Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Got The Blues

No, not a football hangover, but the ‘post-Glastonbury Blues’.

The high point of my summer gone, no England world cup triumph to look forward to, and a return to work today, with tired eyes and body yet to fully recover.

On a more positive slant, the festival was excellent, helped by perfect weather. Glastonbury rarely disappoints. There is always something new to see or hear, and the organisers avoid many of those things which can jar at other festivals – long queues, heavy handed security, cross-stage noise. We even managed to travel to and from the festival without any traffic hold-ups.

I watched the England – Slovenia game on the big screens on Wednesday, but decided to miss the Germany game. It was screened in two fields on the far edges of the festival site, and getting a decent position would have probably involved missing most of the afternoon’s music. My view was that if England won, there would be a further game to watch, and if they lost, I’d regret missing the music. Good call.

There are plenty of more informed views than my own, so I’ll keep my comments simple –

i. For England to have won the World Cup we required our best player to be in scorching form. He wasn’t.

ii. The team will kick themselves about that dismal performance against Algeria, particularly as the draw unfolds – a Ghana / Uruguay route to a semi doesn’t look too daunting.

iii. If our players look carefully, they’ll spot plenty of other Premier League-based players who’ve had a poor time in South Africa, and not many who’ve been successful. Are we paying the price for having such a competitive league?

iv. Daftest comment so far. The FIFA spokesperson who suggested that, after the Lampard ‘goal’ and Tevez offside, the authorities may have to look at removing pitch-side screens. Missing the point?

For any music types out there, here’s a list of the bands that I managed to see over the festival weekend.

The Magic Numbers
Frank Turner
Mumford & Sons
Carl Barat
Biffy Clyro
The National
Laura Marling
The Lightning Seeds
The Hold Steady
Teddy Thompson
Ray Davies
Richard Thompson

It’s only upon writing this list that it’s occurred to me that I currently have a very ‘white’ musical taste. I’ve never thought of myself as a ‘musical racist’, but at a festival showing a huge range of music from around the world, I seem to have a ‘Caucasian bias’. I’m sure the ‘guitar bias’ is more relevant.

I’ll try to have a look at Betfair at some point today. I quite like the look of Paraguay and Kim Clijsters, but the odds may be prohibitive.

I’ll finish with another YouTube clip – a band whose festival performance did nothing to diminish their standing as my favourite current band – The Hold Steady.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Between Festivals

This World Cup lark, it’s just a re-occurring headache every four years. I’m watching my seventh England finals effort, and most seem to start depressingly. Maybe it seems worse this time because four years ago, almost uniquely, we breezed through the first stage. The final game against Slovenia coincides with the opening day of Glastonbury, so I’ll probably find myself listening to the Five Live commentary on the car radio whilst stuck in a thirty mile traffic jam.

I watched the USA game on the big screen at the Isle of Wight Festival, and the Algeria game on the sofa at home. The experience was worse tonight. Maybe the England performance was inferior, but having the banter of a few thousand fans to listen to is certainly more uplifting than the commentary of Andy Townsend and Clive Tyldesley. Additionally, on Saturday the crowd quickly moved away back to the Festival stages, whilst tonight I was stuck between the pointless ITV post-match analysis, or eviction night on Big Brother. Gloom.

My World Cup winning run came to a grinding halt last night with a trade on France (Draw No Bet), although I recovered a chunk of my loss back today with a lay of Any Unquoted in the Germany/Serbia correct score market. I may try a similar bet on the Holland/Japan game tomorrow.

To lift the mood, I’ve found one of the highlights from last weekend. Pink isn’t the sort of act I’d normally be drawn to, but the programme write-up promised an exciting spectacle, and she didn’t disappoint, climaxing with this display. The 1970 Isle of Wight festival may have been legendary, but I’m sure no-one on that bill matched this for theatrics.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Missed The Boat?

I made a belated entry into the World Cup markets after a few days away, and so far it's been straightforward and profitable. Six trades, six wins, with my profits restricted only by my tendency to green up too early. I'm left with a feeling that the first round of matches may have been the easy pickings, and that things may be a little less predictable from now on. I feel there may still be profit in my view that people are betting based on reputation ( often four years out of date ), but as the competition progresses, current form will become the dominant factor.

Obviously, 'unders' has been the place to be during the initial batch of games. I think a few fingers may get burnt in the coming days if people believe that this 'easy money' outcome will continue. It should be worthwhile spending some time looking at the possible permutations in each group, there are still a few games where a 'don't lose' strategy will be employed by the coach.

I haven't spotted much of interest today. I've laid 0-0 in the Argentina game, despite the fact I'm working during the match. So a simple strategy - I'll check the score at 70 minutes and take an all-red on iBetMate if it's still 0-0. I've also had a few quid on Taylor Dent and Rick De Voest in the Wimbledon qualifiers.

Best thing about the World Cup so far? That John Motson has been relegated to reporter. Like Rod Stewart and Carlisle United, his best days were in the Seventies. Subsequently, I've become increasingly irritated by his need to find a 'story' in each game which he will constantly reference throughout the match. I'd be perfectly happy for Motty and his sheepskin overcoat to be permanently sent to join Ted Lowe and John Barrett in the home for retired commentators.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Status Update.

Rob The Builder

Come on England!

Monday, 7 June 2010

St George.........and another R.I.P.

It’s that time again, seen every couple of years, when the cross of St George appears from bedroom windows and car roofs. Unfortunately, I have a bit of a problem with this. I tend to cringe. I’m sure the residents of most countries around the world can happily express their patriotism with a flag, but our English emblem has been hijacked too often. Driving around over the last few days, I’m simply reminded of a number of council estates, notably Castle Vale in Birmingham, where the flag represents a no-go area for ethnic minorities. I’m reminded of Nick Griffin and his band of racist twats. And I’m reminded of the flag being draped over pissed-up knobs throwing chairs around in various European city centres whilst following our national team. So I’ll be supporting my team just like the rest of us, but there’ll be no emblem in sight. Pity really.

I was quite surprised by how much I was saddened by the death of Stuart Cable earlier today. Maybe the death of a fellow forty-something struck a cord. But mainly, I have good memories of his time in Stereophonics. The band’s image has not fared well in recent times, dulled by a series of pretty average albums, but there was a time, at the end of the last century and the start of the current one, when they were one of the best bands in the world. Off the back of their initial two superb albums, they headlined the Reading festival in 2000 and Glastonbury in 2002. Cable was sacked from the band in 2003 – it may be coincidence that they have never hit those heights since. He also had a spell as a DJ on my local rock station – Kerrang Radio – and had a great radio voice and personality. He will be missed, particularly in Wales. I’ll add a couple of you-tube videos which (IMO) show Stereophonics at the height of their powers.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Talent Spotting

A lovely summer’s day, particularly when spent in the pleasant surroundings of the Edgbaston Priory Club. I popped over with Mrs B to watch the first round of qualifying for the Aegon Classic, and had a great day out. The weather makes a hell of a difference, and free admission also improves the mood.

We watched some fairly competitive games in the morning and early afternoon, before having a stroll across Edgbaston to Birmingham’s best ( and priciest ) fish and chip shop. On our return, we had a look at a few of the higher-ranked players practising, and arrived back at the courts in time to see Britain’s great hope, Laura Robson, play a tight three-setter against a decent Russian opponent, Nina Bratchikova. Robson lost the first set but came back to win. She hasn’t played much this year ( I presume she’s concentrating on GCSE’s ) but looked fairly solid for a sixteen year-old, with a good first serve to get her out of trouble when necessary. The other top junior, Heather Watson, has a wild card into the main draw so, with the draw as a whole looking stronger than the last couple of years, I’m hoping for another good day when we return on Tuesday.

There was a blatant courtsider in attendance ( East European, mid-size laptop, dongle ) presumably checking out his seating position for Monday. He was, however, also obvious to the WTA supervisor, who had a sharp word in his ear. He'll need to be a little cleverer than he was today.

I obviously like to check out all the players on show and pass on my inside knowledge to my loyal blog readers. From today’s play, the outstanding talent on show was clearly Heidi El Tabakh, the 23 year-old Egyptian-born Canadian. I’ve no idea if she’s any good at tennis………

Friday, 4 June 2010

May - A bit rubbish, really

Well, performed a little like Theo Walcott in May – lots of promise, a couple of charging runs forward, but a crap final delivery leading to ultimate disappointment.

Despite the entertaining Cassini’s claims, I finished with another red month, despite only having five losing days in the period. I think I’m heading backwards at the moment. I’m more prone to loss-chasing than I ever have been, unsurprisingly leading to my worst results for a couple of years. My losses have been limited only by the restricted sums kept in my Betfair bank. And one simple reason – I don’t follow my own rules and advice. Therefore, June looks a great month for a break – I’m spending a couple of days at the women’s tennis at Edgbaston, and will also be attending the Isle of Wight and Glastonbury festivals. So I’ll limit my June betting to the World Cup and Wimbledon, and use the remaining time to clear my head of recent frustrations, and try to regain the mindset I’ve had in profitable times.

It Was Bound To Happen (1)

I’ve commented regularly about the flaky mentality of the players at the top of women’s tennis. I was pleased to see the returning Belgians, who I hoped might show a little more consistency. The rest are just not trustworthy. On the next (lower) level of players, Stosur, Schiavone, Shvedova and Peer have been much more consistent and mentally tougher, if unlikely to win any major tournament – there would be always be one or two of the big names in form on each occasion. Until this week. The 26 year-old Sam Stosur and 29 year-old Francesca Schiavone are two tough and solid pro’s. They haven’t the talent of a Wozniaki or Dementieva. But I’ve certainly placed more money on them in the past, in the knowledge that at least the towel wouldn’t be thrown in, or the game end in floods of tears.

I’d expect Stosur to win. The only pity is she probably won’t make it to Edgbaston next week if the result goes her way.

It Was Bound To Happen (2)

Returning readers may have spotted my less than favourable comments on Mr Rafael Benitez. I remain surprised at how much support he retained to the end from Liverpool fans. He made a great start with a team mainly put together by Gerard Houllier, and bought Xavi Alonso, Pepe Reina and Fernando Torres. That’s the positives. But there were too many negatives – headscratching tactics, poor purchases ( too many to list, but consider Josemi, N’gog, Voronin ) and a tendency to get involved in spats with opposing managers and the press. He lost his regular number two, Pako Ayesteran, in early 2008 and it’s been downhill ever since. Coincidence?

Liverpool look to be in trouble. Would the top managers suggested for the role ( O’Neill, Hodgson ) work for a club owned by Gillett and Hicks, with little money available to overhaul a poor squad? If Gerrard and Torres were to go, they would be left with a team unlikely to even challenge for a Europa League spot.