Saturday, 30 October 2010

Linda Norgrove

I wanted to make reference to Linda Norgrove on a day when her parents have displayed extraordinary grace, dignity and forgiveness when faced with what must be unwelcome media scrutiny, all while still dealing the the grief of the loss of their daughter. Linda was the woman who was killed during a rescue attempt in Afghanistan after being kidnapped while undertaking humanitarian work out there. She was working out there out of a simple desire to help other people. No religious impulse or imperative drove her out there, she was there because, we're told, she grew to love Afghanistan and simply wanted to do something to help people.

I have no desire to debate the fact that some of the people out there don't want Westerners' help, it would do her memory an injustice and in any case should not be used as a dilute solution to water down the purity of her altruism. It's an entirely separate argument as far as I'm concerned. She was there simply to try to make a difference, understood the risks, and ended up making the ultimate sacrifice for it.

Her parents, as well as allowing part of her humanist funeral to be shown, have made it plain that they do not blame, nor want anybody else to apportion blame on, the Americans who it seems inadvertently killed their daughter while trying to rescue her. Their response to this whole thing, when they must be filled with despair at the loss of a daughter they must be rightly extremely proud of, speaks volumes for their qualities as people. It was clearly in their image that such a courageous and empathetic daughter grew up. I didn't know Linda and will never know her parents, but in a world in which superlatives are thrown around all too easily, and heroes acclaimed on the flimsiest evidence or achievement, here are three people we can all look up to.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The definition of greatness

The Beeb ran a debate on their website last week on the hoary old topic of who was the 'greatest', Pele or Maradona. It is, of course, a matter which provokes diametrically opposing views, generally with English and Brazilian people on the one side, and Argentinian and other nationalities on the other. For me, this is not even a matter for debate, unless the debate is about the definition of the word greatness.
Hundreds, hundreds of responses, many of them quite heated, were posted to the Beeb site. Many of those who speak for Maradona point to him 'single-handedly' winning a World Cup and seek to excuse his, how shall we say, indiscretions, as a compensatory by-product of his genius.

I've got a lot of time for the idea that genius often has a flip side which can be self-destructive, whether in great sportsmen, artists, musicians, there's a familiar pattern. However, that does not in itself mean that those destructive impulses can be discounted from the reckoning if you're to weigh one player against another as the Beeb asked.

Maradona may well have played a significant role in Argentina winning a World Cup (though to suggest he won it on his own for them is not only an outrageous exaggeration of his impact but a slur on some high-quality players he had around him in his prime). But Pele won three World Cups. That's three. And Pele was not kicked out of any World Cups for failing a drugs test. Nor did he see fit to cheat in a major game, say, a quarter-final, by punching the ball into the net. A move a clubmate of Maradona at Barcelona, Berndt Schuster, later said he'd seen him practice in training sessions.

A bitter Englishman, still, 24 years on? You bet, I freely admit it. However, and this is what marks the one out from the other for me, in the Venn diagram of greatness, there's no part of the 'ability' circle overlapping another circle marked 'cheating'. If Maradona had done what he did in '86 to, say, Belgium, I'd have felt exactly the same way about it (the concept of his cheating that is - I'd have been considerably less furious from a supporter's point of view, but that's inevitable). His propensity to cheat takes Maradona out of the running completely, in fact. In any list of the greatest players, you can put him some distance behind not only Pele, but Best, Puskas, Di Stefano, Cruyff, Garrincha, Platini, and plenty of others in my book, because, put simply, they weren't cheats.

This may well be the must unexpected post ever...

It is, to say the least, rare indeed that you'll read any praise on these pages for the PLC that is Manchester Utd but credit where it's due - they've done a good thing this week. Nobby Stiles, a man who managed to combine the twin achievements of winning a World Cup Final and proving that men should not dance, is such an unassuming chap that, according to his son, you'd never know what he achieved during his career on entering his house. No medals, shirts, caps, trophies on display. His medals were, apparently, in the bank and it was a matter of time before they were sold, and ill health has brought about that sale. Well Utd have bought them, and paid handsomely for the privilege, benefitting Mr Stiles' family in the process.

Stiles won his trophies while a Utd player, a European Cup for example, so the fact that they'll probably end up in the museum at Old Trafford means they're going to the right place if he cannot himself keep hold of them. I've been to the museum at Old Trafford and it's a place redolent with their history, with the Munich disaster section done movingly and tastefully, so it's a suitable home for his mementoes.

I can't of course, leave it without a bit of a dig at them, so here it is. As heartening as it is that there's clearly somebody in authority at Man U who's still got a connection with their past, it also serves only to place how far away they've come from that sense of history under the Glazers into sharp contrast. The recent 'Rooney-gate', to use a term the press might, is the best possible example of exactly that. Perhaps he should be led around the museum and shown Nobby's medals as a reminder of exactly what it is he's playing football for.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Sorry about this one

I realise that blogs are by their nature self-indulgent, but this post is extremely so. This is now, happily, not my only outlet as I've been trying to be a bit more active about getting my writing out there lately. First thing that came through was the chance to do some stuff for a new online magazine called Wonderlance, the link for its second edition, which contains my first pieces, is:
Mine are the reviews of Inbetweeners and 30 Rock.

And secondly, I applied to be Brighton & Hove Albion's representative among 92 bloggers (one for each league club) for a new website being launched by BT, called Life's a Pitch, and was given the nod. So the first couple of efforts are also up there, to, in the Fanzone section at:

If you're some kind of weird masochist, or merely enjoy hooting at my laughable literary efforts, check them out. Always grateful for feedback, even if it's just, "You're shit, stop kidding yourself."

Saturday, 23 October 2010

This is getting ridiculous

Most Albion fans had a bit of a bad feeling about today's game, if the web chat was any barometer. The sort of game we've cocked up in the past when we've been expected to win. Well, we brushed Yeovil aside today. 2-0 and comfortable. 78% possession. 78%! That is outrageous. Another clean sheet, a cracker from Calderon, and six points clear at the top.

To say Peterborough looks like a good game on Saturday would be a considerable understatement. Thousands of us going again, a covered terrace, and first against third. Bring it on!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Once a blue, always a mercenary

It'll be difficult to keep a note of glee out of this entry, given the news coming out of Old Trafford that Rooney wants away. This is not just because of my usual anti-Utd tendency, though I freely admit there's an element of that involved, but also because of my experiences of the Utd fan base's attitudes to their players, and other clubs' players, in the past.

I've been to Old Trafford about 20 times, about half a dozen of which have been to see United play Liverpool. During a period when United had Alan 'I'll never join Man Utd' Smith and Wayne 'Once a blue, always a blue' Rooney in their ranks, they nonetheless took great delight in singing a song aimed specifically at Steven Gerrard which alluded to him 'kissing the badge on his chest' and putting in 'a transfer request', to quote them directly, after his alleged near-move to Chelsea. The clear implication from this song and the general demeanour of their fans when you talk to them was that only United's players had loyalty and integrity, and United were so great a draw that any player, no matter how loyal to their club, could be prised out of there by the glamour and allure of the biggest of the big boys.

Happy, happy days, then, that they're now seeing the mercenary nature of that same Wayne Rooney, seeing him for what he is and experiencing the potential loss of one of their star players. But where to? Now, putting aside the fact that I genuinely believe he'll end up staying there anyway, in the end, and just for the joy of indulging in some ABU fantasising, let's speculate for a moment. They'll never sell him to Liverpool, who in any case have neither the money nor the cachet to get him at the moment. They'll never sell him to City either - Ferguson would surely resign in protest if that happens. He won't go back to Everton, however romantic that may seem, as he's taken some fearful stick there, Everton are not a Champions' League regular, and they don't have the money. Arsenal? No chance - Ferguson again. Sell him to Wenger? Not bloody likely. Chelsea? Just maybe, but I'd be extraordinarily surprised if Ferguson sat by and let that happen either. Spurs? Hmmm. Just possibly, if the money could be found. But no - it's got to be abroad.

Only two realistic possibilities. Real Madrid seem to have limitless cash, certainly have the allure, and have already shown their ability to get virtually anybody. But during the protracted sale of Diving Cheat from United to there, Ferguson said he 'wouldn't sell that lot a virus'. So he'd probably be apoplectic if Rooney ended up back alongside the Winker - it'd be quite amusing to see his face going purple with fury if that happened.

Barcelona? Maybe. Got the cash, got the team, got the Champions' League chances. A definite contender. But I'd be very, very happy if a certain Mr Mourinho continued his glorious habit of getting the better of Fergie and did indeed get him to the Bernabeu. What larks.

The usual platitudes are of course being trotted out by fans - 'no player's bigger than the club' being the main one, to convince themselves everything's OK and the old order is not changing. But I rather fear (fear? That is to say, I rather hope) that Ferguson's legendary temper, mind games and general ill-grace are finally getting the better of him and damaging his club, as top players in this era may well not be prepared to put up with it. It's also a possibility he thinks he is bigger than the club, and behaves accordingly, having run it like a private fiefdom for so long. But the reality facing Utd under the Glazers is that when sufficient money is dangled for even the very best players, even they are now a selling club. They're having to face the same realities that have faced plenty of clubs, plenty of big clubs, whose players they've cherry-picked so easily in the past.

That's why I'm enjoying this situation so fully. I suspect, as I say, that all this will blow over and Rooney will stay put, but the discomfort it must be causing within the Old Trafford walls, and in their support, gives me warm, fuzzy feelings.

Edit: See? The very next day it emerges he's signed a five-year extension, no doubt on even better money. It was fun while it lasted but I knew he wouldn't go - that would just have been too good.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Reasons to be cheerful - 1, 2, 3, 4

Oh my giddy aunt, I wish I'd held that Henry V quote back for the Charlton game. What I witnessed this afternoon was the best Albion performance, certainly in an away game, since I can't remember when, frankly. Passing the ball beautifully, defending resolutely, attacking with verve and invention and basically completely outclassing a Charlton side on their own turf, and all in front of over 3500 Brighton fans. The lads even had the common decency to stick three of the goals into the net at our end. Coupled with Palace losing (again) it was just about the perfect Saturday.

We really are looking like a decent side now. If you pay much mind to these things, the statistics will show you one league defeat all season, 8 games unbeaten in the league and 63% possession today, away from home. The Charlton fans, those of them who stayed to the end at any rate, knew what they'd seen. All credit to them for applauding our lads off as they left the field, they were in no doubt as to the quality of our performance either.

We're blossoming under Poyet. The belief in the side is evident, his tactics working, the squad sufficiently deep and containing enough quality to be able to rest players when he sees fit (Elphick and LuaLua both benched today, for example), and the football is an absolute joy to behold, especially on days like this. One of those rare ones today, where you're rewarded for loyalty and commitment during times when things are, frankly, a bit shit. What happy blue and white striped bunnies we all are this evening.

The surreal to the ridiculous

An unusual moment at work today. I had to get out of a lift I was about to use because the alarm was going off, indicating it was loaded above its maximum weight-bearing capability. Not that odd, really. But what was odd was what was responsible for the bulk of that weight. A ball of chocolate about the size of one of those weird blue exercise balls that you're supposed to do God knows what with, dragged on a wheeled trolley by five lads. I was reliably informed as I bailed out of the lift to leave them to get on with it, that it weighed in excess of 250kg. Now I eat a fair bit of chocolate but that's impressive by any standards. I later saw it being pawed at by Chris Evans as a prop on The One Show, which is filmed in the building in which I work. Got to wonder what's happening to it afterwards, though.

Moving on to today's news, though, there was as usual something in there to irritate me today. It seems that the new installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern has been roped off, and punters prevented from interacting with it in the artist's desired manner. For anybody unfamiliar with it, the entire floor of the hall, save for a walkway down one side kept clear, has been carpeted with 100 million (yep, 100 million) hand painted porcelain sunflower seeds. The point was for visitors to walk among them, to sit on and among them, to handle them, to interact with the installation. And so they did, for a day or so, until the most dread phrase in the modern news vernacular struck it down, and it was closed for health and safety reasons. This is the utterly ludicrous world we now live in, where men genuinely risking their health and lives underground in mines in Chile are not sufficiently protected because of a blithe disregard for genuine Health and Safety considerations, but people in no real danger and capable of determining the risk level for themselves in London are denied access to an art installation because of porcelain dust. Or, more accurately, because of the risk of being sued by people claiming to have inhaled porcelain dust.

Really, truly, we Joe Public have only ourselves to blame. The opening up of advertising to the ambulance-chasing solicitors has exposed the grim venality of a British public all too willing to take quick and bare-faced advantage. It appears that the Tate Modern has paid off claimants who reported injuries received using previous installations such as the giant slide or the crack in the floor. Somebody was evidently insufficiently prescient to work out that a slide involved downward movement at high velocity, and another that a bloody great crack in the ground represented a trip hazard. OK, fair enough, don't let small kids loose on these things unattended, but for an adult to blame the gallery for such incidents of their own stupidity, clumsiness or bad luck, and then claim money for it, leaves us with logical, extreme and depressing result.

Good things to those who wait

When you watch as much news as I do, you become reasonably inured to all the shit you have to watch going on in the world, so not much moves you on telly, even the visceral, emotive, all too real stuff involving people dying. So it was with a modicum of surprise that, staying up late to watch the last of the lads come out of the Chilean mine, I found myself reacting extremely emotionally powerfully to what I was watching. It's not too often that 'good' news gets such blanket coverage but the best of us, the best of people, was there for all to see in this one and it was a story fully deserving of the attention it received. That such ingenuity and determination can be brought to bear to get these lads out, and that the men themselves can show such resilience, positivity and composure, especially in those first 17 days of what must have been abject terror before they knew anybody was coming for them, speaks volumes for the very best of humanity.

It will, no doubt, turn sour. Lawsuits will fly. Negligence, dereliction of duty and a cavalier attitude to the lives of the men in the employ of the mine will doubtless be revealed, to infect the joyous atmosphere enveloping Chile as it rightly celebrates a major achievement, a stirring of national pride for all the right reasons. But just for now, they fully deserve to bask in the glory of what they've achieved without worrying too much about what's to follow.

Monday, 11 October 2010

The linesman's an onanist of the first order, chaps...

I promised mention of the apalling theft of two points by an absolutely diabolical officiating decision at the very end of the game on Saturday, and here it is. First, I'll apply the caveat that I absolutely understand that if we'd have taken any one more of yet another string of chances which went begging during the preceding 89 minutes, it would have rendered the officiating inompetence a broadly irrelevant irritant. No more, no less.

However, the fact remains that the single most frustrating thing, for me at least, as a football fan, is when the result of a game is influenced or changed by the refereeing team. Great if it works in your lot's favour but it never bloody does, does it? First, it appears that pushing your elbow into the face of a centre half, in direct contravention of the clear instruction in the law, now warrants a yellow card, not a red one. So we should have been playing ten men for a significant chunk of the game. But we'll let go the clear implication that the ref and linesman had absolutely no idea what had gone on and therefore settled on some sort of compromise that they thought would please everybody, to concentrate on the utterly bewildering decision they made in injury time to award Bournemouth a penalty.

A free kick for handball, which may or may not have struck a Brighton hand in the first place, was given by the ref outside the penalty area. The linesman then intervened to tell the ref, wrongly, that it was inside the box. So we had the extremely rare sight of a ref changing a decision he'd already given, ultimately to deny us the win. As I said, I recognise that we should have had the game won by then anyway, but the fact is that without the officials giving this penalty the score would have been 1-0. The process by which that score had been arrived at, in terms of how many chances each side had created to arrive at it, is broadly irrelevant. Only the fact of the matter remains - it was 1-0 and therefore the decision was absolutely crucial and result-changing.

It's bloody frustrating and absolutely typifies the standard of officiating at our level, which is, frankly, shocking. Again, I realise they have the hardest job in football, and I wouldn't want to do it for all the money in the world, but why is it that when they make mistakes like this it's always, always a mistake which ends up changing the damn result?

Sunday, 10 October 2010

With apologies to Shaky and Henry V

A night in the company of a group of friends who count among them an incredible number of excellent singers and musicians yesterday, to effectively banish the memory of an abhorrent couple of points dropped at home to Bournemouth, of which more in a later entry.

Gathering at a less than salubrious but extremely accommodating and very welcoming pub in Colliers Wood, I found myself as usual surrounded by mates whose talents for music-making leave me gasping for breath. Put together in a few weeks, a mixture of styles from Rage Against the Machine rock to self-penned Country & Western parody, all performed with elan, ostensibly to mark the ever-nearing arrival of the first child of a couple of friends, but really I suspect done for the mere pleasure of doing so.

A fantastic occasion - shit karaoke it wasn't. I'm amazed at the singing, song writing and musicianship of many of my mates, and find myself a barren, rocky outcrop of musical incompetence in a sea of talent. The upside of this is that I can just stand by the bar, have a drink, and bloody well enjoy myself. I loved it - years from now, those Absent Without Good Reason will look back and think themselves accursed that they were not there.

There was mention of doing it again in the closing words. While I suspect the poor sod who had to organise it, play with several of the acts and then pack much of the kit up afterwards may have had palpitations at the very mention of it, a very high benchmark has been set which it would be an absolute joy to see them try to better in future. Cheers, all.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

A positive post about telly!

Best thing I've seen on TV lately, oddly, I didn't see on TV. Just caught up with Alan Davies' teenage diaries on the Channel 4 equivalent of iPlayer because I missed it when it broadcast, and it was comfortably the most intelligent and well-written thing I've seen on telly lately.

He spoke with wit and passion of his experiences growing up in an era in which Britain was bitterly divided politically and seemed at war with itself over disarmament, gender politics, the union movement, anything you care to mention. It resonates with anybody of a certain age. I'm a bit younger than him but remember watching coverage of the miners' strike, Greenham Common, the poll tax riots etc on television through opening eyes, just as he describes his own experience. I'm of course a bit biased because I share his politics, so his views on Thatcher and her ideology for example, which featured heavily, chime nicely with mine.

But it's close to home and a bloody good watch for anybody of a certain age. And for those of you not yet of a certain age, an instructive tour of how things were and, frankly, how things might yet be again given what are likely to be swingeing cuts in public spending later this year. One of the things he did very well was contrast those times with the relative comfort and apathy of, by comparison with that era, a de-politicised society today. Certainly a de-politicised youth culture, at any rate. The obsessions and fads of today's student generation seem pale and wafer thin already, but especially so when compared to those of his era. Maybe it'll take some catastrophic denudation of our public services to open a few eyes as his were.

Anyway, there's about a fortnight left before it disappears from 4 OnDemand or whatever it's called. Catch it while you can.

More televisual conceit

Watching an interview with the first candidate ditched from the new series of The Apprentice this morning was a faintly depressing experience. The slot comprised a few moments of the bizarre way in which Lord Sugar is supposed to judge somebody's potential as an employee (selling sausages they'd made only the previous night) and then the 'fired' candidate himself having to defend his performance.

The whole thing is, of course, a farce, and I don't and won't watch it because it's a completely fabricated for television experience that can bear no resemblance whatsoever to the realities of corporate exigency. If this was even vaguely real, similar techniques would be employed in real recruitment. But oh no, they will persist with this bizarre interview, experience, possibly trial period form of finding their new bodies. It's proven and trusted, so why should telly take any notice? Coz it's dull and functional, that's why. Don't make good telly, m'lud.

But what can Sugar possibly, possibly learn about somebody from such a set-up? He'd as well have them conduct a Rorschache ink blot test, get a phrenologist in, run them through a Krypton Factor assault course for all he'd know about the candidates after this nonsense.

The sacked candidate himself said that what was seen on TV was an 'amplified' version of himself, thereby giving away the fundamental problem with the construction of the show. That which you study you change - a bonkers sausage-fest followed every moment by TV cameras, later edited to suit the director's view of dramatic structure and how he wants us to perceive the candidates, and served to Lord Sugar as some sort of litmus test of a candidate's business nous can't be anything but entirely artificial.
So it's no wonder the candidates come across a bit funny sometimes. Or a bit bitchy. Or a bit ultra-competitive. Depends on the role they're wedged into by the director dunnit? God help the poor bastard's real future employment prospects who happens to be the one chosen to be 'Dopey' by the director.

I realise that people watch this show for entertainment. Plenty of people derive an odd satisfaction from seeing the conflicts, the bombast, the squirming in the boardroom and Sugar delivering the coup-de-grace. But on the odd occasions I've seen bits of this show, I keep expecting Steve Carell to turn up as one of the 'characters' and give away the fact that it's all utterly false. Enjoy it, if it's your sort of thing. I think I'll pass on it.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

If at first you don't succeed...

...exactly repeat the mistakes already made, regardless of their apparent failure. The newspapers this morning full of talk that Steve McClaren is being considered as a replacement for Fabio Capello as England boss when the Italian steps down after the next European Championships.

I've read that one of the definitions of madness is the repetition of the same action over and over again in the expectation of a different outcome. That may well be apocryphal, but the simple stupidity of even considering this is extraordinary, and could possibly only happen in such an organisation of nitwits as the English Football Association. Not only has he failed in his mission to get us to the last European Championships with a set of players largely similar to those we have currently, and certainly no worse than those we have currently, but he's also got the same problems with his CV which are being levelled at Capello now.

Capello is such an easy target because he's foreign, it's all too easy to point out that his English is not good, but other things fired at him include the fact that his club CV is strong but his national team CV not so. Well, does the mere fact that McClaren is English blind the FA to the fact that this is something that McClaren can equally be accused of - he's done very well at club level, of that there can be no argument. But he's already had a go with England and failed.

And need I remind you that this is the man whose idea of a foreign language appears to be to speak English, heavily accented with faux-Dutch? How does that make him a better communicator that Capello? There are plenty enough reasons to give up caring about the England team as it is, many of which I've gone into here already, particularly during the World Cup. If the FA are so unimaginative, and stupid, as to reappoint Steve McClaren to the top job in English football, then it will be very, very difficult to find the will to care at all.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Unmatched drama in Wales

During the World Cup I made a passing mention of Bernhard Langer's putt at Kiawah Island, made with an entire continent willing him to make it, and another one willing him to miss. It's not often that kind of drama comes round but so it was again at the denouement of an epic Ryder Cup yesterday. The normally gentlemanly, almost genteel atmosphere of this game is temporarily replaced by adrenaline-fuelled chest-beating, chanting and rabid excitement of the type usually reserved for football in what's possibly the one event which makes Brits feel European.

And the way the matches are set up is absolutely perfect for such extreme examples of sporting drama as were played out yesterday, should the competition be close. Watching that McDowell putt on the 16 was absolutely agonising, I actually missed it drop into the hole because I had my hands over my eyes, thinking he'd lipped it. When it was all over I felt absolutely knackered from the nervous energy expended just watching it, so I have no idea how the players even stand up and hold a club, let alone make good shots, under such enormous pressure.

This is sporting endeavour at its absolute purest and finest - players who win millions in other tournaments absolutely desperate to win one in which they're paid nothing, performing under the sort of intense pressure they'll never feel in any other event, no matter how much money is at stake. Footage of the players' passion and will to win, and most of all, ability to handle that pressure, should be compulsory viewing for our national side the next time they pull the shirt over their heads.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Sky's powers need a limit

This caught my interest yesterday:

You'll see, if you read the piece, a reference to this case potentially being the Bosman of broadcasting. That may not mean anything to you if you don't follow football but it could mean a complete freeing up of broadcast consumers' right to choose, with pub landlords such as Ms Murphy being able to buy their satellite football coverage from suppliers based overseas. Personally, I wish her the best. I realise that it's the Premier League who have brought the action, not Sky, but we all know who stands to benefit most. Sky's water-tight relationship with the Premier League, and their resultant dominance of football coverage in this country, is so overpowering that they're changing the face of the game, and not necessarily for the better.

I'd like to know which other business limits your right to choose so zealously - if you want a Mini, for example, you can buy one not only from any Mini dealership but plenty of other sources. The good people who make Minis are not going to come after you for failing to buy them from a single outlet, nominated by them, who charges you ten times the price of the bloke down the road.

Ms Murphy is not even stealing intellectual property in my opinion, because she's been paying an authorised supplier of the images, merely one that's authorised in another territory. She describes Sky as 'greedy' and argues that they run a zealously guarded virtual monopoly, free to charge pubs for example, almost what they want for their coverage in this country.

I realise it's not as simple as that - I know that Sky supply a lot of the infrastructure and bandwidth on which many other satellite channels rely, for example - but anything which prises open Sky and the Premier League's vice-like grip on football can only be a good thing for me.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

ET hits home

Just like to congratulate Emma Thompson on her accurate and admirably measured comments on the language kids use, and its affect on peoples' perception of them. Anybody who knows me knows that the mangling of our language is a bugbear of mine - I fully recognise my girlfriend's standard response that language evolves and changes, but evolution is a slow and measurable process in which the strongest elements in that process are supposed to be those which get to multiply and flourish. It's not supposed to be crow-barred into place in under a generation by an agent such as the media or social networking sites which create and reinforce the changes among a certain group, and then mangle the form out of shape and launch it on an unsuspecting and ignorant world.

Again, I recognise that kids create a vernacular expressly to exclude those from outside their peer group from understanding them. We've all, willingly or unwillingly and knowingly or unknowingly, used and encouraged shibboleths in our lives to reinforce our own membership of a particular group or subscription to a way of thinking. But most of us are capable of distinguishing between those linguistic forms and the more standardised, formal English which remains essential for, for example, job interviews or employment itself and which remains a resource capable of great beauty, flexibility, force and clarity of expression.

These kids' vernaculars, whether text speak, phonetic spelling or the bastard verb children of what should be nouns and vice-versa, cannot be allowed to become the dominant and accepted form of English because, as Emma Thompson pointed out so accurately, they make intelligent people look stupid and inarticulate. They are, for me, incapable of the virtues I've listed above, and that's one of the reasons I've got a problem with them. There are plenty of others but I simply don't have the space here to get into all of them without getting ranty and extremely boring. (Too late! I hear you cry).

So I'll try to make this the first and last expression of frustration on this subject within these pages, given that all of you who know me have already heard this a thousand times. I fully expect at least one response to this post containing references to medalling, s'k'edules, tuxedos and the like, damn you in advance.

Missed chances the story of our season

Being in Brighton for the weekend I found myself in the unusual position of being able to listen to live commentary of Albion's trip to Tranmere on Radio Sussex. Why this is possible on the radio but not the internet is beyond me. Sitting at a computer on a Saturday and trying to get live Radio Sussex commentary of Brighton games invariably results in full commentary of Crawley Town or Eastbourne Borough. I have absolutely no idea why that should be the case but it's bloody frustrating.

Anyway, an utterly dominant first half in which chances were created and spurned, Glenn Murray's wonder volley excepted, was followed by the inevitable response from a determined opponent who waited until three minutes from time before delivering a deserved but frustrating equaliser. It should have been game over at half time so we were left to hear Poyet bemoaning the fact that it felt like a defeat.

I suppose in one way this is a measure of our progress. Given our absolutely abysmal record on the Wirral, we'd usually take a point up there if offered it, I think. So to go there, dominate one half and come away disappointed with a point shows that we've come on and expectations have been raised. But it's also slightly worrying in that this performance exemplified us as a team at the moment. We missed a host of chances, and Barnes, who's already divided the support as to his merits, seems the main culprit where this is concerned in particular.

But we're not losing, we're still top and we've a home game to come on Saturday, albeit a toughie against third-placed Bournemouth. We're actually on Sky, no less, which itself give cause for concern for the performance. But I'd rather be grumbling about missed chances to win at Tranmere and go five points clear at the top, than grumbling about being bottom three, leaking goals alarmingly and worrying about relegation.