Recent blog posts

Posted by on

This isn't an easy one to write, for many reasons. If I'm honest, I've absolutely no idea where the next few hundred words are going to take me. I haven't thought about this piece or researched it very well, it's just going to be a whole lot of incoherent thoughts. So here goes. And stay with me, please. 

I don't want to give the wrong impressions here. Hillsborough was never my fight, but I've always felt close to those battling for the long overdue result that they got yesterday (Monday). 

Let me try and explain. I left Liverpool a couple of years before the disaster. The regular readers amongst you know I had four wonderful years in the City and made many good friends. My wife was born in Liverpool and grew up on The Wirral. We were with her parents the weekend after Hillsborough - I can't remember why - work, I think. Maybe it was just a family visit. 

Obviously the mood, all over Merseyside, was sombre. You couldn't help be touched by it - nor the scenes of people snaking round Anfield, holding flowers which they were going to lay on the pitch, just wanting to be near their club and other like minded, stunned supporters. 

Look. It's not my club so I had no right, but I was overcome by it all. I put on a suit, bought flowers myself and drove to Anfield. I wanted to do what everybody else was doing, but I felt somewhat of an interloper. I obviously knew people at the club, so when I slipped in a side gate and quietly worked my way onto The Kop no-one gave me a second glance. I put flowers down, drew breath, said a few words and cried. You couldn't help but cry. Everybody did. 

The scene in front of me was incredible. At this time more than half the pitch was covered in flowers. Thousands were pouring in to pay their respects. 

I don't know how long I was there but as I was leaving I heard a familiar brusk Scottish voice 'hey, where are you going?' Initially I thought I'd been rumbled but as I turned round I saw Kenny Dalglish. 'What are you doing here?' was the next question. Kenny loved a wind up, but surely not at a time like this! Of course, I didn't have to reply!  

We stood together for a while marvelling at what was unfolding before us. I think he told me he'd been on The Kop every day since the disaster. He knew where people had left things, teddy bears and the like. He knew the people who'd left them. It had got to him deeply. Remember, he was now player/manager. 

What happened next was extra-ordinary. 

'Come and meet some people', he said. He took me off to the players lounge where relatives of those who'd lost their lives, players, players wives, his wife Marina, counsellors, clergy - all sorts, were sitting talking, consoling each other and unburdening themselves. 

Kenny just wanted me to talk to people. I had no idea what to say or who to say it to, but it was hugely touching listening and sharing their stories. 

Again, I was looking to leave. I'd got family myself at home and - can you believe - I felt I should be with them. Again, Kenny stopped me. 'We've got a service at Tranmere this afternoon', he said. 'You're coming'. This time it wasn't an invitation, it was an instruction! 

He was at the heart of everything. It was incredible to see him and Marina organising everything - on the fly. 

Next minute I was being ushered, with the entire first team squad, into a bus that would take us to Prenton Park. There were thousands outside Anfield. He had time for everybody. I remember someone putting an Everton scarf round him. He took half a dozen paces, took it off and gave it to another Evertonian! Brilliant. No-one was offended. I actually not sure anyone really noticed except me, but a potential minefield had been avoided!  

We sat and spoke all the way there and back. Needless to say, the occasion was enormously moving. 

As we arrived back at Anfield I remember thinking 'I'm touched by the day. It's been incredible. I've been extremely fortunate to have been invited into the inner sanctum, but I've got to go now'. 

No chance! He had me back in that players lounge as soon as I stepped off the bus. He knew what I was thinking before I did. He always knew what other people were thinking. It's what made him such a great player - and such an awkward interviewee! 

Back I went for another couple of hours to hear more harrowing tales. Eventually I had to leave. I went to find him. I thought he'd be in his office. Marina was outside so I asked where Kenny was. Here's the reply 'He's just gone into the office with a counsellor. They'll be back out in a couple of minutes and she'll be asking for help!' Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Do you know what? She was right they were. I don't know what happened to the counsellor but I'm guessing she was right again! Mind you, Marina has always been right and a little bit smarter than her husband, who would never accept that! 

This time I was allowed to leave. I went with very mixed emotions. Relief, tiredness, in awe of Kenny and his wife, the whole day had been an experience like no other. 

For me, it was over. Not until yesterday (Monday) was it over for the remarkable people of Liverpool, who never gave up. 

Kenny went onto to make sure the club were represented at all 96 funerals of the Hillsborough victims. He and Marina were two of many remarkable people connected with the club at that time. 

Two years later it all caught up with Kenny. He got ill. He's addressed what happened in his autobiography, but the bottom line was, he no longer felt he could give of his best to Liverpool, so he walked away. Typical. The club had to come first. 

I've got my own theories on what Liverpool FC should've done next - but they chose to appoint Graeme Souness as his successor. 

There's so much more to say on this subject, but let's spool forward to the time Andy and I turned up at TalkSPORT. 

I noticed a line in the press that Hillsborough was going to be put back in the agenda. Again, my memory is a little scratchy on this, but I think there was going to be a Commons debate because an on-like petition of 100,000 people had forced one. 

I went to see our gaffer, Moz Dee. Money was tight, but I told him I wanted to go to Liverpool and do a series of specials on Hillsborough. I felt that because so much time had passed a new generation of football fan should be made aware of what happened, and those that had forgotten should be reminded. 

Dee, to his eternal credit, backed me. The three programmes that we - a small team - put together were incredible. That's not because we were clever, it was because real people turned up and told real stories. Those that heard those programmes will never forget them. It did the job. All of a sudden everybody was talking about Hillsborough.  

Kenny didn't want to take part in those shows, but some time later he came on the programme and told of his own incredible involvement, although it wasn't easy to get him to do so. I text him on the day of the jury's judgements to say 'well done'. Part of his reply read 'only doing what anybody else would've done old boy'. No Kenny. You weren't. You never gave up. You were a focal point for everybody. You cared. You fought. You won your greatest battle, despite some really tough times at home. You are a genuine great. A legend, who's contribution to the Hillsborough cause and 'your' club will never be forgotten. 

One other little story in closing. On that TalkSPORT programme Kenny told the tale of the former Sun editor, Kelvin McKenzie, calling him some time after that newspapers outrageous front page following the disaster. Liverpool fans know exactly what I'm talking about. 

Kenny took the call. An agitated McKenzie explained that he was coming under pressure from his bosses because the paper was no longer selling on Merseyside. It still isn't, but McKenzie wanted Kenny's help to change that. 

He asked 'what can we do'. The reply was typical 'you run another front page, in the same bold type, that reads WE LIED'. They never did, but yesterday it was proven that THEY ALL LIED. 

If Kenny ever happens across this piece he'll be furious. Part of the reason we've shared so much down the years is because he knew he could trust me. Well I've broken that trust here - but with good reason. This is it.....

Down the years I've watched many sportsmen knighted, some for outstanding achievement, some because politically it suited different Governments to do so. 

It's wrong, just plain wrong, that one of the perpetrators of the outlandish cover up over Hillsborough is Norman Bettison. I refuse to call him 'Sir'.  

I don't know what happens to the poor souls who fought such a brave fight for the 96 - the 96 that we knew about, but there were so many more victims left behind - but I do know this. Kenneth Mathieson Dalglish should be knighted for everything he's done for the City of Liverpool down the years. And I'm sorry 'old boy' that I've been a touch indiscreet - but I've had to be. You're a giant Sir Kenny. 

Posted by on

'If I had been given 10 years to work with Everton by being mediocre I wouldn't accept that'. 

They told me on my journalism course many years ago - never start a piece with a quote. And never start a sentence with 'and'. Too late! 

I had to start with the quote  because it leapt out at me in Monday morning's papers. I had to read it a couple of times to see if it had been taken out of context in anyway. Nope. It wasn't. 

The headline in The Mirror read 'I can deliver glory. Moyes only brought TEN YEARS OF MEDIOCRITY'. Did he really? 

The quote, of course, came from Roberto Martinez after Everton's FA Cup semi-final defeat. Mediocre? I suppose there's an argument that Martinez should know something about the subject, his whole career has been mediocre, both as a player and now a coach.

Since taking over at from Moyes at Everton, Martinez has run up a transfer deficit of £48m. He's finished 5th - with Moyes' team - and 11th. This season Everton will finish in the bottom half. 

The Goodison faithful have seen only four league wins all season - against Villa, Sunderland, Newcastle and Chelsea, at the beginning of the season when everybody was beating them. 

I keep reading about their terrific away form. Really? They've won five games - two of them at Villa and Newcastle. 

They've won one of their last nine league games - against Villa. Now - that's a record that I call 'mediocre'. 

Let's take a look at Moyes time in charge shall we? 

He left a transfer of £8.5m. That's right, after 11 years in the P Lge. £8.5m. 

There was an FA Cup semi and an appearance in the final. There were also Champions League and Europa League finishes. 

Moyes' complete record looks like this - 17-4-11-6-5-5-8-7-7-6-5. Oh, and he was LMA Manager of the Year three times. Stunning I would say. Absolutely stunning.  

Football fans on Merseyside know their stuff. Evertonians have seen through Martinez, although it took a little longer than I thought it would. He's lost them and I don't see any way that he's coming back from the current situation. I think he'll be gone at the end of the season. 

In recent weeks Martinez has sounded increasingly desperate. What an error of judgement it was to have Leighton Baines go public and issue an apology for telling the truth. Baines is one of a very special group - players that Evertonians have taken to their heart. He's one of them. My mate Andy Gray is. So is Reidy. There's a few - but not many. What you don't do is take them on. The moment Martinez tried to play the tough guy and slap Baines down he lost Evertonians. I think it will prove to be his undoing. 

If Martinez had the players with him he could probably ride out the storm, but I hear rumours of unrest in the dressing room. If true - that's curtains. And so it should be. 

As for replacements, I've heard Moyes name mentioned. Would it be a good idea to go back? I don't know. It doesn't very often work. It didn't for Howard Kendall. I've heard Marcelo Bielsa's name mentioned in despatches. Here's an interesting thought - what about Mark Hughes? He knows the club. He's managed big clubs. He might just be ideal. 

A quick word on the weekend - I thought United deserved their win. They were terrific first half. There were times that I thought I was watching Manchester United! 

The Toon got a really good point at Anfield. As you know, he's not my favourite, but Benitez is on a really tidy run - five points from nine - and it makes you wonder what might have happened had he gone in sooner. Fair play to him. 

Having said that I still fancy Sunderland to get out of it.  

It's all but over at the top. What else can you say about Leicester. Every time they've been asked a question they've answered it. No Vardy - so some thought no chance. Quite the opposite - they came up with their biggest win of the season! 

The chances are they'll win it at home to Everton. Which brings me back to where we started. Everton - mediocre under Moyes? As that fine Scouse actor Ricky Tomlinson might say 'mediocre my arse'. 

Posted by on

Did Vardy dive? Was Jon Moss correct to penalise Wes Morgan for holding/pushing/impeding and give West Ham a pen? What was the difference between what Winston Reid did and what Vardy had done earlier? Should Leicester have had a pen when Ogbonna was brainlessly all over Huth shortly after? And was Andy Carroll right - was the award against him just to 'even things up'? 

I've read everything as usual this morning (Monday). Henry Winter calls Moss a 'poor referee'. He argues that Moss had to be '100% certain' Vardy had dived in order to book him and subsequently send him off. He was Henry, or he wouldn't have got his yellow card out again. For me, it was a dive. Let's agree to disagree. Vardy has played on the edge like that all season. Good forwards can make penalties out of situations like that - get across the defender, tangle your legs up with his and go over. Vardy did parts one and two really well, but the swallow dive was embarrassing. It was a correct yellow.  Few have considered his first booking perhaps wasn't. 

Again, just my opinion, but Reid's was never a pen. Huth's was. Carroll's wasn't. 

Moss was brave to make the call on Vardy's dive. Very brave, because he could've let it go and saved himself a lot of hassle. I'm certain Michael Oliver would've done. So would Mark Halsey, who I was speaking to during the game. It was after at the award of the first pen that I thought Moss started getting himself into trouble - but he made calls he believed to be correct. Give him credit for that. Big calls as well. 

He's had almost total backing from Graham Poll. All correct for Poll, but he thought Huth should've had a pen. 

Howard Webb applauded Moss's decision to send Vardy off but wouldn't have penalised Morgan - 'not a pen', he said. 

Keith Hackett offered his thoughts to Alan Brazil on TalkSPORT and had a variety of different opinions. Halsey was baffled by some of Moss's work. 

Here's my view - thank god we didn't have a video ref sitting in a truck outside. Question - whose view would've prevailed on the day? Poll would've gone with Moss on most things. Webb wouldn't. Henry Winter would've changed almost all of them. I've said it before - I repeat it again - video refereeing football matches is going to create more chaos than it will help solve. My resistance to goal line technology was for that reason. I knew it would lead to calls - and eventually the implementation of - more technology. It has, it will and I don't like it. 

The bottom line is Moss, Leicester and West Ham all contributed to a stunning game of football that we'll talk about for days. Isn't that what we want? Isn't that why we love football? Let's not sanitise it. 

Top marks incidentally to both Claudio Ranieri and Slaven Bilic, who both almost certainly felt they had a lot to complain about, but we're both refreshingly calm, honest and grown up in their post match interviews. Excellent guys. 

Sadly that wasn't the case for Mssrs McGrath/Collymore and Lescott. Poor guys. Very poor. We don't need the kind of language the first two on that list were using to describe Lescott after the game at United. I understand totally their frustrations with Villa and their playing staff this season. McGrath, a warrior from a different era, is better placed than Stanley Victor to offer his thoughts, I just wish he hadn't used the phrase 'scumbag'. That's not nice, nor is it accurate. As for Stan, is he really is a position to point fingers at players who he believes haven't performed to the best of their ability? Come on Stan - I watched your career from start to finish. 

My view, for what it's worth, is this. Villa have been awful this season. Probably only Eric Black comes away with his reputation in tact. At different times Lescott has been poor. I criticised him for 'Tweet-gate'. I'm still not having his excuse for that. But - I thought he was unfairly jumped on at the weekend. 

Wearing a Villa shirt recently can't have been easy. His wording about the 'relief' they all feel now that relegation in confirmed was clumsy. I'm certain he didn't mean it they way it was mis-taken. I guess he probably wanted to say 'we've been poor. Playing recently, with the weight of expectation at this wonderful club, hasn't been easy. We've all felt suffocated at different times. We're down, so let's go out with a flourish and give the fans something to shout about as we start re-building'. 

Give the fella credit for stopping to talk as he did. He fronted up but got it all wrong. That doesn't make him a 'scumbag'. As for a fight with Stan? Come on lads - you're both better than that. Move on.