Friday, June 03, 2011

Northern Leagues United: Training

There was an unintentional increase in training yesterday, a 12.5 kilometre (exercise) bike ride in the morning followed by a 4.3 mile run along the coast at South Shields. We started out a few hundred metres north of the Marsden Grotto pub and continued to within sight of the windmill at Whitburn before swinging left right down to the sea. The coastal path undulated as far as Souter Lighthouse on the return journey, then we cut across the grass and back on to the roadside, getting back to the car forty minutes after we'd set off. "I'm having a rest day tomorrow," my brother panted, his Run Geordie Run t-shirt soaked from the collar down.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Northern Leagues United

Some of the players for July 9th, including Metro Radio's Joe Daunt (3rd left) and Richard Mason of the Northern Echo (2nd from the right).

The Northern Leagues United Poster.

Northern Leagues United: Training

Helped by a pair of brand new running shoes and my first pair of football boots since I was twelve years old (and doesn't that show every time I kick the ball?), I've stepped up my training regime to try and get in shape before July 9th. Twenty minutes (or ten kilometres) on an exercise bike in the morning followed by a 3.2 mile run later the same day. I'm averaging twenty-seven minutes for the run; if I don't go out, I do another five kilometres on the exercise bike instead.

Our first proper training session took place at Northern League side Whickham, whose captain gave up an evening to watch us run in and out of posts before trying (and mostly failing) to cross or shoot accurately. "What do you fancy doing?" he asked. We looked blank. "I dunno, something with the ball?"

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Grassroots International: Northern Leagues United

Full details on July 9th's Northern Leagues United event are now online here. If you can't make it to Birtley on the day, there's also some information on how you can still get involved.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Northern Leagues United

I'm still not sure what possessed me to say 'Yes', but on July 9th, sometime between the hours of 1 and 3pm, I'll be turning out in an 11-a-side game in aid of Birtley Town's ground fund and Cobaltore Onagawa, the Japanese community football team whose town was devastated by the tsunami.

Training started last night with a thirty-five minute run along Sandhaven Beach - unwisely at high tide - and halfway along the coastal path to Souter Lighthouse. The game itself - between Football Writers and Northern League Fans - takes place at 1pm on Birtley Town's pitch and is followed by a pre-season friendly between the home side and Ryton and Crawcrook Albion. Admission is £3 adults and just a quid for concessions.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Yes to AV

After a lot of toing and froing it was the last-minute opinion polls that finally made up my mind. 68% plan to vote no, says this morning's Guardian. Whether you agree with AV or not, a resounding defeat is likely to put voting reform off the political agenda for another generation, and saddle us with a first past the post system that gave Margaret Thatcher the leverage to smash the trade unions and Blair a sufficient majority to invade Iraq. As the Daily Mail puts it:

The referendum comes as academic analysis revealed coalition governments would be three times more likely under AV than the present system – and Margaret Thatcher would not have won a majority in 1979.

Sounds ok to me.

I'm voting yes to AV because I want proportional representation. There's something deeply wrong with a system in which the votes of people in 100-odd marginal constituencies matter more than those in the remaining 500 (and if you don't believe me, just look at how the Tories spent Ashcroft's cash). Don't let bullshit like this stand in your way.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Northern League Day

Speaking of Northern League Day, here's a piece I wrote for In Bed With Maradona on the importance of the world's second oldest football league.

Five Last Week

During my hiatus from blogging on here, Dolphin Hotel's fifth - and my thirty fifth - birthday passed unremarked last Thursday. With Northern League Day on the horizon, the taught part of my MA course about to wrap up and two trips to Elche in eastern Spain to train newly-qualified EFL teachers taking up most of my time, I've been too busy - or distracted - to post much recently.

As the Governor of California once said, "I'll be back."

Friday, March 11, 2011

From Northern League to Football League?

Connected with Northern League Day, a piece on three of the League's best players, Whitley Bay's Lee Kerr, Ashington's ex-Newcastle winger Johnny Godsmark and Peter Jeffries, keeper for famous old side Bishop Auckland.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Northern League Day

With one thing and another, I haven't had much time to write on here lately. Mostly, though, I've been busy with the first ever Northern League Day, which is scheduled for April 9th (the day before Newcastle United play away at Aston Villa), coinciding with a Socrates Football Bloggers Meet (the first to be held anywhere north of London) before the 3 o'clock kick off at Ryton versus Billingham Synthonia. So far, the campaign's attracted the backing of BBC Radio, the FSF, Non-League Day, Newcastle United, Middlesbrough and Sunderland fanzines and blogs, Ryton Football Club and Mike Amos, chairman of the Northern League.

It should be a great day of football. Come along and see for yourself.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Korean Who Played For Japan

Kim Yong-sik, the North Korean who played in one Olympic games for Japan, another for South Korea, managed the South to the 1954 World Cup and coached the Korean CIA superteam a decade later.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Semester Two: Discourse Analysis

Semester Two at Big Northern University and forty students are crammed into a room designed, it soon becomes apparent, with less than half as many people in mind. We sit facing each other across narrow desks, wedged into corners against radiators that are too hot and windows which can't be opened, pushed behind heads that bob up and down as they write. Necks craning, we turn sideways to view a presentation which is already half-blocked by a flat-screen monitor and the lecturer's right arm.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Asia's First Footballing Superstar

German football legend and father of the current Celtic right back Cha Bum-kun (written for In Bed With Maradona).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bent Goes

"There's no way Aston Villa are a bigger club than Sunderland," said the BBC Look North reporter, admirably managing to keep a straight face. "We get bigger attendances than Villa and we've won the league the same number of times," said A Love Supreme editor Martyn McFadden, though the first point is debatable and the second is plain wrong: Sunderland were English champions on six occasions, the last time in 1936; Aston Villa have won it seven times, including 1981, which they followed by winning the European Cup (Sunderland's European record consists of four games in 1973). "We're sixth and Villa are relegation-haunted," said McFadden, which, coincidentally, is where Villa have ended the last three seasons and what Sunderland have been in every Premier League campaign this century. McFadden said, "We've got lots of top players". But who? Titus Bramble? Anton Ferdinand? Lee Cattermole?

The truth is Bent was their biggest star in half a century, his one England goal the first scored by a Sunderland player since Len Shackleton's in 1954. Like Rooney before him, he began agitating for a move because he didn't feel financially valued where he was. Call it greed if you will, but that's what players do, and when it comes to their own jobs most football fans would do exactly the same - something the people now sending Bent death threats would do well to bear in mind.

The only way to keep an unhappy player is to pay them more than you think they're worth, and Manchester United may yet live to regret acceding to the demands of Rooney and his agent. Sunderland made a hefty profit on a disaffected player; most people would say they got the better half of the deal.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Made in Britain: South Korean Football

The English influence on South Korean football, featuring Dalian Atkinson, Ian Porterfield, Seoul's Royal English School and the crew of the HMS Flying Fish. Written for Les Rosbifs, as part of its Asian Cup series.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

England's Player of the Year

As you may expect, there's fierce competition for the title of England's Player of 2010, with a short-list including all 44 players to be capped last year. Will the winner be Carlton Cole, who "made one appearance during 2010...and failed to live up to potential", Emile Heskey, who "brought to an end his eleven year association with the England team, during which time he scored seven goals" or goalkeeper Robert Green, who had quite an "eventful" year?

"Green had started six consecutive games under Fabio Capello in 2009, and played in the opening two matches of 2010 to indicate that he was the first choice England goalkeeper. So it proved as Green lined up against USA on 12 June, but it would be his last cap of the year.

Green showed great strength of character both on and off the pitch, denying a potential matchwinner from Jozy Altidore in the second half, before fronting up by speaking to every media outlet that who wished to guage his reaction after the game. "

And wasn't there something with Clint Dempsey too?

The accompanying comments suggest the (Liverpool-supporting) public see only one worthy winner of the honour of being England's least worst player of the year. "Stevie G. all the way!" says one, "Steven Gerrard is truly England's Number One," another (which, if true, implies Green's plight may be much worse than even he realised) and "It's got to be Stevie G. all the way! There can be no-one else?" offers a third, his punctuation suggesting he'd realised by the end that he might have gone too far.

Which is not something this current England team are likely to do themselves.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Pancrate: On a Wing and a Prayer

Without a club since his release from Newcastle, Fabrice Pancrate is hoping the power of prayer will succeed where his agent has failed. "Hoffenheim, Malaga, Blackpool, and Nancy is possible. Amen," he said into a microphone, as cameras rolled, the congregation whooped and a man blew into a musical instrument in the shape of one of Pancrate's headless runs down the wing. Like his crossing, though, he's probably aiming a bit too high.


This time last year I was wandering around the backstreets of Lisbon, an activity which involved the expenditure of slightly more physical energy than sitting on a chair for a week writing 4,500 words in answer to the question 'How can listening skills best be taught?'. With another two assignments to finish after this one, I'm not back at BNU until the end of January, which also marks the halfway point of the course.*

* But only if you exclude the massive software portfolio I'll probably wind up spending the whole summer on.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Death at the Grassroots

In one of the few Northern League games to survive the frost, strugglers Ryton started the new year with a 3-1 defeat at FA Vase holders Whitley Bay. It was an improvement on 2010 - their last game of the year ended 8-0 - but leaves them rooted to the foot of the first division, with just three points from twenty-one games and a goal difference of -70. I recently wrote about their problems for twohundredpercent's (otherwise) excellent Clubs in Crisis series.