Thursday, 24 January 2013

SAME OLD CHELSEA

I won't bore you with the details, but this evening I had one of those conversations that can  make you worry about how many horrible sods there are in the world, about the positions of influence some of those horrible sods can occupy, and about the fact that there's often not a lot that decent people can do about any of this. During the preceding working day, I'd taken so many phone calls that my mobile battery had run right down to zero, cutting me off from the news, information and comment beyond the long and surprisingly dismal chat in the pub next to the office. 

So then I came home and fired up the laptop in order to check on today's football scores. Hoping for a little brightness, I wanted to see how I'd got on with my fantasy football selections, and I was hoping to learn that Chelsea had been knocked out of the League Cup. Happily, I'd racked up a fair few fantasy points, courtesy, in the main, of Messrs Cazorla and Podolski. Even more happily, those blue bastards from SW6 had indeed succumbed to the stifling style of Swansealona

The result, of course, has been overshadowed by the moment of madness around the 81st minute of play. 

Sure, the ball boy seems to have been a bit of an arse. Sure, we know that clubs clearly instruct ball boys to hold on to the ball and waste time when the home side are hanging on for a favourable result. It seems naive to believe that doesn't go on. But the lad at the Liberty Stadium was clearly a bit too obvious about it, not only during tonight's silly incident but also ahead of the match:


But Eden Hazard is the bigger idiot. Kicking out at a ball boy? REALLY? In a packed stadium? In front of the home fans? On live television? The Belgian player has talent. But intelligence, judgement and common sense? Not so much. 

Hazard, as we already knew, is not the only talented moron employed by Chelsea Football Club. The indiscretions and the arrogance of Messrs Terry and Cole are the stuff of legend. 

To this list we can now add the unprofessional, immature prick who runs the official @chelseafc Twitter account. In reaction to Hazard's richly deserved red card, the nameless tweeter opined thus:

Yes, that's right. Football must have "gone mad" when a professional player gets a red card for kicking out at a teenage kid. If the game were sane, in this tweeter's analysis, grown men should be able to do whatever they feel like when frustrated and provoked, up to and including sticking the boot into an uncooperative ball boy.

Of course, the Chelsea social media person has since retracted (and deleted) the above remark... 


... but, once again, the true colours of the south west London club have been clearly shown. The Pensioners' official Twitter feed's comment is entirely consistent with the brand values of an organisation which:

  • fights tooth and nail to defend a player who shouts "fucking black cunt" at an opponent
  • imposes no meaningful punishment on a player who shoots someone with an air rifle
  • employs humourless goons to frisk away fans so thoroughly as to ensure hundreds of them miss the opening minutes of a match
  • feels comfortable with a home supporter bringing an EDL flag to games
  • behaves in a markedly odd way when its players falsely accuse (with delicious irony) a referee of racial abuse

Same old toxic, unlovely Chelsea: shaming the decent people among its supporters again, and again and again... 

Monday, 21 January 2013

BALKAN BOOM-BOOM

Everyone's favourite stand-up philosopher demonstrates:
  • why a mischievous philosopher can, to those of us cursed with the affliction of thinking, be much, much funnier than the average popular comedian on TV or selling zillions of expensive tickets (you know who I mean)
  • that the popular (western?) European conception of the Balkans is a crock of shit

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Call me Comrade Dave

You may have thought that the stirring songs favoured by the Soviet military of days gone by would all be of a grimly earnest nature. Not so. Consider Kalinka, a light-hearted and fast-paced song composed in the 1860s and much loved by the Choir of the Red Army. The lyrics speak of  a cutesy, folksy idyll:

Калинка, калинка, калинка моя!
В саду ягода малинка, малинка моя!
Ах, под сосною, под зеленою,
Спать положите вы меня!
Ай-люли, люли, ай-люли, люли,
Спать положите вы меня.

Little snowberry, snowberry, snowberry of mine!
Little raspberry in the garden, my little raspberry!
Ah, under the pine, the green one,
Lay me down to sleep,
Rock-a-bye, baby, rock-a-bye, baby,
Lay me down to sleep.

But what's really strange is the evidence to suggest that the man we now know as David Cameron (supposedly just 46 years old), Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is actually some sort of ageless being who has been around on this earth for longer than we imagined. Here he is belting out Kalinka as a Red Army Choir soloist some time in the early 1970s. Someone needs to tell David Icke...

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

the grill is on, there's no one home...

... so begins this reworking of the late Robert Palmer's signature song - reworked in praise of an Irish sausage brand.

Most of us, perhaps, recognise the ideas referenced in Palmer's lyrics. Standard stuff. The notion of romantic love at times causing us feelings of dependency leading to what seem like physical symptoms. Tightness of throat, lack of sleep etc. Palmer's metaphor of addiction to some intoxicating drug was not novel when this old favourite was selling like crazy back in 1986, and it will doubtless be endlessly reworked by future songwriters. Applying all of this in a paean to processed meat, though, just sits at the silly end of what goes on in the world of advertising. But, as is observed on one website usually dedicated to debunking the pomposity, dishonesty and smugness of advertising, this is just unpretentious fun. Much more fun than just paying a few Z-listers of dubious brand relevance to say "this product is good", which is an approach not unknown down at the low-rent end of consumer advertising. 

What's more, it's quite well done:


Perhaps McWhinney's sausages are as delicious as their makers would have us believe. What definitely is delicious though, is the way in which this Palmer parody (homage?) falls short of a very faithful aping of the original. It's about the girls. Palmer's models maintain the icy hauteur of the catwalk when asked to do something that is essentially pretty silly. So they do an obviously bad job miming job with those instruments. But they never quite look ridiculous because the poise is that of the professional high fashion clotheshorse. The models are robotic, distant and immaculately styled.

The expressions on the faces of the sausage band, though? Not quite in the same league. Especially the keyboard player. But this just adds to the charm of this bit of nonsense for me.  Right, how about a sausage sarnie...?

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

To dare is to do?

It's difficult to remember many awayday experiences as wonderfully strange as the one celebrated by QPR fans last Wednesday evening. How many of the travelling faithful at Stamford Bridge were merely hoping to witness a narrow defeat rather than a horribly heavy one? A good number, probably. All the omens were bad. 

The Rangers had just stumbled through three dispiriting defeats, thereby wiping out the feelings of joy and relief we had gained from the home tie with Fulham, that long-anticipated first league victory of the season. Chelsea, meanwhile, while not winning the full approval of their petulantly greedy fans, were riding a five-game Premier League winning streak. Given our side's frailties, one of those five wins seemed particularly ominous. Just before Christmas, the Pensioners had stuck the ball in the back of the net eight times without reply against Aston Villa. 

As if this context for the match were not sufficiently inauspicious, a couple of stark stats were in the mix for added toxicity. For starters, QPR had not won away at Chelsea since 1983. On top of that, we had to contend with the knowledge that in the Premier League era, only one club has entered the New Year at the foot of the table and then gone on to avoid relegation.

Hence the doom and gloom expressed here at this is my england just a few hours before kick off:
Yes, some of us are crazy enough to be heading to Stamford Bridge this evening. Bonkers, right? What pleasure can there possibly be in schlepping down to that hell-hole and in contemplating the near certainty of a humiliating defeat? Also throw in the prospect of show-boating mockery from English football's most loathsome fans and a fifty-five quid (plus booking fee) ticket price. Then there's the prospect of getting home late in the dark, cold pissiness of this first grim week back at work after the seasonal festivities. Also, as we turn our keys and climb our stairs, many of us will be returning to long-suffering spouses or partners who will wonder at our ongoing masochism. This bloody football club. The behaviour into which it pushes us - repeating the same pains and hassles over and over again, and all the while hoping for different results.
How shockingly brilliant it was, then, for this gut feeling of impending disaster to prove unfounded.
I had never dragged myself so unwillingly to a QPR match. Memories of last season's battering at the Bridge were not distant enough for my liking. On that day, the thrashing we witnessed on the pitch was only one component of a truly miserable day. Other components: getting soaked to the skin by driving rain; a terribly maudlin sensation on seeing the graves of my great grandfather and great uncle in Brompton Cemetery and hearing my dad talk of miserable childhood Sundays built around visiting them; being threatened with a glassing later in the day on account of having the temerity to object to a Chelsea fan's rendition of Spurs are on their Way to Auschwitz.
That I found myself at Stamford Bridge again last week is entirely down to my dad. He had bought a ticket and then pretty much emotionally blackmailed me into buying one too. Had the expected awfulness unfolded I would still be blaming him now for making me suffer it. As it turned out, he now has my eternal thanks for making sure I did not miss the historic win.
There's not much point in offering a match report here now. A week has passed and you've all had the chance to watch the highlights a few times, to read the newspaper coverage and to enjoy the more partisan accounts offered by QPR fans such as Steve Heard, Clive Whittingham and Emily Foster.
For my part, what unfolded last Wednesday was unprecedented. In the context of following QPR, I have never experienced such an extreme gap between what I expected to happen and what actually took place. Yes, I have enjoyed much better away matches before. Last week's tie was notable more for the result than for much that would please the eye of any neutrals watching. But due to those two explosions of joy (when SWP scored and when the final whistle blew), it seems certain that this match will live forever in the memory.
Perhaps it will prove to be the starting point of a miraculous feat of escapology. It seems more likely, however, that it won't. Relegation is still more than a distinct possibility. But if the season does end on that sour note, those of us lucky enough to have been in SW6 last week will surely not feel so despondent as to suffer an eclipsing of our memories of this famous victory. 
So what must be done if last week's unlikely triumph is to prove to be a real turning point for the Rangers' fortunes? 
First of all, Spurs must be beaten at Loftus Road this weekend. Yes, they will be tough opponents, but many more failures to secure all three points at home would surely prove to be the undoing of this attempt to remain in the top flight.
This blog never offers any detailed analysis of tactics, formations or team selections. Let's leave that to others who feel better qualified to comment along those lines. But it is surely the case that Harry Redknapp must risk a more attacking style than we saw at Stamford Bridge. Of course last week's defensive approach was entirely the right one to take. But can Redknapp really favour the same plan in front of a home crowd? We will see.
If a more expansive style is favoured, how well can our often-beleaguered defence be expected to cope? Messrs Hill and Nelsen were magnificent last week. But Tottenham will surely present more of a challenge than was offered by the woeful Fernando Torres at Stamford Bridge.
Nelsen, of course, is set to leave us, having opted to embark on his career as a manager. Some QPR fans have expressed a bit of resentment about our most effective defender heading for the exit when he is needed most. But there's not much point in dwelling on it, not least because it does seem that the Kiwi centre-half will be with us for a little while longer.
Replacing the veteran defender must be a particularly pressing question for Redknapp as he ponders the transfer options during the January window. For this is my england, it remains a case of jury out when it comes to the wisdom of risking yet more of the owners' money on further expensive signings. But this may be a moot point because you'd be forgiven for wondering which well-regarded players will be tempted to come to a club over which relegation's sword of Damocles still visibly hangs. That said, a couple of wins from these next two London derbies might improve our manager's negotiating position, albeit with only a few days to do a bit of frantic last minute business. Cue the hysterics of Jim White on deadline day, perhaps.
So let's see what happens. Will Redknapp dare to try a more buccaneering approach to these next two fixtures? Not for for the first time this season it feels like do-or-die time all over again. Perhaps it won't be the last time we have that feeling. 
U RRRRRRRRRRRRRsssssssssss

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

chain of tools

Never let it be said that this is my england is a fan of the oily, shifty Piers Morgan. Indeed, the only time his name has come up here was in a piece which expressed the hope that he will eventually come unstuck as a result of the phone hacking-related allegations that have dogged him since his stint in the editor's chair at the Daily Mirror.

So it's quite an achievement for someone to share a TV screen with Morgan and manage to make the former Mirror man seem likeable in comparison. This week, a noted conspiracy theory whackjob has achieved precisely this. Here is Alex Jones in action:


If you've not followed the back story to this interview, and if you don't feel like watching all of the clip, you may need a little background info. Well, it started with Morgan recently joining the call for tighter gun laws in the USA, prompted to do so in the wake of the murder of twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Predictably, this outraged the more vocal elements of America's pro-gun lobby, whose feeling seems to be that no one should enjoy the protection of the US Constitution's First Amendment when questioning the wisdom and present day relevance of the Second. Of course, Morgan being a tawdry controversialist, he simply had to cheapen his argument by resorting to a needlessly inflammatory approach to an interview with Larry Pratt, Executive Director of Gun Owners of America"You're an unbelievably stupid man", Morgan told Pratt. "You don't actually give a damn about the gun murder rate in America."

Very shortly after that interview was aired, Alex Jones responded by organising an online petition calling for the deportation of Piers Morgan back to the UK. As of today, the petition has been signed by over 106,000 people. 

It may be the case that Piers Morgan genuinely cares about gun control, about the number of people killed with firearms in the US and about the awful events in Connecticut. There's no evidence that he's being insincere on this occasion. But we do know for sure that he cares a lot about his TV ratings. We know this from Morgan's numerous juvenile Twitter pissing contests with Alan Sugar on this very theme. So Piers was doubtless rubbing his hands with glee when Alex Jones agreed to a CNN interview. This will be good telly, Morgan must have thought. Jones is a combustible madman whose demented performance will really hit the headlines.  

Pay per click, pay per prick
If you think that Alex Jones actually believes everything he says, then you will conclude that he was walked into a trap by the wilier and smarmier British broadcaster. You'll be thinking that Jones sincerely holds views about a sinister globalist power seeking to take Americans' guns away as part of a wider plan to oppress them. You'll be thinking that Jones is a sincere but terribly naive pro-gun lobbyist, whose ridiculous performances on TV only serve to undermine the cause he wants to support. But let's consider an alternative characterisation of Alex Jones - that he is a fake and a charlatan; that he makes a good living by merely playing the part of someone who actually believes in the all the fantastical stories which he tells. The view here is that this characterisation is an accurate one and that you can file Jones along with other well-paid bullshitters and fake doom-mongers. File him next to David Icke, who doesn't really believe in the existence of a shadowy global elite descended from reptilian aliens. File him next to all those rich, materialistic TV evangelists, faith healers and health-and-wealth preachers whose cynical manipulation of desperate people is wrapped up a supposedly humane Christian lexicon.

In this analysis, it doesn't matter to Alex Jones if he comes across as a raving lunatic on TV. He welcomes it, in fact. Better ratings. More book sales. He's just an entertainer, after all.

So what we see when we watch CNN's Piers Morgan interviewing Alex Jones is one cynical media whore doing business with another - followed by other media outlets covering the farce in order to grab a few eyeballs themselves. 

Were all of this not dismal enough, another showboating faker is sticking his oar in and making himself look worse than he already does.

Step forward Max Keiser, a finance journalist who specialises in hyperbole, offbeam predictions and attention-seeking stunts. Keiser has a flexible moral code. On one hand he purports to shine a light on wrongdoers in the world of finance and among the US intelligence agencies. But on the other hand he gets paid by the English-language mouthpieces of repressive states such as the Islamic Republic of Iran and Vladmir Putin's gangster kleptocracy.

On top of this, while weighing into the commentary around the Morgan-Jones interview, Keiser reveals a taste for old-fashioned homophobic jibes. Presumably he's playing up to the prejudices of his Iranian and Russian masters. 



No one comes over as likeable in this chain of tools. Vain, posturing, insincere men saying inflammatory things in order to keep being noticed on television - and this all came about because of the murder of young children at the end of last year. Shame on them, the utter tools.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

FOILED AGAIN

the new year offers our old friend stu yet another chance to reboot that little chunk of CAMDEN wall on which he plays around. someone (stu himself?) has had away with his shiny silvery stuff, revealing the mess beneath. watch this space.

NEW YEAR, NEW RUNNERS

nothing much since October... then all of a sudden the commute is brightened by two sets of runners... heading south in the morning and north in the evening. so that whole First Capital Connect & BTP graffiti war effort seems to have run out of puff again. no complaints here. if the bastards spent real money on the 'problem' it would only get built into to the exorbitant and fast-rising price of a ticket.




Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The Madness of King Tony?

It would be nice to kick off a new year with something really positive. But this is a QPR-related article so that's not going to happen - not least because this piece kicks off with a brief look ahead to tonight's extremely daunting fixture down the road in SW6. What fresh misery will unfold among the barbarians? Will it really be as horrible as logic suggests it will? 

Yes, some of us are crazy enough to be heading to Stamford Bridge this evening. Bonkers, right? What pleasure can there possibly be in schlepping down to that hell-hole and in contemplating the near certainty of a humiliating defeat? Also throw in the prospect of show-boating mockery from English football's most loathsome fans and a fifty-five quid (plus booking fee) ticket price. Then there's the prospect of getting home late in the dark, cold pissiness of this first grim week back at work after the seasonal festivities. Also, as we turn our keys and climb our stairs, many of us will be returning to long-suffering spouses or partners who will wonder at our ongoing masochism. This bloody football club. The behaviour into which it pushes us - repeating the same pains and hassles over and over again, and all the while hoping for different results.

Off to Stamford Bridge tonight: we must need our heads tested

But if our sanity is to be wondered at, then perhaps the same can be said of the smiling social media junkie who fronts the QPR board. Of course, Tony Fernandes remains massively popular among Rangers fans, with what seems like an overwhelming majority seemingly unwilling to consider the idea that his influence might not turn out to be a positive one in the long term. But might this man be leading QPR towards disaster?

Even if we stick to the line that the Malaysian entrepreneur genuinely loves QPR and will always keep the club's best interests at the heart of everything he does, it's worth asking whether some combination of poor judgement and naivety on his part might eventually prove catastrophic. Certainly, it does not seem unreasonable to be posing these tough questions at the moment. After all, in terms of results and in terms of the effectiveness of our players relative to their cost, it's hard to recall a time when the club's situation seemed quite as parlous as it does now. As recently observed here, we are firmly on track to suffer a season so disappointing as to eclipse the misery of QPR's first ever top flight campaign of 1968-69. So while some supporters want to believe that relegation might somehow be avoided, plenty of others are finding it hard to see it that way. Think for a moment. Ten points from twenty matches. A single home win against a Fulham team that has blown hot and cold this season. Eight points adrift of the team in 17th place. A run of poor performances. A run of upcoming ties with teams playing for Champions League places. Firmly among the bookies' favourites for the drop. Grim reading.

All of this would be fair enough, perhaps, if the club were operating on a shoestring budget. But Harry Redknapp's recent comments about the disgraceful antics of José Bosingwa shed some light on a culture of extremely high wages at Loftus Road. But we knew that, right? It's pretty obvious that signing players from more established Premier League clubs and from the likes of Real Madrid was not going to be cheap. Should you have any doubts about this, a glance at the players' cars is instructive. These woefully ineffective players are clearly multi-millionaires.

If, as logic suggests, QPR will be playing at Championship level next season, should we worry about the ability of the club's owners to afford these players' huge salaries while not enjoying Premier League revenues? Perhaps. A number of them are on relatively long contracts and it's hard to imagine many clubs rushing to sign our cast-offs. You'd only take a punt on the likes of Anton Ferdinand, Shaun Wright-Phillips or Ji-Sung Park on lower wages than they seem to be getting at Loftus Road - and how can we be sure that any of them would agree to a wage cut when considering their options. Consider the fact that fans of hapless Portsmouth were reduced to begging their club's well-paid 'stars' to accept pay cuts last summer. Consider the unedifying business of defender Tal Ben Haim (£36K/week, reportedly) responding to those pleas with an alleged demand that Pompey's administrators should write off their fees. 

In this context, surely it would be an act of extreme folly to fling yet more money at the problem. So how should we respond when we read the Mail's John Drayton asserting that "QPR want to back manager Harry Redknapp with a £20 million spree to fight relegation"? Assuming that there is any truth in this, should we be applauding the club's never-say-die approach to its current predicament? Or should we shake our heads at the prospect of another wild and ill-advised punt?

As you consider this, do keep in mind the track record of the manager to whom the club would entrust the good use of this supposed £20 million. Redknapp is a popular figure in English football, with many having called for him to be offered the England job just a year ago. His fans point to the improvement in Tottenham's fortunes during his time at White Hart Lane. They also point to Portsmouth's elevation to the top flight and to the south coast club's FA Cup Final win of 2008. But his detractors will point to his failure to rescue struggling Southampton from relegation in 2oo4 and to his failure to establish the consistency needed to make the Saints promotion contenders in the Championship campaign which followed. Those same detractors may also have something to say about Redknapp's time at Pompey. Yes, the Cup win was very nice, they would say - but at what cost? Of course it's unfair to lay the blame for the ruin of Portsmouth F.C. at the feet of Harry Redknapp. But he was part of the set-up there when that club's crazed, inept owners approved huge transfer fees and wages which ultimately proved ruinous.

It is probably way too alarmist to think it's very likely that we'll see some sort of Portsmouth 2.0 scenario unfolding at QPR. But surely we can be forgiven for worrying just a little about the prospect. After all, we've seen our club run badly more often than not. Moreover, for our club to remain solvent (especially with a massive wage bill and playing at Championship level), perhaps we're going to have to depend on Fernandes and co. taking a kind of mini-Abramovitch approach to football: pumping in far more cash than they can ever hope to recover, even in the very long term. Perhaps this makes sense in the rarefied world of airline tycoons, i.e. the benefits of associating AirAsia with an English football club are so significant as to outweigh the need for any obvious commercial logic at the club itself. Let's hope so. Because if these people run out of money or patience at some stage, you'd have to wonder on what basis the club would continue to survive.

Doubtless, a number of QPR fans reading this piece will not find it to their liking. Based on Twitter traffic and messageboard chatter, it seems to be the case that lacking total faith in Tony Fernandes and the people around him is not a popular position. So keep in mind that none of the above is meant to be doom-mongering as such. Just take it as the musings of someone naturally inclined to caution and scepticism about most things in life. A miserable bastard, if you like. 

But while we look forward with trepidation to tonight's tie at Stamford Bridge, perhaps we should consider this weekend's impending FA Cup match. The lack of appetite for the fixture so far is pretty astounding. If you have a look at the online ticketing system today, you will see that only one corner of the South Africa Road stand has "limited availability". In ALL other sections of the ground, tickets are plentiful. If the West Brom match were to be played today, the crowd would be unprecedentedly small. Normally busy chunks of Ellerslie Road (see below) seem to have less than 10% take-up so far. So it seems that the preference which many supporters still profess for dogged optimism and for unshakeable faith in the club's owners is not (yet?) translating into a desire to pay £25 (plus booking fee) for a Cup clash with top flight opposition.

Anyway, let's see what happens tonight and for the rest of this ball-ache of a season. Miracles do happen sometimes - and sometimes even at Loftus Road.

U RRRRRRRRRsssssssssss