Friday, 10 October 2008

In Ireland English no speak!

After my early brush with the hoodie, Dublin welcomed me like a long lost brother, everybody happy to help.

And it was help - or the lack of concentration when being helped - that would lead to an interesting journey to Dalymount Park last night.

A couple of miles north of the city centre at best, I thought public transport might be the way forward in the form of one of Dublin’s countless buses.

The hotel receptionist could not have been more pleasant, giving me the run down on times, bus number, street location in which to get the right bus to the ground.

The 38A off Hawkins Street, a ten-minute stroll from my hotel.

But in truth after the early words of his advice of ‘just tell the driver where you’re going and he’ll tell you where to get off’, I kind of failed to listen.

So to my horror, after queuing and stepping on the bus all relaxed ahead of the game, I asked the driver to do exactly that.

“English, no speak,” came the reply from the Polish driver.

Oh, what now? Hardly anyone was on the bus to ask and all I could remember from the advice was it being a few yards from where you approach a big church where the road forks either side.

No sooner had we left than we came to such point and from the empty bus, I quickly jumped off.

But with no sign of the ground, I asked another more than helpful local and he gave me simple enough directions for the final MILE on foot.

And upon reaching another, bigger church, on a fork in the road, I noticed the floodlights yards away. I’d got the wrong church.

It was a pleasant enough evening, I suppose, to be pounding the streets of Dublin.

But lesson learned when it comes to directions. Take it all in, don’t take shortcuts.

I’m just glad I left three-and-a-half hours early, otherwise it would have been a bit of a sprint uphill to the ground.

Mind you reflecting on the game, would it have been such a loss had a never got there?

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Ireland not in friendly mood?

Sat outside enjoying a spot of lunch in Temple Bar this afternoon, I grabbed a copy of the Irish Herald to have a flick.

By the time I’d reached page five I was wondering if it was really worth having friends.

The front page was about a botched armed robbery last night in Dublin in which one of the culprits ended up dead – believed to have been stabbed by his fellow robber.

And then another Dublin man is in court, the case against alleging he beat his good friend to death in the house after he called his dad when drinking together. He is also alleged to have covered his body in newspaper and burned him to death afterwards.

Before I was treated to more tales of friendship “trouble”, I flicked to the back. And there it was, four pages of preview all linked around tonight’s Ireland “B” team friendly with Nottingham Forest at Dalymount Park.

One thing is for sure, with the tone of the Irish paper, it is not a game they are taking lightly. It is one in which those being given a chance are desperate to impress, the ones almost in the last chance saloon when it comes to making the Irish first team.

Personally, I found it a little worrying. After all, the Reds are on a run of six defeats in seven league matches.

They are rock bottom of the Championship, five points adrift of safety. But if anyone thought this was nothing more than a change in scenery for Forest, they are in for shock.

Unless the Reds are 100% committed, it is crystal clear Ireland could make a mockery of them.

This is no friendly in their eyes and the Reds must show the same attitude otherwise they could end home with confidence shattered.

But on the reverse side, a good performance and result against plenty of Premiership players could be the catalyst to a change in fortunes in the league. It could spur them on.

There is nothing happening in the centre of Dublin during the day to suggest there is match of any kind happening. No sea of green or red.. But the newspaper had made its importance known.

I am just keeping my fingers crossed the Reds approach it with in similar vein.

Otherwise this friendly could spectacularly backfire – and that is the last thing Forest need in the current climate.

Bruce Lee offers warm welcome to the Emerald Isle

A warm Irish welcome, that is what you can always expect, I was told.

That is unless you’re dragging your overnight bag and a laptop through the heart of Temple Bar.

Wandering to find my hotel, just thinking this isn’t a bad life, being flown over to Dublin to cover a football match, I was sounded out by an Irish hoodie.

Suddenly the splendour and atmosphere of Temple Bar was lost on me.

Decked out in his shell suit bottoms and gold chain, I managed to pick out a few words directed at me with his strong Irish twang.

And I tell you, it was quite the opposite of “welcome to Dublin”. Something along the lines of get back to England, with a few expletives thrown in.

Then, just for good measure, the moron walked on by while aiming a Bruce Lee style air kick at me, albeit in the knowledge he was too far away to make contact. I think he just wanted to make his feelings clear. He succeeded.

Or maybe, he knew Nottingham Forest were in town. Maybe he was worried his beloved Ireland side would not be strong enough to beat the Reds, his country would be humbled by the Championship strugglers.

Well, thinking about it, I doubt it was the latter on the evidence of the season so far.

But maybe tonight might be the start of a Reds revival at Dalymount Park.

Luckily I found my hotel soon after to get my laptop and luggage to safety, away from the threat of the Irish hoodies.

And at the hotel, it was a much warmer welcome, even letting me check in four hours early.

But then he handed me my key card – Room 101.

I tell you what - hoodies would be top of my list to throw in there, whatever their nationality.

Now, I have a few hours to kill until the big game.

I’m off to soak up the atmosphere and find that more welcoming side of the Irish capital that I was promised.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

A funny old game

A funny old game is football.
As Leicester fans wept into their beer over the weekend, Forest supporters ensured their celebrations at winning automatic promotion to the Championship went into overdrive.
But after four managers in a season for the Foxes, there can be little sympathy for their multi-millionaire owner Milan Mandaric as his side dropped into League One.
One Leicester fan I know had fired off a text to a Forest season ticket holder after the game on Saturday. It simply read “an easy six points for us next season”.
Needless to say, come Sunday afternoon, his mobile was getting some hammer from that same Reds fan reminding him to enjoy the likes of Cheltenham next season. Oh, and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
Finally, after a few seasons of misery, the Reds fans have something to shout about. Finally they are not the butt of jokes from their friends. Finally they can be the one doing the winding up.
And that is why after a Bank Holiday of partying, Forest fans will head back into the workplace today a little worse for wear and with a few hangovers. But they won't care. Forest are back.
As the play-offs unfold, the Reds faithful can sit back and enjoy the action with a few beers in the fridge. No pressure, just pure pleasure as they see who will be joining them in the Championship next season.
No more FA Cup until the third round, no more Johnstone’s Paint Trophy action.Little changes but reminders Forest can start thinking to better times ahead, no longer being the big club in a small pond. Leicester can take over that mantle.
Now, after three years of pain as they tried to climb out of League One, the planning will start for the future.
Chairman Nigel Doughty has promised not to rest until the Reds are back in the Premiership. There will no doubt be money to spend, new players to attract.
The nature of football means the celebrations will continue but all thoughts will turn to next season and dreams of what next.
Some fans will look at the likes of Bristol City and Hull being in this year’s Championship play-offs. Also seeing the likes of Stoke win promotion to the top flight will make fans ponder.
Establishing and consolidating their place back in the Championship is paramount after three years away. But as is football, some will already be dreaming of the Premiership.
At present the city is simply buzzing at Forest winning promotion. As Leicester fans continue to grieve, the Reds can continue to gloat.
But soon attentions will turn to next season and what next? Nobody wants a season of struggle. Surely promotion is nothing more than a pipe dream?
As the weekend proved, football is a funny old game.

Friday, 18 April 2008

400 jobs boost won’t help revive pit life

It is not often in the past 20 years there has been good news for the miners. Well, unless you’re a miner abroad that is.
In the UK the industry has been in decline, with the government choosing to look abroad because it is cheaper.
But now Harworth Colliery is on course to be reopened. Rocketing fuel prices abroad in the last 12 months mean it is suddenly cheaper to find resources from within.
Being born and bred within a mining community it seems ironic that is now the case, years after they shut our pits because they were not economical enough.
For Harworth itself, it is a new lease of life. A year after it shut, they could start work in autumn in getting it ready to mine. And in three years' time 400 miners could be working down Britain’s biggest mine, at least 20 years of work ahead.
I was fortunate enough to be taken down Harworth pit four years ago, finally getting to see first-hand when my dad and granddads all did.
From huge coal faces to crawling through tiny gaps to witness the coal being extracted. Hot, dusty, dirty. It looked tough.
The camaraderie underground was as strong as I expected. It had to be working in such tough conditions.
But I remember the camaraderie outside the pit back in the 80s. I was only four but I remember the time my old man was out on strike.
I remember afterwards as well. The pit was at the heart of my childhood years when it seemed everyone’s dad worked down the pit.
Blackened rings around the eyelids from the pit dust when they put you to bed after an afternoon’s shift or Friday afternoons when myself and my brother got to go down to Silverhill Colliery with dad to pick up his pay packet.
Sunday afternoons down the local tap room, crammed with folk, just seeing them past the haze of smoke as tales were told while we were in and out with the other kids to play out in the beer garden.
Those were the days when pit life dominated the community in the likes of Huthwaite where I was brought up. Everyone knew everyone.
But when the pits died, so did that life. Once you remove a heart from something, it is hard to replace it.
The pubs are dead and familiar faces few and far between. There is no hiding from the fact it is superb news for Harworth Colliery and those who it will employ.
But now it is just a job, not a way of life for the miners who will travel from not just Harworth but all over Notts and South Yorkshire to take up those jobs.
It might now be cheaper to reopen a pit in England.
Unfortunately, though, long gone is the time when the pit will be the heartbeat of the local community.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Rebecca the real Galactico

Real Madrid’s players were on a reported one million euros bonus to win this season’s Champions League.
As if the accolade itself, the six-figure weekly pay packets and multi-million pound sponsorship deals were not enough to inspire them.
And all for what? Well, 90 minutes training a day and kicking a bag of wind about once or twice a week.
But, despite such a sizeable bonus, it was not enough as they crashed out even before the quarter-final stage.
How refreshing to see Mansfield’s Rebecca Adlington this week getting excited about smashing a 22-year-old British swimming record that was held by Sarah Hardcastle.
And the bonus - a pair of new shoes from her mum!
She knocked five seconds off the record in the 800m freestyle in Sheffield at the Olympic trials - the fourth fastest time of all time.
Provided she finishes in the top two on Saturday morning in the final, she will be one of Great Britain’s medal hopes at the Beijing Olympics in a few month’s time.
She is 19 but how does she get so good?
In the pool in Nottingham at 6am every morning and again early evening for ten sessions a week, covering 70k every seven days.
So 20 hours in the pool, 15 hours in the gym a week, runs and a strict diet.
The incentive of new shoes was nice but that is not what drives Rebecca on to get out of bed before 5am every morning.
The chance to shatter more records and win medals will be enough to keep her hunger burning inside. Not the money.
The Galacticos of Madrid should hang their heads in shame.
Adlington, meanwhile, can take a few hours off her gruelling schedule to be the best. She’s got some shopping to do.