County back in big time after play-off rollercoaster

After five years outside the top-flight of English football Derby County finally made it back to the big time with their 1-0 defeat of West Bromwich Albion.

Stephen Pearson’s first goal for the club came at the crucial moment and the Rams will rub shoulders with the Premiership elite next season.

Personally, as a neutral to the play-offs it was heartening to see the team that finished in third position gaining promotion especially as Derby were so close to going up automatically.

Hence we are faced with the same question we arrive at every May: Are the play-offs fair?

Traditionally, it is the team that is in good form that is victorious and that team has often had a good late run of results to scrape into the play-offs in the first place.

The examples are numerous but one relevant recent case in point is that of Bristol Rovers.
Bristol had an excellent run towards the end of the season winning four times and drawing twice in their last six games, including a 1-0 win over Swindon on the final day, to sneak into the top seven.

Rovers beat Shrewsbury 3-1 on Saturday to gain promotion to League 1 despite finishing sixth.

The plight of Derby was quite different; they were always in contention for the automatic places and without Roy Keane and Sunderland’s heroics they may well have made it into the top two.
They finished the season eight points better than West Brom and deserved promotion but sadly the third place team often misses out.

Despite this obvious injustice, we need only think back to the days before play-offs to remember how dull football could be. After Christmas there were dozens of lower league teams with nothing to play for, as they were not promotion contenders or relegation candidates, and many games were effectively rendered meaningless.

Alternatives to the current play-off system have been touted; most interesting of them is putting the team just outside automatic promotion directly in the final with the other three teams slugging it out for the remaining place. This would give the highest placed team a deserved advantage.

However, we cannot afford do away with the play-offs all together, it is heart-wrenching for any season to come down to just one game, where one moment can be the difference between playing at Stamford Bridge and Old Trafford or Deepdale and Oakwell

As unfair is it may seem it makes football truly entertaining and after all isn’t that the point?

Justice must be in done in Jena

Jena, Lousiana, is a tiny old-fashioned town. It seems like nothing has changed in the last forty years… and that includes race relations.

Six black students are about to go on trial for the alleged assault of a white student and face between 30 and 50 years in prison.

The shocking events that led to the trial and the effect that it has had on the people have Jena have echoed the civil rights struggles of the 60’s.

It began when a black student asked the staff of the school if he could sit under a tree that was traditionally reserved for white students, another throwback the troubled era, and was told that he was free to sit anywhere, he decided to break tradition and relax under the tree.

The following day the students arrived at the school to find three nooses hanging from the same tree.

The incident split the community and heightened tension at the school. The majority of the white residents regarded it as a tasteless prank.

The black residents regarded the issue as far more serious. It was considered a symbolic and threatening gesture, a reminder of white domination in the region.

When the culprits had the expulsion from the school reversed and instead received three day suspensions it was just a matter of when a spark would light the powder keg.

Soon after that the alleged attack happened, six black students allegedly attacked a white student who suffered bruises and concussion but was seen later enjoying a night out.

The culprits, were brought in but instead of being charged with assault and battery were charged with attempted second degree murder and could face up to fifty years in prison.

The police were more even handed than the local newspaper who didn’t even say the attack was an alleged attack thus declaring the boys guilty in an attack it called ‘the worst in school history’.

There is no doubt that violence in many cases is wrong but under such provocation it is surely unfair to punish a school fight with 50 years in prison.

Justice must be done and the rule of law must be applied otherwise American race relations could suffer a blow from which it may never recover.

Time to believe 9/11 conspiracy theories?

Being a sceptical person its not often that I believe in any sort of conspiracy theories but I saw something recently which gave me sleepless nights.

The movie, 9/11 – Loose Change, can be viewed by following this link and its theories are mind blowing.

What is most disturbing is that many of the claims are backed up with hard evidence which is laid bare, some of it from the actual footage of the atrocity.

The movie does not claim that the acts were perpetrated by the US government but seriously dents the official accounts of what happened.

Without giving too much of the documentary away two of the most shocking claims are that the Pentagon was actually hit by a missile and that the World Trade Centre towers were brought down by a controlled explosion.

As far fetched as this may sound I urge everyone who visits this blog to follow this link and then comment on this post.

It will change your opinions forever.

Why didn’t Scott warn Steve?

Chelsea have beaten a host of rivals for the signature of highly rated Reading midfielder Steve Sidwell.

Sidwell, has passed his medical and will be joining Chelsea on the 1st July and must be ecstatic to be joining a club of such high stature as he looks to further his career.

I’ve been lucky enough to see Sidwell play at the Madejski and he is certainly a good player. Far too good for Chelsea reserves.

The whole situation is eerily similar to that of Scott Parker. Parker was in tremendous form for Charlton when he decided to make the move to Stamford Bridge, which was followed by a stint on the bench and then a career resurrecting move to Newcastle Utd.

Think of all the central midfielders that Chelsea have already; Michael Essien, Claude Makelele, John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack. Where will Sidwell fit into this? Mourinho finds it very difficult to drop Lampard even when he is playing badly so it looks like Sidwell is fighting for one place.

I’m sure the lure of Chelsea is probably too strong for a young footballer to resist but the plight of Scott Parker should serve as a cautionary tale to anyone who makes Abrahmovic want to open up his chequebook.

Don’t be surprised to see Sidwell turn up at Newcastle in two or three seasons.

Pay-as-you-go roads scheme driven forward

According to a BBC survey 74% of the public are against the proposals for pay-as-you-go roads that will charge motorists by the mile. However, the Government has still pressed ahead with plans to do just that.

Draft legislation, the Local Transport Bill, has been published that will allow interested local authorities to implement the scheme on a trial basis.

It is easy to understand why there is so much oppposition to the plans. One of the reasons for the state of the traffic on British roads is the very poor standard of public transport. With trains and buses being over-priced and rarely punctual who can blame people for using their cars instead.

The scheme will just be another excuse to raise tax revunue from motorists. The very same motorists who pay through their teeth for petrol, MOT and insurance.

Don’t pluck Lewis before he has flowered

There is no doubt that Lewis Hamilton has had one of the best starts of any of the F1 drivers this country has produced. He has immense talent but there is a serious of danger of piling too much pressure on him.

The F1 season is only a few races old and already there is talk of Hamilton becoming a world champion in his first season. It’s not that it is not possible, it could happen, but it is both unfair and dangerous to put so much pressure and weight of expectation on the youngster.
It is something that tends to happen whenever there is any promising British talent. When Wayne Rooney burst into the Everton first team he was compared with Pele and now the nations hopes sit squarely and unfairly on his shoulders. Andy Murray probably understands what he is going through.

The most sensible thing to do would be not to over hype and add to the pressure that these talented young men feel but to support them.

They media must make them feel like losing is a complete failure and for sportsmen so young it is all part of a steep learning curve.

Let’s not to do to Lewis what we did to Jenson.

What to do with West Ham

“7 wins out of 9 games is Champions League form”. That is Tony Cottee’s opinion of West Ham’s great escape which is statistically the finest rescue escape in the post war era.

However, there are still question marks over the registration of Carlos Tevez and whether West Ham should be allowed to retain their place among England’s elite.

West Ham were fined £5.5 million for the improper registration of Tevez but it can be argued that it was grossly unfair. Premiership survival has been estimated at a value of £30 million, in that respect surely a points deduction would have been appropriate?

Not according to the Premier League.

In their reasoning of the fine they argued that it would be unfair to the fans to punish them for West Ham’s misgivings. That reasoning is illogical and would not deter other teams from playing ineligible players in the future safe in the knowledge it would not result in a loss of league position.

If Manchester Utd had beaten West Ham on the final day it would have been poetic justice for Sheffield Utd who failed to beat the drop and there would not be the prospect of a prolonged high court battle, which will be a terrible blow for English football.

There is no doubt that West Ham were fantastic but they clearly and severely breached the rules. Much of their success is owed to Tevez ,who should never have been allowed to play, and it would be unjust if they were allowed to remain in the Premiership.

If we don’t have fair play then the game has no integrity; West Ham have to go.