Wednesday, April 30, 2008

We had joy, we had fun

I renewed our season tickets today. We're going to the Family Stand, third row towards the Riverside stand. As suggested by PM and KH.

Voting rights

Who I vote for is between me and the ballot box and the readers of this blog. But I think it's important to vote. With local elections coming up tomorrow, we face a fairly simple decision. All three of our councillors seem really nice people. I think they embody the values of community service fairly well. They respond to letters, they listen to the public and they return phone calls. When our neighbours took on Kelly's Nite Club, they were very understanding, supportive and reasonable.

When Councillor Susan Ingham came round last night asking if her pal Shan Alexander can count on our vote, I couldn't think of a reason why they shouldn't. Though the see through bin bags still really annoy me.

So, though I can't understand the point of the Liberal Democrats, my own view of local council politics is that it's more important to judge a candidate by the content of their character than the colour of their rosette.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ten thoughts on .... dead trees

Our paper recycling bag is far too big and I don't get to read all that pile of paper, especially when we've had such a busy weekend like this. Here are my ten thoughts on my media consumption.

* We get the FT at work and I skim it.

* We get the Manchester Evening News at work and I always wish it could be more like the Evening Standard: confident and proud - and agenda setting. There's good stuff in there, but the adverts dominate every page.

* I get the Spectator for political coverage and for amusing asides from Taki, Toby Young, James Delingpole and Rod Liddle. Martin van der Meyer is always excellent.

* I used to like the Weekend FT, but it became a drudge. The new relaunched one looks lively.

* I like The Guardian for news and features, and Media Guardian on Monday, but the finance coverage is woeful. Suduko is the best of all the papers.

* The Observer under Roger Alton has been brilliant. Andrew Anthony and Nick Cohen are great comment writers. I like the fans round up of the football.

* I quite like Independent and try and buy it once a week. Jeremy Warner is very good on the business pages. Now Roger Alton is editor, I may buy it more often.

* Saturday is for irreverence and range and The Guardian, especially The Guide, is great for that.

* I have stopped buying the Sunday Times, but did so today to support my good pal Dr Philip Beresford who has done another exhaustive survey of the nation's rich.

* The free Stockport Times goes straight in the bin. Yet I buy the Stockport Express for Marple district news and Sale Sharks stuff.

Happy 6th birthday Matt

We went to Hazel Grove Leisure Centre yesterday for a go-kart party for Matt's 6th birthday. We all had a good laugh, especially the birthday boy. His Mum made a brilliant Sponge Bob Squarepants cake and Rachel made a great table full of butties for all all the hungry racers.

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Marple Ath - we're having a laugh

I may have mentioned that I've got involved in Marple Athletic Junior Football Club. Joe plays in the Under 9s and Max and Louis are in the Under 7s. I've helped put the website together and got us some coverage in the media. It's a club that seems to be heading in the right direction.

We've also made some really good friends amongst the touchline parents. On Friday we held a golf day at Marple Golf Club. There's not much to say about my golf except that at one point I observed that my shots were so bad because of the sh*te on the end of my 7 iron - top end, that is. I'm still aching from the amusing 5 mile walk interrupted by poor attempts at hitting a white ball far too many times to count.

We then piled up to Lane Ends to see A Few Good Men, the band fronted by our chairman, Jason Isaacs. Cracking night out.

They say the most intense rivalries in football come in cities where the supporters of both teams live cheek by jowl. That's certainly the case in Marple. Yesterday was the return fixture in Joe's Under 9's Marple Athletic against Rose Hill Rovers. A lot of the boys know each other from school and what have you. There's even a rumour that one of our players who has recently left is going to Rose Hill next season. Things have gone on in the past that I don't know about, but come this Saturday, what mattered was winning after the earlier game this season saw us lose. Anyway, it was an exciting match that Marple won 1-0, then the B team won 3-1. There'll be a report here. I refereed that one. And here's a lesson. Kids football gets a bad press sometimes, but you don't have to do a great deal as a ref, they don't answer back, scream or dive. You just have to stop the game when a boy gets a knock and restart it.

There was even a bit of shirt swapping at the end which we weren't too keen on.
Next weekend we're heading for Stalag Fleetwood where 200 of us from Marple are off to watch a weekend of kids footie.

We're sat in the front room now watching Rangers v Celtic - currently 2-2. Brilliant stuff.

Down on the farm

Just been down to the Farmers Market at Marple Hall School. The butcher at the front entrance had more or less sold out of meat, but I got a load of sausages and steak. The ruddy cheeked farmer from Shropshire sold me a bag of veg for a few pennies short of £3. Inside, it was absolutely packed. The man with the biggest smile in the room was Nick Lindley from Deli Select, who was doing a bustling trade in cheese and expensive nibbles. There are Greek nibbles, Thai bites and a table full of fudge.

In truth, there's not that much of a farm theme at all. It doesn't matter, because it's a nice trip out and the produce is of good value. The next one is on the 3rd Sunday in May. I hope it's better weather and they can have it outdoors.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Eric the Existentialist

When I was at Old Trafford for the United v Roma game we spotted Eric Cantona. I thought that the little fellah sat with him looked a lot like Ken Loach. Turns it out it was, in fact, the lefty film maker, who is making a film about the Kung Fu Kicker's time at OT.

There's this from Popbitch today:

Ken Loach is making a biopic of Eric Cantona's time at Man Utd, provisionally titled Finding Eric. The director hasn't lost his “man of the people” credentials. Rather than staying in the posh Lowry Hotel he's in a big standard 3 star place, refusing the services of a chauffeur and spending his 35 quid a day per diem in Pret a Manger on food for his staff. He and the Cantona family have been travelling around by tram or minicab.

I was certain I saw Ken being driven in a Merc through Chorlton after the game.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Having a Mayor

The London election has captured a lot of attention. It's led to people calling for other big cities to have city mayors and supposedly, engaging public contests like Boris v Ken in London. There's plenty of this here, on the Centre for Cities blog.

I don't think it necessarily follows that a well contested election means other urban centres need a mayor. Manchester has achieved all that it has with a powerful chief executive's office, an unelected mayor, in all but name. Other cities would love to have a Sir Howard Bernstein, but no amount of legislation or changes to the LGA would create the conditions for a forward looking, entrepreneurial chief executive that could attract inward investment and win bids for casinos, transport funds and party conferences. That comes from leadership.

Would we all be saying the mayoral system is so good if it was Ken Livingstone v Steve Norris again? Is the current personality led clash between a nasty control freak and a buffoon actually good for democracy? And frankly, who would stand for mayor of Manchester and make the contest as lively as the London one if that's the aim?

Now if there were to be an election for the mayor of Marple, I could think of a few people who'd make for a good showdown!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Short Changed

Do you lie awake at night wondering how former Blackburn and Sheffield United centre-half Craig Short occupies his time now that he's jacked in football? Well wonder no more, because the answer is here. Source: The Fiver.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Turning rebellion into money

I was going to get my pal Andy Coyne a magnificent t-shirt from Philosophy Football with the last line from the towering Clash masterpiece White Man in Hammersmith Palais. However...

The copyright police have forced us to remove our Clash T-shirts (turning rebellion into money anyone?) This is nothing to do with Mick, Paul, Tope but rather the corporate lawyers. BUT we've found a fantastic new quote from Joe Strummer which they can't touch us for. Check out the new Strummer shirt.

This is it:
I've got my eye on another one, but if you're reading this on Monday morning Andy, I hope the celebratory hangover isn't too bad. Looks like Villa are Europe bound.

Young at heart

I've enjoyed the first half of Toby Young's latest book, The Sound of No Hands Clapping, which I picked up for £2 in Fopp. I had just got to the bit where his pregnant wife injured herself skiing. Unfortunately I left it in the bidet in our bathroom and a curious child, or one who disapproves of witless berks who look like William Hague, soaked it in water. We've tried to dry it on the Aga, but it has just turned it to mush. Oh dear. I don't know if I want to read it enough to buy it again. Even for £2.

Ten thoughts on ... Rovers v Man United

A sell out crowd, end of season edge and two teams desperate to win. It was definitely the best game at Ewood all season. It's also brought to a head a number of things I've been thinking and feeling about the whole Rovers experience. Here are ten thoughts...

In Brad We Trust - what an amazing goalkeeper we have. Athletic, brave, sharp and commanding. That was one of his (many) immense performances for Rovers. Outstanding. But here's something that gets missed. He had a fantastic defence in front of him yesterday. All nine of them threw everything at the ball in the last 20 minutes.

Cruz Control - Roque Santa Cruz was spectacularly good on the right side of midfield in the second half, helping to keep Ronaldo and Evra quiet when needed. He deserved his goal too. I hope he rounds of the rest of his season with a few more.

Vogel in vogue - Vogel deserved his standing ovation when he came off towards the end. I can see the point of him a bit more now. He broke up the play very well and played some intelligent short passes in a crowded central area. Joe noticed him and said he'd improved incredibly from the Spurs game.

Wave after wave - We've been here before with the wave after wave of Man United attacks resulting in a late goal. They are determined and dogged. Even when they don't play that well.

The home front - we were back in our allotted seats on the front row of the Riverside (Fraser Eagle). You can't see the pattern of the game very well this low down, but you can get the blood and thunder so very well. We also see how good Stephen Warnock is.

Bring the noise - when the atmosphere is this good, when the noise is this loud and when everyone is right behind the team and the action so compelling, the kids don't hear Potty Mouth and Knuckle Head bellowing out - F this, C that, Argie, Dago, Scouser, etc etc.

Flag Day - I've got a 10 foot by 5 foot Barmy Flags special with the name of this blog on it, the red rose and my own habitual roar - C'mon Roverrrrs. I've been told not to bring it by the stewards, because it covers an advert for alcopops, but I thought I'd chance it for this one. It lasted for the whole of the first half. It would look great in Europe.

Awaydays - I was genuinely worried that United fans would be all over the ground for this one, in the way Man City were in 2000 when they supposedly brought 250,000 for their promotion party. There were two United lads sat behind us and they were silent for the whole game (scared of PM and KH?). We also had a United fan in our party (he is 9). When Tevez scored, one berk ran the length of the stand in celebration and into the arms of the stewards at the exit with a lynch mob in hot pursuit, including PM and KH (above). At the final whistle I told the lads behind to "be safe" and thanked them for not giving it large. I've done the same thing myself for big sell out games at Preston, Everton, Liverpool, Man City and with a pal at Millwall v Sunderland. If you're going to sneak in, show some respect.

Grass is always Greener - the obsession with the Big Four on the BBC sickens me. Radio 5's 606 and Match of the Day are unbelievably myopic. Rather than seeing David Bentley and Roque as the foundation of a good Rovers side, they see a transfer target. Same with Dimitar Berbatov and Tim Cahill, amongst others. Alan Green is the worst offender and his obsession with referees is also very tedious.

Football's coming home? - I loved it yesterday. It's my last match of the season as well, we're at a kids football tournament for the Derby game. But I loved the kids' excitement, the passion from the crowd, the tempo of the game and the joy of seeing a very good Blackburn Rovers side. Believe me, I've seen some poor ones. If we had bought tickets on a match by match basis for every game we've been to, it would have cost us the thick end of £1500. The season tickets came to about £800 for us all. Granted we may not go to all of the games, but they represent fantastic value. We simply can't put up with PM and KH - but we shall explore other options...

Friday, April 18, 2008


I went to Man United v Roma last week as a guest of Philip Green, the chief executive of United Utilities. It was one of those gatherings that I had to pinch myself I was a part of. The other guests were all real big shots: my good pal Paul Horrocks, the editor of the Manchester Evening News; Paul Lee, the senior partner of law firm Addleshaw Goddard; Ian McAulay, UU's MD of Capital Programmes; Ian Marks, the leader of Warrington Council; Julian Metherell, the chief executive of UK Investment Banking with Goldman Sachs; finally there was a guy there called Nick Greiner from UU Australia. Having lived down under for a year I remembered that he used to be the state premier of New South Wales.

It pays to do your homework in instances such as this and I have done so ever since in order not to get caught out in exactly such circumstances. The reason is that in 2000, I met this very nice bloke at the wedding of my friends Colleen and Matthew in San Francisco. He was the father of the Colleen's business partner, Jessica.

I was very jet lagged and slightly manic, Charles was being very kind and charming to me and wanted to know about my journey.

Being polite, I asked back: "What business are you in Charles?"

"Education, Michael."

"Oh, are you a teacher?"

"Not exactly. I'm the deputy minister for education for British Columbia."

It's true, this is him, here.

And while I'm name dropping I also ought to mention that Matthew's Uncle was also there. It's this bloke. Seriously, after a while he just became Matt's Uncle.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The race for the top job at the NWDA

This was the short news story I did after going to another business dinner last night:

Robert Hough, a frontrunner to be the next chairman of the Northwest Regional Development Agency, told Baker Tilly’s annual dinner in Manchester last night that the region’s economy was better able to ride out a downturn than the South East. In a statesman-like speech on the current economy, the well-connected business grandee and Peel Holdings deputy chairman said: “The extremes are not as evident in Manchester and the North West. Our economy is more balanced, more diverse and more sustainable.” For the record, when Insider asked him about his chances of stepping up from NWDA board member to chairman, he politely declined to comment.

it got me thinking that if the NWDA chairman's job was decided on stand up comedy, rather than experience, Hough would probably win.

It's fair to say that Bryan Gray, the current chairman doesn't really do humour. And of the quartet thought to be in the running Felicity Goodey is rather earnest. The other contenders do it better. John McGuire likes a laugh, he once bellowed out that him getting the top job at RBS was because the rest of them "must have been pretty crap" and Geoff Muirhead once told me this joke:

"Swampy died you know. Aye, he had heart problems, they wanted to do a by-pass but he protested and said no."

And so finally, this is Robert Hough's joke from his speech last night:

Mao Tse-tung was being interviewed. “What do you think would have happened if Mr. Khrushchev had been assassinated instead of President Kennedy?”
Chairman Mao thought for a moment and then said: “I don’t think Mr. Onassis would have married Mrs. Khrushchev.”

Monday, April 14, 2008

City of Blackburnley

There is talk in local government circles about city regions. Manchester is very keen on the idea, the boroughs of Liverpool, less so. One intriguing possibility is of an East Lancashire mega city region based on Blackburn and Burnley coming together.

The full story is here.

Graph tastic

There's a very amusing collection of graphs and charts here. No doubt someone is having a lot of fun at work.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Time flies by... ten happy thoughts on my week

My feet haven't touched the ground this week. So here are ten good things that have happened.

Rachel's done really well at work this week. Got a special mention in her Q1 review.

We had a superb shareholders meeting off site on Wednesday.

Following a snotty response to my blog about football where it was suggested that a "precious snob" like me would be better off at the opera I went to Manchester United v Roma on Wednesday night in an exec box (worthy of a blog in itself).

Great news from Scotland. My pal Erikka Askeland has got a new job at the Scotsman in Edinburgh. The Bitter End will bring her sparkle to new parts of the media world.

And Alasdair Northrop has got engaged to be married. Anyone who knows Alasdair will know why that is such good news. I'm thrilled to bits for him.

It's been a great week for the business. Our latest magazine is out this week, here. Ticket sales for our Business of Sport Summit are going very well. Get yours here.

I think I'm getting the hang of Last FM. Please feel free to contact me on it. My user name is the name of this blog.

I had a Kobe beef burger at the Grill on the Alley. Superb.

Liverpool owners are falling out. *cue banner* "What we achieve in strife, echoes in adversity."

And finally, it's the weekend. Time for some quality time with the family.

Staff matters

I have a pet theory. If a workplace has a sign up that says something along this lines of "our staff deserve respect, anyone being horrible to them will be prosecuted" is usually guilty of causing the general public to get riled. It's not an excuse for violence, by the way, but it does rather encourage rather than confront a staff culture of contempt for the customer.

This was discussed at lunch on Monday with a regular traveller through Manchester Airport who agrees with me that it is a horrible place. When they lost our buggy a couple of years ago the self righteous "not my problem" attitude of the staff highlighted this. There was also a sign, as described.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Why we are not renewing our season tickets

Here's a tricky one for us. Since our scrapes with knucklehead and potty mouth in the Fraser Eagle stand at Blackburn Rovers, which I first mentioned here, then here, we've watched the last three matches from the Family Stand. Joe can see now that he has some specs and the view is good. It's also been a better shield from the wild weather than the front row.

At the Spurs game yesterday it was us who seemed to cause offence. The mother in a family in front of us thought Elliot was "too young to be here" and "wasn't even watching the game". She also admonished Louis for kicking her son's chair (it was Matt, actually and he was tapping the empty seat next to her son).

Now, she may be right about Elliot, but it was rude to say so. I happen to think visible tattoos on early middle-aged women are trashy, but it's not my place to comment and rightly she would have been offended had I expressed this opinion about her choice of body art.

We've already decided we aren't going to renew season tickets. This was the final straw. We considered relocating permanently to the family stand, but we are not going to. The risk of having to sit amongst people you are likely to offend, or be intimidated by, is a risk of going to football. But doing so every week is just not worth the effort.

We'll still go, but not quite so often.

As for the game, it was another frustrating day. Bentley shone as a player with the most talent on the pitch, but wasn't effective enough. Vogel had a shaky debut, giving the ball away a lot, but playing in front of the centre backs. He reminded me of Barry Ferguson - I could never see the point of him either. Early days to be fair. The best move of the match involved a sweeping pass from Benni McCarthy, quite the most skilfull player, but also the most frustrating.

Friday, April 04, 2008

What's good about London

Went to London yesterday. Always a pleasure to visit our capital. Here are ten things that made me smile.

Business wise it was a great success, but I don't get into that kind of detail on here.

Better still was the chance to catch up with my bessie mate from way back, John Dixon. Here we are, above, at Broadgate Circus.

I saw that Banana Republic has opened in London. It always used to be a feature of American work trips that I'd get a few bits of gear from BR. Didn't seem that special to be honest.

Beak Street used to be home of the Lonsdale shop. Now that it's been chavified by Mike Ashley that store is no more. Near by however was this nifty little gentlemen's outfitters called Albam here. Got a new coat.

They were playing the Echo and the Bunnymen first album, on vinyl, and selling unlabelled simple threads. And they seemed to have lots of copies of Monocle knocking about.

Next door I saw this superb collection of cards at Gathered Images.

And these at Simon Spicer.

Beak Street still has the CP Company shop selling items of rare beauty. Such a shame that Clone Island has become a nasty badge of terrace scum. The good stuff is ace.

I was jumped on my a gypsy woman trying to sell me lucky heather. If it's so lucky, love, then how come you have to mug people in London to make a living?

I'd forgotten how popular after work drinking is in London. We were in the City later and everywhere was buzzing with groups of people talking about pork belly futures, etc.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

New stadium for Marple

A rich backer has purchased land next to Cheadle/Marple College on Hibbert Lane in Marple to develop a new stadium and sports complex.

Roger Cashman, millionaire owner of Manchester-based RC Solutions, says his 10 year plan is to bring league football to Marple with the launch of Marple Athletic Football Club. A full outline of his plan is on his website, which you can link to by clicking here.

Cashman has secured long term contracts with 20 youngsters currently playing in the Under 10s, Under 9s and Under 8s with Marple Athletic Junior Football Club. "By the time these kids are old enough to play proper football, we'll have the best team in the North West," the tycoon told The Marple Leaf.

The 6,000 all seater stadium will also be available as a community centre and entertainment complex, something Marple has lacked since the closure of Kelly's Nite Club earlier this year.

The headline gig at the opening of the new stadium will feature A Few Good Men, the band fronted by Marple rock legend Jason Isaacs.