Sunday 28 December 2014

Fixing a boiler 101

I have always had a positive view of this country. Compared to where I come from, some things make you feel like you are living in dreamland. 

There is a train network. Put aside the ongoing issues with Kings Cross station and Network Rail. 

The electricity and gas is almost nailed on 24/7. Yes I am aware some people are suffering from power outages because of the weather at the minute but generally the utilities infrastructure is very good. 

Despite this feeling of living in something of a society where everything works, I have suffered from a horrible situation in the last 3 months.  Incompetence, deliberate fraud and dishonesty have combined to deny me heating and hot water. 

Initially it was a good thing as I didn’t need to turn the heating on early, however as the cold spell descended I have experienced different type of feelings - body numbingly cold for one. Anger, hope, despair, self doubt and at times resignation. I have wondered if the colour of my skin has anything to do with it or the part of town where I live. Perhaps the latter, perhaps none of them. 

It all started when my landlord took out a boiler care / home care cover with a firm of independent providers. I would love to name and shame them but inclined to leave this to another day. I consider myself very simple (sometimes) and in my typical simple fashion, I tend to go with the bigger providers when I need to sign up to some insurance or the other. I recognise the fact that they can mess things up just like everybody, however the resources behind them means that they have the ability to quickly rectify things in a satisfactory way after a cock up. 

Unfortunately it was my land lord that took out this policy. I had no say in the decision. Later I found out he had taken the same policy for his own private residence, so this wasn’t him not caring about a tenant. 

I couldn’t believe my first encounter with this independent company. The drain was blocked and needed to be fixed. So I called them several times and they promised to call me back several times. Never happened. I have rarely experienced such shocking service in the country. I refrained myself from blowing a fuse as I didn't want to play to a stereotype. 

I narrated my ordeal to the landlord who suggested I call again. I did and after going through the same motion, we finally agreed a date and time for them to fix the blocked drains. I cancelled all my appointments and stayed at home. Nothing happened. Nobody turned up. I was so frustrated and left the matter. I couldn't go to the garden as it had turned into a mini sewer. 

About a month later, it got worse and I took a picture and emailed to my landlord. He was so disgusted that he called them himself and voila someone came to fix the drain. I started to think it was something to do with racism. 

3 months later, the company they contracted to fix the drains called me asking for payment as the insurance company was yet to pay them. I was so upset with this demand and told the caller where to go in very colourful language. His contract was with the insurance company. Why is he chasing me for a debt. I called the landlord to let him know that not only was the insurance company unprofessional in dealing with client calls and appointments, they appear to be dishonest with their suppliers as well. I am not sure how that was resolved. 

Then the temperature started to fall and my heating and hot water packed up. The same merry go round started with this company. Telephone calls not returned, appointments unfulfilled. 

After a lot of to ing and fro ing, they eventually sent someone who said there was no problem with the boiler. 30 minutes after he left, same  problem, no heat, no hot water. Then I started to think it was a competence problem. 

I called the landlord again and he kindly asked an independent engineer to fix the problem. Fantastic individual this bloke.  He called me back as promised, visited me on the day he promised. Boiler fixed he said. I left for work, came back home, No heat, no hot water. 

I started to sense a conspiracy.  Was my landlord trying to get me to leave the property? Had I inadvertently done something wrong? Didn’t think so but hey, here I am with no heating or hot water. I was no getting desperate as the temperatures plummeted. 

I dared to call the insurance company again, lost my rag completely, got the landlord involved again and they finally agreed to send another engineer. I was promised that the engineer will attend in the morning as I was planing to go to work the same day. The engineer finally walked into my door at about 7pm. Apparently he was coming from North London. Didn’t realise some gas engineers use donkeys as their form of transport. 

Unfortunately, I missed work that day. I had to apologise to clients for late cancellation of appointments. The engineer was impressive and was initially going to recommend that the boiler be replaced but changed his mind to say changing some parts should sort the problem. 

He promised to brief the insurance company and get back to me. That was the last I heard of him. That was 4 weeks ago. I learnt about the same time that they had done a similar thing to my landlord. I then realised that the insurance company were scammers and incompetent ones at that. In my opinion, their plan was to sign up loads of clients and hope not enough people required their service and if they did, to fob them off as much as they can without providing this service. 

My landlord then suggested we go back to the independent guy ('Fantastic Individual Bloke the Engineer'). He called and promised me a visit but then called again 24 hours before the visit to cancel. Despair time. 

My landlord approached another independent engineer who turned up as promised. Very impressive. Checked the boiler and advised that it needed one of four different parts. He will get pick up all four parts and try them one by one he said. He will be back on Christmas Eve he promised. I haven't seen him as I write. He used to return my call or text messages. He has stopped. When a friend called on my behalf on Boxing day, he promised to be at mine first thing on Saturday. I am still waiting for him. I had to decamp to my sister’s place to ensure I didn’t die of hypothermia. Must be something I did wrong to Plumbing Engineers in a previous life. 

I then decided i had a had enough and to try one of the big boys. Called British Gas. Simple solution. But without my landlord say so, no deal. Managed to get my landlord involved. Same day British Gas Engineer turned up. Problem fixed. You can boil water off my radiator now. WOW. A Lesson in fixing a boiler 101.

House temperature at glorious 21 degree. Hot water gushing non stop from the tap. Bliss. House temperature so hot, it is setting off the fire alarm. 

The British Gas engineer confirmed to me that in their line of work, they see the handwork of the independents. He was 
generous and didn’t agree with my assessment of them as cowboys. But he agreed they were incompetent. And gave me a few examples where the independents had scammed their clients. 

Shame really. How many people have similar experienced. Scammed and then having to resort to another provider to make things good. Big shame. I'm sure aggrieved clients can approach the Trading Standards Agency or any other suitable statutory body. However people just want to get warm and in typical UK consumer fashion might be reluctant to complain. 

Not me. If my landlord allows, I will devote my time pursuing these scammers through the small claims court if need be. 

Sunday 21 December 2014

Our obsession with Jihadi Terrorists and their drama

The Jihadists and their supporters are quite adept at yanking our collective chains.

All they need to do to get our attention and that of our leaders is to post a video of a recent beheading or some other provocative material. It always works and it appears it will always work. It rankles every time I read about a new gruesome online material and our reaction to it. I wonder if I am in the minority? This is how I look at it.

1) In each of the last 10 years (using data from these sites, ( least 500 people have lost their lives to a murder / homicide in the UK.

Are their deaths any less traumatic to their relatives and loved ones? Are their lives of less value than those killed by the Jihadis? Do we react in the same  way to each and every one of these deaths? I can't remember the Prime Minister making a statement about all of these murders / homicides. I can bet that the corresponding stats from the US (considering their more liberal gun laws) will be significantly more than the UK's.

And to think we as humans and our leaders can do something about these murders / homicides. But we will rather be outraged by the Jihadists chain yanking.

2) In the winter just past,  18, 200 people lost their lives ( Their death is somewhat linked to seasonal low temperatures.  Of these, 14,000 were over 75. Not only did complications arising from the cold temperature kill these elderly ones, they most likely died without loving care and in presence of their loved ones because we are all too busy getting on with our lives and perhaps expressing outrage at the Jihadis videos.

Bar a piffling statement perhaps at PMQs, I doubt these deaths were worthy of the attention of our Prime Minister or anybody of note in Government. I ask again, are these deaths any less traumatic to the concerned relatives and loved ones? Are these lives of less value than those killed by the jihadis? Do we react in the same to each and every one of these deaths?

3) In the last 3 or more years, there have been at least 1000 people per year ( who die from drugs poisoning (both illegal and legal). Guess what, the government is still dithering on what a coherent drugs policy should be. It is unlikely that the source of the legal drug poisoning has been dealt with. Most likely the affected families have either been fobbed off or paid off. Yet the next j
Jihadi beheading will get more attention from the government than any of these deaths or the drugs policy. Why? Why do we as people & government ignore the things we have control over and focus on things we have no control over?

I will stop here. If you wish, please look around you and see other very important life threatening things deserving of the government and our attention. Not the Jihadis.  Let them do what they want, they will always do whether we like it or not and because we are obsessed by their actions we are in my opinion feeding their lust for these actions.

I understand the government's legitimate desire to protect its citizens. These protection should start when they are in country and not when they are about to be beheaded by the Jihadis. If Alan Henning was the victim of winter death, nobody would have heard of him. How can the government protect its citizens? What am I suggest?

Francois Hollande (the French President) was in the papers recently advising French citizens to stay away from volatile areas of the world. Very obvious advice you will imagine. Why should a private citizen of the USA or a Western European country leave his home to visit a war torn country? Someone with a prize on their head? WHY? For humanitarian reasons? Do you realise there are poor people in your country? Have you finished helping these ones? If you are unable to live with yourself after seeing the pictures of the suffering, diseases and death in these war ton countries and you are moved to do something, why don't you donate the equivalent of your travel expenses and time to a charity that is working in that part of the world?

Why put yourself in harms way, then put the soldiers who might attempt to rescue you in harms way as well. And then remember, your loved ones. Are you actually been selfless or selfish? To a certain extent, I understand the case for abducted journalists and soldiers but I cannot understand that of private citizens looking to do a good deed.  Even in the case of journalists, a case can be made for their employers to use local people for their news gathering / picture taking rather than risking their Western European / US citizens who have a prize on their head.

Don't even get me started on the case of individuals who decide to go and fight on opposing sides to the Jihadis or people who run away to be Jihadists or Jihadi brides themselves. Less than 2 years ago, our leaders were debating whether to arm some of the people who are now part of IS. PLEASE LET THAT SINK IN.

WE THOUGHT THEY WERE OUR ALLIES. Some people left the UK to fight on their side as they opposed the tyranny of Assad. 2 years later, IS is now the vilest vile scum of the earth. What a transformation. NOT.

So why do we think the people opposing IS today will not do worse things tomorrow? We don't. What we know and should enforce is that private citizens have no roles in fighting any war either on the side of tyranny or liberation. If this is not already a crime, it should be.

Everyday, I read in the papers about a teenager (usually female) running away to join IS or the male adult variant running away to fight alongside them. A lot has been written about the sociological issues affecting and motivating these people. I'm sure we can debate these till kingdom come.

The issue is actually very simple for me. After it has been made clear that fighting in either side is illegal / a crime, there should be an open door for anybody who wants to run away to join IS or any other war mongering group. Government and its agencies resources should not be deployed in preventing these people from leaving. Once they leave, their citizenship should be revoked. If there is no law backing this up, Parliament should legislate for one as a matter of national urgency. Any welfare benefits attached to these people should be cancelled. If they are minors, parents should be investigated for potential child welfare endangerment. They should not be allowed back into the country after their rose tinted glasses have fallen off. If this endangers them in any way, they should join the queue.

Why should we allow these people back and throw them into jail? Why? So they can recruit other people to their Jihad? Why devote any type of resources to these people who live in cosy whereeversville in the UK and who decide they want to become a Khalifa in Syria. Good luck and best wishes. Resources should in fact be deployed to keeping them out.

In conclusion, the next Jihadi beheading video should be ignored.  I want the Prime Minister to focus on making the UK a better place not on some nutters playing at medieval warlords. The military can send drones to take them out, implement whatever security policies we've put in place against these people. Giving the Jihadists the oxygen of publicity rewards their ways.

Sunday 14 December 2014


Approaching a slightly uncomfortable but somewhat timely topic as you can't take a breath without smelling UKIP.

Lots of issues out there, immigration and the M4. Breastfeeding mothers in the corner, sex scandals etc. For me, all of these is proof that UKIP is now a mainstream party. Can you imagine national news headlines about the Monster Raving Loony Party. Me neither.

About 19 months ago, a friend and I (both immigrants) sat together to discuss the European Elections when UKIP had their best showing ever. I was of the opinion then that they will get better, potentially win parliamentary elections and then reveal themselves to be just like every other party. From the sleaze perspective, UKIP have certainly ticked that box. From the perspective of nothing will change if they ever have an influence on governance, watch this space.

Despite the fact that I am in immigrant, I admire Nigel Farage. Nigel is a typical entrepreneur, he has seen a market niche, a political niche and he has adapted / redesigned an existing product to satisfy this niche and he is enjoying remarkable success.

His success in my opinion is partly attributable to the fact that Nigel Farage & UK have given many people a voice. Mainstream politicians (especially in the Labour and Conservative parties) almost made it a crime to challenge immigration a few years ago. With Farage's focus on this issue and also the subject of Europe and with the results he has achieved, the mainstream politicians are now happy for us to discuss immigration and terms of staying in Europe. He has made them sit up and pretend they are listening. Once they get the next 5 year mandate in 2015, they will continue with business as usual.

I get it when people like Russell Brand say Nigel Farage is dangerous but he is no Hitler and we don't live in the 1930s. I can foresee other circumstances leading to a war in Europe, none of it related to UKIP's desire to leave Europe or the dislike / hatred for immigrants. I think Russell Brand should actually copy some of Nigel's approach. Russell has a platform now with his media profile and since he is not 'short of a few bob', start a movement (perhaps dedicated to an anti UKIP / Farage issue), get like minded people or his rich new friends to fund it, make a difference in a segment of society, give the voiceless a voice, do something positive that believes, something that might get the mainstream parties to sit up and adapt. Alternatively as e has been advised, run for parliament. You can either join the system and change it from within or like Farage try to smash it apart. Don't stand on the outside waiving your hand helplessly or shouting in a shrill voice.

Are UKIP and their supporters right about immigration? Where I came from originally, immigrants (same colour as me) have been mass expelled twice, in a country without any form of welfare. You want anything including water, roads, light etc you get it yourself mate. Yet immigrants (they were called aliens for God's sake) were expelled. The comments back then are similar to the UKIP chants "they are taking our jobs" "they are criminals""our country is crowded". Yes xenophobic I agree. Characterises a group of people (yes this is wrong). But people actually feel this way? Your electorate. What have you done to help them see things differently. Are things really different? Or you are just trying to hush people and prevent them from asking tough questions? Saying people should not feel a particular way is daft and will continue to fuel UKIP & Nigel's growth.

We are all somewhat careful about strangers. We even teach our children about 'stranger danger'. So why is people complaining about immigration such a big deal. If people have been impacted by immigration why should they not talk about it.

Is it so difficult to see the impact of the growth in population which is largely attributable to immigration ( Can the country afford the additonal investment in roads, health, education, governance etc that the growth in immigration brings?

The economic benefits of immigration and the diversity it affords the UK as a nation are the obvious defence of the main parties and the pro immigration lobby. Clearly there are benefits and you can never put a price on diversity. At the end of the day, the world is turning into a global village. However where is the table showing the benefits of immigration versus the cost of it - from the government and from the mainstream parties.

Are the economic benefits strictly limited to the ability of multi national businesses to access cheap labour that EU immigration and to some extent non EU immigration allows. Is this in any way balanced by the taxes these businesses pay? Do they even pay taxes with their complicated tax arrangements and well paid tax advisers? If the benefit derived by businesses are genuine benefits, why are wages depressed and why is it that the biggest chunk of the UK welfare bill is the 'in work benefits' portion?

I hear talk of work shy indigenes and a desire to live on benefits as a way of life. I don't disagree there are people like these. I will imagine we have them all over the world. I have actually eavesdropped on a conversation on the train between a middle aged person and teenager. The middle aged person was encouraging the teenager to see benefits as a way of life / an entitlement. In the middle aged person's words, "your grand parents paid for it". I strongly disapprove of this sentiment. However why is it that employers prefer employing immigrants. Some say that immigrants work harder. I find this difficult to accept. What is the basis of this belief? Perception? Hard data? As we are unlikely to see research based on productivity by ethnic group, it is unlikely that this will ever be proven. However my interpretation of the graphs on this page ( suggest that the claims about immigrants working harder than indigenes is hogwash.

I have heard many critics of the 'immigrants work harder' claim that immigrants are able to work for lower wages as their base expenditure is lower than that of an indigene who invariably has bigger overheads. I buy into this view as I find it difficult to imagine why anybody will take a job that does not cover thier basic needs when the alternative is much better.

If the mainstream parties want to genuinely stop the march of UKIP. They should genuinely listen to people and mean it. None of those faux 'listening and lessons learnt' that you have come to expect from them. Address the fact that people feel powerless as everything appears to be ordained by Europe. Geniunely explain to people why is it that we can't live without Europe.  Will China stop buying Land Rovers because the UK is no longer a part of the EU? will Saudi Arabia stop buying weapons from BAE? or will Apple stop buying IT services from the UK? What is the UK gaining by been in Europe? What are the implications and cold hard numbers? How have they been derived? on the other page, what are the cold hard numbers and also implication of leaving Europe?

In my opinion, politicians believe only in democracy when it suits their purpose. Labour and the Conservative are unwilling to give the electorate the opportunity to vote on Europe but willing to spout 'Europe is good' platitudes, whereas people can see that everything they complain about is because of laws / policies / guidelines emanating from Europe. Immigration (European free movement). Deportation of criminals (European Human Rights)

As for me, Farage should enjoy this period when he is setting the cats amongst the pigeons and dictating the political agenda. He doesn't have executive power so he doesn't have to make a decision that affects anybody outside of UKIP. If the time ever comes when he has administrative powers after gaining sufficient seats in Parliament, you only have to look as far as Nick Clegg to see what he will become. A toothless bulldog beholden to the same mainstream he spent years railing against. For he is one of them and that is never going to change.

Nuff said.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Wenger Out Brigade

Yesterday was a bit good. The thought of a vile man like Jose Mourinho breaking Arsenal & Arsene Wenger's INVINCIBLE record was enough to break my heart. Many thanks to Alan Pardew, Papiss Cisse and Newcastle FC for saving me from heartbreak.

To many who deride THE INVINCIBLE record. Please carry on. I'm quite happy to live in the past, I'm alive because someone conceived me in the past  I earn my daily bread because of the intellectual shift I put in the past, I have kids because of some 'things' I did in the past. I think you get the drift.

Obviously it is very easy for those without a past to deride the people who are proud of theirs. I am still struggling with how winning the EPL without losing is equivalent to winning it with one or more losses. You get a gold plated EPL trophy for God's sake. Only one team and one manager (ARSENAL & ARSENE WENGER) has achieved that. Come back and talk to me when you equal or beat that record.

Arsenal's loss at Stoke yesterday meant the Wenger Out brigade were in full flow. I watched the highlights of the match, I have read a lot of tweets and a couple of blogs on the match. There is near universal acceptance that Arsenal were woeful especially in defence. I can't disagree with that. The only thing I would have loved to see after recovering to 3 - 2 with 20 minutes plus stoppage time was for us to win the match or worst case draw with the Chambers sending off. We don't do that enough as a club side. It is hardly in our DNA. While the manner of the defeat appears inexcusable, there is some understanding of it. We were playing with a makeshift defence. Responsibility for this is fully on the Manager. I get that but it was still a makeshift defence no matter whose fault it is. With a full defensive complement last season, what did we get at the Britannia? Nothing. Would be nice not to have to face Anthony Taylor ever again though.

Now to the small subject of the Wenger out brigade. From what I can read, the following are the reasons why some people want Wenger out.

1) He is tactically clueless

2) He was too long to make changes

3) He doesn't like spending money to address gaps in the team

4) The game has passed him by

5) He is too stubborn

6) He is spoiling his own legacy

Unspoken by some but perhaps part of their underlying reasons are the following:

A) He has stayed too long. A bit similar to (4) above

B) By changing the manager we might get something of a new manager bounce / new manager might freshen up things

C) (A bit unkindly to them perhaps) there is the "here is a nice shiny bandwagon to jump on" &

D)  (perhaps a bit silly) a profound belief in the chaos theory that a random event (winning the league) is actually predictable from simple deterministic equation (like the firing or resignation of Wenger)

So Wenger Out brigade which one are you? Do tell.

Perhaps there are others with different intentions. As a lifelong member of the conspiracy theorists family, I believe some fans of other clubs want Arsene out so we Arsenal fans can suffer the upheaval Man United experienced with the retirement of Sir Alex and perhaps lose our claim to consistent participation not only in the UCL but in the UCL Round of 16. The truth shall out.

I am not a member of the Wenger out brigade. I have listed why below.

i) He has just signed a new contract. He is in the first year of a new 3 year contract. A contract Ivan Gazidis (Arsenal CEO) and Arsenal players begged him to sign just 6 months ago (A quick google search will do you some good)  

ii) He always honours his contract. So he is not about to walk away.

iii) Arsene is one of few managers who appear to have overall control over all footballing matters at a football club. We will need to replace him with more than one person. As the CEO said a few months ago, replacing Arsene will be Arsenal's biggest challenge. I don't think that decision will be taken lightly or in the middle of a season.
I will offer my response to the reasons why some fans want him out:

1) He is tactically clueless - Wenger himself offered a response to this issue a few days ago. I believe this issue is more about perception. Arrogance even. More about an unwillingness to change his philosophy to suit the opposition. Disagree all you want. He has a philosophy and he is sticking it to it. It worked for him in the past and it might appear not to be working now. However tactics is not the only reason why Wenger has seemingly under performed. Injuries, funds and significant progress by opposing teams have contributed.

2) He waits too long to make changes - I watched the recent Swansea game and I thought Chambers should have been saved the embarrassment by Montero. Nothing happened. Everybody and their uncles shouted for the introduction of a more natural right back in Hector Bellerin. Wenger refused and he did so until circumstances forced his hand at yesterday's match. He was berated for not playing a more natural right back until the reason became obvious yesterday. Bellerin either wasn't ready or he has regressed or hasn't lived up to Wenger's expectations.  Nobody is beating the Bellerin drum any more. In my little understanding of the football game, substitutions can destabilise or they can inspire. Are fans prepared to allow Arsene manage the team? He is paid £8m pa to do so.  He spends all his waking moment monitoring and watching this team. He knows what he has on the bench and what he has on the pitch.

3) He doesn't like spending money to address gaps in the team - as somebody with a small knowledge of finance, I believe fans might be getting the wrong end of the stick here. For many years in the last 4 - 5 years, the Board always said Arsene had all the money he needed to spend. Transfer windows come and go and Arsene 'refuses' to spend. In my opinion, this is about perception management. The Board & Arsene are sending signals to players & potential future signings about Arsenal's financial status. Whereas there might be lots of cash as analysts claim, they might not be available for spending. Banks / lenders make it compulsory to corporate borrowers to keep a certain level of cash within their business. Also Gazidis has recently come out to deny the fact that Arsenal has lots of cash to spend. Yet this is one of Wenger's crime.

4 & A) The game has passed him by & He has stayed too long - there is an element of ageism here with some thinking because is 65+ his mind and desire is not as sharp. Alex Ferguson retired at 72, Pellegrini is 61, Sam Allardyce is 60, Harry Redknapp is 67, Arsenal Board of Directors is made up of older men. Peter Hill - Wood retired only last year and he is 78, Stan Kroenke the owner is 67, Sir Chips Keswick the new Chairman is 74, Lord Harris of Peckham a board member is 72, other directors are Ken Friar (80), Ivan Gazidis the CEO and Stan's son.  The last two are considerably younger than the others but you get the point. When they look at Arsene they see a younger (young) man whereas a fan might think otherwise. It is interesting that the man that the game has passed by finished ahead of Roberto Martinez and defeated Steve Bruce in the FA cup final. He might no longer be at his peak, neither is the club's spending power in comparison term's at his peak. When he had his success in the early years, Arsenal were no slouches when it came to spending.

5) He is too stubborn - as a stubborn person myself, I see this as a virtue. This stubbornness is sometimes manifested in the 'he doesn't spend money' reason for disliking and also in his decision to play some players out of position. Unfortunately for Arsene, he has to make real life decisions. Critics only need to criticise after the fact.

6) He is spoiling his own legacy - I can't get my head around this. Some fans are actually saying that "we want you to leave in the middle of the season and in the middle of a contract after recruiting all these new players so that the club can experience a huge upheaval that it might need to recover from by spending £150m that it doesn't have ".  I can actually see how he will be spoiling his legacy by walking away now.

B) By changing the manager we might get something of a new manager bounce / new manager might freshen up things  - this is somewhat linked to the chaos theory. The same lunacy that took Fulham down last year. Felix Magath had all these shiny records as a manager and was going to be the saviour of Fulham. It hasn't worked. Same with Van Gaal despite spending more than PSG, Real, Chelsea & Man City put together,  a few weeks ago his record was been compared to Moyes. The jury is still out on how the Van Gaal chronicles will end.

C) "here is a nice shiny bandwagon to jump on"  - unfortunately I have nothing to say to this. Please carry on with your bandwagon until the next one arrives.

D) a profound belief in the chaos theory that a random event (winning the league) is actually predictable from simple deterministic equation (like the firing or resignation of Wenger) - Yeah. Pigs fly.

Is Wenger entirely guiltless? More wronged than wrong?  I will list 3 of my 'Wenger wrongs' below

I) Knowing the Arsenal injury record, the decision to start the season with only 6 fit defenders 5 if you discount Bellerin is shocking. Granted there was a shortage of top quality central defenders during the last transfer window as evidenced by the fact that Manchester United were willing to spend but couldn't get a top class CB. Despite the shortage they reinforced in that department although they had up to 5 players who could fit in that role. However I believe Arsene should have reinforced. All this "we only want someone who is better than what we have", I don't buy. A few of the players playing for the bottom half EPL teams will bite of Arsene Wenger's hands for a contract. Are they as good as Koscienly or Mertesacker. No but better than Monreal as a make shift CB. This will cost money for a redundant asset that you may or may not need so does not having anybody in the time of need. The policy of making do on this occasion appears to have back fired.

 II) Pretty boys - Mr Wenger has presided over the recruitment of an Arsenal squad made up of pretty, principled and gentle boys. Almost in his own image. The only notable exceptions are Alexis Sanchez (new boy) and Jack Wilshere. Arsenal has a reputation for not been able to deal with physical opposition. This is a flaw in recruitment in my opinion. We need to have players who refuse to lie down and let the opposition walk over them. Players who take defeat as an insult not as one of those things.

III) Absence of high profile number 2s - We have seen people like Carlos Queiroz & Rene Meulensteen at Old Trafford, Steve Clarke, Brendan Rodgers and Aitor Karankar at Chelsea. Where are the Arsenal equivalents. Where is the assembly line of future managers? A true measure perhaps of a legacy.

Changing for changes sake is not my thing. I'm worried about the alternative. Who do we have on the wings waiting to come in? Its not as if Pep Guardiola is dying to coach Arsenal. We don't have the budget that will make Pep's CV look even better. Please don't talk to me about that vile classless man in West London.

Diego Simeone is perhaps a good option. Spending very little money and achieving some remarkable results. Does he want to manage in England? Is there a fit between his temperament and the Arsenal way?

The Wenger Out brigade calling for Sam Allardyce, Jurgen Klopp, Roberto Martinez etc are clueless. We want something demonstrably better than what we have now. Not something that looks shiny and might be better.

As fans we owe our boys on the pitch our full support. Whatever your persuasion - Wenger In or Out. Get behind the team without holding back. Yes we are 6th, 13 points from the leaders. Yes we have had (one of) our worst start to the to the season, yes the defence is in shambles for now, yes the season held out more promise in the summer but there are 23 games to go. Some book makers paid out on a Chelsea EPL win last week. Don't they look stupid now. Lets come together and support our club. Wishing Arsenal ill because you don't like Wenger is daft in my book.

Saturday 29 November 2014

Jose Mourinho is not a special one talk less of been The Special One. Neither is he the best manager in the world

I have always wondered why anybody would want to be a football manager? Yes the job is glamorous and in certain instances (especially where you are at the top of your game) you can command 'star footballer' salaries. Arsene Wenger is on something like £150k pw. For that price, you probably should be able to add a Sami Khedira to your side (nuff said). The job is very demanding. You are the lightning rod of fans, players, owners and the media's moans and rants.

Put yourself in Alan Pardew's place earlier this season.  You arrive at your place of work and people who should ordinarily be on the side of your employers are calling publicly for you to be fired. They print banners, placards, T - shirts, create a website to spread this message. Other examples abound. Wenger - underwhelming in recent years perhaps but consistent (granted not in an outstanding way but delivers to agreed corporate targets we are led to believe) Despite these, some disgruntled Arsenal fans want him out.

Brendan Rodgers - Manager of the Year a few months ago and now favourite to get the sack. Tony Pulis - walks on EPL water, turns same water into vintage wine for Crystal Palace and felt he was unable to carry on before the start of the season.  In my opinion, you really have to be extremely self obsessed or self loathing to want a Football Manager's job. The self obsession bit is easier to understand when it comes to Mr Jose Mourinho (moaninho or mouthinho or motormouth to some). The self styled Special One. Is he really Special?

I have just checked the Free Dictionary (online) and one of its definition of Special is as follows - "distinct among others of a kind". In calling himself the Special One, it is fair to assume that Jose buys into this definition. In fact his vomit inducing Wikipedia entry claims he is the best manager in the world. You can certainly imagine that someone who buys into his myth has contributed to that entry.

Jose's claim to speciality is hinged on his trophy winning record and his ability to make a side difficult to beat. Let me unhinge both today. Those two claims are foundered on quick sand. Yes he has won the league at Porto, Chelsea version 1, Inter Milan and Real Madrid. 4 in all. Good for him. But is that special? Is it unique? Is it distinct among others of a kind. A big fat NOPE. 3 other managers apart from Jose have achieved this. Giovanni Trapattoni, Ernst Happel & Tomislav Ivić. So using that 4 country league thingy to define specialness means that we have 4 Special Ones. It also does not confer on you the title of best manager in the world. We can't have 4 best managers can we? 

What about Jose's 2 UCL win. That is not even outstanding. Bob Paisley & Don Carlo Ancelloti have won it 3 times. There are 17 SEVENTEEN other managers who have equalled Jose's two wins. Again is that special? Not in my opinion. Some claim that Jose will improve his winning record. We will see and perhaps he should wait till he is distinct in his managerial record before labelling himself as a special one. I am not holding my breath though. Same claim about wait and see can be said about Pep Guardiola. He has won the league in 2 countries and the UCL twice and with the way he manages his career like a boxer taking on deadbeats to bolster his record, it will only be a matter of time before Pep's league winning record looks way better than Jose Mourinho's. 

In fact if you want to be pedantic, you can discount Jose's league win at Porto. According to Neil Ashton of Daily Mail - anybody could have won with Porto. Neil was obviously referring to AvB's time at Porto. Notwithstanding, the comments are relevant for Jose's achievements at Porto too.  And if you go a bit further and apply Mourinho's recent comments where he ascribed Roberto Di Mateo's UCL win to luck, you can certainly say that Jose's first UCL win was luck too. Roy Keane (petulance in getting a red card in the first match), Tim Howard (dodgy handling of Benni Macarthy's free kick to allow Costinha's equaliser at Old Trafford) & Sir Alex Ferguson (Benni said after the match that Man U did not take Porto seriously) all conspired to hand Jose his first UCL win and create the myth that is Jose Mourinho.

Another so called claim that Jose's lovers like to spout is the fact that he can organise a side defensively.   I find this very laughable. How does this make you special. Organising a side defensively is what Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce do very well. Are they special? You tell me. In fact Sam did the defensive organisation thingy so well against a Jose side that the latter ungraciously commented that Sam's West Ham were playing 19th Century football. Utter BS. 

Tony Pulis organised his side so well they defeated Mourinho's team. Guy Poyet's Sunderland was somewhat unlucky tonight not to score maybe 2 against the so called well organised side of Jose's. Guess what, Tony Pulis and Sam Allardyce have done this consistently and in multiple club sides and with a tiny fraction of the money at Jose's disposal. In my opinion, Tony & Sam have achieved more success than Jose on a comparative basis 

I will suggest that the British press take their noses out of Jose's back side and cotton on to the fact that his success is reliant on spending loads of money. In Chelsea, he failed to win the UCL which was part of the deliverables set for him by the Owner. Realising he couldn't achieve this and knowing that the owner had shut his wallet, he picks a fight with the owner, inviting a firing and the owner obliged. He disappears and tags onto another gullible owner desperate for success, in a league where the direct competition had been wiped away by match fixing scandals. Spends a shed load of money and buys his way to success again. Proceeds to Real Madrid the biggest spending club on earth manages a miserly one league win and was fired. 

Now he is back in Chelsea when he couldn't find a job elsewhere. He failed in his first season at Chelsea Mark 2, winning zilch and bottling a title challenge and a UCL attempt despite been in with a shout with a tiny amount of games to go. He claims to have been offered the PSG job, we now know that PSG was close to a transfer ban for flouting UEFA FFP rules. Is it inconceivable that Jose didn't know this fact a few months before the punishment was announced?  We know that the executives in charge of Man City will rather take cyanide than allow him manage their club and that the Man U lot will forever turn their nose at him as they consider him beneath them.  The jury is still out on his second season at Chelsea. The bookies have crowned him champions. We will see how it all ends up. 

I cannot understand why owners who claim to believe in building a sustainable club will have anything to do with Jose. He doesn't give a hoot about legacy. His claim to fame is the footballing equivalent of a one night stand. Negative attention and negative energy follows him - disgusting finger poke in the eye of a very ill man; the furore surrounding referee Anders Frisk retirement; lack of class and generosity of spirit that brought about his obscene comments on Wenger. Not for me. He is toxic, always wanting everything to be about him. 

My abiding memory of Mourinho in his first coming at chelsea is that of his players cynically pushing opponents to score goals and now, his players viciously tackling opponents on the edge of what is acceptable? His nasty exploits in Spain is well documented. That is what Mourinho brings. Testing and straining the boundaries of the rules and accepted common courtesies to achieve his so called winning record / maintain the false special one claims. 

I guess if you are a win at all cost type, Jose will appeal to you and you deserve each other. As for me, the day Jose turns up at the club I support, is the day I stop supporting that club.  

Saturday 22 November 2014

Ched Evans


Nothing beats jumping on a bandwagon. For a middle aged man like me, it beats exercise. If like me, you dislike exercises you can also try jumping to conclusions, getting furiously worked up, rushing to judgement and so on. You get the drift.

Before I continue. I want to make something perfectly clear. ALL RAPES ARE WRONG - violent, non violent, both parties drunk, both parties mentally incapacitated, statutory etc. No excuse. No question.

Also, I am not writing this to be controversial or to blame the victim. My views are well considered (in my opinion)

For the records, anybody who touches a member of my family in the Ched Evans way will unfortunately not be allowed to answer to the state or the police. There will be another solution. I am sane enough and a believer in a orderly society to know that if we all attempted to procure justice for ourselves, there will be chaos. So my advice to the rapist is "DONT RAPE" so there is no chaos. If however you don't understand this simple advice then you have something else coming your way if you rape.

To the police and to the wider community, i believe we need to look at the law and the process / procedure of dealing with rape. I don't care if we think it is impractical, I believe a crime should fit the punishment. I don't get why a rapist can destroy the life of the victim and be able to get on with their own life.

Your sentence as a rapist should be as long as it takes the victim to get on with their life. If there are relapses and say a victim took her own life because of your rape, you are called back to court and charged with her murder. Impractical I hear you say, then make it practical. It is against the law you say, change the frigging law, make it part of the law.

How would we know if the rape of 10 years ago led to a victim's suicide? Sorry we have some professionals called Psychologists. Did you say something about their profession not been an exact science, i hear you, you mean like the law. the practice of which is not exact either. Yet law practitioners determine whether people should live or die.

This recommendation is not only about rape. It is also about other crimes. As a society we need people to pay for their crimes. Not necessarily by chopping their heads off but actually paying for it (assets, future earnings, inheritance etc)

As a society, we need to change our outlook on a lot of issues. One example is outlined above, criminals should pay not only for their crime by doing time, they should pay for the cost of the judicial process leading to their incaceration, the cost of doing time, the cost of theirs and the victim's rehabilitation.

Another example perhaps a bit more contentious is how we go about protecting ourselves when we have fun. Without sounding sexist, women are disproportionately more the victim of rape or violent sexual / sexual related crimes ( so my advice although relevant to all sexes is predominantly aimed at women.

Please please please. I don't get why there is no chaperone when you go out on a night out. I don't have anything against drinking or wearing beautiful (*cough cough* ) provocative dresses. Nothing. In fact I love to admire beautiful women (I lie I really mean ALL WOMEN) dressed in beautiful clothes. I also like women who drink as a fat middle aged bloke like me is unlikely to be attractive to the ladies if they are not wearing their alcohol googles.

Please ladies, when you go out on a bender, have a chaperone. If you are a group of girls, let one person be the designated chaperone this week and someone else take over the following week. Pay for a family member to be the chaperone. Do something sensible. This is not putting the onus on you, this is asking you to be reasonable. Like me locking my front door because there are bad people out there. This is not meant to be patronising either.  I just think its common sense. This also applies to males by the way.

Now to Ched Evans. (that didn't take long did it). He is lucky his victim is not my sister. However given the circumstances in the public domain about the rape, I dare say this is a tough one.

From what I read on blogs, social media etc, casual sex, threesomes, kinky sex, ONS etc are no big deals. So also is getting drunk and inebriated i.e leglesss, not knowing where you are and what you are doing or did. You have probably guessed I am not a fan of these. If a supposedly rich person or someone in the public eye engages in any of these why should he or she be castigated.  Do we think these people are any different from you and I? That they have different desires? Or because they are in the public eye, they should not have ONS?

For now, the record is very clear, Ched Evans is a convicted rapist. A jury of his peers found him guilty. The people representing us (Jury) found him guilty.  So far so good. What then happen is another person (representing us / the Judge) sentenced him to prison using another set of rules made by another of our representatives (parliament). Now Ched has been released from prison by yet another of our representative (the probation service).

He is now seeking future employment in a profession where the law made by you and I through our representatives (parliament) allows him to be gainfully employed. And some people are saying no he shouldn't be allowed to. I am sorry I don't get that. We made the rules remember (yes through our representatives). The rules that specified punishment for crimes, how long a prisoner needs to serve and what jobs such a prisoner can aspire to.

Ched Evans disobeyed the law and he was punished and now he wants to follow the same laws and we say No. What happened to equality? All men been equal in front of the law blah blah blah. As many people have said, if Ched was a bricky, nobody will bat an eyelid what he returns to as long as it is legal. This leads me to conclude that majority of the people who are opposed to Ched's return to football are jealous and are driven by envy of the life he could return to as a professional footballer.

I just don't get the "he is a role model to kids so he was wrong to do what he did". I'm sorry I would have failed in my life if Ched Evans was a role model to my kids. Are we are aware that some people look up to Peter Sutcliffe (the murderer) as a role model same with the murderer of the Birmingham teacher. For me, if you are worried about your relative, child or sibling looking up to Ched Evans as a role model, I suspect you have bigger issues to deal with teaching that relative or child how to learn  the difference between right and wrong.

For me, our focus should be on the law that made Ched's return possible? Shouldn't we be bombarding our MPs with social media messages etc asking them to change the law? Isn't that what a democratic society is all about? I don't get the reason why people believe their personal preference should trump the law. Is this society a "mobocracy" where the outraged decide what society should do at every turn and we make it up as we go (Shame on Nick Clegg for jumping on this particular bandwagon, as a law maker and a professed democrat, he should know better) Is there a chance that some of the people looking unto Peter Sutcliffe as a role model are also on this bandwagon, trying to prevent Ched from going back to been a professional footballer? Should we be listening to them?

Yes Ched is a convicted rapist but for his victim to be so drunk that she couldn't even remember the event let alone whether she consented or not is unfortunate. I recently overhead a police officer type saying that "on saturday and sunday mornings. Several girls turn up claiming they think they have been raped and asking the police to look into". Ordinarily this should be a good thing. If there is a rape epidemic in our land, we want to root it out. But please realise that if we had our wits about us, we would be able to help the police nail these rapist bastards.

 The accusation that Ched is not contrite has also been thrown out there. Please hands up one person who thinks it is ok for any human to douse himself in petrol with a lit matchstick around. Who doesn't get the fact that while Ched is appealing for wrongful conviction he can't then go on to say, "I am sorry I am a rapist". Why is that so difficult to understand? until he exhausts his appeal, it is unlikely he will own up to this rape and in my opinion rightfully so. The man believes he is not guilty. Again please change the law, don't stop Ched Evans using the law. When the appeals process is exhausted and the courts find against him and he refuses to accept then you can rightfully come to the conclusion that he genuinely is non repentant, you can then decide to humiliate him in accordance with the law and principle of free speech.

As for Sheffield United, it is my opinion that people should leave them well alone to make their decision on this matter as long as they are not doing anything illegal. Sheffield United is a top club and the directors should live and die by the decision they make on behalf of the business & club. I expect them to make hard nosed decisions for the benefit of the club and deciding whether Ched should come back or not is one of those decisions. This must however be balanced with thier sponsors and key stakeholders corporate & personal values. If they lose sponsorship deals or the support of influential members of the football community, then that is their problem. Trying to force Sheffield United not to sign up Ched Evans by social media blackmail is wrong. Let his club decide and let the sponsors decide and if you feel strongly about it, lead a campaign to change the law, boycott the club and the sponsors. (added comments - and this is why Sheffield United decided not to invite Ched back to train, it risked derailing the club, not because we said they shouldn't do it. Because their sponsors said so)

Saturday 15 November 2014

Why Do We Do It? On Football, Arsenal, Wenger, Fans & Journalists

It is amazing the effect football has on us. Grown men, women and children alike. People of different background, class, social standing and by whatever demographics you choose to classify the human race. 

The outcome of football matches has resulted in death by heart attack (, murder (, wars ( martial splits and relationship breakdown (  

You get a sense of these things by staying close to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook on a typical English Premier League Weekend. In a 90 minute period and in the hours before and after a match, you can see fans of different clubs experiencing extremes of emotion going from one end of the pain spectrum to the delirium that extreme joy brings depending on the fortune of the team they support. Over the space of a few weeks, fans (*cough cough* not saying anything about the Toon Army) go from asking that their manager be strung up at the Tower of London to shamelessly enjoying the results conjured up by the same manager. The latest one I heard was a fan justifying this extreme by claiming that the pressure they placed on the manager led to the turnaround in the fortunes of the team. I fervently disagree with this point and in the words of David Runciman ( I choose to see such improvements as a "reversion to the mean" especially where there is no obvious change of personnel or tactics.  

I speak from personal experience and I remember my teams' UEFA Champion League Quarter final 2nd leg match at Highbury in 2004 versus Chelsea. Win by one goal and we were through to the semi final. Did we get that one goal. You bet we did. Then we gave it away twice - first to Fat Frank off maybe Jens Lehman's nervousness and then to flipping Wayne Bridge (not Maradona or Pele). Wayne Bridge scored against us. In the words of The Guardian reporter "he ghosted past 4 static Arsenal bystanders". Lord help me. We were out. 

In my opinion and I have spoken with a lot of passionate Arsenal fans since then, that was the year Arsenal should have / could have won the Champions league. Monaco managed by Didier Deschamps in the semi final and Porto managed by Mr Motormouth himself played in the final. I believe if Arsenal had defeated Chelsea we could have won by a huge margin versus Porto that condemned Motormouth to the dustbin of football history. No we didn't. We threw it away. I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. Me, the dad of a lovely young boy. A young man with diagnosed high blood pressure and a highly pressured job. I was upset. Left the house. Went for a walk for what must have seemed like eternity. Came back home and still couldn't sleep. I guess I fell asleep at last but said never again. Footballers and their managers earn bucket loads of money win or lose. What is it with me killing myself for my love of the team?

I buried myself in religion (God never fails) and became a passive fan. Unfortunately after a few years and like a miserable drug addict, i returned to my favourite high. I have been feeding my addiction for the past few years. I have been subtly deceiving myself that i am not addicted and can stop getting my fix when never i want. Increasingly, it is clear this is not the truth. 

I was extremely elated in 2011 when it appeared Professor Wenger took the League Cup seriously and we rocked up to the Cup Final. I had tried to pull all stops to get a ticket for the final without success. Unfortunately I was denied the pleasure of even watching the match on TV. I was summoned to pick up the kids and to return them exactly when the final was on. Faced with a choice between my kids and the match, i chose my dear kids and thank God they saved me from the heartache of watching us lose. Not watching the match sometimes makes the heartache less painful and less heart attack inducing. 

May 2014 was a different experience. Fortunately my big brother got me a ticket for the FA cup final. I was wearing my expect anything from Arsenal demeanour. And they didn't disappoint. 2 nil down in 8 minutes. A better team with all respect to Hull FC could have been 4 ahead in 16 minutes. I was laughing and I dare any true Arsenal fan to claim they were surprised. Fortunately, we clawed it back and won. Threw the 10 year monkey off our back and looked at the future with optimism. WONT YOU WANT TO BE A GOONER *music* (My version of the Ooh To be Gooner chant)

Why all these long talk? It is because of the last few months as an Arsenal fan (the off / close season and the current season). I would love to be able to interview Arsene Wenger. I would love for the journalists who cover the clubs press conferences to ask difficult questions with follow up. if questions are rationed, they should coordinate themselves such that one leads and the others ask follow up questions. If the football journalists need any help, they are welcome to watch Prime Ministers Questions. You do not need a subscription to watch that, just the TV licence (don't get me started on that scam). I would love for there to be genuine scrutiny not hostile like the mob that bayed for AvB's head but a serious and professional one. The journalists owe it to us fans, it is their job to hold the people in power and authority accountable. The fans don't have any other outlet to constructively engage their clubs, demand for change, seek answers and understanding. I would love a situation where the Club Chairman (any Club Chairman) doesn't think it is appropriate to make these comments ( I am yet to see a more arrogant statement designed to cover up what appears to be a dividend disguised as payment for services. To break it down. That is the annual wage of a decent English Premier League player. 

If I am one of these journalists covering the press conferences, I would ask Arsene the following:

Is there a plan? Is the Board aware of this plan? Whose plan is it? What role does the Board play in developing this plan? How is the plan monitored? 

How did we get to a stage where we have only three fit senior defenders  - Per, Monreal & Chambers (if you choose to call Chambers a senior defender) this was during the Sunderland match). How? Are we a big club? or are we a joke? I get the 'not bringing players in who are no better than those in our squad' thing? But is there anybody in the club who genuinely believed that we had our full complement of defenders in the closing hours of the transfer window? Is there a Plan A, B, C to Z of player recruitment. Or is it all about poker faced negotiation and scrimping to save £1m here and there. A figure which is 0.6% of the wage bill of the club and could potentially in the worst case scenario have impacted the c£5m profits by the same amount or in the best case improve our league position such that we earned an extra £2 or £3m of revenue depending on league position or God forbid, win us more trophies. So is our player recruitment really about economics or is it a proverbial case of penny wise and pound foolish? 

Is it true that there is (or was) a policy to pay players roughly the same wages? What is the justification or football philosophy for this? 

Do we believe in tactical preparation for matches? Or are we so convinced of the 'rightness' of our ways that we don't alter our approach to the game whether we play a Lieciester side prepared to kick us till kingdom come or we play a Dortmund side who want to play and are happy for us to play or a Chelsea side prepared to both kick us, stop us from playing and insist on playing themselves? 

What is the magic behind 60th minute plus substitution? Is there something wrong with making substitutions at half time? Is there a tactical or philosophical reasoning behind this? 

Why is it so difficult to address issues quickly. Chambers was fed to the wolves at Swansea why didn't the bench address that issue quickly? It was obvious when Arteta limped off versus Anderlecht that the dynamics of the game had changed, people on the telly and in the stadium could see it, why can't the bench see it please? 

Does the club need extra help? All organisations evolve, if one man has been at the helm of an organisation for almost 20 years, surely the dynamics of that organisation would have changed in that time and we should be seeing new faces helping with the first squad in all aspects not just for things like injuries or youth team set up. 

To be completely open and honest, I do not belong to the Wenger Out brigade. I belong to the Wenger fix it brigade and the Wenger do the right thing brigade. He owes it to Arsenal and the fans. Football has such impact on peoples lives whether rightly or wrongly. He owes it to us to let us understand his 'modus operandi' without giving away any of his competitive advantages because at the moment all he is achieving is muting the defend button on all his supporters.    

As outlined at the beginning Arsene, for some of us fans, this football thingy has caused us lives, relationships and much more. life time managers go and come but we remain. We are Arsenal.