The one that When Saturday Comes didn’t like – 2016 Edition.

13 06 2016

Last month I entered the WSC competition for football articles written by amateur writters, needless to say I didn’t win again.

Here’s the rubbish what I wrote this time, now with added photos!

La Dolce Vita

How a hopeful email led to an unexpected reconnection with happiness via the fulfilment of a long forgotten ambition in an Italian port.

The banter bus and the rapacious exploitation of football had reduced me to the annoyed cynical husk of a football fan by the start of February 2016. A few days into the month I was briefly freed from world weary prejudgement by the fulfilment of my long forgotten ambition of visiting Serie A.

The undeniable exotica of Italian football has long exerted a pull on me. A potent mixture of World Soccer team groups, Simon Inglis’ Football Grounds of Europe, Italia ’90 and S4C’s Sgorio stirred my imagination and the apparent jet set world of Channel 4’s James Richardson inspired me to go out there. I longed to see the cubic terracotta lines of Genoa’s Stadio Luigi Ferraris at first hand.

I finally made it to Italy when Wales played in Milan in 2003. When I saw the mythical San Siro through our coach windows I could barely contain myself. When we set foot outside the ground I was presented with an area pockmarked by crumbling tramlines and a pervading atmosphere of menace. There was fascist graffiti in the toilets, the home fans threw stuff at us and Wales lost 4-0. It was a deflating and dispiriting experience.

It would take fate over a decade to present me with another calcio opportunity in the shape of February’s work-related trip to La Spezia. Just after Andy and I arrived in the charming northern Italian port we realised two things; our free evening coincided with Sampdoria’s home match with Torino and Genoa was only around the metaphorical corner. After years of unconscious suppression my long forgotten desire bubbled to the surface. I sent an email to Sampdoria’s ticket office without the expectation of receiving a reply.

I received a personal reply, written in English, within twelve hours and my well-worn cynicism started to crack. It turned out that buying tickets in Italy was easy. We could just turn up at the ground and buy one or buy one from the betting shop / bar near our hotel. We only needed our passports rather than ticket accounts, passwords or buying histories.

The simple act of going to buy tickets also put a spring in my step. Andy, Serdal and I strolled across La Spezia’s sun-dappled piazzas and along its orange tree lined streets towards the crowded betting shop / bar. I was persuaded out of buying the cheaper terrace tickets so we bought seated tickets for the equivalent of £22 instead. I was now going to a Serie A match and I was beyond elated.

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The train journey to Genoa was also soul-affirming. My coastal train journeys always involve a cheerful reverie but this was even better, everything outside our windows was a sun-enhanced vista of breathtaking beauty. It was clear why Cinque Terre and Liguria had influenced Shelley and Byron.

When we arrived I was adrift in a sea of giddiness. I already felt the excitement of an impending match in a new ground but now we were also surrounded by evocative architecture and fantastic public art like the Christopher Columbus monument near Principe Station.

As we walked I enjoyed our immersion in a viscerally intoxicating culture of hidden ornate chapels, political graffiti battles and an evident eventful history. Not even the joy deadening opinions of Alan Green or Robbie Savage could have blunted the joie de vivre that was coursing through me.

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The tourist information office confirmed that we were meandering in the right direction and that we’d be able to catch the post-match train from Brignole, Genoa’s other main station. They furnished us with a map and directions. We had to turn left at a big fountain and walk towards Brignole via a long street with ornate archways. I’m the kind of guy that loves to take everything in when they’re on an unhurried stroll past neon signs that remind you of famous films.

We were enveloped by the familiar football throng near Brignole. In the under station subway the political graffiti battle had cross-fertilised with football thanks to Genoa’s anti-fascist fans. It took about ten minutes of excited shuffling before we saw the ground’s floodlight haze and cubic outline from across the dry river.

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A short break seemed very apt so we stopped for a coffee and a chat. The bar was very civilised, a family owned place filled by families of Sampdoria fans. I basked in the warmth of it all. People seemed to sense we were visitors in search of a memorable evening and we left for the ground with “Grazie” in surround sound.

The trip was turning out exactly as I hoped. Groups of friends crowded tiny bars, young fans carried giant banners around and scooters were everywhere. The fans had a certain way of carrying themselves with a certain attitude and a certain way of wearing scarves. After I bought one of those scarves we headed towards our seats via two ticket and passport checks.

I excitedly approached the entrance to the terrace and the inimitable moment that a football lover waits for; the first view of the pitch in a ground they’ve never visited. What a glorious sight! That fact I was standing in the location where Scotland beat Sweden and Ireland beat Romania a quarter of a century earlier probably wouldn’t mean anything to most people but it meant something to me.

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They say that the anticipation is often better than the event but it wasn’t true today. Our seats appeared to be in the family section but this wasn’t a bad thing. We had a great view from the fourth row and we were surrounded by the most charming Genovese you could ever hope to meet. They not only helped us negotiate our way to our seats they wiped them before we sat down.

Our new friends were particularly taken with Serdal’s new Bangor City scarf (a present from me). “Ah Galles…….Bale!” they said approvingly. I didn’t know what I was hearing during the match, it could have been the same generic drivel I normally hear, but I didn’t care. It sounded charming and I was in a ground I’d always wanted to visit.

The ground wore a fantastic lived in look. The pitchside glass fences were one of the things I’d noticed in Italia ’90 and I worried that they’d be view obstructing but they weren’t. Legroom was at a premium but an empty row in front allowed us drape room, amazingly a steward didn’t threaten to chuck us out.

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There was a social feel to everything, unaccompanied children ran around and friends warmly greeted each other as they wandered. At no point did a steward intervene with curt directions. I could get used to a matchgoing experience like this!

When you consider stellar names like Mancini, Vialli, Pagluica, Gullit and Veron have played for Sampdoria I could’ve been disappointed that I only recognised three names in either squad – Sampdoria’s Quagliarella and Cassano, Torino’s Immobile – but I wasn’t. The past is a different country and other televisual markets are now more lucrative. This background knowledge didn’t alter my small taste of Serie A, I was enjoying myself too much.

The match was as expected anyway; the players displayed good touches and the defences were comfortable on the ball. Most of the play was down our touchline so I was able to see the pattern of play quite easily. We saw two goals before we left but neither were classics.

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The fans were good value. This may have been a run of the mill bottom half of the table contest on a warmish February evening but the teeth rattling fireworks of Sampdoria’s Ultras meant that it the first match where I literally felt the atmosphere. Perhaps it had been a good idea to avoid the terrace.

We left ten minutes before the final whistle to be sure about catching our train. After a few vague directions from the bloke on the gate we made it to the deserted yet scooter infested pavements. We heard a large roar that suggested a late Sampdoria winner and a second muffled roar that suggested something else; a disallowed goal? A bad foul? A Torino goal?

We made it to Brignole with about ten minutes to spare but our train was delayed anyway. I lamented our now misguided desire to leave the match early. Judging by the demeanour of the Sampdoria fans that arrived after us the muffled roar had been caused by a Torino equaliser. A bearded gentleman ranted at me but I smiled the international language of agreement and he left me alone.

As the train progressed towards La Spezia I felt an almost spiritual sense of well-being. Not only had I fulfilled an ambition, my cynicism had lessened and I knew that another way was possible. I had paid roughly £22 to watch a match whilst surrounded by decent people in an architecturally beautiful ground in one of Europe’s famous leagues. Why couldn’t football feel like this more often?

 





Dreaming the impossible dream

11 06 2016

I awoke with an excited start this morning. As I said to my wife “This isn’t the time for soundbites dear, but I can feel the hand of history upon my shoulder”. To which she replied “That’s actually my hand, I knew you shouldn’t have watched that Tony Blair documentary last night”. Near misses and outright folly have deprived me of the chance to watch Wales play tournament football but this state of affairs will be rectified in a couple of hours.

Naturally I’m rather excited at the glorious prospect of “Wales in tournament football shock”. Last week I realised that there were only ten days until Wales’ first match in Euro 2016 and the fervour started. Instead of half-heartedly hoping that Slovenia, Germany, France, Argentina or Italy win or vehemently hoping others lose I’ll be supporting my own team.

I’ve only ever experienced tournaments on TV and it’s wonderful to think that I’ll finally be able to see my team on my TV, IN A TOURNAMENT!  I would finally be able to see “WALES” written in a tournament font at the bottom of my TV screen. In my own way I’m more excited than all those that have gone to France and have tickets for all Wales’ matches until the final.

Yeah of course I’m just as excited, I didn’t even want tickets anyway.

Before the fervour arrived I felt slightly differently about watching my national team. I’d become one of those bystanding matchgoer types – people that are obviously doing something else rather than going to a match – I see on the way to matches. Now I was a bystander too. I always wonder why bystanders aren’t going to a match and then what their day will hold. Will they spot a bargain? Will they buy any world cinema DVDs? Why aren’t they going to a match? How can they not even want to go to a match?

I used to feel part of it all. I used to love going to Wales matches and the train journeys to Cardiff that were full of drinking or reading, depending on the company. Where once I joined the non-existent clamour for Wales tickets I now sit at home resigned to inaction.

A few weeks ago I enjoyed reading Bryn Law’s book about Wales’ qualifying campaign. Even though I was familiar with everything, and I’ve actually met several of the people mentioned, I felt removed from it all, like I was reading Fever Pitch or something similar.

I tried to join the bandwagon during qualifying but it didn’t make any difference. The internet streams were sketchy at best and I only saw one match on TV, Israel away, because only one match took place directly after a Bangor away match in a ground with a Murdoch enabled clubhouse. I had to make do with twitter and the livescore app the rest of the time.

I tried to enter the first class section of the post-qualification bandwagon by buying stuff; Spirit of ’58 merchandise, Panini Stickers and the commemorative Welsh editions of Four Four Two and the Radio Times, but that didn’t make a difference. I even tried looking at old match programmes and tickets but that didn’t make a difference either. Something was still missing.

Circumstance has allowed ennui to replace ardour. Matches have been on the wrong days for years now, I refuse to pay Murdoch for televised emissions and there isn’t a pub within six miles of my house. I’ve lost the habit of watching Wales and without that habit I still don’t know what some of the players look like.

I’ve been going to watch Wales since 1985 and I’ve been to more than a few matches in a virtually Millenium Stadium so I feel like I should be in France with the people I know but I’m not. I suppose I could feel bitter about this and missing out on so many memories but bitterness is a distant memory.

I didn’t even bother to consider making a ticket application. I hadn’t been to any qualifiers, I wasn’t a club 1876 member and I’d be working during most of the tournament. When my social media was filled by photos of tickets part of me longed to be going through the same stresses of looking for accommodation and cheap flights but most of me wasn’t even remotely unhappy, or jealous, about missing out.

I was really happy for everybody else that was going and especially for the away match hardcore. You’d be a complete curmudgeon if you were anything other than sincerely happy for the people that have travelled to almost every one of UEFA’s members in the hope of that momentary glimpse of hope. It’s already fantastic that their years of patience have finally led somewhere, it was even better that qualification was secured at an away match that only the away match hardcore would have been able to get to.

I refuse to feel sorry for myself about the way I feel for a simple reason; my time as a matchgoing Wales fan has passed. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past, or how many matches I’ve seen, the powers that be will never revert to the Saturday / Wednesday scheduling.

Please don’t cry for me Mark and Tina either. It’s partly my choice and I’m so used to my physical disconnection from Wales’s matches – five years without watching a qualifier and I’ve never consciously bought anything owned by Murdoch – it has become almost painless. There’s no point moaning or tilting at windmills anyway. My concerns aren’t important and I’m not important. The world certainly doesn’t care whether I’m at matches or not, they will still take place whether I’m there or not.

Anyway I’ll be able to watch it on TV and when you think about that was preferable anyway. I’ve never been to a tournament and I always wanted to see “WALES” in the tournament font on televisual graphics. LOOK AS I’VE ALREADY EXPLAINED….. In my own way I’m  more excited than someone that’s going to all the matches, yeah of course I’m just as excited, I didn’t even want tickets anyway. ALRIGHT?

Anyway why do I care I’ll be having a proper tournament experience, I’ll be watching Wales in a tournament from the same position I’ve watched every other tournament. Anyway don’t worry about the likes of me, I didn’t want to go anyway, who wants to watch their national team play in their first group based tournament for 58 years anyway?

People should be more like me, I radiate an air of relaxed acceptance in my miniscule place in the cosmos. Naturally I wanted to go and watch Wales in the tournament but I always knew I wouldn’t be able to go. While everyone was fretting about tickets and flights I stood aloof, it was actually liberating to be freed from the stress of caring about it all.

However now that I’ve seen all of the photos and videos of France on social media I can’t say I wouldn’t love to be out in France with the people I know. But here I am typing this in my blissful state of relaxed acceptance. YEAH I’M REALLY RELAXED ABOUT MISSING THE THING I’VE HOPING TO GO TO FOR YEARS. Yeah, even though I’m sure I could have found a way to go today.

Sadly not everyone is the relaxed accepting sort. For some people everything’s “LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME”. For example if you were a self-described “top top Wales fan” and you missed out on tickets what would you do? Well as an adult you could accept that you’ve never demonstrated much desire to go to away matches, and therefore didn’t earn enough loyalty points, or you could write a look at me letter to complain about the “horrid horrid unfairness” of the situation. Stoical acceptance is a stranger to some.

Someone may be shouting  “FANZONE! GET YOUR TICKETS FOR THE FANZONE!” in the coming days. We Welsh people were going to suffer the embarrassment of doing without one until someone set up that panacea for society’s ills, the online petition, to demand that we had simply had to have one of these fanzones in little old Wales. Why has everything got to come with a sodding petition these days?

I can see the point of fanzones in the countries that are hosting tournaments. They enable like minded people from various countries to mingle and the ticketless to experience a bit of the atmosphere. A fanzone in your own country is a poor poor substitute. It will never make up for not being able to go a tournament.

It’s bad enough spending time in a confined space that’s been annexed by a rapacious multinationals, to be herded there with people you’d normally avoid like the plague is a numbing prospect. I suppose you could enjoy a fanzone if you turned up with your mates but you can enjoy anywhere with the right sort of people. The problem is the others that will turn up. Imagine spending time next to any old Tomos, Dyfrig and Harri as they radiate “LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!! I’M A TOTAL LEGEND ON A MISSION” gamma waves. See how they goon “COME ON CYMRU!!” at a passing TV camera. I’m cringing as I type this.

Some people can’t help themselves. Last year I witnessed several people try to to prove that Wales is dead ace by attempting to unfurl a Welsh flag at the Super Furry Animals gig in Manchester. Even though the Super Furry Animals are known to abhor such behaviour, it still happened. These people turned up to prove just how Welsh they were, Alwyn and I were surprised they weren’t wearing sparkly cowboy hats boyo. You’re either Welsh or you’re not, support your team and do it quietly, and don’t get angry when your newly acquired  hopes and dreams don’t come to pass..

Fanzones are even worse when the inevitable defeat happens, the point where peoples’ new minted desires and reality part ways. During the 2011 Rugby World Cup Wales played France in the semi-final on the same day that Bangor player an away match in Llanelli. I thought it might be fun to go and watch the match inside the Millennium Stadium.

Wales lost narrowly and the amount of anguish and tension caused a nasty atmosphere, I was wearing a replica of Argentina’s Mexico ’86 away shirt and I couldn’t help but feel the accusative glances in my direction. I had more grief on the train. This is supposed to be a fun event but them people’s expectations had been built up and then dashed.

The fanzone seems to have joined the annual cycle of marketable communal festivities – New Year > Valentine’s Day > Pancake Day > Mother’s Day > Easter > Bank Holiday Season > Football Tournament > Summer Barbecue Season > Halloween > Christmas – that allows businesses to encourage us spend money on their essential products.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t enjoy themselves or celebrate Wales’ massive achievement but how does this forced communal jollity add  to  the enjoyment of a sporting occasion? There’s something deeply irritating in the forced jollity of organised celebration, and it’s not just their urgent hashtags like #BEPARTOFSOMETHING or #GETINVOLVED.

If you want to “get involved” or “be part of something” fine but you don’t have to involve the rest of us in your capers. Why do we all have to congregate to have an authentic experience? People experience proper matches in relatively small groups of friends or acquaintances rather than as a monolithic group of thousands. It’s not embarrassing to be deprived of a fanzone, it just means that we have to watch it in a pub or god forbid, at home. What’s wrong with doing things the old fashioned way?

Having said all that Wales will be playing on in a major tournament today and it’s all very exciting. I won’t be leaving my house and I’m really excited. Hurrah for football! Hurrah for resigned acceptance!





A new flag is made….

8 06 2016

After five days of artistic toil and paper cuts a new flag has been produced for the European Championships. Here it is.

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If you see it in France pop over for a chat with the owners! The flag takes its place in the Llandudno Jet Set’s flag collection.

Neath away 2011

The Jet Set in Europe 2011

FC Midtjylland playing near Oswestry 2011

Welsh Cup Final 2011

Welsh Cup Final 2010

General Election 2010 / World Cup 2010

Neath Away 2010

Europa League 2009

Europa League 2009

Welsh Cup Final Protest 2009

Welsh Cup Final 2009

Rhyl 2009

A WPL match in 2008

Welsh Cup Final 2008

Swansea 2005

Cardiff 2004

Milan 2003





Double plus ungood, like I said Clive

8 05 2016

I dealt with my teetering pile of When Saturday Comes back issues the other week. One of them was the 30th anniversary edition that contained a reproduction of the first ever issue in the centre.

The first ever issue contained a short piece where the writer highlighted a few clichéd phrases that he thought people should stop using. I can come up with my own list for 2016.

“This programme is brought to you by (Insert Corporate Name Here)”

These days everything has been cynically considered from a commercial point of view so we’re not allowed to do anything that’s unaccompanied by the altruism of corporate interests.

Every facet of our sport comes with a sponsor’s logo. Even the community based schemes that exist to encourage social inclusion, the very antithesis of rapacious corporate interests, are sponsored. Naturally the celebration of victory has been given a corporate sheen with corporate hoardings and sponsored flags.

The trouble with the carefully planned corporate ownership of human enjoyment is that enjoyment can be unavoidably deferred for years. Witness the forlorn carefully planned celebration buses that became superfluous when results didn’t turn out as planned.

“BEEP………..BEEP………. BEEP………. BEEP” indeed.

“Let’s go over to The King Power / The Etihad / The Emirates / The I PRO / The Aviva / The Pukka Pies”

We can neatly move from the above to this grating example of corporate football. Media types always say something like “Let’s go over to The King Power / The Etihad / The Emirates / The I PRO / The Aviva / The Pukka Pies” on those TV programmes that keep you updated about scorelines and it’s always delivered with an excited pregnant pause.

While you obviously need to mention a ground’s name from time to time to establish a location there is absolutely no reason to give free advertising to the corporate giant and there’s certainly reason to utter the words with such obvious relish. What’s wrong with “Let’s go over to Leicester / Manchester City / Arsenal / Derby / Dublin / Walmington-on-Sea”?

When people respect the sanctity of the commercial arrangement all they’re doing is helping rich people ruin things. When people tweet things like “I’m going to the (Corporate stadium name) tonight.” they should be denied access to football matches.

If people are going to do this kind of thing it should be more truthful. “Let’s go over to the “PR cleansing operation for a toxic brand stadium”.

“That’s a Good Hit.”

When did “shots” become “hits”? Years ago you only heard the word “hit” when a poor free kick failed to make it past the wall or when a player whacked his penalty over the goal or there was a close up of a contre-temps. For most of my life “shots” were called “shots“.

It was easy to distinguish a “shot” from a “pass”, a “pass” was the propelling of a football towards a teammate and a “shot” was the propelling of the ball towards the goal. All of a sudden they started mentioning “hits” when “shots” happened and now all commentators excitedly mention “hits” as if it’s alright.

“He was entitled to go down there.” / “He had every right to go down there.”

Postmodernists tell us that metanarratives have lost their power to explain the world because we all have a unique experience of the world around us. 78.3% of the penalties given in professional football are proof that there is some validity in the postmodern point of view.

When the pundits analyse the incidents that led to penalties they conclude that 78.3% of them were definite nailed on stonewall penalties. Even though slow motion technology allows us all to see that these definite nailed on stonewall penalties involve the training ground honed practice of “engineered contact” or “leaving you foot sticking out so it brushes against something” rather then an actual foul

When there’s a doubt the pundits fudge by invoking the “Well he had every right to go down there” gambit. When I consulted the laws of football I couldn’t find the word “entitled”.

Law 12: Fouls and Misconduct

A direct free kick is awarded when a player commits any of the following in a manner considered by the referee to be careless, reckless or using excessive force:

  • Kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
  • Trips or attempts to trip an opponent
  • Jumps at an opponent
  • Charges an opponent
  • Strikes or attempts to strike an opponent
  • Pushes an opponent
  • Tackles an opponent

Or commits any the following offences:

  • Holds an opponent
  • Spits at an opponent
  • Handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within his own penalty area).

In determining whether or not a player deliberately handled the ball, the referee has several considerations:

  • Movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
  • Distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
  • Position of the hand (‘natural’ position versus ‘unnatural’ position) does not necessarily mean that there is an infringement
  • Touching the ball with an object held in the hand (clothing, shinguard, etc.) counts as an infringement (considered an extension of the hand)
  • Hitting the ball with a thrown object (boot, shinguard, etc.) counts as an infringement (also considered an extension of the hand)

If a player commits a direct free kick offence within his own penalty area, a penalty kick is awarded irrespective of the position of the ball, provided the ball is in play.

How is a player “entitled to go down”? The phrase presupposes that some players are more equal than others, why are some players entitled to special treatment?

Why should a defender be careful about leaving their foot too close to a striker with an eye for a chance? Why should defenders be unjustly punished just because they’re not as glamourous as the attacking players that feel unencumbered by the pressure of a moral outlook? Cheating a fellow professional isn’t something to be admired.

“Spitting is the worst thing a fellow player can do to another.”

Apparently spitting is worse than than cheating your way to a penalty, or getting a fellow professional sent off by acting, or have your leg broken by an opponent, or having your knee ligaments snapped by an opponent, or being racially abused by an opponent, or being disrespected by an opponent in their autobiography, or having a teammate sleep with your wife. It must be because they say it is.

“(Insert Name Here) is an absolute legend.”

In the ancient past you had to be like Hercules to be a legend, in other words you had to perform a Herculean feat of strength, bravery or endurance.

These days all you have to win a few matches, or score a high profile goal, or be the flavour of the month for doing something that’s run of the mill whilst carrying out your job.

Legends are players that have done something exceptional, or had something exceptional. Legends are not the players that are lauded for doing something useful and then pressured to leave 9 months later because they’re “useless”.

“(INSERT NAME HERE) OUT.”

In the past people were willing to accept that it wasn’t possible for their club to win everything all the time, most fans would have been happy if their club won anything.

These days most people appear to think the satisfaction of their own personal expectations is the most important thing in football. If the truly heinous prospect of expectation denial occurs someone has to be sacrificed to the god of opportunism with the gift of the sack.

Who decided that football was a “Perpetual success parade or you’re history dickhead” type situation? You and the rest of Murdoch’s willing slaves that’s who.

“I cashed out.”

Four young men sit around a pub table, doing the banter like Jeff and the boys on the screen above. They check their phones and do the banter loudly. They sit there, they know that matches are taking place because Jeff and the boys are talking about them. They know that matches are taking place their betting apps have told them.

They know matches are taking place yet there they sat, they know matches have taken place for years yet there they sit, they know that matches will go on for years but there they sit. They choose to sit there and make knowing jokes about subjects they think they’re entitled to make jokes about.

Matches happen and they need matches because matches are the petrol of their banter bus. They don’t need match tickets because they never need tickets, they don’t care their local club is struggling to make ends meet, they’ve got their mates and their banter.

They’ll never be warmed by the first glimpse of verdant grass, they’ll never share the communal joy of an unjustified winner, they’ll never fall over a row of seats in celebration, they’ll never be carried along by the glorious hubbub of a celebratory throng on a car-free road.

All they need is a pub table, their phones, Jeff & the boys and the banter bus.

“Vive Le Bantz”

Anything that Paddy Power produces should be banned. The fans of Mrs. Brown’s Boys are the only people that think Paddy Power is a funny person full of genius.

 





Anyone can design a match poster

2 05 2016

Someone designed a few match posters for Bangor City this season.

4. Airbus Away - 4 Sept

6. Caernarfon Home - 8 Sept

7. Carmarthen Home - 12 Sept

10. Aber Town - 25 Sept

12. TNS Home  - 16 Oct

14. Rhyl Home 2 - 30 Oct

18. Airbus Home - 15 Nov

25. Newtown Home - 8 Jan

31. Carmarthen Away 5 Mar 2

M28160-186 001

M28160-186 001

 

 





The Hillsborough Disaster, A Guide for the Stupid Football Fan

26 04 2016

I wrote this 5 years ago. The truth was available 26 years ago if you knew where to look.

The Hillsborough disaster is back in the news. There is an e-petition to sign if you would like our government to release documents related to the disaster.

I used to think that the truth was self-evident about Hillsborough; it was a disaster caused by a mixture of Police negligence and Thatcher’s policies. I thought the disaster was held with the same regard by all football fans because there was the potential for something like this to have happened at certain grounds at other times. It turns out that I was a little naive about this universal attitude.

Some people think that Liverpool fans are partly, if not wholly to blame for killing their own fans. Other people don’t like the sound of ‘Whinging Scousers” from “self-pity city” spouting off. I’ve challenged one or two of them on Twitter about this attitude.  They rather alarmingly, justify their view by mentioning the Heysel stadium disaster as if this was proof that “Liverpool fans caused Hillsborough”, despite the fact that Hillsborough disaster has nothing whatsoever to do with this very shameful event.

Others go on to highlight the behaviour of Liverpool fans in Athens as a further justification for their view, as if a few scallies robbing tickets off fans is equivalent to being crushed to death.

Morons will use both events to say this “just shows what Liverpool fans (and scousers) are like”. In other words they are using their petty prejudices about scousers to justify the fact that 96 people were crushed to death at a football match.

There is no greater example of the pernicious effect of Murdoch’s tabloid than this mass logic failure. Some people have swallowed the MacKenzie line about Liverpool fans hook, line and sinker. Some of these people have used other events to create a mental tapestry about Liverpool fans that justifies the death of 96 football fans.

I wonder if any of them have ever imagined what 96 people being crushed to death involves, what it feels like, what it looks like, what it sounds like, what it smells like. Have they ever thought about the guilt of the survivors? Have they fuck, if they had thought about Hillsborough like that they wouldn’t have made their comments.

These people make me ashamed to be a football fan.

For these idiots I have gone to the trouble of reading through the Taylor Report and I’ve highlighted the salient points in red. I’ve also  highlighted the cause Lord Justice Taylor formulated in blue. Remember this is not some “jaundiced Scouser” writing about the disaster. The report was written by a judge employed by the government to find out what happened.

 Here are the edited highlights of the “Taylor Report” (You will see that Lord Justice Taylor doesn’t blame Liverpool fans for the disaster)

36. The effect of the decision was that for this all-ticket Cup Tie, Liverpool were allotted only 24,256 places as against 29,800 for Nottingham Forest. This, although average attendance of supporters at home matches was substantially higher at Liverpool than at Nottingham. Moreover, with standing tickets at £6 and seats at £12, Nottingham Forest had 21,000 standing places compared with Liverpool’s 10,100. So, Liverpool’s allocation was more expensive as well as smaller. Understandably, Liverpool were aggrieved by the allocation of places and tickets. They sought with some support from the host club and the FA to have it changed in 1988, but the police were adamant. To switch ends would, in their opinion, have involved rival supporters crossing each other’s paths when approaching the ground thereby frustrating attempts at segregation and creating a risk of disorder. In 1989, when the same plan was proposed, Liverpool again challenged it. The police, however, maintained their view, adding that those who had attended in 1988 would be familiar with the arrangements and that any change would lead to confusion.

78. In the control room no-one noticed the overcrowding or anything amiss in pens 3 and 4 until the first fans spilt out onto the perimeter track just before kick-off. Then, the officers in command assumed that there was an attempted pitch invasion. They called up reserve serials waiting in the gymnasium and all available officers elsewhere to go to the pitch. A request was made to HQ for dog handlers.

Misinformation

98. At about 3.15 pm, Mr Graham Kelly, Chief Executive of the FA, Mr Kirton also of the FA and Mr Graham Mackrell, Secretary of Sheffield Wednesday, went to the control room for information. Mr Duckenfield told them he thought there were fatalities and the game was likely to be abandoned. He also said a gate had been forced and there had been an inrush of Liverpool supporters. He pointed to one of the television screens focussed on gate C by the Leppings Lane turnstiles and said “That’s the gate that’s been forced: there’s been an inrush”. Inevitably Mr Kelly was interviewed a little later live on television. He spoke of the two stories concerning the gate – the fans’ account that the police had opened it, the police assertion that the fans had forced their way in.

116. The overcrowding up to 2.52 pm was due to a number of factors which can be considered broadly under three heads.

(i) The layout at the Leppings Lane end.

(ii) Lack of fixed capacities for the pens,

(iii) Lack of effective monitoring of the terraces.

You may have noticed that the behaviour of Liverpool fans is not called into question

117. The crushing and fatalities after 2.52 pm must be considered under a number of headings.

(iv) The build-up at the turnstiles.

(v) The blunder on opening the gates.

(vi) The barriers in pen 3.

(vii) The crushing not recognised,

(viii) The response of the police.

(ix) The perimeter gates were too small.

123. As already mentioned, there was crushing at the Cup semi-final in 1981. The match was between Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers. The police debriefing minutes after the incident prophetically refer, “to the late arrival of a large number of spectators who were still waiting to enter the Leppings Lane enclosure when the match started. The flash point occurred when Tottenham scored” (at the Kop end) “after only three minutes. The spectators just entering pushed forward to see what was happening and caused a crush, which resulted in the injuries”.

166. What is clear, however, is that de facto the police at Hillsborough had accepted responsibility for control of the pens at the Leppings Lane end. The evidence of the senior officers who had been concerned with policing at Hillsborough over the years was all one way on this point. Only Mr Duckenfield, who had not policed at Hillsborough for some 10 years prior to 15 April, took a different view.

183. Although the police had accepted de facto responsibility for monitoring the pens, their policy on the day was to leave fans to “find their own level” and to concentrate their own attention on possible disorder. Whilst in theory the police would intervene if a pen became “full”, in practice they permitted the test of fullness to be what the fans would tolerate.

184. By 2.52 pm when gate C was opened, pens 3 and 4 were over-full even by this test. Many were uncomfortable. To allow any more into those pens was likely to cause injuries; to allow in a large stream was courting disaster.

191. Between 2.30 pm and 2.40 pm the crowd waiting for the turnstiles swelled to over 5,000 and became unmanageable. The case made for the police was that large numbers of Liverpool supporters arrived late; a high proportion of them were drunk and unco-operative; a high proportion had no tickets; all of them were hell-bent on getting in on time. They say this was unforeseeable and explains why they lost control.

192. Whether those who arrived between 2.30 pm and 2.40 pm were “late” was much debated. The ticket simply requested its holder “to take up [his] position 15 minutes before kick-off. That may have been intended to persuade those with stand tickets to take their seats, but it would not be unreasonable for a standing spectator to arrive at the turnstiles between 2.30 pm and 2.40 pm. Whether they were “late” or not, however, there was certainly a large concentration of Liverpool fans arriving at about 2.30 pm and after.

196. Of those who arrived at 2.30 pm or after, very many had been drinking at public houses or had brought drink from home or an off-licence. I am satisfied on the evidence, however, that the great majority were not drunk nor even the worse for drink. The police witnesses varied on this. Some described a high proportion as drunk, as “lager-louts” or even as “animals”. Others described a generally normal crowd with an unco-operative minority who had drunk too much. In my view some officers, seeking to rationalise their loss of control, overestimated the drunken element in the crowd. There certainly was such an element. There were youngsters influenced by drink and bravado pushing impatiently at the rear of the crowd thereby exacerbating the crush. But the more convincing police witnesses, including especially Detective Superintendent McKay and Chief Inspector Creaser as well as a number of responsible civilian witnesses, were in my view right in describing this element as a minority. Those witnesses attributed the crush to the sheer numbers of fans all anxious to gain entry. There was no criticism of the crowd by any of the witnesses in the period up to 2.30 pm or even 2.35 pm. What happened then was not a sudden deterioration in the mood or sobriety of those assembled there. No doubt those coming behind would have had more to drink and would have included the unruly minority. But the crisis developed because this very large crowd became packed into a confined turnstile area and its very density hampered its passage through the turnstiles.

197. Superintendent Marshall and other officers criticised the crowd as unco-operative because police exhortations to stop pushing and to ease back were not heeded. How could they be? In that crush most people had no control over their movements at all. Two incidents involving police horses illustrate the point. One horse was found afterwards to have cigarette burns on its rump. Clearly that was the despicable work of a hooligan whether in drink or not. However, there were also eyewitness accounts of a horse being physically lifted off its feet by the crowd. That occurred, as the police accepted, without malice or intent but as an involuntary consequence of crowd pressure which those by the horse’s flanks could not resist any more than the horse itself.

200. It has become a fact of football life that fans do turn up at all-ticket matches without tickets. It is not possible to give an accurate figure or even a reliable estimate of the number without tickets on 15 April. Police estimates varied from about 200 to about 2,000. There were certainly frequent requests for tickets or “spares” during the hours before the build-up. Many of those warned off by the police were seen to return to the area. Some were hanging about on the bridge. Again, however, the police witnesses who most impressed me did not consider the number of ticketless fans to be inordinately large. This accords with two other sources of evidence.

201. First, there was a wide range of witnesses who observed inside the ground that the Liverpool end was at a late stage well below capacity save for pens 3 and 4. The north stand still had many empty seats and the wing pens were sparse. The match being a sell-out, there were clearly many ticket holders to come and they could account for the large crowd still outside the turnstiles. Had the Liverpool accommodation been full by 2.40 pm, one could have inferred that most or much of the large crowd outside lacked tickets.

202. Secondly, such figures as are available from the Club’s electronic monitoring system and from analyses by the HSE suggest that no great number entered without tickets. They show that the number who passed through turnstiles A to G plus those who entered through gate C roughly equalled the terrace capacity figure of 10,100 for which tickets had been sold. The Club’s record showed 7,038 passed through turnstiles A to G.

However, the counting mechanism on turnstile G was defective, so the HSE did a study using the video film and projecting figures from the other turnstiles. This gave an assessment of 7,494, with a maximum of 7,644 passing through A to G. Again, using the video, the HSE assessed the number who entered the ground whilst gate C was open at 2,240 with a maximum of 2,480. Accordingly, the HSE’s best estimate of the total entering through gate C and turnstiles A to G was 9,734 with a maximum of 10,124.1 recognise that these can only be rough checks because, for example, some with terrace tickets were allowed through turnstiles 1 to 16 and there would be other similar factors which have not formed part of the assessment. Nevertheless, the figures do suggest that there was not a very significant body of ticketless fans in the crowd which built up.

The “Conspiracy” Theory

203. On behalf of South Yorkshire police, the theory was advanced that the “late” arrival of so many Liverpool supporters was planned to buck the system. The suggestion was that fans without tickets conspired to arrive late and create such trouble as would force the police to admit them to the match. The slender evidence upon which this theory rested came from two sources: overheard conversations in public houses and the antecedent history of Liverpool supporters at away matches.

204. One witness said he heard three Liverpool supporters saying, in effect, that they would manage to get in without tickets by causing trouble so that police would open a gate, and that they had done this before. Another witness heard two of a group of Liverpool supporters say they had no tickets, that they would go to the ground just before kick-off, that no-one would stop them getting in and that they had not been stopped yet. Statements were put in relating to two other small groups talking in similar terms.

Liverpool Supporters at Away Matches

205. The South Yorkshire police prepared a dossier of reports on the behaviour of Liverpool fans at away matches with the object of showing a pattern of troublesome behaviour by large numbers either without tickets or with forged tickets. Without setting out the whole history, it can be summarised as follows.

206. On three occasions Liverpool fans without tickets were allowed into all-ticket matches upon payment. (At Watford on 13 February 1988, 1,500 were admitted; at Southampton on 24 September 1988, 150 were admitted; at Southampton again on 12 December 1988, 750 were admitted.) At Norwich on 1 April 1989, Liverpool supporters arrived without tickets but 1,272 tickets had been returned and fans from both Liverpool and Norwich were allowed to buy them for cash. A similar situation occurred at Wimbledon on 13 May 1989. There were six other occasions from 1986 to date, including the Cup finals of 1986 and 1989, when numbers of Liverpool supporters turned up without tickets or otherwise behaved badly.

207. Four points must be noted, however. On none of the occasions when ticketless fans were admitted for payment was the match a sell-out. There was therefore room in the ground on each occasion. At a sell-out fans might not expect to be allowed in, even for payment. Secondly, no trouble of the kind alleged was encountered at the 1988 semi-final when Liverpool visited Hillsborough. Thirdly, Liverpool visited Hillsborough again in January 1989 without any trouble. Finally, no forged tickets were in use on 15 April apart from three crude photocopies.

No Conspiracy

208. I have already found that there was not an abnormally large number of fans without tickets on this occasion. With one or two exceptions, the police witnesses themselves did not subscribe to the “conspiracy” theory. I am satisfied that the large concentration at Leppings Lane from 2.30 pm to 2.50 pm did not arrive as a result of any concerted plan. There were, I accept, small groups without tickets who were willing to exploit any adventitious chance of getting into the ground. They, together with the minority who had drunk too much, certainly aggravated the problem faced by the police. But that main problem was simply one of large numbers packed into the small area outside the turnstiles.

214. As to 1988, there was a very large and consistent body of evidence that, on the day, the police in Leppings Lane conducted an efficient filtering exercise designed to keep away those without tickets and control the flow of fans towards the ground. I do not believe that so many witnesses without either opportunity or reason to put their heads together could be mistaken about what they experienced on that occasion. Yet, the police maintain that no filtering exercise other than on a random basis was conducted in 1988 and that their policy and practice then were no different from those of 1989.

215. The answer to this conflict must, I think, be that whilst the policy may have been no different, in practice the policing in 1988 was more efficient and was not put to the same test and strain as a year later. There was not so large a swell in numbers approaching the ground from 2.30 pm to 2.50 pm as in 1989. Nevertheless, there had been warning signs in 1988. Detective Superintendent McKay gave the following evidence:

229. The decision to order the opening of the gates was not accompanied or followed by any other order to deal with the consequences. When gate C was opened, a steady stream of about 2,000 fans poured through it over some five minutes. Clearly they were going to go into the ground somewhere and unless they were diverted their likeliest route was through the tunnel for reasons already given. No warning was issued from the control room that the gate was to be opened. Serials on the concourse were not alerted. Neither the Club control room nor the Chief Steward at the Leppings Lane end was warned. Not even Mr Greenwood, the Ground Commander, was informed. From 2.47 pm when Mr Marshall made his first request until 2.52 pm when Mr Duckenfield acceded to it, there were five minutes in which orders could have been given as to how the influx was to be absorbed. It was not done. In evidence, Mr Duckenfield began by saying that no officer made any wrong decision but he later conceded he had erred in this regard. He said he did not consider where the people would go when the gate opened. Even after it opened, when he could see the influx on the television screen, no order was given to steer the fans to the wing pens. Mr Duckenfield said it did not cross his mind to detail officers on the concourse to shut off the tunnel. Those officers could not have known from their position how full pens 3 and 4 were. That was a matter for the control room to monitor from its own observations and using intelligence from around the ground.

230. Since pens 3 and 4 were full by 2.50 pm, the tunnel should have been closed off whether gate C was to be opened or not. The exercise was a simple one and had been carried out in 1988. All that was necessary was for a few officers to act as a cordon at the entrance to the tunnel and divert fans elsewhere. Unfortunately, the 1988 closure seems to have been unknown to the senior officers on duty at the time. It did not figure in the debriefing notes. It therefore had no influence on the planning for 1989.

Mr Hicks’ Evidence

1. Mr and Mrs Hicks’ two daughters died in the disaster. They had arrived early en famille but had tickets for different sections. The two daughters had standing tickets; they went into pen 3. Mrs Hicks had a seat in the north stand. Mr Hicks took up a standing position in pen 1 just below and to the west of the police box at about 2.15 pm From there, he had a view of the centre pens. He kept an eye on them as they filled up since he knew his daughters to be there.

2. His evidence was that by 2.50 pm he could see people were in distress. At about 2.55 pm he and others called to a senior police officer at the top of the steps to the control box to draw his attention to the crushing. Mr Hicks was only about 10 feet from the officer. He described him as wearing a flat cap with gold or silver braid and a light coloured anorak. Mr Hicks believed he was the officer who stopped the match. Mr Greenwood, who did stop the match, was certainly not wearing a light coloured anorak, as can clearly be seen on the video.

3. Mr Hicks says that he and others shouted several times to this officer in attempts to alert him to the distress in the pens. There was no reaction although Mr Hicks believes the officer must have been in earshot.

4. That officer descended from the steps and two cameramen whom Mr Hicks believed were from television came and appeared to direct their cameras towards the pens. Another senior officer appeared two steps down from the platform. He was a stocky figure; he also wore a flat cap but with black braid. Mr Hicks says that he and two or three others tried several times to capture this officer’s attention without success. Then Mr Hicks says he shouted “For Christ’s sake! Can’t you see what’s going on? We can, and you have cameras”. The officer is said to have replied dismissively “Shut your fucking prattle”.

You look at what being a  football fan has become and you wonder if it’s worth bothering with any more.

It used to be about mild joshing between work mates and friends now it’s about hate and venom. A whole generation of “fans”, or “morons” if you prefer, is being led to believe that “hate” is one of the default settings – the others being “mindless banter” and “epileptic paroxysms of joy” – and there is no middle ground between these default settings.

The old ideas of camaraderie and bonhomie are further eroded by this media conditioning. Where fans may have once had a chat,  they now feel compelled to denigrate by using words like “scum”If you think this is far-fetched then why do people react negatively about the quest for justice in relation to the Hillsborough disaster, a disaster where 96 football fans lost their lives because they went to a football match. This should affect all football fans equally.

Hillsborough was not solely a football tragedy, it was  a human tragedy. The families of the victims deserve justice.





The trouble with scumbags and Hillsborough………..

26 04 2016

I wrote this 3 and a half years ago. Judging by twitter it still seems relevant today

………is that the truth isn’t enough for them.

A little over twenty three years ago the Lord Justice Taylor found that the main cause of the Hillsborough disaster was the failure of police control, a…;

“…Lack of effective monitoring of the terraces.”

The Hillsborough Independent Panel (Report published yesterday) also found that  “lack of police control” was the main cause of the disaster. The panel’s general findings make shocking reading;

  • A swifter response from the authorities could have saved 41 people.
  • A Tory MP and Senior Police officers were responsible for the cover-up by spreading false allegations; namely alcohol consumption played a massive part in the disaster).
  • Up to 164 Police Statements were doctored to hide the truth and 116 had potentially damaging comments removed
  • Police records were checked in case they could be used to impugn the reputations of dead Liverpool fans

The most satisfying finding of the panel was that Liverpool fans were not responsible for the disaster, especially as this was an unequivocal judgement.  We can rely on the findings of the panel because they had access to over 450,000 pages of documents. Unfortunately “The Worst cover-up in British legal history”, as the prominent QC Mike Mansfield put it, prevented the truth from emerging for twenty three years.

To say that I was elated at the findings would be an understatement, I’ve had to listen to snide comments for longer than I care to remember and the truth cuts through snide comments like a scimitar. I was elated for the campaigners as well because their hard work had finally paid off but I was mainly elated for the families of the victims.

My dad’s death has given me an understanding of the impact of such a horrible event upon a family. I can’t imagine the pain of having to deal with the loss of a family member when that family member is being subjected to a disgusting  public vilification as well. The families have finally been proved correct, there aren’t enough words to express how right this is.

The report led to obvious apologies from the groups responsible for the creation of the myth of the Hillsborough tragedy;  the South Yorkshire Police, a Conservative Prime Minister and Kelvin McKenzie. They all said they were truly sorry. Mind you there was nothing else they could do, the report was damning.

Even though those in the right have been vindicated there’s still a nasty taste. It took 20 years of pressure to start the process of finding the truth. It took 23 years for people to do the decent thing and admit they did something wrong.  The actions of South Yorkshire Police, McKenzie and Thatcher allowed the innocent victims of gross negligence to be labelled as scumbags that caused their own deaths.

The “profuse apology” offered by the shitbag MacKenzie can’t undo the damage he caused by helping in the creation of the Hillsborough myth. It cannot undo the snide comments or the attitudes. The shitbag McKenzie helped to create such a plausible myth that some people are still unwilling to believe the truth.

Some scumbags still want to believe that Liverpool fans caused Hillsborough, they still want carry on with vitriolic attacks on Scousers because they are Scousers. For example I typed “Scousers” and “Hillsborough” into the Twitter Search box yesterday, this is what I found;

    • From @chrisallan24 @JamesB4595: Scousers should shut the fuck up, Hillsborough was there own fault not anyone elses..” @PonderThePoint @ScouseAmbasador
    • From @JohnpaulBarker  Documentary about Hillsborough on BBC1? If it wasn’t for the scousers we could stand. 
    • From @AlexHolcroft1  Scousers getting arsey when #jft39 is said, how is that mocking hillsborough though? 
    • From  @grimreaperblog  What happened at Hillsborough was terrible. No one’s saying it isn’t. But why do Scousers keep dragging this up over and over again? 
    • From @samwhufc  – As sad as it is that 96 innocent people died at hillsborough no one is to blame but the scousers themselves that continued to surge forward!
    • From @NMBLAKE The sooner Liverpool fans accept their part of the blame for the Hillsborough tragedy the better. BC was right. Part police. Part scousers. 
    • From @s64morrison  – Duno how the police r gettin all the blame for hillsborough disaster. If the scousers didn’t turn up without tickets it wouldn’t of happened
    • From @trickyred7980  – 2 major football disasters (hillsborough + heysel) involving the scousers ….. coincidence? #lfc
      From @KeenosAFC  – Hillsborough would not of happened if the Scousers didn’t turn up on mass. Istanbul. Emirates. #JFT96
    • From @DanMoore90 Don’t blame it on the scousers, don’t blame it on juve, don’t blame it on the police, BLAME it on chelsea. Justice for the 39
      + From @iandangerously  What happens if the scousers don’t like the answers they get today? More protests and petitions? and if they were right what does it solve?
      + From @Joe_GodfreyMCFC  Scousers are like Muslims, say the slightest little thing about them and that’s it you’re a Nazi, racist etc. etc.
The people who tweeted these tweets are supposedly football fans from a civilised country yet these twats cannot even function at the most basic level of human decency. They don’t see victims of gross negligence, or a cover-up. They don’t see fellow human beings, or devastated families. Instead they see people who support a football club they don’t like, they see horrible scousers full of self-pity, they see horrible scousers that got what they deserved.

When football fans behave like this I wish football simply didn’t exist. I’d imagine that they wouldn’t like their families judged in this manner. A really disgusting thing happens when you press cunts like this, they justify their disgustingly warped attitudes. For example;

(All tweets were from @NigelfromUK)
 I think there are a lot of Scousers that are using the Hillsborough scandal to cover up there own actions & hide behind the victims.”
Followed by;
“we all forget Hysell disaster, there are a few that now hide behind Hillsborough to cover up earlier problems”
Then;
“you deny Liverpool fans running riot at Hysell? I’m stating the stereotype that we were led to believe.”
Then;
“all I’m saying “some” Liverpool fans that day have to take responsibility for there own actions ……..”
Before ending here;
“so you telling me that not one Liverpool fan that day did anything wrong, anything that MAY of assisted in what happened?”
This prick of a Manchester United fan wouldn’t accept the idea that TWO STUDIES of the Hillsborough disaster had exonerated the Liverpool fans. All he was interested in was finding sustenance for his hatred of Liverpool and self-pitying Scousers. Mind you, he wasn’t the only person taking this view, some “person” called Dave Lodwig left the following message on the When Saturday Comes facebook page;
 “If there was one LFC fan (drunk or otherwise) with no ticket who rushed the gate – one – then it cannot be said to be 100% the authorities fault. Today no-one is allowed to say this though. It’s Orwellian. And frightening.”
Where do you start with people who are unwilling to let the prejudices go even when there is overwhelming evidence that proves their prejudices are wrong. Quite frankly I hate football for allowing people act in this way.







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