It’s Ok To Not Be Perfect!

I’m perched on the train seat to work. It’s Friday. I’m listening to the new U2 album. The final working day of my week starts at 10 am. By 5:30 pm, I will be on my way to visit my ageing parents who are battling their own health demons. As my gaze catches the faces of fellow passengers, I notice many of them look unhappy and/or miserable. Why? What is going on in their lives to make them appear so unhappy with their worlds?

Too many people today seem obsessed with money, possessions and appearances. Enough is now never enough as people chase the perfect body, the perfect car, the perfect career. You know what though? Sometimes it’s perfectly fine to have a bit of a tummy or to live in a house that isn’t the mansion you desire. Sometimes we need to just slow down, take stock and appreciate the simple things in life. Sometimes, it’s ok to finish last in a race. Giving everyone a trophy or ribbon for just competing paints the perception that we should be applauded for doing the basics right in life. It creates a culture of miserable people. Why do you need your partner to go on Facebook and applaud you for taking the rubbish to the bin?

Too many children today seem incapable of exploring their imagination unless they have a device on their hands or a television burning brain cells in front of them. Worse still, we adults are gradually slipping into the same boat as well. Members at my local gym spend more time on their devices than they actually do working out. Some friends I have noticed, are incapable of being at home unless the TV is on. Hell, we can’t even go and watch a football match anymore or take our partners out for dinner without relying on our phones for likes, positive comments and other modes of instant gratification to keep our self esteem up. God forbid anyone saying something that doesn’t make you feel “amazing”. Chances are they will be abused or deleted.

It’s ok if people don’t like you. It’s ok if your muffin top pops out over your jeans. It’s ok if don’t fit in. You just have to be yourself because, as Oscar Wilde once said, everybody else is taken.


When Italians Go Too Far

When you think of Italy, what’s the first thing that springs to mind?  Beautiful woman?  Pizza? Fashion? Culture? Fair enough I say.  Now, what would you be thinking of when you think of Italian football?  Cheating, diving, World Cup victories, Milan, Juventus and maybe even match fixing.  These days, when I think of Italian football, I think of Napoli away in the Europa League way back on October 21 2010.

The previous few days had been fantastic as Ross and I visited Florence and Pisa en route to Italy’s third largest municipality amid plentiful amounts of warm sunshine, beer and pasta.  We were having a European away trip fit for a king on a pauper’s budget.  Yes, it truly was that much fun.  Our train from Pisa to Naples took around 4 hours and landed us in the city by mid-afternoon.  As soon as we stepped off the train, eyes were being fixed on us from every angle.  Little did we know that, the night before, two Liverpool supporters had been stabbed in a city café and many others were attacked on the streets during the night.  More was to come.

Naples is located on the southern coast of Italy.  Those historically minded people reading this will be well aware of the lost city of Pompeii and there are just over four million inhabitants in one of the oldest cities in the world.  My impressions from the day and a half spent there were not so good.  Not just due to the football problems we faced but also the rubbish strike which saw piles of trash building up on the roadsides and out the front of cafes and restaurants. Now, the city centre is the largest in Europe so you can only imagine how much trash was littered here, there and everywhere can’t you?  I’m going to have to go back one day soon as a tourist to get a new perspective on the place.

Now, where was I?  Oh yes, jumping off the train and attracting unwanted attention.

I digress.

Within minutes of arriving, Ross and I were quickly sussed out by three plain clothed Police who quickly made us aware it was not safe to jump the subway to our hostel alone.  We soon found out why.  They advised us it would be best for us to allow them to escort us to our hostel.

Once on the subway train, all eyes were fixed on us for the entire three station ride to our hostel.  Our carriage was proper choca’s with Italian ultra’s who would have loved to have got their hands on us and perhaps even, their knives into us.  Thank Christ the bizzie’s were on hand to escort us or we would have become fodder.

Over the years, I’d heard older reds recount their stories of run ins with Italian football supporters during the 1970’s and 80’s.  Some scary recitals had been thrown my way with one of the most frightful being one supporter’s accounts of Rome in 1984 after the European Cup Final where the local Police had left the Liverpool supporters for dead following the match.  You can kind of understand why there were such hostilities a year later with Juventus supporters in Brussels.  I don’t for one moment excuse what happened but let’s just say English/Italian footballing relationships have indeed been soured for some time and still are to this day.

We found our hostel eventually, dropped our bags off and headed to the waterfront where bus transfers awaited us for a safe and swift transfer to Stadio San Paolo.  It was on this journey that we heard of more stories of stabbings and saw a couple of young fella’s who were bandaged up from attacks earlier in the day.  In Broad daylight!  There was a bit of an ill feeling, an edgy vibe if you like as we were escorted by a dozen Police motorbikes, first, out of the city before being take up to the ground via some dodgy back route to keep us all safe from harm.  I did wonder what was going through the minds of the Police.  The normal journey that would take around 15 minutes, took around 45 for this match.  The same heading back to but that’s another story for later in the blog.

As we approached the ground, Napoli fans greeted our bus with bricks and bottles against the windows.  Shit started to get real so we bunkered down in our seats and put our trust in the riot Police on hand at the stadium to keep at least some semblance to proceedings.  The Italians really don’t like the English when it comes to football matches.  I think at times, the feeling is very much mutual.  Regardless, we arrived into the stadium still in one piece after and very thorough body search by security as we entered into the stadium.  Once inside, you are directed to the upper tier plastic seats in the corner and allowed to sit wherever you see fit.  The game itself was one of few chances and ended in a goalless draw.  Post-match, we were held inside the stadium for nigh on an hour.  Similar to the San Siro in March 2008 when we sent Inter packing from the Champions League at the round of 16 stage.

The Police escorted bus ride back into town was less hostile though we were all dropped off and sent packing into the dark streets with no further Police protection.  As the large groups of reds wandered up into the city centre, we all broke off into smaller groups which was perhaps the worst scenario due to the groups of ultra’s waiting for us behind street corners.  Over the following hours, a number of supporters were attacked, stabbed and threatened by Italian thugs.  Not fun.

The following morning, Ross and I awoke early and a bit startled to the new of more stabbings and assaults.  We decided to stay in our dorm room and wait for check out before heading straight to the train station and our route of the city of Naples.  Once at the station, we met one young fella with swathes of bandages around his head.  He’s been stabbed the night before and received 6 stitches.  His mate had been battered by a thug with a crow bar and was sporting some heavy bruising.  Soon after, another red appeared with bandages, stitches and some horrific stories of what had gone on the night before.  By now I was thinking Ross and I had indeed made the right choice by avoiding the Naples night life in favour of a crusty hostel bed.  It’d been a rough couple of days for many travelling reds.

My fingers are crossed that Liverpool don’t face Napoli in European football any time soon.

Morrissey – Low In High School

I vividly remember a cloudy day in mid May 2004 when, after riding the bus to town, I picked up the first new album by Morrissey since “Maladjusted” was issued to critical distain some 3 weeks after my birthday seven years prior in 1997.  The day “You Are The Quarry” was released, Massachusetts becomes the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage.

It was said, following the poor showing of Maladjusted that Morrissey was on the nose and, according to many critics, on his way out.  The irony of these “critical” views is that music journalists, for the best part are often prone to jumping on popular opinion bandwagons and possess and innate fear of voicing their own opinion for fear of being pushed to the outside.

Coming back to “You Are The Quarry” in 2004 now and, with a new album that hit the top of the UK charts, Mozza was back!  Bigger and perhaps even better than ever before.  His seminal works, “Your Arsenal” and “Vauxhall & I” were a big part of my high school life and helped me feel safe and comfortable when I didn’t fit in with the society I was residing in.  So, having artists like Morrissey to look up to and admire was a big thing for me.  Fast forward again to 2017 and once more, Morrissey is back with another studio album.  This time around, he’s delivered another belter in the shape of “Low In High School”.

From my first impressions, Morrissey isn’t holding back with his personal attacks on the mainstream media, the British Royal Family and Police Brutality.  You see, that’s the beauty of Morrissey.  Love him or loath him, he’s never afraid to speak the truth and as you should know, the truth hurts which is why his long and winding list of detractors are intent of cutting him down at every opportunity.

My only disappointment with “Low In High School” is that there could have been a few more tracks tacked on.  Why you ask?  Well, it’s a cracking LP that deserves far more than just twelve cuts.  Thankfully, there is sure to be a plethora of quality B-Sides on the horizon and bonus tracks along the way.  Some of the early mainstream media reviews including the once acceptable but now deplorable NME, have slated “Low In High School” purely because the youthful and shall we say “hip” journalists the music press peddle out in 2017 just don’t get it.  Come to think of it, most of them don’t get anything outside their world of fancifully named coffees and gluten free lunches.  Still, that’s their problem and not ours because we are willing and able to embrace “Low In High School” for all its worth.  And it’s worth many listens let me assure you right here and now.

Like its 2014 predecessor, “World Peace Is None Of Your Business” Morrissey punches from the hip and right from the moment when “Spent The Day In Bed” was dropped a few weeks ago, I knew we were in for more of the same.  There are some serious attacks on the establishment so instead of trying to decipher and deliver depth and meaning to the tracks, I truly feel that it is best left for you to play the album and decide for yourself.  The only advice I can give you is that “Low In High School” must be played at maximum volume.

Anfield – Stadium Tour #8

It’s appropriate that my 8th tour of Anfield should include some time spent looking over the Steven Gerrard collection but that’s not all that excited me on this visit. And despite watching too many matches to remember over the years, the Anfield stadium tour always gives one a new perspective of the storied club that is Liverpool FC.

My first tour was all the way back in March 2008 and a lot has evolved within the walls since then. The most notable of changes without doubt has been the new Main Stand. I took a tour last year in the as yet unfinished stand so my most recent venture took me to the new player areas including media rooms, change rooms and the players lounge. Being a bit skeptical of the old change rooms and other historically charged areas changing too much, I was surprised at just how well it was all done.

Proceedings commence in the revamped ticket/entry point and you are handed a set of headphones along with an audio/visual guide and allowed to venture out pretty much on your own. This means you are not, as has been the case in years gone by, pushed through in under 60 minutes. Baz and I took around three hours on this new tour, taking our sweet time.

There are many new interactive areas to explore and I have to admit, FSG have made it all look so very tasty behind the scenes. They have done well to keep the history of the club blended in with the new surroundings. For instance, the are plaques splattered around the walls recounting moments of eras well behind us. For instance, in 1952, you are informed almost 62,000 souls came to watch a 2-1 victory over Wolves. A nice touch these for the history buffs.

Instead of using the new Main Stand to simply house spectators on match days, the club has done well to make it the place to use 7 days a week. Hard to imagine this is the same club who closed the club store the day after our 2005 Champions League final victory! Speaking of, there is now a brand spanking new club store adjacent to the ground which includes a decent range of merchandise and memorabilia for young and old alike to spend their hard earned in.

The museum is still the same spectacular walk down memory lane it has always been. Presented in a most beautiful way, you can lose yourself for hours at a time in the LFC museum. As mentioned at the top of this blog entry, the Steven Gerrard collection is a reminder of just how great a servant to the club he has been and will hopefully be again in years to come when he manages the first team.

I’ve spoken to a few local reds who have done the new tour and even these fellas, people who have spent their entire lives in the city are blown away by just how good the tour is. On the day we went, we bumped into an old fella who had been going the match since 1964 and even he was blown away by what he saw.

For me though, the two fitting highlights came, as always in the museum. Firstly, the 5 European Cups on display and, most importantly, the fitting tributes to the 96. A permanent reminder of match goers who went off to the match, never to return. Bless their souls……

Meeting Harry Kewell

It’s always a fear that confronts you when you meet a hero. You always wonder if they will turn out to be a bit of a jerk. Meeting Harry Kewell provided no such fears, just pleasure. Our meet up took place in his office at Crawley Town FC, just north or London on a slightly brisk Saturday afternoon last month.

The night before, we had visited London’s Olympic Stadium where we witnessed West Ham cop a 3-0 thumping at the hands of newly promoted Brighton FC. Less than 24 hours later, we pitched up at Broadfield Stadium to see the relegation threatened home side take on table toppers, Luton Town FC in league 2. The match ended 0-0 and Crawley were unlucky not to snatch all 3 points late on.

After the match we stopped by the players entrance to see when Harry might make his way out. When the security fella found out we were from Oz, he dropped to speak with Harry direct who said he would be out soon. Around thirty minutes later, and with the cold night air beginning to descend, we were invited into Harry’s office for a quick chat.

Once inside, Harry thought it best if we pop into the hall where less people were around. He was all smiles and gave us plenty of time to talk about Sydney, Liverpool, his job at Crawley Town a bit of banter. He didn’t have to give us time out of his busy day but it speaks volumes for the man that he chose to.

I’ve been following Harry since he moved to Leeds in 1996 where he played 180 plus games whilst scoring some of the best goals you could ever wish to see. You could only imagine my excitement when, in 2003, he signed for Liverpool and was, at the time considered the missing link to bring a title back to Anfield. Unfortunately, a series of crippling injuries dented his career during his spell on Merseyside but that didn’t stop him collecting a Champions League medal in 2005. From Liverpool, he moved onto Galatasaray before a season with Melbourne Victory. Following that, he moved to Al Gharafa then finished up with one final season at Melbourne Heart.

A career highlight for Harry came in 2006 as he single handily carried Australia to the group stage of the World Cup in Germany following his late winner against Croatia. The Bankstown fighting spirit came to the fore that evening as it did on many other occasions during his illustrious career for club and country.

Once our time with Harry came to an end, we shook hands, he wished us well and away we went, pleaded as punch that we had finally met an Australian icon! A man we have looked up to and worshiped for some 20 years. A pioneer of Australian football who played a role in putting football on the map down under.

One day, I will have to return to Crawley Town and get my Liverpool shirt with Harry’s name and number on the back signed. Harry being Harry, I’m sure, will once again be more than obliging. Being a boy from Western Sydney, Harry Kewell knows where he came from and appreciates those of us who grew up in awe of his many achievements that continue to this day. I always imagined him as being a kind and humble human being and that is exactly how he was meeting him in person. Thanks Harry Kewell. You gave me another awesome moment I can take to my grave later in life!

Bromley FC – An Affectionate Admiration 

For around 25 years now, I have been aware of non league football club, Bromley FC due to the fact David Bowie once watched them whilst he was a teenager living in the area.  Then, a few years back now, I read a book called 32 Programes by a local Bromley supporter who goes by the name of Dave Roberts.  He has an uncanny way of dragging you head first into his yarns of life as a football supporter.  Actually, I now have his latest offering, Home & Away in my bag to read this week.  

So, after a few near misses in recent seasons, last night, I finallly made my way down to Hayes Lane to watch Bromley FC take on Maidenhead United in the Conference Premier division. A win would send them into outright third spot on the table and hot on the coat tails of league leaders Dover Athletic and Macclesfield Town.  Sadly, a 3-2 loss leaves Bromley FC sitting in 8th spot with a large congestion of teams.  But that wasn’t the point for me last night.  I was left wondering why I hadn’t been here before and contemplating when I will be back for more.  Hopefully sooner than later.

As you enter Hayes Lane, one is greatet by a mascot and a handful of welcoming supporters who all appear to have a few tales to share.  I’d walked to Hayes Lane from town with a group of Maidenhead supporters who kept going on about how much they hate Scousers!  Best I keep quiet on that front then.  Once inside the ground though, I’d entered a new world of excitement.  Non-league football can be quite inspiring.  Old fashioned grounds with small terraces and wooden seats.  My cup of tea.  Best of all, not a single fucking selfie stick or iPad filming corners in sight.  Just loyal football supporters wanting what’s best for their team.  All 1,056 of them as was the case with last nights attendance.

Feeling peckish? Then £5 will net you a hot dog, packet of crisps and a coke! £5 barely gets you a coffee or bottle of water in most top flight football matches but here at Hayes Lane, it’ll fill you up nicely.  Then you have petrol in the tank to take a walk around the ground and experience the beauty of a ground first used by Bromley in 1938.  The club share the same birthday as Liverpool and, in 1992, almost pulled off a centenary friendly with the Red half of Merseyside.  Imagine getting an away ticket for that fixture? 

The football itself was of quite a decent standard with leaky defences and a dubious penalty allowing no less than 5 goals through in the first 45 minutes!  With the second half came some heavy rain and daft attacking choices.   Bromley seemed to lose their capability to push forward with conviction which allowed Maidenhead United to sit back and let the clock run down.  The left fullback for Bromley certainly knew how to frustrate the home supporters with his array of backwards and sideways passing that led to nowhere.  The home side did create a few chances however, luck wasn’t on their side.

With the sound of the full time whistle, I had enjoyed a thoroughly enjoyable night out and could not recommend a trip to Hayes Lane enough.  It’s one of the better grounds to discover in England and may Bromley FC one day soon reach the shaky heights of league football!  The game as a whole would be better for it.

A Double Shot of David Bowie

When in London these days, I always stop by the Brixton mural to pay my respects and reflect on a career that defined a generation.  Located opposite the underground station, the Bowie mural has seen plenty of changes since his passing in January last year.  I had most recently visited the site in June of this year before today.  Sadly, with today’s visit, I was greeted with the site of a huge perspex shield guarding the mural and some rather nasty graffiti to each side.  Daft!

As always, there is a regular flow of tourists who pass by to visit and today I met a young Dutch girl from Utrecht, a Japanese mother and daughter along with some Argentinian’s, Spanish, Greek and New Zealand tourists all paying there respects.  There were others but I didn’t get a chance to chat with them.  One English mum walked past with her teenage daughter who said “Mum, is that David Bowie? He looks awfully weird!”  Bless her cotton socks!

I grabbed a £3 meal deal from Sainsbury’s to fuel my peckish hunger and got talking to the other fans.  They all have their own beautiful stories to share of what he meant to them and why.  Some stories were quite touching.  It’s lovely how a simple musician managed to move the goal posts on so many occasions whilst the rest of us always got lost on his coat tails playing catch up.

Once my time in Brixton came to a close, I jumped the tube back to Victoria and swapped for the national rail journey to Bromley where I was due to attend a Bromley FC match.  That’s another story.  I had the opportunity to visit the home of Bowie for 10 years starting in June 1955.  The short 15 minute walk from South Bromley station edged me through some darkening but leafy streets.  You feel extra safe waking these streets.  

Once at 4 Plaistow Grove, I took a few photos, soaked up the emotions of standing outside a house that would otherwise bare no historical significance had it not been for our mate, Dave and made a short video of the experience on Facebook.  I was tempted to knock on the front door as there was strong evidence suggesting the occupants were home but I sure they get harassed all the time by crazy fans like me so I let it be.  For now anyway.  

Due to time constraints, I missed out on having a pint in nearby Beckenham but there is always next time.   I was rather chuffed to be able to enjoy the experience of swing the house that had a part in the making of our Dave.  I have to admit though, the afternoon provided me with a smashing buzz all over.  

If you ever get the chance to visit 4 Plaistow Grove, take the train from London Victoria (the fast option only takes 15 minutes) and give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the fruits that Bromley has to offer.  There are a few decent pubs along the route if the thought of a few drinks tickle your fancy.  I’ll definitely head back one day for a second visit.  It’s well worth the £11.30 return train ticket.