Adam Bird

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Thursday, 24 May 2007

Luck? What's that?

Growing up as a Gillingham supporter often caused me some ridicule and as a way of combating the abuse thrown my way it often became easier to say that I was also a Liverpool fan. Liverpool being the "fashionable" side of the mid-late 80's when I was growing up. Dad was also a Liverpool fan, often going to see Liverpool in cup finals at Wembley including the 85 final at Wembley stadium.

Last night, with Liverpool playing AC Milan in Athens I was keen to get back to Gravesend and head to Gareth's house and watch it on his newly installed cinema screen. I am not going to use the word television as the monster situated in his lounge is not a TV by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, if I was to look out the back window of my flat I would be able to watch the game quite comfortably without having to make the two mile journey to his new gaff.

Not only were the gods against Steven Gerrard and the millions of scousers whom travelled to Athens, they were well and truly sticking two fingers right up at me and blowing raspberries whilst doing it.

There had been a fire in the London Bridge area, the news of which was well publicised online and via email (thanks Will!), meaning all routes out of London would be via Victoria.

I anticipated carnage well in advance and left work at five thirty in order to give myself plenty of time for what I imagined would be an eventful journey home, but on arrival at Victoria station carnage was nowhere near it! There were literally twenty million people at Victoria, stuck in gridlock, not moving, not knowing what the hell was going on and not looking remotely like moving anytime soon.

Starting to panic I was desperately aware that I wasn't going to make it home via the train in time to watch the football, so made a quick, and rather rash decision to get a taxi back, knowing full well that it was going to cost me £80 or so!

Whilst walking away from Victoria, past Her Majesty's house, which is incidentally the sort of house that would be well suited to a TV of Gareth's size, it struck me that Reaso may also be in a similar predicament. As it was, he was in a worse state than I was, as he had left work at 4pm and was still nowhere near getting home and had also given up on Victoria station.

A new plan was hatched and ten minutes later a rendezvous at Hyde Park Corner with a red, sweaty and extremely angry Reaso was made.

We found a pub, decided to watch the game, drink some beer and worry about getting home later.

Which was all very well, but unlike Istanbul in 2005 the outcome of the European Cup was not going to go Liverpool's way.

Liverpool had by far the better of the first half and had the lions share of possession. A few half chances came their way. Conceding the free kick at the very end of the first half was a kick in the teeth, but hey, as Reaso commented "it's better than 3-0 at half time".

Both of us were surprised at how poor Milan were, they seemed to give the ball away fairly easily and were not as fearsome coming forward as two years ago.

As the game ticked down and Liverpool looked for an equaliser Kaka found some space to plant a perfect through ball and the rest is history. Even though Kuyt scored a consolation, I never really anticipated another famous Liverpool comeback.

Ultimately Liverpool failed to take their chances and it came back to haunt them. The luck that deserted me all day yesterday also hovered over the Olympic Stadium in Athens, but I cannot say that luck was responsible. Despite the defeat, the Liverpool fans, players and manager remained gracious and accepted it like true professionals. I cannot see that Mr Ferguson or Mr Mourinho would have been quite so humble and we would probably be hearing excuses and conspiracy theories galore.

Finally, congratulations must surely go to Paolo Maldini. In my mind, the greatest footballer that has ever been. Not for his footballing ability as that is easily surpassed by Pele, Maradonna etc, but for achievements in the game there cannot be any greater. 5 European Cup winners medals, 800+ appearances, 100 of which have been in the Champions League. All for the same team - all records which I wonder will ever be surpassed.

Tipsy, deflated and faced with the mercy of London transport we headed back to Victoria station. The crowds had gone and so we headed towards Ramsgate, stopping off at Chatham where we were rescued by Mr Reason Snr, who I would like to gratefully thank for a lift back to Gravesend, making the end of my day slightly easier to bare.

Although, writing this and grumbling about luck and travel chaos, pales into insignificance when reading in the paper this morning about the plane full of Liverpool fans, all of which had paid £600 for flights to Athens only to be stranded when the plane broke down on the runway.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Snoozefest

Having allowed Stephanie access to my blog and her excellent account of her weekend away it is now back to me and my random ramblings of nothing in particular.

OK, maybe not nothing, but one thing I wanted to get of my chest.

The FA Cup final... the pinnacle of the football season, the countries best two teams fighting blood, guts and tears to win the greatest cup competition in the world, all in front of the largest TV audience of the year and in the case of this years final, back at Wembley with 90,000 people watching from a brand new stadium.

With Stephanie off out practicing her sign language with her tutors, the boys out in Prague for Mark's stag weekend, and my Dad sunning himself in Antigua my choice of viewing partners were few and far between. As it was, Oliver and I sat in readiness for our first FA Cup final together.

As we sat an enjoyed our pre-match refreshments of a bottle of beer (me) and a bottle of formula (Oliver), the BBC did there best to hype up the game, and trawl through the archives of yesteryear finals and did nothing but depress me and make me feel old.

Earlier that morning I had gone to the hairdressers and watched as the barber hacked grey hair after grey hair off of my head. Watching highlights of FA Cup finals in the late 80's and remembering them clearly certainly did not make me feel any younger!

The game kicked off, and Oliver worn out by the BBC interviews of heroes past and present and clearly uninterested when I tried to explain the concept of black and white TV had fallen asleep. After 30 seconds I nearly joined him. Manchester United kicked off and started passing the ball neatly and precisely across the back four, into the midfield with Scholes and then back again to the back four who repeated the sorry exercise all over again.

The so called two best teams in England, head to head, Ronaldo, Rooney, Giggs, Lampard, Terry, Cole, Wright-Phillips the countries "greatest" players, served up a sterile spectacle of stinking proportions.

These are the same players that spend their weeks filming adverts for fantasy five aside adverts playing in cages and supporting street soccer. Adverts which advertise the game as fun, excitement and focus on skills and flair. There was none of that at Wembley.

Far cry from last years barnstormer of a final which had the neutrals purring and Steven Gerrard's legion of fan's proclaiming that this was the guy that was going to win us the World Cup.

Following the game Jose Mourinho revealed that he had asked his players, enjoy the game or enjoy the party after the game? The players opted to enjoy the party! Does this say something about the mentality of the current crop of Premier Footballers? Or would you do the same in a Chelsea players shoes?

Personally speaking, I would prefer to be remembered for scoring a goal in an FA Cup final or contributing to one that everyone remembers. When Oliver is my age, watching the BBC trawl back through the highlights at the first final of the new Wembley what will the BBC show? Drogba's goal, which was very well executed and typically finished? Not a lot else.

Hopefully now that the "first team to win an FA Cup final at Wembley" has fallen to Chelsea we will see a better final next year!

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Birdy's Bognor Hen Do - The Official Story

Adam has told me many times that I should write my own blog. I have always enjoyed reading Adam's - his thoughts and feelings have always put a smile on my face. Waiting for the right topic/subject, the time has now come for me to write my own blog titled - Birdy's Bognor Hen Do May 2007 - The Official Story

When Adam's sister, Jessica, announced that she was getting married, she asked me to be her Maid of Honour. I was shocked, honoured, privileged to name a few feelings. I felt like I owed her something and the only way I could see was to arrange the best Hen Weekend that she would remember forever.

Jessica decided that an adult only, 70's weekend at Butlins in Bognor Regis was the place to be. So after a few weeks of working out who was coming it was booked.

It wasn't until the middle of April that my sister, Carly, said to me "Have you started to sort out the itinerary?" I didn't even know what that meant. I had to arrange rules, forfeits, games and decorate a veil. I remember thinking how on earth am I gonna do all that with working full time and looking after Oliver!

I was determined that Jessica was going to have the best veil in Bognor. It took about a week to make sewing on all of the decorations such a sequins, bows, condoms, L - plates, glitter and of course the bright pink glittery flashing willies to go on top just to finish it off.

With the veil made and our bags packed 20 young girls head to Bognor. You could say that the first day was a bit of a disaster. Me, Jessica and Carly left later than intended - Sophie's tyre burst whilst driving down the M25. It was chucking it down with rain. Bridesmaid Jade was feeling unwell and Bridesmaid Gemma was running really late after being stuck at work. With all these things in tow, it was still a great night.

The rule for the night was 'left hand drinking only' unless of course they were left handed and they then had to drink with their right. Kerry told me that she was left handed but still now I'm not too sure if she was telling the truth or if she was just avoiding the forfeit of wearing a penis on her head! At some point that night I sat down and looked around and watched the girls they all seemed to be having fun and taking part in the games and forfeits. It put a smile on my face, all that hard work had paid off.

The night finished in the early hours of Saturday morning and everyone was looking forward to going to bed. Many of the girls including myself have young children and were all hoping for a night of uninterrupted sleep and a lie in. This is where the plans went pear shaped. Our rooms were below and in front of the noisiest people in the world singing and shouting all through the night.

With the lack of sleep many of the girls stayed in their rooms and slept during the day knowing that the main 70s night was ahead. Most of you know that I have been dieting for the last 2 months and I was determined that I would not put any weight on over the weekend so my sister Carly and I decided that we would walk into town to find a supermarket to buy dinner. As we exited the resort we saw a train, for a laugh we paid our 70p, jumped on and made our way towards the town. The train only took us 500 yards along the sea front and dropped us off. It was hardly worth it but at least we had an experience. Morrisons shopping bags in tow filled with pasta we walked back to the resort, made dinner and got ready in our 70's gear.

I must mention at this point that all the girls made such an effort. Some brought and even hired outfits. I think that out of all the people out on Saturday night we were the best dressed group. So thanks for the effort girls you did Jessica proud!

We were all ready by half past 6 and made our way to the first bar, Jessica was told that she must complete one of her tasks before entering the bar. Digging into her bag she pulled out her harmonica!!! Jessica had to busk - playing her harmonica until she raised enough money to by herself and a hen a drink. I was so proud of her - she raised about £6 in about 2 minutes. Those 2 minutes will be my most memorable moment.

Her next task was smacking as many men's bums as she could (with a special bum slapper) from one bar to the next. Following that there was getting a piggy back ride from a stranger, biting ankles of strangers and downing drinks. Jessica completed all of her tasks with no complaints and generally just went with the flow.

Slowly as the hours passed hens were going home and all that was left was Carly, Claire, Toni and Myself. What can I tell you? We danced the night away with the occasional visit to the bar to refuel ourselves, eventually making our way home about half 2.

The other hens were up and chatting in the rooms because yet again the people behind us were making so much noise they couldn't sleep. I couldn't tell you what time we eventually got to bed!!!

Sunday was a bit of a funny day. Over half the group went home due to other commitments which only left 8 hens. We all went to the pub for a Sunday roast and dessert. Me eating my boring jacket potato and beans I can still smell Jade's Syrup Sponge pudding - even now writing about it my mouth is watering!!!

After our big fat lunch which soaked up the previous nights beer the 8 hens went around the arcades, looking in the shops and buying pressies for our children.

By Sunday night the weekend had caught up with most of us. We stayed in and drank plenty of wine with most of the hens going to bed at half ten. Jessica came to mine and my sister's room. My sister unfortunately was feeling unwell that evening but had perked up by the time Jessica made her appearance in Unit 4. We were up chatting until 2:30.

At half 9 on the Monday morning we were all packed and ready to go home. Carrying our cases to the other side of the resort in the rain was a bit of a mission but what made it worse was my sister's car not starting!!! Cutting a long story short after a visit to Kwik Fit we were on the road just after noon and arriving home at 2.

I now need to sum up. But before I do I would just like to quickly mention Hen Sarah who unfortunatly could not make the weekend- Sarah if you read this I hope that you enjoyed your box of memorabilia and I wish little Louis well, you were missed by all.

Finally, I would like to thank all hens for coming, Jade and my sister Carly for helping me arrange the weekend. Without you I couldn't have done it. But most of all I would like to thank Jessica for giving me the honour of being her chief bridesmaid - I hope I did you proud and gave you a hen weekend that you will never forget. I know that I wont!

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Who the ****ing Hell Are You?

I was planning on writing a blog today, celebrating the joyous occasion at Anfield last night, as Liverpool reached their seventh European Cup final, their second in three years. The fact that it was a hard fault battle against the likes of the unlikeable Robben, Drogba and the "cannot make my mind up about him" Mourinho made it all the sweeter.

Poor Oliver whom was attempting a peaceful nights sleep was probably wondering what the hell his Daddy was doing two inches away from the TV trying to scream quietly and jumping up and down like a rabid banshee.

However, my pre thought blog entry was instantly scrapped when I read this article on the BBC website.

"Gravesend announce change of name" my Google homepage told me. Naturally I was intrigued as to what this meant, I thought maybe they had dropped the Northfleet part, as in some media circle the Northfleet is never displayed (possibly because Gravesend and Northfleet is too long or something).

Instead, it turns out the Gravesend and Northfleet have changed their name to Ebsfleet United!!!!!

What the HELL is that about?????

Ebsfleet, to my knowledge is a partially built train station on a piece of land that formerly used to be the place which I did a cross county run for the boy scouts (yes, that is mighty hilarious ha ha!), and where all the rebelious kids at school used to go for a dip whilst bunking off in the summer months. NOT a place to name a football club after.

Ok, so Ebsfleet is earmarked for in the region of 9,000 homes, businesses, schools and what not but these are unlikey to materialise for a few years yet! So again, why name a football club after a brownfield site that isn't going to be fully developed until possible after the 2012 olympic games and is likely to be populated by persons whom have already shown allegience to a particular team?

I undertand that "The Fleet" have been having trouble drawing supporters to match days and that the board quite rightly have aspirations for league football. However I don't believe that by changing the name to be the solution.

Gravesend and Gillingham share similar problems, Charlton for example offering free bus travel from both Gravesend and Gillingham, which is not illegal. Although in my view, slightly immoral, but then if it was Gillingham offering a similar service would I think the same? What I am trying to suggest here is that the competition for both clubs, with such a proximity to the big London teams is that attracting fans is always going to be a problem.

Gillingham have many other factors, but at the moment, sticking with "The Fleet", the fact remains that as a conference club the lure as a supporter is currently not a big one.

What "The Fleet" have in their favour, is that they are very much a progressive club, each season seemingly doing better than the last, only just missing out on the playoffs this time around.

Next season, with the Setanta Sports coverage, and the sponsorship of Blue Square the Conference teams will see a large increase in money, possibly the most that "The Fleet" have ever had. This, and the hopeful aquisition of Liam Daish for another season and keeping hold of their leading goalscorer Charlie McDonald should see them chasing again for that coverted playoff spot.

I try and see "The Fleet" a couple of times a season, normally when the Gills are away and I always feel that I ought to. Gravesend is my home town, I was born there and lived there all my life. It may not be a suburban utopia, but where is?

The fact that I am a Gills fan potentially invalides that argument, but there are plenty of people I know who do the same. Gravesend has a large amount of Millwall, Charlton, Gillingham, Arsenal, Chelsea, West Ham and even Sheffield Wednesday fans, people I know who frequently go to see their team.

I may not be a Gravesend and Nortfleet fan as I am already a Gillingham Fanatic. But most Gills fans would love to have seen Gravesend and Northfleet in the league and maybe playing a local league derby, but Gillingham vs Ebbsfleet United? Where is the excitement in that?

I know that the team will be the same, the kit, the ground and most importantly the fans. I suppose it could have been a lot worse, we could have had a Wimbledon franchise situation, which would have been a disaster. Incidently, AFC Wimbledon played Bromley last night in the Ryman league playoffs and if they are successful and win promotion, along with MK Dons failure to reach League One, the two teams will only remain two league apart.

The beauty of blogging is that all of this information is publically recorded. 60 years ago Gravesend FC changed to Gravesend and Northfleet and some of the local people at the time didn't take to it at all well. They didn't have the facility to log their opinions as I have now. Most people don't like change, even if it is a progressive, positive change. I myself don't particularly like this one, and it's something I will grow to get used to.

One final thought, if Gillingham changed their name to Medway Marauders FC, or Liverpool to Anfield Athletic, would I be alone in thinking that the world has gone mad? Probably not...
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