Sunday, 27 November 2011

Gary Speed: The Gentleman of Football

Today (Sunday 27 November 2011) is a sad day for the footballing world. The day we lost a footballing great. A genuine, lovely man who should be remembered for his achievements in life, and in football.

Gary Speed, manager of the Wales national team, has died at the age of 42. He was found at his home in Huntingdon, Chester by Cheshire Police at 0708 GMT. Above, is his last televised appearance on Football Focus alongside the BBC's Dan Walker and former footballer Gary McAllister, just hours before his death.

But, in this blog, I do not want to write about how Gary Speed was last remembered for. This blog is a look into what the man was, who he was, and how gracious a human being he was. I strongly believe that it is important to remember the value of Gary Speed, and what a remarkable human being he was.

In 1988, Speed made his debut for Leeds United, aged 19, and in a career lasting 8 years at Elland Road,he made 312 appearances as well as winning the First Division in 1992. His career then see him move to Everton in 1996, and in 1998 he joined Newcastle United where he became a fan's favourite, and reaching two different FA Cup finals with the Magpies. Six years later he joined Bolton for £750k and became the first ever player to reach 500 Premier League appearances in 2006. A year later, he was given a player-coaching role at Bolton where he also became the first player to score in every Premier League season since its inception. He became manager of Sheffield United after retiring as a player at Brammall Lane, but was still named as a substitute for a League Cup game against Hartlepool a year after retiring as a player (when he was 41).

Speed was appointed manager of Wales in December 2010, succeeding John Toshack. Despite a difficult start as Wales boss, he achieved five victories in his first ten matches as manager of Wales, with his last win coming in November 2011 against Norway, in a 4-1 win. Speed was in charge of Wales for less than a year, but his revolution as boss was shown within his players. Huge support from former international Ryan Giggs, Robbie Savage and Mark Hughes gave Speed the motivation to achieve something great at Wales, and in his short space of time, he did. He installed a confidence, and a passion, something which has been absent in the Welsh national team for a long time. He handed the captain's armband to young Aaron Ramsey, a player exactly in the mould of Speed when he was a player. He gave back confidence to Welsh servant Craig Bellamy and realised the importance of players like James Collins and Gareth Bale, as well as introducing younger players to his squad. Gary Speed, muchlike his managerial skills, was a wonderful, bright and focused human being.

Tributes for Gary Speed have been flooding social networking websites since the news became public. Arsenal midfielder and Wales captain Ramsey tweeted: "I was given the tragic news this morning. To say I am devastated is an understatement"

Dan Walker, presenter of Football Focus when Speed made his appearance on November 26 2011, put on Twitter: "Staggered by the news of Gary Speed's death. Was with him for much of yesterday (Saturday). I genuinely cannot believe it. Thoughts with his family."

Many more tributes have been pouring in to remember Gary Speed.

My greatest memory of Gary Speed were his bullet headers from corners, or his sweet left foot. So many goals and perfect passes were made from his left boot, and I admired how important he was for clubs like Newcastle and Bolton. He was a fighter in the midfield, he battled for the ball all the time and was an inspirational leader both on and off the field of play.
I said it is vital we remember Gary Speed as an instrumental footballer and an apolcalyptic man. He will always be one of the footballing greats.

It's been a first for me today. The first time I've ever written a blog post with a tear in my eye. But, despite my young age, I grew up hearing about Gary Speed, and seeing this midfielder win games for his teams. He was my era, and any loss to the sport I love is a tragic one. The game has lost too many young names in such a short space of time. Phil O'Donnell, Antonio Puerta, Daniel Jarque to name a few.

As I watched the news come in today, my first reaction was one of shock. A reaction that I would have never expected to encounter today. We had lost a terrific person. It took me longer and longer to come to terms with this horrific news. It's rare that I show any physical emotion through tears, but whilst watching this footage of the one-minute silence before the Swansea vs Aston Villa game today, I could not help but feel that Gary Speed has been an incredible character in many people's lives. All you hear at first is one supporter clapping, which slowly turns into a stadium filled with supporters clapping. The mutual respect for Speed was outstanding, and proven by this applause. He was a man who deserved applause. He was a man who deserved our respect. He was a man who deserves our appreciation for his outstanding 22-year playing career in football, and for just who he was.
Thank you Gary Speed. Thank you, and may you rest peacefully.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

AVB is the man to guide Chelsea on straight and narrow

Despite all his current problems, from an ageing team, to a defence leaking more goals than my tap does water, all this talk of sacking 34-year-old Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas would seem to be rather justified. But, sacking another manager five months into his tenure at the club would solve what? The same problem Abramovich has tried to resolve since his arrival in 2003? It solves nothing, and as easy as it is to just get rid of AVB and bring in the next fool to take over this illustrious job, the club is already making some solid movements to becoming the force to be reckoned with.

Questions can be raised over AVB's tactical awareness in recent matches, after a run of horrendous form has seen defeats against QPR, Arsenal, Liverpool and Bayer Leverkusen. However, we must not exempt the players from their responsbilities in representing their club on the field. For all his "inexperience" at a level like this, AVB created something historic at FC Porto last season, winning the Portuguese league, and also becoming the youngest manager to obtain the Europa League. To question his ability as a manager is bizarre. To question his structural balance within his current crop of players is relevant though.

His ability to reinstall and create a new sense of attacking flair at Chelsea Football Club has been ever prominent this season, but in building this new attack-minded approach, the former mentor of Jose Mourinho has completely forgotten the basis on which Chelsea have been known for years - a defence. AVB needs to find a solution, and quickly, and he needs to even more quickly create a balance between his side's attacking flair and a defensive structure.

Petr Cech's time is nearly up. His error for the winner from Leverkusen and numerous mistakes over the past few years make him vulnerable, and sadly the once great keeper has looked a miniature compared to when he first joined from Rennes. Maybe Stephen Hunt may have something to do with that. Thibaut Courtois is quickly breathing down his neck, and despite a two-year loan to Athletico Madrid, Chelsea could well see themselves calling him back sooner than they'd like to replace to uncomfortable looking Czech international.

Branislav Ivanovic is the only defender who seems capable of not making a mistake this season so far. Jose Bosingwa has been in terrific form since AVB's arrival, but his sending off at QPR cast doubts over his ability at right-back. David Luiz has been heavily criticised this season for being too attack-minded, leaving Chelsea short at the back on countless occassions, and leaving partner and captain John Terry to pick up the pieces. But even Terry's future at the club hangs in the balance. It's fair to say Terry's ability as a solid defender and world class leader is unquestionable, but his frailties lie within the media and his constant reputation for off-the-field antics. Where is the defender who puts his heart and soul into everything? Where is Chelsea's captain? For the last three years his actions of the field, and reputation in the press has made Terry a vulnerable target, and for Chelsea supporters, this is a target they cannot afford to drag along on the pitch anymore. Terry's tenure at the club has to be over. His numerous simple mistakes, his lack of pace, his off-field distractions and his lack of interest in what he does best seem to be overshadowing the career of the once great central defender. Ashley Cole is somebody who's future at the club needs to be analysed. His mistake to leave Glen Johnson free at Stamford Bridge is a classic example of what only the minority have been shouting for years. Ashley Cole is not the best left back in the world. Simple. Cole spends too much time arguing with the officials he forgets why he is on the pitch. From a personal view, I feel for Alex. His lack of passion in the dying minutes against Leverkusen meant he was easily beaten to a ball he should have cleared, and the German side managed to finish the game with all three points. But who can blame him? AVB's lack of faith in him make him a huge problem within the ranks.

The midfield is building and improving with time, but it still lacks that dogged creator. Chelsea greatly miss Michael Essien. He battles, he fights, he commits. Chelsea miss that. John Obi Mikel is too simple, and for somebody dubbed as 'the next Makelele', his opportunity to prove that tag is true was long gone. Raul Meireles needs more playing time. Frank Lampard, despite his ageing legs will always be a key player for the club. He's a game changer, a creator, and one of the best passers of a football in the world. Ramires had an impressive start but is going through his yearly spot of form where he is neither good nor bad. Florent Malouda also seems to be a major problem in the midfield. Just a shadow of the man we saw under Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti, Malouda has once again become the man we first saw at Chelsea. Confused, looking out of his depth, and sluggish. A trip back to France may soon be calling for the former Lyon winger. Calls for Oriol Romeu and Josh McEachran to receive starting calls grow ever stronger, and the opportunity to blood some energetic youth into this lacklustre midfield trio may need to be taken now.

Didier Drogba still has something to offer to Chelsea. His brute force, goalscoring prowess and vision make him a vital player in the short-term planning at Chelsea. Nicolas Anelka also has something to offer, but it is suggested his departure from Stamford Bridge is sooner than some fans may expect with a move away in January looking likely.

The future of Salomon Kalou still remains unclear, although his effort, speed and persistency never ceases to amaze me. For a player who is consistently resorted to taking a seat in the stands or on the bench, he remains to be an annoying player for opposition wing-backs to defend against. Still at a relatively young age, maybe these young shoulders can create some old life in the Chelsea attack, but AVB's inability to find a starting slot for him may find see his chances at the Bridge become more and more limited.

The future revolves around four more players, and despite the criticism. Fernando Torres will shine. The quetsion is when? There is something within the Spaniard which is still to power through this dark time in his career. His still lacks that cutting edge effect, but some performances this season still show the quality the striker possesses. Is his number up already though? For a £50million signing, he is racking up some huge doubters, and his recent drop to the bench make him suspectical to even more disharmony, but AVB must pursue with Torres. His natural instinct make him a worthwhile signing, albeit not for his price tag, but a worthwhile one nonetheless. Juan Mata (pictured above) is the fire in Chelsea's belly this season. An important signing for the Blues, and a player they have been craving ever since the instrumental Gianfranco Zola left the club back in 2003. His pace,vision and creativity are a delight, and with him and young Daniel Sturridge on the wings, both players have proven to be Chelsea's biggest threats this season. It is key AVB realises these players are the future of the football club, and he needs to realise that the core of his team will no longer be the old guard, but for the young terriers. This leaves one name who has been cast into the shadows this season - Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian striker has not had the chance to prove his worth. AVB is being careful with Lukaku. He does not want to create a seed of doubt amongst critics and supporters about the youngster's career. But, Lukaku must be given the experience now if he is to succeed Didier Drogba. If Drogba goes, and Lukaku fills the spot, then Chelsea are stuck. They will have a striker, younger than 20, with so little Premier League game time that his career will mirror the one set by Andriy Shevchenko during his time in London. AVB is being careful, but he's being too careful. Lukaku's brute strength, pace and flexibility make him Drogba's perfect successor, but AVB must find that space for him to contribute if Chelsea are to begin their change of tide.

AVB is the man, but his need to introduce his squad players is ever stronger than before. He has players waiting, chomping at the bit to prove their point. He needs fire. He needs passion. He needs something new. The old breed is dying, and AVB has to understand that his club needs to centralise its new future around five key players. Branislav Ivanovic, Raul Meireles, Juan Mata, Daniel Sturridge, and Fernando Torres.


General Points

  • Well this week, everybody worked so hard to get so much content available for the programme, and by having EIGHT different packages and 20 minutes of content into one programme is an outstanding effort and is a real tributeto the hard-work we are putting in, and hopefully this will not go unrecognised.

  • We had a couple of late illnesses and unavailabilities over the weekend, but we had people willing to contribute and create content to this ever growing show, with people from Leeds, and both members of the newsteam and from MA.

  • The programme is becoming popular amongst Eastleigh, Basingstoke, Winchester and Totton fans especially and it is so vital that we continue to emphasise our commitment to producing sports content for WINOL, and building relationships at these clubs to give us the access we need in able to produce such stunning packages.

  • We have started receiving packages from games in the Blue Square North which I believe is absolutely vital. Even though it is not specifically related to this local area, it is important we continue to build our audiences and views, and build relationships with other univerisities, football clubs and types of viewers if we want to become bigger. This is a must for the future and contact must be maintained.

Individual Packages

  • Dael - Potted history is very well structured, and very well researched. Obviously the sound on the radio mic is very distorted which we know and we tried three different radio mics and still the sound remained the same. This is a shame because it essentially ruins a very good package. The highlights are once again of a very high standard, but there is also room for improvement. The good thing about this game was that it was a very eventful tie. We were both in attendance and it was a terrific match so we had a lot to work with. Well done for getting into the changing room for the pre-match team talk. Fantastic piece of footage which really brought the piece some extra diversity and interest.

  • Sam - This is filmed by Mikey. It's a shame it wasn't the most exciting match, but Mikey did well to get there. Sam, you did fantastically well this week. Not only did you have two packages but you also filmed for two hours on Wednesday afternoon. You worked hard this week so a big thank you, and a well done. You deserved the two packages.

  • Connolly - I know you have been dying for weeks to do a football package. Finally you got one! It's very well shot, and I have no quarms with your camera skills as you just seem to be getting better and better, and I think filming the ice hockeys has worked wonders for you. The scripting of your piece could be a little better. Remember when you first name players mention their first names too. You said "Bubb" and "Little" but the audience may not know their first names. Just put that in, then for the rest of the piece just use the surnames. Nice shot of Frank Gray with Manager of the Month award.

  • Aarran - Filmed by Karen. The game was a difficult one to film from that angle, but I know you have made the most of it, and credit to you for going all the way to Kent to film a football match. The commentary is good. I cannot knock you on your commentary really - technically it's a little loud so maybe we could have turned it down a bit more. The voiceover is structured well and it tells a story. Only criticism is, but you will learn this, is try not to give away the goal before it happens. Keep the viewers interested and make them want to watch what happens with some intriging comms or voiceovers. But, I know you worked really hard on this and took a real big interest on making this your VT so well done, and for a first real attempt at making a sportsweek package it is good. Final point....cutaways. The celebrations should really act as a GV (general view) for the goal. Carry the sound from the goal and put celebrations images over the top of the original sound. Makes for a really tight andprofessional edit.

  • Sam (Athletics) - I've spoken to you about this. Just get down to the same height at the interviewee. It was hard to film as there wasn't much action, but it's something different. Possibly would have been better as an OOV but I felt you had enough comment to make as a short sports news package.

  • Henry - Rugby is good again. As I've said before, you are making it interesting. Just be sure on the kick off time. Couple of times you have turned up late to the game. But it is very good, and it was edited quickly this week. So very well done again.

  • Louis - I know you felt a bit nervous on doing this but thank you so much for filling in for Michael when he felt ill on Sunday afternoon. You did all of us a huge favour! For a first package it's a good effort - ice hockey is so hard to film. But you did well. Also, Angus is so right about your voice. It's energetic, exciting and I enjoy listening to your packages as they add an extra excitement which is absolutely ideal for sport! Same point as Aarran regarding cutaways - cut to the celebration visually and carry the sound from the goal and use as a GV instead. Otherwise, for a first try on sport - this is a great effort, and you worked hard and listened to the advice I gave and were always looking for feedback throughout the week.

  • Edward - For a first go - this has received some very positive reviews in the newsroom. I've e-mailed you most of your feedback. The interview I have obviously changed, I have just dragged it out a bit more and shortened the length. But you have given us a lot of content with the original video to work with. Love your voiceover. The scripting is very good, and I look forward to seeing more of your content in the future.

  • Jake - Cannot knock your presenting really. Comfortable, confident. It's too easy for you now, and without making you egotistical, you are the best presenter currently on WINOL. Well done.

  • Domonique - I haven't done this enough but I would like to say a huge thank you to Domonique and the rest of the production team for all their hard work in making Sportsweek happen. I know you guys have busy schedules, particularly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays so I just want to thank you for preparing the studio and sorting out graphics and writing out all the straplines for Sportsweek. It's a fantastic help, and your support in producing Sportsweek is truly appreciated.

  • William - You will present the last Sportsweek. I did say this to you a few weeks ago. Well here is the proof!

Well done team! A very successful week again this week! Let's keep working hard until Christmas! No WINOL this week, but please be prepared and organised for the strikes. Thank you once again for all your hard work and team morale!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

WINOL 16/11/11

Check out this week's WINOL. I had the pleasure of presenting the news, something I have requested for a while.
I'm confident now in my ability to present, and have been for sometime. I have been voice coaching myself over the last year to stop my "typically cockney" accent and become more approachable to an audience.

I feel the in-studio chat with Rebecca was necessary, but the VERY VERY VERY late decision by William means we were under-prepared. My criticism of this was that we had known all week about this story, yet only decided to act on it, an hour before going live. We need to be more decisive in what is to be put in the running order, and waiting on putting something in. If we wanted that studio chat, then we put it in. I understand a breaking news story, but this was known and we acted upon it, but far too late.

Julie filled in fantastically for Cara (who went home ill late in the day) on Sports. She handled the pressure well and our off-screen chemistry allowed us both to feel comfortable working together on-screen. Any doubts over the pronounciations, then Julie would ask me in terms of sport and we worked well and without hardly any rehearsal time I believe we both performed confidently.

I have no criticisms over any of the VT's this week except one. The Estonia piece was appalling. There was the same shot THREE times and for two people to be out there and record some mediocre, sloppy, repetitive shots is lazy and simplistic. The voiceover by Hannah is clear and well scripted, but technically the camera work is of an embarrassing standard.

I was particularly complimentary of George Berridge this week as Director. I have presented twice with George now and feel very comfortable and confident under his lead. He is clear, he is gracious, and he is appreciative of the work his team in the gallery in doing. My only advice to him would be to be more strict in his delivery and be firm in his decisions.

Other than that, it was a stressful week. It was not our best week, but my God, I've seen much worse.

Saturday, 19 November 2011


General Points

  • My first point for this week is the length of our Sportsweek show for this week. 18 minutes is outstanding and is just a testament to the amount of quality content we are producing week in, wek out. We have to keep this tempo up in the final weeks and it is important we focus solely on Sportsweek as a whole and work on improving the content of our show.

  • We have in recent weeks taken note of comments made from first years about the content I put in the sports part of the bulletin. We have taken their reviews into consideration and it seems to be getting some relatively good feedback. We have been more concise in our approach to the bulletin, yet understanding the importance of producing numerous amounts of content as a standby option.

  • As a criticism, I think we need to be a bit wary and more understanding of Wednesdays. For too many weeks now we have not had enough numbers in on time. I understand the pressures of Wednesdays and willingly take out my time to produce scripts, content for both the bulletin and sportsweek. But, we are not working as a team on Wednesday. We are coming in and thinking our work is done then leaving. We need to be around for every reason possible. I understand guys have sports matches and that is fine as long as I am told ASAP. BUT, this week was much better as we were all in, late on Wednesday working so it is better.

Dael - Moreorless given the Totton package on a plate, but you've done well on it and you have worked hard to perfect it the best way possible. I still think your scripting needs some work, but technically you are there. You know how to film, you how to edit. Your scripting does need work, and we must work on the LINKS and FIRST SENTENCE OF YOUR PACKAGE as for too many weeks they have sounded the same. We have to work together to come up with a balance.

Mikey - WINOL Woodwork. You can do better than this. It was nice to have it but it was so easy to do, and it's like you are settling for the easiest thing possible and doing that. But it is well filmed, and you are top notch are WINOL Woodworks. If you are going to do one, we need AFC Totton. Only criticism is that it is a little long this week. Even I got bored after a while.

Sam - I like the basketball. It's such a hard sport to film, especially at this level, but you've done well and to have it filmed at 12pm on a Wednesday and done by the Wednesday evening is terrific. Love the cutaway of the Southampton manager going beserk. Really good. I still think we need to work on "padding out" your VT with more of a detailed script though.

Henry - Can't fault the rugby really. I used to hate rugby on WINOL but you are making it interesting. The cutaway at the end is brilliant. At the start of your package you tell us the score.....not sure on this. I understand the context you put it in, but you give away the score before any highlights so the audience are like "Oh, so we know the score...why watch it?" Technically good, and as I said, Rugby is now worthy to sports.

Connolly - WOW. Feature is brilliant, it's funny, clever, mixed with interviewsand music. It's very good. I would have liked Dael to get on the ice with you to get closer shots of you on the Ice, but you have both worked hard to make it something good. The highlights are good as well. Ice hockey is becoming one of the most popular sports in WINOL I feel.

NEXT WEEK (23/11/11)

  • Obviously there is no WINOL because of preparations for the strikes but we do have a Sportsweek.

  • Mikey - I want AFC Totton WINOL Woodwork no excuses. This is our last shot before the FA Cup. Get it done. They train Tuesdays at the stadium. I have Sean New's number if you need it.

  • Connolly - Basingstoke Bison. Ring me tomorrow (Sunday) to let me know how you get on.

  • Sam - Wheelchair racing cheque presentation (Sunday), and Winchester City vs Brading (Tuesday)

  • Henry - Winchester RFC 2nd XI League Action (Saturday)

  • Dael - Eastleigh Potted History with Dartford highlights (Saturday) - we worked on this and I feel it could be really good.

  • Aarran - I know you had an issue with radio going offline but you have gone and filmed at Herne Bay in the FA Vase. If you want to do extended highlights for website then fantastic. But sportsweek a 2minute package (maybe 2min 30seconds) would be ideal.

  • Jake- Presenting. In early as possible on Tuesday please. I know you're working a lot at the moment but I can't have any delays this week.



Wednesday, 9 November 2011

"The Master" just keeps on delivering

Two words. Sachin Tendulkar. Tuesday 8 November 2011 is a day in cricket history. A day Tendulkar made cricket history. The day when he came became the only man in history to ever reach 15,000 Test match runs. An incredible feat, and one that should not be overlooked as another one for the record books because it just so happens this man has been setting goals, targets and achieving the highest heights in cricket since he burst onto the scene in November 1989, aged just 16!

The leading run-scorer and century maker in both Test and ODI cricket, and the only player to score a double hundred in any one-day international match in the history of the game. Tendulkar's rise to the top has been more astronomical than any other sporting event ever.

In a week where the sport was tarnished in the spot-fixing scandal involving Pakistani cricketers Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir, and sports agent Mazhar Majeed, who was consequently rumbled by an exclusive undercover report by the now-deceased "News of the World". This week has seen their court trial come to a head and verdicts given. All players were charged and convicted with a conspiracy to cheat at gambling and to accept corrupt payments. On 3 November 2011, jail terms were handed down of 30 months for Butt, one year for Asif, six months for Amir and two years eight months for Majeed. Despite this plunging the game into more doubt about its ethics, Tendulkar still continues to prove why cricket is one of the most adored sports on this planet with an exceptional display of batting seen since the days of Donald Bradman. His name was in the history books long ago, now is just a personal mission.

At 38 years of age, it's fair to say Tendulkar's longetivity in the sport is a dying age. His career will be THE ONE to remember. His 22-year tenure in the sport is a stubborn one and there is one goal which has slipped "The Little Master's" grasp in recent months. That elusive 100th hundred.

Tendulkar has been stuck on 99 international hundreds since March now, a period stretching for over 8 months. For somebody of his class, the record breaking century cannot be far away. Many expected him to claim his feat in England on India's recent tour, a tour which the Indians would like to forget soon though. But that tour was a disappointing one.
But the attention will now turn to Tendulkar and his quest to reach number 100 and become the first person in cricket history to reach it, having already scored 51 Test centuries and 48 ODI centuries in 635 international matches.

Tonight, Tendulkar sits on 33 not out after day three of India's first test against the West Indies in Dehli. Sachin needs 67 unbeaten runs to make even more history than what he has already. His aim is surely a matter of where and when now. His achievements are unquestionable. His talent is undeniable. His reputation as "The God of Cricket" will always remain undefeated.