Archive for the Sport Category

On the Coronavirus and the Cricket

Posted in Covid-19, Cricket with tags , , on July 29, 2020 by telescoper

Yesterday the UK Government reported that there were 119 Covid-19 related deaths in the United Kingdom:

Between

In other news, it was also announced yesterday that Stuart Broad and I have now taken 500 Test wickets between us…

Endgames

Posted in Football with tags , , , , , on July 26, 2020 by telescoper

Today sees the last round of games in this year’s strange Premiership season. All ten games kick off at 4pm.

I last commented on the relegation situation when there were six games to play. Now, with one game left to play the bottom of the table looks like this:

Norwich City are already relegated and all the teams above these four, including Newcastle United, are safe; Brighton are in 16th place on 38 points.

It is possible for any two of Aston Villa, Watford and Bournemouth to go down though Bournemouth have to win and hope both Villa and Watford lose. Bournemouth are playing Everton away from home. I’d say the combination of them winning and other two relegation candidates both losing is rather improbable, but you never know.

One of either Watford or Aston Villa must get relegated. The team that gets the better result of the two will stay up.

If all three of these teams lose (which is by no means unlikely) whoever goes down with Bournemouth and Norwich will be determined by goal difference. Villa have a cushion of only one goal which means that if Villa and Watford both draw then Villa stay up. If they both win then the survivor will be determined by goal difference.

Aston Villa are away at West Ham and Watford are away at Arsenal. I’d say Watford has the tougher game so I’d say they were favourites to go down with Bournemouth.

The bookies seem to agree with me. Here are the best odds on teams to be relegated:

These are the odds on survival:

Bournemouth’s odds look a bit miserly to me, so the best price is Watford to stay up at 11/4 although even that isn’t enough to tempt me to have a flutter.

Of course these odds will change during the course of the games.

Half-time Update:

The key scores at half time are:

  • Arsenal 3 Watford 1
  • Everton 1 Bournemouth 2
  • West Ham 0 Aston Villa 0

As things stand, Villa stay up; Bournemouth and Watford go down. That will change if Villa concede a goal.

Full-time Update:

  • Arsenal 3 Watford 2
  • Everton 1 Bournemouth 3
  • West Ham 1 Aston Villa 1

Bournemouth did what they needed to do but despite their efforts that draw for Villa sends them down along with Watford.

Newcastle United unsurprisingly lost their final match against Liverpool and finished in 13th place, 10 points above the relegation zone.

Three Funerals and a Cartoon

Posted in Biographical, Football, Maynooth with tags , , , on July 21, 2020 by telescoper

I was later than usual coming to the office today as I had to arrange some things to do with the house I’m buying in Maynooth. It was mid morning when I walked up towards campus. I was a little bit confused to see a large crowd of people walking along Main Street, but when I got closer I realized they were all walking behind a hearse on their way to a funeral service at St Mary’s Church. I followed the procession all the way along Main Street and up Mill Street where another large group of people was waiting outside the Church. I don’t know who had passed away but judging by the attendance they must have been popular in the community.

This is the first time I’d seen such a procession here in Ireland, though I was of course already aware that the Irish treat funerals very differently from the English. Coincidentally, though, today saw the funeral of Jack Charlton which began with a procession through the streets of Ashington, the cortege led by piper playing the Northumbrian pipes. Many hundreds turned up to show their respects.

Because of Covid-19 restrictions, only about 20 people could attend the funeral service, which was held at the West Road Crematorium in Newcastle upon Tyne. As it happens, that was where the funeral of my Mam took place about 9 months ago. There were no Covid-19 restrictions then, which makes it seem like a different age altogether.

Anyway, going back to Jack Charlton, I saw last week marvellous comic book tribute to him called The Life and Times of Jack Charlton by David Squires in the Guardian. The poignant last panel is beautifully done.

The people who do things and what they do

Posted in Art, Cricket, Football, Opera, Television with tags , on July 19, 2020 by telescoper

It’s a tough lesson to learn in life that the people you admire or idolize for their contribution in a particular arena (whether that be sport, art, science or something else) turn out to be people you can’t stand in terms of their character or political views.

You have to separate, for example, having a high regard for Ian Botham’s cricketing prowess from having a high regard for his personal character. In fact I can think of few sportspeople whose company I’d enjoy socially.

The same goes in many other spheres. Richard Feynman was a truly great physicist but I’ve never bought into the personality cult surrounding him. In fact I doubt I would have liked him very much at all if we’d ever met in person. They say you should never meet your heroes. They’re right.

Another example is Richard Wagner, a brilliant composer but really horrible man, who brings us to this clip from the end of Twilight of the Gods (the last episode of Series 7 of Inspector Morse, first broadcast in 1993).

I won’t spoil the plot if you haven’t seen it but it involves a famous opera singer, Gladys Probert, who visits Oxford to perform and receive an honorary degree. On the way to the ceremony she is shot, but was she the intended victim?

Opera-loving Morse is a huge admirer of Gladys Probert but in the course of his investigation he uncovers some unpleasant truths about her private life. He solves the crime but the case leaves him dispirited.

Here is the ending. John Thaw is Inspector Morse and Kevin Whateley is Detective Sergeant Lewis.

R. I. P. Jack Charlton (1935-2020)

Posted in Football with tags , , , , on July 11, 2020 by telescoper

Sad news today of the death at the age of 85 of legendary footballer and manager Jack Charlton.

The tributes to Jack Charlton here in Ireland focus on his time as manager of the Republic of Ireland national team, during which he produced many great results, including qualifying for two World Cups (in 1990 and 1994). Ireland got to the quarter-finals in 1990, which was an amazing achievement. Jack Charlton created some marvellous memories and became like an adopted son in the hearts of Irish folk, spending a lot of his time here in his retirement. He had a house in Ballina (County Mayo) and enjoyed going fishing. I suspect he rarely had to buy a drink in the local pubs! As a fellow Geordie living in Ireland I can understand very well why he loved it here.

He gave up the house in Ireland a few years ago when his health started to fail and moved to Stamfordham in Northumberland, the County of his birth. Jack was actually born in Ashington and was the nephew of legendary Newcastle United centre-forward Jackie Milburn.

As a player he was an old-school centre half: tall and tough and not prone to try anything fancy. He knew his limitations as a footballer and concentrated on what he could do well. He spent his entire professional playing career of 21 years at Leeds United. He wasn’t capped for England until he was 29 and a year later he was a member of the team that won the 1966 World Cup, as was his brother Bobby.

I remember an interview with Jack Charlton during which he recalled asking manager Sir Alf Ramsay why he had been picked for the England team when there were many better players than him around. Ramsay’s reply was that he didn’t always pick the best players, he picked the best team. What I think he meant by that is that he saw Jack’s steadiness as a providing an ideal blend in the centre of the defence balance to the less conventional Bobby Moore.

My own memories of Jack Charlton are dominated by his time as manager of Newcastle United between 1984 and 1985; see the picture, which is from this time, including Peter Beardsley (left) and Chris Waddle (right). I was a student at Cambridge at this time and there was quite a large Newcastle United Supporters’ Club of which I was a member. We travelled to quite a few games in the 84/85 season. The Club Secretary wrote a letter to Jack Charlton inviting him to visit us for a dinner and speech. We couldn’t even offer him travel expenses so I assumed he would just ignore the request, but he didn’t. He actually wrote a very nice letter politely declining the invitation but thanking us for our support and good wishes. He also reminded us not to neglect our studies because of football as he regretted not having had “much of an education”.

It’s worth mentioning that 1984/5 was the time of the Miners’ Strike during which Jack Charlton was a staunch supporter of the Miners. He even lent his car to help miners on flying pickets. He was rather left-wing generally, actually.

Jack Charlton brought to football management the same approach he had brought to his own playing. It was by focusing on doing the basics well that he was able to get outstanding results using limited resources. He wouldn’t have been a good manager of a huge club full of luxury players, but in his niche he was superb.

As a person Jack Charlton was as strong-minded and uncompromising as he was as a player and a manager, but he was also down to earth, completely unpretentious, funny and self-deprecating, and as honest as the day is long.

Rest in peace, Jack Charlton (1935-2020)

Cricket Lovely Cricket!

Posted in Cricket, Music with tags , , on July 8, 2020 by telescoper

How great it is to see the return of Test Match cricket to England and the comforting familiarity it brings of sitting around not watching any play because of the pouring rain and Stygian gloom.

There may not have been much cricket at Southampton today (lovely or otherwise) but I couldn’t resist sharing this bit of West Indies cricketing nostalgia in calypso form, vintage 1950, by Lord Beginner..

Football Roundup

Posted in Football with tags , , on July 2, 2020 by telescoper

By way of a diversion this lunchtime after a morning of Microsoft Teams, I thought I’d comment briefly on another kind of team, by looking at the state of play in the Premier League.

Liverpool of course deservedly won the title last weekend when Manchester city lost to Chelsea. To have won the Premiership with seven games left to play is a remarkable achievement. All credit to their excellent manager Jürgen Klopp, who actually seems a thoroughly decent fellow as well. Although based in the English Midlands, Liverpool have a strong following here in Ireland so there were many celebrations here when the Premiership race was sealed.

The absence of any football for many weeks at least removed one usual cause of springtime stress, namely Newcastle United’s struggle to avoid relegation. Since the return, however, Steve Bruce’s team have done pretty well, with seven points out of a possible nine, though they did get knocked out of the FA Cup. Last night they beat struggling Bournemouth 4-1 away from home which leaves them on 42 points with six games left to play. They’re not mathematically safe from relegation but it’s very difficult to see any of the bottom three teams getting more than 15 points from their remaining games so I think relegation is extremely improbable. Norwich look relegation certainties, but who will go down with them? Based on last night’s poor performance at home, I’d say probably Bournemouth and one other.

The Bookies odds at the moment are:

  • Norwich: 1/100.
  • Bournemouth: 1/6.
  • Aston Villa: 1/4.
  • Watford: 2/1.
  • West Ham: 6/1.
  • Brighton: 28/1.

Watford or West Ham might be worth a bet. There are still six games to be played, after all.

I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the games since the season restarted. Playing in an empty stadium makes football very strange to watch, and the artificial crowd noises make it even stranger. It problem reduces home advantage not having supporters in the ground, but I haven’t looked at the statistical evidence whether or not this is the case..

It’s worth mentioning the situation in League 1:

Here the season has been declared closed. Wycombe Wanderers finish in third on the basis of points per game despite having fewer points than the team in fourth. Wycombe’s 35th game would have been against Coventry…

I’ll just mention in passing that Sunderland will not be promoted. Tragic.

Predictive Blogging

Posted in Covid-19, Cricket, Opera, Politics, The Universe and Stuff with tags , on May 27, 2020 by telescoper

News has emerged that on 14th April 2020 Dominic Cummings doctored an old blog post to make it look like he had predicted a coronavirus outbreak. Given the indisputable fact that Mr Cummings is a career liar this should not in itself come as a surprise. What might surprise a few people is that this episode reveals that this self-styled genius is must in reality be rather stupid if he thought he could get away with hiding such a blatant attempt at self-promotion. Still, the truth obviously no longer matters in post-Brexit Britain so he probably won’t face any serious consequences.

I, of course would, never add things to old blog posts to make myself look clever.

I would, however, like to point out just a few of the various uncannily accurate predictions I have made in the course of my almost twelve years of blogging.

For example, in this September 2009 review of a performance of La Traviata by Welsh National Opera I wrote:

My love of Italian opera makes me regret even more that the UK will be be leaving the European Union in 2020.

And in this account of the May 2015 England versus New Zealand Test Match at Lord’s you will find:

… it was still quite gloomy and dark. My mood was sombre, thinking about Donald Trump’s forthcoming victory in the 2016 United States Presidential Elections.

My prescience is not only limited to politics, however. In my 2013 post about the Queen’s Birthday Honours List you will read:

The name that stood out for me in this year’s list is Professor Jim Hough, who gets an OBE. Jim is Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Glasgow, and his speciality is in the detection of gravitational waves. Gravitational waves haven’t actually been detected yet, of course, but the experimental techniques designed to find them have increased their sensitivity by many orders of magnitude in recent years, Jim having played a large part in those improvements. I imagine he will be absolutely thrilled in February 2016, when gravitational waves are finally detected.

You see now that Niels Bohr wasn’t quite right when he said “It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future”. Sometimes it’s the past that’s hardest to predict.

 

Polling Day Eve

Posted in Biographical, Maynooth, Politics, Rugby with tags , , , , on February 7, 2020 by telescoper

It’s Friday 7th February 2020, the day before Ireland goes to the polls in a General Election. I’m actually quite excited.

My polling card arrived a couple of days ago:

You don’t need to take this card with you when you vote, although it does speed things up a bit. The card is useful, however, because it tells you where the polling station is. In this case it’s the same place as in the European and Local Elections last summer.

A few days ago I came home from work and found this. It’s the only such card I’ve had from any individual or party during the three weeks of the campaign.

It’s a pity I wasn’t in when Bernard Durkan called around. I’m not going to vote for him, but I should like to have seen the look on his face when I told him who I’m actually going to vote for!

It remains to be seen whether the switch to a Saturday polling day will change the volume or composition of the turnout. It seems likely to me that the more important factor might be the weather: Storm Ciara is due to arrive on Saturday, bringing high winds and heavy rain. The local forecast in Maynooth for Saturday seems OK in the morning, however, so I’ll get my voting done then, but the storm seems set to hit Dublin just as the Six Nations rugby between Ireland and Wales gets under way, which might make things interesting.

R.I.P. Bob Willis (1949-2019)

Posted in Cricket with tags , on December 4, 2019 by telescoper

Just back from a lecture to find news of the death at the age of 70 of former England fast bowler and captain Bob Willis. I’m sure I’m not the only person who is now reminiscing about that day at Headingley in 1981 when Australia needed only 130 to win and, as Wisden later described it, “Willis ran in to bowl as if the Devil were at his heels”. As Christopher Martin-Jenkins wrote:

With his Test career in doubt for the umpteenth time, Willis, of the big heart and vicious bounce, gave it everything he knew. Brushing aside the cost of regular no-balls, he bowled at fierce pace to a shorter length and a straighter line than in the first innings. And suddenly Australia’s foundation crumbled…

R.I.P. Bob Willis (1949-2019)