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Which Premier League manager will get fired first

Friday, 26 November 2010

It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas

Nothing on the TV that you'd want to see
And it's hardly ever snowing
The way it's meant to be
Like in White Christmas year after year
Bing Crosby, Bing Crosby,
Are you listening to me?

It doesn't often snow at Christmas
the way it's meant to do

There were recent times when betting on a White Christmas was as much of a waste of cash as placing a wager on Manchester City to win a trophy but over the last 2 years the odds have reduced on one of them and the other is now a cast iron certainty. There will be another snow covered Christmas Day in the UK without a doubt. We will be able to make snowmen, snow angels, have snowball fights and excuse to not visit the in-laws (the roads are too bad, honest!! will be the refrain) but most importantly you get 4 helpings of Premier League football over that week that will go a long way to deciding where the league title ends up and who gets relegated. Assuming the positions and points margins today remain the same up until the 19th let us see how the league could be won and lost.

The festive period starts on the 19th with Chelsea and Manchester United stepping out at Stamford Bridge and if Chelsea do not improve their form between now and then they will be handing a 3 point lead to United going into Christmas. It is hard to say who has the hardest festive schedule but it seems evenly matched as Chelsea who take on Arsenal, Bolton, Villa and Wolves whereas United face an in-form Sunderland, Birmingham, Stoke and West Brom. Arsenal have trips to Wigan and Birmingham and entertain Man City and Chelsea so it will not be an easy Christmas for Arsene's men who could fall behind to City (Blackpool, Newcastle and Villa), Spurs (Villa, Newcastle, Fulham, Everton) and even Bolton (West Brom, Chelsea, Liverpool and Wigan). Villa take on 3 of the top 6 and their performances will have a huge bearing on the title but given the way the season is going I expect United to go into the new year top by about 1 point, Chelsea to be second, Spurs 3rd and City Fourth. Bolton and Arsenal fighting over 5th and 6th as I think Arsenal will end up drawing their 4 matches whereas Bolton will probably win 2 and scrape a draw in one of the others and I think Villa will beat City and Chelsea will draw 2 of theirs and I can see United getting 3 wins and a draw.

The bottom is where the fun really starts though as West Ham and Wolves are already looking doomed and the Hammers festive programme of Fulham, Everton, Wolves and Newcastle could well see them fatally adrift especially if they lose to Fulham who are already 5 points ahead of them and Wolves. Avram Grant is in his natural environment at the moment (bottom of the table and getting relegated) and unless things change in the next 3 games I think they are doomed. Carlton Cole was quoted as saying they had lost the game psychologically in the first 10 minutes at Anfield an attitude that will not endear him to Hammers fans at all as if you can't have any fighting spirit for even 10 minutes of a game you may as well give up and it appears that is what West Ham did last weekend.

All in all I think that it will still be tight at the top come the new year but I feel that unless they pick up 3-4 wins between now and the new year West Ham and Wolves will be as good as relegated before Christmas .

As for the assertion that it doesn't often snow at Christmas since the Pet Shop Boys released that single we've had lots of snow so it seems that post-modernist irony is alive and kicking again although White Christmas is the local theatre musical this year and as the film will be on BBC2 or Sky this year I don't think Bing Crosby will be listening when I tell him to get off my TV screen.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Survivors

Don't shrug your shoulders (it's always easy)
You can't ignore

That life is worth living, It's still worth a damn
One might be forgiven for thinking
it's something of a sham
Many words may make it sound contrived
but somehow we're alive

(The survivors) Our heads bowed
(The survivors) At memorials for other faces in the crowd
Teachers and artists (it's never easy)

Tomorrow it will 92 years since the end of World War 1 and an opportunity to remember the sacrifices of not just those who fell in The Great War, World War II and other conflicts since but also those who survived but at great cost either physically or mentally. It is fair to say that no-one returns unscathed from war. Soldiers witnessed horrific scenes and underwent experiences that would affect them for the rest of their lives whether it was life in the trenches, the gas attacks of Ypres or the Extermination camps of Auschwitz, Dachau and Belsen or simply seeing comrades that they fought against having their lives snuffed out in an instant by a bullet, mine or grenade.

It is difficult to objectively analyse the effects of war and conflict as political views often colour our perceptions of any war we are involved in. In Britain we look at WW1, WW2, Korea, the Falklands and the Gulf War as necessary wars fought because of aggressive invasion by other countries. However our views on Iraq and Afghanistan are just as polarised as American opinion was on Vietnam. How many people really look at Remembrance Day and see the true significance of what it represents. WW1 was a strategic war fought mainly to prevent German Hegemony on the European Continent, the results of a complex series of mutual defence treaties. WW2 on the other hand was a war fought against not just a strategic position but an ideal and a belief that National Socialism was wrong and should be stopped. As the range of Nazi atrocities was revealed at Nuremberg very few people questioned that stopping Hitler was the right thing to do. When Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands Britain went to war on a wave of national support for the conflict as British subjects were directly threatened but recent conflicts have not had that luxury. Whilst the Balkans War wasn't overly questioned as it was a UN-led operation the motives behind the war in Iraq and Afghanistan are constantly questioned as although few would deny that Saddam Huussein and the Taliban were repressive regimes we no longer live in a world where people view regime change as a legitimate aim of warfare. They may accept it as a by-product of a conflict where there is an imminent danger to our own shores but many do not believe that national security is defended by fighting in foreign fields.

This has led to a distinct change in the way that war veterans are viewed and treated. Anyone fighting in World Wars or the Falklands are treated with respect and understanding whereas those who have served in Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Iraq do not. They are insulted openly by some sections of the populace and treated as the aggressor rather than people who were simply fighting to protect our security by helping democracy take shape abroad.

This Remembrance Day please remember the sacrifices of the fallen and appreciate the freedoms that they have safeguarded but also remember those who survived the war as many have paid a high price either physically or emotionally as a result. The effect of conflict upon a nation should be to make them stronger as a group and driven by a collective will and unity. Let us all have the unity and will to appreciate what has been done for us by those who fight on our behalf.