Letters to my sons.

Trying to explain the world to two very small children.

Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

The Death Of Gary Speed

without comments

Dear Boys,

I decided to wait some months until this story moved away from the public eye to write about the death of Gary Speed.

I was looking at the BBC News web site on a Sunday morning when I saw the headline flash up “Gary Speed confirmed dead”.  I was shocked because only the day before we had watched him on Football Focus. No other details of his death were given.

I told your mother that Gary was dead and she too felt the same feeling of shock. She asked how he died and I said I didn’t know but I thought it must be a car crash as I thought that he must spend a lot of time driving around to see various Welsh players plying their trade. My thought was that he must have been driving home late and crashed.

This though was not my first thought. My first thought was that he must have had a heart attack or some undiagnosed heart problem that reared its ugly head and killed him. I suppressed this thought because the man was extremely fit – he had trained regularly for most of his life while I have spent most of my life sitting behind a computer tapping away on a keyboard. If anyone should have a bad heart then it should be me. If someone supremely fit could unexpectedly die with a heart problem – what chance do I have?

I switched over to the BBC’s 24 Hour new channel and they were carrying the story but no mention of the cause of death was made, only that police had confirmed Gary’s death.

A quick Twitter search and information that Gary had taken his own life started to emerge. I have seen information that is quite clearly fake spread through email, FaceBook and Twitter before so my first thought was “this is rubbish, why are so many idiots regurgitating it”.

As I said earlier Gary Speed had been on Football Focus the day before, smiling and happy and joking with his old team mate Gary McAlister.

Then the newsreader confirmed that Speed had been found hung at his home and that it was suicide. I felt stunned, a knot developed in my stomach.  This could not be true. Why would he do such a thing? Had he been set up by the Sunday tabloid press? There were not mentions of him in that mornings press – so why?

The inquest into his death hasn’t started so maybe that will shed some light onto his real state of mind as opposed to the public image. I will always remember Speed for being a Newcastle United player.  For our first date I took your mother to a Newcastle game away at West Ham.  It was raining very hard that night and we got very wet. At half time we waited under the stand in the dry before making our way to our seats and missed Speed’s goal for Newcastle.

Even after the best part of two months I am still stunned and confused by his death.

Written by Administrator

January 15th, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Newcastle United relegated.

without comments

Dear Sons,

Today Newcastle United were relegated from the Premiership. 

I’ll write up fully where things went wrong but here are the main points:

  1. Money has continually been taken out of the club instead of being reinvested.
  2. Five managers in one football season.
  3. Denis Wise.


Mike Ashley didn’t know what he was doing when he took control, by the time he started to have a clue, it was too late.

Written by Administrator

May 24th, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Posted in Football

Tagged with

My letter to NUFC.com

without comments

Dear Sons,

Newcastle United Football Club are currently on a PR offensive to try and undo the mess that they have got themselves in. NUFC.com has asked for comments and mine are below:

There are few things to mention here.

Newcastle finished second in 96/97 beating Nottingham Forest 5-0 on the final day to finish above Arsenal in Wengers first (not full) season in charge. Now correct me if I’m wrong but I think that Arsenal have been in the top 4 ever since. Wenger inherited a good team when he took over and has kept them at the right end of the premiership. He also spent quite a lot of money in that time. He may have brought youngsters through but he paid a lot for them, £5m for Theo Walcott for example who was still only 16 and Toon target Franny Jeffers for £8m – who was crap. He paid £3.5 for Patrick Vieira while Newcastle were paying £15m for Shearer.

Only yesterday was the full asset stripping nature of the Hall/Sheppard era exposed in the Guardian. If that money had been ploughed back into the club then where would we be today? Like Arsenal fans who are annoyed at the thought of finishing 5th and the UEFA cup? The nightmare, eh?

Ashley may well have rescued NUFC from bankruptcy and/or administration but I still think the reason he bought a football club was to make a fast buck. A man’s intentions can be seen how he runs his business. I don’t wear sports kit so have only been to sports shops a few times. His DirectSports shops are terrible. Dark and dingy they have nothing going for them except the cheapness of the merchandise. Buy it cheap, pile it high. Ashley needs to balance the books at NUFC but unlike retail he can’t just liquidate the stock and close the loss making shops. The sportswear industry is underpinned by cheap wages and terrible conditions in third world countries with lax rules on human rights and the environment. By employing teenagers at the very low end of the very low minimum wage scale profits can be made.

But a football club can not be run like that. Customers will flock to shops that sell the same gear as everyone else but for a fiver less, even if they have to talk to a disinterested 16 year girl who tuts all the time. Glory boys will hang around a football club but loyal supporters can not be bought off. The pain of watching your team play shit is painful – sometimes that pain is too much to watch but the love never dies. Ashley doesn’t appear to understand this, cheap tickets will not fill the stadium. If he wants to make money from NUFC he needs either to get a time machine back to the late 80’s or get Newcastle into the Champions League.

Villa, the other club that Ashley is trying to emulate with his business plan, have spent over £80m on players and have a fantastic manager in Martin O’Niell. I got to know someone who played under him at Wycombe – the player still gets calls and Xmas cards all these years later. Who can hate Martin O’Niell – the man who made John Hartson into a quality player!!

You don’t emulate Villa by selling one of your hardest working, down to earth, honest players to them. You don’t emulate Villa by creating the conditions that force the best goal keeper in the country to quit. In retail there is another spotty teenager looking to supplement his pocket money with a Saturday job. This is not retail Mr Ashley!

Written by Administrator

February 12th, 2009 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Football

A better future because of the life lived.

without comments

Dear Son,

well I got a couple of things wrong yesterday. I thought you would wake at 5.30am but you actually woke around 8am. I always confused when the clocks go back and forth.

The scattering of your grandmothers ashes went really well and was quite an upbeat affair. We were scattering her ashes in a place that she loved. We took it turns to toss handfuls of the ash from the edge of the cliff where a ruined castle stood. The view was magnificent and despite the popularity of the area we weren’t disturbed by anyone passing by. The rain that had been forecast and had thundered down yesterday cleared and the sun shone. As I tossed the ashes into the air I finally felt that I was saying good bye – I am still annoyed that I can’t speak to her and tell her what you have been up to, I do enjoy these moments for themselves and I’ll try not to feel disappointed that I can’t share them. She made a real effort to keep her self alive as long as did and I must repay that with joy, not sadness. She wouldn’t have wanted me to feel sadness. I felt as if I was letting her spirit fly free over the Scottish that she so loved.

This was also a fantastic bonding exercise between the three of us – something my mother would have approved of also.

I am now on the train heading home and I heard that Newcastle have just thrashed Spurs at Whiteheart Lane, just like they did when we took you to your first football match. My spirits could not be higher than they are now.

PS I am sat opposite two guys using identical Dell computers. They don’t know each other but they did look a little annoyed when I pulled out my MacBook. Their computers have serial ports on them – when you are older and able to ask me about serial ports I will tell you all about them, UART chips – the whole boring story.

Written by Administrator

March 30th, 2008 at 4:29 pm

KK and all that.

without comments

Dear son,

I said I would explain about my feelings regarding the return of Kevin Keegan (KK) to Newcastle, so here goes.

I moved to the North East in 1982 when Grand Pa John’s work took him to Birtley. Before that we (Uncle Phil, Grand Ma Audrey, me and Grand Pa John) had lived in Grimsby. It was the day after my 12th birthday that we left, having moved there in 1974 so at that point nearly all of the life that I could remember leading had been in Grimsby. I didn’t really appreciate the North East during my teenage years and waited for any opportunity to leave. It came sooner than I thought.

My cousin Iain needed someone to look after his 3 and half year old daughter for the summer of 1988 and I jumped at the chance to spend three months in Chamonix looking after Emma. I finished my A levels in June, went on a family holiday to Scotland (the Piper Alpha Oil rig exploded while we were there) and then the adventure began. Iain had paid for my flights from Newcastle to Heathrow and then onto Geneva where I would picked up by his brother Andy. The morning of my flight I woke up mega early, really excited about the three months in Chamonix ahead of me. My mum and dad dropped me at Newcastle airport and I boarded my flight. I knew that depending on the direction of the wind the plane might fly over our house so I decided to look out and see if I could see it. At that point the co-pilot announced over the speakers “If you look out to the left you will see Leicester…”.

Uncle Phil wanted me to buy him some duty free after shave and when I got to Heathrow I went looking around the duty free shops only to hear the final call being announced for my flight so I hot footed it off to the gate to be see a whole load of people queueing, boarding hadn’t even started.

At Geneva I made my way to the exit and found Andy. Before long we were dropping my stuff off at Iain’s house and then on to spend the rest of the day at Andy’s house in Les Praz.

I enjoyed my three months in Chamonix, leaning how to cook, quite a lot of French and how to placate a three year old. The cooking and French skills I soon lost but my children skills I seem to have kept. A few weeks after coming back from Chamonix and going back to the North East I was off again to take my place at the lowest seat of learning in the land: The Polytechnic of Wales. I caught the bus to London and then another bus to Pontypridd. The bus to London did pass by our house and on the way past I flicked the V signs at it – I had never wanted to live there and I didn’t ever image I would come back.

But come back I did, in late 1993 I moved in with Uncle Phil. Effectively homeless and penniless I left Wales for the North East. There were two triggers that made me move; the obvious one was being homeless and penniless. The other was home sickness for the North East. During my time in Wales I had been back to the North East to see the family and to attend weddings and it was at a wedding in 1991 the seed of my desire to return was planted. This seed was watered by a TV program called Byker Grove that I started watching in early 1993 when my contract with Welsh Water wasn’t renewed and I was at home on the dole.

The third thing that really tipped over the edge of wanting to go back to the North East was football. Kevin Keegan had taken Newcastle into the Premership and the place was buzzing. At this point I had never seen Newcastle play, coming from a non-sporting family, but I had been a regular at Ninian Park to watch Cardiff play during my time in South Wales seeing the likes of Nathan Blake and Phil Stant under the management of Eddie May. I had even been to the Auto Windshield match between Cardiff and Swansea when police horses charged the Cardiff fans who were making their way peacefully into the stadium. This provocative action by the Police lay the foundations for the later riot. And I was at Ninian Park the day Cardiff won the old 3rd Division, doing the Aiatollya on the pitch when the game finished. I was sitting in a bar in Cardiff one night and they were showing something on Sky Sports about Newcastle and I watched 30 minutes of Newcastle goals. I knew at that point that I needed to “go home”.

When I heard that Kevin Keegan had been re-appointed at Newcastle my mind was thrown back to the time when I returned to the North; all the stress of being homeless and poor, and the realisation that this was the place where I called “home”.

After these memories had been thoroughly investigated and relived my mind went on to the two years I was back in the North East and the things that I did. This was mainly a happy time for me although there were some side times – being dumped by a girl friend springs to mind.

And then there were the thoughts regarding the events in the last 11 years – thinking I had found the one I was going to spend my life with only to be dumped on Valentines day, meeting your mother and knowing I was wrong about the other woman (this was very liberating), your birth, the death of my own mother and a hold host of other emotions both good and bad. All these thoughts played out in my mind in the few days after Kevin Keegan returned to Tyneside.

They say that smells trigger the most vivid memories and sometimes, for me, this is true. But the Return of the Messiah reminded me that I am growing older, that I have done a lot in my life and that I still have so much that I want to do.

Written by Administrator

March 18th, 2008 at 9:10 pm

The Messiah has returned

without comments

Dear Son,

the Messiah has returned.

I will write more later.

Written by Administrator

January 16th, 2008 at 4:57 pm

Posted in Football

NUFC – not that bad.

without comments

Moral defeat

Stoke City 0 Newcastle 0

The doom-mongers didn’t get the result they were hoping for but the performance at the Britannia Stadium must rank as one of the worst under the guidance of Sam Allardyce.

Only the woeful displays at Derby, Wigan and Fulham could rival an inept showing in front of the Beeb’s cameras as Newcastle stayed in the FA Cup by the skin of their teeth.

The quote above is from nufc.com. We watched the game last night and not having seen many Newcastle games on the telly and none at a football ground I don’t really know had bad Newcastle have become.

What is clear is that players need a year to settle into a new team so those who are looking out of their depth now should be much better in a years time. The only problem with the Toon Army is that we think that we should be top of the league and winning everything. What would be helpful would be the chairman to issue a statement saying that Newcastle will win nothing for the next three years while the team is being rebuilt and youngsters are being brought through.

I thought you had got used to me shouting at the TV but last night you cried when I let out an “Arrg!!” when Michael Owen didn’t manage to make a proper contact when one-on-one with the Stoke keeper. I though you would be okay because you joined in when your mother “Arrg”ed loudly during the Arsenal game and then carried on doing it for a few minutes after. Maybe your mother does it in a more gentle way than I do.

I will add it to my list of things to learn to do : “Arrg” in a gentle, non-threatening manner.

Written by Administrator

January 7th, 2008 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Football

Your first football match

without comments

Dear Son,

yesterday you attended your first ever football match, Tottenham versus the Toon Army. We were sat in the away end with about 1000 other Geordies singing and clapping the whole way through. You seemed to enjoy the whole day out; from the train ride down there, running around underneath the stand, the actual game itself and then the train journey home.

All day to day you have been singing songs from the match at nursery, the Obafemi Martins song getting the most airplay although you haven’t quite got the words yet which is a good thing as there were some other choice songs being sung by both sides. The best chant was by the Newcastle fans aimed at the Tottenham fans: You’re just a small town in Arsenal.

Before the game had even started you and I went for a quick look to see who was on the pitch and there, only a few feet from where we were stood, was the Newcastle first team going through their paces. I pointed out all the players I recognised but with the current injury crisis there were a few new faces – one who was to become better know to me in the new future.

The game got off to a flying start from Tottenham and they were all over Newcastle but their finishing was poor until Defoe scored from an offside position for Tottenham. Newcastle simply went down the other end and scored themselves, Paul Huntington heading the ball against one of his own players before lashing the ball home.

Chances came and went and then it was half time. Tottenham came out all guns blazing for the second half and managed to score another goal putting them 2-1 up. I wondered how long the Toon could hold out before it went 3-1 to Tottenham, your mother calls this “to catastrophise” and is something I tend to do quite often; again according to your mother.

With these thoughts going through my head the ball was played to Obafemi and he started to run with ball but away from goal. Then he just thumped the ball into the Tottenham goal from 24 yards out, the ball travelling at 84mph. Delirium in the away end ensued because the strike was so totally unexpected – a real bolt from the blue that also took the Tottenham goalkeeper (Paul Robinson) by surprise.

I promised to call your cousin Lewis every time Newcastle scored and I had just got off the phone when Nicky Butt expertly passed the ball into the net when fed a sublime through ball by Obafemi. Cue wild and rampant celebrations in the away end and stony silence from the home fans. Defoe managed to hit the Newcastle woodwork before the end and the 3 minutes of added on time seemed to last for nearer 30 for me but Newcastle prevailed.

I PVRed Match of the Day and guess what? You, me and your mother were all on television last night.

Hopefully this is not the last Toon game all 3 of us will be going to. Howay the lads!

Written by Administrator

January 15th, 2007 at 9:59 pm

Posted in Football

Sven has no plan B

without comments

Dear Son,

you can count the number of people who read this blog on one hand, doesn’t stop me from being insightful. Yesterday I wrote about Sven not having a Plan B. And guess what? I was right. Sven’s right hand man admintted as much today. You can read all about it on the BBC web site.

All I can say is : Come on the Soca Warriros.

Written by Administrator

May 3rd, 2006 at 9:16 am

Posted in Football

Here comes summer.

without comments

Dear Son,

summer is on it’s way and with it the World Cup. Over the weekend Chelsea won the Premiership by beating Manchester United 3-nil but in the process of loosing Wayne Rooney managed to get injured and will, with out doubt, miss the World Cup. He is England’s best player and without him England have little chance of winning the cup, with him they have a very good chance. But it isn’t the player himself who makes the difference, it is the England manager.

The current England manager, Sven, only seems to have a Plan A when it comes to a game or a tournament. He has no Plan B, so when things go wrong he just sits in the dug-out and watches it all go wrong. This happened against Brazil when England went out of the 2002 World Cup. England were 2-1 down but Brazil had a player sent off but failed to take advantage of the extra man – they simply let Brazil get the ball and pass it around.

When Rooney departed the Euro 2004 game against Portugal injured Sven had no plan to shuffle his squad and play a different game to the strengths of the team on the pitch. England eventually lost on penalties. The game against Northern Ireland was also a tactical disaster as a team of lower league journey men turned over highly paid top flight ponces.

My earliest memory of World Cup football was my father cutting a section out of newspaper that had the times of the matches on it and sticking it to the front of the television, something completely out of character for the man. That is when I knew that something special was about to happen.

Luckily you have duel nationality so if Trinidad do well you can bask in the reflected glory in a few years time.

Written by Administrator

May 2nd, 2006 at 8:28 pm

Posted in Football