Friday, August 20, 2010

People power sees revolution in Newton-le-willows

The estate we live on in Newton-le-willows is one of those 'new' ones where everyone who lives here has to pay an annual service charge.

I don't know all the ins and outs but I think it's something to do with housebuilders doing a deal with local authorities whereby they agree to insist that all homeowners pay this charge every year so that the LA aren't totally responsible for looking after public spaces on the development.

Due to delays, red tape and various cock-ups though, we and most of the other folk on the estate haven't ever paid it in the ten years since we moved in.

Last year the 'management company' (do I make them sound like a the local 'firm' here?) started to call in the charges and everyone was notified how much they were going to have to pay.

It was a fair few bob and obviously this news didn't go down too well around Willow Park. Hackles were raised further when details were released of where the money was going to be spent. A quick look at the proposals revealed the 'management' were claiming crazy amounts for nothing more than cutting the grass on the park - and that didn't seem to happen very often either.

Step forward then HAMRA, a noble gang of men and womenfolk dedicated to protecting the interests of the the good people of Highmarsh Crescent and Makerfield Drive.

OK, maybe that's overstating it slightly. HAMRA is the local residents' association.

But these characters have pulled off a right result. After a protracted battle with the management company and the housebuilder Taylor Wimpey (an old client of mine so I kept out of it!), HAMRA has succeeded in getting the management company thrown out.

Using various company law techniques and by getting to grips with the various constitutional gubbins behind management companies, the HAMRA lot relieved the existing directors of their duties and put new elected members in their place.

Power to the people!

And to cap it off, the old proposals have chucked in the bin and new invoices issued that are over a third cheaper than the originals.

The only trouble is I've got to cough up now.

V Festival 2010

There are plenty of reasons to be envious of our eldest child. Years of fun in front of her, best days of her life still to come, world as her oyster etc.

But principally, today at least, I have pangs of jealousy over one thing and one thing only.

She's off to the V Festival and I'm not.

Look who's on: Charlatans, Saw Doctors, Paul Heaton, Eels, Doves, Madness, The Coral.

What's the betting she doesn't see any of them and ends up comong back telling me how good Pixie Lott and The Sugababes were. Bah!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Match report: Huddersfield Town 0 Tranmere Rovers 0, League One, 14th August 2010

My first away game was at Gigg Lane in 1984 for a midwinter match against Bury.

We were rubbish and lost 3-0. I travelled by train with around 50 or so other Tranmere fans and it all kicked off outside the ground after the game. Tranmere and Bury fans hurled bricks and bottles at each other and we ended up with a police escort all the way back to Manchester City Centre.

My six-year-old son Sam's first away game was last Saturday for an early season encounter with Huddersfield. We went by car, it was a great atmosphere and not a hint of trouble. I'm glad that's going to be his first memory of life on the road as a football fan.

And guess what? Despite my dire predictions, Tranmere were excellent. The newspapers have since described the match as a dour draw, but that's not what it looked like from where I was sitting. Tranmere were organised, strong, passed really well and could easily have nicked it in the end.

I don't know what came over them.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Match report: Tranmere Rovers 1, Oldham Athletic 2, League One, 7th August 2010

It's local tradition around these parts for Oldham to beat us 1-0 at home once a year but they deviated from the plan this time around. They beat us 2-1 instead.

The only consolation I've taken from the game is that it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. The pre-season reports I've had from inside and outside the camp is that we are poor and then some. I really feared we would end up with a drubbing today.

The fact that we were narrowly defeated is scant consolation though. We are woeful. I strongly believe that only the new keeper (on loan from Man City), Ian Goodison, Joss Labadie and Ian Thomas-Moore would get a regular game in any of the other 23 teams in the division.

I don't blame Les Parry for the situation at all. It's not his fault that he can't make a silk purse out of the sow's ear that is our ramshackle squad. You need more than a physio's skills for that.

Although I've defended him in the past and although his place in Tranmere folklore is rightfully guaranteed thanks to his previous investments in the club, the blame for our situation in 2010 lies squarely with Peter Johnson, who now seems determined to let the club fall to bits.

On the drive home, I heard Matt, a caller on the Radio Merseyside sports show say the very same thing - only to be castigated by Alan Jackson for having a short memory when it comes to the Tranmere chairman.

Putting to one side the fact that Jacko is an idiot who knows less about the Tranmere story than my dead dog, I think the reverse is actually true. It's Jackson who has a short memory.

Just three years ago we had a chairman who DIDN'T sack Ronnie Moore, DIDN'T appoint John Barnes, DIDN'T then appoint a physio with no managerial experience at all and DIDN'T reduce the wages budget to the point that Lee Trundle would rather sign for Welsh non-league club Neath than play professional League One football for us.

And she DIDN'T let the club go to pot while waiting for a non-existent investor who was prepared to cough up the many millions that the current owner astonishingly thinks the club is worth.

I said we would miss Lorraine Rogers and we do. These are dark, dark days at Tranmere and there is no light at all on the horizon.

Friday, August 06, 2010


I saw an ad in the local paper this week promoting a Take That tribute band who are performing at the St Helens Theatre Royal soon. Given that Robbie is back in the fold with the real band - and that they're bringing out a new LP - a tribute act seems kind of redundant to me, but hey.

I think tribute acts are odd in general really. I regularly see Tina Turner, Kylie, Freddie Mercury and others advertised at The Swan on Winwick Road. Given that one of these is dead, one all but retired and the other really unlikely to put in a shift at a Warrington pub, I presume these acts are lookalikes.

I think it's the 'lookalike' bit that I find creepy. There's nowt wrong with playing other folks' music (one of the best bands I ever saw was a Beatles tribute act at the wedding of one of Mrs H's cousins) but, if you ask me, dressing up and affecting other people's accents and mannerisms is a funny way to make a living, unless you're Mike Yarwood.

And it's even worse when the 'artist' looks and sounds nothing at all like the act they're supposed to be copying - yes, I mean you 'Tina', 'Kylie' and 'Freddie'.

An honourable exception is The Clone Roses. Me and a few mates saw them at the St Helens Citadel once and it was good fun (chiefly because the warm up act was Clint Boon, I should add).

What makes them most remarkable is that, unlike the lookalikes doing a turn at The Swan, the Clone Roses singer is a perfect copy of his subject. I don't know if he means to or not, but he sings as badly as Ian Brown and undances exactly like him too!

Here's a vid of them in action, lifted from the St Helens Citadel YouTube channel. Check out the crowd. I'll bet the real Roses never got that sort of reception in the early days.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

My footballing career highlights

I'm aware that the footballing world at large is unlikely to lose any sleep over this announcement, but I've decided to hang up my boots.

The second half of our break in Ibiza was marred by the sight of me hobbling around the hotel on a walking stick after tearing/pulling/buggering my right calf muscle in an ill-advised game of five-a-side played, equally ill-advisedly, in 100 degree temperatures at 12.30 in the afternoon.

And before any war-wounded sporting heroes out there chip in with "If you'd torn your calf muscle, you'd know about it mate" type comments, yes, I would know about it and I blimmin' well still do. It felt like someone had shot me in the leg!

Anyway, this is the third time in a year that I've had problems with the same leg so I'm calling it a day. No more brief sojourns out of retirement for me, not even for a huff, puff and five pints afterwards with my brother-in-law Keith Pollitt's unofficial Gate FC's Over 50s team in Winsford.

So, while there will be few out there mourning this sad loss to the Beautiful Game, I thought I might mark this mid-life milestone with another list. My top ten career highlights:

1. My first game of organised football for Raeburn Primary School. It was second year juniors (now Year 4) and against Higher Beb Primary. I went in goal for some reason. We lost 7-1 but I wasn't at fault for any of them, obviously.

2. Playing at Prenton Park for Bromborough Boys U13s in the warm up for cross-eyed Tranmere goalie Dickie Johnson's testimonial against Everton.

3. Being invited by an old mate Ian McKeown to go pre-season training with Port Sunlight FC. It involved running up and down the sand dunes on Moreton Shore on a Sunday morning after a particularly heavy night out. I was sick several times so never went back again out of embarrassment.

4. Scoring two beauties for FC Merebrook against Black Lion (we hated them) in the semi final of some cup or other. Unfortunately, our 'impenetrable' defence later managed to turn our 2-1 lead into a 3-2 defeat during just two minutes of stoppage time. *Sigh*

5. Raeburn losing twice in the semi-finals of the Wirral Schools Cup to Heygarth Primary. Year one they won 6-0. The next year it was 5-0. John Ebbrell played for Heygarth and was about twenty thousand times better than anyone else on the pitch. I think he scored the lot.

6. Nutmegging ex-Tranmere defender Steve Edwards in one of my handful of appearances for West Cheshire Leaguers Manor Athletic. He was well past his best and was player manager of Welsh League Club Mold FC at the time, but I was right pleased with myself. He went right through me next time I got the ball.

7. Being beaten up on the pitch by players from the Building School at Leeds Polytechnic. I was playing for the Law School at the time and admittedly I had started it all by chinning one of their central defenders. The referee had to dive on top of me for my own protection because even the subs joined in on the action.

8. Slotting home a last minute penalty for Allport Hawks U14s to make it 2-2 against someone or other. We had lost every other game that season.

9. Scoring for Bromborough Boys against Connah's Quay in the final of the Fletcher Shield. It was a competition for the bottom six clubs in the league but it was like the World Cup Final to us.

10. Around 20-0 down in whatever game we were playing, Mark Barlow volleyed one from the half way line and hit our own cross bar, just to add some interest to the game. Mark, you remain a legend.

Veg out

The food at the Ereso Hotel in Es Canar was fab but, now that we're back in Newton-le-Willows after our Ibizan adventure, one of the things we're craving is a Sunday Roast.
It sounds like it's been raining cats and dogs while we were on hols, which was unlucky for those who we left in Blighty, but has proved lucky for us. A quick tour of the veg patch this morning revealed that spuds, carrots, courgettes, onions, garlic, beans have gone berserk over the past week or two.
Look at this lot - perfect for roasting up this afternoon. Just add a shoulder of lamb or some topside of beef from Red Bank Farm on Winwick Road.