The Last Hurrah

With the World Cup over (feel eet, eet is gone), it’s time to move on to other things and I need a project to keep myself occupied now that there isn’t live football available 24/7 (at least, until the new football seasons start in a couple of weeks).

So I’m turning my attention to my little end of year jaunt to the Northern Hemisphere and I have decided that this one will be entitled The Last Hurrah: after a-ha’s final single and in keeping with the bittersweet purpose of the trip. There will be tears.
Given that there will be just 180 hours between my outbound flight touching down at T5 and my inbound flight leaving the same – and with approximately a million people to see in the UK plus 3 blokes in Norway – this will be no holiday and organisation will be key.

There are some obvious items that are set in stone and flights and hotels need to be booked for those (cough, Big Ant, cough), but the rest is all just in my head. The only issue is that in there, it finds itself competing for space with thoughts of lobsters, christmas trees and external hard drives (don’t ask) and thus requires documenting here in some sketchy form or other.

Cape Town | Sheffield | (Newcastle) | Sheffield | Gloucester | Oslo | London | Cape Town

Obviously, these are just the bare bones. You can’t fly directly from Cape Town to Sheffield (nor from Gloucester to Oslo) and there will be no overnight stop in Newcastle – but it will be visited.

The emphasis (indicated above by the use of italics) in the case of Newcastle is important because it will be my first trip back there since leaving University back in 1995. I’ve often promised myself that I would get back up to The Toon, but either money, time or (now) distance has prevented it. On this trip, I’m determined to make a day of it up there – if only to see what remains of my old haunts.
Sadly, as far as they go, I suspect there won’t be much left to see: 15 years is a long time when you’re considering cities in Northern England and the throes of rejuvenation.
I hope that green bridge is still there.

So anyway – there they are – the best laid plans of me.
And surely the only things that can ruin them are a BA strike or an errant Icelandic volcano.

Howard Webb – A Yorkshireman at Soccer City

Many congratulations to local boy and colleague of my brother  – apparently, “you wouldn’t mess” – Howard Webb for being awarded (I believe this is the official technical term) the job of refereeing Sunday evening’s World Cup Final in Johannesburg.
As the Sheffield Star (ah, the memories…) reports:

The 38-year-old former police sergeant, from Rotherham, has been chosen by Fifa’s referees committee.
It makes him the first Englishman to make it to the World Cup final since 1974 – when the job went to Jack Taylor.

Webb and his assistants, Darren Cann and Michael Mullarkey, will officiate in the match between Spain and Holland at Johannesburg’s Soccer City.
Webb hung up his helmet and took a five-year career break from South Yorkshire Police in 2008 so he could concentrate on refereeing.

It might not really seem like a big thing with so many star players on show in the Dutch and Spanish sides, but I guess that for a referee, this is as big a gig as you can get and given that only 18 men before him have ever had the honour, he’s joining a pretty elite group.

I’m sure he’ll do England proud – much more so that that shower that flew home a couple of weeks ago.
[Please note that this line may be deleted on Sunday evening if deemed necessary]

Nice work, Howard.

Chairs, Cups, Cheats, Chumps

No one thing grabbed my attention from the information overload that I now find myself happily facing on a daily basis. This is actually a good thing for you, my reader, because it is unlikely that I will rant about the paranoia and misconceptions of an irritated acrophobe, celebrate my good fortune at the hands of David Cameron or mourn the demise of an unfortunate giraffe.

No, today has been far more relaxed and it is in that laid-back frame of mind that I give you the following items for you perusal:

Via the ever entertaining Brian Micklethwait, a chair that rolls into exactly the correct shape.
Brian has (entirely justified) concerns over the longevity of this design, but as he says:

But what the hell, it’s only a chair, and if it goes wrong, it goes wrong.  It still made for a pretty set of pictures. 

Next up, a brilliant story from South Yorkshire Police about how the European Cup – currently in Milan and already booked for Madrid next year – came to arrive in their West Bar headquarters in Sheffield, having been “borrowed” by an aggrieved pub visitor in Birmingham.

The tale is from 1982 after Aston Villa FC won the European Cup.
The players had been celebrating at a pub in the West Midlands and, as the night wore on, the players had allegedly become more boisterous. A young man at the venue with his girlfriend took exception to their behaviour and asked them to show some respect for other customers. His request was allegedly met with more abuse. And so the man decided to play a prank on them. As no-one seemed to be paying attention to the European Cup, he decided to pick it up and see how far he could walk away with it before anyone noticed.

It’s a great story, made even more entertaining for me by SYP’s refusal – almost 30 years on – to commit that the Villa players had actually become more boisterous or had actually abused the young man in question.

Finally, another World Cup warning for the weary England fans who have already had to contend with race wars, earthquakes, snakes and tropical diseases. This time, it’s a reasonable request to be aware of online ticket scams.

According to the Office of Fair Trading, one in 12 ticket buyers are caught out by fraud each year.
Research from online ticket marketplace viagogo suggests almost half a million Britons have been duped by a bogus ticket sellers in the past 12 months.

I’m forever deleting spam from illegal ticket vendors on my World Cup posts. But the only frustration for ticket buyers here was the fact that FIFA’s systems failed yet again when the last 90,000 World Cup tickets went on sale in South Africa this morning.

As someone – I can’t remember who – pointed out on twitter:

FIFA – You keep asking if South Africa is ready. We are – so why weren’t you?

Three things

And they’re all about football, so if that sort of thing doesn’t intere… hello? Hello?

Hmm. Well, bugger you. I’m going to write it anyway.

Firstly, well done to Chelsea, who emphatically finished off the Premiership season with a little 8-0 drubbing of hapless Wigan “Athletic”.

Secondly, it’s 25 years since the Bradford Fire – the “forgotten tragedy of the Eighties“. 56 people died at that football match.
I can remember watching it on the news the next morning. I’d have been 11 years old and it would have been a Sunday. I had a habit of going downstairs at about 6am and watching the breakfast kids’ TV (such as it was back then), but the morning TV was dominated with the news of the fire. The pictures were horrific – I can still clearly see the man staggering out of the stand – on fire, but seemingly not even realising it.
It meant more because it was local to us and because there were so many stories of children being killed and injured just because they went to what should have been a celebratory match at the end of their championship winning season.
That top link is worth reading.

Finally, more happy news. We spent the afternoon at the Waterfront, gazing momentarily at the World Cup trophy. That’s my picture of it on the right. It was part of the Coca-Cola sponsored Trophy Tour and, despite the rain, was very well attended.
There was live music, an emotional 3D film of World Cups past (and future) and of course, the actual trophy. It was boxed in perspex, but you could get within a metre of it and no-one tried to steal it (as far as I’m aware).

Which isn’t very South African, now is it?

Wendy go down

After a dramatic last day in the Championship, the only game that really mattered – wednesday v Palace at Swillsboro’  – finished 2-2.
And that, as the BBC Football website videprinter confirms, means that Sheffield wednesday find themselves relegated to League One:

As a lifelong Sheffield United fan, I am celebrating (again) this evening. I was going to go the whole hog with the fizzy wine, but I think an understated Castle Milk Stout will do the trick.

And then some fizzy wine.