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.

30th April 2017

Toon up, macams down. It was always going to be hard for Sunderland without the guaranteed six points they got by beating Newcastle home and away and I’m a Newcastle supporter. They will probably come straight back up and will enjoy an easier season next year.

For the toon, unless Newcastle strengthen with about six first team players, we will be heading back the other way again.

For me, only Ritchie, Lascelles, Gayle, Atsu, Mbemba, Diame and Shelvey cut the mustard in the Premiership although Diame and Mbemba didn’t play every week this season, which I was surprised by. If Rafa couldn’t play them in the Championship every week he will probably look to sell these players and replace them.

Ayoze, Dummett, Colback, Darlow and Yedlin are ok but probably only as squad players in a club that has genuine aspirations to stay in the Premiership.

We may as well sell Mitrovic, who hardly featured this season and should have lit up the division, Haidara, Hanley, Clark, Lazaar, Gouffran, Hayden and Murphy. These players cannot hope to influence the Premiership very much or at least didn’t in the past. Hanley and Clark will probably stay though.

Rolando Aarons hardly got a game so will struggle with the step up to the highest level this season and will probably be loaned out again. It’s a big step up for Adam Armstrong so he will probably head back out on loan too, although I’d like to see him be given a chance alongside Gayle for a pacey front line. Pace hurts defenders at every level and with service from Ritchie and Shelvey, it might work.

The reality is Newcastle need a lot of new players who are proven Premier League grinders. If not, it might be a tough year for us.

27th April 2017

There is lots of alleged indiscretion hitting the football newswires this week.

Sylvain Marveaux is one of the players arrested in the Newcastle/West Ham tax things. Not for ever have the audacity to claim a wage whilst posing as a professional footballer at Newcastle Utd, but for something else. Innocent until guilty and all that, but they earn far too much. Northern League players never seem to run into tax issues with their £50 a week. There is a lesson in there somewhere for those that need it.

Joey Barton has been banned for 18 months and fined £30,000 for betting on football. In reality that’s about half a weeks wages, but clearly it is the ban that will hurt him much more. He has admitted breaching the betting rules, which are clear by the way, saying he is addicted to betting.

Whenever I hear someone talk about having a gambling problem, I remember the somewhat glib quote that no-one has a gambling problem, only a losing problem. Barton has the money and the time and he’s not the first to fall into that trap. But look carefully and you realise he was betting a fraction of what he earned, so was probably in control of things throughout.

Mind you, the rules are clear. Footballers cannot bet on football. Period. Barton did and therefore when you get done for the rules breach, it’s difficult to complain about it in my opinion and quite how people can admit to breaking a rule then complain about the punishment remains a mystery to me.

23rd April 2017

I had a rare win on a football bet today, turning £3 into £74 picking out 6 winners on an accumulator. I win so rarely it’s really worth blogging about!

You can spot a bad gambler a mile off by when you hear them say “I wish I’d put more on” when they win, but in my case my usual wager is £5 – £10 but I only had £3 on me. Anyway, a win’s a win.

I’ve always liked a small bet here and there on Football. A decent bet to place is finding three away teams priced at around EVENS and backing your three selections in a trixie bet, which contains 3 double bets and 1 treble bet. This means placing a £5 trixie would cost you £20 in total, but you can pick any unit stake you like.

The logic behind the bet is you get much better odds for the favourite team playing away from home, despite the squad strength being the same most of the time. If you get 2 out of 3 matches right, you win 1 of the double bets but lose the rest and the treble. Because the odds of the selections are EVENS or better, this means your double wins you back almost exactly your wager, thus acting as insurance. Getting 0 or 1 matches right loses your entire stake and getting all three results right pays out much more.

Here is how it works. You pick Team A, Team B and Team C at EVENS. Therefore your four bets are AB, AC, BC and ABC for the treble. Each of the four bets is £5, so you pay £20 to the bookie. Your bet is placed.

Let’s say two of your selections are incorrect. You therefore lose all the bets as you had doubles and trebles. Your return is zero so you lose your £20 stake.

Let’s say Team A and B are correct but Team C loses. You win the double AB which you had £5 on but you lose the rest of the doubles and the treble as they contain Team C, which you got wrong. Your return for the winning double is £20. You lose the rest of the bets so your return from the bookie is £20. You get your money back as that equals your stake.

Now let’s say you get all three bets right. You win £20 for each of your three double bets netting you £60. Your £5 treble is also a winner so you win another £40 for that part of the trixie. Your total returns are therefore £100 including your stake with a profit of £80.

I like this bet as you get a nice 4/1 return for picking out three teams that were favourites to win the match and priced better because they are playing away. This bet gives you a bit of insurance if 1 team lets you down. Be careful though as away teams do slip up more often.

If you do have a bet remember to never bet more than you are happy and can afford to lose. I like to find that balance between actually liking what I win but not hating it too much when I lose.

Consett AFC start their season on 5th August in the FA Cup and there will be plenty of friendlies planned to sharpen the lads up in preparation for that important match. Consett take the cup competitions very seriously, particularly the FA Vase.

22nd April 2017

Consett AFC ended their season on a sour note getting well-beaten by Sunderland RCA 0-5 at Belle View Stadium.

Going in 0-2 down at half-time, second best but at least with some hope, things went from bad to worse in the second half when a clear offside decision went against Consett, with even the RCA bench being honest enough to admit the attacker was clearly offside. The linesman disagreed and Consett even got a booking for dissent to add to their woes.

A penalty decision against Consett a few moments later, where the defender got the ball but also the player, was one of those decisions you fear when the game is going against you. A big appeal saw the referee think for a moment then point to the spot. It was a close call.

By the time the final whistle went it was a case of “thank goodness” although the fans still gave the players a good cheer as they left the pitch.

Consett should do better next season and hope for a strong league position. I think top 4 is not impossible if the right signings are made. The Manager Mark Eccles and Chairman Frank Bell are already looking ahead towards strengthening the squad to build a team that can challenge for trophies next season.

Like most other Northern League fans I’m now counting the weeks towards the friendly matches restarting.

21st April 2017

Like most Football fans I was shocked to learn of the passing of former Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and England defender Ugo Ehiogu aged 44. By all accounts his stock as an up-and-coming coach was rising season upon season. Ehiogu leaves behind and wife and two children. My thoughts are with his family and friends at this difficult time.

Readers old enough to remember football in the mid to late 1990s and early 2000s will remember Ehiogu as a solid Premier League centre back who earned four England caps, scoring one goal.

When you had the likes of Gareth Southgate, Tony Adams, Sol Campbell and a young Rio Ferdinand competing for the starting spots at the heart of England’s defence, you know he was good to even to be spoken of as a possible starter. And he was good.

But that really doesn’t matter. All deaths from what appears to be natural causes are a tragedy when the person involved seems to have decades ahead of them, whatever the cause. In some ways natural causes is worse because it was just the body coming to a stop.

Enjoy everyday. No matter how fit or unfit you are we are all designed to fail in the end. The middle bit is called life and we should be choosing how to make it more amazing everyday. Keep the good stuff and get rid of the bad. Constantly review and adjust and then what’s left should be worth doing. That should really be our only goal.

In Ugo Ehiogu’s life, short as it was, I hope he enjoyed it all. Many people enjoyed watching him live it.