Monday, April 19, 2010

19 April 2010: Relegation

It's a sad day when Argyle get relegated, especially from this division.

It's happened twice before in my lifetime: once in 1977 when I was too young to care and once in 1992 when I was there to see it. In 1977 a rising star striker named Paul Mariner left halfway through the season to go on to bigger things with Bobby Robson at Ipswich and then England, leaving the rest of Tony Waiters' team to flounder, going down on the last day of the season away at Sheffield United. In 1992 the culmination of two years of dreadful team-building by David Kemp (putting together a series of starting 11s who never again played league football after leaving Argyle - they were that bad) was an unsurprising 3-1 home defeat by Blackburn Rovers, who were promoted as a result and who within two years had won (bought) the Premier League title.

And today was the third. As high as fourth in the table a couple of seasons ago when Ian "hollow-words" Holloway left after promising to stay forever, and old favourite Paul Sturrock coming in to take over where he left off in 2004. But it was never the same, and despite having a team that in all actuality wasn't too bad in terms of absolute quality (for which read: they're better than David Kemp's team was and may indeed continue to play league football in their careers) they never gelled, and so many players had personal issues of some sort or another (Graham Stack, Simon Walton and thumbs-up boy Marcel Seip spring to mind even before we start getting into the Scottish contingent) that the side never settled, and probably never could. Mariner's return as coach and then manager certainly brought some life to the team - they actually won a game after going behind, which they'd not done in 2 years - but it was still too inconsistent, and too late.

So today, on a warm spring evening in Plymouth, Newcastle United came to town, needing a point to ensure their position as division champions, and happy to take a win if it came their way. Two soft goals later, that was that. Newcastle will be in the Premier League next year, snapping at the heels of the big clubs I'd wager, while Argyle will head back to obscurity for another dozen or so years. They'll think about bouncing straight back of course, and may even challenge for a year or two, but the investment isn't there (the new Japanese owners have failed to provide any money at all and indeed haven't even shown up for a single game) so maybe back down to the fourth tier we'll go.

And it doesn't seem long ago that we were celebrating two promotions in three years, with Sparksy getting cakes in the press box and Trigger and Friio making him proclaim the unforgettable: "TWO nil. THAT'S it. Argyle are UP." Now that work has gone away, phase two never happened (what a surprise) and there's little reason to hope for much for Argyle, in all honesty. Things can always change - there was little reason to hope in the Fat Dan Years - but maybe it's for the best. As John Cleese once wisely opined: I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand.

Surely there can't be a better quote for a Plymouth Argyle fan.

Postscript: Having said that, Rob just sent me a ringtone version of a Dalek saying "would-you-care-for-some-tea" from Saturday's Doctor Who, and that's not a bad quote either. Solves everything, PG Tips.

Monday, April 12, 2010

12 April 2010: Proxy

Back from holidays and it's probably time to update the blog, seeing as the last entry was getting all excited about a midweek chart show from two weeks ago.

So Delirious ended up at number 4 for the week overall, which is pretty good considering their previous highest position in the singles chart was number 16 back in early 1999. Even better considering the band no longer exists. But I couldn't buy a copy since I was abroad, and my many attempts to use UK iTunes accounts all seemed to be found out. I need a nice UK proxy.

Talking of proxies... seems Mr Brown has asked Mrs Queen to dissolve parliament and have a general election, and she presumably agreed with a big sigh, thinking "here we bleddy go again". (Seriously, how many elections has she seen now? She must be bored of them.) I've looked into voting from here and it's curious: mainly because of the constituency system but also partly because it's badly designed. I am eligible to register to vote in the last constituency in which I lived (Southampton Test as I recall) BUT when it comes to actually voting, there are two options: (1) postal ballot and (2) proxy vote. Number 1 isn't an option because they require a turnaround time of five days from start to finish - and it normally takes a week to get stuff from the UK by normal post, so that would mean I'd receive my ballot paper some two days after the election took place, let alone sending it back again. Leaving us with number 2, the proxy vote, and it seems to me that while it's ok for me to waste my time performing my usual vote (click here for details from the last UK election - have I really been blogging that long? Sheesh) it's a little unfair to ask someone else to perform the task on my behalf.

Sidenote on the spoiling thing: Before anyone goes off on one about rights, duties and privileges, I ask you to consider (1) the purpose of having an election with no actual, real choice (they had elections in the USSR, remember), (2) the purpose of representative democracy (am I represented?) and (3) Lord Hailsham's seemingly timeless remark on the UK as an "elective dictatorship", or a place which is a democracy, but only for one single day every five years.

May be different this time, due to the possibilities of a hung parliament (despite its promising name, this doesn't involve the execution of politicians, but instead means no single party has overall control of our unseparated powers). Andy has some interesting thoughts on the runners and riders from the minor parties so that's something to consider if you'd like your vote to count. But don't forget, it's first past the post in each constituency so for your Green/UKIP/Reptile vote to count, you'd need that candidate to win in your constituency before they get around to being king-makers in any minority government. Still, if just one percent of the population protest...

No, hang on, that was Doctor Who, not the actual election. Is it just me or did 'The Beast Below' fit in very nicely with the overall election theme? What is your choice: to protest about the system and thus bring about the collapse of a corrupt, unfair system or choose to forget about it for another five years and carry on in ignorance like nothing is wrong? Steven Moffat would have known broadcast dates some time in advance, and it wasn't difficult to predict the timing of this election...

No need to say much more on the first two Moffat episodes of Doctor Who, though. They were great, just great, thoroughly enjoyable, fun, deep, everything the RTD stories promised to be and rarely delivered. And Matt Smith is better that I thought he'd be too. They could do with changing the title sequence and music, though...

Finally, if you have any doubts about corrupt politicians, check out recent history of the island of Grand Turk, where I found Cadbury's Whole Nut last week. Now there is a seriously corrupt story... it must be bad when the British government wades in, dissolves the constitution and takes over control from London. We don't do that kind of thing any more... do we? Elections to be held there by mid-2011, say the leaflets from the supermarket.

Wonder if it'll be PR or first past the post?