The price of football

By |October 14th, 2014|Recent news|0 Comments

Tomorrow, the BBC is going to reveal the findings of its The Price of Football 2014 study.

There will be things that the study will not cover. For example, it will not report on travelling to the game (it’s different for everyone); the prices of sandwiches at Greggs, since food in the stadium is eye-wateringly expensive (£4.10 for a pie?); and the cost of private counselling.

As a Newcastle United fan, it is very difficult to make purchasing decisions regarding replica kits and merchandise. If you buy from the club shop, where is that money really going? If you buy a new football shirt this season, will it have any bearing on on club recruitment or performance? If you buy these things elsewhere (and for much cheaper), are you giving less support to your team?

There is much to be angry about as a supporter. Football tickets may not be rising as much as they might be, but other things are becoming much more expensive. Football shirts are typically reaching beyond £50 now (for a shirt that you can’t really wear to a restaurant). Many teams require season ticket holders to become members.

And, despite this, the members and supporters have no voice. Newcastle United is an example that has a supporters’ panel to comply with UEFA regulations. The last meeting was cancelled at short notice. No actions have ever been taken as a result of any of these meetings, and representatives of the club largely comprise the public relations team.

If you think this is confined to club football, it is not. The international game is abhorrent. The Football Association releases a new kit for the England team every year, even though competitions occur in two year cycles. This season set a record for the shirt price and introduced two-tier pricing depending on how loyal you wish to appear to be. International competitions are run by the sponsors: being the official beverage of the World Cup permits you to ban any other beverage in the stadium, whether for sale or whether supporters wish to bring in a rival’s brand. It wouldn’t surprise me if there is soon an official paracetamol supplier to FIFA, meaning that many fans will have to endure headaches during a match unless they’re willing to pay inflated prices for the official pain-relief.

They call football “the beautiful game”, but it really isn’t. As entertainment, it’s top class. I thoroughly enjoy what I watch. It’s unlike any other entertainment, but there are things that come with the territory. As supporters, you have no control over the game. If the Premier League decide that a game will be held abroad, it will be. If the FIFA decide that supporters have to wear Puma boxer shorts and Adidas trainers, it will happen. If the owner of your football team decides that the club should move to a new city, change its name or change the colour of its kit, you aren’t going to be able to stop them.

A new chapter

By |August 17th, 2014|Recent news|0 Comments

Today, Newcastle United’s season began with a defeat at home against Manchester City. But there was so much to be thankful for.

In particular, I was able to be there. We take for granted that it’s only a football match: very few football supporters die going to see a game. But it has happened before. There were 96 Liverpool supporters, 56 supporters attending a match in Bradford, and there are a small number of cases where fans have died on their way to a match. Likewise, over the summer, two Newcastle United supporters were killed while travelling to New Zealand to watch their team play in a pre-season tour. Plenty has been said about this incident: BBC News has its own portal for its news coverage on the crash.

The reaction to the news that two Newcastle United fans were killed was incredible. Not least because supporters of our greatest football rivals, Sunderland AFC, raised in excess of £33,000 for floral tributes and donations to charity. It was a generous and thoughtful gesture. It moved me to tears in fact.

As ever, we look forward to the derby game, but I hope the atmosphere will be different. Of course, I am sure some Sunderland supporters will be upset with the transfer of Jack Colback, and there is plenty of history that the television companies will be only too keen to remind us. But the events of the summer highlighted the bridge between us.

I’ve never had the intense hatred for Sunderland that others purport to have: in fact, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for them, and now I have even greater reason to be thankful. Those Sunderland fans are a credit to their football team and they have my personal thanks.

Technology in Football

By |May 1st, 2011|Quick thoughts|0 Comments

Michael Owen tweeted yesterday, “Once goal line technology is brought in, how long before it is being used for other decisions like offsides?” Is it a good point? No, I don’t think so. This seems to be a line common amongst those that don’t even trust themselves to be able to stop — let alone trusting an authority charged with the care of the game to have the competence to draw the line.

Let’s get this straight. We have cloned creatures. We can make crop incredibly robust. We can make buildings that can withstand earthquakes. But we don’t have houses that hover in the sky. We don’t have meals that make themselves. We haven’t cloned Bruce Forsyth.

Why not? Aren’t we capable? Sure, we probably are. But the thing is, collectively, we all know instinctively that these are bad ideas. We have drawn the line somewhere, because we can gather the intelligence amongst us to debate sensibly and decide.

This is why, if we introduce goal-line technology (which, by the way, promises immediate feedback rather than referral to a video referee), we won’t be immediately calling for a computer to replace the referee purely because of precedent.

Review of My Year 2010

By |December 31st, 2010|Essays|0 Comments


Following the Christmas holidays I was dreading the New Year. It meant going back to teaching. I didn’t mind the teaching so much – I had successes and failures, good points and bad points; but there were certain things that caused me no end of dread. I recall returning the house in Keele around the same time as Emlyn. Neither of us relished going back. In January, we were doing all five days in a school (whereas we started doing two days at Keele, three days at school) and with the timetable being added to the pressure soon mounted. January also marked the end of my first placement.


The stand-out event of February was getting my first ever car: a Rover 45 2.0TD Spirit S. It was spotted by Andy, a friend from school and relayed to me by Weiran. I immediately warmed to it and after a brief test drive I bought it. I also started my second placement. I was heartened by a lighter timetable compared to others and enjoyed the classes I was working with.


The timetable was starting to increase and it was becoming clear that things weren’t right. I wasn’t as closely monitored as other people, which I took to be a vote of confidence. I did enough to keep on top of what I had to do; I avoided extra work to try to preserve my sanity. Weekends were most welcome and the purpose of the week. When I wasn’t going back to watch the football, I was staying in Keele with Emlyn and Jack in particular. A notable weekend at the end of the month started my foray into golf, a Chinese food buffet and winning a bottle of gin.


Someone turned the thumbscrews in April. Early in the month came in the Easter holidays and it was painfully difficult to go back to the PGCE. I was expecting to go back to be told I was failing. My car was hit whilst parked at the student house in Keele, leaving a large dent (which remains to this day). I took the car to have a puncture caused by a screw sorted and ended up having to pay a small fortune for an MOT and service in addition. Teaching was particularly horrible as my confidence was slowly chipped away and eroded. My sleeping pattern was terrible as I took painstaking lengths to make enticing lessons for them to be ripped apart the next day. Weekends were devoted to catching up with sleep, more work, and more drinking. My eating habits were poor as I ate scraps that required little effort or eating out. Gin, limes, tonic and ice cubes were afforded pride of position at the top of the shopping list; closely followed by cereal bars and cookies.


The word I dreaded reared its ugly head in the middle of May: remediation. I was given a list of things I needed to do in order salvage a year’s work. It was immediately clear in my head that I would not be able to overcome those issues. My confidence was in tatters; I was tired and clearly stressed. My only escape was football: seeing Newcastle United win the Championship was the clear highlight for the year until that point, but even then I was ever-troubled by the lingering dread of having deep, cutting criticisms and close scrutiny of my ability to teach.


I had wanted to quit but I couldn’t describe myself as a quitter. I tried. It came as a relief in some regard that I was told that I had failed the placement though the fact I had made it to within three weeks of the end was not lost on me. Yet I stayed until the end. I had every right to go home at that point but I did not. I wasn’t teaching, but helping out where I could.


It was heart-wrenching, not least when participating in the final week in Keele. My last act was to rewrite the lyrics to YMCA (which we performed for year’s cohort of PGCE students and uploaded to YouTube (with some naughty words) which provided some light relief! The final session – a “farewell” gathering – was particularly bittersweet seeing some people for the last time and knowing that if I wanted a share of their success, I would need to do another 16 weeks the following year.

Mum and Dad celebrated their 50th birthdays in July. I went to Wiltshire to celebrate with Dad for his birthday and at the end of the month I went to Barcelona with Mum to celebrate hers. Both provided escape from the torment in my mind and I enjoyed myself. It was great to see family I hadn’t seen in a long time and to see Mum have her first flight.


August was a void. I was unaware of my situation at Keele having gone home. I started applying for jobs almost indiscriminately. The football season started – with defeat, naturally – but soon picked up with a comprehensive defeat of Aston Villa at home.

Matt came and visited. It was most welcome. We talked, drank, ate and visited Hexham.


I was summoned back to Keele for talks of my future on the PGCE course. The meeting lasted about 15 minutes, having driven for four hours to get there. I had been looking over the summer for somewhere to live with little success (and no help from the accommodation office) so I was not in a position to agree to do my placement starting in October. The other option was February, but money was an issue too.

Pure chance led me to find an opportunity for paid PhD study at Loughborough University and I applied in a heartbeat. I was offered an interview and thought I have completely screwed up. I wasn’t offered the place but thankfully one was made for me. I felt truly wanted and of value professionally and gladly accepted. I hadn’t thought too much about the practicalities, but the apparent belief in me warranted some effort to overcome them.


The notable event of October occurred on the last day… a 5-1 win over Sunderland. It certainly wasn’t expected but was most welcome. For me, I was looking at places to live in Loughborough without any success. It was also a time of a minor health scare. It’s something I have to just live with now and get on with.


My car took a battering from a falling fascia board and aerials. Another bit of damage that no-one will take responsibility for. I got quotes for both pieces and it comes to around £800. With additional damage to the windscreen, a broken headlight, and a broken tail light the damage mounts up quickly. I have repaired the lights (cheaply and easily).

In November I eventually got my accommodation sorted and moved in.


I started in the Mathematics Education Centre at Loughborough University and settled in very quickly. The snow caused some problems over the month, but I was generally high in spirits (not necessarily the alcohol stuff, either!) and the snow was easily overcome. Emlyn came to stay, which was generally good (but we don’t talk about the cloakroom staff incident) and it was great to see the old crew in Kent.


2010 got better as it went along. I’m very optimistic for 2011 and looking forward to it! Happy New Year everyone!

Next through the Revolving Door

By |December 8th, 2010|Quick thoughts|0 Comments

Welcome to Alan Pardew. In honour of his impending arrival at St. James’ Park, I thought I’d copy and paste some highlights from his Wikipedia page.

At West Ham United: “The chairman Mr Eggert Magnússon and the board have been concerned by the performances of recent weeks and feel that it is the right time to make a change in the best interests of the club.”

At Charlton Athletic: “He was unable to keep Charlton up… Many expected Charlton to bounce back from relegation into the Premier League… but Charlton failed to mount a serious promotion challenge and finished the season in 11th. [In the 2008/9 season] Charlton’s form very quickly deteriorated and they were near the foot of the table and after 8 games without a win and a 5-2 home defeat to Sheffield United on 22 November 2008, Pardew parted company with Charlton by mutual consent.”

At Southampton: The club announced in a statement, “Following a review of the current status in and around the First Team, the Club has decided that, to achieve its well known targets, it is essential to make changes to the First Team management and coaching… Consequently, the First Team Manager, Alan Pardew… [has] been relieved of [his] duties with immediate effect.” The section concludes, “The dismissal came amidst reports of low staff morale and conflicts between Pardew and [the] club chairman.”

He wasn’t good enough for a League One team. But at least it seems guaranteed he won’t be here for long.