Monthly Archives: February 2011

Reportage


The hands point to 11:24; they have done so for as long as anyone can remember. The insipid structure is a fitting monument to a town that time forgot. Dreary concrete structures flank the tower on either side, the sea of grey interrupted only by the shop fronts below. Bargain food stores, charity shops and bakeries dominate the square. The stench of rejection is subtle, yet reverberates around this barren amphitheatre like a mocking stain.

Nobody is in a rush yet everyone seems impatient.

A man staggers from boozer to bookmaker, it’s hard to determine his age but the burst vessels in his nose suggest the alcohol has taken its toll. His path is blocked by a shouting youth “Deano, Deano”. “what” snarls Deano from across the road. “Get over ere dick head”. “Shut up will yu, I am doin, jus need to pick up some cigs innit”. “fer’ fuck’sake, urry up then”.

Outside the off-license a teenage pram-pusher pauses to tie another bag to her burdened chariot. She wears the uniform of her compatriots, pink joggers and brown furry boots. An elderly couple share disapproving glances on a nearby bench.

Behind them the market is empty. It is not open on Thursdays. The folded tables add to the sense of desolation in this town, where aspiration packed up and went home a long time ago. Not surprisingly the local Weatherspoon’s is doing a good trade. Several drinkers huddle in the doorway puffing on roll-ups. One of them flicks the remains at a passing pigeon.

Pigeons, like pubescent parents and pensioners are everywhere, subsequently the place is literally full of shit. On the pavements, the roofs and down the side of the buses it is everywhere. Glum faces peer through the stained perspex on the 612 thankful that this is not their stop.

A row of people shuffle onboard clutching their passes and the bus departs, revealing behind it a behemoth of a woman occupying the doorframe of Home Bargains. A real leviathan, 30 stone at least. She has wings the pigeons would envy, puffed up purple ankles that bulge from her shoes like raw black pudding and bright red cheeks that almost meet in the middle.

A pair of Dumpling-like children wobble out behind her like tweedle dee and tweedle dum. Chocolate in hand they are , chocolate “Get a bloody move on you two” she roars


Fitting Inbetween


I can’t be the only person who feels immediately inadequate when they pass through the barriers at Leeds station. Not wanting to sound vain, (and realizing instantaneously that I am being) any positive ideas you had about your appearance go out of the window the instant that ticket pops up from the gate.

I know you shouldn’t care and it’s what you think that matters and all that, but it’s just an unwelcome kick in the balls each morning. Every time you dare believe you’re maybe just a little bit cool for once, or even just think you might fit in, within ten seconds a dozen cooler, smarter, trendier and better looking people pass you by. Admittedly at least four times as many walk past looking like complete arseholes, but they probably are, and therefore are convinced of their own coolness.

I don’t want to stand out, or be at the cutting edge, just to feel self-assured will do fine. This is not a problem in Bradford; I like to think we are generally more humble here. Of course there are a few who push the boat out, and some of the younger ones are looking a bit incomprehensible right now, but generally people are not as bothered. It’s not a competition like in, and I say this begrudgingly, our slightly bigger sister Leeds.

It should be good living so close to a cosmopolitan city, but most of the time it’s just a bit depressing. You always get the sense they are sneering at us, showing off how flash they are while picking apart the poor cousin. I, as you may have gathered commute between the two. The struggle to find a compromise leaves me perpetually stuck in the middle. Not quite cutting it at Uni but still finding myself breaking my own rules.

I vowed never to wear skinny jeans, but I’m now wearing slim fits. I promised myself never to wear those stupid white pumps, but now I have some blue ones. I even got a semi-trendy haircut; I couldn’t go the full hog of course because it would make me a twat. Never-the-less I am conforming and it irritates me.


Goal For The Season


Forget the brilliance of Rooney’s goal for one minute and consider its significance. It may well have been the goal that won the title for Manchester United. It certainly ended their city rivals hopes, who are now nine points adrift having played one game more. The blue half of Manchester will now join Tottenham and Chelsea in a battle to secure a top four finish.

That leaves only Arsenal with a reasonable claim to be in the race. The gunners are four points behind with 12 to play, which doesn’t sound much but despite having a far easier run-in (Man U still have to play Chelsea twice as well as Liverpool and Arsenal) you just cannot see it happening. What Sunday’s victory underlined is something that’s been said time and time again, that Ferguson’s teams know how to perform on the big occasion. They know how to win titles and will win games they don’t deserve to.

I have heard Man United fans maintain this side to be the worst they have seen, yet they are still top of the league. If they are so poor does this reflect badly on the quality of opposition? No, I do not think so. Man City, Tottenham and Arsenal have all improved this season, an assertion we shall see for sure when they take on the best in Europe this week. It is clear then that consistency is the key, and United have been, by far the most consistent team in the Premier League.

So how have they managed to be so consistent when their rivals have failed? I think the reaction to Rooney’s goal tells us an awful lot. The United bench went wild; players, staff, and management jumped for joy, and in doing so displayed a true reflection of the unity within the squad. There where no solemn faces, headphones or looks of indifference, they where genuinely delighted. This is why I believe the title is heading for Old Trafford.

The main problem facing top PL managers is squad management, finding the right balance between a settled line-up and keeping your squad players happy. Get this right and you have a team prepared to work hard for each other and one that will grind out wins. Get this wrong and you risk creating a divided, sulky squad who are out for themselves. Competition for places is of course a healthy thing but when you have two or three high profile players competing for one place it’s hard not to imagine feelings of resentment. I’m not sure when you see Man City, Tottenham or Chelsea score the entire bench is necessarily very happy about it.


Haigh Simpson’s Sporting Scrapbook


My blog page now has a sister site, Haigh Simpson’s sporting scrapbook. It is basically a collection of the interesting or amusing sport related video’s, pictures and links I find each day. There will be comment of course, although the aim is to keep it short and sweet. It will also include regular features such as ‘tweet’s of the week’. I will of course be grateful of any material thrown my way. Below is an exert from the new site along with a link.

What quality’s would you expect a potential MP to possess? A good knowledge of economics, public relations skill’s, and experience of the political system all spring to mind. But no, it appears under David Cameron as long as you can bowl a good delivery and do the cha-cha your in.

I am referring to the revelation that Darren Gough was approached by the Conservatives about becoming their candidate in the Barnsley central by-election. If this is a sign of the future in this age of celebrity then I look forward to the day Prime minister Freddy Flintoff and president A-Rod announce their war on terror-ble defending. An idea championed by defence minister Alan Hansen.

Mind you you only have to look at Michelle Platini and Sepp Blatter to learn that former sportsmen cannot be trusted in positions of power.

Haigh Simpson\'s Sporting Scrapbook


Watch The Rugby, It Will Make You Feel Good


Being working class and from the North I should probably be a Rugby League man, but I’m not. To be truthful I don’t really like Rugby of any ilk, I don’t even understand the rules. Yet there is something about the six-nations that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, something that provokes a greater sense of patriotism and pride than football or cricket ever can.

It’s not the sport in itself. That just consists of some running back and forth, a lot of writhing around on the floor, and the occasional break to sniff each others armpits for reasons I cannot fathom. No, what inspires me is the magnitude of the event itself, the sense of occasion. I don’t know if it’s the fans, the stadia, the rivalry, or the significance that makes it so, but for me it is the most epic of sporting occasions.

Take football’s World Cup final, or the Champions League final for that matter. Half the ground is filled by corporate freeloaders with about as much interest as a post-recession savings account. They dilute the passion and energy of the real supporters, as do the ludicrous ticketing policies. Fans are dispersed around the stadium in tiny pockets, creating an atmosphere more suited to an athletics meet than a game of football.

These are the biggest events of the most popular team sport in the world, a sport built on rivalries, passion and togetherness. Yet it has been allowed to descend towards a glorified exhibition match for the viewing pleasure of the rich and famous, oh and a few lucky competition winners.

International rugby union still retains that genuine feel that makes great sporting events so special. Be it Murrayfield or Twickenham, Cardiff or Rome, the sentiment will be the same, one of overpowering home support. Intimidating cauldrons of boiling passion breathe life into the occasion and set the perfect scene for an epic battle.

And rugby union truly is an epic battle. It’s a much overused phrase in sport, a footballer is said to ‘lead his team into battle’ or a tennis star might have ‘a real battle on their hands’. Is it really a battle in the literal sense though? Mentally, technically, and even physically maybe, but I have always felt rugby comes remarkably close to resembling the real thing.

It evokes images of William Wallace, of Richard the Lionheart. The violent clashes, surging charges and the battles for ground mimic the historical events that shaped our part of the world. It’s this deep rooted history between the competing nations that gives these fixtures that edge. In other sports rivalries are less entrenched, they are more often than not born out of the sport itself. Rugby promotes nationalism in a positive way and the six nations is an occasion to reclaim the flag from the bigoted fascists.

I will spend the coming weeks enjoying the spectacle knowing full well that I will be no nearer to understanding the rules than I am now. Nor will I develop any interest whatsoever in the domestic game. But it will make me proud and that is a great feeling. I urge you to join me.

Here are a few videos to wet your appetite….


The Story Of Transfer Deadline Day


Transfer deadline day: sports greatest soap opera. More twists, turns, drama and sub-plots than an anniversary special, and almost as ridiculous. It is probably the most exciting yet repulsive day on the football calendar. For every jubilant fan, drooling over their new messiah, another sits dejected and mournful at the loss of their hero. Of course there will be the more uninspiring signings along the way, but today always looked set to be a big one.

It had all the right ingredients; big names, big asking prices and most importantly big holes to fill. The move everyone was waiting for was of course Fernando Torres; would he go to Chelsea and what would happen in the ensuing merry-go-round? Elsewhere Spurs seemed to be looking at every half-decent striker in Europe, Blackpool where sweating on the future of Charlie Adam and Man City where reportedly in the market for a left winger.

Predictably the day started slowly, gossip and signings trickled in slowly yet failed to inspire. All was quiet at Anfield. Then it picked up all of a sudden. At around half-ten rumors began to circulate that both Tottenham and Liverpool where preparing bids for Andy Carroll. Did this mean Liverpool had agreed a deal for a Torres departure? Had the Suarez deal fallen through? Kenny Dalglish tells the press “We’ve not brought anyone in as a replacement for anyone else. Movement is part and parcel of football but the most important people at Liverpool Football Club are the ones who want to be here.” A mixed message considering Torres had his transfer request turned down on Friday.

We were about to witness a huge statement of intent from the Liverpool board as almost as soon as the rumours had surfaced, news came in that Newcastle had turned down an astonishing £30m bid from Liverpool for Andy Carroll. Thirty million for Andy Carroll. Put that in perspective, it is the same amount Barcelona paid for David Villa in the summer. It is more than Rooney, Drogba, Tevez and indeed Torres. If Newcastle were holding out for more it was a risky tactic.

Elsewhere Tottenham’s hopes of capturing Aguero are quashed as he signs a new deal at Athletico Madrid. Apparently Spurs are now chasing Aguero’s teammate Diego Forlan but it is looking desperate for them now. Blackpool confirm the signing of Andy Reid, just as Manchester United emerge as favorites in the chase for Charlie Adam. The Tangerines however where playing hard-ball, apparently they were now refusing to take calls from Liverpool now.

Back to the big story and the plot thickens. Liverpool have made a second bid of £35m which we are told meets Newcastle’s valuation, Carroll is also keen it is said. The deal is on, or is it? We still have no idea what is going on with the Torrez deal or how it affected this one plus Luis Suarez is yet to put pen to paper. Liverpool could end the day with the best strike-force in the premiership, but then again they might end up with David Ngog. It also emerges that the second bid is also rejected by Newcastle, unbelievable stuff. Defiant Liverpool are however keen on their man, and inevitably a fee is agreed after the striker hands in a transfer request. Carroll is now on his way to Liverpool, as is Charlie Adam by all accounts in an incredible turnaround of events. The deals are far from complete yet though.

The Spurs striker search is now officially called off as Harry Redknapp announces there is “no chance” of the club signing a striker tonight, nor any chance of Peter Crouch leaving for Newcastle as Andy Carroll’s replacement. “This comes after reports Tottenham made a late bid to hijack the Carroll deal as well as approaching Villarreal forward Guiseppi Rossi. Disappointing news for those in search of drama as Spurs are usually good value for money on transfer day (unlike Andy Carroll (sorry couldn’t help it)). Mind you I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear from them again, late bid for Torres?

Well that would be impossible now as news comes in that Chelsea have had a £50m offer accepted and the Spaniard is on his way to London for talks. Not sure how Reds fans are supposed to be feeling now but it’s not long before they can breathe a sigh of relief. The first piece of the Liverpool jigsaw is complete, Luis Suarez has finally signed. One piece that will definitely be missing however is Charlie Adam after reported talks break down. Another big development, overshadowed up to now by all the madness, is that Chelsea are now very close to capturing David Luiz. That would take their days spend up to a staggering £70m, and we thought their big spending days were over.

It’s getting late now, less than an hour to go and there is still no confirmation that the Torres, Carroll or Luiz deals have been finalized. This is classic deadline day stuff but we are yet to see an out of the blue, last minute development. Step up Tottenham Hotspur, we knew we had not seen the last of them, first a cheeky bid for Phil Neville is rejected, and then news breaks that Spurs are rushing through an eleventh-hour deal for…you guessed it, Charlie Adam. Terrible news for Blackpool fans with only minutes left to spare now. It’s 10:56 when the breaking news arrives; Andy Carroll has signed a five-and-a-half year deal with Liverpool. Still no news on Torres, what’s going on? One, two, three minutes go by and then right on the hour an official announcement from Chelsea, Torrez and Luiz have both completed their deals. Carroll’s record domestic transfer fee stood for all of four minutes.

Obviously there where countless other deals, no-deals, rumours and hear-say during the course of the day but ultimately everyone was, and will be talking about Liverpool. It appears they have re-found that big club mentality, we certainly would not have seen such bullish authority in the market this time last year. It’s also worth noting that none of the top three got involved today. Obviously they are happy with their squads and rightly so, but could this mean the second half of the season is about to take a different course?

Without doubt the biggest winners of the day where Blackpool, a truly heroic effort to keep hold of Adam, he will keep them up and that is priceless. The biggest losers? It’s a toss-up between Newcastle and David Ngog, neither look likely to get a sniff up front for the remainder of the season.