The end of the World Cup

Today is the World Cup final of what has been a very good World Cup. It isn’t up to Spain 82 or Mexico 86 in terms of a classic mix of great football and entertainment, but it’s better than Italy 90 (strip away World in Motion and actually talk about the football, you’ll find most who can remember a poor competition) or the averageness of the last few competitions.

Today sees France play Croatia. France should win but Croatia could easily pull off a shock which isn’t bad for a country  that hasn’t even existed for 30 years yet. But what of the next World Cup in Qatar?

The next World Cup isn’t going to be held in the middle of winter for northern hemisphere teams, and also in the middle of league and cup seasons. It’s also going to be held in stadia built on the blood of thousands of dead workers in a country where holding hands in public could be problematic. Imagine the fan parks in punishing heat or players growing tired quickly because they’re playing in a desert in a country run by strict authoritarians who care nothing for human rights.

Sod that.

So I’ll be back for the World Cup in 2026 in Canada, Mexico and the US who by then, will have purged themselves of Trumpism.

Hopefully today’s final is a classic because I think quite a few fans will be boycotting Qatar, but for now lets celebrate today’s final and personally, I’d love Croatia to win it, but France will likely win it. We’ll see…

Why most Scots won’t support England

Another World Cup is nearly over which means for Scots (as well as the Welsh and Northern Irish) don’t have to put up with being told by people (who all seem to only pay attention to football every major tournament) who elect themselves arbiters who what people should do in relation to supporting football teams. This time though it has been totally unbearable in Scotland as media commentators trip over themselves to display how glorious they are by saying they’ll support England. Take this nonsense from Stephen Daisley as an example of this.

This is of course an example of the cringe; but before the Anyone But England argument comes from England fans hurt that not everyone will support England, especially people from the three countries of the UK used to be downgraded, insulted and ignored (If you’ve you’ve ever called the UK ‘England’ then you’re a dick) but this isn’t about hating the English, but the bullying, sometimes patronisingly smug attitude that places England at the centre of the galaxy.

It boils down to not supporting your biggest, and oldest rivals (Scotland/England is the oldest rivalry in football) so Celtic fans won’t support ‘Rangers’, Spurs won’t support Arsenal, Man City won’t support Man Utd, and on. If you then say ‘ah, but we’d support our nearest neighbours’ then I ask you how many English folk will be supporting France tomorrow in the World Cup Final?

But really it’s the entitlement and the way that England transforms into a place where if you’re not from England, it becomes deeply unwelcoming and in the case of this week, dismissive and insultingly so of opposition. Roy Keane hit the nail on the head.

Yet this year England had a likeable, decent man as manager and players who never seemed as arrogant or entitled as previous teams. Gareth Southgate represents the more civic side of England you rarely see these days, especially since Brexit, and England’s ethnically and culturally diverse team is a step in the right direction. Imagine had Sam Allardyce dragged a team to this World Cup. It’d be like Nigel Farage’s wet dream.

So good luck to England in the third place playoff. You’re learning but you need to remember it isn’t always about you so come on Belgium!

A World Cup favour…

Please Croatia, can you beat England.

Because if I hear cries of ‘It’s coming home’ every time I turn on the TV, or see that in the UK media I think I may lose whatever mind I’ve got left. I also can’t bear the jingoism that’ll come if England play either Belgium or France. It’ll be unbearable, so please our Croatian cousins, go out there and do small counties like yourselves proud!

A World Cup lull

After just over a fortnight of the World Cup and unrelenting blood-pounding, arse-ripping, shorts-tightening football, there is a lull and it is weird. I can’t even troll England fans. There is a empty void.

I’m remembering there’s things like Channel4 News, or Netflix, or the PS4, or books or indeed, anything that isn’t football. It feels so terribly wrong…

A World Cup dilemma

Apart from a pretty dismal game between France and Denmark this has been a fantastic World Cup so far, but those of us in the UK have to put up with some terrible commentary, especially from the likes of Mark Lawrenson who sounds as if he doesn’t give a fuck about the game, or the position he’s in.

Now the BBC do offer a commentary free track on their digital services, but some people don’t have access to this so they’re stuck with the wrist-slitting joy of Lawrenson. So would you rather the BBC employ a jaded old pro who treats viewers with contempt or a drunk who’s pissed himself and is desperately slurring words in the hope it makes sense so he can get paid?

Now, nobody say they’re both the same thing…

The World Cup moral dilemma

It’s less than a week til the World Cup starts. Normally I’m dripping with schoolboyish glee in anticipation but the World Cup this year is in Russia; a state deeply corrupt, racist, homophobic and is supporting multiple dodgy regimes around the world.

But it is the World Cup.

Do I want to watch something that’ll help boost Putin’s ego?

It’s the World Cup.

As a lefty type do I sit there with gritted teeth?

It’s the World Cup.

So I’m going to bite my tongue, grit my teeth and watch the events of Russia’s World Cup because there’s few countries who can claim complete innocence, and yes, I’m a weak hypocrite.

But it is the World Cup.

 

Genetics are not a reason Scotland doesn’t qualify for football tournaments

Scotland failed yet again to qualify for a major international tournament. Manager Gordon Strachan has said something utterly extraordinary.

“Genetically, we are behind,”

Strachan’s idea is that we Scots are too small and we need big blokes to make ourselves effective on the world stage of football. This is bollocks.This is that Scottish habit of failing to accept your own faults and failures so rather than working with what you have, Strachan comes up with bullshit.

This is what’s known as the ‘it’s shite being Scottish’ meme. It’s easy to do, and I’ve even done it myself. It is however a mortifying piece of pathetic self-pitying that solves nothing. I like Strachan, he’s funny but for most of this campaign he’s failed to pick players playing in Scotland who are in form with Leigh Griffiths being the best example. It isn’t unrelated that when Strachan starts picking him regularly we start doing well.

That though is not really the point. Wallowing in a ‘och, we can’t do this. we’re Scottish.’ really is crap and what’s worse we nurture this idea, this concept, of glorious failure and take some perverse joy in it. We’ve went from the nation that invented much of the 20th century to whining miseries in a century and you know what? I’m tired of it. We can do better, not because we’re entitled to it but because we’re capable of doing more than we think we can if we work out ways to do just that. Part of achieving that is dropping this attitude of people like Strachan or quite I few people I’ve met since coming back to Scotland.

We shouldn’t be scared of failure but we should learn from it.It seems too many have learned to take failure for granted and accept it as the natural way of things and that isn’t good enough. So Scotland, get up off your knees and do better!

Watching Scotland play in Scotland is more difficult than it should be

Last night I was feeling a bit peaky so went home to watch Scotland play Lithuania in a World Cup qualifier which if lost, meant Scotland had no chance of qualifying, if won then it kept it us with a shout. Turning on STV I found them showing the England game and after slipping into a mild coma listening to Ryan Giggs dazzle us with the fact he’s got the personality of rice paper. No Scotland game to be seen.

Now since moving back to Scotland this is something I’ve encountered before and frankly, it is extraordinary. I’ve been in France and Sweden where their respective national broadcasters broadcast games of this importance, but in Scotland you need to sign up to a subscription package or scour the internet for a stream. It is frankly ludicrous a Scottish based broadcaster doesn’t show Scotland national matches on free-to-air TV, and that isn’t an opinion which is mine alone, but tens of thousands others share. As for STV, their word on this is this Tweet.

So here’s the problem. ITV as a network buy the England rights, but feels it isn’t worth buying Scotland (or indeed Wales and Northern Ireland) rights. The BBC have been priced out the market and the SFA doesn’t give a fuck about fans anyhow. Now Westminster could legislate to ensure Scotland gets their football on free-to-air TV but that ain’t ever going to happen so we endure England playing Malta is a game so turgid and without tension it could be mistaken for a dead bird lying in the gutter.

This isn’t a good situation if we want to get future generations excited about the game. A child may watch this and think ‘I want to do that’, go out and become the best footballer they can, but if you only have Scotland games subscription only then you keep many kids away from the game as after all, kids aren’t going to go to the pub to see the match and if the national broadcasters don’t give a fuck why should they? It’s a crap short sighted, fuckwitted decision that reduces the national sport into an afterthought and it shames the Scottish media that there isn’t more fuss about it. Then again after nearly a year of being back in Scotland I have to say the Scottish media can always be there to let you down.

49 years ago World Champions England played Scotland and this happened…

50 years ago today England won the World Cup. You may have heard it mentioned several million times over the decades.

Now, I’m not one of those bitter Scots who moans about anniversaries like this, I’ve no problem with the 50th anniversary because it’s a genuine landmark. It’s the other 49 years of constantly mentioning it all the time not to mention the seemingly endless bullshit of comparing every England side since to that side which isn’t putting an unrealistic pressure on players at all, honest….

But let people enjoy this 50th anniversary. This is about 1967, when Scotland played England at Wembley and this happened….

Scotland played England off the pitch and from here was launched the utterly ludicrous but fun, Unofficial World Cup Champions, a title currently held by Chile. If there’s one thing we Scots are good at its turning Pyrrhic victories into glorious ones, and turning failure into fabulous pisstaking success.

Six Days of Summer-The tale of Glastonbury 2013

A wee word before anyone digs into this blog. This is going to be different to my other Glastonbury blogs as vast chunks of it were written shortly after last year’s festival but I’ve tried as much as possible to keep things as written last year with amendments where needed. So if there’s an obvious shift in tone or style then that’s probably the reason.Or I could just be drunk.

I was thinking about not doing a blog about this year’s Glastonbury and waiting til I get to it in my current series of blogs which is at the year 2002 but sod it, I’m going to do this year’s festival now while it’s so fresh in my mind however I’m going to refer to a few things which I’ve not written about so far so it’s going to be a wee bit Pulp Fiction in places not to mention it refers to ongoing events which aren’t over yet so stick with me.

This year’s festival saw the same sort of disorganised mess as previous years, but seeing as I was stuck in a job I was desperately trying to extract myself from (I’ve not extracted myself from that job) like a casualty in a warzone, it meant I didn’t really pay attention to Glastonbury or even make any plans for meeting up with everyone until the Sunday before the festival. This was possibly  a wee bit silly seeing as our wee group had people coming from all over, including Japan, but on that Sunday I banged up a plan on the Facebook group we’d started for us to keep us all updated. The group we’d formed had now been going to Glastonbury together in some shape or form since 2003, but since 2005 we’d been camping together in the Park Home field which was a great location as it was near the train track that ran through the site which was handy, especially as one of our number, Janet, was becoming more disabled so found it harder to get around site. It was however a great lineup this year with The Rolling Stones being the obvious stand out.

Glastonbury 2013 poster

The plan was to head to our usual spot at Park Home, but seeing as only two of our number were getting there on the Tuesday night (Glastonbury opens it’s car park on Tuesday to stop the traffic jams on Wednesdays) and the rest were making their way on Wednesday, this meant some serious planning again after 2011. Bridget and Rhia were again coming down from Glasgow, while our friend Eriko from Japan was bringing her mate Yuko, while we’d also picked up Paul, one of the lads we’d rescued in 2008, and his mate Cathy. All in all we’d built up a fair crowd, but the problem was that getting our usual spot in Park Home Ground was going to be a race and those of us who were there early on the Tuesday night were only two people and they had to keep space for up to another three or four tents.

Myself Bridget and Rhia were to come down early on the Wednesday morning on the bus from Bristol with a ridiculous amount of stuff. Even the idea of carrying it from my flat to Montpellier train station went out the window as it was too much, but we thought we’d be alright once we got to the site.  I called a taxi which just managed to fit in all our stuff and the three of us, and once dropped off at Temple Meads we waited for the bus to take us to the festival. Seeing though it was around 8 in the morning this meant people were going to work so we were there in full festival mode while people walked past to go to depressing jobs like the one I was in at that time. Waiting around was a pain, and seeing that Temple Meads wasn’t letting anyone use their toilets unless they bought a ticket, this meant a lot of people crossing their legs. Thankfully I managed to get us into the old Passenger Shed thanks to knowing the caretaker from working the Bristol Comic Expo so this avoided any pant-wetting misery not to mention gave us the last wee bit of civilisation for the next six days.

Eventually the bus rolled up and I’d said to Rhia and Bridget to get upstairs and aim for the front so that when we’d turn up at the site you’d get the best view as the festival unfurled itself in the countryside as we approached. I’d done this in 1993 when I went down and I recommend anyone who’s never been before and are coming from Bristol to do this as it’s amazingly impressive.

Once the bus pulled in at the festival’s bus station, we grabbed our stuff and struggled through the gates realising that we really couldn’t manage all this stuff (tents, sleeping backs, rucksacks, beer, etc) across the mile or so from the station to where we were supposed to be. Then I’d got a text from Alan saying they couldn’t get anywhere near Park Home but he and Janet had managed to grab a good spot on Dairy Ground, which meant a change in direction and a longer walk! Bridget decided the smart idea was for her and Rhia to stay with the majority of the stuff once we’d got to Bushy Ground (how we’d dragged all that stuff there I’ll never know) and for me to travel light, get to where Alan and Janet were, leave a tent so they could put it up and then come back for them. This was, in practise, a good idea which could have went horribly wrong but thankfully it didn’t. I managed to find Alan and Janet who’d found a strip of space by the side of a walkway which wasn’t perfect but the site was filling up at an enormous rate, and beggars couldn’t be choosers, so I dumped what I’d brought with me and headed back to pick up Bridget and Rhia.

Once I’d got back to the campsite with the girls, I set helped set up some tents, and then Barry, his girlfriend Jade and Hannah had arrived from Aberdeen, via Glasgow, so i went to pedestrian gate to help them get to our campsite. This meant carrying more bags and stuff. Once I’d got them there, there was a moment of calm as we put up the remaining tents before Paul and Cathy turned up which meant another walk to help people carry stuff, and then the rain came in the evening while we were waiting for Eriko and Yuko to come from Japan. By this time though most of our phones were out of power, but Barry had brought a portable charger which managed to charge enough to find out that the girls were onsite and looking for us, Once again, I set off, this time with Bridget and Rhia, to look around where we were in 2011 but we couldn’t find them, then once we got back around an hour later Barry wandered away to come back with the girls!

Now, we’d brought what we’d called ‘The Living Room’ which is a giant tent we used as a communal area to keep us dry but it’s where some of us slept, or just chilled because it was spacier and nicer than being cramped in our tents. Seeing as it’d been raining on and off, this was perfect and it also meant the girls could kip with us for the night rather than being alone, but this meant another trip to where they’d camped to pick their stuff up to take back to the campsite. As we finally got everyone together at the end of that night I’d walked miles carrying stuff and was utterly bolloxed which is why that first night ended in an early night, a very, very early night.

Next morning saw the site was muddy after the rain but not horribly muddy. It was fine though compared to previous years, and the weather for the weekend was forecast to be fine for most of the time. Thursday was a lovely day chilling in what had become a nice sunny day which gave us a chance to sit around the campsite, chat, and then go off wandering which is the best thing to do on a Thursday before it all kicks into gear fully. It was a lovely palette cleanser for the weekend proper and it helped recharge my batteries after an amazingly busy Wednesday. We’d also found out our friends Katie and Wig had managed to blag themselves some last minute tickets but there were in the campervan field so no more lugging of bags and stuff for me!

Friday arrived and it was an overcast day but it wasn’t horrible, and the mud was drying out. We’d arranged to meet up with Katie and Wig at Amanda Palmer’s set on The Other Stage. Now I know her husband Neil Gaiman’s work very well, and have met his several times over the years at various comic conventions, etc and find Gaiman to be one of the most pleasant, decent people involved in comics. considering how many creators end up being enormous wankers when they get the sort of fame Gaiman has, this is amazing frankly. However I’ve always found Palmer to be a tad contrived and her poem for the Boston Bomber was one of the most extraordinary crass things I’ve ever seen a musician do. Thankfully though I was fairly pleasantly surprised by her performance, even if her music is just a tad dreary and predictable at times. Here we all are ignoring her…

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The festival had started properly, and after this we all went on our different ways while arranging to meet up at Jake Bugg, whose set at the Acoustic Stage was impossible to get into. By now the sun was very firmly out and the site was bathed in warm sunshine. It was perfect festival weather.

The day bled into the evening which meant I went off on my own after the Tom Tom Club as everyone wanted to see the Arctic Monkeys. A few words about the Arctic Monkeys: they’re shite. Actually, they’re not too bad but the problem is with them that they’re a progression of the dogend of Britpop and that’s depressing that in 2013 there are still bands lazily referencing the past and not creating something new. Still at least they’re not Alt-J who are just appalling.

Anyhow, after a wander round Shangri La, I decided to catch the first part of Chic & Nile Rodgers. If you ever have a chance to see Rodgers in the flesh, do so as it’s all amazingly cheesy but it’s huge fun but the night was to belong to a spectacular Portishead set.

I’d seen Portishead play Glastonbury in 1995 and 1998. The first time was in a tent too small for the crowd and the second was in the middle of a storm that had lasted hours and hours. Thankfully this time was in a big field on a warm summers night. It was perfect stuff.

Saturday was all about one thing. The Rolling Stones. This band had never played Glastonbury before, even though many people had wanted them to play but now the festival gave them an opportunity to reach a new audience. Before then was an awful lot of stuff going on but most notable of this stuff was Billy Bragg on the Pyramid Stage. Now Bragg plays the festival every year normally at the Leftfield so this was a rare chance to see him on a huge stage and he didn’t disappoint as the sun battered down.

The afternoon’s highlight for me though was seeing The Orb for the first time at Glastonbury since 1993, and again, they didn’t disappoint but they did utterly confuse the fuckity out of people walking past who if they were unfamiliar with them would have wondered just what they were listening to. If there’s a track that sums up the early 90’s for me, plus how the festival was in those early years when I went in 92 and 93 then it’s this one that stirs the heart of 40-somethings everywhere who loved the Orb and the KLF.

After this it was back to campsite for a spot of food, and to prepare for the evening. Some of us were going to try for The Rolling Stones but at the same time at The Park were the splendid Fuck Buttons, but West Holts had Public Enemy. I’d only ever seen Public Enemy once in a horrible venue with shite sound in Bristol about six years earlier and this was a chance to see them on a big stage.Though I do wish I’d been able to clone myself to see Fuck Buttons who’s set looked superb.

We set off then from out campsite down the path to the main stages and right away we saw the biblical crowd which was there for The Rolling Stones. Now I’ve seen huge crowds at the festival before, and I’ve commented previously about the crowd for David Bowie in 2000 being the largest I’ve probably seen but this was bigger. Much, much bigger. A few attempts to get to our space by the men’s urinals ended up in sheer failure, so most of us decided to fuck it off, head for the cider bus and listen to the Stones from there before heading to see Public Enemy.

Public Enemy are one of the most important bands of the last 30 years. There’s few other acts in Hip Hop as influential, and Chuck D is one of the finest songwriters of a generation.  This is obvious…

Thanks to The Stones, the crowd wasn’t huge, but it was large but you could wander near the front, and more importantly, the Brothers Bar for some fresh cider! It was an excellent gig and a great way to round the Saturday night off.

The final day rolled round on the Sunday which was a huge pity. It’d been a brilliant festival that’d managed to help me escape the banalities of the real world, but things were not over yet! Sunday saw another flurry of acts, wandering and pointing at people who’d been burnt by the sun.

Sunday though was about Nick Cave. I’ve seen Cave around a dozen times, most of those were great gigs but occasionally he throws out a stinker. This gig was firmly in the former camp than the latter. His performance of Stagger Lee is one of the best festival performances I’ve seen in over 20 years of going to festivals.

How could you follow that? Well, if you’re Mumford and Sons you can’t. Like the Arctic Monkeys, Mumford and Sons are the problem with a generation reared on Britpop. It’s safe, bland and oh so very, very middle class. Thing was the other choices involved wandering to the other side of the festival or were in the case of The xx, even worse. So fuck it, I decided to see the last night out with everyone else at the Pyramid Stage.

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Thankfully Mumford and Sons didn’t go on too long so the pain was short lived, and we slowly wandered away from the Pyramid Stage for the last time into the body of the festival. The girls were up for a last night blowout, but I didn’t fancy it as I knew there was a long walk with loads of stuff in the morning and wanted to stay fresh, even if I really didn’t want the weekend to end.  At some point the girls did eventually get back after a night’s debauchery which made them no use in breaking the camp down.

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That brown tent is the living room and at that point it contained an unconscious Bridget who took another several hours to pull out of bed. In the meantime we all said our farewells as the groups disintegrated for another year as one after another left Glastonbury. Eventually only Alan, myself, Bridget and Rhia remained and with some serious reluctance on that Monday morning which by now, was the afternoon, we left our campsite to head off home. As we passed a pedestrian gate we said farewell to Alan and headed, slowly, to the bus station as I realised that actually, it was late afternoon on the Monday and there was a last bus out of the festival!

Eventually we got to the station to catch the second last bus to Bristol which very slowly picked it’s way back. It arrived back where we’d begun at Temple Meads which by now was littered with abandoned wellies, bottles and other festival detritus. We eventually dragged ourselves back to my flat, grabbed some food, and proceeded to sit around doing little.

A few days later the girls went back to Glasgow and I went back to work somewhere I’d rather not be. That Friday I decided to take the train home from Temple Meads to Montpellier and as I walked up to the station I looked over  to see the last remnants of the festival laying there. A single lonely welly lying on the ground by the car park on the path to Temple Meads providing a little melancholic reminder of what was six glorious days one summer in 2013.

And here we are. This blog takes my personal history up to date. I’ve left that horrible job, went back to an old job in order to regroup myself for what might come in the next year or so and gotten over the misery of not being at Glastonbury every day. This year’s festival sees a depleted group sadly as people couldn’t get tickets, or are bringing up families, or couldn’t make it from Japan. That’s not going to make things worse though.  This isn’t the last of my blogs detailing my personal history of Glastonbury. Far from it, I’m going to do one for this year’s festival once it’s out the way, and also, in the course of writing these blogs some bits and bobs have popped back into my head but as to what year they belong to, I couldn’t tell you but that’s not going to stop me from throwing them up into a blog. Expect that in the next few days….

There’s less than two weeks to this year’s festival. I’ve got a week of work left and then it’s two weeks of Glastonbury, mates and of course, the World Cup.In less than two weeks we’ll be here….

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I can’t wait…..