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Showing posts from May, 2007

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Champions' League disappointment

With no headache to nurse after celebrations proved unnecessary, I’ve had a less impeded chance to consider the action in Athens last night and the task that awaits Rafa Benitez in the summer.

The final was in actual fact a relatively low key affair, the frantic pace of the first 35 minutes not withstanding.

Benitez tactical decisions were certainly spot on. He started with two wingers, but selected Steven Gerrard to play in the hole. This allowed Liverpool to exploit Milan’s lack of width but enabled the midfield to be compact enough to prevent the Italians outnumbering them, as had happened to Manchester United in the semi-final 2nd leg.

These tactics worked. Gerrard was a constant threat with his surging runs from deep, Mescherano was able to sit in front of the back four and restrict Kaka to a few moments of brilliance and Xabi Alonso found his range of passing relatively early on. Similarly the predicted space for Pennant and Zenden was apparent. And it is the limitations of these p…

The Champions' League, beer and domestic complexities

Tomorrow night sees my personal culmination of the football season, as Liverpool and Milan clash in what is sure to be an epic Champions' League encounter. I have already committed myself to a frantic headlong dash from work to home (and the donning of Liverpool FC replica top) to the pub.

With the excitement of a possible sixth European Cup, the heady nervousness of a one-off final and my insatiable lust for beer, I fully intend to put employment, relationship and health in jeopardy should the night climax in Steven Gerrard once again hoisting that big-eared beauty into the Athens night. Should that happen, the drinking will run into a test-match cricket weekend, a 3 day session will become 5 and my depleted reserves of capital may well not stretch to the next weekend and some previous commitments. The complications may be endless, but this is no time for caution.

Whether Rafa can oversee such a victory, and my descent into unemployed singledom, remains a moot point. Milan are not …

Power, nationalism and the DUP

With the media hysteria that has accompanied the restoration of Stormont, it would be easy from a distance to misconstrue the reaction of the Northern Irish population as being one of heady optimism, rather than the indifferent scepticism which is closer to the truth.

Unless my circle of family, friends and workmates are chronically unrepresentative, the “fresh new start” heralded around the world, went by remarked on by people here only with a few cynical asides and weary expressions of overwhelming apathy.

The new dispensation, if it can be described as such, succeeds only in forging an understanding between two competing nationalisms, neither of which carries any commitment to the idea of the United Kingdom as a multi-national, multi-cultural political entity based on shared citizenship, values and responsibilities. Whilst Irish nationalists can interpret the assumption of power by these twin nationalisms as a diminution of Britishness in Ireland, there is little for those unionists …

Pandering to ethnic nationalism

The furore regarding Russia's so-called cyber-war tactics against Estonia makes for sensational headlines. Raising the bogeyman of an insurgent and beligerant Russia certainly makes better copy than exposing the extreme nationalism and institutional racism of many post-Soviet states.

Ethnic Russians, deprived of citizenship, language rights and employment in Estonia and Latvia, enjoy no sympathy from the West's media, still enthralled by the notion of these plucky states standing squarely against the might of Russia. This attitude of course ignores the realignment which has given these states the means to recover economically whilst failing to impose the norms expected of other EU states as regards protecting minorities.

Rampant national chauvinism an demotic right-wing posturing is ignored when manifested in Europe's newest states.

Northern Ireland and the search for a new manager

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It seems only appropriate that I kick off this blog with a post about my first unambiguous love - the Northern Ireland football team.
In the wake of Lawrie Sanchez's resignation, the success of the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign lies in the less than capable hands of Howard Wells and Jim Boyce of the Irish Football Association. This pair of inepts have been tasked with head-hunting the next Northern Ireland manager, a position which will be assumed with the side top of their group and fresh from wins against Spain and Sweden.

Ominously Graham Taylor has been the latest figure linked to the job, a man so discredited in the world of international football that his name has become synonomous with the least palatable type of root vegetable. Rather than trying to maintain the momentum which Sanchez has brought to the campaign, allowing his backroom staff to see out the final five games without changing tactics and personnel, it would be typical of the IFA to throw money at an inveterate …