all the news fit to print

It’s been a busy old week for news. Can you tell there’s an election coming? Yes, you’re getting quicker flicking over to Glee when you hear the BBC News theme aren’t you?

Always a sign.

Tony Blair – remember him? Last seen doing the old science-fiction “retcon” trick over at the Chilcott Inquiry? – has been sounding the drum for his (auld) enemy Gordon Brown. This surely cannot have gone down well in the heartlands, as most Labour seats are lost as a consequence of Tony Blair sticking around looking and sounding exhausted and deceitful.

This kind of thing is quite common in football, though, with just about as much sincerity. “I respected the job he did at the club and there’s a lot of signs of his influence around the ground today…” he says, looking at dwindling crowd of anoraks Twittering around a Thermos while a huddle of unfit next-big-things hoik long balls towards the local paper reporters.

It was Blair, we remember, who gave Brown the title “clunking fist”, and for headline writers everywhere, Brown has not disappointed. He’s made a clunking fist of everything since taking over. He couldn’t even make a disaster work in his favour though; he’ll always have the longest, deepest recession in history to his name – after all, he created it – but Blair sanctioned an illegal invasion of Iraq. Second place again, Gordon!

Bigger, more meaty news-stories of recent times struggled to make the lead on either BBC or Sky. The former retreated into usual territory – the ban on methedrone was treated pretty much like the IT’S WAR! frenzy over on The Day Today – while the latter continues to push its forthcoming Leaders Debates slot as though self-referential programme plugging is part of OFCOMs definition of “news”.

In times gone by, the staggering achievements at the Large Hadron Collider would have been enough to send all workers and schoolchildren home to enable the population the honour of being within a screen’s width of life-changing science.

The…shall I say…”incident” within troubled waters excited those of us who have North Korea down on the “end of the world sweepstake”. Currently – I think, you know how these things change when North Korea are involved – the South claim the whole thing was caused by a mine. Possibly Northern. Probably one of their own. But it definitely did not start with warning shots being aimed at flocks of The Dear Leader’s Armed Seagull Division.

Though you never know.

Last night, Ribéry showed what comes when you’re an expensive top-league footballing talent who doesn’t lose concentration after 80 minutes. Tonight, may Allah be kind upon us all, Messi will treat Arsenal’s gameplay as a particularly cruel and cunning poker player toys with novices used to the occasional on-line flutter.

I understand, flicking over to cricket for as short a time as possible, that there is some concern over IPL commentators referring to players “scoring a maximum 6” and wondering if “all bases are covered”.

We warned them this would happen, did we not?

To conclude, I have two stories, but only enough space for one….So it will have to be….Toads can predict earthquakes.


You could see Sepp Blatter’s hands more obviously than Thierry Henry’s. With the less than able assistance of a bewilderingly lost Charlize Theron and the copper from ‘Allo ‘Allo, the draw for next year’s World Cup Finals dragged on for longer than the Eurovision Song Contest. It contained more rules and regulations than those used to ensure the daily running of the Large Hadron Collider.

On the Saturday after the tedious ping-pong ball extraction, The Guardian had a proposal. Mix the idea behind the UN Security Council with FIFA’s intention to represent the whole world in football, to invent in time for the Brazil World Cup a far wider and larger contest. In short, give automatic qualification spots to the best teams in the world rankings, to give “smaller” associations a better chance of getting to the finals. I say “smaller”, even when South Africa 2012 includes New Zealand and Slovakia, under achievers both.

On a world-wide basis, I cannot see this laudable suggestion being adopted. To be fair, FIFA really are not on the look-out to create an actual international footballing event, hence the urgency with which they sought to keep France and Portugal in the Finals in the closing stages of the European qualifying section.

However there are merits to changing the way international football competitions are organised, starting with the qualifying stages. I do wonder how frustrating it must be for a young boy waking up on the eve of his thirteenth birthday to the news from his parents that he is, sadly and tragically, a resident of the Faroe Islands and therefore will never witness decent football at any level throughout his entire life.

If this “Security Council” plan is to move forward, let us start small. UEFA will soon begin the qualification for Poland/Ukraine 2012. Rather than continue along the formulaic route of putting small and micro-nations into the same qualifying groups as England, France, or whichever other high achievers, could it be too much to ask for than a little out-of-the-box consideration? Give the smaller associations – Andorra, San Marino, Cyprus, Norn Iron, Luxembourg and so on – their own dedicated qualifying group with at least two guaranteed places in the Finals. On a world-wide context, such “small” countries as India, Pakistan, and Canada, and as such “obscure” states as Palestine, Israel, and Iraq, find it almost impossible to make it to the top table of FIFA’s corporate feast of football and merchandise. Maybe it is fluffy and idealistic to want an internationalist perspective, but given the aims of both FIFA and UEFA, why not allow more countries the chance to play competitive football at a higher level than they may otherwise have achieved?

Fading memories of Zaire and THAT free kick, or Kuwait and THAT half-time malaise, should ensure any future aims to help the smaller countries can be untarnished by such botherations as actual FACTS. And anyway, it would mean smaller television draws and no comedy Frenchman presenter.