Monday, 31 December 2012

That day

I wrote this at the time and after trying (and failing) to get it published in a magazine (WSC now you ask, optimistic I know, but I did expect a reply at least) did nothing with it. Reading through it now I find it a little cringey if I'm honest, but having been contemplating 'putting it out there' for a while decided that now was the time to bite the bullet. So here it is:

Writing this over a week later, and despite all the euphoria that’s still eminent, I can still distinctly remember just how bad I felt for those last 20 minutes at Manchester City’s title winning match against Queens Park Rangers. As a friend said when we were having a pint following the victory parade the next day, it was complete disbelief that the current club could make you feel worse than they had at the lowest points of the last 20-30 years but somehow, they had done that. A thing that compounded it personally was having been a nervous wreck all week, Pablo Zabaleta’s goal just before half-time, had allowed me to drop my guard and make some post-match plans which I’d previously refused to do.

I was looking out of the window at the club shop/car park at the back of the stand when Edin Dzeko equalised but still couldn’t really face going back to my seat. I just turned and looked at the gangway/stairs and can’t remember anything of that minute or so until Sergio Aguero’s winner. The noise of just before a goal/chance happens is pretty unmistakeable and I think this had prompted me to move towards the stairs. Then the goal miraculously arrived, and in the predictable mayhem, I was back with my Dad, eldest brother and nephew within seconds and saw the players in a heap on the floor.

I’d left my seat on around 70 minutes. Unable to bear to watch what was (or, more accurately, wasn’t) going on in front of me, I went to the concourse at the back of the stand and paced around for a while. I’ve no idea when, or if it was prompted by a particular crowd noise, but I found myself at one of the bars that had closed. Then in a moment, uncontrollably, I broke down in tears. I was trying to tell myself that as a 32 year-old man who lives a happy life, I should be above crying because the football team I support is getting beat. I’d been through far worse in my personal life (it was, after all, a football match.) Who hasn’t? I’d been through far, far, worse in my City supporting life. But there I was unable to move, sobbing away, hidden in a corner.

A couple of days later I was discussing these feelings, in comparison to those at our relegation to the third level away at Stoke 14 years ago, with a colleague. While it’s undeniable that fateful day in the Potteries was horrible, and a more damaging moment for the club than Sunday ever could have been, it didn’t have the intense pain that throwing away a league title in a game where we were 1/8 favourites to win did. I’ve attempted to make some kind of analogy since and the best I can come up with is that whilst being made redundant should be a far more serious matter for a person, would it feel as painful as that immediate moment of realising you’ve lost a winning lottery ticket?

A few minutes later I’d got myself together a little but still couldn’t face the fact that we were going to throw away our first league in my, and only the second in my Dad’s, lifetime. What was I going to do after the match? How would I get home? What would I do when I got home? What would I do over the summer? All these thoughts ran through my head with very few answers. Strangely a moment of clarity, and even comedy, popped into my head. At least having cried out of view of the pitch, I’d ruled out being captured by a TV cameraman or photographer which would make me a ‘celebrity’ in newspapers, clog up facebook feeds and see me on t-shirts sold outside of Old Trafford I thought.

As much as I had played this down, and told people it was entirely about us winning the league, rather than beating them, the fact Manchester United would win were we to fail, did I’m sure, have an effect on me. I was thinking how I could expect to hear many of the things I’d regularly dismissed as bollocks. “United know how to win at this time of the season” “don’t ever take Fergie on at mind games” and so frustratingly, as I find it the most annoying of cliché’s, “typical City.” All these things would be stuffed down my throat and I’d have very little in the way of comeback.

As the majority of the match had been, much of this is a blur, but the moments after I’d re-joined my family in the stand: full-time and the pitch invasion, the trophy, the singing. Were all things I fortunately could, and did, enjoy. We hugged, there were more tears and the feeling of elation, but more so the relief, was something I’d never experienced at a match. A picture was taken of the four of us and when my girlfriend saw it she commented that she’d never seen my Dad show such emotion about anything before. 

The car on the way back to my parents was a bit subdued, undoubtedly due to exhaustion, and when we got there the two of us just sat and a had a beer in near silence watching Sky Sports News. Later I laughed with my parents that eating spaghetti bolognese in their front-room two hours after we’d done a thing I’d spent my twenties telling friends I’d never see happen (it wasn’t approaching a viable conversation topic in my teens), wasn’t really the way I’d imagined celebrating City winning the league. And although spending the evening in a relatively quiet pub didn’t have the exuberance the celebrations in central Manchester would have, having that time with my Dad, who was responsible for, and had accompanied me to watch the football club I love for the last 26 years, was exactly how I wanted it to be.

Despite the previous night’s beers and the fatigue of not having slept properly for much of the previous few weeks I was wide awake quite early on the Monday morning and, still unable to relax, spent a couple of hours pacing around my parents' house. I made my way back to my flat near the city centre where I continued the pacing around for another few hours, interspersed with crying a bit (lot) more watching various youtube clips, before making my way into town ahead of the parade. Getting to the pub and seeing a lot of my friends, many looking as exhausted as me, was oddly, the best I’d felt for a while and everyone was pretty much telling the same story about the anguish of the second-half although they’d all seemingly managed to stay in view of the pitch. After a few pints and joining in a few songs, we went out to watch the parade and without wanting to sound over-dramatic (again), I can honestly say it was the happiest I’ve ever felt. I’d lost my friends who I was with but, in a way, was happier being on my own. Talking to strangers, the odd person I recognised, parents with their kids and so on. Just the full spectrum of people who were there, all so happy, had me beaming when I walked back across town after seen the bus go past and having showed the players and management my gratitude for what (I’ll let them off for the second-half) they’d given me, my family and friends.

It wasn’t until later in the week that I began to feel normal again, my voice had stopped shaking when talking to people about it and I was having the best, settled, sleep since before the derby two weeks before. In all honesty I hadn’t been myself in the period since we’d dragged ourselves back in contention around a month earlier. With each game and week that passed, the traits of broken sleep, always being pre-occupied, unable to concentrate in the office, became worse and worse before it peaked in the days before the QPR game. I specifically remember that it was the Wednesday morning when I woke up and decided winning this fixture was now the most improbable result ever. It was a feeling that seemingly swept across Manchester as someone on the City message board I frequent asked later that day: ”How have QPR become Real Madrid in my head all of a sudden?”

Another aspect that told me I was regaining some normality in daily life was that I began to feel regret that I hadn’t actually seen Aguero’s goal (I have done since by the way, it’s out there if you look hard enough) as in the immediate days after, with the adrenaline still pumping around me, I really hadn’t been that bothered. As you may have gathered from my reluctance to make any post-match plans though (which having done that at half-time, I then began to hate myself for,) I am something of a superstitious fan. So if not seeing it was the little part I played in Manchester City becoming the champions of England, it was worth it. A billion times over.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Shirtspotting: #theSpots 2011

Well the red-carpet was rolled out on New Years Eve as familiar faces and dignitaries from the worlds of professional sport, show business and politics made their way to Dukinfield Town Hall for the first annual, The Spots. The event, held to celebrate achievements in the world of football shirtspotting, was the brainchild of shirtspotter founder @shirtspotter when he thought it might be a bit of a laugh after a few days on the ale over Christmas. Despite being hastily arranged, it was an immaculately delivered evening and a celebration of all that’s great about having an interest, bordering on obsession, with obscure and retro football merchandise.

The event was hosted by the actor Joe Thomas, who many of you will know as Simon in the Inbetweeners and from Fresh Meat, where he played the character, that one out of the Inbetweeners. Wearing the unconventional, but fitting, event attire of the Holland Euro 88 shirt, Thomas threw us straight into the first award of the evening, the best shirt to be spotted.

As would be the case throughout the evening we got to see a short montage of clips highlighting events that had taken part in this field in the previous 12 months before the shortlist of three was presented. These would be:

FC Barcelona from the “El Tel era,” spotted at the Great Yorkshire Run by @tinfoilcup
UC Sampdoria away (1992-1994), spotted at the Newcastle Free Trade Hall by @DolphinHotel
Aston Villa (1987-1989), picture spot, on Slovan Bratislava fans away in Prague in 1991 by @RalphDavies1

Winner: @DolphinHotel with this tweet on 31st January:

@shirtspotter There was a barman in Newcastle's Free Trade Inn wearing a Sampdoria 92-94 away top on Saturday night.

Naturally the room rose as one to applaud the winner. Unfortunately @DolphinHotel wasn’t able to make it to the evening to collect his award but, fittingly, a regular wearer of the fantastic garment, Atilio Lombardo, did so on his behalf. Predictably the awards organisers played the Lambada which lead to Lombardo, to his credit, performing the iconic dance with master of ceremonies Thomas (Simon out of the Inbetweeners.)

The next award was for the best fake shirt spotted for which the nominees were:

Werder Bremen (inc sponsor WeWin rather than Bwin), spotted in Asda, Hulme, by @shirtspotter
Schalke 04 with SAND on the back, spotted in Droylsden, by @WillU87
Manchester City including the crest, which used the name TEAM, in Covent Garden, London, by @house78

Winner: @shirtspotter with this tweet on May 10th:

Last night in Asda, Hulme, Mcr. A fake Bremen shirt that had the sponsor "WeWin" rather than "BWin." Caused a wry smile, so it did

To generous applause and good-natured shouts of ‘fix’ from the gallery, @shirtspotter went up to collect his award and struggling to keep his emotions in check, spoke passionately about the strides that had been made in shirtspotting in 2011 and how he hoped for more of the same in 2011.

Next up was best photo taken of spot. The nominees were:
Cardiff City with Fortune-West on the back (location not given) by @LauraMcAllister RT by @Chrissy_Pike
Independiente in Negombo, Sri Lanka by @therealstoffers
Aston Villa (1987-1989), on Slovan Bratislava fans away in Prague in 1991 by @RalphDavies1

Winner: @LauraMcAllister RT by @Chrissy_Pike with this tweet on April 25th:

@shirtspotter: Spotted-this Leo Fortune West Cardiff shirt -fair play ...

Unfortunately, neither @LauraMcAllister RT by @Chrissy_Pike was available to pick up the award, but stepping up on their behalf was, a slightly bemused looking, Leo Fortune-West. Fortune-West thanked all involved and when asked by Thomas, revealed that yes, the custom of accumulating bookings in order that you could be suspended and therefore drink your way through the Christmas period was still rife amongst lower league footballers.

After the half-time break, Thomas returned to the stage and announced that the next award would be for most unlikely location of spot. Nominated were:

Newcastle Jets in Gorton, Manchester by @WillU87  
Anorthosis Famagusta (merchandise) at Salford Crescent Train Station by @shirtspotter
Sporting Gijón (fake) at Macys, New York City by @jrjohnno

Winner: @jrjohnno with this tweet on 18th July:

@shirtspotter (fake) Sporting Gijón home 10-11 in Macy's, NYC.

Due to transport problems @jrjohnno was unfortunately unable to be at the event and pick up the award. Another competitor shortlisted in the category, @shirtspotter , had already agreed to collect the award on the behalf of the absent winner. After congratulating @jrjohnno on the triumph, the mood turned a little sour as @shirtspotter proceeded to go into a tirade of how much better his spot of two Anorthosis Famagusta tracksuit tops was and went on to offer out the members of the awarding committee ‘one at a time or all at once.’

Fortunately the host’s professionalism rescued this ugly situation and as the disgruntled, unsucessful, nominee was ushered off stage, Thomas quickly announced that the next and penultimate category would be best German shirt spotted. Nominees were:

West Germany home (1990) in Natwest, Spring Gardens, Manchester by @robmcfc
Alemania Aachen home at Manchester Airport by @AllisterWhite
Dynamo Dresden 08/09 in Stalybridge by @robmcfc

Winner: @robmcfc with this tweet on September 23rd:

@shirtspotter West Germany home shirt from 1990 on show in Natwest Spring Gardens, Manchester this afternoon.

Disappointingly @robmcfc couldn’t make the short journey to the awards ceremony but on-hand to pick up the award was, taking her responsibilties with the appropriate seriousness, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

Chancellor Merkel spoke of her delight that such a committed shirtspotter as @robmcfc had picked up the award. She then went on to give her memories of this specific, fantastic, Die Nationalelf shirt but said that the late equaliser conceded in the dying moments of the final group game against Columbia still rankles with her despite the team’s ultimately successful World Cup campaign. She couldn’t let the moment pass without praising Guido Buchwald’s masterful performance at the heart of the defence in the final against Argentina but, when asked, declined to comment on the Eurozone crisis as it is “beginning to do my head in.”

The anticipation in the room was reaching fever pitch as the showpiece award lingered on the horizon. Up for best spot of 2011 were the following:

Wellington phoenix at Sheffield Food Festival by @coops1889
Maldives national shirt, including shorts on Oundle Road, Peterborough by @208fifashirts
Cardiff City with Fortune-West on the back (location not given) by @LauraMcAllister RT by @Chrissy_Pike

Winner: @208fifashirts with this tweet on 23rd August:

@shirtspotter Maldives national shirt, including shorts! Jogging down Oundle Road in Peterborough last night.

Despite the healthy competition, it was an obvious and thoroughly deserved winner and has set the bar at which all other shirtspots should be judged. Regrettably, @208fifashirts , was unable to make the awards ceremony to pick up the award but with confusion growing as to who would collect it on his behalf, up stepped man of the moment and BBC Sports Personality of the Year, the bike-rider, Mark Cavendish.

Cavendish told the audience that this really was the ’icing on the cake’ as far as 2011 was concerned for him. Then, with the look of the determined and focused competitor we all know Cav to be, he said that for all the challenges 2012 poses: another Green Jersey at the Tour de France, World Cycling Championship and an Olympic Gold, taking @208fifashirts best spot title was the biggest and most sort after for any sportsmen, and that he'd be doing his utmost to do so.

With many of the audience tired and emotional, Thomas (that’s Simon from the Inbetweeners remember) brought the evening to a close. He thanked all the guests for attending, the organisers for putting it all together but most of all, the shirtspotters across the globe without whom, none of this could have gone ahead.

It had been a magnificent and illustrious, if sometimes controversial evening, but if ever there was a reason to get your spotting glasses on in 2012, it’s surely the prospect of a bigger and better #theSpots in 12 months’ time.

Friday, 4 November 2011

ESPN & Dave's TV Sports Review: An explanation

You can’t have failed to notice the rumours flying around with regard the lack of blogging and tweeting activity from Dave’s TV Sports in recent months and now’s the time to set the record straight. Yes, myself, Dave of Dave’s TV Sports, and ESPN have split.

The separation was made official when last Friday, the 28th October, I arrived home from work and casually flicked ESPN on in the hope of finding out which Bundesliga game would be shown that night to be met by the message:

Access to this service is denied by your viewing card.

It’s hard to explain the emotions felt at this point. Having rang up TopUpTV approximately a month before to inform them that I wished to end my subscription I cannot have been surprised by this. I wasn’t surprised by this. But the realisation was hard to take as an important chapter of my TV sports watching life had come to an end.

We’d been together a while before the first ever DTVSr was, fittingly enough, an ESPN shown fixture between 1FC.Köln and Borussia Dortmund and to read back through it many could be forgiven had they believed this was an unbreakable connection between two kindred spirits. Things were clearly going well in those days. I was enjoying their coverage of European leagues, I was enjoying their coverage of Aussie Rules and they’d started showing the truly excellent 30 for 30 series of documentaries.

It was a relationship that appeared to be growing stronger by the week and we shared some unforgettable moments.

One of the most memorable came last December during the Anderlecht v Hajduk Split Europa League game. On DTVSr’s sister twitter account, @shirtspotter, I tweeted that Hajduk’s kit was giving me an “almighty Oldham 96/97 vibe.” This led to a discussion with @DolphinHotel which resulted in him divulging the information that former Latics striker, Ian Olney, now works as a financial advisor. It’s hard to describe the joy felt at such a moment and just typing my memories of that night brings a smile to my face.

And even in these last few months when the relationship was becoming noticeably fractured we could still share in beautiful moments. Just a couple of weeks ago I found myself doing a little jig in delight when I got to watch Miroslav Klose’s injury time winner for Lazio in the Rome derby. It was occasions like that caused a few to question whether the split was as ominous as I believed it to be. Certainly, the people at TopUpTV’s customer retainer department made a series of phone-calls suggesting a reconciliation but my decision was made.

Where did it all go wrong then? Obviously some things should remain unblogged and I have too much respect for the channel I paid £10 a month to for over two years to badmouth it in public but to look back on DTVSr’s tweets in the past few months it was obvious cracks in the relationship were beginning to show.

The choice of a round of live Premiership Rugby Sevens rather than the Bundesliga opener between Dortmund and SV Hamburg on the evening of August the 5th hurt. It still hurts. And the fact that I couldn’t view the channel until 13.00 (11.00 at weekends) was a constant source of friction, none more so than when it caused me to miss the first hour of Collinwood v St.Kilda a couple of months earlier.

Still, I’m not saying I was faultless in the break down. I know my enjoyment of canned lager and bottled ale while watching the channel often made it feel like it was secondary in providing me with entertainment. As is the case with all forms of experiencing sport, I felt the two could run harmoniously (successfully in fact) in tandem but ESPN did not feel the same, and who am I to tell the UK version of an International sports network how to feel?

One thing it wouldn’t be right for me to comment on here are the, quite frankly, vicious suggestions that another format for watching live sport was fundamental to the split. Those close to us knew we were open in our relationship and I often watched sports on alternative channels while ESPN allowed other TV Sports enthusiasts to view its offerings. It wasn’t and still isn’t, certainly from my point of view, a problem. What’s happened has happened and maybe they’ll be a time to absolutely put the record straight in public but for both our wellbeing, it’s still too early.

And so it is so, we go our separate ways. It hurts but right now I feel it’s for the best. As I said previously we will always have the memories. That tiny graphic they use to indicate a red card has been shown in a game. The bizarre motor racing competition where cars represent European clubs. Their two-hour long review of the seasons French Cup including game commentaries in the native language. The list could be endless.

As for the future I’d say it’s inevitable our paths will cross (possibly as early as this Saturday at 17.30) as we both mix in the same circles and I hope we can still get on. I’m sure we can. We still share so much in common but some things in life just don’t work out. My heart, however, will always skip a beat whenever I hear the words “Eredivise Highlights Show.”

Happy Viewing fellow enthusiasts. Dave

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Manchester United v Arsenal

Manchester United v Arsenal
ITV1 16.45


I've not hidden, or conversely, screamed and shouted about it on these pages but for those of you who don't know, I'm a Manchester City fan. As a bitter (when other fans want their most obvious rivals to lose it's rivalry, when Manchester City fans do it's bitterness. You know the rules.), in 99.9% of the games Manchester United have played since I've been six years old I've wanted the opposition to win. This one was to be no different but my willingness for Arsenal to progress this quarter-final was, by my own rough estimates, about 800 times of that I wanted Liverpool to beat them last week. This, some of you may have gathered wasn't to do with any dislike of Liverpool (not that that doesn't exist neither.) The fact that City were, at this point still in the competition, and looked to have a good chance of progressing to the semi-final themselves made my willingness for United to go out far, far greater.

The fact that they are top of the league at the moment is reason enough to want an opposition team out of a cup competition you are in. That I might have to share the first time I get to see the team I support play at Wembley with them overshadows that immeasurably (two things here: I don't think semi's should be played at Wembley neither. My brother got married the day of the 1999 Division 2 Play-Off Final. OK a third: yes it still bothers me). I hate games against them. In times gone by I've not felt able to eat anything on the morning of them. There's enjoyment in winning them, pretty ridiculous enjoyment, but my overriding emotion throughout is to get through it without getting beat. You wouldn't have to have an encyclopedic knowledge of English football to know that in the last 25 years or so to know City have failed in that task more often than not.

So, it was with slight trepidation I sat down to watch this tie but it was with hope 'The' Arsenal would save me this worst case scenario.


After the usual ITV FA Cup opening credits of some bloke and his son in an East-End (there's no proof it is East-End, I'm just saying it is) greasy spoon wearing indecipherable club colours followed by some Sin City-esque (?) great mate and non-sport liking brother Ian would put me right on this if he'd ever seen it)) graphics we saw clips of the fans of both teams arriving at the Theatre of Dreams. It's hardly new news but, yes, there was inevitably someone wearing a half United half Arsenal 'friendship' scarf. Probably wouldn't be the top of everyone's list but of all of modern football's ills it is the every match frequency and ludicrousness of 'friendship' scarves I have probably moaned about the most.

Former Middlesbrough managers Gareth Southgate and Gordon Strachan joined Jonathan Chiles in the studio and discussed which team needed the win more after recent disappointing results and the longevity of Sir Alex Ferguson's and Arsene Wenger's 'desire.' It shouldn't come as much surprise that I wasn't paying a great deal of attention at this point as it's the kind of cliché-ridden chat we hear on a daily basis but in my defence I was also trying to write the prologue up there ^^^.

After highlights from the days earlier quarter-final in which I admired the travelling Bolton fans level of 'going-up' for their late winner at St.Andrews we saw the teams come out. We were then treated to the bizarre sight of United's Javier Hernández on his knees on the half-way line having a good old pray. For all I know he may do this every game he starts but not having been fortunate to see many of their games this season it was a first view I got of this behaviour.

Now I don't seem to have all the notes I made at the time and (possibly in a bit of a strop) I deleted the game of the TV planner on Saturday night so my description of the match and coverage action isn't quite as comprehensive as it could be. What I have got though is that after about 15 minutes one of them twins headed over from the other one's cross. Clive Tyldesley then proceeded to tell us for the remainder of the half that they were twins, they're very close and often try and confuse their team-mates and staff at United's training base by answering to the other one's name.

Despite, to this neutral's eye, Arsenal's possessional and territorial superiority their reluctance to get a ball in the box or threaten Edwin Van der Sar's goal was causing me to use swearwords in the sanctity of my own front room. The swearing upped it's intensity when United took the lead just before the half-hour when twin no.2, Fabio, put them in front from a few yards out after Hernadez's header had been parried by Manuel Almunia. While at half-time Southgate praised the original header from Hernandez I personally felt the stand-out quality was Wayne Rooney's cross that led to it.

Arsenal again seemed to get in strong positions for the remainder of the first half, and the opening of the second, but due to some indecision from their players and some great keeping from Van der Sar were unable to find the equaliser. The contest and my viewing of the game was effectively ended when Rooney made it 2-0 five minutes into the second half. Having minutes earlier made the well-ballanced statement “there's no f****** way Arsenal are gonna f******* score here” I then astutely added “there's no f****** way we're not gonna get those c**** if we win tomorrow.” Mrs DTVSr, who was lovingly preparing the evening meal in the adjacent kitchen, gave me a resigned 'seen it all before' look. I'm quite sure that was in relation to me swearing at some some unfolding TV sporting action rather than Manchester United progression to the semi-finals.

I tried to take my mind of the prospect of a Wembley meeting with United at times on Saturday night but was unable to. My thought process generally went in this order:

  1. Tomorrow is now a lose/lose scenario: We either have our most embarassing Cup Quarter final defeat in living memory (which would be some achievement) against Reading, or we could go through and have the horrible prospect of playing United at Wembley.
  2. In the ridiculously unlikely scenario we beat Reading and haven't drawn United who do I want us to get?
  3. Would playing them in the semi be preferable as a potential final meeting would top it in terms of 'worst-case sceanrioness'?
  4. Why am I presuming we'll beat the Biscuitmen having watched them deservedly win at Everton and with our recent performances in the week before.

    Those thoughts ran on repeat for the remainder of Saturday night.

    It was a more optimistic Dave who woke up on Sunday. Yes we would beat Reading, and there was a two in three possibility we wouldn't draw them. Watching the start of the Stoke v West Ham quarter the missus asked me who I wanted to win. My response of “West Ham if we draw the winners, Stoke if United do” highlighted my new found optimism that this might not actually lead to this most dreaded of ties at the famous twin-tow...ahem arch thing.

    Then it happened. Having shared a cab to the ground with four blokes I'd had a chat with while enjoying a few pre-match ales in the city-centre, we heard on the radio that Bolton had drawn Stoke. If there was a passenger in that cab who didn't mutter the immortal words 'for f**** s***' then I'm...scrap that. We all said it.

    In the 15 minutes or so before the match I made the decision on behalf of the crowd that we had to be defiant about this now. A comfortable win and we could all sing about winning cups and so on. And a couple of hours later? Following a nervy win, we were all singing about winning cups and so on. It was brilliant as well. For all that I've been asked if it feels different going to City in the last couple of years, the elation after a win in a big game (and this was a big, big game) is exactly the same and it was fantastic.

    To the semi then. Blimey. I've already had enough stomach-churning moments thinking about it and we've got a month to go. I wouldn't say I'm confident about the game, but I'm not dreading it as much as I previously would have. Can't say the same about the day, I am dreading that, but the match should see two well matched teams both with a chance of getting through. And if thing's go as disastrously wrong as we all fear they could? Well, I'll always have my half City half United 'friendship' scarf to comfort me.

    Bolton v Stoke
    Manchester City v Manchester United
    Weekend of 16th/17th April on ITV and ESPN

Monday, 21 February 2011


Not only do I utilise the interweb to enthuse lyrically about the pure excellence of watching live action on TV, I also use it to report on another great sporting passion of mine.

Who here, doesn't enjoy seeing an obscure football shirt eh? Exactly, I can't see one raised hand. Now as this is such a joy to behold I thought I'd set-up a twitter account devoted to such activity. Yes, that's correct, along with the inconsistently updated DTVSr blog and twitter feed, I am also responsible for everyone favourite shirtspotting social networking update, @shirtspotter.

The Bio of the account is as follows: Classic, obscure or unusual football shirts spotted on my travels/TV. Send me yours inc. where/when spotted and I'll RT if deemed good enough

As a service I will now provide you with a three-point-plan to the criteria which constitute “good enough” and how you'll get that most sort after RT.

1) Club/Team

My biggest fear (truly a huge fear this, sleepless nights and all) when I began shirtspotter was that people would contact me to say they'd seen a Barcelona shirt as if that in some way constituted obscure. I figure that I see a Barcelona shirt on my travels around two-and-a-half times a day. Similarly a current shirt of the majority of Premier League clubs, a Rangers or Celtic shirt, Italy, Brazil, Real Madrid, Milan etc. cannot be considered obscure. If you're contemplating whether the team of the shirt could qualify it as such, ask yourself this question:

Is it a shirt you'd expect to see at your local five-a-side complex of an evening?

If the answer is yes then I'm sorry, this isn't a worthy spot. If it is no, then we may be onto something. There are, I should point out, exceptions to this rule though. Let me take Barcelona as an example again:

You see someone wearing the current home shirt with “MESSI 10' on the back. Is this a 'spot'? No. Don't be ridiculous. You're wasting my time and your own by telling me about this.

On the other hand you see someone wearing that gold/yellow mid 80's away number made popular by Terry 'El Tel' Venables at that meet the squad day at Nou Camp when they introduced Gary Lineker/Steve Archibald etc. Grab yourself a beer and pull-up a seat at the shirtspotter table my friend.

2) Location

“Is that lad wearing an Arsenal shirt? No it's not an Arsenal shirt. Is it? No it's definitely not. I'll take a closer look.” You're now within five yards of said lad. “Yes. It's a Braga shirt! Let me tell that shirtspotter feller, he'll be proper giddy” you might think. Let me stop you there one moment.

Where are you at the time of this spot? Are you taking your daily dinnertime stroll to Greggs to fill-up on competitively priced savoury treats? If so, fine, let me know, I'll be delighted to re-tweet it. If on the other hand you happen to be stood outside SC Braga's AXA Estadio prior to their match against bitter local rivals Guimaraes then sorry, this naturally makes the spot null and void.

In the last six months I've been fortunate enough to feast my eyes upon Bury, Lech Poznan and Lancaster City shirts. Unfortunately these teams were playing at the arena's at which they were spotted so consequently weren't reported and you won't have read about these otherwise glorious moments.

3) Original/re-issued shirts

My favourite football shirts, and therefore ones most likely to be mentioned on shirtspotter are generally from the 1980's. “What's the problem with that?” you may wonder. Well you'd have to be pretty disinterested in the world of retro sporting merchandise to not have noticed nearly every (especially British) club have re-produced some of their classic shirts from this era in recent times.

In many cases these are easy to distinguish from their far more illustrious, and in many cases, less comfortable, originals as they don't contain the manufacturers logo. Some however (I'm looking at you Adidas/Umbro) do contain the manufacturers logo and open up a world of confusion for the less skilled eye.

How do you do approach the difficult task of distinguishing then? I'll be honest, there's no foolproof formulae for this but here's a couple of little tips that could help you out.

As with all spots I'd advise getting close-up to your subject. Signs of well-wornness are good. If, for example, someone's got a 1986 Liverpool shirt on and part of the W of CROWN PAINTS is peeling off it's a positive sign the shirt was bought from an allsports in 1986. If it's really bright and shiny and has a number on the back (numbers are quite often a giveaway in this situation) then it's more likely a re-issue. Similarly, a long-sleever, for me, means that the RRP was more likely to have been £49.99 rather than £17.99.

I've not actually stated that a re-issue doesn't count as a 'spot' and won't say unequivocally that it doesn't, however it's less likely to be considered one. Example time again: A 1990 England World Cup shirt with 19 on the back wouldn't be one. A 1987 West Ham shirt may be one. A 1991 Fiorentina shirt would be one. I don't think I can be any clearer than that.

Points to Note

Those of you who already follow me will have noticed that spotting isn't solely confined to that of shirts. Indeed, one of my favourite spots of recent times was a middle-aged woman in Albert Square Manchester wearing a Gremio tracksuit top. Any football-related garment that fits the criteria spelt out above is worthy.

Similarly it doesn't have to be football-based. A spot can be made if someone is wearing a noteworthy item of clothing associated with any sport. You're doing the Inca Trail as part of your holiday of a lifetime and see someone in a Hull KR shirt. Let me know. Bloke in the next office had got an Alberto Contador t-shirt on dress-down Friday. Let me know. Someone gets on the bus in an Edmonton Oilers beanie...etc.

So that's it kids. Keep your eyes peeled when you're out and about and try and follow the guidelines set-out above. May you see a man in a Brondby shirt on your walk to the station.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Rangers v Celtic

Rangers v Celtic
Sky Sports 2 12.00


DTVSr is back, DTVSr is back Hello, Helloooo! That's right fellow TV sports enthusiasts. After a self-imposed exile of about six months, I've decided to watch some TV sports again! I jest of course. I've been watching TV sports throughout those six months (watching it a bit too much some would probably argue...she'd obviously be wrong though) but have only now had the time and inclination to write about it again. “Why's that Dave” you may enquire? Well if you're one of this blog's three readers who doesn't know me personally I've been on a journalism course and don't let the quality of anything your are about to read doubt me on that.

Indeed, those of you who are regular readers of the Huddersfield Examiner's weekly nostalgic Blast from the Past page or buyers of the Non-League and Football League Papers may have recognised my stuff that has been published as part of my work experience. And there cant be many of you that didn't pick up Wales on Sunday around a month ago to read a particularly tasty report on the titanic Southport v Newport clash eh? Anyway, enough of me living on past glories, what you want to read is my account of this season's 17th meeting between Rangers and Celtic right? Right? Want no further my friends.


The programme began with some actor being an old Glaswegian man saying things about the depth of the the Old Firm rivalry with a predictably arty montage of clips. We then went to our presenter, Jim White, who was joined in the studio by ex-Ranger Neil McCann and ex-Celt Chris Sutton who would no doubt provide expert and excellent analysis.

I was trying to make a joke about the frequency with which the two age-old rivals meet when I said it was the 17th meeting between Rangers and Celtic this season. It was in fact the third, of the scheduled six meetings at this point of the afternoon, between the teams with two league games having taken place and this being a fifth-round cup game. I read in a recent When Saturday Comes that overkill is creeping in and the fixture is becoming, the one thing no-one ever thought it could be, boring. I can see where that article's coming from but it's still one out the multitude of live games available to me that I make an effort to watch.

If I was honest, which I am, I'd have to say that my interest in the game stems from a lot of the things many would say is wrong with the fixture. I enjoy watching the out and out hatred from the stands unfold in front of me, I enjoy that the players often get caught up in it far too much and I enjoy, dare I say it, that they sing some pretty nasty things about each other. I'm sure many would disagree (or possibly agree, quite a broad church my readers) but I think all these contribute to make it such entertaining viewing.

Following short interviews with Bursaspor's Kenny Miller (formerly of both clubs of course), Ally McCoist and Neil Lennon, there was a short break before we went to the action. White informed us our commentators were Andy Walker and Bill Leslie if we were taking the first ever opportunity to watch an Old-Firm game in 3D but for those of us content with good old erm 2D, we were stuck with Davie Provan and Ian Crocker.

As the teams came out it was the sea of noise and colour we'd come to expect as the PA played out Tina Turner's Simply the Best which I don't really like then “Follow Follow” for three sides of Ibrox to heartily sing along with which I did (like, rather than sing along with.) The game kicked off at “breakneck speed” and after just two minutes, Rangers took the lead after a real howitzer of a long-range effort from Jamie Ness. His shot flew past Fraser Forster into the top corner of the net to understandably send the afore mentioned three sides of Ibrox into raptures.

With 'the volume now turned up a notch' Rangers nearly doubled their lead in the moments after as Steven Davis' shot rattled the crossbar. With such a cracking start to the game I at no point really contemplated what those lucky enough to be watching in 3D made of it all until typing this up. I think I've been told the 3D camera is on the opposite side of the stadium, or a different camera angle or something. Why would anyone specifically want to watch it in 3D, and what does it look like? Do you have to wear them cardboard glasses with one red and one green lens? These are all things I've since pondered but am actively uninterested in finding the answers out to.

Celtic quickly got back into the contest and around the quarter-of-an-hour mark, their recent acquisition from Derby County, Kris Commons hit home the equaliser. It was the kind of goal that I enjoy in the moment of anticipation when the ball's played across the box and you know someone's on-hand to bang it in. This then prompted the Broomloan Road end to take it's opportunity to erupt.

The Celtic fans, who for me sang the best couple of songs of the day, broke into one of these with their currently popular version of Depeche Mode's (or maybe the Saturday's cover version...or maybe they just like the DFS advert) Just can't get Enough. I'm a big fan of different terrace songs and as Celtic are, as yet, the only group of fans I've heard sing this they win a virtual rosette I've decided to start handing out. They didn't stop at one virtual rosette though. Oh no. Just minutes later they were going at it with their version of Bonnie Tyler's 70's classic, It's a Heartache. As with the above it matched the same criteria so after 20 minutes Celtic were on-top by the most unlikely of margins: 2 DTVSr virtual rosettes.

Despite Celtic, to my technically expert knowledge, looking the better team for the remainder of the first half it was Rangers who re-took the lead when Steven Whittaker hit home a 40th minute penalty after Forster had brought down Steven Naismith. This again demonstrated the level of noise in the stadium as even through my not even HD, and certainly not 3D, TV, I could sort of feel Ibrox shake at this point.

Over half-time McCann and Sutton both felt the sending off of Celtic keeper Forster, which came in the penalty incident, was “contentious.” I felt it was the correct decision and having already gone well-past my loosely-set word guidelines won't elaborate any further on why I'm correct.

The game re-started and we got to see Iain Durrant share a joke with Sir Alex Ferguson (as I always refer to him) in the directors box which if my lip-reading skills served me correctly ended with SAF saying “nooooo hahaha f#ck%ng 'ell.” Celtic again, as they did in the first half, looked the stronger when trailing and it came as no great surprise when captain Scott Brown equalised with another fantastic long-range strike with about 25 left.

Brown celebrated by standing in-front of his fellow pantomime villain and nemesis for the afternoon, El Hadj Diouf, raising his arms while eye-balling him from about a yard away. Now to be fair to Brown, if he happens to read this, which lets face it is highly likely, he may accuse me of hypocrisy for criticising his provocative gesture considering my reasons stated above for watching these games. But my gut-feeling was that he looked a bit of top-hat more than anything and he was booked for this action.

Despite the best efforts of Davis and substitute Georgios Samaras, neither side could find a winner in the remaining time but Naismith made it ten-a-side when he was correctly sent-off with a second booking having dived on the edge of the box. As it had struck me in the first-half and was now being mentioned by the commentary team, this was shaping up for a replay and an unprecedented seventh meeting this season with their two league games and a League Cup final still left to play.

In the post-match analysis (which was double the length of the pre-match preview for any budding statto's out there) our panel re-iterated that they disagreed with me over the first sending off but we were all singing from the same hymn sheet in our opinion that it had been a thoroughly entertaining game. A bizarre glitch in Sky's production department then gave us a minute or so silent clip of what looked like a sound man stood in front of the interview boards for the Championship rugby coverage later.

We jumped back to White in the studio who told us Sutton then had to leave and join Alex Rae and SFA president, George Peat, downstairs to carry out the quarter-final draw in which some teams got drawn against some other teams or some different teams depending on the outcome of their yet to be settled ties. This isn't meant to be derogatory to the Scottish game of which I am genuinely interested, I just cant be bothered repeating it.

So a seventh Old Firm game of the season which will no doubt please the Sky execs and both clubs accountants (do they share gate money in the “Scottish”? I'm sure they do) but probably not the players and fans of both clubs. But what will the keen, and not so keen, TV sports fans feel about it? Well it's very likely I'll watch it. I may even have absolutely no intention of find a place that's showing it in 3D.


Scottish Cup 5th Round replay
Wednesday 16th February
19.30 Sky Sports 3

(subject to change)

Friday, 20 August 2010

International Wednesday

Wednesday 12th August

Sweden v Scotland 19.00 ESPN
England v Hungary 19.30 ITV1
Republic of Ireland v Argentina 19.30 Sky Sports 1
Wales v Luxembourg 19.30 Sky Sports 2


Have you ever tried to watch more than one football match on tele at once? Of course you have. I have on untold occasions which generally has the same outcome that I don’t end up seeing very much of any of them. With this in mind I decided to try and 'watch' not one but all of the four ‘home’ nations friendlies available to me last Wednesday. If we have any sensitive readers from Northern Ireland please be assured that had I been able to access Setanta Ireland then your game in Montenegro would also have been featured.


In textbook ESPN fashion the first of the nights featured programmes opened with the players already lining up on the pitch ahead of the national anthems and commentators Derek Rae and Craig Burley introduced themselves. As Rae pointed out on no few occasions, the colours each team were wearing would’ve confused the less-skilled eye (which I know none of you are) as both teams wore their away kit which looked vaguely (in Sweden’s case) or frighteningly (in Scotland’s case) similar to the oppositions home kits. Anyway, immediately after kick off Scotl..sorry Sweden took control and returning superstar Zlatan Ibrahimivoic finished off an aesthetically pleasing but surprisingly easy move by side-footing past Scotland’s (similarly returning from international exile) goalkeeper Alan McGreggor.

The game continued like this for majority of the opening half-hour but the most noteworthy moment came when Scotland’s Kirk Broadfoot attempted what could only be described as a ‘De-Jong’ on Sweden Keeper Andreas Isaksson. After half a minute of lying on the ground Isaksson then remonstrated with the offending full-back which looked fair enough to this onlooker. However the impressive number of Scotland fans behind Isakson’s goal largely seemed to disagree with Isaksson, me and the referee and when Broadfoot was booked they booed vociferously and as a result of some advice they surely must give at TV Editors college, we saw a close up of a handful of fans handing out 18-certified abuse to the ref.

At this point we were approaching half-seven and decided I couldn’t let miss the opportunity to see the opening to England’s potential booing against Hungary so immediately switched to ITV1. After what felt-like a lengthy opening credits, Adrian Chiles set the scene and welcomed us to Wembley: ‘the player’s didn’t particularly want it, the clubs definitely didn’t…and the fans didn’t seem too interested.’ This was followed by a predictable montage of clips highlighting England's World Cup campaign.

Almost immediately we went to Gabriel Clarke at pitch-side to find out what kind of reaction the England players received when they came out for their warm ups (‘mixed’ apparently) and what struck me most at this point was that I don’t think I’d actually recognise Gabriel Clarke if for instance, I was stood next to him at a bar. As soon as he started waxing lyrically about having ‘caught up’ with Janet behind the bar to gauge the ‘mood in the camp amongst the girls’ I’m sure I’d have no problem, but on looks alone I’d fall short.

As we went back to the studio to get the thoughts of Gareth Southgate and Sir Les Ferdinand I thought I’d have a gander at the coverage of the Ireland v Argentina and Wales v Luxembourg games that were shortly to begin. I got to see a graphic of the Argentina line-up and veteran Welsh ‘supremo’ John Toshack being interviewed so took the sharp decision to go back to the only live action taking place at that point from the Rasunda Stadium. This then provided me with a disappointing moment no.2 in as many paragraphs. I’ve always believed I can tell the score of a football match on TV/radio by hearing the first few seconds of crowd noise upon turning it on. As the time/score display had disappeared I sat watching a couple of eventless minutes of this comfortable in the belief Sweden were still 1-0 up. Then to my disgust I saw a replay of a 2nd Sweden goal. First the realisation I don't know what Gabriel Clarke looks like then this! If I was to tell a blatant fib I'd say I had a good mind to give up this whole TV Sports watching gig as my head and heart are clearly not in it any more.

Flicking onto the Wales v Luxembourg game which had now started at the flamboyantly sounding Parc Y Llanelli I could hear the players shouting to each other which is always a barometer that is used to highlight what a low crowd is at a match and I can safely report that in this case it was a truly accurate barometer. A quick move to the Aviva stadium Dublin alerted me to how ridiculous one of the stands of this new, much celebrated ground looks. If you haven't seen it think three sides of the Emirates with one end about the size of the away section at Roots Hall but with the roof still at the height of the Emirates (stick with it) and you're on the right lines.

Another possibly arthritis inducing movement of the fingers took me back to Wembley for the most hyped sporting event in recent memory: the England players entrance onto the pitch for a overwhelmingly meaningless friendly game. You won't be surprised to hear (regardless of the fact many of you will have heard it yourself) Clive Tyldesley absolutely lapped this moment up. As we saw the players in the tunnel and edge towards the pitch Tyldesley paused before describing that 'the reception is.......forgiving, loyal and fairly warm.' He then proceeded in doing what comes most naturally and annoyed me with a standardly nonsensical comment with deliberate pause for emphasis 'it's a night I think for the players to sing...their national anthem.'

A further flick through the games saw me back in Llanelli and just as Joe Ledley shot wide with the game still goalless the perils of attempting to view multi-game were painfully brought home. A scores update appeared at the bottom of the screen and alerted me to the fact Sweden had further extended their lead. Naturally I turned to this game only to see play had re-started and a replay of the goal wouldn't be forthcoming for a while. During this time I then missed David Cotterill's opener against Luxembourg and Angel de Maria's goal for Argentina. As a veteran multi-viewer I should use my wealth of experience to tell you that this occasionally happens quite regularly.

My self-discipline in deciding I'd stick with one game for five minutes was rewarded when Luxembourg equalised in Llanelli. This prompted one of the more enthusiastic celebrations I've seen in what appeared such a low-key game as the jubilant Joel Kitenge and his team-mates sprinted towards the management and subs in the dug-out to share in the giddiness. As I'd now seen a goal I allowed myself to re-visit Wembley and see how the game had settled down now all the Brouhaha about people shouting 'boooooo' or not should have died down.

Not a lot happened for the ten minutes I persevered with this bar Joe Hart comfortably saving a Zolton Gera effort and maybe I'd managed to block out Tyldesley as I don't have any quotes from him during this period. The advertising boards around the uncharacteristically good Wembley surface did catch my eye as in bright lights I read 'REF ASSAULTS DOWN 13%' which I took to be in relation to the FA's respect campaign rather than some reduced rates being offered by hired goons.

I caught the final whistle of Scotland's dismal showing in Sweden and immediately turned back to England v Hungary and the only game that was at this point in-play. I imagine there was a stoppage at this time as the camera's were focussing on England's subs warming up. Tyldesley then mused that Fabio Capello would be asking Stuart Pearce 'which one's Frankie Fielding and which one's Scott Loach...he'll know he's the under-21s coach...not sure I would.' Now pretty much all that I write relating to the England v Hungary game could've been viewed if you follow all the great football bloggers I do on twitter. One (the identity of which I can't remember) asked at this point 'why is a lack of knowledge found so amusing at the ITV?'

I'm quite confident that for all his faults Tyldesley would be able to tell me which one was Frankie Fielding and which one was Scott Loach if they were stood together but chooses not to for the purposes of what he perceives as 'banter.' This is obviously absolute bollocks. For one it's not a bad thing to know the subject you're paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to talk about and secondly you won't lose any 'street-cred' if you tell us such information. I won’t carry on in this light as there have been plenty of writers out there who have highlighted these shortcomings better than I am now but strongly support the criticism of this seemingly intentional dumbing-down of football coverage.

While I was getting more annoyed watching the England game I missed Wales re-take the lead against Luxembourg but to their credit they added a third goal soon after which was nice of them. This was a simple Andy King header from Craig Bellamy’s corner with the keeper providing a near-perfect example of being at ‘sixes and sevens.’ Sticking with events in South Wales the commentator who I think was Allan Parry told us that Luxembourg ‘once went 11 years without winning an international friendly’ and just as he was doing so one of their midfielders ‘ballooned’ a long-range effort a long-range over the bar so he added ‘…and with shooting like that, you’d have to say they’re in for another long wait.’

Off to Dublin again and Lionel Messi picked up the ball slightly in his own half to beat three or four Ireland players before having a pass intercepted by Richard Dunne. This prompted the big Irish, long-time hero of mine to try and replicate the skills just shown by arguably the greatest footballer in the world. He started well beating one of his Argentine opponents before a heavy touch saw him stumble in his desperation to keep the ball around the half-way line which was undeniably the footballing highlight of the evening thus far.

Back at Wembley the crowd noise (not to mention the display in the top left hand corner) told me it was still 0-0. As the very commendable crowd of over 72,000 began to show their frustration we were shown a group of fans (two grown men, two children) holding up a banner which read ‘WE STILL LOVE U’ which I’m sure was the kind of worthy ‘talking point’ Tyldesley, tabloid hacks and ‘the lads at Talk Sport’ were enjoying getting their teeth into.

My attentions were once again back at the Aviva stadium where I heard that Andy Keogh ‘has a point to prove’ saw Carlos Tevez eating a lolly and decided that Ireland Assistant Coach Marco Tardelli does still bare a decent resemblance to himself in that iconic picture from the 1982 World Cup Final.

Back at Wembley and I turned on just in time to see Wayne Rooney being substituted after Hungary had just taken the lead. I was fortunate in that I enjoy witnessing a footballing ‘state of crisis’ which is what this undoubtedly now was so stayed here and as a result, shortly got to see a couple of moments of brilliance in the form of Steven Gerrard’s two goals. I’m not a huge fan of Gerrard to be honest and if you’ve read this blog before you may know I’m even less of a fan of his nickname but for all the hype that surrounds him and the England team/players I believe these two goals were ‘World-class.’

More rubbish from Tyldesley followed and a stand-out included the bemoaning of Capello for not having stood up: ‘It wouldn’t hurt.’ It also wouldn’t make any difference to anything with the possible exception of the longevity of the seats in the Wembley dug-out Clive.

Back in the studio Chiles continued in a similar vein and made sure we were back focussing on the over-riding issue of the evening: ‘you’ve got to feel sorry for the boo-boys, they paid £20 and couldn’t do any such thing.’ Did they really? Did ‘the boo-boys’ pay £20 to ‘boo their heads off’ or did they go hoping that the team they support that represents them would win a game of football? I’m not unfamiliar with people who seem to get a level of enjoyment at criticising players they’re supposedly at a football match to support but what proportion of that ridiculously large crowd went there to do that? Personally I don’t think it was large.

To finish off we had interviews with Joe Hart (more articulate than I remember though still reminds me a bit of Jedward lookswise) and Fabio himself. The first question he was asked by Gabriel Clarke was if he enjoyed it as he sat down? Over a week after seeing this I’m now running out of ways to get annoyed that such minor irrelevant issues are made into issues worth quetioning. Capello was dignified in his responses saying he was surprised by the positive reaction from the crowd and thanked them for it. I didn’t really pay much attention to the remainder of the interview as it was about something as insignificant like how he felt his team had played or something.

With the climax of this final game of the evening and Wales having finished their game 5-1 against Luxembourg it falls on me to report that the games featured 13 goals in total of which I’d seen five hit the net ‘in real-time.’ This really isn’t good enough for a self styled ‘TV Sports Enthusiast’ and if any of you feel inclined to boo after giving up your time to read about this disappointing performance I won’t hold it against you. God knows, in your shoes I’d probably do so myself!

Happy Viewing Guys and Girls, Dave


Friday 3rd September

Armenia v Republic of Ireland – Sky Sports 1 16.30
Montenegro v Wales – Sky Sports 3 18.30
Slovenia v Northern Ireland - Sky Sports 1 19.00
Lithuania v Scotland BBC1 - Scotland 19.15
England v Bulgaria - ITV1 19.30