Archive for the Sport Category

A Good Day

Posted in Beards, Biographical, Football with tags , , , , , , on February 11, 2018 by telescoper

It’s been a good day. First of all I was officially presented with the Beard of Winter 2018 Award by the inestimable Keith Flett (right):

The picture was taken (by Megan Davies) outside The Small Bar in Cardiff after a celebratory tipple.

After that it was down to Cardiff Bay, where the Wales Millennium Centre was resplendent in the winter sunshine for an excellent afternoon performance of Tosca (which I’ll review more fully tomorrow):

And if that wasn’t enough, I emerged from the Opera to find that Newcastle Utd had beaten Manchester Utd in the Premiership, a game I had expected them to lose…

So yes, it’s been a good day..

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Cyrille Regis and Racism in Football

Posted in Football with tags , on January 16, 2018 by telescoper

Cyrille Regis, shown here playing for Coventry City in the 1987 FA Cup against Tottenham Hotspur

 

On my way to the airport yesterday I heard the sad news of the death, at the age of just 59, of the footballer Cyrille Regis.  I’ll leave it to those more qualified to post full obituaries of the man – I couldn’t possibly do justice to him as a player and a person – and will confine myself to one memory that remains strong in my mind.

While I was a student at Cambridge there was a University branch of the Newcastle United Supporters Club. This was mainly for social gatherings but, during term time, and when the game was within reach of a day trip we hired a coach or minibus and went to Newcastle United’s away games. Our team had just been promoted to the old First Division at the end of the 1983/4 season and we all wanted to see as much as possible of them in the top flight.

And so it came to pass that on 13th October 1984 we went by coach to Highfield Road to see Coventry City versus Newcastle United. It wasn’t a great game. In fact, it had been picked as the featured match on Match of the Day that Saturday night. When we got back to Cambridge and settled in the JCR to watch it we heard Jimmy Hill (who presented the show in those days) that they were joining the action mid-way through the second half. The first half had not been deemed worthy of transmission.

Despite the generally low quality of the game, there was one star who was easily the best player on the field and  that was Cyrille Regis, who even eclipsed the little magician Peter Beardsley, whom the away fans had come to watch. Powerfully built, with a good turn of speed and excellent in the air despite not being particularly tall, Cyrille Regis proved a constant handful for Newcastle’s central defenders, winning just about every contested header and beating them for pace seemingly at will. In the second half Glen Roeder stopped even bothering to challenge for the ball in the air as he knew Regis had the beating of him.  Newcastle, however, played five at the back for away games in those days and they managed to stop him scoring.

The game ended 1-1 with  Peter Beardsley scoring for Newcastle from the penalty spot in front of the away supporters for Newcastle and Kenny Hibbitt scoring for Coventry. Here are some of the highlights of the game:

An away draw in the First Division was an acceptable result but, unhappily, the memories I have of the match are blighted by what I recall of the actions of some of the Newcastle United supporters who shouted racist abuse and threw bananas onto the pitch whenever Regis came within range. Their behaviour was disgraceful. In mitigation there were only a few – probably a couple of dozen among 4000-odd travelling suporters  doing this – and many of the rest of us shouted at them to shut the f**k up. But the fact that there were any at all is bad enough. It ruined the day for me, and left me feeling deeply ashamed, but as far as I could tell Cyrille Regis just ignored it; this sort of thing probably happened every time he played. How he managed to keep his composure I’ll never know.

Those of us who have never experienced racist abuse can’t really imagine what it must be like to be on the receiving end. The dignity of men like Cyrille Regis in the face of this sort of thing speaks volumes about his strength of character. Above all, he tried to silence the racists by concentrating on his game and being an outstanding player.

All this was over thirty years ago and we like to think that racism is nowadays far less of an issue in football.  I rarely go to live games now, so I can’t really comment on how crowd behaviour has or hasn’t changed. However, judging by the comments of black players racism is still endemic, it’s just that most of the racists refrain from some of the more overt displays of obnoxious behaviour – such as throwing bananas – because they would (rightly) get the perpetrators ejected from the ground. Dealing with the symptoms, however, doesn’t cure the disease.

It seems that even Peter Beardsley (who played in the match I mentioned above and is now, at 54, Newcastle United’s Under-23 coach) has been accused by young players of bullying and racist comments. He denies the allegations, and is on leave while the charges are investigated. I’m not going to prejudge what the outcome of those investigations will be, but his case is a reminder – as if we needed it – that racism hasn’t gone away.

 

 

Close of Play

Posted in Cricket with tags , , on September 29, 2017 by telescoper

Yesterday saw the end of this year’s County Championship season, which I take to be definition of the official end of summer.  It’s happened very late this year. Is this the latest end to a County Championship season ever?

There is, of course, an inconsequential 50-overs game still going on between England and the West Indies but the proper cricket is over and done with until next spring. Glamorgan won their last game earlier this week against Kent in three days, and finished 7th in the 2nd Division. Some good performances by young players (many of whom came through the Academy) adding a ray of optimism to what has been a fairly disappointing season (though with one highlight in a semi-final spot in the Twenty20 `blast’). Worcestershire finished top of the Second Division and Nottinghamshire were second, so they’ll both be playing in Division 1 next season. Essex won the County Champions in great style, unbeaten for the whole season.  The main drama on the final day involved who got relegated along with Warwickshire (the latter having been adrift at the bottom of the Table for some time).  Going into the last round of matches, Somerset looked the most likely to go down but they beat fellow strugglers Middlesex. Hampshire clung on for a draw against Warwickshire, giving them the points they needed to overtake Middlesex who will play in Division 2 next season.

Other big news yesterday was the selection of the England squad to tour Australia and play for the Ashes this Winter: Joe Root (capt, Yorkshire), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), James Anderson (Lancashire), Jonny Bairstow (wk, Yorkshire), Jake Ball (Nottinghamshire), Gary Ballance (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Alastair Cook (Essex), Mason Crane (Hampshire), Ben Foakes (wk, Surrey), Dawid Malan (Middlesex), Craig Overton (Somerset), Ben Stokes (Durham), Mark Stoneman (Surrey), James Vince (Hampshire), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire). I’m not particularly impressed with some of the choices (especially Ballance and Vince), and it looks likely that Stokes won’t be available owing to his recent fracas outside a nightclub, but we’ll see.

Anyway, yesterday was also National Poetry Day so it seems apt to mark the end of the County Championship with one of the classic cricket poems, Close of Play  by Thomas Moult.

How shall we live, now that the summer’s ended,
And bat and ball (too soon!) are put aside,
And all our cricket deeds and dreams have blended —
The hit for six, the champion bowled for none,
The match we planned to win and never won? …
Only in Green-winged memory they abide.

How shall we live, who love our loveliest game
With such bright ardour that when stumps are drawn
We talk into the twilight, always the same
Old talk with laughter round off each tale —
Laughter of friends across a pint of ale
In the blue shade of the pavilion.

For the last time a batsman is out, the day
Like the drained glass and the dear sundown field
is empty; what instead of Summer’s play
Can occupy these darkling months ere spring
Hails willows once again the crowned king?
How shall we live so life may not be chilled?

Well, what’s a crimson hearth for, and the lamp
Of winter nights, and these plump yellow books
That cherish Wisden’s soul and bear his stamp —
And bat and ball (too soon!) are put aside,
Time’s ever changing, unalterable score-board,
Thick-clustered with a thousand names adored:
Half the game’s magic in their very looks!

And when we’ve learnt those almanacs by heart,
And shared with Nyren … Cardus ….the distant thrill
That cannot fade since they have had their part,
We’ll trudge wet streets through fog and mire
And praise our heroes by the club-room fire:
O do not doubt the game will hold us still!

 

 

The Autumnal Equinox

Posted in Biographical, Cricket with tags , , , , , on September 22, 2017 by telescoper

So here we are then. The Autumnal Equinox (in the Northern hemisphere) takes place this evening, at 21.02 BST (20.02 GMT) at which point the plane of Earth’s equator passes through the centre of the Sun’s disk. This is traditionally taken to be the end of summer. It was a lovely morning in Cardiff, sunny and warm. Looking back over the posts I’ve written at this time of year since I started blogging in 2008, it’s notable how many times we’ve had a period of good weather around the autumnal equinox. The local traditional name for this is the `Little Summer of St Michael’. Anyway, here’s am excerpt from the post I wrote in 2008 on this:

The weather is unsettling. It’s warm, but somehow the warmth doesn’t quite fill the air; somewhere inside it there’s a chill that reminds you that autumn is not far away.

I find this kind of weather a bit spooky because it always takes me back to the time when I left home to go to University, as thousands of fledgling students are about to do this year in their turn.

This morning I had some business to attend to near my home. In fact it was in an office in Temple Court on Cathedral Road. I hadn’t been there before and it was only when I got there that I realised that the building used to be a synagogue. Opened in 1897 this was built at the same time as the grand houses on Cathedral Road. It hasn’t been used as a synagogue for some time, and the building has been substantially extended at the rear, but it is still a Grade II listed building.

My little errand completed I decided to make the most of the weather by watching the morning’s play on the last day of the County Championship match between Glamorgan and Gloucestershire at the SSE Swalec Stadium in Sophia Gardens. Some playing was lost yesterday because of rain; the forecast had suggested a complete washout, but the rain cleared much earlier than predicted. Glamorgan had been all out for 442 in their first innings. Gloucestershire found batting pretty comfortable but lost a flurry of wickets on Thursday afternoon and ended up declaring on 399 for 8 after 110 overs to have a go at Glamorgan for 15 overs late on. They had an early success with the ball, removing Brown for 13, with the score on 15, but opener Nick Selman and Andrew Salter, promoted to No. 3, took them to the close. I watched them bat together all the way to lunch, as Glamorgan proceeded serenely to 154 for 1.

Here are the players going off for lunch:

The game seems to be drifting to a draw, the likelihood of which is increased even further by the fact that rain is forecast this afternoon, so it wasn’t the most exciting cricket I’ve ever watched, but it’s good to end the season with Glamorgan doing well. A sudden declaration with 40-50 overs left might give Glamorgan the chance of a win, but the pitch is very flat and I can’t see a result being forced. I’m pretty sure the plan is to give Glamorgan’s batsmen a chance to build up a bit of confidence for next season. I just checked the score, in fact, to find that Nick Selman has scored a century, which will do him a power of good!

Our new students arrive for `induction’ next week – including the new PhD students involved with our Centre for Doctoral Training who will be attending a Launch Event that starts on Sunday afternoon. I have a few last-minute jobs to do connected with that this afternoon so I’d better get on with them if I want to get finished so I can enjoy the first Amser Jazz Time of the new season!

September at Sophia Gardens

Posted in Cricket, Uncategorized on September 19, 2017 by telescoper

Since it was a fine evening I popped in at the SSE SWALEC Stadium in Sophia Gardens on the way home from work to catch the last few overs of Day 1 of the County Championship match between Glamorgan and Gloucestershire.

For a change, and despite  losing two quick wickets while I watched,  Glamorgan are in a reasonably strong position at 342 for 7 off 96 overs at the end of Day 1, with young Kiran Carlson unbeaten on 137. That’s not bad considering that, having been put in to bat, they had been 63 for 4 at one stage.

It’s been a disappointing season in the County Championship for Glamorgan, who have only won two games out of 12 so far, and there’s not much at stake in this game, but I hope they can get a good result in this, their last game of the season in Cardiff.

Football Round Up

Posted in Football with tags , , , on September 17, 2017 by telescoper

Since autumn is coming, and the football season is well under way,  bringing with it that terrifying existential void that opens up on Saturdays between the end of Final Score and the start of Match Of The Day,  I thought I would just mention that, after a good win on Saturday against Stoke City,  Newcastle United are now in  4th place in the Premiership:

I’ve posted that simply to enjoy it while it lasts. I don’t think they’ll be so high at the end of the season, but they’ve recovered well, winning three consecutive games after losing their first two.

In a strange quirk of something or other, Newcastle United now find themselves immediately above the two teams to which they have lost.

Incidentally, when I was a student at Cambridge, in 1984, Chelsea finished in first place in the old Second Division, securing promotion to the First Division. Newcastle finished third that season and also got promoted. Manchester City finished fourth. How times change.

It’s a funny old game.

Summer’s Ending

Posted in Bad Statistics, Biographical, Cricket with tags , , , , , on September 11, 2017 by telescoper

There’s no escaping the signs that summer is drawing to a close. The weather took a decidedly autumnal turn  at the end of last week, and though I resisted the temptation to turn the central heating on at Chateau Coles I fear it won’t be long before I have to face reality and take that step. I hope I can hold out at least until the conventional end of summer, the autumnal equinox, which this year happens at 21.02 BST on Friday, 22 September.

Saturday saw the Last Night of the BBC Proms season. I’ve enjoyed a great many of the concerts but I only listened to a bit of the first half of the Last Night as I find the jingoism of the second half rather hard to stomach. I did catch Nina Stemme on the wireless giving it some welly in the Liebestod from Tristan und Insolde, though.  Pretty good, but difficult to compare with my favourite version by Kirsten Flagstad.

One of the highlights of the season, just a few days ago, was Sir András Schiff’s late-night performance of Book I of The Well Tempered Clavier which had me captivated for two hours, until well past my usual bedtime…

However, as the Proms season ends in London the music-making continues in Cardiff with a new series of international concerts at St David’s Hall and Welsh National Opera’s new season at the Wales Millennium Centre (which starts on 23rd September). I notice also that, having finished his complete Beethoven cycle,  Llŷr Williams is embarking on a series of recitals of music by Schubert, starting on November 9th at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Another sign that summer is over is that the last Test Match of the summer has ended. Excellent bowling by Jimmy Anderson (and, in the first innings, by Ben Stokes) meant that England had only a small total to chase, which they managed comfortably. Victory at Lord’s gives England a 2-1 win for the series over West Indies. That outcome is welcome for England fans, but it doesn’t do much to build confidence for the forthcoming Ashes series in Australia. England’s pace bowlers have shown they can prosper in English conditions, when the Duke ball can be made to swing, but in Australia with the Kookaburra they may find success much harder to come by. More importantly, however, only two of England’s five top-order batsmen are of proven international class, making their batting lineup extremely fragile. So much depends on Cook and Root, as I don’t think it is at all obvious who should take the other three positions, despite a whole summer of experimentation.

There are a few one-day internationals and Twenty20 matches coming up as well as three full weeks of County Championship fixtures. In particular, there are two home games for Glamorgan in the next two weeks (one against Northants, starting tomorrow, and one next week against Gloucestershire). Their last match (away against Derbyshire) was drawn because three of the four days were lost to rain, but weather permitting there should still be a few opportunities to see cricket at Sophia Gardens this year.

And of course it will soon be time to for the start of the new academic year, welcoming new students (including the first intake on our MSc courses in Data-Intensive Physics and Astrophysics and new PhD students in Data-Intensive Science who form the first intake of our new Centre for Doctoral Training). All that happens just a couple of weeks from today, and we’re having a big launch event on 25th-26th September to welcome the new intake and introduce them to our industrial and academic partners.

Anyway, that reminds me that I have quite a lot to do before term starts so I’d better get on with it, especially if I’m going to make time to watch a few days of cricket between now and the end of the month!