Posted: August 25, 2010 in General, Sport

Having got a particularly challenging Flintshire edition boxed off this week I can turn my attention to a little bit of excitement, the GB Eurobasket Qualifiers at the Liverpool Echo Arena.

Two local young players are part of the GB set-up and it is a big deal, when you consider how many players make up a squad.

But more exciting than that its the fact that the event offers me the rare pleasure of being able to leave the office for a job. The Echo Arena is a great venue and this will be the first time I have worked there, but to be honest I’m just glad of the fresh air.

Once an old mentor of mine, Mike Green (not the one currently working for the Chester Chronicle, if you know your local weeklies) regaled me with romantic tales of overnight jobs and travelling to London to cover marches and strikes by steelworkers.  

Now I would be as happy being sent to a job in a crack den or a sewage works, such is the opportunity for me to get out of the office.


Education. An important cornerstone of a successful economy and a civilised society. But the current obsession with going to university has become ridiculous, with news programmes leading on the fact not everyone will be able to go on to higher education.

Boo hoo.

I speak as a non-graduate who works in an industry which people keep telling him is a closed shop without a degree. Bunkum.

Somehow, somewhere along the line, someone decided that everyone had to go to university to be of any use and the whole country subscribed to it. Well I’m here to disprove that. If you are good enough, qualifications shouldn’t come into it.

I have to say in my experience, th most useful people in society are the ones who left school at 16 with some average qualifications or at 18 after their A levels.

Because these people go out into the real world when they are still young enough to learn and be shaped by it and they tailor their behaviour and skills accordingly.

People in university are mollycoddled in a school-like environment, often working a handful of hours a week and at the end of it they whine because they can’t find a job that pays more than £15,000 a month or they are told they do not have the necessary experience or a relevant degree.

We place no stock at all these days in manual skills. Some people have a manual intelligence that means they might be great as a mechanic or a tradesperson, but not great academically.

It’s a different type of intelligence but oh no, little Johnny has to go to Oxbridge rather than take an apprenticeship.

We undervalue these trades then complain when there is a shortage. The nation’s priorities must change. Remember, the recession was caused by university types (investment bankers) ripping off hard-working people (us).

University is not all it’s cracked up to be now is it?

It’s happened. My future sister and brother-in-laws have had a lovely baby girl and the inevitable has happened, my good lady now wants one. To be honest, I want one (although preferably a boy, I think they are easier).

Unfortunately while I am fairly laid back about timescale, feeling no pressure at all, it seems I have overlooked some major piece of machinery that has had a dramatic effect on my missus – the biological clock.

Apparently there is a time limit for these things, and the countdown begins not at a specific age, but when someone else has one. If I do say so myself we both have youth on our side but now there is a ticking noise accompanying every day as previously unknown deadlines loom.

We’re getting married…tick tock…I’d like to save to buy a house…tick tock…shall we go on holiday…tick tock…

But as I sit back and think about it, whatever happens, when you look at that little baby and think of having your own, the sacrifices, pain and discomfort necessary to raise it all pale into insignificance.

And those mini Adidas Superstar II’s are just adorable.

Bristol City manager Steve Coppell has quit after 122 days and one league match. Paul Robinson and Wes Brown decided to quit International football after they were recalled to the England side, Simon Davies did the same to Wales. Paul Scholes set the tone in the summer and now Fabio Capello has quit on David Beckham.

Once football was the last bastion of the try-hard spirit. The FA Cup saw sides refuse to accept defeat against superior opposition and embark on giant-killing runs of legend.

This never-say-die attitude was not always shared by the general public, true, but it was refreshing to see that it survived in football.

But now that last bastion has fallen, as quitting has become the new cool. Scholes turned his back on England because the assistant manager called to ask him to come to the World Cup. Call me daft but I would have gone if Ray Clemence’s dog had asked me.

I subscribe to the sporting mantra that you do not give up on your country, your country gives up on you. National teams unite warring fans under one banner and selection is the pinnacle of sporting achievement, regardless of the endorsement deals and contracts.

The fate of every international was and should still be that  one day the final call comes. That’s it. Your country has moved on. But you still remain available in case one day, your services are once more required. That is the honour of representing your country, that when needed you will be called upon. It’s like a vocation.

But the one player who understood this, David Beckham, fell victim to the cruellest fate of all when Capello told the world via a TV interview that his international career was over.

There was apparently no communication, no courteous phonecall telling Goldenballs that he was no longer in Don Fabio’s plans. But Beckham still refuses to retire despite the public embarrassment of finding out with the rest of the world.

This is because he has class. He understands that the most important thing about being a sportsman is representing your country. Sadly there is now a generation of sports stars and sports fans who will see their idols quitting and looking after number one.

If that is the example we set, how can we expect to have the togetherness of a Spain, Germany or Argentina, teams which eclipsed us in the World Cup.

The answer: We can’t.

In 48 hours the football season returns for me and the motley band of supporters who flock to watch football in the Championship.

My poison is League One’s Tranmere Rovers and despite the perpetual cycle of optimism, denial and ultimate disappointment this season I find myself with an unusual dilemma.

The question is this – Should I attempt to brainwash my niece or nephew, who is expected in the next week or so, into the bosom of the Prenton Park faithful.

There are a number of considerations. Firstly, is it fair to condemn a young child to a life of pain and dismay punctuated by tiny pockets of unbridled joy and the constant sound of elderly people, as we all will be by then, moaning about the fact it was much better in the early 90s when we won a playoff final, the Leyland DAF Trophy and got to the brink of the Premier League.

Also, said tiny person will be living with its parents, as they often do, in Birmingham. Dad is an Aston Villa fan and a good egg all round, even taking into account Mark Bosnich’s heinous cheating which knocked us out of the League Cup in 1994 (all Villa fans are to blame for this, obviously). But He appreciates the value of supporting a smaller team making an approach feasible.

So while it may be a long trip for each home game and despite the fact it will make them an outcast at their school 100 miles away, I think I will dust off the old hypnotists pocket watch and give it a go. Besides, if I have to suffer…

Tomorrow’s Chester Chronicle has a sizeable chunk devoted to basketball and personally I am very happy with this, as I have been trying for some time to fight the sport’s corner against the traditional behemoths of the back pages.

With having the Cheshire Jets, one of the British Basketball League’s most successful franchises on our doorstep, has meant that it has never been starved of publicity in our historic pages, but in recent times the trend towards football as the be-all and end-all has become a bone of contention for some, particularly since the BBL became one of the casualties of the ITV Digital collapse in 2002 leaving clubs to struggle with unmanageable costs.

Now though the balance has shifted a little. Chester’s football team have dropped a few divisions to the amateur leagues after some much-publicised problems with their owner and it has given the Chron breathing space to take another look at basketball and the Jets.

The Jets, having had their own brush with extinction in 2007, are run by fans, have the support of local business and have a very good chance of finally returning to the top of the BBL and winning some silverware this season.

In many ways they are the perfect sports team for a local paper to cover, with few backroom political wrangles and a lot of goodwill from the community that supports them and I believe other local media covering other teams should look seriously at the coverage they offer their own franchises, as they are sidelining a popular and growing sport with good professional ethics and community programmes.

Football is great, we all love it and it does drive sales, we get it. But there has to be room for something different otherwise people will get bored and stop buying newspapers.

Oh, hang on….

In this week’s Chester Chronicle and Ellesmere Port Pioneer there will be  a feature on the Cheshire Jets summer basketball camp.

This is an annual event where young hopefuls from across the UK and the world come to receive specialised high-quality coaching and many professional players have attended the camp in the 23 years it has been running.

But one of the biggest things I noticed there was the respect. When coaches spoke, even at a whisper, the players, whether they were six or 18, fell silent and listened.

During downtime, if a coach had a request, conversations halted and the request was granted. The behaviour was exemplary.

Compare this to football, a sport I also love. Here parents act like animals when children  are young and when they are coached too often coaches will not rein in the aggressive players too much in case they “lose their edge” or it “impacts their creativity”.

I spent a brief time at the Jets camp and I saw no lack of creativity and no lack of competitive desire. What I saw was a group of talented players hungry for success but keen to conduct themselves the right way and listen to those people who had trodden that path before them.

Football is deluding itself if it believes it is doing enough to create players who are true role models and as long as the powers that be believe they know more than any other sport’s governing body or believe that football is ‘different’ and the same techniques will not work for the National game, then we will never truly have respect for the players and officials at the top.