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.

Home Nations Set For Comeback

A new sponsorship deal for the FA has brought about the possibility of a revived home nations championship starting in 2013. The home nations, last played in 1984 was already set for a comeback this year, albeit without England’s presence. Now sponsors Vauxhall, who also back Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are said to be actively encouraging England to compete. The FA, at the time of writing has said the 2013 tournament would be a one-off to celebrate its 150th anniversary, although the idea of an annual competition has not been completely ruled out.
The tournament was played annually for 100 years, England and Scotland dominating for the most part with 54 and 41 wins respectively. Its demise was attributed to falling attendances, crowd troubles and England’s desire to play against stronger opposition. Since then several attempts have been made to revive the competition, its supporters arguing improved attendances and a significant reduction in football related violence would make it viable again. However critic’s such as the FA claim fixture congestion and the relative importance of the World Cup and European Championships make it impractical.
FA general secretary Alex Horne said, “The reality of preparing for qualifiers that we face for the European Championship and the World Cup mean that managers rightly want to experience different playing styles, and fans want to experience different playing styles, and we only have a limited number of friendly matches available.”
As much as the proposal may be impractical it is likely to be a hit with fans who will relish not only the passionate nature of the fixtures but also the chance to actually win something. England would surely be favorites and winning could just be the catalyst needed to push on to greater things. Unfortunately the fixture list would dictate that other friendly games would need to be sacrificed to make way for the tournament. Unless the domestic game was to be drastically transformed in order to better accommodate the national team this is always going to be the case.

What’s It All Aklout?

As much as I love the idea of ‘old school’ print journalism I have learned that to be successful in this age you must accept and embrace digital media and online technology. Being a bit of a technophobe it has taken me a while but recently I have made a concerted effort to be more active online, either through blogging, tweeting or just networking on facebook. An aspiring journalist not only need’s to practice their skills but also try to build an active audience. This is why I was interested to hear about ‘Klout’, a website that takes information from your Twitter feeds and Facebook activity to give you an ‘online influence rating’. It may sound like a vanity calling but to me it sounded like an interesting tool and I was keen to find out how I rated.
A Klout score ranges from 0-100 and is effectively a measure of your reach and activity online. It takes into account a number of variables such as how often your posts are retweeted, the average number of ‘likes’ your status updates receive and the number of comments you receive. Results are broken down to allow you to see the size of your active audience, their influence, and the likelihood your content will be acted on. It also provides a handy grid which plots your progress, from observer or browser right up to broadcaster or celebrity.
I scored a disappointing 22 although I was assured that my level of activity and engagement shows I ‘get’ it and they predict I will be moving up, which is nice to know. The results breakdown was both interesting and helpful, identifying the area’s I need to focus on. Facebook and Twitter can be misleading at times. It’s all good having hundreds of followers and friends but not all of these are actually paying attention to what you are saying. Klout only takes into account those that are and therefore is an effective and useful tool for people wanting to measure and improve their influence.
Initially Klout only gathered information from Twitter, only recently factoring in Facebook data. I believe this was a decision made to open it up to a greater audience and possibly the biggest criticism I have. Facebook is far more ‘friends’ based than Twitter and perhaps its inclusion has taken away from the initial point. Having said that, the potential for followers is far greater on Twitter and the people with the highest Klout scores are all famous ‘tweeters’ such as Justin Beiber , who worryingly is more influential than Barak Obama . By in large I think Klout is a good indicator although I would like to see more factors included such as WordPress and other blogging sites.
Although my reasons for using Klout are mainly as an aid to my career I have a feeling it is going to catch on in a big way.There is a certain amount of competitiveness in social networking and it would not surprise me to hear people boasting about their Klout score in the near future. Either as a useful tool or just out of curiosity I would recommend it to anyone.

All we need is….Ravi Bopara, Ravi Bopara

Billy 'The Trumpet' Cooper

An ode to England’s ‘twelfth man’ in the wake of the superb victory at the MCC. I have put together some of my favorite barmy army chants, enjoy.

Ricky Pointing
Ponting is the captain
Of the Aussie cricket team
But once the match is over
He is a gay drag queen

Ponting’s special friend
Is a man called Glenn McGrath
You’ll see them holding hands
At the Sydney Mardi Gras

Shane Warne’s Villa

(To the tune of Amarillo)

Show me the way to Shane Warne�s Villa
He’s got his diet pills under his pilla
A dodgy bookie from Manila
Nursey’s on her mobile phone

Repeat x3

La-la lar la-la la-la lar, Fat Git!
La-la lar la-la la-la lar, Take a bung
La-la lar la-la la-la lar,
Warney where’s your mobile phone?

Graeme Swann
(to the tune of Champagne Supernova)

How many special people came
So many flights we had to change
Where were you when we were in Chennai?

Got hit for four with his first ball
Then took Gambhir and the Wall
Where were you when we were in Chennai?

Some day you will find him
Taking loads of wickets
In a Swanny super over in Chennai

Some day you will find him
Taking loads of wickets
In a Swanny super over, a Swanny super over

Because people believe
That we should never have come here at all
But you and I, will never die
And Graeme Swann is just one reason why, why, why, why…

Jonny Trott

(to the tune of Only Fools and Horses)

Stick your passport in your pocket
And your kitbag in the van
Cos if you want the Ashes
And you don’t mind Saffers
Then brother, he’s your man

Cos where he comes from is no mystery
But he’s gonna lead us home to an Ashes victory
A song for him was driving us beserk
But then we thought that Jonny Trotter works

La-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la-la-la

Kevin Pietersen

(To the tune of Just A Little)

When you walk out to the crease,
You’re sexy
You are England’s number four
You’ve got a ton to score


Hook! Just a little bit,
Pull! Just a little bit,
Drive! Just a little bit,
Score just a little bit more
KP score a little bit more,

Just a little bit more, just a little bit!

Dont look back in Anger

Slip inside Ricky Ponting’s mind
He’s trying to find
Some new players to play

He wants to play his older team
But that’s just a dream
They’re too old to play

He said he’d start a revolution in his head
But he’s been through all the players A to Z
Now there’s just a summertime of doom
If he loses the Ashes race
He is going to lose his place
Losing three would simply tear his heart out

So Ricky can wait
Shane Warne is too late

And there’s no Glenn McGrath
Gilchrist’s had his day
And don’t look back to Langer
He cannot play

Where did all those old players go
Now everyone knows
You’ve nearly had your day

You’ll have to leave the team in the hands
Of Michael Clarke and
He’ll throw it all away

He said he’d start a revolution in his head
But he’s been through all the players A to Z
Now there’s just a summertime of doom
If he loses the Ashes race
He is going to lose his place
Losing three would simply tear his heart out

So Ricky can wait
Shane Warne is too late
And there’s no Glenn McGrath
Gilchrist’s had his day
And don’t look back to Langer
He cannot play

So Ricky can wait
Shane Warne is too late
And there’s no Glenn McGrath
Gilchrist’s had his day
And don’t look back to Langer
He cannot play

At least not today

Siddle by Siddle
(to the tune of Little by Little)

Siddle by Siddle,
You bowl us everything we ever dreamed of,
Siddle by Siddle,
The wheels of your team are slowly falling off,
Siddle by Siddle,
You always bowl a ball that goes for 4,
And all the time,
Ponting asks himself why, are you really here?

Why are you really here?
Why are you really here?
Why are you really here?

Alastair Cook
(the the tune of YMCA)

Young man, when you come to the crease
I said young man, let your runs never cease
I said stay there and you’ll score lots of runs,
and you’ll make many more tons

runs runs runs runs runs

It’s England’s number 1

Alastair Cook
It’s England’s Number 1
Alastair Cook

Andrew Strauss
(To the tune of Shout)

Strauss, Strauss
Never gets out,
He plays the shots that we dream about
Come on, we’re talking ’bout you
Come on

Kevin Pietersen
(To the tune of Hi Ho Silver Lining)

And its Hi Ho Super KP
Everywhere we go now Peter
You’ll score a double century
Or maybe just a ton
You’re Kevin Pietersen