Saturday, October 25, 2008

Don't ask me for a tip

I'm having a stinking run on the spread betting. If you need to know which way a game will go, just ask me what I predict. the outcome will be the exact opposite.

In my bid to live beyond 50, I am spending a lot of time on the old exercise bike which as you know is very very boring and can only be suffered in front of a live football match. I've taken advantage of the free Setanta offer and I spend an hour most days in front a small tv, watching the second half of an obscure live game.

Live games are also pretty boring , so I have to bet to maintain an interest. This means that I am gambling way outside my sphere of knowledge on games that could go either way. Except with my backing, they are guaranteed to throw up a surprise.

It was the rugby last night. I bought sporting index's 15-18 minute spread on the time of the first try. It was Stradey's last game and I was sure it would be a let down until the players settled down after all the hype. What happens? Some lard arsed Bristolian centre falls flat on his arse and Stoddard strolls over unopposed after 3 minutes. It is the only time Llanelli (Scarlets my arse - Parc y Scarlets? What sort of Welsh is that? Oh I know, Llanelli Welsh.) come close to scoring for the rest of the half.

And tonigth it was Blackburn v Middlesbrough, possibly the most unattractive fixture in the football calendar. I would have much preferred to have stuck with Aberystwyth v TNS on S4C, which was a cracking game, but had no sporting index coverage of course.

With the spread at 0.2-0.4 for a Blackburn win, I sold at £20, expecting a 0-0 pile of turge. I was right about the pile of turge and I nearly feel off my bike when Boro scored.

From then on, there was 20 minutes of no hope and Bob Hope for Blackburn. That is until Gareth Southgate made The World's Worst Substitution. Off went Tuncay and on came Marvin Emnes a £3m signing from Heerenveen.

Emnes had an undistingushed 15 minutes on the pitch, during which time he committed 2 fouls, was offside three times and touched the ball not once. Then in the 93rd minute he thrust his arse in the face of Brett Emerton for no discernible reason and gave away the free kick that let to Blackburn's unforeseeable equaliser. Except in my house, where it was inevitable, robbing me as it did of £20. Grrrrr!

Daily Mail are a bunch of lazy thieving bastards

Thanks to Rhys for pointing out the Daily Mail's publication of my Twll Tin Bob Sais story. Obviously , it's not scoop of the century, but you'd think they might have got their own photo to accompany the piece. On their pic, you can even see the Sky+ graphic where I rewound and paused the action for my photo. See where it says -2|| in the bottom left corner?

Still at least I know that of the three people who read this blog, one of them is a Daily Mail researcher. Hello there, how are you, Little Hitler? A byline would have been nice.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Gareth Bale and his sticky patch

It's been a tough few weeks for the boy wonder. His Spurs side have had a terrible start to the season, and his form has been poor. He's playing without confidence, and Ramos doesn't seem to play a system that suits him.

I've been wondering about his best position for a while now. Even Welsh fans have been wondering whether Sam Ricketts is a safer option in a defensive formation with Bale in a more advanced position. Bale's best attributes are attacking. He has fantastic pace, a great touch and his delivery is usually spot on. Add to that his great dead ball accuracy and he is an asset to any team.

But he scares me a bit at the back. He pushes on and can leave gaps. He has been giving the ball away recently and relying on his pace to recover. Unfortunately, there isn't much chance of that if you lose it on 18 yards, and yesterday he earned a red card against Stoke. It was a very bad mistake ; one which cost his side three points and maybe his manager's job.

But it''s been coming. He played poorly for Wales against Lichtenstein and Germany. He hasn't been the same since he missed that penalty in Moscow. I wonder if that has knocked his confidence.

He has also started cheating, which is a bad sign. I've noticed it for Spurs. He goes down very easily, usually with his arms raised in protest. Last season he would have carried on and tried to create something. Now he is playing for free kicks. In Dusseldorf he even stayed down in injured for a while after inventing a collision. I hope this isn't something that he is being coached to do.
Actually , I hope it is. I would hate to see him become that type of player through choice.

Either way, Spurs need him back on form and so do Wales. Luckily, we've got more time than they have.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Close but no cigar

Bloody hell it's hard being a Welsh football fan. Ever since Joe Jordan made me cry in 1977, 31 years of utter misery has been interspersed with boredom and half a dozen evenings of bliss.
This week's action has been the normal progression from pessimism, pride,fleeting hope and ultimately defeat. Plus ca change. Sometimes I think it's better when we are hopeless.

In a way, last night's under 21 defeat was more difficult to take. We were disadvantaged in so many different ways. Once again, the difference in age showed. The developmentof young players between the ages of 17 and 21 is massive. Wales just ran out of steam against their stronger opponents. But not before the football Gods tempted us with too many hints of success.

Aaron Ramsey is magnificent. But what a shame that Owain Fon Williams was responsible for both goals. He was the one kid who wanted to win the most. He seems like such a nice lad. Maybe too nice for professional football.

just a word of admiration here for Stuart Pearce. He was generous in victory and honest and accurate in his assessment of the game. Fair play Psycho.

And then to Germany. The game panned out like so many others. Wales defend bravely, threaten slightly, it all looks to be going well, and then a sucker punch. Right in the guts.

James Collins had his best game for Wales after a year out. Craig Morgan and Ashley Williams did well too considering they play for Peterborough and Swansea. Gunter and Bale struggled again. Maybe teams have snuffed out that threat now.

I am liking our captain more and more. Craig Bellamy now gives the best interviews on television. He is passionate, to the point and honest. Add an Owain Glyndwr tattoo to those qualities, and you have a great mix. Obviously Alan Shearer didn't think so on BBC 3's coverage. but I'm backing Bellamy every time in that conflict.

The thing is, at the end of the day we lost again. In 2005 the Welsh rugby team started showing great promise, but they too lost the big games. Then something happened. They became a winning team. Last minute kicks started to go over, decisions went their way.

The Welsh football team needs to cross that barrier. We are too pleased with ourselves for losing bravely. Brian Flynn was grinning at the end of last night's match. We need to become winners. Once we do, I'm sure this will be the best decade for Welsh football in our lifetime. But for now it's more pain and misery.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Twll Din Bob Sais

Setanta might want to consider employing a Welsh speaker for Wales games.

In their pre-match build-up before the Under 21 play-off at Villa Park, they lingered on this happy bunch of Welsh supporters.

The camera focused on this flag for a good 10-15 seconds. I don't think it would have done if they had known what i means........


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Wales 2-0 Liechtenstein

I was really looking forward to this game after our performance in Russia and the Under 21's performance the previous evening. A shame then that not many people shared my enthusiasm, and it looked like the crowd was lower than the Under 21's attendance.

I was pitchside once again, and it's surprising how disconcerting it can be when the atmnosphere is poor. You can here isolated shouts, people chattering distractedly, and those horns....oh God those horns.

Craig Bellamy's interviews are full value these days. I like him more and more. You don't get the ususal platitudes and he tells it the way it is. "The pitch isn't the best", he said. "It's a rugby pitch". He also told us how difficult it is to play in front of a low crowd and a poor atmosphere.

I think he's right in that respect. I think the Welsh public are currently letting their team down. I understand it totally. I didn't make the effort for the Azerbaijan game because the truth is that watching a Wales international these days is a chore.

I'm not sure why we stick at this low tempo game, when the Uhder 21's showed that our strength lies in our aggressive, high speed forcefulness. More often than not, our centre halves are looking to distribute the ball. With all due respect to Morgan and Williams, Beckenbauer and Hansen they are not. Our system is the reason that James Collins has so often looked uncomfortable when he plays. If you close down our wing backs like Liechtenstein did, then you make our big defenders play a footballing game which is anethama to them.

Ramsey should travel to Germany. Edwards is a decent young footballer, but Ramsey is now ready. We pose a threat via Bellamy and Koumas, but add Ramsey to that combination and suddenly we are a lot more threatening. He has to play sooner rather than later. The Under 21's game is a lost cause now. Take him to Moenchengladbach.

Wales football internationals are becoming little more than a day out for the kids. This has to change somehow. I don't have the answer I'm afraid. Many people will point to the great occasion on Friday at Ninian Park, and even back to the last truly enjoyable Wales game; Wales v Belarus at the same venue.

But Ninian will be no more pretty soon, and we have seen how the Liberty Stadium fails to match up. The Kop is closed at Wrexham, so it looks like the Mill Stad is our only viable option. I just wish we could fill the bloody thing. Banning those horns might help. I'm serious about that. Deadly serious.

It was public opinion which got smoking banned at public events, so let's get rid of those tooters. I think I'll start a petition.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Wales (under 21) 2-3 England (Under 21)

I was far too emotionally involved in this game.It was an under 21 game game after all. A practise match in effect. Not much more than youth football.

But I had been working on some interview clips during the week for Sgorio's website . There are videos of a few of the players on the site and one in particular stood out. The Welsh keeper Owain Fon Williams gave the best interview I've seen for a long time. It's in Welsh and he basically said that he dreamed of beating the English. He spoke like we feel. Look at the image of Owain belting out the anthem on the images below. We have a new Dai Davies in the making.

I realy wanted them to win but I feared the worst. The odds were against us from the start. Despite UEFA's soundbites, everything is against the small nation. Firstly, despite creating a shock by winning our group,we were forced into a playoff, designed to give teams like France another chance. We pipped Romania to the group win, and we are then assigned a referee from...Romania. And finally,despite the fact that we need about nine of our Under 21 players for our senior team, the fixtures are arranged to clash with important senior fixtures. Wrexham can cancel a game because they lose 3 players to international fixtures, but the Under 21 team is forced to face England with a second string.

But bloody hell they did us proud. In front of a raucous sellout crowd, they attacked from the start. Shaun McDonald stood out for me, and Aaron Ramsey is simply imperious. He must feature in Toshack's team soon. He will be the best Welsh player since Ian Rush.

England seemed to think it would be easy. Arrogant, spoilt, but talented Premiership players were a little disrespectful I thought. I liked Stephen Taylor though. He has to be a future English captain.

Ablongahor was frighteningly quick. But he did something in the first half which I'm not sure is right. as he chased a through-ball going through to Owain Fon in the Welsh goal, he put two fingers his mouth and whistled like a shepherd. It's intended to put the keeper off, but I think it probably warrants a yellow card for ungentlemanly conduct.

The ref was lenient throughout. From my position pitchside I couldn't see too much, but the crowd seemed indignant a lot of the time. I watched it on television when got back, and I could see no foul in the build up to England's third goal, despite Rob Phillips assertions on Radio Wales.

So yes, England were the better team, and I expect them to win the return game at Villa Park. But I've written off Brian Flynn's boys before now and been wrong every time. There is class and spirit throughout the team. Simon Church was particularly impressive, along with Jack Collison. Whatever the result on Tuesday, it's been a great ride with this group of players and the future looks dazzlingly bright.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

It's not about the winning

As you know, my Under 9's team has had a difficult start to the season. 4 games, 0 goals scored 21 goals against. And there wasn't a 0-0 draw amongst those.

But you know, it isn't about the winning. it's about fun. As long as they have fun that's great. No, it's not the result that counts. Nope. No way. Never.

As long as they develop a passing game, and they improve , well it's worth it. And it's important to give everybody a game whatever the situation. Football-for-all, that's my motto. I am a football egalitarian. It's about the game , not the competition. Football at this age is uncompetitive and so it should be.


We played a match tonight and we bloody well won it! Yesssss! get in there !!!!
And you know what? At 3-2 up with five minutes to go, I brought my best player back on and put him at sweeper. So sue me. we won!!!

I'll feel very guilty about his post in the morning but for now it's champagne and caviar.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Wrexham 3-1 York

I went to the Racecourse tonight to test out my new lens before the internationals. And it's a good job I did. Memo to self: monopod needed by Friday.

I was also interested to see how Dean Saunders would do on his first home game. I've always liked Deano, and I think him and Wrexham are well matched. Both the club and the manager have a history of playing attractive football, and I think he'll be very successful.

He got a good welcome from the 5,100 crowd which I thought was pretty impressive. Espoecially when I saw signs advertising entrance for £17 above the away end. Some mistake surely. Do people pay £17 to watch a Conference game? There were still about 200 travelling York fans which also surprised me. It was a pity to see the Kop closed and empty though. It seemed to take the soul out of the ground.

The standard was pretty poor really. And a dull first half saw the teams evenly matched. Wrexham's loan signing Joe Allen is a class act, and I remember him starring for the Victory Shield team when they won the Championship a few years ago. If that's the calibre of player that Saunders can attract then Wrexham should be ok.

But time isn't on Deano's side. He's going to take some time to form a team of his own, so for now they need every point they can get. And they were a bit lucky to get any tonight.

York took the upper hand in the second half and should have gone ahead from a penalty. Gavin Ward did really well with a double save. I was impressed with him all night. I was only sitting a few feet away from him and he didn't stop talking to his defence throughout.

Once Wrexham scored from classy Joe Allen the win was pretty much inevitable. One thing that did impress me was the Wrexham celebrations. those players meant it, and I always think it's a good sign when a team celebrates wildly together.

I had my camera focused on Saunders for most of the latter stages. He was getting more and more edgy, and got frustrated once or twice with the referee, but nothing serious. I've got no idea what he must have said after Wrexham's 3rd goal to get himself sent off on his first game.
Welcome to management Deano.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

No scores in the paper for youth football

There was plenty of publicity given recently to the English FA's decision to make football non-competitive for U9 teams. Part of this development was the order given that results for these age groups should no longer be published in newspapers.

This has been the case in Wales for some time. The English youth policy is famously backward , and Wales' progressive coaching system was rearded years ago with JIRA approval from UEFA.
Football here is non-competitive until the Under 12 age group. And so it should be.

You would think then, that the local FA's and leagues would all be behind this policy. Think again. Our local League in Caernarfon insists that we provide teamsheets and scores for precisely this purpose. And in Thursday's Caernarfon Herald , you could happily read that Felinheli Under 9's lost 7-0.

Sour grapes you might think. Not at all. We win sometimes too, and I would stll object strongly to publication. The point is that we believe in football for all as prescribed by the FAW, (and therefore the NWCFA and its Leagues).

The minute you start attaching any significance to match scores, you pressurise team managers to select teams according to ability. Some teams already do that I know, to the detriment of late developers who are put off football early on.

It isn't a level playing field. There are often large squads of players at these games, and we play a second game for those who didnt play in the first. We treat these games with equal importance.
Every game is a friendly.

But not according to the Gwyrfai Junior League who threaten to fine clubs opposed to this outdated nonsense. If football is officially uncompetitive then scores are irrelevent. To publish them becomes farcical and should be stopped.

Bangor City 1-0 Connahs Quay

I've spent worse afternoons at the football. I was about to say, "but not many", unfortunately that wouldn't be true. My football watching life has been a turgid potpourri of mediocrity and tedium. Yesterday's recipe included lots of cold water.

My early morning had been spent watching Y Felinheli Under 7's play against Penrhosgarnedd at Treborth. That was wet too. My middle son Ifan was playing his second ever game, and he even kicked the ball once. There's progress for you.

I decided to visit Farrar Road in the afternoon, using my newly acquired Welsh Premiership photography accreditation. After my initial forays into photography, I've decided to step things up. I bought a new super duper telephoto from ebay and I'll be taking pics at the Wales internationals, so I used the biggest game of the day in North West Wales to get in some practise.

As the saying goes, "upgrade your ability before you upgrade your gear". Today's images were taking with my cheap old Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6 lens while I await delivery of the next step up, a Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM Lens. (The things I write for search engine optimisation). You can see that the Tamron struggled in the low light.

So there I was in my lime green bib ready for some action. I waited....and waited. This really was a dull game, enjoyed only by Bangor's most fervent supporters. The type of people who stand out in the open end, even when there are perfectly good roofs on two of the stands.

I got soaked crouched at the side of the touchline. It was an interesting aspect, even though a cameraman doesn't actually see any of the best bits. As Sion Edwards breaks clear down the left one, you have to make an instant decision. Does my camera follow his tricky feet, or do I focus on Les Davies charging up the middle for my money shot?

I usually try to get the centre forward in the hope that I capture the exact moment when ball meets head, eyes focused and drops of water elegantly showering his forehead. So far, I only know what has happened by the sound of the crowd groaning as the ball has somehow cleared the stand. My camera catches Big Les's disappointment. I have thousands of pictures of Les looking disappointed.

Connah's Quay were organised. No matter how miserable and boring a game is, I always come away with a nugget that keeps me interested enough to go again. This time I was fascinated by the way that the whole defence would shout "don't foul, don't foul" whenever Bangor attacked.

They had obviously identified Bangor's set-piece as a danger and were disciplined enough not to give away many free kicks. It was good to see intelligence rather than machismo in a Welsh premier game.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Did Seb Coe really say that?

Mystery surrounds an apparent remark made by Olympic Chief Seb Coe yesterday. One eagle-eyed Londoner saw the following report on pahe 5 of thelondonpage.


Part of the report about the 2012 olympic team is "When asked last night about the opposition from the Welsh and the Scots , Coe replied bluntly :" F*** them ! "
A few other readers sent me links, but it seems that the Ministry for Truth has been in touch with reporters, and the story is now missing. Is anybody able to find a reference to this on the web and post a link?