29 December 2012

Gun Control

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in Sydney way back on 28th April 1996.  I was making my way to the local gym as, in those days, I was a regular gym junkie.  Just before I left my home, I heard on the radio that a gunman had been on a killing spree in Tasmania.  At that stage only a small number of people had lost their lives.  When I got to the gym, the number of deaths had risen to 23.  I mentioned this to my gym instructor.  His response was that it was the gunman’s form “of self-expression”.  The instructor was reading the Celestine Prophecy at the time, which probably explained his comments.  I personally preferred the term “madman”.

The gunman was named Martin Bryant and the final death toll was 35.  The whole of Australia was in shock. How could anyone kill 35 innocent people?  There was an outpouring of disbelief and anger.  How could we stop this from happening again? 

The Prime Minister at the time was the right wing conservative John Howard.  He had been in the role for only a few months.  How would he respond? What could he do from a government point of view?  The nation held its collective breath.

Before, I go any further, I need to give some background information.  Australia is very similar to the United States.  Both are large countries, both were built from migrants, both have large agricultural areas and culturally we are very similar.  Naturally, we speak the same language – well sort of! Guns in Australia are typically kept in the large rural areas. Farmers need to be on alert for scavengers of the animal kind, especially foxes.  Although in parts of the country snakes and crocodiles can also be a problem.

John Howard had to act, and act fast.  He introduced strict gun laws into Parliament.  This had bi-partisan support of the opposition Labor Party led by Kim Beasley.  The new gun controls had to also be made law via the State and Territory Parliaments.  Initially Queensland and Tasmania were against tightened gun control.   A number of citizens were outraged at the new laws. This outrage was fuelled by the support of the Christian Coalition and the US National Rifle Association!  

Finally, the new gun controls were made law Australia wide after a lot of intense debate.  In addition, the Federal Government implemented a 12 month amnesty/buyback scheme to allow people to hand in any illegal firearm without running the risk of prosecution.  Amazingly, 643,000 firearms were handed in at a cost of $350M.

Since the laws were established, it is now extremely hard to buy a rifle or indeed any gun.  A number of valid reasons and references need to be supplied before a gun can be sold.  Naturally, if there is a genuine reason to have a gun, and the person appears mentally stable, then they will be able to purchase one, subject to State and Territory requirements.  It is safe to say that John Howard’s tough stance has paid dividends.  Since that fateful day in 1996, Australia has not had any gun related massacres.

I mention the above purely to give any reader from the United States an idea of how gun control can be implemented.  Naturally, all Australians were shocked at the Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown.  I have two daughters aged 9 and 10 and I certainly felt shock and sadness, especially as it happened so close to Christmas, the time of family gatherings.  I feel for the parents who lost their children and the families of all those that were killed in the shooting.

To outsiders, the United States has way too many shootings.  For pro-gun lobbyists to claim the second amendment as a right to bear arms in today’s modern society, is a bad joke at best! The question, a very simple one, how many more people have to lose their lives before action is taken? Yes the GOP and NRA are bed partners, and yes there are lunatics high up in both organisations.  But do ordinary citizens really require a semi-automatic weapon to protect their property?  The answer has to be a resounding ‘No’. 

The US has to tighten up its gun laws immediately.  It is the only way to go, and also to restore faith with the public.  Not only does Barack Obama need to act decisively, it also requires the GOP and others to support any proposed law changes.  The good old days of “gun toting” are over.  Let’s logically move on and ensure that our children and innocent bystanders are not used as “shooting practice” by a madman.

Finally, do not underestimate the rest of the world’s opinion towards the US and its lax gun laws.  I can virtually guarantee you that the feeling of most people is that the US gun laws are a complete joke.  It is now up to the United States to ensure that the joke comes to an end.

13 December 2012

Ebbsfleet United v Grimsby Town

The following is the article I wrote for the Ebbsfleet United v Grimsby Town Match-day programme. 

It seems like only a couple of weeks ago that the Blue Square Premier League season 2012/13 kicked off.  But here we are in December and fast approaching the halfway mark of the season.  I am sure that both managers will have differing views about how the season has gone thus far.  As we know, Grimsby Town are flying high at the top of the BSP, whilst Ebbsfleet are just above the relegation zone.

I am sure that the Mariners joint managers, Rob Scott and Paul Hurst, together with our own Liam Daish will agree on one thing – A win today!  At present a mere three points separate the top five teams , and only four points separate the bottom seven teams.  So it is a very tightly contested league at present.

At this time of year the general thoughts of most people turn towards Christmas. In less than a month, a rather portly old man with long white hair and beard, will pay us all a visit and bring gifts to the well behaved amongst us.  Naturally, all football clubs have a Christmas wish list.
For football managers the wish will be for as many wins as possible whilst hoping that the players do not get injured.  Add in a good cup run or two, coupled with a promotion and a victory in a local derby and the season will be deemed a success.

Goalkeepers will be wishing for as many clean sheets as possible.  Not conceding a goal equates to a win, or at least a draw for the team.  A dramatic penalty save or two and they will generally be happy.

The midfield players will be hoping for great performances in the middle of the park.  These players are the engine room of the team.  So keeping fit and not being injured will be high on their list of priorities.  Throw in a goal or two and a few crucial tackles and the season will be complete.

Strikers will be wanting one thing.  No prizes for guessing what that would be – goals!  All forwards will be hoping that Santa provides them with the ability to score lots of goals in the remaining games.  For those that are in a goal scoring slump, the hope will be that the goals return.  A hat-trick or two will also be most welcomed.

Club officials will have a number of things on their wish list.  First and foremost will be that the club continues to survive.  As we all know, a large number of teams in virtually every division are under huge financial constraints, and for some, just managing to keep going is a huge issue.  Naturally, a promotion or a good cup run will be welcomed with opened arms. 

At MYFC, we are keen to ensure that Ebbsfleet United continues to survive and move forward.  Being a part-time team on a small playing budget does make it hard to compete against the bigger teams.  However, MYFC makes regular donations to the club to assist with costs etc.  In addition, there have been a number of initiatives put in place to also assist the club.  These will continue as the season progresses. 

If you are looking for a Christmas present for a loved one, or a treat for yourself, then I can suggest a MYFC membership.  Contact the club or MYFC for further details.

Finally, a big welcome to the fans, players and officials from Grimsby Town.  Let’s hope it is a great game.

17 November 2012

Groundhog Day

Life really is full of repetition.  It seems to be the same old thing, day after day. Be honest, how often do you feel like you are repeating things over and over and over again?

Just like that great movie Groundhog Day, when Punxsutawney Phil makes an appearance to decide if winter is coming to an end or not, Bill Murray lives the same day over and over again.  Despite its comedic theme, the film does make a good point that our lives do seem to be stuck living the same old scene.

To make my point, I will give you an overview of how most of my days go.  Normally the weekdays rather than weekends, where there is a bit of flexibility.

On most workdays I take my two daughters to their school which is about a 7 minute walk from where we live.  We really have to leave home at 8am, to ensure that I can catch a train to work and get there at a respectable time. Nine times out of ten, this is never the case.  Even though I am ready, my daughters hardly ever are!

After dropping my girls off at their Primary School, I swiftly make my way to the railway station.  On the way, I take a short cut past the local library.  Every day I see two teenage schoolkids - one a boy and one a girl embracing each other and kissing.  They go to different schools judging by their uniforms.  The first view I have that they are there is when I see their school backpacks on the floor.  Young love is great, I wonder if their pre-tempestuous relationship will last?

About 10 metres on I always come across a middle-aged man.  He is overweight and is normally smoking a cigarette.  By the look on his face it would seem that he has the worries of the world on his shoulders. He is always deep in thought.  Is he thinking about his troubled relationship? Is he worried about his children? Or does he have a pile of impossible work deadlines? Who knows.  In truth, who cares?  He does carry a briefcase.  I often wonder if he is a hen-pecked accountant. 

I walk on and get to the railway station.  Within minutes I am on the train heading to the city.  Every time I try and find a seat I come across a couple of obstacles.  Sometimes I have to ask a  female to mover her handbag so that I can sit down.  Quite often there will be a sigh from the woman as she begrudgingly moves her (non-ticket paying) bag before I can sit!

On other occasions I come across a passenger who has a seat but wants to take over most of another seat.  In this case, I do get to sit down, but end up feeling like a sardine in a can.  Often, if you ask them to move over, they will move the barest minimum of distance.

 Once I reach my destination, I alight from the train and form a human (or is it sheep) line to get through the ticket gates.  There I see an Asian lady, probably in her late thirties,holding a photo of herself, and I guess her mother.  When I first saw her I thought she was waiting for her mother - who, presumably, had just arrived in Australia.  However, having seen this Asian lady many times with the same photo, it became obvious to me that this is not the case.  

Maybe she is waiting, in false hope, that her mother is going to get off a train and find her.  I hope she does.  It would satisfy my curiosity.  I often have felt like asking the Asian lady what she is doing.  However, I am a morning zombie like most others.

So there you go.  Groundhog Day over and over again. I am sure you, dear reader, can totally empathise with me on this!  

02 November 2012

The Question Was Answered!

In life it is important to set goals, objectives and targets in our working and personal lives.  Having a goal helps you to focus and, hopefully, achieve what you set out to do.  They can be set for a myriad of reasons ranging from really small objectives to very large ones.  Recently, I achieved one of my goals after trying for more than two years. 

What was this achievement, I hear you all say.  Well, continue reading and I will elaborate dear reader.

There is a weekly question and answer show on television called, funnily enough, ‘Questions and Answers’ or better known as ‘Q & A’ or as I like to call it Qanda.  The show consists of a panel of guests, generally politicians and the like, who answer questions posed to them by the live audience.  The panel then put across their point of view on the relevant subject.

As the show goes out live across Australia, viewers are able to post some tweets, with a select few being aired visually across the bottom of the screen. When the show first started showing viewers tweets.  I thought that it would be great if I could get one of mine aired on the show.  Now there are a few theories that I have put to practice in my quest to find success.  Since I set out to achieve this goal, I have tried funny tweets, controversial tweets, subject-related tweets and out of the ordinary tweets.  Alas, all to no avail.

Over the course of time, a Qanda tweet group was formed.  Every Monday night we all get together, via Twitter of course, to watch the show and try to get our tweets on air.  Normally, one or two of our group have a successful night and manage to get a tweet onto the show.  However, up until recently, my tweets were the proverbial bridesmaid and not the bride – if you get my meaning!

Then glory finally came my way!

During the Qanda broadcast on the 15th October, a tweet by yours truly appeared on the show.  Now, I have to admit that I had nearly given up hope of this ever happening.  However, when it did, it provided me with a sense of fulfillment.  Seeing my tweet on television was quite surreal really.  I read the tweet and thought - that sounds familiar! Then after a nano-second I realised it was mine!

So finally, I had achieved my goal! Actually it was a great night all round as our Qanda group all got tweets aired on the show! So myself, Em, Katie, Vanessa and Jennifer were all successful twitterers.

Now I have set myself another goal, I want to get another tweet aired sometime soon.  Even if I don’t succeed, I can still try, try and try again!

And here is the broadcasted tweet:

“Gillard made a stand that will define her leadership” - which was about the Australian Prime Minister and her stand against misogyny in politics.

27 October 2012

Slight Makeover

Well there I was on a Saturday night, with not a lot to do.  My drink of choice (Milk) in one hand and the tv remote in the other.  Then, all of a sudden, an idea came into my head. Why not give my blog a bit of a makeover?

So, I quickly drank my glass of milk, and set about finding a new template for my scribbles.  After a few test runs, I have decided on the one that you are reading from.  I hope you like it, as I certainly do!

Let me know what you think!

20 October 2012

Ebbsfleet Utd v Alfreton Town

The following is the article that was mainly used in last week's Ebbsfleet United matchday programme.

Today is a very special day.  Not only for Ebbsfleet United, but for all non-league clubs across the country.  

Today has been designated ‘Non-League’ Day.  An annual event which aims to celebrate the lesser footballing lights in England.  It takes place when there is a break in the Premier League due to international fixtures, and gives those fans the chance to go along and watch some true grassroots football.

Here at the Fleet we have fans who travel far and wide to cheer on the lads.  Even if it is a winter mid-week game away at Barrow AFC, you can be sure that there will be a few die-hards making the long trek from North Kent to Cumbria.  Having done a Carlisle round trip in a day, I can tell you it is dedication of the highest order.  It is also a great feeling if your team wins, as the journey back home feels all that much sweeter!

Due to the MYFC exposure, the club has fans in a number of countries worldwide.  These include Australia (yours truly), United States, Germany and Italy to name just some of our global reach. One fan, Gianfranco Giordano, regularly makes a 1,100 mile round trip from Turin in Italy to Stonebridge Road to cheer the Fleet on!  Gianfranco also traded in his Serie A season ticket for AC Milan to follow our club.  This is true dedication of the highest order and is what some lengths fans will go to in order to follow their beloved team.

As for myself, it is obviously not that easy to do a 12,000 mile round trip from the wilds of Sydney to Ebbsfleet.  However, I do often stay up to 3-4am on a Sunday morning to listen to the Fleet play their games.  I know there are other fans around the world that do the same as myself.  Thankfully, social media helps a lot with this.

Grassroots football is also important for the players.  Let’s not forget that players such as Stuart Pearce, Chris Smalling, Ian Wright, Les Ferdinand and Chris Waddle all started out plying their trade in non-league football.  We obviously hope that Mike West who we sold to Crewe Alexandra in the close season, goes on to emulate the likes of these players.  Remember also that Roy Hodgson, the England manager, only ever played non-league football.  Mainly for a club called Gravesend and Northfleet.  Now whatever happened to that club??

Hopefully there will be a number of ‘new’ fans in the stands, who have made the trip today to see a great game of football.  It might lack the skills of the Premier League, but it will certainly be a game that exudes 100% passion from both teams.

Football clubs are still the backbone of their communities.  They give locals and external fans alike a common cause to follow.  How do we all feel when our team wins? Or when our team becomes giant killers?  Answer - We feel great! 

A big warm welcome then to the players, officials and fans of Alfreton Town who have made the long journey from Derbyshire to Kent.  I hope they enjoy the game, but not too much!  Whatever happens, let’s hope that some of the neutrals in the ground today enjoy what they see and come back for more.  They will certainly be most welcome!


29 September 2012

Ebbsfleet United v Barrow AFC

The following is my article from the Ebbsfleet v Barrow AFC game which took place recently.  Unfortunately, the Fleet lost 4-2! 

Football and music are, in my opinion, a marriage made in heaven.  Both offer passion, a feeling of happiness, and are definitely at times thought provoking.  It struck me, whilst listening to the radio, that there are songs that indirectly have football connotations.  So without further ado, here is my list of songs that could have been recorded especially for the Beautiful Game.

The first song is the obvious ‘We Are The Champions’ by Queen.  No doubt this epic will be sung the entire length and breadth of the country come April.  Next on the list is a nod to all the Managers out there.  I wonder if Liam Daish has picked up the phone and uttered the words ‘You’re the One that I want’ to a potential signing.  I’m not sure that John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John ever thought about football when they were singing it.

Now we move onto the madmen of the football team.  No, not the central midfielders but those crazy goalkeepers.  A song for our England C keeper, Preston Edwards, could be ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’ by Pat Benatar.   I’m sure that Preston would certainly be a fan of this song.   

From goal stoppers to goal scorers.  The forwards play an integral part in every team.  They are chosen to score goals and help their club win games and, ultimately, trophies.  Each Manager hopes that their forward line can provide the necessary fireworks.  Often players will hit a rich vein of form during the season when scoring goals becomes a breeze.  When this happens, ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ by Queen would be a very relevant song.

On the flip side, all teams will be hoping that their opponent’s strikers have an off-day.  Hence, a good song for the opposing forward line could be ‘I Missed Again’ by Phil Collins.  Naturally, this song should be played on a permanent repeat setting!

Referees can be much maligned during a game.  Aside from having their parentage questioned frequently, they can make mistakes during the game.   After all, they are human!  The song that would be appropriate for a match day official at an evening game could be ‘Blinded By The Light’ by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.  Especially when a blatant penalty opportunity is turned down! 

At the same time, fans could be excused for playing ‘Shout’ by the superb Tears For Fears, or even ‘Shout To The Top’ by the Style Council.  My favourite fan song would have to be ‘We Won’t Be Beaten’ by the legendary Australian rockers Rose Tattoo, fronted by aptly named Angry Anderson.  

At the end of the game, most fans might go to a nearby pub or hotel for a celebratory drink where the Oasis classic ‘Cigarettes And Alcohol’ could be the song of choice.  After having a drink or two, fans would then make their way home to watch the football highlights on television.  My final song would have to be ‘Match Of The Day’ by Genesis, which was a hit single in the late seventies.

A big welcome finally to the players, officials and fans of Barrow AFC who have made the long journey south to tropical North Kent.   I am sure that their players and coaching staff will have their own favourite songs.   I, for one, will be hoping that the entire Barrow team have ‘I Missed Again’ on their playlists!

22 September 2012

Keep It Simple Stupid!

It has been a long time since I have posted a typical blog rather than a football one.  Well it seems that way really.  I have been very busy lately with work related matters, as well as birthdays for my two daughters, a few school events and other crazy deadlines!

Quite simply, our modern life is one that is crazy and chaotic.  

I remember back when I was a grasshopper, well much younger than now, our school class visited a local college.  In one of the rooms there was a huge machine (called a computer).  To us youngsters it was truly amazing.  A machine that could do lots of things automatically.  Anyway, the head of the computer department told the class that in the future, the world would be paper free, have quicker processes and we would all have more leisure time.  To me, that sounded really good.  Less work, and more time to spend with family and friends!

Fast forward to 2012 and the opposite is true.  We are still churning out reams of paper.  Our litigious world is the main cause of this, in my opinion.  Do we have more leisure time? certainly not.  Statistically, we are working more hours now than what our parents did.  The culprit for this is technology.  As we are exposed to new improved software and so forth, we can now finish certain tasks much quicker than in the 'bad old days'.  Hence we are able to do more work in our allotted hours!

The other thing that has happened over time is that as people we like complicating matters.  I remember a few years ago I had to write a memorandum to a general manager outlining what my department required.  I wrote down 10 bullet points, and all were approved.

The two other managers in my area wrote a mini 'War and Peace' outlining what they wanted.  Needless to say both their requests were declined!  The reason why they were declined was basically due to their thought process of over justifying their reasons.

In business, it is generally the simple project, invention or product that will win the day.  We are very basic creatures, us humans.  We like things being simplistic.  it helps us to remember things much better. Even if we look at the iPhone, for example.  One of the best selling apps of all time is Angry Birds.  It is an  addictive game to say the least.  What is its premise? Generally, you fire a bird from a shooter to knock down buildings and destroy pigs.  It is a very basic game indeed!

So we need to ensure that we keep things in a very simple way.  Hence the KISS principle - Keep It Simple, Stupid.  if we do this the world will eventually be a better place!

28 August 2012

Training Tedium!

Recently I had to attend a compulsory  training session at my workplace.  Now there is nothing unusual with this at all. Virtually every employee at one time or another will have to undergo some sort of training courses. 

In my opinion there are two types of training.  On the one hand (lets call it the left hand, as I am a proud leftie) there are the training sessions that are enjoyable, interactive and you actually come away feeling like you have learned something.  Then, on the other (right) hand there's the bland, boring, dictatorial type of training.  You know what they are like - you don't want to attend them but you have to.  You make your way to the training room knowing that the next 120 minutes will feel like a lifetime. 

Well the session I attended recently was of the bland and boring type. I was glad that I had a strong coffee prior to my attendance, as my general phobia of training is falling asleep! 

The session got off to a bad start.  The trainer was late and had actually got stuck in a lift for 5 minutes before being rescued! I started laughing as I thought the trainer was joking when he told the group.  Apparently he was not!  I should mention that in the training room there were about 12 people.  Some were of an IT background (you could tell that by the clothes they were wearing).  Then there was the Analysts (moi included) who made up about a third of the group.  Finally, there were the nerds.  These are the ones who take copious notes and ask a million questions, normally really obvious ones too.

Whilst I will give the trainer credit for being professional, articulate and knowledgeable - it was still an extremely boring session.  The reason for this was that we were being trained on how to use a database via an intranet connection.  My first thought was - "why are we spending two hours on this?".  The training could have easily been catered for by an email and a PowerPoint presentation. It was going to be a tough 2 hours - and it was.

I tried to keep myself occupied by occasionally glancing at my fellow attendees. Within 15 minutes one of them was falling asleep.  Thank God it wasn't me, I thought. The nerds were furiously scribbling notes and being all enthusiastic. I, on the other hand, was eyeing the bowl of fantales.  I ate one and then another.  Unfortunately I guessed the film stars on the wrapper straight away. So that didn't help me kill the time.  

About half way through the session, I had completely switched off. I noticed one of the IT geeks was playing a game on his phone.  It was probably one of those 'Kill the Zombies' type of games.  Then, suddenly, he left.  The lady sitting to the right of me was writing in a notebook.  She didn't look like a nerd, so I glanced over my shoulder.  I was right.  She wasn't a nerd.  In her notebook was a shopping list.  She had written down things such as - Saturday, buy bread, sausages, milk, cheese, washing powder etc.  Also, there was a note for her husband to get the barbecue ready.  It was clear that her mind was not on the bland subject matter but on food!

For the last 30 minutes I decided to bite my finger. Why? For two reasons.  Firstly, to stay awake. Secondly, to see if I was dreaming and having a nightmare.  Alas for me it was a real life nightmare!

The two hours were up.  I put yet another fantale in my mouth.  At last I could get back to reality.  But no, the pain would linger on for a few more minutes.  The nerds started asking a million and one questions.  What the???  Why couldn't they just keep quiet! 

At last the training was finished.  We all left the training room as quickly as we could.  That was hard, that was painful, that was needless.

I made a note to bring a notepad to the next training session.  Maybe I could write down my own shopping list!

16 August 2012

Ebbsfleet United v Braintree Town

The following is the article I wrote for the Ebbsfleet United v Braintree Town match.  Unfortunately, the Fleet lost :-(

Now that the euphoria of the London Olympics is slowly dying down, we can all turn our attention to the Blue Square Premier League and our first home game of the season.  Before going any further, I would like to send out a huge ‘well done’ to Team GB on their massive haul of medals.  They certainly did us all proud!  The GB football team did fairly well too, until that deadly quarter final penalty phobia struck again!

For Ebbsfleet United, and all teams nationwide, the football season is like an Olympic marathon.  It’s all about pacing yourself so that you can get to the finish line well ahead of your rivals, and thus ensuring a great final position.  In the case of an athlete, the goal is to get onto the winner’s podium with a gold, silver or bronze medal around your neck.   In our case, the gold medal equivalent would be a mid-table, or higher, finish in the League and possibly a nice FA Cup run as well.  I’m sure the club would not be adverse to a third round away tie versus Chelsea or Arsenal!

A marathon runner typically has to adapt to the circumstances in which they are competing.  From hot days to cold and wet conditions, a runner has to have the flexibility to be able to cope with anything that is put in their way.  Tactics play a big part too.  Does the athlete try and push the pace early, or sit back and try to time themselves for a barnstorming finish?  It is also the ability and self-belief, of the athlete that decides the final outcome.

Likewise, Liam Daish has to take into account a number of factors when deciding on the starting line-up and the tactics that need to be employed.  These factors can include current injuries to players, the condition of the playing field, how the opposition is likely to play, and the best way to counter this together with ensuring that the chemistry of the team remains unchanged.  Over the course of the next 8 months we will be able to see how all of this will unfold.

Following the departure of a number of key players in the close season, Liam has been busy in the transfer market finding suitable replacements.  A big welcome to new Fleet players  Moses Ashikodi, Nathan Elder, Patrick Ada, Phil Walsh and the return of Liam Enver-Marum and Ryan Blake.  Let’s get behind our new signings and hope that they settle in as quickly as possible.  Certainly during the pre-season games they all performed extremely well.

A big welcome to Braintree Town who are our first visitors to Stonebridge Road.  Like ourselves, they finished comfortably in mid-table last season.  They too will want to get the new season off to a flying start.  So we should be in for a fantastic evening of football.  Their manager, Alan Devonshire, knows exactly what is required to compete at this level and will be ensuring that he has a squad good enough to perform in this division.

Enjoy the game and please get behind the players.  We have seen what happens at the Olympics when there are 80,000 spectators cheering on their country.  So let’s do likewise here.   Also, a club like ours can always do with some extra help.  If you feel like you would like to assist then please contact the club, or MYFC (www.myfootballclub.co.uk) for further information. 


06 August 2012

Ebbsfleet Utd v Gillingham Pre-Season

The following is the article I wrote for the Ebbsfleet United v Gillingham Pre-Season game, which the Gills won 3-2.

Today we welcome our near neighbours Gillingham for what is on paper a mouth-watering pre-season friendly.  It is certain to be a no-holds barred encounter with both sets of players keen to impress their respective managers. 

For Ebbsfleet it has been a pretty good pre-season so far.  A win at Tonbridge was followed by a narrow loss to Reading and then a great 1-0 home win against Leyton Orient.  A number of players have impressed in these pre-season games, and it was good to see new signing Nathan Elder score the winner against the O’s. 

Talking of new signings, we extend a warm welcome to defender Patrick Ada who has signed for the Fleet from Burton Albion.  To date he is developing a useful partnership with our defensive stalwart, and inspirational skipper, Paul Lorraine.  If his pre-season form is a sign of what we can expect, then Ada will have a very good season with the club.

The match versus Leyton Orient was a special one indeed.  It was also played to recognise Liam Daish as being the longest serving manager in the club’s history.  To celebrate this feat, a stand has been named in his honour, for all the tireless work he has done at this club over the past 8 years.  Loyalty is an extremely rare word in football circles, but we should be very proud, and lucky, that Liam Daish has shown the club this trait. 

Since being manager Liam Daish has had to contend with a number of issues, but has certainly come out on top more often than not.  An FA Trophy victory and a Blue Square South play-off victory are just two of the highlights of his reign so far.  Let’s hope there are many more successes in store for both the manager and club.

Gillingham come here today with a new manager and a squad that is gradually being rebuilt to the way that Martin Allen requires.  The Gills had a 1-0 victory last week at neighbours Dartford with the goal coming from new signing Ben Strevens.  The new Gills manager has certainly been living up to his unconventional ways by having his dog Monty with him in the dugout! One thing is for certain, it will not be a boring season for Gillingham with Martin Allen in charge of the team!

We can certainly expect a full blooded encounter between these two teams, whose managers believe in ensuring that their players give 110% effort.  Hopefully, there will also be a large crowd that will add to the atmosphere today at Stonebridge Road.

Finally, a plea to all the supporters at the game today.  Ebbsfleet United is run on an extremely tight budget where every penny counts.  We do not have the luxury of large attendances, or substantial amounts of revenue coming in from other sources.  If you want to help the club out, you could decide to sponsor one of the Fleet’s players, or alternatively become a member of My Football Club - MYFC (www.myfootballclub.co.uk).  MYFC gives all members the chance to take decisions in the day to day running of a football club, as well as becoming a co-owner of the Fleet!

Please consider helping out the club where possible, as we all want to see the Fleet continue on an upwards direction.  Hopefully one day Ebbsfleet United v Gillingham will become a regular fixture in League 2 or above!

Enjoy the game, and Up the Fleet! 

24 July 2012

Confessions of a Blogger!

Recently I was on Twitter and I came across a hash tag that was labelled #100confessions or something similar.  It got me thinking that it was probably about time that I revealed some more facts about myself.  After all, it was 5 years ago in my first ever blog, when I was very much a virgin blogger that I did this previously.  5 years is a long time in the blogosphere and indeed in our own lives.  So I have decided it's time for the world to learn more about me - when the non x rated stuff at least!

So if you are ready, here we go!

  • I once did a hole in one on a golf course.  Now I should say that I honestly find golf very boring and extremely tedious.  I am not sure why a number of business meetings are done "on a golf course".  I would much rather prefer watching a sport or even discussing things over a meal.  The hole in one occurred at the local golf course where I grew up in the old country - England.
  • I am a qualified commercial barista but have never ever worked in a cafe.  Yes it is true.  I know how to make proper coffee.  Well I used to, but unless you keep your skills honed you soon forget how to do some of the more trickier coffees.  Why did I become a qualified barista? Well I was never going to become a barrister was I?  Seriously, I wanted to learn more about making different coffees and thought a commercial coffee making course was the way to go.  Yes, I do have a barista certificate!
  • I am a qualified Justice of the Peace.  In the olden days people used to call me a Justice of the Piss - but that's another story.  I am registered as a JP in NSW in Australia.  So what this means is that I am authorised to witness signatures on documents of varying descriptions.  In some circumstances I can issue arrest warrants and preside over really minor infringements.  However, living in a big city this will never happen. 
  • I once top scored at cricket with 4 runs.  It was an inter-class school game and I was nominated to open the innings.  My first scoring shot was an edge through the slips for 2.  I was the 7th player out for the princely score of 4! In truth the extras totalled 7 runs, but that doesn't count, does it?  In reply our opponents scored 24 runs for the loss of 1 wicket.  I can proudly say that it was moi that run out one of their opening batsmen!
  • During my largely unsuccessful football career in England, I was transferred between two teams mid-season.  The transfer fee was a fixed  £2.50! Not quite the multi-million pound transfers of the English Premier League.  Naturally, I didn't make a penny out of the transfer fee! I did, however, turn out to be a good purchase as I scored 9 goals in my first 22 games.
  • While we are talking, well writing, about football, I can claim to have scored a goal direct from a corner! It was while playing for a local team in Sydney a few years ago.  It was something I always wanted to do, ever since I saw my best friend do it twice in two minutes in a school game many moons ago.  Finally, I achieved it myself.  As the ball was drifting over the goalkeeper's head, I remember thinking to myself "don't catch the bloody thing!".  Thankfully he didn't!
  • A long time ago a piece of the hallowed turf of Wembley Stadium found its way into my pocket and later was planted in my parents backyard.  How did it get there? I have no idea hehehehe.  I remember the event was a summer outdoor concert at the old Wembley Stadium. Can't quite remember who was headlining but I am fairly certain it was Elton John. 
Well there you have it.  A few facts about me that you would not be aware of.  I would love to hear about some of yours.  So please feel free to leave a comment or three!

06 July 2012

Interview with Author Amira Aly

Amira Aly is one of the nicest people you can ever come across. Not only is she now a good friend of mine, she is also an up and coming author.  A few months ago she completed the second part of her fantasy thriller series.

Having read both books, I can assure you, dear reader, that they are certainly worth checking out!  Recently, I managed to catch some spare time with Amira for the following interview:

Did you approach writing the second book in a different manner to the first one?

There was less of a structure and more of a natural “flow” to the writing process, especially since I did not have to stop and dig into research as much as I did writing book 1 of the series.

I’m guessing from your storylines that you are a big fan of history and fantasy.  How much research did you do when structuring your writing for this book?

I am a pretty big fan of fantasy and science fiction, and I find reading history as useful as it is fascinating. But when writing Egypt: Rise of the Resistance I just relied on my background research prior to writing the series.

Aya, the main character, is certainly a typical female teenager – stubborn, jealous, feisty, boy liking as well as a potential world saviour.  In all honesty, is this a description of the young Amira (sans the world saving part)?

I can only wish. I was a very bookish gal when I was Aya’s age.  No boys. No stubbornness. Just books, books, and more books.

The book reminds me of being on a breathless rollercoaster ride.  One where you cannot get off it until the end.  Did you deliberately write in this vein, or was it an organic development?

It’s the nature of the second instalment. Stakes are higher. Friends and enemies re-align themselves, and the final battle draws nearer.

The clues in the book seem to lead Aya onto further adventures.  For example, the brain waves and music algorithms.  How did this scenario come into being, was it after too many strong coffees?

I’ve been actually cutting back on coffee! These sci fi elements were actually there all along. I hinted at them in book 1 and I will revisit them again.

All through my medical studies, the human brain has always fascinated me. I wanted to explore it more, even if in fiction. Cognitive neuroscience sci fic is something I always wanted to write about.

I loved the part where Kemisi came into the story.  All the time I was thinking “what will Aya do now?”  How much of that part of the story is based on actual historical happenings?

None, in fact. Little is known about the pre-historic (also called pre-dynastic) ancient Egypt. The prehistoric ancient Egypt I draw upon is my own version alternate mythology. It’s a magical world where myth meets science and culture.

Parallel to book three of the series, I am currently writing a book set in that time period telling the story of Kemisi.

Ben-ben, the Bennu bird, makes a welcome return, thankfully.  Have you considered a line of Ben-ben toys yet? 

Ben-ben merchandise? I like it! This sure would bring ancient Egypt back in style! 

The ending, like all good books, leaves the reading craving for more.  How much was the ending based on the current goings on in Egypt?  I also got the sense of a parallel situation to Hitler and the rise of fascism. Is this a merely a coincidence or deliberate?

I wrote the ending as soon as I finished the first book actually, before the political situation in Egypt turned sour. I remember my husband’s reaction when I had told my husband of how I planned to end the first book. He felt I would be somehow “marring” our revolution with my grim alternate history. Little did we know, the history I am drawing on did not turn to be alternate at all!  We are watching something similar unfold in Egypt, I am afraid.

Will Aya ever be good friends with the ditsy Celeste? More importantly, will she and Nour ever become an item?

My lips are sealed * zip * I would like, however, to hear what you think, Derek. Do you think they’ve got what it takes to be bound together? Yes

Amira, when can we expect the third book of the Battle for Ma ‘at: Egypt – The Resistance?

Before the next holiday season, probably around mid-November.

Aside from writing, what else have you been up to?

I am trying to get more “ground” work and community service done. I had two projects planned for 2012. One of them has already been launched. It’s a website training Arabic-speakers looking to find decent work from home jobs.

The other is a super-secret project where I will be using my medical and public health training for the good of the people.

Thank you for your time, Amira.  I, for one, cannot wait until the third part of the series is out!


13 June 2012

More Ghostly Happenings!

A few months ago I wrote a blog called 'A Festive Spirit' which was about some ghostly happenings that occurred to me over the Christmas period. These extraordinary experiences happened during a visit up north to see the outlaws, ahem I mean the in-laws.

During the Easter period No Worries (aka the wife) and I decided to take the gals and drive up the north coast to see her family.  We were both a little apprehensive.  Would I experience any more ghostly events? Would I sing my favourite songs during the long drive north? Or would Justin Bieber quit the music scene?

The drive up to Ballina was generally a pleasant journey.  However, driving 10 hours with a couple of toilet breaks is not a great deal of fun.  Especially when there are kids involved.  We drove through a number of towns - both large and small.  Most had the traditional Australian food essentials available - KFC, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Domino's and Red Rooster.  No Worries, being the Desi (Indian) she is, had packed enough food to look after a small tribe of Amazons!  So food was aplenty for the family.

We arrived in Ballina during the early evening.  Once we had parked the car I was on full alert.  My first thought was would I have to call Jay and Grant from Ghost Hunters, Or the Klinge Brothers from Ghost Lab to do some exploratory research.  However, I quickly shook that thought from my warped mind as I smelt the waft of some great Indian food on offer. Like most guys, I am guided by my stomach, and not my head!

During our 6 day stay up north, I only really had one semi-experience.  I needed to go to the bathroom and twisted the door handle to open it.  However, it wouldn't budge.  Despite putting more force on the door it just wouldn't move. Then all of the sudden it opened with me virtually falling into the bathroom.  Was it a paranormal occurrence? I don't know, but as they say on Ghost Hunters - "it was a neat personal experience!"

The only other issue to note was on a drive back from Byron Bay to Ballina my Bro' in Law pointed out to me a building that looked like a scout hut.  He advised me that a number of people had seen a ghostly hippie (only in Byron!) looking to hitch a ride.  I asked the obvious question, had my Bro' in Law seen the ghostly figure?  No was the response.

The next night he was driving a chef from Byron Bay to Ballina when he saw a translucent hippie looking figure thumbing for a lift.  At that time he didn't say anything to the chef that was sitting next to him in the car.  About 5 minutes later the chef spoke and asked my Bro' in Law if he believed in ghosts.  When the chef was asked why he wanted to know, the chef replied - well I have just seen a hippie across the other side of the road and he looked very ghostly!

Aside from that all was quiet during our brief holiday.  Maybe the spectre from Christmas was on vacation, or busy writing blogs for other people  - as a ghost writer!  I'll let you be the judge of that!

19 May 2012

The Great St Ives Car Park Mystery

I have a theory.  It's a good one, a bit left of centre I have to admit, but still a good one!  So, what is this theory? How did  I manage to come up with it? Read on, my friends and all will be revealed, eventually.

Once a month, for the past few months, the family has been helping one of our clients with a stall at the St Ives Shopping Village.  For the family, it means getting up early, packing the car and driving up to St Ives, and then helping out with the stall.  My main role is to undertake the hard task of blowing up all the balloons.  I am glad to say that I have a machine to help me inflate them.  Otherwise, given the number of balloons required, I would be in intensive care at the local hospital.  This is a story in itself, but I think I will save it for another day as it will make great blogging material one day!

One thing that I noticed when we first helped our client out was the fact that the car park at the shopping centre was virtually 100% full.  I assumed that the locals liked to do their shopping early, especially for a Sunday.  I held this view until last week when my thoughts about this totally changed.  For this session the family had to arrive an hour earlier at 9am.  Driving up to St Ives I thought that I would easily get a car parking spot close to the entrance of the shopping centre.

However, I was totally wrong! Despite the earlier time and the coldish weather, the car park was totally full! In fact, for the 7 hours we were there the car park was never anything but full! So what was the reason behind this?  Being of an inquisitive mind, I decided to come up with a theory.

St Ives is an area made up of a high proportion of older aged persons and baby boomers. As we all know, people of a mature age seem to wake up much earlier than the rest of us.  My theory is that the locals seem to get a kick out of driving around the car park at the shopping centre for hours on end.  It must be a mature aged fetish, methinks.  Or maybe it's a Senior Citizen's version of Le Mans?  

You can imagine these locals getting up before sunrise, having a hearty breakfast and jumping in their car to set off to the shopping centre.  I wonder if they are able to sleep the night before due to all the excitement of the next day.

These are the only reasons I can come up with, coupled with the fact that locally not much happens on a Sunday in leafy St Ives.  Interestingly, a few times when I had to go back to my car and drop off, or pick up, some items from the boot I was car stalked.  This even happened when I told the drivers of two vehicles that I was not going to drive off and was just getting something from the boot!  My mixed up mind decided that car stalking must, therefore, be a local hobby for the over 60's.  I think they were getting some devilish pride out of stalking me - another notch on their car stalking stick perhaps?

I even deliberately went different directions to get to my car at times, and sure enough, I continued to be car stalked!  I had to admire the eagle eyes of these drivers as they seemed to be able to see me quite clearly carrying my car keys in my hand from a distance of 50 metres! What was even more impressive was their driving and breaking skills.  In fact, Lewis Hamilton would have been impressed with their handling of the twists and turns of the compact car park.

Even when we left the shopping centre, after a good day's effort, we ended up being followed by yet another car stalker.  You could clearly hear the low hum of the engine as it moved behind us at a slow speed.  Naturally, within seconds of us leaving the parking space a car had quickly taken it!

As I drove off I thought back to the car stalking and the locals who were happy to just drive around and around and around. It did seem a tad strange to me. St Ives, dear reader, surely is a quirky place!

10 May 2012

The Never Ending World of the Cliche

Writing blogs can be lots of fun, pure and simple.  You have freedom to write anything you want at a drop of a hat! 

Some people write about things that are close to their heart, whilst others will offer their opinions about certain matters by putting their own spin on it.  Then there are others who will go full circle and write blogs as if it's their own diary, their personal space in time.  

As for me, I don't want to re-invent the wheel every time I write a blog.  I just let my mind go with the flow and see what comes up, or I should say, what is transcribed via the laptop! When you are on a roll, blog speaking, you need to make hay while the sun shines, and let the creative juices flow.  That way you will always reach your goal of writing the best blog of all time! Well I can dream about that, at least.

At times you feel like a kid in a lolly shop, as the words flow fluently from your fingers, and what you write actually makes sense to yourself and the average man in the street. Thinking of a grand plan for a blog means that, at times, you need to think outside the square.  This is when it gets exciting and it whets your appetite to reach for the stars from a writing perspective.  Then, with a full head of steam, you create a masterpiece of epic proportions.

I don't believe in let sleeping dogs lie. I believe that you need to keep things fresh and try out different ways of doing the obvious.  As they say, clothes make a man and a great blog makes a true blogger.  At times if I think the blog is not evolving into how I want it to, then I put it on ice for a while and come back to it at a later stage.  That way, I always finish what I started.

When I started blogging, what now seems like a million years ago, I never thought it would have reached the level it has.  I always take it one blog at a time.  That way I can take stock of things in my own way.

Never in a million years did I think I would write 15 blogs, let alone 150!  However, I am sure with my get up and go attitude then my blogs will go from strength to strength.  So, for all you readers out there don't wait with baited breath but come back to my blog site for the latest and greatest blogs in the universe - or my fractured mind at least!

NB: If you can work out how many cliché’s I used in this blog then you are a better man (or woman) than I!

25 April 2012

Bye Bye Facebook!

Recently I made a decision.  To some it might seem like a monumental decision.  To me it was a simple decision.  Actually, it was a very easy thing for me to do. What is this decision I made? Why did I make it?  Read on dear listener and I will reveal all!

After 5 years I am deactivating my Facebook account. There I have said it.  It is in black and white, and as a reader you can judge me on this decision.  Actually, I stopped using Facebook a week ago, but re-activated it so I can post a link to this blog and let all my friends know why I am no longer going to be a Facebook user.

I first started using Facebook back in 2007 and was impressed with how you could connect with your friends, share photos and create groups.  In the early days there were groups that you could chat in, which was lots of fun.  This didn't last too long, however.

Over the years there have been many changes.  The format seems to change regularly, and its latest re-creation reminds me more of a My Space page than a Facebook one.  Over the last few years there have been a plethora of apps for games like Farmville and many other similar ones.  I received many invites to join these games, and declined every one of them.  If I wanted to play games I would use other means, like Wii.

However, I have become exceedingly bored with Facebook.  It was starting to become a chore to log on via my phone or laptop and see what everyone was up to.  As well as this my posts were becoming boring too.  Quite often I would type a post like "it's raining today" or "I am hungry and need food now".  I was posting very banal things which is not what I am really about.  In addition, the Big Brother approach that has been adopted by Facebook and the privacy rule changes certainly didn't sit well with me.

Finally, after a few weeks deliberation I made the decision to not use Facebook any more.  To me the inter-activeness of Twitter is far more appealing.   True, I will miss my friends' photos of themselves, their holiday and life experiences, but I know deep down I would rather spend time with them rather than looking at their pics over a social media platform.  I feel that I have evolved and Facebook is not a part of my life anymore.

So what does the future hold? Well I am going to send a last post on my Facebook account advising my friends of my decision with a link to this blog.  After a month or so I will permanently delete my account.  Rest assured after posting this blog I will not be viewing or posting anything else.

15 April 2012

Football and Spring

The following is my latest piece for Ebbsfleet United, and was published in the programme for the game v Telford on the 14th April.  I hope you all enjoy it!

Spring time is here again. It’s that time of year when you can feel the warmth of the sun, the days are getting longer (yay!), birds are chirruping in the blossomed trees, and you can hear the distant sound of a ball hitting willow – as another shot from the dodgy centre half misses the goal completely, and hits the advertising board near the corner flag! Yes, it’s that time of year again, folks. 

If the football season was a restaurant menu, we would now be entering the deserts section.  Having started out with our prawn cocktail entree, through to our chicken tikka masala and pillau rice main course, and are now picking up the desert spoon and about to attack and devour the ever so inviting sticky date pudding!  

Over the last week or two, teams the length and breadth of the country have been playing football with the same vigour that a child shows during an Easter egg hunt.  The crucial last few games have been shaping the success or failure for a number of teams in all divisions.  As for the Blue Square Premier, we have Fleetwood and Wrexham battling it out for that automatic promotion spot to the Hallowed Land that is known as League 2. 

Meanwhile, at the other end of the table a number of teams, including ex-league teams Darlington and Stockport County, have been fighting to stave off the threat of relegation to the Blue Square South, or North, divisions.  For the fans of these two ex-league sides the next few games will be very crucial.  Remember, that it was only three seasons ago that Stockport were playing League One football.

As the games whittle away the pressure on teams at both ends of the spectrum intensifies as they strive for glory/safety.  The players feel it, the coaching staff feel it and of course the fans, who spend their hard earned money following their team, feel it! Without a doubt it really is a stressful time of the year if you are a football nut!

Fortunately for us, Ebbsfleet are safely ensconced in the middle part of the league table and are safe for at least another year.  Given the last couple of seasons, where relegation was followed with instant promotion, we can relax a little and enjoy the last few games.  Undoubtedly, given Ebbsfleet’s standing, Liam Daish has again been performing minor miracles.  Sainthood must be beckoning for Mr Daish any time soon.  Interestingly, most punters thought The Fleet were going to be one of the teams to be relegated!

Despite our safety, you can bet your last pound that the Manager will not be resting on his laurels.  Liam will be wanting the team to win as many of these remaining games as possible.  Rest assured that the team that represents Ebbsfleet today will be under orders not to ‘take it easy’.  Expect a whole-hearted performance from the lads.

Finally, a warm welcome to players, officials and fans from AFC Telford who themselves have been fighting for their Blue Square Premier survival.  It should be a good game today and, who knows, maybe the sun will shine too!

Derek W (Twitter: @main_man). 

PS: Feel free to drop me a tweet or two!

25 March 2012

Football Networking!

The following is an article that I wrote for the Ebbsfleet United matchday programme v Kettering.  The good news is the Fleet won 1-0!!

Anyway, for those not lucky enough to get to the game, here is my latest offering:

Sport is becoming very connected with social networking sites nowadays.  A quick internet search will provide you with a number of networking sites where you can find your favourite sporting teams and players.  Aside from the obvious marketing aspect, it is a chance for fans like you and I to follow our idols.  For example, there are many Facebook pages that cater for our sporting cravings.  Then there is Twitter where you are able to follow your favourite player, read their tweets and, if you are lucky enough, get a reply from them. In some respects it’s like belonging to a family as you follow all their highs and lows. 

Naturally, there are other social networking sites which are becoming used more and more often.  However, I cannot imagine a transfer listed player updating their resume on LinkedIn or through Viadeo.

This social networking phenomenon got me thinking, which is rare enough these days.  I was wondering if, in the future, networking platforms such as Twitter and Four Square would become totally interactive within an actual game.  Would there be a time when players and officials could send tweets as events unfolded on the field?

For example, the Tevez incident, when he refused to go on as a substitute for Manchester City in the Champions league, could have gone something like this:

Tevez (via Twitter) “There is no way I am going on as a sub.  Who does Mancini think I am? A second rate player???”  Mancini (via Twitter) “what the…that’s it! This clown is notta going to play fora me again! Wait until we getta back to the changing roomas!!”

A referee could, for example, tweet immediately after a penalty appeal has been turned down:
“What a muppet! No way is he going to get a penalty diving like that!”  Meanwhile the player could respond “he took my bloomin’ legs! The ref is as blind as a bat! That was def a penalty guvnor!”
Four Square could also play a big part too.  We could have “Carlos Tevez is sitting on the subs bench in Munich” Or “Didier Drogba is lying face down in the penalty area at Stamford Bridge” or even “Mario Balotelli is in his bathroom in Manchester chasing fireworks”.

This brings me nicely to our favourite team, Ebbsfleet United.  Most of the players have Twitter accounts and recently the Gaffer himself is now merrily tweeting away.  A common theme amongst the majority of players except for their music tastes is Nandos! I wonder if there is a chance of a sponsorship deal for the team for next season!

Anyway, listed below are the Twitter accounts of the Ebbsfleet Players and Manager.  Feel free to send them tweets as I know they love receiving them.

Preston Edwards - @Preston_Eddy         
Ricky Shakes - @rickyshakes       
Ram Marwa - @RamMarwa                      
Liam Enver-Marum - @LIAM_E_M          
Callum Willock - @Callumwillock              
Johnny Herd - @h3rdy_11                         
Michael West - @MikeWest77                  
Joe Howe - @Howe88
Tom Phipp - @TomPhipp                          
Craig Stone – @stone_craig       
Ram Marwa - @RamMarwa                       
Liam Daish - @liamdaish                                
Neil Barrett - @NeilChezBarrett   

If you ever want to tweet me, then you can reach me on Twitter at @main_man