Why have corporate criminals got it so cushty?

The recent plight of Societe Generale and rogue trader Jerome Kerviel have only served to highlight the disparity between the treatment of corporate criminals and blue collar criminals.

The French banker lost his bank, and subsequently the shareholders of the financier, £3.7 billion – a staggering sum of money even for a global bank.

But what will be the fate of this untrustworthy crook?

If he follows in the footsteps of fellow swindler Nick Leeson who lost Barings bank £827 million back in 1995, relatively little.

His actions left the firm insolvent and he was sentenced to six and half years in a Singapore prison, serving just four and being released in 1999.

What does Leeson do now?

He’s a minor celebrity, who is a well-known face on the after dinner circuit and has also been the subject of a major motion picture.

So is this what awaits Kerviel?

Imagine the different treatment that Kerviel and Lesson would have received if they weren’t bankers and they weren’t on salaries in excess of £50,000 a year.

What if they simply went in to their local bank in balaclavas and demanded the money in unmarked bills – I’m sure that Leeson would not be out of jail now if he had.

The Kent five found guilty of a £53 million pound raid on a Securitas depot, which admittedly involved a kidnap – but no injuries to their victims, will be sentenced tomorrow.

I bet they serve more than four years each.


Heroic Havant put joy back into the FA Cup

The supposed magic of the FA Cup is something conjured by the BBC to wrestle some viewers from Sky.

But the heart-warming tale of Havant & Waterlooville brought a smile to the face of even the most hardened of football cynics.

For the most part the FA Cup is like the Premier League, the top four have dominated the trophy with Everton the last club outside the upper echelons to lift the trophy after their triumph in 1995.

However, this season the tale the side six divisions below their lofty opponents brought an element of sorcery back to the old tournament.

And for an element of added cup drama, for the first 20 minutes Havant looked they could really play,

Although the cup is a predictable affair, often viewed as a costly distraction for some of the Premier League’s less ambitious teams, for a fleeting moment it was lit up by the little side of Hampshire.

If only we could have such romance every season.

Tottenham just wanted it more

The League Cup. Some clubs tend to regard it in the way Croatia manager Slaven Bilic regards the Community Shield, as being “a big deal if you win it, but not if you don’t”.

It is quite ironic that a decade ago when the final was Middlesbrough vs Leicester City, there was clamouring for the top teams to stop treating the competition as a “Mickey Mouse cup”.

Now though it seems to be more enjoyable if teams outside the so-called “big four” make it to Wembley because you can tell that they really care about it.

Whenever Arsenal play Tottenham it is always competitive and both teams always want to win. Naturally Gunners fans and the team will be disappointed at their exit, but let’s face facts, the League Cup is in no way the main priority for the red side of North London.

For Tottenham, a team like most outside the “big four” that find trips to cup finals more of a rarity, the opportunity to play at Wembley was just the motivation they needed and it showed on the pitch.

Incredibly unlucky not to run out the victors at the Emirates, the passion and verve shown by Tottenham, spurred on by an exhilarated White Hart Lane crowd, was too much for the Gunners.

Led by captain Robbie Keane, fast becoming one of the Premiership’s most consistent performers, the pace of the Spurs attack was a joy to behold. Aaron Lennon has probably given young defender Armand Traore nightmares for life, and the running from midfield by Jermaine Jenas confounded even William Gallas.

Tottenham ended up inflicting a defeat every bit as humiliating as Arsenal’s 6-3 drubbing of Liverpool in the competition last season.

Yes, in Arsenal’s defence they did not field a full strength side (although Fabregas, Eduardo, Gallas, Adebayor, Sagna and Hleb featured at some point), but this was a similar team in terms of quality to the one that made it to the final last year and nearly beat a full-strength Chelsea side.

Desire is a concept bandied about more than most in the sporting world. It is not a something that can be measured in the way that shots or possession can, but it is something that becomes more apparent when considering whether a League Cup final would mean more to Arsenal or Tottenham.

Now let’s hope we see similar desire shown by Everton against Chelsea so the neutral fans can watch a final that really means something.

Liverpool are princes among kings

There is a belief among English football followers that four big clubs rule the Premier League like royalty – but this is purely a myth – there are just three footballing kings.

Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea are the nation’s best sides, competing for the title every year, with squads to rival the continents finest clubs.

But Liverpool, England’s most decorated side, are sadly lacking.

The Reds are tipped for big things at the beginning of every season and, for the most part, fail to deliver.

In fairness to Liverpool have made the Champions League final twice in the last few seasons, a feat not matched by any of the country’s other big sides.

But they have failed to sustain a title challenge over a 38 game league campaign for one reason – their players are simply not good enough.

Which Liverpool players could make it into the first-team of their rivals? Torres, Gerrard and maybe at a push Jamie Carragher but no-one else.

Liverpool have a squad of ordinary players, with three or four excellent players pulling them up by the bootstraps.

Players like Dirk Kuyt, Andiy Voronin and Yossi Benayoun would never get anywhere near the starting eleven for Arsenal, Man Utd or Chelsea and, to be fair to Liverpool fans, they deserve better.

With the spending power of the Reds they should challenge for the title every single season and not pull injured by Christmas.

Until Rafa Benitez stops bringing second-rate staff to the club and starts attracting the quality of player the club has thrived on for the last 30 years they will struggle to become one of the country’s top sides.

The Reds will remain a princely fourth but will not join the senior members of the royal family controlling the English game.

For now they are, at best, a very good cup side.

Going back to the future is the wrong choice for Newcastle

This is going to seem like I’m picking on Newcastle but I am not convinced that Keegan is the right man to bring trophies to St James’ Park.

With Big Sam being ceremoniously dumped out of the club on his backside, and Harry Redknapp unable to tear himself away from life on the south coast, the Magpies fans were crying out for a bit of romance – and Ashley and Mort duly obliged.

Buut for all of Keegan’s passion and enthusiasm he is not a technically gifted manager.

While his Newcastle side were entertaining, they were defensively poor and famously surrendered a 12 point lead to blow the league title.

His England team lacked organisation and were bundled out of Euro 2000 in the group stage after a humiliating loss to Romania.

And his Manchester City failed to do anything of note.

To make matters worse the Premier League is ever improving and being in charge of Newcastle the second time round will be much more difficult than the first.

The fact that he has already pleaded for the fans to be patient speaks volumes.

Rant of the week: Casual xenophobia

Whoever said hooliganism was the English disease had obviously never heard the good folk from ol’ Blighty talking about the French…

Or the Germans, the Italians, the Australians and those fortunates from the other colonies – just what is it with the English and casual xenophobia?

It’s bizarre to think that the utterance of the odd sly comment about race, religion and gender are all frowned upon but taking someone to task about their country of origin is deemed perfectly acceptable and in most situations considered funny.

Anyone who has born in England, like I was, was raised on a diet of Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman jokes, the crude observations on foreign motoring of Jeremy Clarkson and the historical nationalistic misconceptions of Blackadder.

Everyone form these shores knows the old adages about Scots being tight with money, Irishmen being stupid, anyone from the Mediterranean being greasy and Austrlians being criminals.

The real question is that while we taunt the krauts with two World Wars and one World Cup are we making fatal mistakes?

Are we breeding the divine right of an Englishman into future generations? Mocking other countries for age old conflicts that will soon die form memory?

Maybe as a nation we suffer form illusions of grandeur.

Britain was once had a ‘great’ empire with a naval fleet the envy of the world but while the influence of the small island has died it seems in many ways the infernal arrogance still lives on.

Casual xenophobia is surely the national disease – perhaps this is the reason nationalistic slurs just roll of our tongues.

Why Shearer is the wrong man for Newcastle

With Newcastle being turned down by Harry Redknapp and getting hammered 6-0 away to Manchester United their need has never been greater to get a new man in the hot-seat.

The Magpies fans, and Redknapp himself, would like to see former number nine Alan Shearer make a return to St. James Park as the manager, or perhaps omen a dream ticket as Kevin Keegan’s second in command.

But what do the St. James faithful want in a new manager? And how do they want the club to perform?

It seems the next boss has to be all things to all men, while winning games and playing beautiful football.

The one thing a new man at the helm will not have is time.

Despite Rome not being built in day Geordie fans expect Newcastle’s footballing empire to be completed in around 24 hours, while left drooling over sexy football.

How will an experienced manager be able to turn a club like Newcastle United around in less than paltry eight months Sam Allardyce was given in charge?

Alex Ferguson would struggle and Arsene Wenger would find it near impossible.

So what hope for Shearer?

The truth is Big Al is in a hazardous situation. He is idolised at St. James and would have everything to lose if he couldn’t deliver what the Magpies fans crave in a timely fashion and may find his reputation in tatters.

After all, we all remember Glenn Hoddle’s ill-fated return to Tottenham.