Friday, 16 July 2021

It's Coming Home (well almost)!

It was heartbreak once again last weekend when Gareth Southgate's England team fell at the final hurdle against a consistent Italy in the Euro 2020 tournament (postponed for a year due to Covid). Disappointment of how England's previous World Cup display displayed such promise, combined with our less than stellar penalty record to bring about a gut wrenching penalty shootout loss. Those missing the spot kick not only had to deal with the emotional weight of the occasion, but also racism by an idiotic few on social media platforms. It's not quite the ending we had in mind.

Despite a patchy group stage (decent showings against Croatia and the Czech Republic but a bore draw against Scotland), England really grew into the competition. The Germany group stage performance was in the balance before quality quick fire goals from  Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, the Ukraine game was a walk over, and Denmark match a good showing against a competent Danish side. Arguably losing to Italy isn't crime of the century as they are experts at doing just enough, as it attested to by being defeated in, now, 34 games. This winning streak is in fact just one short of the joint all-time record (shared by Spain - 2007 - 2009 and Brazil 1993 - 1996) .

Despite this fact the public reaction from some quarters was hyper critical. The British media, and to an extent the general public, love to build the team up just to knock them down. The default setting, somewhat at odds with the clear talent in the team, is the think that we're verging on hopeless. This flips back after a couple of good results to imagining that we're suddenly world beaters. It's always been that way really, with no balanced view of the national squad. To an extent I suppose we can call that passion, but I question how much it helps our national squad.

All eyes now turn to the 2022 World Cup, where we will once again likely see our talented young squad led by manager Gareth Southgate. Weather conditions will no doubt be more difficult to contend with, and we'll be taking on the world rather than 'just' Europe, but I for one am hopeful that we can put on a good display. Realistically, by any sensible measure we did ourselves proud in Euro 2020. Now let's build on that in Qatar. Well done, lads!


Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Eurovision 2021 Results

 


Above I've highlighted the top 12 finishing performances of the 2021 Eurovision. I'm omitted the bottom half of the results on account its the less interesting end of the table (and not because the UK gained a big fat zero points from both the judges and the public - I promise!).

The Eurovision format as an exciting as ever, with the final place order shifting wildly as the general publics votes are reeled off. The winner was not an unsurprising choice considering the betting odds, and I must say I more watched it out of curiosity and enjoyment this year rather than getting involved in that regard.

There were some suitably zany and unique acts as there are every year ( I was quite taken by the camp yet dark disco track Discoteque from Lithuania, which did well with the tele vote). Some sweet tracks too (the entry from Switzerland for example). The winner wasn't entirely unsurprising as indeed shows that 'rock isn't dead. I certainly preferred it to the French entry. If you skipped the show due to the cheese factor, give it a watch next year. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised. 

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Classic Tommo Moment

A classic moment captured on film from the one and only Derek Thompson

Friday, 2 April 2021

The Monday National

 What became known as the 'Monday National' was originally scheduled for 4.00pm on Saturday, April 5, 1997 but, following two coded bomb threats from the Irish Republican Army (IRA), received less than a hour before the scheduled 'off' time, was hastily re-arranged for 5.00pm on Monday, April 7.


Interviewed live on BBC Television, Managing Director and Clerk of the Course Charles Bennett announced that racing had been abandoned for the day and instructed everyone to evacuate the racecourse immediately. Amid chaotic scenes, police eventually ushered all 60,000 spectators to safety and, at 4.14pm, discovered two suspect devices, which were detonated by controlled explosion. Nevertheless, approximately 7,000 vehicles were impounded overnight, leaving 20,000 people stranded; the paucity of accommodation in the vicinity left many of them reliant on the hospitality of local residents. Similarly, many of the National runners were stabled at Haydock Park, in nearby Newton-le-Willows, until Monday.


The Monday running of the National went ahead without further incident and was won by Lord Gyllene, trained by Steve Brookshaw and ridden by Toby Dobbin, at 14/1. The 8-year-old was always travelling and jumping well at the head of affairs and, although badly hampered, and nearly carried out, by a a loose horse at the water jump, barely gave his supporters an anxious moment. Indeed, when his nearest pursuer, Suny Bay, blundered badly at the final open ditch, four fences from home, he took the race by the scruff of the neck; in the last half-a-mile or so, galloped further and further clear, leaving Sir Peter O'Sullevan – commentating on his fiftieth, and final, GrandNational – to call him home in splendid isolation. Lord Gyllene eventually won by 25 lengths from Suny Bay, with 100/1 outsider Camelot Knight staying on into third place, a further 2 lengths away.