Sunday, October 31, 2010


Five to Magpies.
Nolan three, Ameobi two, Titus Bramble one (red card). Glorious. Just glorious. If it's any consolation to the Sunderland fans out there, at least you made it home before the final whistle.

This is the kind of scoreline that goes down in legend. Enjoy it.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Autumn at the Byker Wall

Derby Day Cometh

When Arsenal's reserve team knocked us out of the Carling Cup on Wednesday night, I didn't feel a thing. Defeat tomorrow, of course, would be an infinitely more painful experience. I'm slightly more confident of victory than I was for the 1-1 draw in 2009, but significantly less sure than before our last win in 2008.

Something - blind hope? - tells me 2-1 Newcastle, though with our home form as it is I'd be almost relieved to come away with a draw.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In Bed With Maradona

This month, in addition to the copious amounts of reading I'm expected to do on topics such as identifying the literature gap before embarking on research projects (fun!) and analysing the ways in which teacher talk can facilitate or restrict learning opportunities in the L2 classroom (enthralling!), I've been writing about The Decline and Fall of Chernomorets Odessa and My Top European Weekend Destinations. For watching football and drinking beer, obviously.

If pushed, I'll admit that neither has much of interest to the field of SLA.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cutting Back at BNU

Even before the spending review, cutbacks had started at Big Northern University. "You probably know we have a new coalition government," a lecturer tells eighty Chinese students, "and we're under pressure to reduce costs." The students may not know about the workings of British democracy, I think, but they've probably worked out that paying eleven thousand pounds a year should preclude them having to share an A4 photocopy. "I'm really embarrassed about this," says another lecturer, "but I'll have to ask you to print off your own handouts before each session." "Nobody mentioned having to buy your own printer before we started the course," a student whispers in my ear.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Not Quite Munich

Oktoberfest in South Gosforth. The queue's four deep at the bar, they've run out of pretzels and are offering cocktail sticks instead of bread to go with the bratwurst. A German-style Oompah band are playing in the centre of the room. "This one's for the Mackems," they say, and "Are there any Jocks in here tonight?" The Dambusters theme played on accordian and tuba. "Oggy, oggy, oggy," the singer shouts. "Christ, what next?" mutters my brother. "Ten German bombers?" "Either that," I say, "or the one about Hitler's balls."

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Just One Of Those Things?

The words "It's just one of those things" dribbled out of Lee Dixon's mouth on Match of the Day. Alan Brazil called it "unlucky", Steve Claridge thought "Ben Arfa should've seen it coming and moved out of the way". "As long as you allow neanderthals to dominate the public discourse on telly," Raphael Honigstein tweeted, "these 'unfortunate accidents' will continue".

Just one of those things?

How about two?

Sunday, October 03, 2010

When West Auckland Ruled the World

Before Spain's tikka takka there was Zidane's headbutt, Gazza's tears and Maradona's hand. Before that came Paolo Rossi and North Korea, Cruyff's turn, Banks's save and Bobby Moore with the Jules Rimet. But before all of that, before the Miracle of Bern and USA 1 England 0, there was a team of miners from County Durham beating Juventus in Turin.

Nobody knows how West Auckland Town ended up in the Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy. Some think their invitation was meant for Woolwich Arsenal but got mixed up in the post. West Auckland paid their own way to Italy in 1909. Once there, they beat a team from Stuttgart 2-0 and the Swiss side FC Winterthur by the same score in the final. Two years later they were back, beating FC Zurich in the semi and thrashing Juventus 6-1 to win the cup outright. Juve have since won fifty-one major competitions. West Auckland went bankrupt and had to pawn their trophy to the landlady of a local hotel.

'Home of the first World Cup' says the sign at the entrance to the village, and the trophy adorns both the club's badge and the gates to their Darlington Road ground. There's a replica of the trophy in the Working Men's Club - the original, which the villagers bought back for £100 in 1960, was stolen sixteen years ago. They'd only started locking the cabinet after 1966.