6th June 2017

Consett have announced some transfer activity with old hands Calvin Smith and Michael Mackay, also the club’s record goalscorer over his previous two spells, returning to the club. On a sadder note free-scoring forward Luke Sullivan has left to join South Shields. The best of luck to him.

I was very sad to learn of the sudden passing of Cheick Tiote yesterday, who was, as of January 2017, still a Newcastle Utd player. To see someone so young and so physically fit pass away so suddenly should remind us all to live each day to the full. My thoughts are with his family and friends.

All of the existing Northern League management committee were voted back onto the committee again at the league AGM. Well done to them. I would like to have ran for election, however, as I’m not known to them it would have been a tough ask. Nevertheless, I’m on plenty of committees and have chaired one in the past. It’s not a big deal, but it’s something I’d like to do at some point.

The new non-league structure has been announced and Football as we know it in the Northern League will change. The winner from each of the 14 Step 5 leagues must be promoted and depending on points, 12 of the second-placed teams will be promoted too. An F.A. directive states that all midweek matches must start at 7.45pm rather than 7.30pm, which is bad news for clubs who hope to save as much floodlight cost as possible, although they can apply to the league for a 7.30pm kick-off. I imagine these requests will be granted with that thought in mind.

1st June 2017

Football’s month of nothing has begun. For a blogger like me, any hearsay is unfortunately often confidential and thus the frenetic behind-the-scenes activity remains there. This is bad new for the many fans who hope for a snippet of exciting information about the huge signing their team is, they hope, just about to announce.

At work things are busy at present. Life won’t settle for me until after the 8th June General Election and my body has reminded me why I must get fit by a flare up of what appears to be Plantar Fasciitis, a damaged and very painful heel for the non-medical. It’s slowed me down for sure and I wasn’t particularly quick to start with.

Today marks 7 years since I first travelled to Crook for my first day at work. I parked down from the office, then part of Hilary Armstrong’s home on North Terrace, Crook and felt the usual first day nerves. I needn’t have worried. I’ve had the best 7 years possible. Some bad moments, but 99% of it has been excellent. I’ve been very lucky.

Whilst in the Crook office I happened to be on my own working in the office when Baroness Hilary Armstrong, then just Hilary Armstrong, took a phone call in the kitchen to confirm her elevation to the House of Lords. I was the first to offer my congratulations.

Fast forward to now and today is the day the confidential case shredding takes place. Everything is bagged up and ready to go. There will be a new MP this time next week and things move on quickly.

30th May 2017

Now that he has left Torino after a season-long loan, Joe Hart may now sign for Arsenal now that Arsene Wenger has agreed to stay. I think that is a good fit. I said Kasper Schmeichel, but I feel Joe Hart is a better choice.

Props to Wenger for not being swayed by those who wanted him to leave. After 21 years at the helm nobody would have criticised him for saying enough is enough. He has signed a new two year contract and I am sure he will see it out. Has he a cheeky eye on Ferguson’s Man Utd tenure record? I think he has!

At 26, Riyhad Mahrez will, probably for the first time in his career, notice 30 approaching and after being loyal to Leicester and staying for a year after their historic win, he wants to move on. He has 4 – 6 years to make enough money to set him and his family up for life. He will do, but he has to move now. Practicality has a place in Football too, even for the big stars.

Chelsea youngster Dominic Solanke has joined Liverpool. At £3 million (estimated tribunal fee) this could be an amazing steal. He is one to watch. He was well thought of by Chelsea who did not want him to leave, but from Solanke’s point of view, how many Chelsea youngsters make the grade? Ask Reuben Loftus-Cheek. I think he is right to move.

29th May 2017

I was at the Consett AFC Annual awards dinner last night where Chairman Frank Bell handed out various awards. Andrew Pearson, Club Treasurer, was given the Chairman’s award for his dedication to the club Andrew kept the books right as well as deputising for the club secretary who had to work away a lot. Andrew also liaised with the printers for the programmes too. As if that wasn’t enough, he announces the teams just before the match over the tannoy. Andrew was literally invaluable this season.

Consett’s First XI were somewhat overshadowed by the achievements of the Under 21’s side this season who won a stunning Quadruple! Watch out for players like Chris Rogan, Michael Brown and Mackenzie Milner, all have a future at Northern League and perhaps even higher. There are others too that could break through. In the women’s football league, Consett Ladies AFC also won promotion to the local Division 1, so success all round.

Alas, poor Consett FC didn’t win anything apart from the Yellow/Red card naughty boys league table, however, I am not disheartened. We had a tantalising run in the FA Cup that could have been so much better and I believe we are only 2, possibly 3 good signings in key positions away from challenging for the Northern League title and might surprise a few people this season.

As fans we are waiting to find out which Northern League stars will be joining us as new signings. No word as yet.

28th May 2017

Arsene Wenger should now walk away with his head held high. He got the F.A. Cup win and thus ended the “x amount of years without a major trophy” criticism that would have followed him into retirement. It would have been unfair but that’s Football. Like I said I think he should walk away now. It’s time.

Watching the final yesterday it occurred to me that Mesut Ozil is not the answer for Arsenal. He had a poor game. If he’s the answer I’d love to know the question.

Paul Pogba for Man U took some time to adjust as did Ander Herrera but they are showing their worth now. Ozil is a great player but in my opinion he is not suited to the Premier League and he’s been around long enough now to assess where the upside is. There are too many average performances for a player who cost so much. Look at Alexis Sanchez and his performance week in, week out. There’s no comparison.

Mind you, if Ozil wants to sign for Newcastle Utd I’d have no complaints. It’s not so bad just yet that he couldn’t get Isaac Hayden out of the team. On paper Ozil should work, but with Ozil, Ramsey and Sanchez they should be doing better.

In my opinion Arsenal need to sign Romelu Lukaku to lead the front line and Kasper Schmeichel to go in goal and get shot of Ospina who is dodgy. They also need a solid centre-back to play with Rob Holding, someone like Toby Alderweireld from Southampton. If you replaced Ozil with James Rodriguez they’d challenge for the title next season.

That would only cost £150 million or so but they would get £40m – £50m back for Ozil.

In other potential big moves Kyle Walker looks surplus to requirements at Spurs. If he joins Man Utd and Luke Shaw gets himself sorted those two marauding down the wings as attacking full backs with Pogba, Zlatan, Herrera, Rashford et al. feeding off that service could see the good times return to Old Trafford.

25th May 2017

A couple of my life stats to begin with. It is my 36th birthday today which means it is 15 years ago today that I left Lincoln University. I had a great time in Lincoln and appreciated every moment. On a sadder note it is 26 years ago today my Grandfather passed away on my 10th Birthday in 1991.

Recent events including the horrendous act of terrorism in Manchester this week and noting the one year anniversary of the murder of Jo Cox MP reminds me of the luck we all enjoy in simply being here. We should never forget to consciously enjoy every day.

Another planned footballing cameo in the Europa League Final saw Wayne Rooney make what appears to be his final appearance for Manchester Utd, coming on as a (very) late substitute.

A thought struck me that if Romelu Lukaku is sold by Everton for mega-money, this might pave the way for a last hurrah for Rooney at the club where it all started for him? Watch this space as Rooney has made no secret of his desire to return to Everton towards the end of his career and if Everton offer to play him up front to replace Lukaku, surely he’d be tempted.

Or maybe the recent Footballing cameos have turned me into a footballing romantic.

23rd May 2017

I made the effort to visit Consett FC’s stadium to watch the final game of the season for Leadgate FC. In 2014, I got involved with the Consett Sunday League and Leadgate FC had a great set of lads and I ended up running the team for a year and had a blast doing it. We won Division 3 that year.

Unfortunately yesterday sees the end of the road for Leadgate, who I was told have decided to call it a day. I hope some of the players like Gavin Marshall and Damian Bone try their hand at a higher level. They are good enough and I love watching them play.

Sunday League is a salt of the earth level of football. It’s unpaid, often rough and getting your team there at all is a success before a ball is even kicked. That said, the crack is good and the matches are always full of goals and, admittedly, the odd meaty tackle you simply don’t see on a Saturday.

I am very grateful for Leadgate giving me the chance to manage a team. It was a little dream of mine and it saw me getting my Level 1 Coaching and Level 1 Goalkeeping qualifications. I may yet do more coaching badges in the future and get my Level 2 in both coaching and keeping.

22nd May 2017

What is your views on “subgate”?

With Sunderland’s pre-match blessing, it was agreed that Chelsea legend John Terry would be given a 26th minute guard of honour at the time of the match that matches his shirt number, as he was substituted in front of his home fans for the final time as a Chelsea player. He later lifted the Premier League title that afternoon in what was the perfect way to end his Chelsea career.

I think it is clear Terry will probably retire. What else is left to do in the game with a send off like that?

However, what do you think of the substitution itself? Alan Shearer said it brought the game’s integrity into question, Garth Crooks criticised the staging saying this is “not Hollywood” whilst Ian Wright said he had no issue with it.

My opinion? It was acceptable, but only because Chelsea were already champions and Sunderland were already relegated. In any other setting I would be against it because this type of thing is what testimonials are designed for. Doing this in a competitive match is not the best precedent to set.

Thinking aloud even further, in an era with hardly any “one club players” anymore can we not make an exception for a man who has captained his country and club in a career that spanned 22 years at the club? Maybe we can and maybe we should.

Just don’t expect Wayne Bridge to join in. Or Rio Ferdinand. Terry was not without his critics, despite his successful career.

21st May 2017

Sorry! My life is just all over the place at the moment. There’s change everywhere so with less Football to watch than usual and plenty of other stuff to be doing it’s been a totally different life than from 8 weeks ago. The blog has suffered, but I’ve not forgotten about it.

Before I continue, as County Councillor for Delves Lane I do get access to a Members Initiative Fund (for Members to fund initiatives you’ll be surprised to learn!) that is £19,400 deep.

For those of you who hate politicians (that’s everyone yeah?!) I don’t personally have access to this money, so no brown paper envelopes stuffed with cash for me! The MIF money is funds that the Labour council ring-fenced when moving to a unitary authority in 2009 to ensure funds would be made available each year at the elected councillors discretion for the local area. Obviously there are some conditions to meet in order to get a portion of it, but if you have a properly constituted group and a need, get in touch with your local representative.

Back to Football. Congrats to South Shields who won the FA Vase this afternoon. Awesome job boys! Another Northern League victory, although if one is being very detailed they clearly have a team that is well above that level, hence their sweeping of all before them this season.

4th May 2017

Newcastle Utd can still win The Championship, but more importantly they will play Premier League football next season which is what the fans really care about.

Quite rightly the toon fans celebrated the achievement of getting out of that division, which is actually a difficult league to get promoted from. Despite the toughness of the division, Sunderland and Newcastle seem to make it look easy when they get relegated, usually bouncing straight back up.

Instant promotion is the best chance for a club because those Premier League standard players who stick around for one season soon move on if their club are not immediately promoted. Remaining in the second tier sees squads gradually transformed into honest, but less skilled outfits that struggle to reach the top again. For now at least, Newcastle have avoided that fate.

Sunderland fans will be lamenting relegation, but they should take heart that they will probably win lots of matches next season and probably win the league easily. It will be a season of success instead of a constant struggle to survive.

Of course their fans would never have chosen relegation but now that it’s happened, good times probably lay ahead for them. They will be back.

3rd May 2017

There was some days when I thought May 4th would never come. I am standing for election to Durham County Council and tomorrow is polling day. Hopefully if you live in Delves you’ve noticed, as you will have received (hopefully memorised) at least two leaflets, probably three!

Politics is a weird game and if I’m honest I’m unsure if I’m suited to it. I hope to find out over the next four years and it’s up to the voters tomorrow. I live in the ward and despite my colleague Jane doing a great job for (I think) the past 12 years and hopefully a few more, I’d be the first Delves Lane county councillor to actually live in Delves Lane for well over 10 years. But that’s for the voters to decide.

The downside to standing is that everything leads to 4th May and other things in life can get left to one side. Certainly my other interests have been sidelined, like Snooker and Pool, a game I used to spend hours practising and got reasonably good at, so the upside is that whatever happens, my mind can notice other things and that’s the plan.

Things like my diet, which needs a complete overhaul and making time to do more/some exercise. I’m too big by some distance. I’m lazy and I love food that’s bad for me. As I swipe good looking women in my region on Tinder I note that unfortunately my face must illicit a swift swipe left (or right, whichever is ‘no thanks’) pretty much every time. Only I can get to being the best I can be. So tomorrow is a new start, pending the result of the Friday count which takes place in Spennymoor.

Back to Football (I hate the off-season!) Consett U21s have won all before them this season and celebrated another win the other night. They finish their season in the final of something else. A few players like Mackenzie Milner (who looks a very good player at only 16), Chris Rogan and Michael Brown are being seen at first team level quite regularly and others are in the system.

Success seems close for the club, maybe even this coming season. I don’t think it’s wishful thinking.

1st May 2017

I hope you are making good use of your May bank holiday.

Football was once again this week marred by the ugly face of racism when a Rangers fan appeared to aim monkey chants and gestures towards Celtic forward Scott Sinclair, who had just scored a goal. Football does illicit high emotion, but there is never, ever an excuse for racist language at any time.

It surprises me that people think they can get away with it at a Football match these days. Notwithstanding the many eye witnesses all around them, state-of-the-art cameras with the best technology mean the club can zoom into the assailant from any angle in the ground of high-profile matches to ascertain who is responsible for bad behaviour. Facial recognition software alerts security before that person even enters the ground in the future if they incur a ban.

Mind you, this is hardly something someone would reasonably consider if minded to act in such a way. But it means there is a consequence to the actions, which I think counts for something. It is also worth reminding that most fans watch the game in the right spirit.

Players and officials know they are going to get targeted for banter and maybe some unfortunate comments but there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed. Racist language should incur a life ban in my view, no ifs or buts about it.