Damn good game of cricket on show in Bangladesh over the past few days, don’t know if you noticed? The first test in Chittagong, nice town, Bangladesh versus England of course. The usually easily rolled over Bangladeshis performed very well and with a little bit more belief could have beaten England for the first time. They didn’t of course, and largely due in the end to Durham’s own, Ben Stokes. Talk about mixed feelings. There was I very disgruntled with the English cricket establishment after their treatment of Durham and happy to see England’s posh boys get embarrassed, when one of the Durham lads pulls the assorted southern softies out of the proverbial fertiliser. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Still, look on the practical side I says, and see if this can be turned to one's advantage. And yes, I believe it can. It is my considered opinion that in the upcoming series against India England will get well and truly trounced, and the English punter being the misguided fool he so often is, and prepared to back England no matter what, this will present a number and ongoing range of excellent betting opportunities. Lump on the Indians, as John Wayne used to say. You heard it here, don’t come crying to me.
View from the cemetery
For those gentlemen not yet dead, but maybe rapidly approaching it, there is a newish pastime available of which I have been hearing a few tales, and I might have mentioned before: I speak of Walking Football for the over fifties. I use capital letters because by all accounts some people are starting to take it seriously. The idea is to keep those with a love of the game, but no longer keen on, or that capable of, running about and getting kicked, involved and enjoying it again. Good idea. The FA are even talking about producing a set of rules. A reliable source tells me this is all well and good, except nobody takes any notice of the minimal rules that apply now. My reporter also says it's a real good game if played in the right spirit, with an emphasis on good passing and clever movement, but some, mostly he reckons those who didn’t play much in their younger days, but have managed to stay reasonably fit by avoiding cigarettes and alcohol and by going to the gym, have a tendency to spoil it by running about aimlessly and wellying the ball in all directions and none. This may be nothing but prejudice of course from someone who fancies himself as an undiscovered Paul Scholes. Anyway it seems to be booming, which is a good thing of course, keeping the elderly on their feet and dancing is to be encouraged, but I can’t see it becoming a spectator sport, unless the sight of old men falling over and falling out floats your boat.
From the bottom to the top, as Weller says, or at least from the bottom of the form league up to about fifteenth, which will have to do for now. Decent results in the last two games, and against two real good teams, and including managing to hang onto a lead on Tuesday night, which has not been our speciality this season so far. Never mind, on we go, lets be positive.
And speaking of being positive, ho, ho, I note that Maria Sharapova has had her drugs ban reduced on appeal. No doubt all fair and above board, but it reminds me that when the whole thing first blew up I assumed someone had been trying to drug her in order to shut her up on the tennis court, what a racket the woman makes, ho, ho once more; and I regarded that as a very good thing. But no, the noise wasn’t the problem, it was strictly medical reasons that required her to take industrial quantities of performance enhancing drugs, allegedly. Anyway she will be welcomed back with open arms, because there is nothing quite so exciting as women's tennis, is there? Apart from croquet, obviously.
You will probably have seen the little fundraising football prediction competition that the club runs, the Lucky 7 as it is laughingly called. Only have to predict the results of seven games, usually from the Premier League. Not that hard you would think, but it turns out to be a good deal tougher than you imagine. There is always somebody, usually Man United or Chelsea to be fair, who lets you down. And of course most punters blindly support Sunderland to win, with the entirely predictable outcome. Bit like the rest of life in fact. I mention this in a spirit of sadness as I thought I had knocked it off the other week, only to be frustrated in Bournemouth. Not the first bloke that has happened to. Still we try again.
Bit of a crash landing for our lads on Tuesday night. Most people expecting a steady win for us without too much trouble and instead, and for the first time this season, we were second best from start to finish. Good few lads missing, but even so a decent side out on the pitch, but there you go. And a tough game coming up against a booming North Shields, clearly determined not to be left behind by the moneybags over on the brighter side of the Tyne. Still a bit of adversity is good for us generally, so maybe this will be a shot in the arm at just the right time. After Saturday a run of away games, including an immediate return against North Shields, which is not ideal, never like the idea of sides playing each other too close together, grievances have a tendency to fester, but equally it is true that year after year we seem to be better away than at home. God knows why, you would think the Ryhope slope would be a distinct advantage, especially the knowledge that everybody, and I mean everybody, plays better up the slope than down.
So first off, the Ghostly Gadgie’s musing on the much hyped Manchester derby. Pep v José. My first thoughts? Paul Pogba? Very good running in straight lines with the ball at his feet, not much good at anything else. Well worth the £90 million? Or the most over priced player ever in the transfer market? You decide. City very good, very solid football, and without Agüero at that. De Bruyne looks about twelve, but can play. Not sure about the back line, long ball up and at them I recommend. Although this cynic has previously expressed doubt as to Mr Guardiola’s chances of ever putting a football brain in Sterling’s head, to be fair he seems to have made a decent start, better one is forced to say, than Mr Woy ever managed. As for United? Looks like it will end in a crying match to me, José not the type to mince his words or delay action he thinks necessary. Can’t keep that Rashford boy out for long.
So the first competitive Ryhope derby ends in a draw. Probably just as well, wouldn’t want the chip shop set alight again and blood running in the streets would we? That 130 strong bunch of the local elderly can be deceptively volatile. We can all breathe again until Boxing Day or thereabouts. Though hopefully not Boxing Day itself, I will have train sets and computer games that need sorting.
As I write the big boys transfer window is coming to an hysterical climax, and very entertaining it is. How many players costing £10 million or more will prove to be complete flops? At least half I reckon, given past performance, with a good few failing to play at all. Who is the new Mido? That's what I want to know. Christian Benteke is a strong candidate in my opinion. Reminds me of the old Joe Bugner joke; built like a Greek statue, but sadly doesn’t move quite as well.