If you are a fan of Watford, Aston Villa or Lincoln City or just football in general you will be shocked and saddened by the news of the death of Graham Taylor at the age of 72.
He was a remarkable manager. He took Lincoln City from the Fourth to the Third Division. He took Aston Villa from the Second Division to runners-up in the First. He took England to the 1992 European Championships and successfully kept them out of the 1994 World Cup.
But it was with Watford he had his greatest success. Teaming up with Elton John in 1977 he quickly won promotion to the Third Division. Shortly afterwards he gave a talk at my old school. In the Q&A one of the cheekier boys asked him when we would be in the First Division. How we laughed. It was unthinkable. Not going to happen. Taylor replied that if you aim for the ceiling your feet won’t get off the ground but if you aim for the sky then you may hit the ceiling. Four years later having smashed through the ceiling, roof and lower troposphere we were indeed in the First Division making monkeys out of the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool. [What’s changed? I hear you ask.] In 1983 Watford were the second-best team in the entire country. In 1984 they got to the final of the FA Cup.
For the benefit of North American readers unused to the joys of promotion and relegation the equivalent of all this might be the Montreal Expos winning the World Series or a Canadian team winning the Stanley Cup. Or, if you’re not interested in sport, somebody without political experience, a coherent philosophy, tact, media savvy or plausible hair becoming President of the United States. As I said: not going to happen.
Taylor even returned to Watford in the 1990s once again taking them from the Third to the First Division (or Premier League as it was by then known).
There were a number of secrets to his success. One was fitness: it was essential that his teams could keep going for the full 90 minutes. Another was the employment of the sublimely-talented John Barnes and the sublimely-passionate Luther Blissett at a time when many of the big teams were reluctant to field black players. Another was going back to the stats and working out that the traditional English long-ball game was by far the most effective. This was indeed fortunate as to attempt to pass the ball on the notoriously glutinous Vicarage Road pitch of the 1980s was to engage in cruelty to spherical objects.
On Saturday, Watford are playing at home. The club and fans will attempt to honour Taylor’s memory – many already have via the #thankyougt hashtag. But it will be difficult. Graham Taylor was a remarkable manager – and by all accounts – a true gentleman. Watford owes him a huge debt.
“WITH THIS SHORT film, director Paul Duane and I are hoping to accomplish the near impossible,” writes Eoin Butler in TheJournal.ie. “That is, to start a conversation about the Irish language that is rational, unswayed by emotion, dogma or any political agenda, and informed by the facts as they are, rather than how we might wish them to be.”
Here’s a link to the article, and click on the video link within to see the film, which is twelve minutes long.
“We spend mind-boggling amounts of public money on the Irish language. Cén fáth?”
The film is well worth a look to libertarians and people interested in revitalising minority languages, and practically compulsory* (OK, not literally compulsory. Libertarian purity police, stand easy!) for anyone like me who is both. It starts off in nostalgic sepia with Butler speaking in subtitled and platitudinous Irish. Thirty seconds in, the colour comes on and he switches to English and says, “Actually everything I just said there is an easily debunked lie.”
I’d like to zoom in to a section near the end of the film. Starting at the ten minute mark, Mr Butler argues that compulsory Irish is a failed policy but a network of vested interests has grown up around it. This network, he says, “does nothing to really promote the language or broaden its appeal. Switching off the life support could shock the language back into life.”
At this point I would imagine that most of those anxious about the future of Irish shrivel a little inside and think, that sounds like a strategy of last resort. To which I would respond, it is. Irish is at the point of last resort. As detailed in the first few minutes of the film, the strategy of compulsory Irish lessons in every state school has failed utterly to stem the decline of Irish as a community language, as have other state measures such as making the Irish rather than the English version into the definitive version of each of Ireland’s laws. Quite soon the legal texts and the schoolbooks may be the only places where Irish lives on. When all else fails, why not try something crazy, like acting as if the Irish language were a good thing that people might choose to have?
And as a matter of fact, Mr Butler does give an example of an aspect of Gaelic culture that turned off the pressure and thrived thereby. He says, “I mean, look at Gaelic games. For seventy years the GAA [Gaelic Athletic Association] had a closed, defensive mentality. Its members were banned not just from playing but even attending rugby and soccer matches Today the ban is long gone […] the GAA, with minimal state subvention and zero compulsion on anyone to participate has never been as popular.”
It is not a perfect analogy. The GAA is a private club, not a state, and I would defend its right to impose whatever rules it wishes on its members who joined it voluntarily. But it is notable that when the GAA changed from a strategy of “push” to one of “pull” its fortunes revived.
A hat tip for the finding of Mr Butler’s film to the Irish Republican site, An Sionnach Fionn (The White Fox) although the writer of that site was not such a fan of the film as I was, describing it as “simply a modern form of “settler racism”, part of the poisonous legacy of several centuries of foreign colonial rule in this country.”
…it is a symbol that the bearer has made a donation to the Royal British Legion’s Haig Fund.
I thought it might be worth pointing that out bearing in mind recent kerfuffles.
Yesterday, the England manager resigned. “What’s odd about that?” you may say – assuming you’re not saying “Who cares?” – “They’re resigning all the time.”
They are but this is slightly unusual. For once – glossing over the departures of Fabio Capello and Glenn Hoddle – we have a resignation that has nothing to do with England’s performance on the pitch. Mr Allardyce has not failed as a manager but – we must assume – as a human being. Except in all the talk about “third-party ownership” and “bungs” I have no idea what he is supposed to have done wrong.
So, commentariat – at least, that tiny proportion of you that follow such things – tell me: is he being accused of doing something immoral or something illegal i.e. breaking the Football Association’s rules? [I assume he isn’t being accused of breaking the law.]
There will, of course, the usual frantic and incompetent search for a replacement. Luckily, I have a suggestion which I think will solve England’s run of disappointment forever: abolish the team. Sadly, I don’t think the FA will be taking me up on that so I can only hope they get someone cheap.
I wonder if Neil Warnock is available?
Team 1: A Samar, Mudassar Muhammad, R Pillai, D Weston, Sajid Liaqat, Asad Mohammad, Khaled Khan, Kashif Hussain, ME Latif, D Kumar.
Team 2: Afzal Virk, B Zaigham, Sadat Sidiqi, Azam Khalil, Shahzeb Choudhry, Usman Arif, Muhammad Asif, Azam Mohammad, Mohammad Naveed, Sweed Ullah, W Jalali.
Team 1 is Germany. Team 2 is Sweden. These two teams have today been contesting a game of cricket, a game truncated by the weather. Keep track of all the other games in the ICC World Cricket League Europe Region Division Two Twenty20, here.
I know what you’re thinking. “D Weston” doesn’t sound like a very German sort of name.
Now that Brexit has been and gone, the soon-to-be-upon-us Olympic Games are the new must-do design opportunity:
That’s going to get around. Although if you think it’s only Russians who are drug cheats I say you are being very naive. Nevertheless the above logo is all part of why I always enjoy all the they’re not ready stories which inevitably circulate around now in the Olympic cycle, before enough other people’s money is thrown at the various problems to make them go away, just in time.
This little flurry of bad Olympic news won’t last, alas. Drug doubts will get no mention from the television commentators. Bad Olympic news – i.e. proper Olympic news – will be submerged by a flood of good news, in the form of the various drugged-up competitors winning medals, and when it ends, it will all be declared a huge success. As of now, however, I can live in hope.
The anti-Jacobite sentiment captured in an old verse of the National Anthem emphatically does not seem dominant today, despite Mr Murray’s moment of rebellion on the morning of the Scottish independence referendum.
It is not a silly question to ask what effect Andy’s second Wimbledon Championship victory will have on how people in the various parts of the UK feel about Brexit and the possibility of Indyref2.
Is it any wonder we that we find ourselves today without a means to measure greatness? To those in the know, the experts who understand the fight game, Ali earned his place among the true greats of boxing but fell a little short of the very top. He was perhaps the greatest heavyweight (though I find it hard to believe anybody could beat Mike Tyson at his youthful rampaging best) but heavyweight champions are a peculiar breed of fighter. Watching those great ‘Rumbles’ and ‘Thrillers’ now, they are characterised by tired lumbering men stumped on the hard breathing end of slow jabs. In terms of technique, you’d need to look to a lighter man (or at Ali at his peak before television made him a superstar). You would look to Sugar Ray Robinson who, more than any boxer, could claim to have been the best.
– David Waywell, writing at CapX.
Bernard Thompson, in a piece for the pro-independence Scottish website Newsnet.scot, makes the case for repeal of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act of 2012: Offensive Behaviour: the case for the SNP repealing their own act.
Opponents of the Act – none more so than the campaign group Fans Against Criminalisation – have been vociferous in their condemnation of the legislation.
And they have been joined by a host of academics and media figures. Human rights group Liberty have expressed concern that: “the broadly framed offences in this Act will unnecessarily sweep up individuals exercising their right to free speech who have no intention to commit or incite a criminal offence and in the event do not do so.”
The Act does not simply ban “the singing of sectarian songs” but also: – “other behaviour that a reasonable person would be likely to consider offensive…
“…behaviour [that] would be likely to incite public disorder”, even if ‘persons likely to be incited to public disorder are not present or are not present in sufficient numbers’.”
We can offer all sort of examples of behaviour that might offend a “reasonable person” but, for brevity, we may note that the Act banned Frankie Boyle (or recordings of his material) from being played wherever a tenuous connection to a football match could be established. Not so rugby matches.
In defending the Act, after someone wearing a tee-shirt supportive of Palestine drew police attention, SNP MSP John Mason even went so far as to say that wearing a Yes badge should be considered unacceptable while watching football.
“We should all know by now expressing political views is no longer acceptable at football matches.”
Mr Mason was apparently not questioned on whether wearing a poppy could be considered to be expressing a political view, and we can only speculate as to how objecting to a poppy might be viewed.
When reading that quote from John Mason MSP the old cliché about the “Nanny State” came alive again.
A couple of unrelated incidents, and a political milestone all in the news today appear to me to sum up the ascendency of the ‘clown class’ in modern Britain, where personal responsibility and personal dignity appear to be outmoded notions.
Firstly, after a bomb scare led to the abandonment of the last football match of the Premier League season between Manchester United and Bournemouth, it appears to have turned out that the realistic but inert suspect device found just before kick-off was in fact a practice bomb left by a company engaged to plant suspect devices as part of a security drill. But this was only found out long after the event and after the Army had carried out a controlled explosion on the device.
What part of counting them all out and counting them all in was too hard to organise? Did no one remember the drill?
Secondly, it appears that a senior woman police officer in Greater Manchester Police has been suspended after attending a conference on Women in Policing.
Assistant Chief Constable Rebekah Sutcliffe has been suspended after the alleged “inappropriate behaviour” following a reported row with Superintendent Sarah Jackson.
The pair are said to have become embroiled in a “loud disagreement” over who had the “best boobs” while attending the Senior Women In Policing conference.
Quite how this would be a breach of police discipline, even if the alleged incident happened, is not immediately clear. However, ACC Sutcliffe has been reported as saying:
“I’ve nothing to say. This is an incredibly stressful time.”
Thereby immediately contradicting herself. And grammarians may ponder if she ought to have said ‘better boobs’ rather than ‘best’ as surely the comparative applies, rather than the superlative?
But if this is a stressful time, what on Earth are you doing in policing? Try something really stressful, like bomb disposal, like Lt-Cdr John Bridge GC GM and bar. He would have come in handy at Old Trafford yesterday.
And finally, Natalie Bennett is not going to stand for re-election as Leader of the Green Party when her term expires. So the party memorably described as ‘Communism for middle-class women’ will have a new leader. So the Schadenfreudefest of Ms Bennett being interviewed (very softly I think) on any topic may no longer be repeated so as to expose the Greens for what they stand for, banning anything that they can think of. This of course may be a negative development in terms of the political landscape, but why didn’t she either resign at the time or stand on her record?
Some people think the Rio Olympics might cause the Zika virus to spread all over the world. Reddit is not a reliable place for sensible political commentary, but I am heartened at how up-voted comments like these are:
mixmastamikey: “Global Health Disaster” How about just “Global Disaster”… Why the fuck can’t we reuse olympic venues? Seriously why does a different country need to host the olympics every 4 years. Cant everyone just buy a fucking island and call it olympic island maybe update a few things here and there.
BlueBlazerIrregular: But then the IOC wouldn’t be able to steal millions and would lose out on all that graft and bribery. Think of the rich for once! They are people too!
kangamooster: Hmm, I guess you could consider lizardfolk people….
Kamuiberen: Wait, are we talking about IOC or FIFA here?
BlueBlazerIrregular: Same modus operandi
Anyway it seems unlikely that the Olympics will be stopped or moved and I am not sure if doing so would really make any difference. I am hopeful of solving problems with technology, though. I am quite keen on the plan to exterminate all mosquitoes. And then there is IBM’s rather interesting research into a chemical that blocks viruses in general.
“We began to think, how can we move forward and kind of attack the virus in a very different way,” says Hedrick. “Instead of going after its RNA or DNA, we looked at the glycoproteins that surround…the virus.” No matter what the virus and how it mutates, it’s going to have these substances on the surface; they have electric charges (some positive, some negative) that a chemical can stick onto. What the researchers developed is a polymer that adheres to the virus, blocking it from hooking onto a victim cell in the body.
The idea is to put the molecule in soap and hand-wipes, but it could also be put into a person.
Assuming it works as well as the researchers say, the macromolecule couldn’t come soon enough to handle frightening outbreaks like Zika, Ebola, and chikungunya. But it hasn’t quite come yet. “My gut feeling is, something like a wipe, something like a hand cleaner is going to be relatively straightforward to move to market,” says Hedrick. “It you market it as a true antiviral, I would imagine it would take 3, 4, 5 years maybe maximum.” Getting the macromolecule into humans, where it uses all three of its powers, would require clinical trials than could extend over several years.
Serious question: why the need for such long clinical trials? What is wrong with marketing something with the caveat that it is not fully tested yet and it might be a cure worse than the disease but if you have a terrible enough disease it might be worth a try?