Thursday, December 15, 2005

15 December 2005: Conspiracy

The plot thickens.
  • The Daily Telegraph today reports that BetFair have given the FA a list of names of people involved with the huge amount of money bet on Harry Redknapp to become Pompey manager, causing him to become the bookies' favourite even while the media was still touting Neil Warnock as a shoo-in for the job. Apparently some names are quite high profile: "if you saw the list you would instantly recognise some of the names. They are fairly well-known figures in the football industry," say the Telegraph.
  • "You raise me up", the gentle Norwegian-Irish ballad covered by Selah, Josh Groban, Daniel O'Donnell and most recently Westlife (who managed to win the ITV 'record of the year' award with it, despite singing flat), is the subject of a lawsuit from Finnish writers Tommi and Karri Rinne, according to today's Independent. The Rinnes say they wrote the tune as a Eurovision candidate some ten years ago (surely it's better than Eurovision?) and so now they want liner note accreditation and a big lump of money please. Better not tell them the tune under discussion is itself a mild rip-off of the classic Danny Boy, I suppose.
  • Reuters report the words of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who said yesterday that there was no Jewish holocaust in World War II, it's just a myth perpetuated in order to promote sympathy for the Israeli state. Meantime the Toronto Star report that Rumsfeld, Cheney and the PNAC folks are trying to perpetuate the threat of a caliphate, an Islamic global government, which is what's going to happen unless the US stops it. (Do the words 'domino effect', 'Communism' and 'Vietnam' have any resonance?). So there are conspiracies on both sides.
  • And of course, let's not forget that Rory Delap is paid to play professional football.

Put all this together and what do you have? I'm not sure, but it seems something is clearly going on. My guess would be the Pope and the late Queen Mother are in on it too, along with Elvis in some capacity, and no doubt one of the Kennedy clan (Charles, perhaps? Maybe that's why he's in trouble with his party?).

Have you ever seen them all together? Exactly. I think we should be told what's going on. These are all issues covered in this blog over recent weeks, all coming to a head as we approach the end of the year. Perhaps this blog is the locus of the universe, the singularity by which reality can be defined. Anything written here will come true, and come together will all other things, quickly leading to Armageddon.

Or maybe I shouldn't have had those mushrooms for breakfast.

Postscript: Have you seen the most recent Bush quote? Interesting on many levels: reported by Capitol Hill Blue and relayed via numerous news services including the "Rock River Times" newspaper from Illinois, Bush was challenged recently on the legality of renewing the Patriot Act. He responded by saying "Stop throwing the Constitution in my face. It's just a god-damned piece of paper!" Just as well they have a written constitutionon instead of a living monarch. Tony Blair must get sick of having the Queen thrown in his face.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

8 December 2005: Gamble

As a side-note to the circus (which, if you missed it, has finally seen Pompey pay Saints an 'undisclosed' compensation sum or package for permission to talk to and appoint Harry as their new manager), Ireland Online (among others) reports that BetFair have had 'formative talks' with the English Football Association regarding Harry's appointment.

Those with a keen eye for words will have noticed that a lot of last week's blog touting Harry as Pompey's next manager (before Neil Warnock announced he was pulling out of the race) was based on two sources: firstly the fans on SaintsForever, some of whom actually do have inside knowledge, and secondly on the bookmakers, who at the time had Harry as very odds-on favourite and shortening all the time.

The reason for Harry's odds were the 16.5 million pounds bet on his return, a lot of which was placed before Warnock's announcement. In particular, one bookmaker took a £50,000 bet a couple of days before the Warnock thing, meaning although the press still heavily touted Warnock, the bookies were saying something totally different. Bookies themselves spread the risk: if someone places a huge bet at one particular bookmaker, that bookie will go to lots of others and place exactly the same bet, just in case they lose. As a result, most bookies have similar odds for most bets, and this was no different. One 50k bet meant Harry went odds-on at a time when he was nowhere near favourite. In other words, the person placing that bet god very good odds. 16-1, say? When the book opened, Harry was 100-1, but he'd come in since then.

So the rumour, let's state it, is that Harry or Harry-agent made a huge bet, whether it's the 50k or otherwise. SaintsForever has been awash with this for a few days, and now the papers are getting hold of it. It's no real secret why Harry left West Ham (but let's pretend it is and not mention anything about it here), but this dodgy deal seems far more public. Inside information, secret tapping-up talks between Harry and Pompey, a betting market saying something totally different to the 'official' line, and an amount of money placed that is larger than is placed on the Grand National.

Let's say that again, in case you missed it: the amount of money placed on 'who's Pompey's next manager' exceeded that which is placed annually on the Grand National. That's a lot. One Saints fan described it as 'the most crooked market I have ever seen.'

Upshot of all this:
  • Pompey have a manager who walked out on them last year because he didn't like the set-up at the club, but now he's back with the same set-up. Don't expect him to last beyond, or maybe even to, the end of the season.
  • Saints don't have a manager, and don't look like getting one imminently. Dave Bassett is currently in charge of picking bad players, annoying the press and moaning about the lack of stability at the club.
  • Someone - maybe a few people - have made a killing on this, and it's hard to think it wasn't down to some kind of inside information.
  • BetFair and the FA are discussing the possible launching of an inquiry into the highly unusual betting patterns.

You figure it out. It's a circus after all, and the show must go on.

Monday, December 05, 2005

5 December 2005: Circus

And just who are the clowns in the whole show?

The fans, most likely. The chant "what the **** is going on?" (to the tune of Cwm Rhondda) resounded around St Mary's on Saturday, not for the first time in Rupert Lowe's tenure as Chairman. While some clubs (Plymouth Argyle, for instance) plod along gently and harmlessly, bouncing between divisions and occasionally finding a genuinely good player (Mariner) or manager (Sturrock) who then gets poached by the big boys, nothing particularly bizarre or weird ever seems to happen there. The strangest thing was when manager Peter Shilton was suspended rather than sacked by nasty old Dan McCauley, but even that was resolved in a couple of days, and never led to the utter confusion of the fans. At Saints, it's a different story.

Chairman Rupert Lowe replaced Dave Jones with Glenn Hoddle because Jones was involved in a court case, and needed time off. Fair enough in principle, but when the case was resolved, do you think Jones got his job back? Of course not. Was he ever going to? No. Hoddle was later poached by Spurs, Rupert taking the roll-over-and-die approach in trying to keep him, and just moaned a bit about how bad it is when football clubs poach the manager of other clubs. (Not that he did that with Sturrock or Redknapp within a couple of years of saying those things, no, not at all). Strachan resigned halfway through a season because he needed a hip replacement which, incidentally, he's never had, and now he's manager of Celtic.

And now this. Harry wanted permission to talk to Pompey, Pompey wanted permission to talk to Harry. Rupert said no, because Harry is our manager. (This only a year after Rupert stated he didn't believe in the post of 'manager' and preferred to have a 'head coach' and a 'director of football' instead, and then appointed a rugby coach to the staff for no apparent reason). So Harry quit (sort of). Although he's still under contract, and hasn't resigned. He says. But he also says he's not coming back to Southampton and he says it's been the worst year of his life. And Rupert says he's as bemused as everyone else by it all, and his job is to respond to events as they happen (Press Conference quote from Saturday night). No Rupert, your job is to provide a little leadership and direction, particularly in times of crisis.

But then there's always been a suspicion Rupert has no clue at all, and has just been winging it all this time. Let's never forget Rupert's classic press conference (only last year, can you believe it?) when he was asked about a possible return of Hoddle as Strachan's replacement, and he stated:

There are always people looking to plant a Klingon blast on the Starship Enterprise. We've got our force shields up, but the Klingons are shooting at us. Every time they land a punch they are sapping our powers. Now we need to adopt the Invisible Shield until we have got the right man in place.

The fans aren't angry, Rupert, we're just confused. The clowns of this circus seem to be Rupert, Harry and the staff at Southampton FC, but considering the number of fans who show up every week and pay over-the-odds prices for Championship ( = division two) football, perhaps the clowns are the fans after all.

What the **** is going on? Who knows.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

1 December 2005: Management

Seems a while since I mentioned football on here. There's a good reason for that: unusually, both my teams are having 'nothing' seasons. Saints and Argyle float in mid-table obscurity in the second tier of English football, although Argyle are only a couple of bad results away from the drop zone (it was ever thus when they're in this division). No cup runs, no controversial happenings, no boardroom politics (at least, not since Argyle appointed the dull Tony Pulis whose only action so far has been to cancel the contract of fifty-seven year old zimmer-frame applicant Taribo West).

But over the last couple of days, SaintsForever has been going a bit crazy, which will worry Keith a little since he's short of bandwidth at the best of times. Is it just that we're looking for something to talk about? Maybe. But the news that Milan 'I hate all managers' Mandaric has sacked Alain Parrin as Pompey's boss has led to a flurry of speculation that the next manager might just be the same as the last one. According to BlueSquare (as I write this, at least) Harry is 3/1 on favourite for the job, having come in from 9/4 on earlier this morning. Media speculation continues to point to Neil Warnock giving up his beloved Sheffield United job (and the prospect of taking them into the Premiership this year) for the Pompey job (and the prospect of a relegation battle and quite possible relegation this year). Mmm, let me think for a moment, I wonder what I'd do if I were him?

(Actually, if I were him I'd write a couple of books criticising everything about UK football, especially all the referees, and retire on the proceeds, spending the rest of my life lying in a hammock made of pure silk and eating pasties on a small beach on the Hawaiian island of Maui. But that's me.)

Speculation is rife partly because Harry is staying quiet about the whole thing, and neither he nor Rupert have publicly stated that they would like Harry to remain manager. Of course, after Harry left last year, Mandaric bad-mouthed Harry in a big, big way, but that doesn't seem to matter now. The situation seems to be this: the Pompey scenario has simply opened the lid on the deep troubles within Saints right now. Even if Harry doesn't go back down the M27, we now know that there is a big gap between Harry and Rupert, therefore probably between Harry and Clive Woodward, therefore probably between Harry's gang (Kevin Bond, Dave Bassett, Denis Rofe) and Rupert's gang (Woodward, a few of the directors and the recently-departed Simon Clifford). Harry's contract runs out at the end of the season, he hasn't been offered a new one, and he doesn't seem to want one anyway. Harry would be happiest with a directorship down at AFC Bournemouth, and it seems that is how he'll end his footballing days.

So whether or not he ends up at Pompey over the next few days, it seems his days at Saints are numbered anyway, probably with quite a small number. Old-school east-end Harry doesn't fit with Rupert, Clive, the PLC and their new football, we've known that for a while, but now it's coming to the surface and one way or another, it seems that something's up down at St Mary's, and it's quickly coming to a head.

Maybe we are just looking for a story in a boring season, but hey, guess what? The Sheffield Today sports section today reports Warnock is about to turn Pompey down. Since I began this blog, Harry has come in further with the bookies to 7/2 on to be the new Pompey boss.

Something's afoot.

Edit: Within two minutes of posting, Harry's odds shorten to 6/1 on.