, I'd be fascinated to find out. As far as I can tell, he's achieved nothing positive, but refuses to bite the bullet when his department stuffs up. Even Steven Byers went eventually.

Seen on the tube:
A woman who clearly spent her weekend sunbathing with sunglasses on, only to remove her sunglasses and find that whilst the tip of her nose, cheeks and forhead had all caught the sun, the white flesh that had been hidden, clearly hadn't. Thus making her look like some kind of inverse panda. Nice.

Thank goodness for that
Well, we managed to cling on and finish fifth. A lovely finish by Shola Ameobi, with his weaker foot after good work by Bowyer helped us gain the point we ultimately needed. Even Michael Owen's customary goal didn't damage our hopes, with Villa unable to beat 9-man Man Utd. So we've only dropped down two places since last year, which given Chelsea's meteoric rise and our rubbish away form could have been a lot worse. Funnily enough only 8 defeats in the season represents our best record for ages. If only we could have turned a few more of those away draws into wins, and we'd have been able to spend the last few weeks looking up in anticipation and not down with anxiety.

How we go forward from here remains to be seen. Really, if some of our so called "class" players had performed, and those who were performing hadn't been crippled by injuries this would probably be a much happier posting. So does that mean that all Bobby needs to do is remind people like Jenas, Dyer, & Bowyer that they need to deliver on the pitch week-in, week-out not just once a season. Similarly, those players who just need to work harder (Ameobi, Robert) want to spend the summer on some kind of self-motivation course. Also, if someone could teach Titus Bramble that concentrating for the whole 90 minutes is a good thing to practice, our defence would look far happier.

In spite of all that, I have nothing but praise for Given, Speed, Shearer & Bernard who have been consistently doing the business throughout the season. They deserved better, even if some of the others probably didn't.

What we need to do over the summer is get rid of some of the dead wood (and much as it pains me to admit it, that probably includes Viana), hang on to the real quality (Given, Woodgate, Bellamy) and just strengthen certain areas (a right-back who is better than Hughes is a must), and we can go into the next season with renewed optimism. Failure to strengthen the squad would see us slip further backwards, and the question as to who will replace Shearer and to a degree Speed (although Bowyer & Jenas wouldn't be the worst midfield combination in the world).

In a season in which not much has gone as well as we'd hoped, fifth place and a UEFA semi-final appearance isn't bad on paper to look back on. The question now, is how those in charge look forward...

Thursday, May 13, 2004
On a brighter note, I passed my exams. Just three to go now...

Saints and sinners
Well, there goes the dream of Champions League football. Gone in the blink of an eye, or the crash of the woodwork (twice) and a string of fine saves. In truth one of our best away performances of the season was only frustrating in so far as it failed to yield the three points we desperately wanted.

In all honesty, whilst last night's performance couldn't be faulted for effort, it's our away form throughout the season which has left us where we are, and collectively the team need to take a cold hard look at themselves and realise that half arsed performnces like those delivered away to Wolves, Bolton, Birmingham, Charlton, Leicester, Leeds, Portsmouth (7 points from a possible 21!) weren't good enough.

As Steve Claridge pointed out on Radio 5Live last night, if you take away four or five of our team the rest are pretty average. A damning description perhaps, but sadly an accurate one.

We can only hope that man utd find some form and do the decent thing by beating Villa, and Liverpool play like they are already on their summer holidays/don't want to get injured before Euro 2004.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Things I don't like about London...
In contrast to yesterday's list of things I like, here is the yang to its ying:

1. The tube is dirty, overcrowded, unpleasantly hot, and doesn't run late enough.
2. Everything is so expensive (accomodation, beer, cinema, etc.)
3. People tend to be less friendly.
4. Chelsea fans.
5. Commuting is the biggest pain in the arse on the planet.
6. It's a 600 mile round trip to get to a home match.
7. Tourists are everywhere, clogging up the pavements.
8. I'm increasingly concerned that I'll be involved in a terrorist bomb attack.
9. Londoners tend to be very insular - there is a whole country out there people, accept it and visit it. You never know, you might like what is north of Watford, let alone Watford Gap.
10. People think London is representatice of the whole country, when it blatantly isn't.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Things I like about London...
Having lived in and around the capital for several years now, and also because I am coming to the end of my tenure in the south east, it seems only fair to compile endless lists as to what I will/won't miss about the place.

To start off, here are some of the things that I will miss:

1. I can go to any show/watch any film/visit loads of museums any time I want.
2. Any tour by a band I want to see inevitably involves a London gig.
3. The tube runs every couple of minutes, so you never need to wait long.
4. If you chose to, you could happily survie without a car, because the public transport network is so extensive.
5. The national news is almost local news, due to it's major London focus.
6. I get to go to loads of Newcastle away matches without having to do a 600 mile round trip.
7. All roads/trains lead here, so it's easy to visit people and get back.
8. Anything you want, someone will sell you: you just have to find them...
9. My favourite curry house, The Golden Orient, is in Leytonstone.
10. Even temp jobs pay better.
11. You can bump into random celebrities.
12. The general buzz of the place.
13. My Oyster card - making life that bit quicker.

Monday, May 10, 2004
Nice blogs...
Just had the fortune to read the two blogs produced by Inspector Sands, as recommended to me by Ben. Casino Avenue carries his more general postings, whilst All Quiet on the East Stand gives a comprehensive view of Charlton Athletic. Both are well worth a look.

Unable to keep the wolves from our door
Well, 24 hours after a pretty dismal performance against Wolves on Sunday I'm determined to try and find positives.
1. Our destiny is still our own, two wins from two games will give us fourth spot.
2. Bobby's decision to sell Carl Cort didn't really come back to haunt us - he's about the only old boy who didn't score against us this season.
3. Hopefully the tossers who booed won't renew their season tickets having witnessed that performance.
4. The worst we can finish is 7th. That means there are 85 league clubs who would glady swop places.
5. A point is better than nowt.

Friday, May 07, 2004
Two goals from Didier Drogba confined Newcastle's European dream to the dustbin for another season. In truth, the better team won, and Drogba is undoubtedly a class player. However, it's all a bit frustrating as without key injuries I think we'd have given them more of a game. It was perhaps ironic that the first time this season Laurent Robert didn't just belt a freekick, but instead laid off to Bernard, that we should concede a goal on the break - if he'd belted it into the stands it wouldn't have happened!

Still, the better team undoubtedly won, and of our side very few did anything to enhance their reputations. Perhaps we should have had a penalty in the first half when Ameobi was hacked down, but had we gone through it would have been unfair on Marseille. Not that I'd have objected, obviously.

Perhaps tellingly Viana once again appeared to be happy to spray the ball every which way but forward (memories of David Batty without the tackling) and when he came on Bowyer managed to get into a fight, but failed to do a great deal going forward. Simply put, we need to invest in better players and cut the dead wood. With LuaLua, Griffen and possibly Bowyer off this summer the time has surely come to invest in a quality full back, centre back, and replacements for Shearer and Speed. Whether that will happen, only time will tell, but if it doesn't next season is unlikely to be better than this...

Thursday, May 06, 2004
Eight o'clock tonight. I can't wait for it to arrive. I know that wishing your life away is a bad thing, and I know that the odds are against us ( Marseille being 8/11 to qualify for the final) but therein lies my love of football. It's like Christmas, in that the sense of anticipation that runs throughout Advent is the best bit. The build up is when everything is possible, you stand on the edge and don't know what will happen when you jump off.

This is why I love football. This is why I've been supporting Newcastle United for as long as I can remember (Geographical proximity may once have played a factor but it wasn't what got me hooked.). I love the fact that for 90 minutes (please let it be 90, not 120 or worse penalties - we're rubbish at penalties) I've got little or no control over what happens. I love the fact that the actions of a bunch of blokes I've never even met will affect my general mood for hours after the game, and will probably live with me for the rest of my life. I can't get enough of it.

The worst thing is that having tasted the euphoria of a victory once, you want to have another mouthful, and another, and so on and so on until you lie bloated, but even then like Mr Creosote there is still the temptation of that extra wafer thin mint...

I know that my better half despairs of the fact that I can be lost in quiet contemplation of what formation we'll be playing, or who is going to step into the gaping hole left by injuries, but that's what football is all about. That's why millions of people love it. That's what got me hooked, that's what prompts me to buy games where I can play/manage football teams, magazines where I can read about other people's love of the game, constantly look at websites for news about my team, that's why people say it's like a drug.

Maybe they're right.

But I'm an addict and I love it.

Ha'way the Lads!

Hypocrite speaks
So George W appeared on TV yesterday to condemn the appalling treatment of Iraqi's by American troops, and to say how much he abhorred what had happened. Good to see that George is consistent in his approach to how he views Human Rights abuses.

Oh hang on, isn't he fully supportive of everything the Americans are doing in Guantanamo Bay?

Last man standing
Following Chelsea's departure last night, Newcastle are now the last British club left in Europe. Hopefully that'll be for more than 24 hours, but even so that's still quite a miraculous achievement for Bobby and the boys. Funnily enough, I doubt we'd have been in this position if we had beaten Partizan Belgrade, rather than the inevitable penalty shoot out defeat which we suffered back last Autumn.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004
William RIP
Finally saw Kill Bill Volume 2 last night, and whilst I was thoroughly entertained at the time, I can also see why it's been getting mediocre reviews. Like I said, I was completely enthralled for large parts of the film, particularly the chapters leading up to the inevitable confrontation with Bill. I also really liked the western feel to the film, with the Sergio Leone homages particularly pleasing to the eye. However, towards the end it struck me that the dialogue seemed to lose it's snap and started to sound a bit flabby, which is ultimately to the detriment of the film. Perhaps if Tarantino had spent a bit longer in the editing suite and hadn't been rushing so that he could go off to Cannes the film might have been that bit better.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004
What kind of name do you call that?
In case any of you are wondering, I'm currently training to be a solicitor, and consequently don't see things in black and white anymore, every opinion has a counter point etc. and nothing is seemingly clear cut any more. However, given my love of Newcastle Utd it seemed particularly pertinent to pitch my blog somewhere between their black and white stripes. Hence, the many shades of grey.

Right lads, it's time to kick off...
Right, looks like I've finally decided to start my own blog. Probably as a result of the need to complain to someone about the bastard van driver who soaked me this morning by accelerating through a puddle, as much as anything. I have so many grand plans for the blog, and hope it will live up to them. Most of all, I hope that those of you who read this will come back and read it again and again. Please.

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