Showing posts from July, 2015

Liverpool's transfer strategy. What strategy?

Both fans and media have praised Liverpool FC’s performance in the transfer window this summer, because its management team and owners are perceived to have acted quickly and decisively to sign players.  I don’t agree with this glowing assessment.  I’ve struggled to understand a recruitment policy which seems poorly thought out and haphazard.
I’m not querying necessarily the ability of the players Liverpool have bought.  Some of them are proven performers and others have the potential to do well, if they’re developed properly and given opportunities.  My question is whether the manager, Brendan Rodgers, identified where his team had problems last season and addressed them through the transfer market, or instead bought in volume, including for positions where his squad already has adequate cover.
Damien Comolli, the club’s former Director of Football Strategy, attracted fierce criticism last week when he suggested that Liverpool has taken a ‘massive risk’ by bringing in eight players …

Tbilisi: romantic, but not dangerous!

The historian, Simon Sebag Montifiore, once described Georgia as “the most romantic and dangerous land in the world”.  He was reviewing Wendell Steavenson’s book, Stories I Stole, a quirky account of the author’s years living in Tbilisi, which I took with me to the Caucasus. 
It described the chaotic 90s and early 2000s when the majority of Georgians’ homes received only a few hours of electricity each day, members of the public frequently carried guns and some areas of the country were notorious for robberies and kidnappings.
With Tbilisi’s streets now completely unthreatening and everything from bridges to Ferris wheels illuminated showily after dark, it was difficult to believe that I was in the same city which Steavenson described.  Georgia, like many other post-Soviet states, has clearly changed dramatically in a relatively short period of time.
The country’s capital is now a vibrant, modern place, centred around its atmospheric Old Town and Rustaveli Avenue - a busy artery, fl…

Will Labour really choose Corbyn as leader?

Labour’s members and supporters won’t do it, will they?  Are they really poised to lumber the party with “veteran left winger”, Jeremy Corbyn, as leader?  Everyone from Tony Blair to Polly Toynbee seems to agree that he would be a disastrous choice.
A YouGov poll this week suggested that Corbyn has a substantial lead in Labour’s leadership race.  However, tellingly, the bookmakers still think that Andy Burnham or Yvette Cooper will win the contest.
Grassroots members and activists in every political party can be tempted to assert what they regard as “traditional values”, when times are bad.  In other words, to swing left, in the case of the Labour Party, or right, for Conservatives. 
Modern UK elections, though, are decided by a mass of people in the ‘middle ground’, who are nervous of any perceived excess.  They’re not caught up daily in every nuance of ongoing political debate, they don’t experiment with extreme ideologies and they almost always entrust the nation’s governance to some…

Georgia and Armenia - are they in Europe or Asia?

Georgia and Armenia – are these countries in Asia or in Europe? 
Their status has been debated for at least a century, with commentators from outside the Caucasus region usually plumping for south-west Asia, until relatively recently.  Now, more frequently, they are described as European, although that trend is influenced at least as much by politics as geography.
I can’t answer this thorny question.  It is a sensitive matter, linked to the identities and perceived futures of Armenians and Georgians.  However I can give a few impressions of how it feels to visit two fascinating countries.
Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia is a sprawling, modern city, congested with traffic and, in July at least, hot and dusty.  Yet it also feels distinctly European.  Looking down from the Nariqala Fortress at the Old Town, with its narrow streets of stone houses and churches bisected by the Kura River, you could almost be in Prague.
The Georgian people certainly seem to have decided in favour of a fut…

Setting the record straight on Northern Ireland firework incident

Northern Ireland’s last game in Group F of the Euro 2016 qualifying tournament divided opinion among fans.  Some viewed the 0-0 home draw as a missed opportunity, particularly because it allowed Hungary to move within 2 points of the Green and White Army.  Others thought that a point against the group leaders was creditable.
More worrying than the result, was an incident where a firework was thrown from the crowd in the National Stadium, hitting a photographer, who had to be treated for burns.  Home fans were convinced that the missile had come from the Romanian section, but the photographer and most journalists blamed Northern Ireland supporters initially .

Very quickly a video emerged proving that it had been thrown from the seats occupied by travelling spectators.  Not that this evidence affected a series of articles quoting Darren Kidd, the photographer, and repeating the allegation that a Northern Irish hand had launched the firework. 
Blink and you miss it, but a Romanian supp…