Archive for the Football 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..


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.



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.

Cose da sapere su Cardiff

Posted in Bute Park, Cardiff, Football with tags , , , , , , on June 1, 2017 by telescoper

Cardiff is gearing up for the UEFA Champion’s League final between Real Madrid and Juventus which takes place in the Principality Stadium on Saturday night. Cardiff University has produced this nice video featuring some students from Italy telling visitors about `things to know about Cardiff’, which I thought I’d share here:

There’s also a Spanish version here.

As you can imagine there’s quite a lot of disruption going on in the City ahead of this event, which is expected to attracted over 200,000 visitors. Last night one of the main roads was closed to allow the construction of a temporary footbridge to help manage the flow of people from Bute Park into the Stadium in the period just before the kickoff. There is only one small exit from the Park opposite the ground, which would probably cause considerable congestion, so the bridge will provide another route out, over the famous Animal Wall.

Cowbridge road was closed to vehicles and pedestrians for this operation, which I assumed would mean a bit detour for me on my walk home from the pub last night. Nevertheless, out of curiosity, I followed my normal route until I reached the construction site. A small group of people and a couple of very friendly policemen were there. I asked nicely if there was any possibility of getting past the road block rather than walking all the way around by side streets, and one of the officers said that if I waited for about 5 minutes they were going to open it up temporarily and let people through, which they did.

Cardiff Castle and Bute Park are being used to host a few thousand `Corporate VIP Guests’ during the weekend of the Final. For that a huge part of Bute Park – the entire area of Coopers Field – is closed to the public. Not only that, but the temporary buildings that have been erected there will cause so much damage to the grass that it will have to be completely re-seeded. This area will not be re-opened to the public until September at the earliest. This seems a very heavy price for the ordinary folk of Cardiff to pay for an event very few will be able to attend.

As well as congestion and crowd control, there is also the threat of terrorist activity (especially in the wake of the Manchester bomb). This morning as I walked into work I saw several groups of armed police officers. I’m not sure if they are intended to make people feel more secure, but they just made me feel nervous.


It’s quite easy to infer what the biggest concern is for the security services. The presence of vehicle barriers all round the city and the suspension of all vehicle traffic within a wide perimeter of the various fan zones suggests that they are worried about potential attacks involving cars or lorries running amok among the huge numbers of pedestrians. It’s sad that we have to think of such things, but these precautions seem entirely necessary.

I was toying with the idea of taking photographs of some of the security measures but on reflection thought that might not be a wise thing to do in case I was mistaken for someone plotting an atrocity!

My own plan for the Final is to shut myself in my house, batten down the hatches, cook myself a nice dinner and drink a nice bottle of wine. I’m completely neutral as far as the match is concerned. Whether it’s Real Madrid of Italy or Juventus of Spain, may the best team win!

Champions Road

Posted in Cardiff, Football on May 21, 2017 by telescoper

Signs like this have appeared on Cathedral Road near my home in Cardiff.

From the black and white stripes you can see that it celebrates Newcastle United’s victory in the Championship this season.

You learn something new every day, though. I hadn’t previously realised that the way to say ‘Newcastle United’ in Welsh is ‘Juventus’…

Back to Cardiff

Posted in Cardiff, Cricket, Football on May 19, 2017 by telescoper

Despite torrential rain and flooding (in England) and the failure of the electronic passport readers at Heathrow Terminal 5, I managed to get back to Cardiff (via plane, bus and train) more-or-less when I expected and all in one piece, if a little tired. It was good to get home and have a nice cup of tea. I love lots of things about Italy, but I’ve never found anywhere in that wonderful country to have a decent cuppa.

When I walked home from Cardiff Central last night I noticed that road barriers have started to appear on the streets near the Principality Stadium. This is because the final of the UEFA Champions League between Juventus and Real Madrid will take place there on Saturday 3rd June. This will be easily the biggest sporting event ever held in Cardiff, with up to a quarter of a million people coming into the city, only 80,000 or so of whom will be able to watch the event in the Stadium. There’ll be a lot of disruption to traffic in the City Centre, both for security reasons and because of the sheer number of people packing the place.

Hotels in and around Cardiff sold out months ago, and an enormous campsite is being created on Pontcanna fields to house some of the people who couldn’t find a room. I’m not sure I would pay £195 for 3 nights to sleep in a tent, but some will. I just hope it’s not too noisy around my house! I was thinking of going away and renting my house out for the period, but I want to be in Cardiff for my birthday treat – a performance of Der Rosenkavalier by Welsh National Opera.

Talking of sport, since the weather was pleasant when I got up this morning, I decided to reacclimatise after a few days away by popping into the SSE SWALEC Stadium in Sophia Gardens to watch the first sessions’s play of the County Championship match between Glamorgan and Nottingham.

I’m glad I went because it was an absorbing morning’s cricket, with some excellent bowling and fielding by Glamorgan restricting Nottinghamshire to just 64 for 2 off 31 overs. The second wicket to fall involved a superlative catch in the slips by Aneurin Donald. It’s good to see Glamorgan playing with a spring in their step. After a poor start to the season they finished 4th (out of nine teams) in the Royal London One-Day Cup Southern division, which although they missed out on a semi-final place, is a creditable result and a distinct improvement on last year. Let’s hope they can carry on that progress into the County Championship.

A Good Day

Posted in Cricket, Football on May 7, 2017 by telescoper

I spent all day today at the SWALEC stadium in Sophia Gardens watching yet another one-day match, this time between Glamorgan and Essex.

It was overcast early on, as you can see from the picture (which for some reason has decided to rotate itself).

Glamorgan won the toss and batted, but lost both openers cheaply. Ingram and Bragg then dug in and slowly tried to build a decent total. By “slowly”, I mean very slowly. After 10 overs Glamorgan had crawled to 26 for 2. The batsmen gradually began to assert themselves but were prevented by good fielding and bowling from really cutting loose. Then Ingram decided to take the bull by the horns. He hit three towering sixes (including one over the top of the pavilion) on his way to a brilliant 142. Still, Glamorgan’s total of 281 for 7 off their 50 overs  didn’t really look enough…

Near the end of the Glamorgan innings I checked the football scores and discovered that Newcastle United had beaten Barnsley 3-0 while Brighton & Hove Albion let in a late equaliser at Aston Villa. That meant that Newcastle United won the Championship title. I celebrated in appropriate style in the Members bar between the innings.

Essex lost two very quick wickets – they were 2 for 2 at one point –  but captain Alastair Cook and Varun Chopra put together a century partnership. When Cook was out, Ravi Bopara joined Chopra for another 100 stand.

After 41 overs Essex were looking comfortable  on 214 for 3, needing just another 68 to win. Glamorgan’s bowlers had lost control at a similar point in their last match, so most of the spectators thought Essex would rattle off the runs without too much difficulty.

As so often happens in cricket, one incident turned the match. Chopra smashed a delivery from Meschede back at the bowler. It was a difficult chance and Meschede couldn’t hold on, but the ball ricocheted from his outstretched hand onto the stumps at the non-strikers end, with Bopara well out of his ground.

From that point the Essex batsmen came and went at regular intervals, as Glamorgan’s bowlers showed much greater discipline and common sense than on Friday. Aiming at the stumps has to be a good tactic in a situation when the batsman have to score at a reasonable rate: if the batsman misses going for a shot then the ball hits. Seems obvious, but it’s not what they did in the last game.

With 2 overs left, Essex had stuttered to 268 for 7 but were still favourites in my book. But with the first ball of the penultimate over De Lange clean bowled ten Doeschate (the last of four batsman to be bowled by full deliveries aimed at middle stump), making it 268 for 8. The pendulum had swung in Glamorgan’s favour. Or had it? Essex managed another 7 off the rest of the over.

Seven runs were then needed off the last over, with two wickets left. Hogan bowling,  the crowd buzzing. First ball: 2 runs. Groans from the crowd. Then two dot balls. Cheers. Then an awful mix-up and a run out. Five needed off two balls. One wicket left. Next ball: the batsmen ran a bye to the wicketkeeper. Four needed off the last ball..

…but they could only run two. Glamorgan won by one run.

It was a very exciting finale, and a much-needed  morale-boosting victory for Glamorgan. Well played both teams!

Oh, and when I got home I saw the news that France didn’t elect a fascist as President.

Yes, it’s been a good day. A very good day.