Ok so turning up five minutes before a match might not be the best idea but there were mitigating circumstances. Firstly my Sunderland supporting colleagues and I had to travel down from Leeds after work on a busy motorway network. Moreover the opportunity to get a feed at my parents’ house was too good to miss, especially the cake.

So I found myself in a long queue at the ticket collection point with five minutes before kick off. Tempers were fraying as the Ticket Office employed its own unique style of ineptitude. The queue descended into farce as the match started, people shouting out their names before even reaching the window, and the law of the jungle took hold. I’d printed out my details to make it easier, or so I thought. My surname in big letters at the top was clearly not prominent enough. In any case a bloke next to me shouted louder so the assistant scurried off to find his tickets arriving back to me with a blank expression even when I explained she had my piece of paper still behind the glass. Thankfully I checked the envelope before I departed the window as it contained only my Arsenal and Hull tickets and not one for the match that night. I was amused to see that any Sunderland fans arriving to claim tickets did not receive the usual printed version, but a slip of paper with their name on, more akin to a school chitty. “Take this to turnstile 47 and show it to them there duck”, said the assistant. I wondered if it excused the recipient from games lesson.

I finally found my seat 15 minutes into the match, so I feel I cannot provide an adequate match report. However the offering was so poor there’s little to report in any case. It was not one for the purists and no great loss if you’d remained at home and followed it on Teletext. Indeed I missed plenty more of the game as a creature that appeared half human half Ewok kept blocking my view as she and her offspring leapt up at the slightest hint of excitement. Needless to say the excitement was actually minimal. Apart from one decent move resulting in Fuller hitting the post after Tonge slipped in a delightful reverse pass, Stoke largely employed the Delap missile as their main creative outlet. Sunderland, who showed little appetite to perform, largely coped with this approach until Fuller darted in to head home a Delap throw on 76 minutes. Kenwyne Jones forced a good save from Sorensen late on but there was no way back for the under par visitors.
FT Stoke City 1 Sunderland 0

It was a vital three points that pulled Stoke out of the relegation zone but it was far from pretty, and not just the football. Mrs Ewok’s partner was revealed towards the end of the game minus his shirt, a portly youth settled several rows behind us proudly displaying his naked belly. As I said, far from pretty. Indeed after the long delay on the M6 returning to the Leeds and the arrival well after midnight it was hardly worth the effort! At least I had bragging rights in the car, although there was little to brag about!

Monday evenings have recently turned into an interesting time to settle down in front of the television. I say that as a fan of investigative journalism, and believing it is necessary to hear two sides to a story, especially when powerful forces back one point of view to the extent it becomes accepted as unquestionable. There two good broadcasts last night, one from the BBC and the other from Channel Four.

The BBC’s Panorama programme Should we be scared of Russia? provided a differing interpretation of Russia’s recent alleged aggression. By contrast it argued that having embraced capitalism, consumerism and democracy, Russia has felt let down by the West , and indeed has been found itself threatened by Western expansionism. The defensive organisation NATO was not disbanded at the end of the Cold War along with the Warsaw Pact, but has changed its ethos to a more interventionist approach, and has recruited former soviet states on Russia’s border into its membership. The plan to establish US missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic has rankled Russia further, and in response Russia has increased military expenditure. With 20 million Russians living in the now independent former soviet states it is no wonder that what goes on their borders is of interest to them. The BBC report asked us to look beyond the rhetoric of Western politicians and look deeper into Russia to what is happening in their society, and consider another point of view.

Closer to home was Channel Four’s Dispatches programme which examined whether the energy companies’ claims that rising fuel prices meant that huge increases in household bills over the last year were justifiable, and they have no choice but to pass these rises on to the consumer. Is this the truth? There is also evidence that shows that the profits paid to shareholders has increased by 20% over the same period. I recommend a viewing

Green Alternatives to GlobalisationConsidering the global economic crisis that has been unfurling over the last few weeks, I guess it’s timely and appropriate that I’m currently reading the so far excellent book “Green Alternatives to Globalisation: A Manifesto” by Michael Woodin and Caroline Lucas.

Arguing that globalisation increases poverty, undermines democracy and destroys the environment, the authors attempt to demonstrate the urgent need for a new approach, namely economic localisation, which is based on the Green principles of equity, ecology and democracy. So far I’ve read about the critique of globalisation, and I’m about to start the section that prescribes the alternative and the necessary solutions. It’s a very accessible book, easy to understand, interesting, and enlightening. It highlights some of the important counter arguments to globalisation which largely get swept under the carpet by the economic elite who attempt to portray the current path as being an unquestionable consensus, and not merely the latest incarnation of capitalism.

Here’s a few excerpts, firstly a definition:

Noun: 1. the process by which governments give away the rights of their citizens in favour of speculative investors and transnational corporations.
2. The erosion of wages, social welfare standards and environmental regulations for the sake of international trade.
3. The imposition worldwide of a consumer monoculture. Widely but falsely believed to be irrevocable.
(From the dictionary of ISEC – International Society for Ecology and Culture)”

Here’s part of the introduction to what the alternative may be:

Adding a few environmental clauses here or a social clause there will not alter the fundamental nature of the beast. The bottom line is that a planet of finite resources and increasingly unmet social needs cannot sustain an economic system that is driven by corporate and interests and based on ever-increasing free trade and international competitiveness… The drive for international competitiveness is one of the greatest obstacles to achieving higher social and environmental standards and the whole raft of Green policies needed for a more sustainable society. As soon as proposals like this are suggested, corporations put the brakes on by claiming it will reduce their competitiveness, and threatening to relocate.

Greens believe therefore that rather than trying to make dog-eat-dog economic globalisation a little bit kinder and a little less ruthless, it can and must be replaced by an alternative that challenges its insistence that all economies be contorted to the end goal of international competitiveness, and its emphasis on beggar-your-neighbour reduction of controls on trade and investment.

Economic localisation is the antithesis to economic globalisation. This involves a better-your-neighbour supportive internationalism where the flow of ideas, technologies, information, cultures money and goods has, as its end goal, the rebuilding of truly sustainable national and local economies worldwide. Its emphasis is not on competition for the cheapest, but on cooperation for the best.” [2]

George Monbiot also wrote an interesting piece on the global market turmoil in the Guardian yesterday arguing that the economic crisis is petty by comparison to the nature crunch. However they have the same cause.

[1] “Green Alternatives to Globalisation: A Manifesto”, Goodwin & Lucas p.18
[2] “Green Alternatives to Globalisation: A Manifesto”, Goodwin & Lucas p.68

TALK www.talknet.euI’m just on a train heading back from London, browsing the internet courtesy of National Express East Coast’s free wifi service for all passengers. I’ve been to an event at the stunning National History Museum held in the equally impressive Mary Anning Room. While a welcome distraction from the usual working day, the event’s main concern was promoting a website called TALK, which aims to provide free space to public sector organisations to host content, and collaborate with other like minded bodies to avoid duplication of effort and swap ideas or highlight pitfalls. The site provides private “spaces” where project materials can be stored for sharing with colleagues and partner groups, but the ethos is very much about collaboration regionally and nationally, publicising experiences so all may benefit.

My grandiose title of “Content Manager” essentially means that I champion the site encouraging its use, and then setting up the news spaces and users as the requests flock in! Less exciting is the necessary compiling of statistics about site visits and use. Today’s event was to drum up new support and to promote the growing use of “social media” in the public sector, and how it has become an important consideration around service delivery and reduction of costs. Peter Kawalek addresses the Mary Anning Room crowd Everyone seems to be at it these days, writing blogs, posting photos about their local area, or campaigning online to improve aspects of life in their local community. Seeing the large numbers of laptops on this train that are not just in the hands of businessmen, it is clear that the internet is driving a social revolution, and is central to many aspects of life including the nature of how the public sector needs to work.

The guest speakers today included Malcolm Forbes, Director of Regenesys and Council Member of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce), Tom Reynolds an Emergency Medical Technician for the London Ambulance Service who writes a blog called Random Acts of Reality about his daily experiences, and Peter Kawalek of the Manchester Business School, who was once a sceptic thinking blogs were “self indulgent twaddle”, but now sees social media as being a profound yet unpredictable force in shaping our world.

I have to get off the train soon, but will add more later…

Well it’s much later and as promised here is a bit more on the day.

One of the delegates, Alan Holding of MDDA (part of Manchester City Council), was kind enough to provide a live blog of what was happening today, and it is an excellent and detailed summary of the speakers’ presentations (minus a few required insertions to come later). So it would be rude not to link to it here. To be honest it removes any need for me to report any further on matters. I encourage you to read it, especially the piece on Peter Kawalek’s entertaining use of Top of the Pops, bookshops, his fictitious social heroine Anna Eagin, and the romance to be found on a canal bench!

A trip to see Farsley Celtic with Goat Major and Paddy turned out to be a remarkable spectacle, I can’t ever recall attending a game where three players were sent off, let alone one where the departed were on the same side. Hucknall Town’s Gary Sucharewycz, Gary Ricketts and Dan MacPherson all saw red in a dramatic first half.

We were too busy congratulating Paddy about the birth of his second son when the first incident took place. We looked over towards the far side of the pitch where a group of players were jostling and involved in a bit of “handbags at 10 paces”. From the melee Mr Hart the referee extracted Sucharewycz and to our delight brandished a red card. The game was only around 9 minutes old. Later reports suggested that an elbow was involved during an off-the-ball incident with Matthew James.

It was just the lift Farsley needed in their quest for three vital points, but things got even better for the home side and even more bizarre six minutes later when Hucknall’s captain Ricketts joined Sucharewycz in the early bath. Ricketts clearly went in two footed with studs showing on Mark Jackson and was rightfully shown a straight red card, the referee sprinting over to administer the punishment. Jackson’s injury was so bad he hobbled off after five minutes of treatment and apparently a trip to hospital followed.

Amidst all this drama there was little football of note, Farsley struggling against the strong winds and the plucky rearguard action of the visitors. The best chance of the half came on 30 minutes through James Walshaw when he sprinted ahead of the Hucknall defence. Walshaw looked set to score but a lob over the keeper ended up in the side-netting. Just as we were gearing up for a trip to the burger van for a much needed warm drink, the half ended in sensational fashion when MacPherson smashed James in the face with an elbow. The blow sent James to the floor clutching his face. This time it was blatantly obvious, even from where we were stood, the assistant referee flagging for the foul, and following a conference between the officials the referee incredibly whipped out the third red card of the half.

HT Farsley Celtic 0 Hucknall Town 0 and the players left the pitch to my shout of “better keep the bath water running”.

Despite the visitors being reduced to eight men, Farsley struggled to make the advantage count at first in the second half even though they often had ten men in the opponents’ half. The final ball was lacking, and we began to wonder if Hucknall might escape with an unlikely point. I opined that if Farsley didn’t beat a side with 8 men it was time to call for the manager John Deacey’s head. However a valiant defensive display to keep Farsley at bay was not enough to prevent Hucknall falling behind on 55 minutes. Rory Prendergast was found at the back-post and he fired towards goal resulting in the ball deflecting off Chris Timons for an own goal. The goal was devastating for Hucknall player-manager Mick Galloway who collapsed to the ground after seeing his team’s good work come unstuck.

Farsley were well in control but the wind was causing havoc as they struggled to add to their lead. The Hucknall keeper was also having a fine match, keeping out what chances the hosts managed to construct. It took the introduction of Jake Speight on 64 minutes to turn the game. Speight’s first chance came on 74 minutes when he low shot cannoned off the post and ended with Walshaw’s shot being blocked. I was beginning to fear a breakaway equaliser around this point, but Farsley finally sealed the win with a strike on 81 minutes after Amjad Iqbal’s header was saved well by the keeper only for Tom Penfold to capitalise on the loose ball by smashing home from the edge of the area.

Speight got his first goal for Farsley four minutes later. James Knowles did remarkably well down the right wing and got a low cross into the box for Speight to tap home on the goal-line. He scored again on 89 minutes with a header from close range that might have been claimed by Iqbal.

FT Farsley Celtic 4 Hucknall Town 0, and the shout of “Deacey out” was not required*

* As the players left the field I noticed that the Farsley Manager John Deacey was actually absent, I thought I hadn’t spotted him in the dugout. Had he already gone before I had chance to shout “Deacey out”? Turns out yes he had. A quick look at the club website showed he’d been relieved of his duties the night before, and his assistant Neil Parsley had been placed in charge of this match.

Deacey had been Lee Sinnott’s assistant during his successful stint at Farsley. When Sinnott departed for Port Vale, Deacey was eventually installed as his successor. Deacey failed to prevent Farsley’s relegation, and had overseen a disappointing start to this season. Supporters were becoming more frustrated with each game, the last one we attended against Droylsden highlighted his shortcomings. Having been comfortably on top without scoring, an injury to Andy Campbell forced the introduction of Mark Bett, who scored almost immediately. Despite the tricky Matthew James giving the very poor Droylsden left-back a torrid time, two minutes after the goal Deacey decided to settle for a 1-0 win replacing James with a defensive midfielder with almost half an hour left. Farsley lost all attacking impetus, and cruised for the rest of the game. It came as no surprise that Droylsden salvaged a point with a goal three minutes from time. Baffling substitutions and a negative approach were typical of Deacey’s reign, so it comes as no surprise that he has been sacked. A 4-0 win is a great start for Parsley and a welcome three points, but it was hard work. For a long time it seemed the best Farsley might manage against eight men was a 1-0 win, three goals coming late in the game to add some gloss to the performance. I was denied a chance to demand “Deacey out”, but ultimately got my wish. I wonder if the same will apply at Stoke? ;-)

This is my kind of motivational speaker ;-)

Leeds Poet / Musician Noah Brown delivers his piece “Self-hinder” at the Brudenell Social Club.