Sunday, 30 November 2014

New Work

I've just started doing a bit of sports writing for a new content company - 90 Digital. Here's the first two pieces:

Is Origi the Answer? - featured on Liverpool site, The Empire of the Kop

Peering Through the January Transfer Window at Football Extras

Tuesday, 2 September 2014


Excellent new sports site The Upright were kind enough to publish a short piece of mine in their flash features strand at the weekend. It's a piece about a very special man. Here it is - Letter For Metgod

Monday, 14 July 2014

Footballers DO Care

Well that’s that then. While some may waste their time arguing over whether the Brazil World Cup was the best of all time or not, the football on show has been universally applauded. And most fans would feel that Germany lifting the trophy befitted the previous four weeks of football on display.

Many words have been written about the glory of the 20th World Cup but there was a moment after the Holland v Brazil match on Saturday that went largely unnoticed but made me forget for a second the money grabbing, agent-led, vacuous nature of the modern game. The third/fourth play-off match (unwanted by all but FIFA and especially by the players forced to perform one more time when they would much rather forget their semi final defeat and retreat to the luxury spas and resorts of the world) had just ended when the camera picked out Arjen Robben in the centre of the pitch. Like many players in his position he mugged for the camera taking on a triumphant pose. But it was as Robben turned away from the camera to find his teammates that a sliver of the beauty and innocence of football was fleetingly apparent. Arjen Robben is undoubtedly a great player and arguably the real player of the tournament but he is not generally thought of as a footballing innocent - as Mexican fans would confirm. But at the end of a meaningless match as the world’s attention was about to switch to crying Brazilians you could see Robben fist pump to himself – a sign that the match had meant something to him. That, in what could possibly turn out to be his final World Cup match, winning the game had meant a lot to him. His mind wasn’t on the beach, for Robben it wasn’t a perfunctory kickabout in what will turn out to be a forgotten match. Finishing third at a World Cup had meant something to him. It was an achievement. The physical and psychological barrier between the footballer and fan had come down for a split second.

No doubt as the new season goes on there will be many examples of how modern football goes against everything I hold dear about this glorious game, but for a moment my heart was lifted.

Friday, 27 June 2014

10 Reasons Why Brazil 2014 Has Been So Good (So Far)

We're only at the end of the group stage but already this World Cup has surpassed expectations and provided some great memories. Here are some of my favourite moments so far...

Holland's demolition of Spain Although not the first game of the finals, Holland's thrashing of the all conquering Spanish side set the tone for the tournament

Pirlo's free kick against England Joe Hart rooted to the ground as Pirlo (who, along with the entire Italian team, had an otherwise unmemorable tournament) struck a ball that swerved and swayed until it crashed off the crossbar. Hopefully the rumours that talk of his retirement was premature are true

Costa Rica Before the tournament started the best thing anyone said about them was that they might not be as rubbish as everyone thought. Then they won the group after outclassing Uruguay and Italy

Colombia's goal celebrations Slightly unfair to mention this and not their fantastic results but if the group choreographed celebrations haven't made you smile you have a heart of stone

John Brooks' goal celebration The American had only come on as sub but the incredulous look on his face as he realised that he had scored the winner against Ghana with only four minutes to go on his World Cup debut was a delight

Ochoa's performance against Brazil The hosts were not at their best but the Mexican keeper was outstanding

Cahill's goal Australia were not expected to do much in a group with Spain, Holland and Chile but Cahill's left foot volley made their trip worthwhile. An excellent swansong for the New York Red Bulls striker in his final appearance at a finals

France's goal-fest against Switzerland Maybe Deschamps was right to leave out the disruptive Nasri. France have played - and scored - as a team. The rout of Switzerland being the best example so far. Not that I saw most of it however, I was busy trying to explain to my distraught three year old where his snowman had gone. A snowman we made in March 2013. It's a long story...

GOALS!!! We didn't even have a draw until the 14th match and there's only been five 0-0 stalemates in the entire group stage. The age of conservatism is dead

Algeria qualifying The elation of the Algerian fans and players as they drew their final game against Russia, to go through to the second round for the first time in their history was yet another example of the uplifting nature of this World Cup. The fact that they now face Germany and have a chance to avenge 'the disgrace of Gijon' is proof of footballing gods. They won't win next week though. Will they?

Monday, 23 June 2014

Monday, 9 June 2014

O Jogo Bonito

We’re almost there. It’s so close. Four years of waiting are almost over. The World Cup is upon us. Some of the usual signs haven’t been as evident this time around – there has been a distinct lack of St George flags in windows – but the pubs have now finally got into the mood with their various flag displays (and where exactly can you buy a Costa Rica flag in this country?).

I love a World Cup. Even with corruption and bribery accusations, cosseted footballers and ignorant television pundits, you just can’t beat this wonderful tournament that comes around just once every four years. From the giants of Brazil and Spain to the comparative minnows of Honduras and Iran, they have all now arrived in South America to compete for the ultimate prize in football.

I wish I could be there to experience it first-hand but for the next month I will be able to watch up to three matches a day (until those horrible football-less hours later in the tournament) from arguably the ‘real’ home of football. There will be the players and sides that we are all used to, but for me the World Cup is as much about watching Algeria, Ecuador and Bosnia as it is England, Germany and Holland. It sounds like – and is – a cliché but it really is a festival of football. Media pundits may suggest that some players are more interested in their clubs and the personal fortunes they bring them but for millions around the globe the World Cup is the pinnacle. And to have it in Brazil just accentuates the gloriousness of it all. Everyone is aware of the potential for the justified protests and demonstrations – spending so much on a sports tournament when the money could go towards much needed social provisions borders on the obscene – but still we are drawn to this most magical of competitions.

There are so many World Cup memories. From the grace and class of Brazil in 1982, to watching games before school in 1986, the England penalties of 1990, actually being at two matches in America in 1994, French dominance and Brazilian capitulation in 1998, more breakfast matches in 2002 before the carnival of 2006 and Africa hosting their first ever World Cup in 2010. I have loved every single one. I have no doubt that this year’s edition will evoke great memories in years to come.

The World Cup for me is the most enduring of spectacles and there is nothing Sepp Blatter, xenophobic fans or prima donna footballers can do to ever change that.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Monday, 31 March 2014

Future Islands Obsession

I fully admit that I can get a bit obsessed about stuff. If I like something I tend to read up on it, find out more about it - whether it’s a film, football club or music. When I first got into hip hop it didn’t have the mainstream profile it has today so to find out more you had to dig deep. Obviously some of the subjects they rapped about were a mystery to a teenager living in what could never be described as a bustling metropolis. So I gleaned information wherever I could. That’s the way I learned what they were talking about – and more about the culture of hip hop. 

Well now I have a new obsession. If you somehow haven’t already seen it I urge you to check out this - Future Islands performing their new single Seasons (Waiting For You) on the Letterman show a few weeks back. 

The song is great – a driving New Order-ish bass and drum with synths and lyrics from the heart. But it is Sam Herring’s performance that has caused me to watch the clip more times than is probably healthy. As the band starts Herring starts moving. A captivating undulating movement that has been likened to those seen on the northern soul dancefloors but made me think of Twin Peaks. It’s kind of a like a dad dance infused with pure funk. And then he starts singing.

The emotion that comes through is electrifying. Reaching out for help, beating his chest, Herring pours the pain out in lyrics with almost interpretive actions. His soul is laid bare as he laments that “People change, but certain people never do”. The voice, that in the recorded version is quietly powerful, takes on a whole new level live as he emits guttural noises for some lines that sound like a death metal remix. 

I am glad to say this wasn’t a one off and that the new album is impressive throughout. I’ve also happy to report that the performance wasn’t a ‘what can I do on Letterman to get us noticed’ deal either. Herring sings from the heart and moves as if he can’t help himself whenever they gig – even if it’s just a record shop instore as in LA’s Amoeba in 2010. And in that instance he was still wearing a leg brace after damaging his ACL.

In a world of generic bands with an almost expected level of frontman swagger on show it is refreshing to discover that real front men don’t act a certain way because that’s what you do when you’re in a band but because they can’t help themselves.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Arctic Cup

The always brilliant Football Pink allowed me to write something about an imaginary football tournament. They seemed to like it. Here it is - Arctic Cup

Thursday, 6 March 2014


Here's a review of the new Spike Jonze film, Her that I wrote for the excellent Best For Film. Spoiler alert: I really liked it - Her

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Not the Euro 2016 Draw

Inspired by a friend who moaned about the seeding policy for the draw for the qualification groups for the 2016 European Championships I decided to perform a little experiment.

Pre-draw admin

With 24 places available in the French tournament in two years time, it seems as if any of the top nations fail to qualify something cataclysmic will have to have occurred. With a total of 53 countries entering the competition - plus the holders France - it is a little strange that UEFA still don't trust the likes of Italy, Spain and Germany not to qualify at a canter. They still deemed it necessary to seed the best sides to make sure they didn't accidentally meet each other in qualification and ruin it for everyone when it comes to the finals.

The draw

With this in mind I decided to stage my own draw with no strings attached. I would pull the names out of the hat - or in this case an old German drinking vessel - and see what turned up. I, unlike UEFA, did nothing to stop the possibility of Spain and Gibraltar sharing the same group. I also didn't keep apart some of the bigger nations due to "television demands". But then I didn't need to keep my sponsors happy.

So, without further preamble, here are the nine groups. I now have to somehow think of a way to keep this strange experiment going all the way to Paris in 2016. Keeps me busy I suppose.

Group A

Group B
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Faroe Islands

Group C

Group D
Czech Republic

Group E
Northern Ireland
San Marino

Group F

Group G

Group H
Republic of Ireland

Group I

Keep up to date with any further developments on twitter with #AltEuro16

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Mystic Dan

This is my latest piece for Stupid Americans FC. The site seems to have gone a bit quiet so I've added it here before my predictions are irrelevant

With the news that I am finally defeating the best minds that America can offer and am proudly sitting atop the Stupid Americans prediction league I thought I’d let the cascades of adulation go to my head and offer up a few more predictions for the coming months. You can accept these as fact. The table doesn’t lie.

1.  Manchester United will qualify for the Champions League. There is a lot of grumbling coming out of Old Trafford and some fans are questioning whether ‘The Chosen One’ should become ‘The Unemployed One’. Apart from the fact that United’s form has improved over the last few weeks, Man United just have too much experience. I’m not saying that there are not problems that the club have to face - and quickly - but I can see them limping over the line come May. A disappointment for the fans sure, and an unwanted qualifying round in next season’s Champions League, but qualification all the same. And what’s more they’ll do it at the expense of Liverpool. Which leads me onto…

2. Liverpool will have the top goal scorer in the league in the guise of the ever lovable Luis Suarez. But only qualifying for the Europa League will give the Uruguayan enough reason to head to sunnier climes. But for A LOT of cash. If this happens (and of course it will, I just said it would) it will be interesting to see how they spend the money.

3. Celtic and Rangers will win their respective leagues. Yeah, I know, hardly fucking Nostradamus with this one. But I predict them both to win without losing a single match. Even with the re-emergence of other clubs such as Dundee United that still paints a sorry picture for the standard of Scottish football.

4.  Brazil will win the World Cup. It should actually be a fairly open tournament with a number of sides able to feel pretty confident of their chances. Home field advantage will tell though. Look out for Uruguay and Colombia to perform well but fall foul of tough draws. The reign of Spain will end and the less said about England the better (hopefully the British press will heed this too).

5. And finally, someone with deep pockets and not much sense will spot the brilliance of my writing and offer to pay for an extended research trip studying the emergence of fan power and supporter-owned football clubs in America. Oh well, worth a go…

Friday, 3 January 2014

Football Food

Discovered an excellent new site yesterday that takes a look at a sorely under-reported part of the football experience - Good work sir! Reminded me of days gone by when a colleague and I wrote a page for the Chesham United matchday programme rating half time burgers throughout the non league world under the nom de plume, Hat-trick Burger (a cunningly hilarious play on a former footballer's name I think you'll agree). Here's a piece I wrote about those times a while ago for Late Tackle magazine -