Saturday, June 10, 2006

Geordie Nation v Janner Nation

Found an old newspaper today. This article was in it:,,1704798,00.html#article_con tinue

It was written just after Souness was fired and as Newcastle looked for a new manager. A situation not dissimilar to our own at present. Amongst other things it suggests how Newcastle were turned from also rans in the 2nd Division to the club they are today. The article pulls no punches about the financial commitment, or rather lack of it, from the board or the vast sums realised by the Hall family and Freddy Shepherd along the way.

The Big Question is: What price are we prepared to pay?

If we roll back the years then Argyle and Newcastle were very similar clubs. Attendances were about the same; both clubs had just appointed extremely high profile managers (Shilton and Keegan); both clubs struggling to avoid relegation. They did. We did not.

Ignoring what we have done since - that is not the focus of this posting - and concentrating on what they have done I have to ask... Could we do the same (or at least similar)? Do we want to do the same?

Hall exploited the siege mentality of the Geordie: far away from London, suspicious of southerners, deprived of influence in the corridors of power, proud of their area and turned it into a positive force for the team.

We tick all those boxes or at least directly comparable ones.

That passion, loyalty and pride was then mercilessly exploited at a financial level. Bonds were issued. Prices went through the roof. Shares issued and fortunes made.

Keegan-inspired Newcastle thrived and became a beacon for all things Geordie, the ground got redeveloped to a 50 000 capacity, huge signings, European football, Cup Finals and glory (no trophies though).

Newcastle now sit resplendent not at the very top of the tree but near it and established and along the way Shepherd and the Hall family in one way or another have profited very nearly £45m!!

Is there a model there for us to follow? To hell with the concept of organic growth, to blazes with "run by fans for fans". Should we rush headlong into the embrace of venal, self-serving capitalism to gain the success that we all yearn for?

Or is it all a price too high and not worth paying?

Would you want Argyle to be successful even if you couldn't afford to go and be a part of it?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The World Cup

I love World Cups.

Just thought I'd share that with you.

I vaguely remember the '74 final but none of the other games. It was Argentina in '78 that sparked it all off for me. The exoticism of the far away country, the late night games but most of all the ticker tape frenzy that accompanied the home games. Wonderful, wonderful theatre.

I had little concept of the history of the tournament at that stage. Obviously I knew England had won in '66 but there was much that escaped me. I didn't realise the importance of the event to so many people. I didn't know the lengths that people would go to to try and win the competetion.

Is the glory sullied by the desire to win? No. Not in the slightest. And boy has there been some sullying going on in the past! The Battle of Santiago in '62... What was that all about? Italy and Chile just about declared war on each other and an English referee just stood by and watched. I suppose the armed millitia ringing the pitch must have influenced him somewhat but if you are not aware of what happened on that day then when you find out, which eventually you will, you'll be shocked. Even by today's standards.

On to '66... Geff Hurst, the Russian linesman, Rattin, North Korea and the rest. England apart the remarkable thing was the way Pele was literally kicked out of the tournament to nullify his threat. Referees really didn't seem to do much in those days.

On to '70... Guadalajara!! Two up against the Germans and cruising to victory. Substituted Bobby Charlton and lost 3-2. Incredible. It upsets me to this day even though I was only 5 at the time and don't remember it at all.

1982. Spain. Keegan and Brooking unfit but went anyway. England get knocked out despite being unbeaten. That apart the tournament was notable for Gentile's man-to-man job on a young Maradona. Awesome in it's cynicism and brutality; icily efficient in it's effect. The match that stands out for me was the semi between France and Germany. The French, a wonderful team full of flair and ability, were cruising to victory against the Germans until Harald Schumacher's unbelievable assault on Patrick Battiston. It was so bad the French team though Battiston was dead. The French caved in. The Germans scented blood. Victory was theirs. In my opinion the most exciting match I have ever seen. They lost in the final, though, and serve them bloody well right!!

1986. I didn't see much of it. I was sitting my final exams at college and leapt onto the back of a motor bike and went to Glastonbury when they finished. Missed the infamous Argentina game altogether but Lineker's miss, the Hand of God, that goal.

1990. Turin. Gazza. Penalties. Heartache. I promised myself that I would never get that upset about a game of football again. By and large I have kept that promise apart from the Blackburn game, David Speedie and relegation in '92). Nice to see Maradona miss a penalty in the semi shoot-out and fantastic to see him blub in the final even though the Germans won.

1994. USA. Maradona's comeback cut short by failing a drugs test. What goes round goes round as they say. England weren't there in 1994. Turnipped by Ronald Koeman and another incompetent referee in the qualifiers.

1998. France. Argentina. Penalties. Oh well. Then there was the mysterious and to this day unexplained Ronaldo episode in the final.

2002. Japan and Korea. Silly kick off times. Bloody David Seaman!!

And so on to Germany this time...

Who knows what will be thrown up in the coming weeks but rest assured there will be heartbreak, glory, controversy and a planet held in rapt attention while it all goes on.

Can England win it?

We've got a good goalie, the back 4 is sound, we have an abundance of talent in midfield. So who knows?

My worry is that we are short up front. We have only taken 4 strikers and one of them is Rooney who may be injured throughout. That leaves Owen and Crouch, who seem to be a good alternative pairing, and Theo Walcott.

I'm all for Walcott's inclusion. He is young, fast and has never known failure. Could it be the most inspired selection of all time? I hope so.

So, once again... Can England win it? Why not. It'll be great fun if they do. I just hope we don't get cheated out of it or fall apart and throw it away. If we are to lose I want us to lose fair and square so that we can leave with our heads held high.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

I've Been A Bit Lax Lately

No excuses. There is no doubt about it.

I was waiting for the season to finish and was then going to write a review of the year but events seem to have moved on and I've been waiting for signs of resolution so that it can all be put into some kind of context.

That just doesn't seem to be possible. The Club has been in a state of flux for some time now and there is no end in sight.

That's not to say nothing has happened. There has been a settlement with Williamson. Why did it take so long? BW has had his say in a Scottish paper but has added nothing to what we knew already. I just can't find it in my soul to damn him as so many have. He did alright in my book but for all manner of reasons things just didn't work out as we would all have liked. So long Bobby, and thanks.

That said he had to go. He had lost all respect and confidence where it matters most, arguably - on the terraces. The performance at home v. Hull where we looked utterly clueless against their 10 men was poor. The defeat, at eventually relegated Brighton, was worse by all accounts. Difficult for me to say as I listened to the Radio Devon commentary in the car park of the Quince Honey Farm in South Molton on a blisteringly hot day. Sparksy and Errington were not impressed and neither were the fans who had travelled. Reports were dire.

(By the way "Sir" Gordon Sparks is suffering from testicular cancer. I wish him well as I'm sure does anybody who visits this blog.)

So Pulis arrived. He was appointed, officially ('nuff said) after the Barnet game (another debacle - a midfield of Buszaky, Gudjohnsen and Lasley against 4 lower league hoofers just wasn't going to cut the mustard and Barnet ended up looking like Brazil) on 20th September but before we went to Southampton on the 24th.

This was the one we had all been waiting forwithout once expecting that the wheels would be off in quite such spectacular fashion when it arrived. An improved performance. Better spirit all round. Some degree of organisation (at last!!). A point gained. Nay... Won!!

The die was cast. So our season continued. "Hard to beat" was the phrase. "Boring" was the word.

On Oct 10th I posted this on P@soti:

Is it time to start the Pulis backlash yet?

I, too, think his statements in interview have been encouraging but not to the exclusion of some damaging and ambiguous stuff. I'm not too happy about the negativity coming out at times. The "Chaddy's unfit" comment for one. Why play him then? Did he mean too fat or not recovered from the injury?

The "this team will be relegated" comment. Covering his arse for when/if he fails to keep us up?

'Only 6, 8 or 10' (whatever the number was) 'that are "good enough"'. Not exactly inspiring. "We might need to sign some non-leaguers". Just how bad does he think some of our players are? "Not better than what we've already got" is the phrase we have come to know and love. The alleged illegal approaches.

Results have picked up a little but that improvement started under Jocky Scott. We are not conceding many but neither are we scoring many.

I don't mean to start a Pulis backlash and I can see the sense of some of his decisions and team selections but we are still to put in a consistent 90 minutes since his arrival.

I know he hasn't had chance to change the squad yet. I'm not even one to go off on a rant of criticism about the team or the management but I do have nagging doubts and they just won't go away.

I'm looking forward to hearing what he's got to say in the "Pulis Night" next week.

Tin hat on.

OK some of the context is lost but the gist is there. I wasn't completely happy with Pulis where many were euphoric but then again I've always been a contrary sort.

The "Pulis Night" at The Moathouse took place on a wild and wet and windy evening. A storm of biblical proportions blew but a full house crowded into the Moathouse to see a carefully stage-managed evening where little emerged other than he wanted his teams to "work 'aarrrrd" and he expected everyone in the club to do the same. Fair enough. One of the questions elicited a response that suggested that he didn't really know what the financial constraints under which he was operating were. though. Were the first seeds of his doubt already germinating?

The season wound on. Inexorably we began to pull away from the bottom. It wasn't pretty but it was effective. We had a particularly memorable home win v. Dowie's Palace. We got mashed again by Leeds. A series of moderate games (plain boring say some) and eventual mid-table mediocrity was ours.

Then came the end of season. Leon Clarke on loan from Wolves came and went and made no favouable impression at all. Pulis signed his son Antony Pulis on loan and proceded to put him on, inexplicably, for the last few minutes of several games. Why? Looking after Juniour's appearance bonus? Cynical in the extreme but hard to read any other way. Pulis Jnr didn't exactly set the world alight although he didn't look totally awful. He just didn't... Well he just didn't do anything, much. Nalis signed on for another year. Doumbé signed for two. The biggest "story" was the bust-up with Trigger... Offered a miniscule contract to continue he fell out with Pulis. He didn't travel to Leicester for the last away game and announced his departure before the final game of the season. Some say Pulis didn't want to play him but play he did. Scored one and set up the other in a 2-1 win v. Ipswich.

Around this time Pulis emerged as not being a happy bunny. Rumours abounded that he was unhappy, that he was being denied funds promised for the team, that he was forced to pick Trigger in the final game and more besides. Messageboards representing Argyle were rife with speculation as were those representing Stoke City...

Up in Stoke things were afoot. Ex-chairman Coates was in the process of buying out the Icelandic consortium that bought him out. Boskamp their manager was gone. Pulis their alledged target.

And so it came to pass. Stoke say "can we talk?". Argyle say "no". Everybody goes to Portugal on holiday.

That's where we are now.

Pulis is history, I'd guess. The next time we see him he'll be wearing an SCFC baseball cap. Holloway is widely tipped as the next boss. We'll see.

Last season may have been dull as dishwater on the pitch but off it...

At least it is another season of consolidation which was the goal. The worst of BW's signings (Bjarni, Lasley, Taribo, Mendes) have gone. The squad is thin but what we have, I think, is not short of quality. Pulis is supposed to have wanted 6 more players. I don't know if that is right but it looks about right to me. Who? I suppose we'll have to wait and see.

Onward!! Fellow Pilgrims!! After all we wouldn't be Pilgrims if it wasn't a journey. Would we?