Thursday, July 29, 2010
THERE is a fine line in metaphors at Waterloo: the name itself conjures an appropriate vision whenever the club from leafy Liverpool 23 win a battle against one or other of their loftier brethren. And any side that has a wing named Austin Healey scoring their tries . . .
Whenever, not when. Waterloo's sudden success after years of decline and inertia is becoming habitual. Having knocked out Bath, holders and league champions, in the Pilkington Cup's third round, they have now done the same to Orrell - pipped by Bath only on points difference last April - in the fourth.
They built an 8-3 lead downwind and then defended it so heroically that Orrell could not add a single point. (Nor did Waterloo.) If they can beat Bath and Orrell, they feel they can beat anyone they may pull out in today's quarter-final draw at Twickenham. But, please Lord, let it be at home.
Because at home, actually Blundellsands rather than Waterloo, which is nearer the city centre, the leaders of the Second Division are taking on an air of invincibility. Naturally they are fallible and limited; otherwise they would be members of, rather than aspirants to, the First Division. But within their fallibilities and limitations, they have become inspired.
Something has happened here which shows that great clubs who go into decline do not have to remain so. If Northampton are England's most obvious example of recent years, Waterloo - striving to foster rugby in a footballing city and greatly assisted by the malaise of Everton and Liverpool - are making a fair stab at following the example. They had fallen far and fast, though it was a long time ago that Waterloo were in the final of what was quaintly called the RFU Club Competition (with the bit about John Player Cup always in brackets), losing in 1977 to Gosforth. Ten thousand turned up at Twickenham; now the figure is routinely six times as many.
Ten years on, Waterloo led the First Division for a while during the league's fragmented inaugural season and even won at Bath. But they finished only one place above relegation, went down in 1989 and were saved from further relegation in 1990 only by the good fortune that there was none while each division was increased from 12 to 13 clubs.
Lucky 'Loo. In 1990-91 they were ninth, last season third. Peter Buckton, the ball-playing Yorkshire flanker who had played for Orrell and Liverpool St Helens, became Waterloo's Blucher, riding to the rescue when he joined the club as coaching director. With the change in personnel came changes in style and fortune.
Buckton, 32, whose brother John has played centre for England, is employed by the Rugby Football Union as its youth development officer covering Liverpool and is based - where else? - at Waterloo FC. It is a two-way thing: the club dished out dozens of complimentary tickets for primary-school teachers, the very group Buckton is targeting, for Saturday's match.
What they saw was wonderful for Waterloo though, with its prime billing on Rugby Special, hardly wonderful for rugby because the standard was so poor. Orrell won more ball than they knew what to do with. 'It wasn't like us,' Buckton said.
'We normally control the line-outs in Second Division rugby and we're not used to playing without the ball for such large chunks of time. It's such a step up: you're always being tested and can't relax, whereas in the Second you can falter for 15 minutes and get away with it.' Which only goes to show how high the step up would be if Waterloo kept in front of Newcastle and Nottingham - though more fundamental even than promotion is the uncharacteristic freedom of expression given to, and demanded by, a back division with an average age of 22. This is certainly not the Waterloo we used to know and not love very much.
Waterloo used to bask in a fearsome reputation for aggressive forward play. 'Water-Shoe' was an unflattering nickname that covered a multitude of sins real and imagined. Jim Syddall, who briefly became an England lock a decade ago, was a figure of folklore and some clubs - one remembers a row with Coventry in particular - were reluctant to play them.
The 10-year, 250-match career of Nick Allott, lock and captain, has covered both eras and thank goodness he prefers the new smile to the old scowl. 'It's a change to see backs down at Waterloo,' he said. 'It was that change of attitude when Peter came in. We wanted to play a more expansive game. We started to look forward rather than always remembering the time when we had a pack who could chew up and spit out opposing forwards. That's gone.'
For some reason, Waterloo are reluctant to harp on about Buckton's club position - strange given the fuss they made when he was appointed. He is not the coach: that post is held by Mike Briars. But he is undoubtedly a coach and highly influential at that.
'Peter has domonstrated to us that there is another way of playing, but we aren't big on titles here,' Allott said - by which he meant Buckton's title, not the Second Division title. 'But that really is one of the differences from how it used to be: the lads are taking the responsibility on themselves.' You could hardly say the youthful Waterloo backs got going on Saturday, but they looked livelier and more penetrative than Orrell's and their crucial try was well taken.
When Austin Healey received the ball on the blind side after the half-backs had used scrummage ball to form a maul, he ran like a sprite, leaving Phil Halsall in his exhaust. Mr and Mrs Healey clearly had a sense of humour; they realised their son would be able to motor, rev up, accelerate, swerve, etc, etc on the rugby field as well as the open road.
Gerry Ainscough kicked a penalty for Orrell and Paul Grayson - already signed up by Northampton for next season - one for Waterloo, and that was that. Of tension there was plenty, of memorable rugby very little, which was especially frustrating for the 6ft 8in Bob Kimmins and the England scrum-half Dewi Morris. Kimmins ruled the line-out and Morris, who can motor a bit himself, would have ruled in broken play but for the dire quality of the delivery from his forwards.
So for Orrell it was yet another big game that got away and, all right, it has to be said: in the Lancashire derby at Blundellsands they really did meet their Waterloo.
Waterloo: Try Healey; Penalty Grayson. Orrell: Penalty Ainscough.
Waterloo: S Swindells; A Healey, M Craig, N Hill, G Fraser; P Grayson, C Saverimutto; M Beckett, P Hackett, S Peters, N Wilkinson, N Allott (capt), J Ashcroft, S Beeley, P Buckton.
Orrell: N Heslop; P Hamer, S Langford, G Ainscough, P Halsall; B Wellens (I Wynn, 62), D Morris; M Hynes, N Hitchen, D Southern (capt), R Kimmins, C Cusani, D Cleary, S Gallagher, N Ashurst.
Referee: E Morrison (Bristol).
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Young Dan Gosling's sneaky free transfer and pathetic plaintif whining (via agent) top amongst the the dicussion so we named ourselves The Dan Gosling Depreciation Society in his "honour". Hope the whinging money-grabbing little prick is proud.
In the wake of a report in a Sunday newspaper in which the agent of Dan Gosling made a series of allegations, Everton Football Club has decided to take the unprecedented step of setting straight a record of recent events which has, in its opinion, been deliberately distorted.
In the article, Mr David Hodgson suggested that not only did this Club not wish to extend Mr Gosling's stay at Goodison Park but that it had been deliberately tardy with regard to the formal offer of a new contract, presuming that an injury sustained by the player during the course of last season was of such a serious nature it would prevent him from signing for another club.
Both claims are ludicrous, totally without substance and grossly misleading.
The manager of Everton, David Moyes, and the Chairman, Bill Kenwright, contacted Mr Hodgson in November of last year to jointly offer Dan Gosling a new contract.
Several subsequent conversations took place during the course of which Mr Hodgson not only indicated that the deal offered would be "fine" but also reaffirmed that a "hand-shake agreement" was in place dating back to when Mr Gosling joined the Club as a 17 year-old in January 2008.
It was Everton's understanding that this Gentleman's agreement would guarantee that the player would extend, by at least two years, the three-year deal he signed upon his arrival from Plymouth Argyle.
"In the very long history of our Club, our executive team have never once forgotten or neglected to deal properly and professionally with contractual matters," said Mr Kenwright. "We place our trust in people; we always keep our side of any offered deal - and all we have ever asked is that others do the same."
Everton's CEO, Robert Elstone, confirmed that the Club had wished to extend Mr Gosling's stay on Merseyside.
"We wanted Dan Gosling to stay with us - and, after what we had been told, we expected him to stay with us. However, in the first week in June, Mr Hodgson rang David Moyes seemingly content that he had manoeuvred a situation where Dan was a free agent," he said.
Mr Moyes confirmed that he had spoken - on several occasions - to both player and agent in relation to Mr Gosling's progress and future.
"Dan came to see me and told me that he saw himself as a central midfield player rather than someone who operated in a wide position," he said. " I did not think at that point that he would get into the Everton team as a central midfield player.
"I was always fully aware of the handshake agreement which Dave Hodgson had with a senior Club official regarding Dan's fourth and fifth years - and because of that agreement there wasn't, in my opinion, any necessity to put anything in writing. The first I knew of a problem was when Dave rang me to say that Dan's contract had lapsed and that he would be seeking to leave us on a free transfer.
"I told Dave that he had an agreement with the Club which he was now reneging on. We scouted Dan Gosling and brought him in when several other Premier League clubs looked but did not purchase.
"We feel aggrieved that they have contrived a situation to get the player out of the Club when, if he had come and said that he wanted to leave, we could at least have done something about it - but at no point did Dan say he wished to leave.
"I read at the weekend that he cried when he didn't receive a formal, written offer. Well, trust me, the money Everton were offering was certainly not a crying matter," he added.
The Premier League tribunal found that as Everton had relied upon both a verbal and a Gentleman's agreement and had not put a contractual offer in written form before the acknowledged deadline, Mr Gosling was entitled to leave the Club on a free transfer.
Monday, July 26, 2010
Overall there seemed to be a lot of support for the Miliband boys as they were saw potential prime minister material, this viewpoint was opposed by some others who rejected the notion of just picking the candidate who was most likely to get Labour back into power. They picked Diane Abbott although how they can hold her up as the candidate with the principals after her private schools u-turn is a bit beyond me.
For my part I think we need a candidate who will appeal outside the heartland and one who will bring the party together...for me that's Ed Miliband. He seems to have broader appeals than David and seems to command support from a broader spectrum of the party. Ed seems passionate and engaging and I think people will see that and begin to look at Labour as a party that is changing.
One thing that does fill me with condfidence is that there is a great crop of candidates there and the tone of the debate is friendly and, dare I say it, comradely. Looking forward to the debates.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Monday, July 19, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Reading various articles in The Times this morning and managed to catch up on Carol Vorderman's utter car-crash of a performance on Question Time and viewed the class Victoria Wood Let's Do It song.
And also I have done my own Hitler Downfall parody about Herr Hitler finding out about Dan Gosling leaving Everton on a free.
(sure it'll be removed soon but I just wanted to say I'd done one (even if the only raw file I could find was a mirror image))
Friday, July 16, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
(I know I’m probably the millionth person to make that pun)
Pretty disappointed in Dan Gosling and his agent’s conduct, agreeing a deal then walking out on his contract ‘cause of some weird clause aimed at protecting young players. Everton, it has to be said, have been massively incompetent but Gosling’s been pretty snidey.
He’s not a world beater but it robs Everton and Plymouth of a decent payday and at the end of the day we were the two clubs who looked after him and gave him his chance.
It was basically an average world cup in terms of football and classic matches but at the end of the day it’s a world cup and even when it’s average it’s brilliant to have it. Much as I’d have liked to see the Dutch and Jonny Heitinga win it Spain are worthy world champions. They just play brilliant footy simple as that, you have to love that.
The Netherlands are now out on their own as the best country never to have won it, that’s something I suppose. Hope they win it soon