Recently, I’ve had a lot of people asking me to comment on issues relating to footballers and in particular, their morals.
This was of course, largely a result of the Carlos Tevez situation and his alleged refusal to get his overpaid but extremely talented arse off the Manchester City bench and actually do what he is paid shit-loads to do. But it’s continued thanks to the activities of… well, far too many of them.
Quite why anyone thinks I am qualified to comment on the morals of anyone is something of a mystery as my life has hardly been virtuous but hey, if they ask, I answer. It’s what I do.
For what it’s worth, I think that the vast majority of footballers are decent blokes who are lucky enough to be paid to do a job most blokes would do for nothing. Some of them are paid way too much money admittedly but that’s hardly their fault. Whilst one can argue at length about the issue of players wages, as it stands it is market forces that dictate what they get paid and so until that issue is finally resolved as it surely has to be soon, I say fill your boots!
However, there are also a few amongst their number who are not decent at all and can at best be described as chavs and at worst, as scum. There are certainly individuals who, were it not for the fact that they could play football, would be in prison. Probably for a long time.
This is hardly a shock. After all, football is the working class game and even in this day and age, many footballers come from backgrounds which can hardly be called affluent. So it is hardly surprising that some of them go off the rails when they suddenly find themselves swimming in money, living in expensive apartments and left to their own devices. What doesn’t help is that their clubs or agents are so quick to step in and clean up their mess and that to me is the real problem. It’s the fact that being a good footballer seems to provide a golden get-you-out-of-jail card. That’s not right.
No one should be above the rule of law but equally, no one who represents the game, be they player or manager, has the right to drag it into the papers for the wrong reasons and be able to escape punishment. Being a twat, stupid or just horny is no excuse and I don’t care if it’s drink driving, adultery, rape, murder or simply refusing to play, they are bringing football into disrepute and should be hammered by those who administer it.
Not least because it makes those who follow the game that funds these lifestyles look foolish to those who don’t.
It’s not often I write about politics but today, I have to make an exception.
Quite why this compulsion has hit at this particular time is unclear as the decision I’ve made and the reasons for it were made months ago but hey, my subconscious has decided that today is the day and so here we go.
I have never made any secret of the fact I have always voted Tory and am a huge fan of Lady Thatcher. My father led me along this road from an early age but it was reinforced when I joined the RAF (the military are traditionally right-wing) and set in stone when I headed south as part of the South Atlantic Task Force in 1982.
If anything, my anti-left resolve was hardened when Blair and his loathsome cronies came to power and set about their pre-planned destruction of the social (and as we later learned, economic) fabric of our country. A crime which is far more serious than the ongoing obsession with a so-called illegal war in Iraq yet which will similarly and tragically never result in any kind of justice being imposed upon those responsible.
Have no doubt, I was thrilled when Brown was ejected from number 10 and chuffed to bits that my vote contributed to his demise. I had high hopes for Cameron and even though he was forced to bring the Lib-Dems in, I was convinced that anything would be better than what we had been enduring. Yet as the weeks unfolded and the true extent of the damage Labour had inflicted on the country began to be exposed, I began to become concerned. And the more I heard, the more my unease grew.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually support many of the things the coalition are doing and whole heartedly back the cuts the government are making because at the end of the day, that’s my money being wasted by the NHS, the Civil Service and even the MOD (don’t get me started on that!). I also applaud the stance being taken over law and order and the growing calls to repeal elements of the human rights act. However, I certainly don’t support some of the cuts made to defence especially the destruction of the Harrier fleet which will surely rank as one of the most crazed military decisions of all time.
But there have been two particular issues which have enraged me since Dave came to power and combined, they have ensured that I will never vote Tory again.
The first is the issue of Europe. I’m English first, British second and European never. Whilst I understand the concept of a European state and accept that there are certain elements of it which are of huge benefit to the nation, there are other aspects which disgust me, others which terrify me. To me, it’s clear that the EU is a club which needs us far more than we need it and that alone is reason enough to leave. So where is my referendum? The one Dave repeatedly promised.
As each day passes, the clamour from the nation calls for it and whilst we are finally seeing noises that it might actually happen at some point, the stumbling block remains the construction of the actual question. But it shouldn’t, it should be a simple in or out question. If the people say we stay in, then fine. But if they say we want out, then it’s a total out.
Either way, it will be a democratic decision and those who voted contrary to the outcome will have to deal with it just as the country will have to deal with the consequences whatever they might be. But the fact remains, we want our say and we should be given it. The fact that we haven’t is a disgrace.
The second issue is the one which not only leaves me baffled, but furious. Indeed, even as I’m sitting here I can start to feel my blood boiling.
Britain is a wealthy country, of that there is little doubt. Yet at the moment we have, thanks to Blair and co’s mismanagement of our finances, a huge debt. As a consequence, the government have been forced to make massive cuts to public spending the majority of which, as I’ve already said, I support.
However, given the fact that we are in such a mess, why the bloody hell are we spending £8.1 billion a year on overseas aid (and that will increase to £11.4 billion in 2014. That’s a 34 per cent rise!)?
Cameron argues that it is essential to spend this money to maintain our status on the world stage and more importantly, that we have a moral duty to help those living what must be awful lives. But whilst I think the former is bollocks and do have some sympathy with the latter, surely as an elected government you also have an even greater moral duty to ensure that you don’t have kids in your own country who live in abject poverty or elderly men and women who, having spent the bulk of their lives paying into the system, are being forced to choose between eating and heating because their pensions are so low.
I wouldn’t mind so much if it made any sense. Call me old fashioned, but does a nation which spends £20 billion a year on defence and £1.25 billion
space programme really need £280 million from the British taxpayer? Would it not be better all round if someone were to give them a quick call and tell them to get their priorities right?
And did it not strike anyone at the Department for International Development as odd that many senior officials in Sierra Leone went on a huge spending spree shortly after they handed them a cheque for £1.2 million to aid ‘peacekeeping’ efforts?
I know I’m being flippant but sadly, those are two examples from a very long list of bizarre decisions and whilst the sums involved might not make much difference to the old age pension or child benefit, they would make a huge difference to organisations such as Childline, Cancer Research, Macmillan, the RNLI and even the RSPCA who as it stands, are essential charities almost wholly dependent on public donation. And I for one, would far rather my taxes went in that direction rather than risk them ending up in some African despots Swiss bank account or to countries who wish us nothing but harm in return.
Quite why Cameron and company cannot see that escapes me and that, in essence, is why I will never vote Tory again. Not because they are crap politicians or even dodgy characters, but because after years of Labour destruction and miss-management, they have failed to adhere to the fundamental rule of political life. That as a politician you are elected by the people to serve the people.
To do that, you have to listen to and act upon the will of the majority and the sad fact is that at the moment, at least when it comes to these two issues, they’re certainly not listening to me and plenty like me.
In every list or article written by a male about relationships with the opposite sex, there is one issue which will inevitably receive a mention. It is best described as entrapment.
I don’t mean entrapment in the sense of her trying to find out if you’re having an affair or have actually been out with your mates when you’ve told her you’re at work, I’m talking the really serious stuff. Primarily the stuff about HER! Those questions which are designed to trap you into saying the wrong thing and attracting trouble. The most dangerous of which is the dreaded ‘how does this look?’
Now any bloke with half a brain knows that if a woman asks that question, it doesn’t matter what he responds because it will inevitably be wrong. If we pay a compliment it’s ‘you’re only saying that’ and if we say anything negative…. well, best not to do that anyway. And even if it isn’t wrong at that moment in time, it will almost certainly be wrong later on at which point you will get the blame because ‘you should have said something’.
Worst of all is when this question is posed when we’ve been ‘taken’ shopping. Never mind the fact that most men hate shopping with a passion and being dragged around the underwear department of Marks & Spencers is the single most evil thing a woman can inflict on her man, our reluctance to show any desire to provide comment on anything from ball gowns to handbags means we are considered either useless or boring or both. All of which adds to the ‘fun’ of course.
I mention this here because the other day, whilst mulling over what would constitute my perfect job, I finally came up with the answer. You see I actually quite like wandering around shopping malls (it’s a people watching thing) and I certainly like women so it seemed reasonable to think of a way to combine the two activities. So in short, I’d like to be employed as the bloke who passes impartial and honest comment on what women are either trying on or already wearing.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not nor ever could be considered, fashionable. I wear clothes which do not suit me, have a body profile which defies any description other than lardy and am as far removed from Gok Wan as it is humanly possible to get (and on that note, if you want to spend all your life dressing women and acting like a woman, why not just get a bloody sex change and have done with it?) but I do have three things going for me. I am a bloke, I know what looks good on women and just as importantly, I know what doesn’t.
And having sat outside more changing rooms than I care to recall and watched a succession of fashion disasters appear only be told by their long-suffering and bored shitless partners that they look fabulous, would it not be better to have an honest opinion from an impartial male on tap? After all, wouldn’t a woman rather be told that she looks like a pig wrapped in some old pub curtains before she goes to that wedding as opposed to realising it herself when she receives the photo’s afterwards?
But equally, I’d like to be able to tell a woman that she looks beyond awesome. Indeed, I’d encourage any bloke to do that once in a while anyway. I have and trust me, you have no idea of the impact paying a random comment can have, especially at 08.45 on the Piccadilly Line.
The other attraction is that I’d also be able to walk up to a woman and tell that at 50 plus, she shouldn’t have pink hair or a nose piercing because they make her look slightly sad or tell that 25 year-old that men don’t actually find the sight of an exposed KFC fuelled muffin-top particularly attractive.
The more I think about it, the more I think that I’m definitely onto something here. After all, if honesty really is the best policy, let’s apply it where it is most needed, at the proverbial coal face. But equally, think how many cold and frosty nights I could save for my fellow males?
*I wrote this blog in July 2011 and sadly, on the day Mr Osbourne is due to release his latest attempt to decimate the public services that we. the tax payer, actually fund, it seems more pertinent than it did back then. Progress?*
At the top of this page is written the simple phrase “you all know I’m right so look deep inside yourself and summon the courage to admit it.”
Now some people might perceive this as my being slightly arrogant however this is not the case. I use that as a header simply because it is true and the reaction to my previous blog about people making the choice to sponge/steal from the rest of us by living on benefits confirms it. Indeed, not a single person has disagreed with me.
So with that in mind, I’d like to continue along that path just once more. And it will only be the once because to be honest, I’m not sure my blood pressure could stand another bout of thinking about it. You see the other morning as I was listening to some MP or other ranting on about the state of the nation, another benefit related thought struck me. And it was this:
Saddled with the legacy of Labours ridiculous spending policies and a reported £170 billion a year welfare bill, the current government are being forced to make some drastic decisions. The public sector is being decimated with all kinds of people being made redundant (including members of the Armed Forces even though we’re currently engaged in two major conflicts in case anyone had forgotten) whilst the private sector is undergoing seemingly ever increasing hardships as a result of all kinds of exterior pressures ranging from increased fuel prices to the instability of the financial markets.
In short, we’re in the shit and to address it, the entire country is going to have to keep calm and carry on (to coin a phrase).
There is however, one area of the UK economy who have remained immune from what’s been going on and will apparently remain so; the unemployed. For them, that cheque has continued to drop on the mat every fortnight and it will continue to do so irrespective of the cost to the tax payer (that’s you and me).
Now can someone explain to me, how is that right?
I’m not saying for one second that the majority of unemployed men and women wouldn’t give their right arm to be employed or that everyone is
claiming the dole by choice. That’s not what this is about. This is about fairness pure and simple. When hard working tax-payers are being hammered on an almost daily basis, why are the unemployed not sharing in the nations pain? And how better to do that than to apply an across the board 5% reduction in unemployment benefit.
It makes perfect sense. If the cuts are about saving money then surely the obvious thing to do is to cut back on one of your biggest expenses. Not by sneaking around trying to catch people out but by simply cutting the amount you are paying out. And let’s be brutally honest, a cut in unemployment benefit might surely encourage people to actually take jobs which they have thus far thought of as ‘demeaning’ or too low paid and as a result, put something back into the country too many of them are happily screwing over.
Most importantly of all, it would prove that this government are actually thinking about what’s going on and show the tax-paying British public that when they say that we’re all in this together, they actually mean it. Because to me, at this moment in time, it doesn’t feel like that at all.
Is that being too simplistic? Or is it simply stating the bloody obvious?
PS: I have already had a number of posts agreeing with me and suggesting 5% is a tad too low. 10 if not 15% being closer to what people would like to see together with a time limit for claimants! A nice idea in theory although I’m not sure it would work in practice.
I’d far rather see a programme relating to earning UB such as cleaning up the local community, working with the elderly, etc, etc. Although no doubt the do-gooders of this world would consider this demeaning. Which kind of takes us back to the previous blog!
The other day, as the hacking scandal was still in the early stages of unfolding, I became embroiled in one of those ‘what’s wrong with the country’ type debates. Now usually I relish discussions like these because given that I am always right, it’s inevitable that sooner or later people will come round to my way of thinking and so the entertainment value comes in the journey they take to get there. However, in this instance time was pressing and so I let loose my killer point. The one I tend to save until close to the end. Because the simple truth is that the main thing wrong with this country is that the concept of shame has been lost.
Usually when I make this statement, it results in a silence. After all, it’s a fairly simplistic way of looking at things but it’s very rare that anyone can ever provide any kind of argument against it.
How else can you explain politicians refusing to take any blame for the damage they inflict on the population whilst at the same time bleeding us dry by fiddling their expenses blind? Or footballing greats trying desperately to line their own pockets by selling clubs to far-eastern ‘businessmen’? The answer of course is that they have no shame and if caught out, merely fight tooth and nail to escape any kind of justice be it legal or moral. Justice which would almost certainly never come anyway because as a people, we are ruled by apathy.
The irony is of course is that in the past we have relied on the press to fight our battles for us but in light of recent events, can we rely on that any more? I hope so. Jaundiced as I am against certain sections of the media as a result of my own experiences, I know that there are far more honest and decent journo’s than dodgy ones.
But for me, bent politicians, sportsmen, journalists or even coppers isn’t even the worst of it. Because for me the real rot happens nearer home. When I was younger claiming the dole was unthinkable because of the shame it would have heaped on you but more importantly, your parents.
However, that was nothing compared to the idea of falling pregnant outside of marriage…. Christ almighty, that was the stuff of nightmares for entire families who not so long ago would have farmed daughters out to aunties in the middle of nowhere rather than endure the humiliation of having a knocked up (and unmarried) daughter at home.
Yet these days, continuing to pop out kids whilst living off the state or claiming jobseekers or DLA whilst working on the sly are both seemingly acceptable career paths. How the fuck did that happen? How did it become OK to sponge or steal off of everyone else because make no mistake, that’s what we’re talking about here.
I seem to recall once reading that it took 16 taxpayers on an average wage to fund just one single parent who wasn’t working. Now I don’t know how accurate that is but it has to be pretty close and even if you halved that number, it is little more than a national disgrace. Think about that for a minute…. 8 people (at a generous best). That’s you and 7 of your mates. Working your tits off simply to fund one person. Nothing else…. just that one person.
It beggars belief doesn’t it. So why do we allow it to happen? The answer is simple really, because no one understands the concept of shame any more.
Don’t get me wrong, I know enough single mums (and dads) as well as lads out of work to know that we’re talking the exception rather than the rule and I also know enough people with disabilities to understand that they need all the help that we as a society can provide. But the reality is that there are far too many exceptions. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of hearing ‘I’d be £10 a week worse off if I went out to work’ because to me as a taxpayer, what that translates to is ‘if you went out to work you bastard, this country would be X amount BETTER off’. So fuck off out to work!
The government of course, would argue that they are doing what they can to get people back into work and to be fair, they are making the best of what is a shite situation left behind by a shite Labour government.
But until the people of this country decide that they are sick and tired of being taken for mugs by the idle and the feckless and actually start to help the authorities do something about it, nothing is going to change. We cannot afford for that to happen, not just financially but morally.
And maybe that’s where the real shame lies. With us.
In spite of the fact that I have followed football all my life and spent over a decade observing and writing about those who follow it, it is rare indeed that anyone asks me about anything related to the game itself which does not involve lads kicking the crap out of each other.
Therefore, I was slightly surprised to be contacted by a journalist the other night and asked to comment on the increasing furore surrounding the massive hike in season ticket prices at some clubs.
I suspect that the interviewer was expecting me to launch into a rabid tirade about the exploitation of football fans by money grabbing club chairmen and the evil Murdoch empire because they were not a little shocked when my response was pretty much exactly the opposite to that.
Now I know what I am about to write will horrify some people because it will, to be fair, be the very last thing they would expect to hear from me. However, the truth is that I’m of the opinion that the only reason football is expensive is because as an entity, fans have allowed it to become so.
Since the formation of the Premier League and the switch from sport to entertainment, those involved with the financial side of football have been gradually edging things toward the tipping point where it all goes horribly wrong. Yet incredibly, in spite of the desperate state of the nations finances and the continued horror at the obscene wages being paid to players, that tipping point seems further away than ever. And the reason for that is quite simple. It’s because whilst football fans have long understood that they are being screwed over, they are too stupid or lazy to do anything about it.
Argue that all you like but it is an undeniable fact.
After all, no one forces anyone to buy a season ticket nor are we dragged kicking and screaming to a cashpoint to pay for Sky Sports. Like anything in life we all have the right to say no but when it comes to football, that right is rarely ever exercised. The result being that the game has carte blanche to continue on its inevitably self-destructive course unhindered.
The real worry of course, is what will happen when it does finally tip over the edge and implodes. For sure football will never die but could it ever recapture the power it holds at the moment? Or are we likely to see more clubs follow the amazing example of clubs such as AFC Wimbledon and FC United of Manchester as detailed so vividly in my book Rebellion (and you can buy that by visiting http://amzn.to/kC6L6d).
Time will tell I guess but whatever the outcome, the reality is that the only people to blame for whatever is looming on the distant horizon are you and me.