Tuesday, June 30, 2009

30 June 2009: Withdrawn

Breaking rumours from Southampton are that the Pinnacle bid for Saints, spearheaded by Matt Le Tissier, has been withdrawn. More as and when it's substantiated...

Update 8.49 eastern: Daily Echo now reporting this too. Apparently Marc Jackson's bid has also been withdrawn (no surprise given that he's a complete chancer who also did the same thing with a fake bid for AFC Bournemouth), thus leaving the "mystery overseas bid" as the only one left. Rumour is that this is the Swiss bid, but whether they'll be able to (or even just want to) complete by end of week remains to be seen.

If not, the firesale will continue, and if wages are not paid then the club gets wound up, starting at the end of this week.

Update 9.24 eastern: Le Tissier said in a statement released to Sky Sports News: "It is with great regret and frustration, due to ongoing issues with the Football League, that I and in turn those behind the Pinnacle consortium have decided to withdraw our interest in purchasing Southampton football club.

"With the ongoing issues with the Football League persisting, our backers have simply refused to provide the requisite funds to complete the takeover.

"I hope beyond hope that (administrator) Mark Fry can find a buyer for the club. We were unaware of the issues with the Football League when we entered into our agreement to purchase the club, and them coming to light so late in the day has resulted in our backers' decision not to proceed with the terms on offer."

Update 9.44 eastern: Just noted a story from earlier today from the Echo, where Mark Wotte (still Head Coach) said his contract ran out at end of today, so he would revert to being Academy Director at that point; similarly coaches Dean Gorre and Michael Svennson both have contracts that expire today, meaning that as of tomorrow there are no coaches for the first team. Stewart Henderson, who coaches the youth team, would be the most senior coach on the staff and so might lead the coaching sessions, but who knows? Kelvin Davis - captain and goalkeeper - is also out of contract as of today, and is expected to sign for West Ham as a free agent tomorrow. So maybe having no coaches won't be a problem - there'll be no players to coach. All looks pretty bleak to be honest: winding up seems to be occurring in all but name.

Update 10.19 eastern: The normal sign of a big Saints rumour day has occurred, perhaps a little later than expected: the Saints Web Forum has crashed with a database error.

Update 10.38 eastern: Word is that the Football League, not content with removing the right of appeal for the 10 point penalty, are also going to enforce a further 10 point penalty because of the slowness of the takeover process and another 7 points because wage payments have been missed, leading to Saints beginning next season in League One on -27 points. Or, to put it another way, already relegated to League Two... and that's why Pinnacle's financial backers have pulled out. Well, would you pay an alleged fourteen million pounds for a relegation-bound team headed for division four? Answer (1) no because it's a bad investment (Pinnacle bid) and (2) no because you don't even have fourteen quid (Marc Jackson).

Update 11.35 eastern: Mark Fry, the Administrator, has released a surprisingly positive statement in which he says he isn't surprised that Pinnacle pulled out but he's hopeful of a sale. Other news is that the club employees have now been paid (presumably as a result of David McGoldrick's sale) and the Swiss bid may now be one of two, the other being an unnamed overseas bid. Rumours that Marc Jackson may still have another backer are continuing, and depressing: doesn't he know when to shut up?

Update 1.23pm eastern: Matt Le Tissier said on Solent that he was disappointed the backers pulled out and that it's basically the fault of the Football League. However, on the relevant Saints forum thread (requires registration I believe) the club historian Duncan Holley ("Fitzhugh Fella" on the boards) has been spilling a few beans about how both MLT and Tony ('Pinnacle') Lynam had frank discussions with him over the weekend about how MLT had convinced the group to accept the deduction in the interests of the club, and how very possibly there never was a consortium (consisting of one or more people) with any real money to take over - even to the point of sending threatening txt msgs to Duncan late Saturday night to stop him from posting these details on the messageboards. As one poster pointed out, if a multi-million pound consortium takeover can be put off by one angry opinion on an internet site, then perhaps it's just a house of cards after all. And here it comes, tumbling down.

Update 1.29 eastern: Just a word on Mr Holley, he's someone who generally knows what's going on and doesn't post gossip, preferring facts: he's a statistician, after all. Direct quote: "When it is right I will post the e mail etc and the full story on Pinnacle but suffice to say I don't think there was a cat in hell's chance of them being serious and Fry and Co have been stitched up."

30 June 2009: Flood

A photo of the flood in downtown Kokomo last night (click to view a bigger version).

Sadly, not caused by an earthquake or anything exciting like that - simply that a water main had burst and, according to the City Engineer (in an exclusive interview with your headline news reporter) (that's me, btw), only the tarmac on the road was keeping it from going sixty feet up in the air. They tried shutting off different valves to see if they could stop it, but out it poured, going for well over an hour by the time we got bored and left.

What caused it? Hard to say. Options appear to be:
1. Andy Murray's tennis match going into a fifth set (these two events coincided pretty much exactly).
2. The water main expressing frustration at lack of progress with the Saints takeover. (Rumours of 2pm Press Conference today prove unfounded).
3. Overexcitement at having "Starship featuring Mickey Thomas" playing load 80's cheese-pop outside our front door on Saturday night.

This last seems the most likely. A pretty big crowd turned up to see this particular incarnation of Jefferson-[insert flying device here], running through a collection of songs that almost all seemed to be from my 1991 album "Starship - Greatest Hits (10 years and change 1979-1991)" (that'll be twelve years then).

Yes, I have one of their CDs. And yes, I used to listen to it quite a lot. But no, I wouldn't pay money to go and see them, and I wouldn't travel to go and see them, probably not even if they were playing in the park down the road. BUT when they come and play a free conference right outside our front door (we went to check the mail and found ourselves being asked if we had a backstage pass) what can you do but look out the window, sing along with 'Nothings Gonna Stop Us Now' and 'We Built This City On Rock And Roll', and hope the cheese didn't slurp in through the front door. So, that was fun, but somehow it seems funny that Mickey Thomas and his session band are reduced to playing free concerts in small industrial towns. After all, according to the song it was San Francisco, not Kokomo, that was built on rock and roll. Quite a comedown.

Anyway, enough rambling, Saints continue to rumour onwards with no official news. Expectation is that if Pinnacle don't close it out today, they won't close it out at all and the Swiss bid will become the favourite.

Makes Andy Murray's tennis match seem quite concise by comparison.

Postscript: Kokomo featured on CNN last Sunday while we were sitting at an airport. They have teletext-style subtitles with automated voice-recognition to pick out the words, which is fine, except nobody thought to put the name 'Kokomo' into the system, leaving the mayor being described in the subtitles as the "Mayor of cocoa mole". Made oi larfff....

Monday, June 29, 2009

29 June 2009: McGoldrick

A week is a long time in politics. In the life of a Saints fan, it seems like everything - and nothing - can happen in a week.

As of this morning, we're still awaiting someone to buy the club, and Pinnacle are still hopeful of making it happen, but it hasn't happened yet. That's the bottom line. There are other groups interested - mainly one from Switzerland - but again nothing confirmed.

Meantime the club's employees were not paid last week when they were due to be paid, and that includes the playing staff. League contract rules state that if players go unpaid for two weeks, they are automatically released from their contracts, meaning they're worth nothing to Saints as they'll all be Bosman-style free agents.

So this morning 'star' striker David McGoldrick was sold to Nottingham Forest for "an undisclosed seven-figure sum" (no word on how they're being creative with decimal points or leading zeros), which should alleviate the immediate need to close a takeover deal in order to pay the staff. But - it implies that perhaps the takeover is still not as immediate as the Administrator would hope: Pinnacle (Matt Le Tiss in particular) are hoping for closure today or tomorrow, and the Swiss are rumoured to be poised to close at any moment. But if that's the case... why sell now?

Further rumours state that Drew Surman, the second of the three 'young stars' (ie saleable assets) at Saints will follow soon (actually the rumour is he has already put pen to paper for Wolves, with the explicit reason being to pay the wages at Saints), probably for a figure well below market value. The third, Adam Lallana, would be next.

Still, if nothing happens by the end of the week, the Administrator (one Mark Fry) stated that he "meet with the Directors of the Football Club to discuss options". In other words, begin winding the club up and liquidating its assets. There will be no more 'exclusivity' periods, said Fry, the paperwork is there and must be signed.

The most positive note is that Le Tiss has been saying that Pinnacle are now, for the first time, willing to sign the Football League's blackmail note saying they waive the right to appeal. The rumour is that they plan to take the League to court later, once ownership is established, to challenge the legality of the League's approach, since blackmail continues to be illegal - or at least unlawful - in the UK. But again - if it's so close to completion, why sell McGoldrick and Surman now to pay wages? At the very least, it betrays Fry's lack of faith in Pinnacle.

So, nothing much happening on the surface, but underneath things continuing like crazy.

Friday, June 19, 2009

19 June 2009: Calendar II

Those who remember a time when this blog wasn't all Saints might recall an incident with my Dilbert calendar back in March, when I tore off 25 March to reveal 7 May.

Today, fresh back from a quick Chicago visit, I tore off the 'June 17' date to reveal...

7 May.


Next one is 8 May, then 9 May and so on. I'm going to have to rip out 40 days to get to where we actually are now.

Makes the whole Saints thing look positively professional.

19 June 2009: Waiting

Matt Le Tissier

One fan on the Saints Forum stated this morning that "mountain ranges have formed in less time than this takeover has taken."

Today is 'deadline' day, 21 days have elapsed since the Pinnacle group were awarded a 'period of exclusivity' during which time they would complete the deal. The vibe always was that it would go right down to the wire, no question about that, but here we are at the wire, and what's happening?

Well, so far not much. Lots of activity on the Daily Echo and the SaintsWeb Forum (although that one requires registration) and the rumours are as follows:
  • Kevin Keegan to be new manager.
  • Kevin Keegan not to be new manager.
  • Kevin Keegan might, once more, be the new manager.
  • Iain Dowie to be new manager.
  • Press Conference at 2.30.
  • Press Conference NOT at 2.30.
  • Press Statement at 2.30.
  • Le Tiss to be announced as Chairman, deal going through, more details on Monday.
  • No deal yet, extension granted until Monday/Tuesday.
  • Deal completed to best ability of Pinnacle and Administrators, but the Football League are holding up the deal.

This last rumour is the one racing around inside St Mary's, apparently. We shall see what, if anything, happens at 2.30pm but it sounds as if Pinnacle are close. More to follow as the day progresses...

Update 8.49: Reporter outside St Mary's for Sky Sports News reports that the Football League are holding the deal up because Pinnacle wish to appeal the 10 point deduction, and so it's easier for the FL if the new owners don't get the chance. To me, that seems incredibly spiteful. All paperwork etc is apparently done, it's just the Football League holding up the deal.

Update 10.43: Some are continuing to expect statement/deal completion imminently, including some TV folks at the stadium who have been spoken to by locals. However, it also sounds very much as if the Football League are attempting to blackmail Pinnacle by witholding the 'Golden Share' (allowing the club to play in the league) unless they drop their plan to appeal the points deduction. Notably, FL chairmain Brian Mawhinney said at the time the deduction was announced that Saints had the right to appeal. I wonder how much "it's our ball, we choose who plays" they can legally get away with. Another rumour states a 7pm announcement is likely.

Update 11.19: Saints forum website crashes due to weight of use/expectation/Matt Le Tissier (delete as applicable).

Update 1.29: Back from lunch, and Tony Lynam (head guy from Pinnacle) just left a message on the Saints web forum saying he's frustrated with the League and their refusal to clarify what the "link" is between the (in administration) SLH and the football club SFC, which is not in administration, but is (used to be?) wholly-owned by SLH. Beyond that, there are two legal issues which he hopes will be sorted today - but mainly the League issue is the problem. In fact, according to Lynam, "it is critical that this is resolved, and in a timely manner." Sky Sports News saying it looks gloomy as of right now, deadline for 'exclusivity' is midnight, but Football League may not meet until Monday to discuss the issue. In which case, maybe, no Le Tiss, no Pinnacle, and possibly no Saints.

Update 1.51: One poster on the Saints forum, who is somewhat intimate with the processes involved if not with the Pinnacle bid in particular, suggests that the idea of restructuring the club as part of the takeover process (ie, no longer wholly-owned by a PLC) may make the entire deal unacceptable to the Football League (although no clear reason given as to why). Which makes me wonder, how did the initial reverse takeover happen in the first place when Rupert came along in 97? Despite Lynam's statement, it's starting to feel quite low. Five hours until exlusivity ends, but the Football League will definitely not meet to discuss until Monday, according to the Daily Echo, who also scotch rumours of a 7pm announcement. I suspect this could be the last we hear today.

Update 2.07: Probably nothing more today, unless the Administrator announces an extension of the exclusivity period, which may or may not happen. Aside from that, rumour is of Kevin Keegan coming in not as manager but as some kind of ambassador (bizarrely, a role previously held by Matt Le Tissier). Everything else, quite correctly, is being non-disclosed. Meantime Bournemouth have been taken over, Setanta have lost their Premiership matches and we're heading to El Paso on Sunday. Tacos, anyone?

Update 2.11: Sheesh, that wasn't it for the day. Sky Sports News now reporting that Pinnacle have pulled out because, specifically, the Football League wanted in writing that there would be no appeal against the points deduction. The Administrator now willing to talk to other parties. If true, this blows it all out of the water. Nadal pulling out of Wimbledon, Formula One falling apart, but still... this is perhaps the biggest news today.

Update 3.56: Looks as if exclusivity will end, but Pinnacle are still a player. No bidder will buy without assurance over league status, says the Administrator, and that will be discussed on Monday.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

18 June 2009: Keegan

The BBC, along with Sky Sports News and the rest, are reporting on the story that Kevin Keegan has been approached by the Pinnacle consortium with a view to becoming the next Saints manager.

Pinnacle aren't yet in charge - speculation is that Friday is the day things will be announced - but the Keegan rumour has been around on the Saints forums on the internet for about a week now. The media interest appears to be based on some fuzzy security camera footage showing Keegan meeting with Matt Le Tissier and Leon Crouch, although not at the same time.

The most interesting development here is not what they're saying but what they're implying: in particular the line "Crouch's Pinnacle group..." implies that Leon Crouch, former board member and the one who personally paid the staff wages in May to keep Saints afloat, is involved - and heavily so - with the consortium. This we did not know before, but the wording implies that he is central, and that it is not news that he is involved. I suspect BBC Solent, the source of the info, know a whole lot more than they're letting on, and information is currently just embargoed until Friday - and this snippet just slipped out because to them, it's not news.

There was another wild rumour yesterday that the Mr Big Money (whoever he (or possibly even she) may be) had pulled out at the last minute, but that seems to have been trumped by the Crouch/Keegan story. Roll on Friday.

Oh, hang on, that's tomorrow isn't it? Hold your breath...

Monday, June 15, 2009

14 June 2009: Experimente Successfulle

The Framley Examiner would make occasional reference to one Professor Arthur Bostrom, who would meddle with the fabric of space and time, and declare 'Experiment Successful'. Today, I know how he feels.

We've made pasties, we've made clotted cream and so the next challenge was to make sausages. Not Bratwurst, not Italian Sausage, not Breakfast Sausage, not Hot Dogs and definitely not those 'English-Style Bangers' they make in Chicago, freeze and sell at Jungle Jim's. No, real sausages, like the award-winning ones at Uptons in Southampton. Maybe traditional pork, maybe Lincolnshire, maybe a Cumberland Ring, maybe something modern with apple or something. But the real thing.

The process began at Christmas, when we got an adapter for the food processor that would mince meat for us. First use for it was to mince our own beef, leading to a vast improvement in the quality of our mince. But overall, it was all about the sausages, and the plan was underway.

Next step: get a decent recipe. There are some places on the internet that claim to be authentic and genuine recipes, but a number of these sites offered conflicting advice - even down to which cut of pork to use - and so the answer was to go straight to the horses mouth. In this case, the afore-mentioned Upton's, home of numerous award-winning sausages.

Been to Upton's many times in the past. After Gloria moved we always got our Thanksgiving turkey on special from there, along with numerous other specials from time to time. The best experience was when Gloria wanted to do Texas-style barbecue brisket, and they brought out the entire underside of the cow (un-rolled!) and asked how much we wanted... and even knocked some of the price off because we wanted some fat with it to help it slow-cook.

So, we knew Simon and the guys there a little. And in I went, bold as you like, and stated that we now lived in the USA, so would he be willing to give us a sausage recipe or two since we can't buy theirs any more. Well, instead of telling me to head off into the sunset, he rather keenly started reeling off core recipes and variations before saying, "Tell you what, you'd better just email me and I'll send a few recipes over."

Duly did, and he duly obliged with a core basic recipe and answered a few of the controversial points in the process, including which cut to use: not belly pork, but shoulder is the best cut - a little leaner and with more flavour, especially if you can get a good pork like Wild Boar or one of the Old Spot breeds. And the meal: somewhere between ten and twenty-five percent breadcrumb, depending on how heavy or light you like the sausage.

And then finally, yesterday, the opportunity presented itself to get a good big piece of shoulder for a decent price (although no special breed), and the experiment commenced. Scaling Simon's commercial-scale recipe down by a factor of nineteen, the fun began. And you just know that I took photos so you too can join in with the joy of creating some traditional British sausages.

So, start with a nice big hunk of pork shoulder. Cut off about a kilo of it, getting a good mix of fat and lean. I stuck the rest in the freezer for later sausaging.

Cut the pork into cubes so that it can go through the mincer. I used half a kilo in the first and then half a kilo in the second run-through, which was the Lincolnshire Experiment. For each 500g of pork, I also prepared some onion (chopped up nice and small), a little salt and 1.71 grams of pepper. Our scale wasn't so great at measuring exactly 1.71 grams of pepper, but some internet calculations determined that it was equal to about three-quarters of a teaspoon. For basic Lincolnshire, add as much sage (in terms of weight, not volume) as pepper, which worked out at about one to one-and-a-quarter teaspoons of sage. For 500g of pork I used 100g of breadcrumbs, which as the mathematical among you will determine, gives a ratio of about 16%, give or take the amount of onion used. Rub it all together and chuck it all through the mincer...

Actually, I found the bread gradually got stuck in the mincer and I had to extract it manually, then mix it in by hand. Second time around, with the Lincolnshire Experiment, I just stuck the pork through the mincer and mashed the mixture together by hand afterward.

Then you just form it into sausage-shaped sausages, and fry or grill.

Hang on, what about putting it inside sausage skins? Well, this was The Experiment. The challenge was to determine whether it was going to be worthwhile making sausages at all. Only if successful would it be worth heading down to the otherwise-pretty-ordinary butcher shop on Markland Avenue and buying twenty dollar's worth of sausage skins (not sure how many hundred sausages that will allow us to make) and also the additional kitchen mixer adapter for stuffing sausage skins. And the news is...

Yes. We will be heading to the butcher and buying sausage skins. The first batch were a little too peppery due to attempting to measure 1.71 grams of pepper with a scale that only measures in 1g increments and even then is a little inaccurate... the second were the sage-added Lincolnshire variety and they were very, very good. Even Gloria liked them, and she's not the most forgiving when it comes to sausages.

So, another item ticked off the DIY food list. Next on the list - aside from more sausages - will be learning how to cure bacon. I somehow expect that to be more of a challenge.

Friday, June 12, 2009

12 June 2009: Better than Beckham

Brad and Bill here at the office were just discussing a YouTube video of a French guy doing some impressive things with a football. It's here, in case you'd like to click the link.

So I sent them back a link to this video, featuring a guy from the Channel Islands who did amazing things with a football, in a game situation, in the Premier League, for over fifteen years. Just watching it almost brings a tear to the eye: did Saints really used to be this good?

Answer: no. Le Tissier was this good. The rest of the team didn't have to be.