Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Season 2008/2009: Match 24: Montrose v Brechin City

The words "Montrose" "Brechin City" and "cup final" are rarely used in the same sentence together, but tonight was the exception to the rule.
While the rest of Europe tuned in to watch Barcelona and Chelsea cancel each other out, 350-odd hardy souls braved the Angus cold for the Forfarshire Cup Final at Links Park.
Brechin City, who were only able to raise a 13-man squad for their league clash with Raith Rovers on Saturday, were favourites for the match, given that they are promotion chasers in Division 2.
Both sides fielded a mixture of first team and reserve players, but it was Brechin who looked the better side, especially in the first half. Young striker Stephen Etienne was a constant thorn in the side for Montrose and came close to scoring on a number of occasions, including a 25-yard drive that thumped against the crossbar.
Montrose never looked like scoring in the first half, and went in at half-time 2-0 down. They were better in the second half, young Ryan Stewart scrambling home the rebound after Roddy Hunter had side-footed a volley onto the crossbar.
But the comeback amounted to nothing and I think even the Montrose fans were glad to hear the final whistle so they could get home out of the cold.
Just to prove it was a genuine cup final, here's the Brechin captain receiving the Forfarshire Cup:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Season 2008/2009: Match 23: Montrose v Cowdenbeath

As I was taking my seat for today's Montrose match, I was trying to remember how long it had been since I'd seen the Gable Endies in the flesh, but couldn't remember.

My trip to England, which included the Norwich v Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest v Bristol City matches, meant that I hadn't been to Links Park since the win over Dumbarton on March 14.

Today offered Montrose the chance to dent another side's title hopes, top of the table Cowdenbeath hoping to stave off Dumbarton's recent surge towards the title.

The day started with Cowdenbeath a point ahead of Dumbarton at the top of the table, while Montrose knew that defeat would kill off their already slender hopes of making the promotion play-offs.

Things got off to a bad start, Cowdenbeath opening the scoring after 10 minutes, although scorer John Gemmell was so far offside when the ball was played that he was closer to Brechin than he was to any of the Montrose defenders. Nonetheless, the referee and linesman allowed the goal to stand, desite the remonstrations of the home players.

But from then on, Montrose looked the far superior side, forcing Cowdenbeath back into their own half and generally playing some good, attractive football.

It was the first time that I've been so impressed by one of Steven Tweed's Montrose sides, and now it may be that his influence is finally having some positive bearing on the team's results.

Cowdenbeath somehow managed to survive until half time, but it was more through luck than anything else, Montrose squeezing them throughout the half.

The same story was played out after the break, although it took 20 minutes for Montrose's domination to finally pay dividends, Tweed heading home from a Stephen Black corner.

Chris Hegarty (son of legendary Dundee United player Paul) secured the points from the spot six minutes later, sending David Hay the wrong way after Kevin Bradley had been tripped in the box.

Montrose could have added more to their tally, but Cowdenbeath forced them into some desperate defending late on. The home side did well to hang on though, and today's was a well-deserved victory over one of the division's better sides.

With Dumbarton thumping Forfar 4-0, the Blue Brazil (who played more like a Yellow Forfar today) slipped down to second spot in the league, two points behind the Sons, while Montrose closed the gap on Forfar and Annan, both of whom dropped points today.

It will still be a hefty challenge for Montrose to make the play-offs. But isn't being a football fan all about having blind optimism in the face of facts?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mighty Mole

I've recently started playing golf (very badly), and somehow don't think my current level of ability would cope with this hole, the 19th at Legends Golf & Safari Resort in South Africa.

It's an 850-yard hole that incorporates a half-mile drop from tee to pin - and you need a helicopter to get between the two.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Economy Bailouts In Pictures

To help you get an idea of how much money is being used in global financial bailouts, check out this website.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Last Waltz

In the May 2009 issue of The Stool Pigeon, the free music newspaper, there's a small feature on the 10 Most Popular Funeral Songs for people aged between 20 and 44.

Before I go any further, here's the list:

1. Jeff Buckley - Last Goodbye
2. REM - Everybody Hurts
3. The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony
4. Sinead O'Connor - Nothing Compares 2U
5. Robbie Williams - Angels
6. U2 - With Or Without You
7. Westlife - You Raise Me Up
8. Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart
9. Crowded House - Don't Dream It's Over
10. Gary Jules - Mad World

It's a strange assortment. From the sublime - Jeff Buckley and The Verve - to the ridiculous - Westlife.

With the possible exception of Bittersweet Symphony, none of the tracks is uplifting, all choosing to wallow in misery. I'm surprised that neither Oasis nor Nirvana make an appearance, and a little surprised that Crowded House make the list.

I decided long ago that the songs I'd like played at my funeral are The Beatles' Strawberry Fields Forever and Doves' Here It Comes.

But I think I'd also like something uplifting, perhaps in the vein of Elbow's One Day Like This or The Verve's Love Is Noise. I've heard in the past of a young man who died tragically early going out to the strains of Tenacious D's Tribute, in an effort to make everyone smile as they said goodbye to a dear friend and relative.

I've only been to one funeral that ended with a pop song, and it was The Byrds' version of Mr Tambourine Man. It made it difficult to listen to the song for a while afterwards, but it was a fitting way to say goodbye to the person in question.

The music played at your funeral should, at the end of the day (no pun intended), be something personal that means something to you and those in attendance.

I wonder if churches ever get requests for Too Drunk To Fuck by Dead Kennedys (for the chronic alcoholic), Star Fucker by Nine Inch Nails (for the groupie) or anything by Anal Cunt?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Where To Begin

Mrs Wife and I have returned home from our English break, having stopped en route to take in Cirque de Soleil's show in Glasgow with her parents - perhaps more on that later.

As is the case when I am left unattended in town centres or with internet access and free time, I seem to have acquired a large pile of music during our holiday, and I have now begun the task of putting it into iTunes - an endeavour that may take me some time.

While away, I have purchased through a variety of means the following CDs:

Mongrel - Better Than Heavy
Late of the Pier - Fantasy Black Channel
Public Domain - Bass In The Place
The Byrds - Sweetheart of The Rodeo
Clinic - Internal Wrangler
The Dears - Missiles
Dogs - Turn Against This Land
Doves - Kingdom Of Rust
Bob Dylan - Infidels
Bob Dylan - Oh Mercy
Bob Dylan - Time Out Of Mind
Elbow and The BBC Concert Orchestra - The Seldom Seen Kid Live At Abbey Road CD/DVD Box Set
Manic Street Preachers - Gold Against The Soul
Morgan - Organized
Placebo - Black Market Music
Proud Mary - The Same Old Blues
South - Adventures In The Underground Journey To The Stars
Stereo MC's - Deep Down & Dirty
VHS Or Beta - Night On Fire
Wire - Pink Flag
Neil Young - Are You Passionate?
Yourcodenameis: Milo - Print Is Dead Vol 1.
Trainspotting soundtrack

Which represents a varied selection of old records, new records, well-known records and obscure records from a pretty wide variety of genres I think. Finding time to listen to them may be the biggest problem, but I guess that's why we invented iPods and commuting to work.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Season 2008/2009: Match 22: Nottingham Forest v Bristol City

When I was growing up, Nottingham Forest were one of English football's biggest clubs, although their sorry decline from European Champions to League One in the space of 25 years strangely coincided exactly with my first quarter century on this planet.
Since dropping out of the top flight in Brian Clough's final season back in 1993, Forest have been up and down more often than a porn star's knickers, but they've found it increasingly difficult to make progress towards a Premiership return over the past few seasons. Ahead of today's match they were third bottom of the Championship, a point behind Norwich and three behind Barnsley, who had a game in hand.
After attending Norwich City's clash with Sheffield Wednesday last weekend, I was looking forward to another entertaining match between a team holding out hope of a promotion play-off place and a side desperate to stay in the second tier.
Unfortunately, the weather in Nottingham today wasn't anywhere close to being as good that in Norwich last weekend, with a light drizzle falling as I made my way to the City Ground.
The stadium must be the most picturesque I've ever been to, sitting right beside the bank of the River Trent:

I didn't realise until today how close the City Ground is to Notts County's Meadow Lane ground, which is on the opposite bank, and to the Trent Bridge cricket ground, which is a few hundred metres down the road - and which looks like a giant German castle when seen from the upper tier of the City Ground's Brian Clough Stand.

As I said about Carrow Road last week, the City Ground would one of the three best league grounds in Scotland, and, like Carrow Road, is a far better venue for watching football than Hampden. The City Ground reminded me of Tynecastle, although its capacity of more than 30,000 dwarfs Hearts' stadium. Slightly fewer than 23,000 fans turned out today, including a noisy away section keen to urge the visitors towards the play-offs and Forest towards League One.

There were fewer players with Scottish connections on show today than had been the case in the Norwich match. Forest's goalkeeper Iain Turner, currently on loan from Everton, hails from Stirling. In the past, I've heard him touted as a future Scotland goalkeeper, but on today's form neither Craig Gordon nor David Marshall has anything to worry about.

Former Hearts left back Jamie McAllister lined up for Bristol City for 82 minutes before receiving a red card for for a second bookable offence. Ulster-born winger and former Hibs man Ivan Sproule, who famously scored a hat-trick against boyhood heroes Rangers, also played for Bristol City today, opening the scoring after 13 minutes.

The most famous Scot involved in the match was Billy Davies, appointed Forest manager in January this year and the man charged with saving the club from sliding into League One yet again.

There weren't many household names to be seen on the teamsheets today, Forest looking to Robert Earnshaw and on-loan Dexter Blackstock for goals and having recently added Welsh international full back Chris Gunter on loan from Spurs. City, meanwhile, had Dele Adebola in their starting line-up, the big man giving Forest's defence a hard time throughout.

Forest have been struggling all season, and early on they looked like a team whose confidence has been shot for a long time. They seemed devoid of ideas, scared to make mistakes and afraid to shoot in case they missed the target.

Despite starting so poorly, Forest could and should have gone ahead in the first quarter of an hour when Blackstock headed a cross wide of the target when it looked easier to score.

The let-off proved crucial, and Bristol City found themselves in front after 13 minutes, Sproule on hand to capitalise when Turner spilled the ball in the box.

At that stage, it seemed as though City were the most likely side to add to their tally, with Forest looking like a team of condemned men. But somehow, Forest found a way back into it and Earnshaw, who had already squandered a host of chances, netted from close range.

With the match tied at half time, I would still have considered City the more likely team to win the match. Most of the second half passed without incident, Forest failing to put Bristol City under any real pressure and the visitors struggling to capitalise on their hosts' inefficiencies at the back.

When Dele Adebola scored with 12 minutes remaining, it seemed as though Forest were finished, both in the match and in the Championship.

But that didn't take into account McAllister's idiocy. Having already been booked, the defender committed a foul on the edge of his own box, and was given his marching orders. From the resulting free kick, Joe Garner was able to find an equaliser, scrambling the ball home from inside the box.

The bouncing Bristol City supporters were immediately silenced, and Forest's fans sensed that survival was within their grasp once again.

Incredibly, there was further drama still to come, Dexter Blackstock capitalising on slack defending deep in injury time to volley beyond Adrian Basso.

The stadium erupted and Forest's players rushed to celebrate with the huddle of fans standing on the corner who had returned to the ground through the open exits when the equaliser flew.

Tension gripped the stadium from then on, referee Colin Webster adding several more minutes of stoppage time to test the nerves of everyone associated with the Reds.

The noise that greeted the final whistle was tinged with as much relief as joy, and those three points may prove all important to Forest, who have now moved out of the drop zone at Norwich's expense. With four games to go, there is still a lot at stake for both clubs - and the others involved in the relegation struggle.

I remember that, in Clough's final year in charge of Forest, many people said they were too good to go down. They weren't, and they did, and they've never properly recovered since. This Forest side is definitely not too good to go down, and too many of the players today looked as though they already thought they were relegated. A new goalkeeper is definitely required, with Turner at fault too often today to be considered properly reliable.

Gunter looked decent, but will return to Tottenham at the end of his loan period. The remaining members of the backline - Wes Morgan, Kelvin Wilson and Joel Lynch - looked erratic throughout and I'd imagine that all will be fighting for their places if Billy Davies remains as manager next season.

In truth, it's easier to pick the few players who didn't have a howler for Forest today. Looking objectively at the match, only Gunter, Earnshaw and Blackstock really looked as though they were properly ready for the challenge, although both the strikers squandered several chances that could have proved crucial on any other afternoon.

I hope that Forest survive, and I also hope that Norwich stay up, but it's now looking likely that one or the other will find themselves in League One next season. At the moment, I'd bet on Forest staying up. I'd also be willing to bet on Billy Davies, if given the chance, taking a hatchet to a lot of dead wood at the club if he's allowed to stay on, and kick-starting a push by one of the true sleeping giants of the English game.

(Fascinating fact - Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa are the only sides to have won the European Cup which have never played in the Champions League. And Forest are the only side to have won the European Cup more times than their domestic title.)

Friday, April 10, 2009


Mrs Wife and I have just returned from Skegness' Tower Cinema, where we spent the evening watching The Boat That Rocked.

I think it's the first time I've been to the cinema and had the film interrupted by an intermission midway through.

That slight annoyance aside, the movie was very funny and highly entertaining from start to finish.

But even more enjoyable was the soundtrack, a rollicking ride through the best the 1960s had to offer. In fact, it was so good I got goosebumps three times simply because of the music - twice because of music by The Rolling Stones.

Not a bad way to spend the evening, all in all.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Brass Bands Play and Feet Start To Pound

Today marks the beginning of my 30th trip around the sun, so I thought I'd commemorate the occasion with the video from the song that was top of the hit parade 29 years ago today.

Paul Weller has looked pretty cool throughout most ofhis career (we'll turn a blind eye to the Style Council/Band Aid years). It's just a pity that Bruce Foxton insisted on the mullet....

I would embed the video, but YouTube won't let me - so here it is.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Season 2008/2009: Match 21: Norwich City v Sheffield Wednesday

Mrs Wife and I have been dog and house sitting for her auntie and uncle in Skegness since Tuesday, and as part of this two-week break in England, I decided it would be a good opporchancity to take in some football south of the border.

The match that seemed most appealing within traveling distance today was Norwich City v Sheffield Wednesday at Carrow Road, the Canaries taking on the Owls in a match the home side couldn't really afford to lose as they seek to avoid relegation.

It was my first visit to Norwich (both the city and the football club) and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the stadium - I'd say there are only two better in the Scottish league, and Carrow Road is certainly a far better venue for watching football than the soulless bowl that is Hampden, despite being less than half the size of our national stadium. The stands are tight against the pitch and even in the back rows, you feel as though you're right on top of the action.

There were a few players with Scottish connections playing today - Scotland goalkeeper (and now presumably second choice for the national side following Shagger's midweek antics) David Marshall started for Norwich, as did Alan Gow, the striker currently on loan from Rangers. Another former Rangers striker on show was Sheffield Wednesday's Francis Jeffers, whose Rangers career was so glorious that I'd forgotten it ever happened until I was reading the programme before the start of today's match. Chris Killen, who is on loan at Norwich from Celtic, didn't play today due to injury. Former Dundee and Celtic midfielder Mark Fotheringham hasn't played for Norwich since March, when he was stripped of the club captaincy after storming down the tunnel having been substituted by new Canaries boss Bryan Gunn.

The weather in Norwich today was glorious, and the stadium was filled to capacity for the match, with a vocal Sheffield Wednesday support filling one of the corners of the Jarrold stand. Apparently my seat in the County Lounge section was within spitting distance of the directors box inhabited by Delia Smith, but I didn't catch site of the chef.

And so to the match. Sheffield Wednesday were by far the better team, and easily looked as though they deserved to be more than eight points ahead of an average Norwich side. Jermaine Johnson looked lively throughout for the visitors, his darting runs down the left a constant source of worry for the Norwich back line. Francis Jeffers, meanwhile, continued his career-long impersonation of a tree.

In the Norwich ranks, Lee Croft looked faster than a short Alan Stubbs lookalike ought to have, and he frequently had the pace to beat Tommy Spurr. It was just a pity that none of his teammates thought it a good idea to make their way into the box in the hope of connecting with one of his crosses or passes. Alan Gow actually looked decent, which probably won't come as a surprise to anyone who saw him play for Falkirk but might do to Rangers fans who never saw him don the light blue. All too often he opted to attempt to beat every man instead of shooting, and his decision-making proved costly in the end. His strike partner David Mooney was utter shite, and I was surprised that Gunn kept him on the park for the duration of the match.

The game was a scrappy affair, neither side creating many clear-cut chances. Wednesday looked better throughout and should have won comfortably, but instead had to rely on Jermaine Johnson's goal two minutes after the break to secure all three points. Norwich had an equaliser ruled out five minutes from time for a foul in the build-up that it seemed no-one in the stadium saw except for referee Mike Russell.

Russell had an appalling game from start to finish, turning a blind eye to a series of niggling fouls from the Wednesday players. As well as disallowing the equaliser, he also managed to turn his back on an eight-man brawl in the Wednesday box during the second half, a ruck that had to be split up by the linesman in his absence. Tommy Spurr was sent off with a minute of normal time remaining, having been booked for a nothing foul 10 minutes earlier. A very poor show from the official.

On the basis of today's game, Norwich are in trouble. Nottingham Forest, who I'm going to see on Saturday, scraped a point with fellow strugglers Barnsley, while Charlton got a result at Southampton. Both of those results keep Norwich out of the drop zone for the time being, but they're only a point ahead of Forest, while Southampton can overhaul them by winning their game in hand.

Having said all that, there were a few good signs for Norwich - Gow looks like he's enjoying his football, Marshall is a steady goalkeeper, Jon Otsemobor and Ryan Bertrand were solid in defence, Croft looked decent and Sammy Clingan had a good game in the middle of the park. Gunn also handed a debut to Korey Smith, who has been promoted from the club's academy, and he looked a decent prospect when coming on from the bench.

On a good day, Norwich could easily beat an average SPL side such as Aberdeen (the Dons selected there purely for my own amusement). But it seems as though good days are few and far between for Norwich at the moment, and their season is going to end with a real relegation dog fight (or Canary fight at least).

Friday, April 03, 2009

Ministry of Superfluous Signs

As spotted in a motorway service station somewhere between Glasgow and Skegness on Tuesday.