Monday, April 28, 2008

UEFA's Plan B?

I received a curious email a week and a half ago from a friend of a friend. Headed: "EUROPEAN CUP FINAL IN MOSCOW?????" (yes, it really was in capitals with five question marks), it claimed that Uefa have a Plan B if two English clubs emerge as this year's finalists.
The email bullet-pointed:
"NO game in Moscow.
Wembley Stadium is not available that week due to other things in Brent.
2 legged [sic] final --like old UEFA Cup-- away goals rule will not apply to avoid moaning about it-draw=penalties."
According to the source for the email (impeccable & well-placed, so I've been told), the plan was originally mooted by the British Foreign Office, their concerns not just revolving around the potential for crowd disorder, but also the current state of anglo-Russian relations in the wake of the Litvinenko affair. The parlous state of London's relationship with Moscow means that the British government's ability to effectively liase with their Russian counterparts over the problems thrown up by an all-English final are severely limited.
The email goes through all the parties affected if it's a Chelsea/Liverpool v Man Utd. final, giving their concerns & interests. The police forces from the Met, Greater Manchester & Merseyside would have no liason or consultation with the Russian police, a situation normally considered unthinkable for a European final. UEFA are clearly anxious about the potential for trouble, indeed, they are still smarting from the warranted criticisms of their performance in Athens last year. Moreover, UEFA are said to be "petrified" at the absence of links between the UK & Russian forces. The English FA are naturally anxious, not least because any large-scale trouble in Moscow could affect its bid to host the 2018 World Cup. The Russian government is seemingly unconcerned about the situation, though this may have more to do with current anglo-Russian tensions than this particular worry. Chelsea are very agitated; their owner Roman Abramovich knows full well what could happen if 60,000 English fans turn up in the middle of Moscow, high on drink, low on policing. Besides this, the billionaire Russian owner has plans to extend the Chelsea "brand" in Russia, & any disorder could jeopardise those ambitions. Liverpool are keen to avoid anything like last year's debacle in Athens & don't believe UEFA have the organisational ability or desire to handle things any better this time around. Man Utd., according to the email, are concerned about any trouble, but suspect that UEFA would want Barcelona to beat them in the semi-final, which would mean no Plan B.
The email concludes:
"No one will know until the 2nd leg at Old Trafford on 29th April but watch this space as things progress and leaks will happen."
I was initially sceptical about the claims made in the email. However, the concerns that each party would have about an all-English final in Moscow do give it an element of plausibility which official statements would find difficult to gainsay.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Digging Up The Past

The changing face of Liverpool down the centuries has been well highlighted by both Channel 4 & the BBC Digital Archive recently. Channel 4 sent its Time Team archaeology experts to the city's waterfront in an attempt to locate its first dock ( ).
The result was a stunning exhumation of a port's past. Not only was the "lost" dock located (under was was until recently Chavasse Park), but evidence of the first dockside communities was also unearthed; the cramped & condensed Nova Scotia area was located not far from the present waterfront.
To its credit, the programme did not overlook the slave trade & its transformative impact on the port. Local historian Ray Costello was on hand to point out the legacy of the trade in the buildings around the Fenwick Street & Chapel Street areas.
The BBC's archives, meanwhile, has thrown up a fascinating curio from the late 1950s ( ).
The Beeb's blurb for the documentary trills, "Shot by the BBC's Northern Film Unit, Merseysiders Frank Shaw and Stan Kelly worked on the programme which shows a city on the cusp of Merseybeat era."
Er, no, actually, it doesn't. This is very much a pre-Merseybeat Liverpool, & only the brief shots of older teenagers hanging around a street corner give a vague nod to rock n' roll. The film does, however, capture a lost world, the bombed areas of the city from World War II providing a playground for local children (the film mainly features the Everton district). The sight of the rag & bone man is another evocative image.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


In a previous post I referred to Barack Obama as being a senator for Ohio. He is, of course, a senator for Illinois. These things matter to our friends across the Atlantic.

Singing From The Same Hymn Sheet?

It's never a pretty spectacle when someone tries to join in with a song they don't really know (remember John Redwood eventually whistling his way through the Welsh anthem?). The latest casualty was the toxic Texan Tom Hicks at Anfield on Tuesday night as he tried, oh how he tried, to sing along to You'll Never Walk Alone.
Hicks has said that he reads the blogs just to see what the fans are saying. So, Tom, just in case you are reading this one, make a note of these lyrics:

When you walk through a storm,
Hold your head up high,
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm,
There's a golden sky,
And the sweet, silver song of a lark.
Walk on, through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Though your dreams be tossed and blown,
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart,
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never walk alone.
Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart,
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never walk alone.

Oh, & by the way, Tom, the fans always think of these lyrics when they resolve to oppose your machinations, mind games & downright deceptions. To quote another famous terrace anthem, we shall not be moved.

A Word From A Sponsor

This blog doesn't normally do "charidee". However, I'll gladly make an exception for a sponsored run between London & Liverpool by Guardian sports writer, & Liverpool FC fan, Gregg Roughley: ( ).
Gregg is making the run between the two cities in 11 days to raise funds for MacMillan Cancer Support. Total distance: 223 miles. May your feet be blister-free, Gregg.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Counter Cultural Concerns

Most of Europe regards the 1960s as a decade of music (inevitably), the cementing of the Berlin Wall & les evenements et le soixante-huitards. In the US, however, the legacy of that decade has been, well, a little more disputatious. At the heart of the divide that opened up during that period was the Vietnam War, an issue which has both directly & indirectly had a bearing on every US Presidential race since.
This was the basis for a Guardian article by Michael Tomasky on Monday ( ):
"Unfortunately liberal baby boomers themselves have all too frequently lived up to the caricatures the right has drawn. Many lionise the decade (which is natural -- they had their youth, the music was great, and nobody cared about sexually transmitted diseases) and think, on some level: 'If only politics could be like that again.' They tend to forget the bad parts, of which there were plenty."
Tomasky's central argument is that the Republicans' obsession with the legacy of the 60s would be perpetuated with Hillary Clinton as the Democrats' candidate in November.
Obama was born in 1961 & therefore, as Tomasky drily notes, "it is a pretty safe bet that he wasn't out there throwing Molotov cocktails at the age of seven."
The baby boomer element of the Democrats has been its biggest drawback as well as, occasionally, its greatest asset. Bill Clinton was elected largely on the issue of the US economy in 1992. However, his relative youth, compared to George H.W. Bush, was seized upon by many of Clinton's contemporaries who wanted the "Woodstock Generation" to govern America rather than someone who fought in World War II. The downside of this element for the Democrats is that this generation is now perceived, rightly or wrongly, as hedonistic, fickle & self-centred. Many voters under 45 see Hillary Clinton's continued candidacy as proof that the baby boomer generation won't hand on the torch to those who came of age in the Reaganite 80s, such as Obama. The Republicans will assuredly make political capital with that (never mind that John McCain is 72).
An unexpected development on Monday was Michael Moore's endorsement of Obama ( ).
The film maker backed Ralph Nader in 2000. Viewed from this side of the Atlantic, Nader again appears to be the most progressive & substantial candidate, but I can understand Moore's decision to back the Ohio senator.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Candidate

"Putting the world to rights", or spreading bigotry, bollocks & bullshit, as I prefer to call it, has been Kelvin MacKenzie's stock-in-trade since, ooh, he first managed to move a pen across a sheet of paper.
Yes, it's time to announce the return of Kelvinwatch, this blog's occasional look at the latest doings of the man who is to journalism what Ron Jeremy is to celibacy.
MacKenzie has decided to stand as an Independent candidate in Elmbridge, near Weybridge in Surrey ( ).
So what's galvanised the one-time fearless Thatcher champion to stand?
Ahem, parking charges at the local railway station. Yes, really.
OK, so the charges have increased by, to use a MacKenzie-esque adjective, whopping 43%, but, still, it ain't the Falklands or the miners strike, is it, Kelvin?
The former Murdoch minion is quoted thus, "I have had a look at the work involved with being a councillor and know I can fit it into my schedule."
Busy man is our Kelvin, so the voters should be grateful for his decision to fit in their concerns, I'd say. As you'd expect from someone whose view of workers is one of contempt (even when they were buying the vile little rag he put together), he wants to end the final salary pension scheme offered to the local authority staff.
Quoth MacKenzie, "I want to stop it and reduce council tax by about 20%."
I look forward to Councillor MacKenzie, fearless tribune of the people, taking up his seat in the council chamber. I also look forward to George W. Bush admitting his responsibility for hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Cry Wolf

The pieces submitted for the Guardian's Comment is Free website generally leave me, by turns, indifferent, bemused, intrigued, beguiled & inspired. However, once in a while, an article there will leave me incensed by the author's ignorance & disgusted by its glib assumptions & falsehoods.
One such piece has been posted by Martin Jacques, New Labour acolyte & personification of the po-faced, remote chatterati, claiming that Ian Wright's decision to leave his job as a pundit on the BBC's football coverage is due to racism ( ).
Jacques claims that Wright's tiresome jester persona is because he is sidelined by Lineker, Hansen, etc. & reduced to this role.
Ian Wright has shown himself to be a less than astute analyst of the game. In comparison to Hansen's measured, though sometimes flawed, approach, Wright readily provides hype & synthetic hysteria. His "analysis" of England international performances is little different to that of the boorish bloke in the pub, convinced that anything non-English is to be treated warily at best.
The racism charge made by Jacques needles those of us who fought against that foul stain on the domestic game during the 70s & 80s. When I was in my early teens I would cringe as the Kop indulged in "witty banter" over a player whose skin pigmentation was not white. By my late teens that embarrassment had turned to anger at such bigotry & a willingness to confront it. Less than three months before John Barnes joined Liverpool in 1987 he was subjected to a level of abuse by the Kop while taking a corner for Watford which made me wonder if that famous terrace was populated by BNP members.
Jacques writes, "So what's the problem? Well, Wright is black. Apart from Garth Crooks, who is rarely given frontline exposure, Wright is the only high-profile BBC pundit who is. And even then he has been confined to commenting on England's international matches. The standard fare on Match of the Day is white, white, and white again -- messrs Lineker, Shearer, Hansen, Lawrenson, et al. Given that one-third of Premier League players are black, this is a disgrace. It would not be accurate to say that the BBC operates a colour bar in football punditry, but it is certainly the case that black representation is, at the very best, token."
Jacques concludes his diatribe of distortion by remarking, "The [BBC] claimed that it was baffled by his comments. What world do these people live in?
"Shame on them."
No, Mr. Jacques, shame on you for raising the race issue when it clearly doesn't apply.
The responses on the CiF blog have, hopefully, disabused Jacques of the notion that his case is valid.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Breaking News

It's been announced in the last hour that a youth has been charged with the murder of Rhys Jones last year in Croxteth ( ).
Sub judice will now, presumably, come into force, so it would be inappropriate to add any further comment other than to say that Rhys' family have maintained a dignity & strength of purpose throughout their ordeal. Hopefully the judicial process will now deliver justice for the Jones family.

Legacy Of A Tragedy

Today's Guardian carried a moving account by David Conn of yesterday's Hillsborough memorial service at Anfield (,,2273847,00.html ).
The address by Phil Hammond, whose 14 year old son Philip was one of those who died, was spot-on about the ramifications of Hillsborough for the domestic game:

"'Football got rich on the back of the 96,' he said, referring to the grants of public money paid to clubs to improve their grounds. 'The safe stadiums were built as a direct result of the recommendations of the Taylor Report. Football became a popular sport...Sky TV stepped in and suddenly football became lucrative. Premiership clubs became a very attractive proposition for overseas investors. At their peril,' he concluded, 'do those overseas investors forget the heavy price that we paid.'"

Neither Hicks nor Gillette were present to hear Mr. Hammond's words. Something tells me they would have fallen on deaf ears anyway.

Spreading The Word

Liverpool city centre's renaissance (the other areas of the city being a different matter) is highlighted in the Washington Post ( ).
There's nothing particularly revelatory in Liverpool-born Alexandra Topping's piece. However, it is something more than a puff-piece for the shambolic Culture Company. The city council leader, Warren Bradley, cited it on BBC Radio Merseyside yesterday, but don't let that put you off.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Tom Hicks' next business venture
It is a bizarre feeling to know that the football team you support is scaling the heights of European success on the pitch, while the people entrusted to run it in the boardroom are acting more like spivs & snakes than responsible "custodians".
Just 42 hours after one of those legendary European nights at Anfield Tom Hicks wrote a letter to chief executive Rick Parry in which he called for his head ( ).
George Gillett, seeing his opportunity to garner further opposition to his one-time buddy, publicly sided with Parry (,,2273064,00.html ).
Parry has been a less than adept Chief Executive in his eleven years at Anfield. He is remote, somewhat aloof & openly disdainful of the supporters' views. However, Parry's departure from the club should be at the behest of those supporters, not on the whim of a JR Ewing wannabe.
Those responsible for sanctioning the sale of the club to the gruesome twosome last year, Parry & former chairman David Moores, have been getting an attentive ear in the press over the last 72 hours. Parry's outlet was the Independent ( ):
"Parry revealed that Hicks and Gillette are now planning to enter a process of arbitration to resolve the impasse over the club's ownership....
It seems increasingly unlikely that Hicks will find the money to take control at Anfield-a move which, in Parry's words, would put himself 'out of the door'. There is no sign of the minority investors the Texan has said he has lined up and the publicity generated by his frequent statements are understood to have made some London financiers unwilling to get involved."
The scale of the damage which this farce has inflicted upon morale was reflected in the cancellation of the manager's weekly press briefing, the first time such a step has been taken in Rafa Benitez' four seasons at the club.
According to the Independent's piece, a showdown between Gillett & Parry on the one hand, & Ian Ayre, the club's commercial director who has sided with Hicks, on the other, prior to Tuesday's Champions League game is said to have moved Hicks to pen his letter:
"Some sources suggest that Tom Hicks jnr has been informing friends in Liverpool for the past six weeks that his father's camp wants Parry out."
Hicks jnr has friends in the city?! After his less than stellar attempt to win over the regulars in the Sandon on the 23rd of February?
Moores, for his part, has been blabbing to Tony Barrett in the Liverpool Echo. The stereotype of the lachrymose Liverpudlian is taken out for a good airing in Barrett's unctuous piece; it's little more than the kid-glove Echo treatment of a man who made £90m from the sale of the club last year ( ):
"It is embarrassing and it is not an acceptable way of doing things."
Hmm, yes, and your point is, David?
"I didn't know Hicks very well. I knew George [Gillett] a lot better....
It was really right at the end that I met Tom Hicks so I didn't really get a chance to to get to know him but I took George's word for it."
So he "took George's word for it", did he? Is this the way Moores does business, on the say-so of someone else? Moores also vows to "do my damnedest" to help resolve the affair, but then contradicts himself in his next sentence when he admits, "It is not my club anymore."
No it isn't, David, & don't we just know it, eh?
Meanwhile, this is what it's supposed to be all about: .

Justice For All?

In the autumn of 1992 Michael Heseltine, then Tory energy minister, announced the infamous pit closure programme. At a rally in London's Hyde Park I attended a week or so later Michael Mansfield QC gave a stirring address to the crowd, complete with Wildean witticisms & a corruscating attack on both the Tories & the breakaway UDM.
This memory came back to me with remarkable clarity a few days ago when the Guardian's legal affairs editor, Ruth Dyer penned a portrait of Mansfield in the wake of the Diana inquest. Dyer mused on the reason for Mansfield taking on the case for Mohamed Fayed & drew attention to probably the most obvious factor:
"The fat fees must have been an enticement: Mansfield has clocked up £575 an hour for his services to Fayed, if the Lawyer magazine is right, and will have pocketed hundreds of thousands of pounds representing the bereaved Harrods owner at the inquest and in associated forays to the law courts to challenge the coroners' rulings."
( )
Mansfield still regards himself as a socialist. More champagne, comrade?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

McCartney & MacManus

Expect the Liverpool Echo to breathlessly claim this as an exclusive sometime next month: Tony Parrish reveals on his excellent blog that Elvis Costello will join Macca at the Liverpool Sound Anfield gig in the summer ( ).
However, the amount of coverage the BBC gives to the event remains unresolved because the Beeb hasn't been told by those comedians at the Culture Company who else is on the bill.
The cost of the Anfield concert has also begun to spiral, another triumph for the clowns in Phil Redmond's circus, according to Tony.

Curiously, Costello's appearance, as well as an evening with the RLPO at the Philharmonic Hall in June, contradicts his remarks late last year about not playing in the UK again.

Blogging Yourself To Death

It seems that for every technological development, there is, potentially, a human cost to pay. Yesterday's Guardian commented on the case of two tech bloggers in the US whose unfortunate deaths have been ascribed to excessive blogging: .
The original story was broken by the New York Times ( ).

Now & Then

The Liverpool Echo normally likes to suggest that criminal gangs in Liverpool are a relatively recent phenomenon (from the 70s onwards, say), & that there really were The Good Old Days. It's therefore surprising, & refreshing, to come across this Echo feature on local writer Mick Macilwee & his new book, Tearaways. More Gangs of Liverpool:1890-1970: .
The book recalls some horrific cases from the late 30s & early 40s which were every bit as disturbing & distressing as the James Bulger & Rhys Jones cases. It also reveals the level of gang warfare in the north end of Liverpool (inevitably centred around the docks) between the once notorious "High Rip" gang & the "Logwood" outfit.
The activities of the "High Rip" gang are also mentioned at the Liverpool-Historical Timeline site ( ).

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

It's All Gone Sour

"My ball!"
"No, it's my ball, you bastard!"

It's never a pretty sight when thieves & tricksters fall out. There is, indeed, no honour amongst such people when avarice overrules commonsense.
George Gillett's admission a few days back that his relationship with Tom Hicks had broken down guarantees a farcical & childlike seating row for the Arsenal v Liverpool Champions League quarter final first leg at the Emirates Stadium (,,2269857,00.html ).
I couldn't care less over the infantile matter of who sits next to whom tomorrow night in north London. What does rile me is that, not for the first time, one or both of these characters has grabbed the media's attention just as the team itself prepares for an important fixture.

Across The Great Divide

Divided by a park, divided by so much else

For reasons best known to themselves, there are some in the local & national media who persist in referring to Liverpool v Everton encounters as "the friendly derby". The last time such a description was merited, Degsy & co. ruled the civic roost & some decidedly dodgy hairstyles were considered cool.
Sunday's encounter at Anfield was not without incident on & off the pitch. It was about as friendly as a chance encounter between Macca & Heather Mills:,,2269902,00.html .
Incidents included Everton's Phil Neville receiving abuse at very close quarters from Liverpool fans in the Lower Centenary Stand as he prepared to take a throw, Liverpool's Steven Gerrard subjected to taunts from Everton fans in the Anfield Road End concerning the provenance of his daughter, & Everton's Joleon Lescott --who suffered a facial disfigurement as a child-- being called "the Elephant Man" by some intellectuals on the Kop.
Everton have initiated Merseyside Police's involvement in the matter, claiming that the Anfield stewards failed to do their job properly. A fair point. However, it conveniently obscures the equally billious atmosphere at the Goodison derby last October.
Everton FC spokesman Ian Ross (a Guardian football journalist before he moved into PR) muddied the waters with his crack, "Mr. [Rafa] Benitez should, perhaps, remember his comments of 12 months ago when he sought to belittle one of world sport's oldest and most respected institutions by describing us as a 'small club'. Respect is a two-way street."
It remains open to conjecture whether the "small club" quote was made by the Liverpool manager in a goading manner, or in the context of teams outside the "Big 4".
Mr. Ross' missive may well have the effect of pouring oil on the hitherto fading flames from Sunday. For someone supposedly attuned to public relations, it seems an incredibly maladroit statement.

The Big Dig & The Big Deception

They do say it sometimes takes an outsider to point out the bleedin' obvious. So it is with the writer Paul Kingsnorth in a book published today concerning public spaces & the encroaching corporatisation of them ( ).
In the Guardian extract from the book, "Real England: The Battle Against The Bland", Kingsnorth focuses on the "redevelopment" of London's Chinatown & the Paradise Project in Liverpool in Spring 2006.
Kingsnorth pithily encapsulates the arrangement thus:
"This is the way the deal works. The city council gets an expensive, flashy renovation of a rundown area, costing almost £1bn, for which it has to pay virtually nothing. In return, it must give up --or rather the public must give up-- its rights to it."
Kingsnorth mentions the now-demolished Quiggins, a truly alternative shopping centre in the middle of Liverpool, near the venerable Bluecoat Chambers. Contrary to the city council's promise, Quiggins has, to date, not been found another home in the city centre. In fact, it has been forced to move to Aigburth, seven miles from its old location ( ).
It's the conversation with Cllr. Peter Mullen, then responsible for maintenance & repair in the city centre, however, which is the real eye-opener. Mullen takes the developer Grovesnor's intentions with an almost child-like naivety; he is "assured" that public access won't be ended by the abolition of public rights of way. No legal documents to cite or invoke, just a blithe assumption that these thing will take care of themselves & everything will work out fine.
With that sort of handling at the highest civic levels, no wonder 2008 has been such a wasted opportunity.