Archive for Newcastle United

League Table Positions

Posted in Education, Football with tags , , , , , , , on May 26, 2015 by telescoper

Among the things I didn’t have time to blog about over a very busy Bank Holiday Weekend was the finish of the English Premiership season. I haven’t posted much about my own team, Newcastle United, this season because I haven’t been able to think of anything particularly positive to say. Since Alan Pardew quit in January to join Crystal Palace, Newcastle slumped to such an alarming extent that they went into their last game of the season (against West Ham) just two points above the drop zone. Had they lost their game, which did not seem unlikely on the basis of their recent form, and had Hull won against Manchester United, which did not seem unlikely on the grounds that Man Utd wwould finish in 4th place whatever happened in that game, then Newcastle would be relegated to the Championship. In the event, however, Newcastle won 2-0 which made them safe while Hull could only draw 0-0 which meant that Newcastle would have survived even if they had lost against West Ham. Moreover, Sunderland also lost their last game, which meant that the final Premier League Table looked like this:

Premiership_League

(courtesy of the BBC Website). The important places are 15 and 16, obviously. The natural order of things has been restored….

Another League Table came out over the Bank Holiday. This was the annual Guardian University Guide. I’m deeply sceptical of the value of these league tables, but there’s no question that they’re very important to potential students so we have to take them seriously. This year was pretty good for Sussex as far as the Guardian Table is concerned: the University of Sussex rose to 19th place overall and the two departments of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences both improved: Physics & Astronomy is back in the top 10 (at number 9, up from 11th place last year) and Mathematics rose 22 places to take 21st place. Gratifyingly, both finished well above Sunderland.

While these results are good news in themselves, at least around my neck of the woods, as they will probably lead to increased applications to Sussex from students next year, it is important to look behind the simplistic narrative of “improvements”. Since last year there have been several substantial changes to the Guardian’s methodology. The weighting given to “spend-per-student” has been reduced from 15% to 10% of the overall score and the method of calculating “value added” has excluded specific predictions based on “non-tariff” students (i.e. those without UK entry qualifications, especially A-levels). What the Guardian consistently fails to do is explain the relative size of the effect of arbitrary methodological changes on its tables compared to actual changes in, e.g., cash spent per student.

Imagine the outrage there would be if football teams were not told until the end of a Premier League season how many points would be awarded for a win….

Switching Allegiances

Posted in Biographical, Education, Football, Rugby with tags , , , , , on February 3, 2013 by telescoper

So here I am, then, in the office on a Sunday afternoon,which I suspect is going to be a pretty regular occurrence for the foreseeable future. I mainly came in to sort out papers for tomorrow’s Senior Management Group meeting, which will be the first such meeting I’ll be attending in my new capacity. I have managed to prepare for it in fine style by losing my diary, which isn’t a very good start to my career as any kind of manager.

Yesterday was taken up with flat-hunting which, if all turns out well this time, was successful. I also had time to watch a bit of the opening match of the Six Nations Rugby between Wales and Ireland. For the last five years or so I’ve always been in Cardiff for Wales’ first home game of the competition, although I’ve never actually managed to get a ticket for the match. It felt a bit strange not being there anyway. It has to be said that Wales were pretty chronic in the first half, going into the break at 30-3 down, but they recovered in the second half and it was quite an absorbing match all considered. Ireland’s excellent defence held off a spirited Welsh comeback and Ireland won 30-22.

Although I’ve lived in Wales for a while, and have enjoyed the match-day atmosphere in Cardiff, I’ve never switched allegiance from England as far as rugby is concerned. Later on yesterday England beat Scotland in their opening match of the Six Nations, showing quite a bit of flair in doing so but also making quite a lot of mistakes. The 38-18 scoreline flattered England, I felt, and they’ll have to up their game a lot if they’re going to match Wales’ Grand Slam last season.

Football is another matter in which allegiances are difficult to change. Many’s the time I’ve thought of giving up being a Newcastle United supporter but I’ve never managed it. I disapprove of people who think they have an option concerning which team to support, actually. I was born in Newcastle therefore I support Newcastle United. That’s the end of it. We all have our cross to bear. Anyway, yesterday brought an unexpected ray of sunshine into a gloomy season for the Toon with a 3-2 victory over Chelsea. Following a first away win of the season against Aston Villa last week it may even be possible that they’ll avoid relegation. Perhaps.

Switching allegiances between universities is almost as difficult. In today’s academic world we’re supposed to think of higher education as a marketplace in which different institutions compete for funding for both teaching and research. I’ve never felt comfortable with the idea that opening up higher education to “market forces” is in anyone’s interests. Certainly on the research side, there are so many collaborations between groups in different universities that cooperation is more the rule than competition although, as with any rule, there are exceptions. Friendly rivalry is as good a thing in higher education as it is in football, but anything more serious than that can only be justified in the case of Sunderland.

They don’t make FA Cup finals like these any more..

Posted in Football with tags , , , on May 5, 2012 by telescoper

You have to go back to the 1950s – before even I was born – for the last time my own team won the FA Cup, but they did win it three times in that decade, including in 1952 when they were watched at Wembley by the new Queen Elizabeth II. Sixty years on we’re approaching the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, but I don’t think Her Majesty is watching. Neither am I, in fact, because the FA moved back the kick-off to 5.15 from the traditional 3pm. Sacrilege.

P.S. The score in the 1955 FA Cup Final was Newcastle United 3 Manchester City 1. Fans of Manchester United will be hoping that there’s a similar result in tomorrow’s Premiership match between the same two clubs!

R.I.P. Gary Speed

Posted in Football with tags , , , , on November 27, 2011 by telescoper

I’m overwhelmed with sadness at the news that Wales football manager Gary Speed has died at the age of only 42, having apparently taken his own life. This news is all the more devastating because it was so unexpected, at least to those of us who don’t know the circumstances of his private life. This is neither the time nor the place to speculate about what might have driven him to suicide, but it is time to pay tribute to an extremely talented player who, in the results of recent months, was beginning to show what great potential he had as a manager of the Welsh National Team. More importantly, and however feeble a gesture it must be at such a time, I’d like to express my deep condolences to his family and close friends. I can’t imagine what a terrible ordeal they must be going through. I only hope that time will bring them consolation, and some form of peace.

It is as a player for the club I follow, Newcastle United, that I will remember Gary Speed best. He joined the club in 1998 and was a mainstay of Bobby Robson’s team until he left in 2004. Rarely troubled by injury,  he was a fine attacking midfielder, especially strong in the air,  with a good goalscoring record, and was a firm favourite with the fans on Tyneside for his skill and commitment.

Rest in Peace, Gary Speed (1969-2011).

The Easy Winners

Posted in Football, Music with tags , , on April 19, 2010 by telescoper

I’ve been a bit busy today so all I’ve got time to do is mark the news that by beating Plymouth Argyle, 2-0 away from home Newcastle United have won the Championship. In truth they only needed one point from their remaining three games to be sure of the title, but they passed the winning post in style with a comfortable victory that in fact condemns Plymouth to relegation. This may not mean very much to most readers of this blog, but I can assure you that being a Newcastle supporter is sometimes a thankless task and ‘m absolutely delighted to see the club return to the Premier League in such  a surprisingly convincing way.

I was thinking of posting a little bit of music to celebrate, and this sprang to mind. It’s my favourite Scott Joplin rag and it’s called – appropriately enough – The Easy Winners. It was written in 1901 and the original sheet music is decorated with pictures of sporting events. It is also one of the few rags that the composer himself recorded as a piano roll, although I have my doubts as to whether this is actually that version..

This Sporting Life..

Posted in Football, Sport with tags , , , on April 3, 2010 by telescoper

Although it’s meant to be a holiday I’ve actually been in the department most of the day working on some research (or, rather, writing up some old research). Since I’ve been tapping away at the keys most of the day I haven’t got the energy to write much, and I’m looking forward to a drink and a spot of curry in a few minutes’ time followed by a crack at the jumbo-sized Guardian Easter crossword compiled  by my favourite setter, Araucaria.

However, for the purposes of my own record-keeping – this blog is, at least in part, some kind of a journal – I thought I’d make a quick note of the day’s sport. Usually as we near the end of the football season I get into a state of nervous anxiety wondering what sort of mess my own team, Newcastle United, are going to make of the run-in. However, today I’m pleased to say they followed up Monday’s win against Nottingham Forest with another victory, 3-2 away at Peterborough. Although their opponents are the bottom club of the division at the moment, I always thought this would be a tricky game and so it proved if the press reports are to be believed. Peterborough in fact took an early lead, and Newcastle didn’t equalise until stoppage time in the first half. They then went 3-1 up, only to have one goal pegged back by a determined home team.

That result might have sealed promotion to the Premiership for Newcastle, had Nottingham Forest done the decent thing and lost to Bristol City. They didn’t lose, but only managed a draw. The gap between Newcastle and Nottingham Forest is now 15 points with Forest having five games to play while Newcastle have six games left. It’s extremely improbable that Newcastle will lose all 6 of their games and Forest win all 5 of theirs, so I think we’re pretty much guaranteed to go up. We need just one point to turn that into mathematical certainty.

Today was a big game here in Cardiff too, between Cardiff City and fierce local rivals Swansea. Police helicopters were circling the town all day and there was a heavy presence of uniformed officers trying to ensure there wasn’t any trouble at the match. This too was a close-fought game. With the score at 1-1 until stoppage time at the end of the match, Michael Chopra popped up to score a winner for Cardiff. They’re now hard on the heels of Nottingham Forest in fourth place, with 68 points to Forest’s 71. Cardiff might still have to play Swansea in the playoffs. That could be interesting..

And finally, it’s worth noting that today was the day of the annual Oxford versus Cambridge Boat Race in London. I’m not going to pretend that I follow this sport particularly closely, but the occasions on which I’ve been to watch the spectacle have been very enjoyable (even though Oxford has beaten my own Alma Mater every time I’ve bothered to watch it). It’s usually more of an excuse to have a few drinks while watching other people busting a gut than a genuine interest in the sport. Still, I do have a residual loyalty to Cambridge University so I was delighted to find out that they won today. If I’d seen the pre-race odds, I might have had a bet as Oxford were clear favourites.

Not at all a bad day results-wise. I almost finished my paper too…

The Thieving Magpie

Posted in Football, Opera with tags , , , on March 30, 2010 by telescoper

Well, I’ve spent the evening working as well as following an important night’s football. My team – Newcastle United – were playing their promotion rivals Nottingham Forest at St James’ Park (in Newcastle). Going into the game Newcastle were at the top of the Championship, 10 points clear of third-placed Nottingham Forest with a game in hand. With 80 points from 38 games, and only 8 remaining to play, a win would virtually guarantee that Forest (on 70 points after 39 games) couldn’t catch them and Newcastle would therefore be in one of the top two positions guaranteeing them a return to the Premiership next season.

Although this was apparently a commanding position, I’ve been a Newcastle supporter for too long to take anything for granted; they’ve demonstrated their ability to throw away apparently unassailable leads far too often for me to feel complacent. Fortunately, they didn’t let me down. Two second-half goals (from Shola Ameobi and Jose Enrique) saw them win 2-0. Now 13 points clear of third place (with Forest only having 6 games to play), they are on the brink of automatic promotion. Mathematically they now need 6 points from 7 games to be sure, but they could seal it on Saturday away against bottom club Peterborough, if Nottingham Forest lose against Bristol City.

I confess that I get badly affected by nerves when following games on the radio or TV. I’d much rather be there in the flesh, but sadly that’s impractical. When the final whistle went tonight I was enormously relieved and more than a little bit elated, despite the heavy cold I’ve got at the moment.

Anyway, I thought it called for a bit of musical celebration. Newcastle United’s nickname is The Magpies, so I thought I’d offer the overture from Gioachino Rossini‘s Opera La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie).  It’s not the greatest opera, but the overture is superb. Apparently Rossini had to be locked in his room and forced to write it as the deadline for the first performance approached. If that’s true, the pressure had a positive effect on him because what he produced is a cracker.

This performance is tremendously virtuosic – as you’d expect from the Vienna Philharmonic – especially in the accelerando part at the end, which is wonderfully exhilirating.

I’ve only known a few professional classical musicians at a personal level, but all of them, when asked, said that the composer whose music they most enjoyed playing was Rossini. I was always surprised to hear that, but listening to this piece I can certainly understand them. It’s got to be great fun playing this…

P.S. Another thing worth mentioning is that the current owner of Newcastle United Football Club bears more than a passing resemblance to Rossini!

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