Monthly Archives: December 2010

Caught in a Webb

The New Years Honours List, a list that embraces the good and the great about one of the finest nations in the world. A list which recognises the charitable work done by people, the services they have done in their chosen fields, to be given a knighthood, a CBE, an OBE or an MBE.

And Howard Webb.

Howard Webb, a so called ‘top-class’ referee, a man who this year has taken charge of both the Champions League and World Cup finals, as well as be seen as the go to boy in English football. Recognised by the FA as the best referee in England, the best that England can offer to the world.

I think you can all tell, I’ve been quite sarcastic so far.

Is he that good? No. Not by a long stretch. He gets big decisions wrong, he is continually giving decisions which favour the big three (Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal), how he gets the chance to do some of the games he has done is amazing, it should be impossible. Throughout the 2009/10 season he was abject, shouldn’t have been allowed to referee the big games.

One of the games I remember well is a game involving Tottenham Hotspur and Blackburn Rovers. Despite two obvious looking penalties, Webb failed to notice them and refused to give a penalty. And to even his bias out, he ruled out a legitimate Blackburn goal despite there being no clear foul in the build up to it.

And that is just one example of the kinds of games Howard Webb referees. Strewn with errors, mistakes, howlers.

Webb did have a good World Cup, its painful to say, but the three games he had prior to the final were good. He made no mistakes, he got things spot on, probably deserved to be in charge of the final based on his own World Cup performance. And as many people have said, the final itself, who would have wanted to referee that game?

The Netherlands were rough, very rough. They deserved the cards they got and more, Webb’s only big mistake was not sending off Nigel de Jong when he went gung-ho into the chest of the innocent Xabi Alonso. He was too generous on the Dutch, it was lucky none of the Spanish players were seriously injured.

But an MBE, Member of the Order of the British Empire. What has Howard Webb done to deserve this? Look at the others who received an MBE, Graeme McDowell, someone who I have openly praised on this blog before, a talented golfer who became the first Brit this millennium to win a major. Then of course, there is those who spend all their time, all their effort in their day, to give to their community. They give a damn about what they do to improve the lives for other people, to make people have a smile everyday. Some set up charities, some improve their community. They have spent years doing that, only getting what they deserve now, just this one moment in time, one moment of glory when they go to the Palace.

Howard Webb gets 90 minutes in the spotlight each week, and every single time, has failed to show why he deserves the recognition others rightly do.


Scared of a Bit of Snow

Blackpool v Tottenham Hotspur. Postponed.

West Brom v Wolverhampton Wanderers. Postponed.

Chelsea v Manchester United. Postponed.

Fantastic. All three Premier League games for the Sunday 19th December were all called off a day early, on the Saturday, not the Sunday. Just presuming that the weather would only get worse or not really improve in the 24 hours to the build up to the game.

Fair enough, Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road has no undersoil heating, therefore making it difficult to clear the snow and ice from the pitch. It is inevitable with such conditions that a match there would be nigh on impossible. Lets give that an exception to the rule, but surely, a Premier League club must have to get undersoil heating. Avoid these postponements, avoid annoying the travelling fans and create a big back log of fixtures for the team to trawl through. This is the second game Blackpool have had to postpone, more midweek fixtures to go through, and if the weather fails on improving, then they will struggle, with such a small squad, towards the end of the season.

Aside from that though, you can’t blame them for calling it off. West Brom and Chelsea on the other hand? In both cases more than 24 hours before the games kicked off. Yes, the weather down south was pretty bad on Saturday, but according to people who were around the area of Stamford Bridge on the Sunday, there was little snow, the roads were gritted, everything was safe enough to ensure fans could reach the stadium and enjoy a match between two of the best clubs in England.

Oh wait, how could I forget, they already called it off.

Presumptions don’t work, I remember when Liverpool called off their game against Tottenham last season, despite  the surrounding areas and the stadium itself being fine, safe, all that. And by some amazing coincidence, it was when Spurs were on a stretch of good form. Hold on, aren’t Manchester United unbeaten in the league so far this season?

There is a good chance that Chelsea just saw the opportunity to see the game called off so that in the hope by the time it was rescheduled, Manchester United would be in freefall, plummeting down the league, an easy three points.

It is a cynical view, an even more cynical one is that the game could be rescheduled for the last week of the season, just in case Manchester United and Chelsea were fighting to become Premier League champions, and it was a winner takes all match. Imagine the ratings Sky could get for that, all the extra sales on their boxes, the revenue it could bring.

But I’m sure Rupert Murdoch wouldn’t do such a thing.

What excuse is their though? Sensible one? Anyone? No, didn’t think so. You can’t call a football match, or for that matter a rugby match too a day early. Give it time to see what the weather will be like. Make sure the groundsmen and staff work their damn hardest so that the pitch is good to play on, that the surrounding areas can be walked on without everyone slipping, that everything is like every other day.

If, by the day of the game, it is just as bad, call it off in the morning. Make sure that the fans don’t have a wasted journey, don’t travel all the way only for a game to be called off one hour before the scheduled kick off time. Allow those who go by official means that if they did have travel with them, can use it all again for when it is rescheduled.

Premier League football came out very bad from this. No Heineken Cup rugby union games were called off, six more games were played in the Championship, the tier below the Premier League. How that can happen is unacceptable. Look at Ipswich Town v Leicester City, it wasn’t pretty. Instead of being a luscious green, the pitch was a clear white, dug out only to mark the markings on the pitch, to see if it was a goal kick, if it was a throw in and so on. I saw lots of comments on it being like ‘proper football’, football can be played in any condition, but the fear of having complaints issued towards it from fans if they slip outside is risking that. So what if it isn’t a full stadium? People can watch from home, enjoy the delights of Jeff Stelling by the fireplace while Chris Kamara screams “Unbelievable Jeff” when your team gives away an inevitable last minute equaliser.

Some situations can not be avoided, some can be easily cleaned up. Premier League football clubs are in reality just a bunch of wimps.

100 Not Out (And a Few Dropped Catches)

“In he comes, and tucks that away for a single, a cracking innings, 100 posts not out, having been at the site for nearly 24 months, terrific stuff. He’s had some highs during this, and some lows, but it is there and it has been a great little knock”.

Yes, this is the 100th post on the Northern Waffler, and down to many reasons, which mainly do involve laziness to actually do a proper post, well, I’ll link to my favourite few posts from the last 24 months of writing.

Crisis at Croft – This was written back in February of 2009, when Croft Circuit was unfortunately suffering from a lot of problems. Noise complaints from neighbours in the nearby Croft-on-Tees caused money issues and could have possibly closed the track. But, it all came down to marriage issues and fortunately, the racing is still going on in North Yorkshire.

The Demise of Newcastle Blue Star – My local team. The team that I had a lot of connections with. And they went to punch above their weight, moving to a significantly larger stadium, changing owners, selling out. It was to be the downfall of one of the most recognisable non-league teams in the North East of England.

The Forgotten Man – Vitantonio Liuzzi in July 2009 was nowhere, having just finished a few rounds in the A1GP, his career had more or less stalled. After this post, he would get luck. Giancarlo Fisichella replaced Felipe Massa at Ferrari, promoting Liuzzi to a race seat at Force India. Right now, he is fighting for that seat, and that post is still relevant, even one and a half years on, today, because of why he should be in Formula 1.

Stuck in a Series You Can’t Get Out Of – Another post that was relevant in 2009 as it is today, Paul di Resta had just won his first DTM race at Brands Hatch. March forward to 2010 and he is ironically fighting with Tonio Liuzzi for a drive at Force India. All I’m saying is a Liuzzi – di Resta combination would be lovely…

Battle of the New Teams – This was the post that sparked everything off. A series tweeted by both Heikki Kovalainen and Virgin Racing, proving to be a very popular battle between the new teams in Formula 1 for the 2010 season. It was massively fun compiling the race reports, adding up the tables and seeing which driver and team would be the best from either Lotus, Virgin or Hispania.

That is my top 5, and there are a load of great posts that in hindsight, either look fantastic or totally stupid. On the fantastic side, there is of course my post saying how Roman Pavlyuchenko should stay at Spurs; he would then go on to score something silly like 9 goals in 8 games. However, do remember my posts slating New Zealand for being the whipping boys of the World Cup, and then ending up as the only unbeaten team in the whole thing. And me saying that F1 2009 needed less rain, ultimately, we begged for more since the season turned out to be awful.

So there is 100 posts, here is too another 100. I should get more down in the next year, I feel the New Teams Championship did clog it up a bit and am hoping with one final wrapping up post within the next week, that is the last you will ever hear of it on this blog.

If you ignore the tagline, of course.

Sauber: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

For the Bloggers Swap Shop this weekend, Tommy B from WTF1 has written a fantastic piece for the Northern Waffler. Take it away.

I’ve taken a break from my site WTF1 to write a guest post for the Northern Waffler. When choosing a favourite team many choose a classic team such as Ferrari, McLaren or Mercedes, others go for the sympathy vote and support the loveable underdog, the ‘Minardi’. Myself and RG are one of the select few fans who choose to follow a midfield team, me with Toro Rosso and RG with Sauber, so they may not have the most fans in the world but everyone has their reasons for supporting a team.

Growing up with F1 around 1996, the Sauber team stood out for me. The bright blue and turquoise cars was one of my favourite ever liveries. Nowadays Sauber sport a, rather boring in my opinion, plain white livery, of course the team had no sponsorship after BMW choosing to pull out of the sport.

Sauber made their debut in 1993 and since then have had some good, bad and ugly liveries. So I present to you my guest article entitled. ‘Sauber: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.’

The Good

2001: Sauber C20

With a few years sporting the turqoise and blue livery, it was a livery that stood out on track, a unique livery that had never seen before and hasn’t been seen since. In 2001 saw Sauber add a flash of white thanks to sponsor ‘Credit Suisse’. This slick and polished livery is exactly what you’d expect from a Swiss team.

2004: Sauber C23

*Drools* Just look at it! Similar to the 2001 livery but Sauber made it look even better in 2003. Beautiful slick lines made even a miss match of colours work so brilliantly together. A car this colourful hasn’t been seen since the days of the multi-coloured Benetton’s from the late 80’s. The Sauber C23 also saw Red Bull sponsor the car for the last time, ending their 9 year relationship.

The Bad

1994: Sauber C13

Sauber’s debut livery in 1993 was simple and beautiful but this messy effort from 1994 was simply ghastly. The dots are so 90’s it hurts and not even the supposedly cool 90’s making it "Retro". It’s made worse by the cheesy, asymmetrical watch over the front nose cone. That is just so wrong.

2006: BMW Sauber F1.06

For me this was when Sauber lost their appeal, sporting a boring white livery after being taken over from BMW. Yes they were the BMW racing colours but they could have come up with something a bit more interesting. It was also a sad-sad day when the classic bright blue and turquoise livery was laid to rest.

The Ugly

2009: BMW Sauber F1.09

BMW Sauber were first to show off their 2009 challenger. It didn’t go down well, this horrifically ugly car would even make Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen barf. Fans faces collectively turned green after seeing the new-look car for 2009 and even worse, the F1.09 was uncompetitive as well.

2010: Sauber C29

With BMW leaving the sport, Sauber struggled to find sponsors for 2010. This meant Sauber were free to do whatever they wanted… they kept the car plain white. Even worse was when they did get a sponsor they slapped some Burger King logos on the car. Kobayashi’s ‘facepalm’ above says it all really.

Sauber have bagged the sponsor Telmex for 2011. Could we possibly see the bright and colourful livery returning to Sauber? *Crosses fingers*

Qatar Got Your Tongue?

Depressing isn’t it. Just thinking about it. Russia and Qatar get to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups respectively and in reality, its just down to one little object, money.

Oh, hold on, maybe this is me getting too far ahead of myself. Russia do have a good vision, lets face it, there might have been a little swapping of money (key word is might), but apart from that everything else is in good shape. The plan for the stadiums looks promising, all set to build brand new stadiums that will no doubt be spectacular and good for football. I think Russia is a good choice and despite it hurting that England didn’t win the World Cup bid, I’m not too fussed really. It does annoy me that it was helped over the line by the exchanging a bit of cash (possibly), but that complaint comes at another time.

But Qatar. Seriously?

To me, there were two good bids for the World Cup in 2022 and those were Australia and the USA. They had the stadiums, the infrastructure and even if its not their first country, it will no doubt manage to fill each and everyone of their seats. Something to be proud of, seeing football trying to improve itself in those territories. It sounds great to me, doesn’t it?

But it went to that tiny nation of Qatar, the 164th largest area of land on earth. Just to put it into perspective, its smaller than the Falkland Islands. How on earth it is expected to host one of the largest sporting events in the world is beyond me. It can’t surely. Its too small, the country has never made it to the World Cup before and so very wrong.

Lets look at the logistics. Its small. The smallest World Cup hosts of all time, how they expect to allow so many fans into the country is impressive. Qatar has a population of 900,000. About 1/3 of that will be making its way into the country to support their respective teams, how they expect to support so many fans in such a tiny space will be difficult.

As well as this, there are set to be 12 stadiums in the World Cup, 6 of them, that is half, are all based in one city, Doha. It is amazing how they expect to put half of the entire World Cup in just one city. It won’t work, it simply can’t.

And then my friends, is the weather. At least for once, we are guaranteed one constant in 2022. Unbearably hot weather. An average of 41 degrees Celsius, conditions no football should be forced to play in. In fairness to Qatar, they agree with me on this. But they want to play football in air conditioned stadium. I’m sorry, football should not be played in artificial conditions. Expose it to the weather, and that is another nail in the direction of Qatar. There are rumours, of moving it to a colder part of the year. In that case, give it to another country. Why ruin a domestic season of the majority of leagues around the world just to accommodate the World Cup? Oh look, here we are, its club vs. country all over again.

Qatar as a footballing nation too, are unbelievably awful. They have never qualified for a World Cup, ranked 113th in the world (which is worse than Wales, who are 111th) and haven’t won in their last 13 Asian Cup matches. Granted, its 2010, twelve whole years until 2022, no doubt they could improve their ranking, not by much though, maybe they could get in a few foreigners, Qatar have the money don’t they. It might just be enough to not end up worse than North Korea did this year.

Yes, South Africa were in a similar status, albeit just a bit better, but not expected to put up a fight against anyone. But what South Africa had was fans, fans with passion. And put the vuvuzela to one side, that was a remarkable World Cup for them. There was a lot of talk about those South Africans getting something they’ve never had in their lives, a once in a lifetime achievement. Everyone was on their side, and they got some memorable results, who could forget Tshabalala’s strike against Mexico, or the remarkable win over France. They might have failed to get past the group stages, but they put up one hell of a fight and took their Bafana Bafana on a sensational journey.

I can’t see the Qatari people having the same enthusiasm. I can’t see the stadiums being packed. I don’t see it working at all for the fans.

Finally, I’ll hit at massive ethical reasons. This is a country which does not recognise Israel (though will allow them to compete should they qualify), or any other major religions which just don’t happen to be the same as the one they believe in. They discourage drinking in public places, something which will have to be changed in time for the World Cup, to keep the sponsor Budweiser happy, no doubt. And the big one, sponsorship laws, or ‘modern-day slavery’. How can a nation that does such actions be allowed, have the right, to host the most prestigious footballing event in football.

Oh, that’s right, money. Lots and lots of money. How silly of me to forget. Its illogical in every sense of the word, it won’t work, it can’t work. Australia and USA have so much better bids, but no, they didn’t have the money.

Logic should return in 2026. USA and Canada maybe, or even just USA. But with the 100 years of the World Cup coming up, no doubt that will end up in the hands of either Uruguay or Argentina, or maybe both.

The next hope for England though. Sadly, looks to be 2034. 68 years of wait and all that.

Highlights of the Year #1: McDowell at the Ryder Cup

Ryder Cup 2010

Monday 4th October. The 16th at Celtic Manor. 13.5 points to Europe, 13.5 points to the USA. Every game has finished bar one, Graeme McDowell v Hunter Mahan. McDowell was leading by one, with a 15ft putt to win the hole.

Tension was in the air, if America were to just tie the hole, they would keep the Ryder Cup, Europe had to win. McDowell had to win.

On the green. Surrounded by thousands of fans watching just that one hole. Just those two players. He bends down, surveying the turf. Shots of his team mates, Rory McIlroy, fearing the worst And walks up to the ball, the pressure of an entire continent resting on his shoulders.

Three practice putts and then McDowell lines it up. Swings back and forth, releasing energy onto the ball. Off it goes, movement left and right, slowly heading to the hole in the ground. He moves the club to his left hand as the ball reaches the left hand side of the hole.

And drops.

Pandemonium. Sheer delight, McDowell raises his hands and punches the air, screaming “Come on.”. Europe 2 up with two to play, they couldn’t lose it now, surely.

Hunter Mahan would go on to concede the 17th hole, making McDowell the winner of the match and handing back the Ryder Cup to the thankful arms of Team Europe. After the disaster in 2008 it was good to see Colin Montgomerie lead the team back to the winning ways it was used to in the early part of the decade.

In a way, Europe were lucky. The heavy rain changed everything and one session would become so influential to European victory. Session 3 was changed to include two foursome matches and four fourballs. The session would see Europe pick up a massive 5.5 points compared to the USA’s 0.5. This would be the only session the Europeans would go onto win, with USA on top in the other three. But the weather was taken advantage of by one team, and they made the team that didn’t pay severely.

Take nothing of the performance of Graeme McDowell on the 16th hole. Despite it being won on the 17th, it wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for one of the most memorable putts in golfing history. Everything was perfect, and with so many people watching, both at Celtic Manor and at home in front of a TV, he got it so right at the moment he needed to do that.

It capped off an exceptionally good year for McDowell, who also became the first British golfer since Paul Lawrie in 1999 to win a major championship, by winning the US Open. Add this to Martin Kaymer’s success at the USPGA and Lee Westwood becoming the world number 1, everything really did make this a golfing year for Europe to remember.

It didn’t just end there of course, the success of McDowell and Westwood over the year has seen them nominated for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year. And while I feel Westwood hasn’t done enough to deserve it, my vote may just be heading to the Northern Irishman.