Dear Diary... January 2006

Tuesday 31st January - What Price Is Loyalty?

A question I've doubly asked myself today. What with the impending fun and games at work, and my impending anger at Joey Barton's transfer request, which has as much to do with being greedy and choosing the wrong agent who's only thinking of himself. I mean, after all his well publicised mistakes at City, Stuart Pearce told him to sort himself out or be gone. Joey did the former, and managed to play pretty well at the same time, so the club showed a lot of loyalty with him, especially after his half brother had committed a murder. So what does Joey do? He hands in a transfer request yesterday and him and his agent claimed a lack of ambition from the club. Really? So that's why we signed a Greek player for £6m yesterday and have bought another young defender in this morning to strengthen the squad, and add to that of course the fact that plenty of the youngsters are chomping at the bit to be in the first team and I'd say competition is pretty healthy all round to be honest.

It just really gets to me that whenever players start having a decent run they think that they own the club and can hold it to ransom. Well if the comments on the Man City messageboards are anything to go by, we the fans are fed up with that and want some loyalty in return for the ridiculous admission charges that we pay each week. And with Stuart Pearce saying exactly what the fans are thinking: "well if it was me I certainly wouldn't be handing in a transfer request whatsoever" I can only hope that something positive happens, because otherwise it's going to be a bit tasty at the City of Manchester Stadium, with fans calling for both Barton's and his agent Willie Mckay's head. That bloke McKay is a first class idiot, he has lots of players on his books but for the most part he just spins them crap.

Saturday 28th January - The Magic Of The Cup (Part 3)

So another weekend comes along and it's the fourth round of the FA Cup, so I'm off again to the City of Manchester Stadium to watch my beloved City take on Wigan Athletic. Now, as Wigan had survived extra time and beaten Arsenal on away goals to get to the Carling Cup final, understandably quite a few players were rested from their side, but we pretty much put the strongest side we could out there. It was bitterly cold, but even that shouldn't excuse the side from not playing so well. That said, it really gets my goat when there's so-called fans in the seats near me who think nothing more than slagging off certain players for ninety minutes no matter what they do. I kind of almost said to one of them "not being funny, but if you're not going to get behind the lads then don't bother coming." - cos that's how gutted I felt at these sort of people daring to call themselves fans. Sure, be objective and have a good whinge after the game, but at least try and support them during?

Anyway, the second half wore on and although both sides had chances it wasn't that great, well not till the 84th minute when Bradley Wright-Phillips picked up a ball to him and threaded a lovely ball through to Andy Cole who slotted it calmly home for the only goal of the game. Nonethless despite a few gut wrenching moments at the end it was enough to see us home 1-0 and in the fifth round. And with Bolton showing Arsenal how to take a cup seriously in terms of players, although their attendance of just under 14,000 was nothing short of a disgrace, as were most of them on fourth round day. Believe it or not, our attendance of just over 30,000 was the highest of the weekend I think, and that says a heck of a lot about too much apathy from fans or too much expense to want to go to another game.. Ah well. Draw's on Monday - see who we get.

And afterwards out with a few friends for a few drinks, so that set the rest of the evening off nicely, not least as the morning had been quite hard for me, for personal reasons. It's always good to cram a lot into a day to take the mind off things and I managed to do that quite nicely. Now all I've got to hope for is City sign this Greek guy from Heerenveen for whatever we're going to pay for him and that there's no nasty surprises come transfer window day, hopefully..

Wednesday 25th January - The Mind Is Set Free

It's unbelievable what a couple of days can do to you in terms of your mind set. I was really emotional last night when I was asleep: I guess I was thinking about a lot of things in general and that all this talk of the major changes at work just isn't really giving me any motivation to progress any, whatsoever. At the same time the work I've been doing the last couple of days has been interesting and challenging stuff and I'm kind of pleased that I've managed to get on with things nicely. This included sorting out a scanner for a member of staff, installation and test, that sort of thing. While I was up there I realised her wireless settings were set to the old system so I set about correcting those as well, just as an added extra to make everything work really well.

Got back home and decided that the house needed a tidy up, so managed to do all that and then settle down to watch some of the footy followed by Monday's Balderdash and Piffle, and even caught some of the ten pin bowling as well. It amazes me how skilled these players are in that getting seven or eight strikes per game (and the rest usually spares) is so easy for them. If I get one strike when bowling I consider myself pretty lucky to be honest, but there you go. Must try and have a game some time, only every time I've done that (went there on Sunday after I did lunch) there's been a three hour wait or something ridiculous like that. I have a plan coming into action methinks...

Monday 23rd January - Sven Should He Have Been Sacked? Now, Surely!

An intense Monday with plenty to do and lots to work on at work, so much so that I've actually tried to plan ahead in my weekly calendar a lot so I can fit jobs in at my convenience and be able to give people a time. Not the usual sort of thing I do but I really am having lots piled on me. It's just one of those things I guess. And with more tabloid revelations on Sunday about how Sven is piling accusations at the English game and indeed revealing more than he should, it'd only be a matter of time before the inevitable should have happened. As such that kept me on my toes and got me through the day, which included a very late induction session for one of our courses, don't know why they wanted it now but it's nice nonetheless.

The evening wears on as I get home and watch another installment of the absolutely superb Life on Mars, which is already in my nominations for the best TV programme of 2006 because the chemistry between the two main characters is tense, edgy and perfect. Philip Glenister and John Simm are both excellent, and not forgetting Liz White, who is doing wonders again (A Thing Called Love, which she was last in, was also rather good). Not just that though, but the stories are well worked, and as for that girl who plays the test card doll, it's rather eerie and spooky that is. Someone tell her to go away now! Naturally I've also recorded Balderdash and Piffle for viewing later in the week as Victoria Coren is rather lush to say the least - and I'm not the only one who thinks so. Love the pic of her in the black dress, don't you?

But then the news came - the news that was going to make my day. Well it almost did. Those of you who read the site regularly will know I've had rants about calling for Sven Goran-Eriksson to be sacked. Well, the FA came out with a statement saying he's going to be leaving after the World Cup. Seems odd how that was announced a few hours after a so-called "compliance unit" meeting doesn't it? A lot of people though are like me and wanted him out now. The damage he's done to the England team is that there are too many prima donnas who don't know what it means to play for your country and how special a privelege it is. Because of his million subs in friendlies, anyone can get an England cap almost, and that's devalued the privelege. Not to mention idiots like Rio Ferdinand, Gary Neville (what was he thinking of with that goal celebration on Sunday, the idiot), Ashley Cole and so on who talk the talk but just aren't that capable on the pitch. While it's flattering a lot of people have suggested Man City's Stuart Pearce take the job on, realistically it's too soon, which he's said himself. At least he wouldn't be lacking in pride and passion, anyone who watched the Manchester derby would have seen that in abundance. And he had a right go at the team after losing rather wimpishly against Bolton on Saturday...

Friday 20th January - There Was A Jackpot To Be Had, And It Said, Roll Over..

The week has ended in a pretty busy and intense day - well, sort of. Had a meeting at one of the other sites this morning, and it was like I was in a small world for some reason. The bloke on reception used to work in the building I work in, so it was good to see him, and as I was making my way to the meeting room one of the lecturers who used to work in our building spotted me as well. Didn't feel like I'd left the office, but at the same time also reassuring to know that there is life beyond the normal run of the mill job elsewhere. Meeting went okay, although the lunch was scheduled to come much later than planned and so hastily was rescheduled. For once, lots of veggie stuff and hardly any meat stuff for me (usually the other way around so it did make for a nice change for some people) - then back to the ranch for the afternoon which was busy all the time, primarily because of yet another hand in deadline. And not to mention the laptops I need to take a look at next week, ah well.

Didn't win the Euro Millions rollover - mind you, no one did! So next Friday could well top the £100 million mark. What could I do with that sort of money? Well, not that much these days if I wanted to buy out any Premiership side, and that might give me an F1 team for maybe one season. Crazy isn't it? Mind you, I could do lots of nice little things with it too, like go on a world holiday for years exploring everywhere, that would be interesting. But you know what they say: you have to be in it to win it. I have this scenario of the ticket machines going mental later in the week so I might be crafty and put it on early to be on the very safe side.

Wednesday 18th January - Clearing Out The Hard Drives (And Other Hardware)

Just lately the office room in the house that I'm typing this missive has been getting a bit of clutter. Not from the usual ornaments and other such items that some people love to clutter the house with (you always see them on that How Clean Is Your House programme on Channel 4) but namely PC parts and assorted gubbins. They've usually been from PC machine pulls when I've been upgrading hardware and/or complete PCs for friends and family, so I figured at one point I'll either donate them to charitable causes or maybe flog them on eBay myself and see what interest (if any) there is.

However I found a 3GB Quantum, an 8GB IBM and a 10GB Western Digital hard disk that I know I can use elsewhere - so they're pretty much spoken for. I'd already formatted them as well so they're ready - maybe I could do some data backups on the 10GB beastie, or use that as part of a build of a system with lots of other parts I seem to have collected? Possibilities maybe, but it's probably going to be easier to get shut of everything bar the hard drives and see if anyone wants them. So, if you'd like any of the below contact me and we'll sort something out in terms of costs, postage etc:

ATI Rage 128 2x AGP graphics card (might work in AGP 4x, but obviously untested in a 4x rig)

5 metre black crossover network cable (perfect if you have two PCs in the house and you want to share an Internet connection without buying a router - although of course the Internet enabled PC has to be on for both to work)

Goldstar (now LG) DRD-840B IDE DVD-ROM drive, manufactured December 1998, firmware 1.16. Apparently reads CDs at 32x and DVDs at 4x, so not that bad for its age. And not even region locked either, which might be handy for some of you out there.)

Yamaha CRW2216E-NB IDE CDRW drive - writes CDR and CDRW at 2 speed, reads CDs at 16 speed. If you have Adobe Reader you can check out the manual here (wow, thanks Yamaha!)

2 Gravis Gamepad Pros - they work fine with most versions of Windows these days, and they plug into 15 pin gameport connector that a lot of sound cards have. Great for playing most versions of FIFA with!

Iomega 100MB Zip drive - the IDE version. Perfect if you're still using Zip disks to back stuff up with.

Creative Labs Soundblaster AWE64 - ISA slot. The daddy of all sound cards back in its day until the Soundblaster Live! PCI came along and took its crown. A true classic, and if you have older PC with ISA slot, well worth it. Probably doesn't work with Windows XP

Askey V1433VQH-R 33.6k modem - ISA slot. Plug and play compatible, even allows you to set the jumpers on the card to decide what COM port and IRQ to use for it. Rockwell chipset, and a search for V1433VQH-R reveals drivers are available. Doesn't work in Windows XP though.

Abit AB-BH6 motherboard, supports slot 1 Pentium IIs, AGP 2x slot, 5x PCI, 2 x ISA, 3 SDRAM slots, 2x USB, 1x Parallel, 2 x Serial ports, comes complete with Intel Pentium II 350Mhz processor with 512K cache. Perfect to start an old classic base unit with?

Saturday 14th January - Three One In Their Cup Final

Words fail me today. They really do. I do know one thing though and that is I am so proud of my beloved Manchester City. Not only did they beat United in the derby, they showed more of everything. More pride. More passion. More determination. More of everything apart from hassling the referee every five minutes, like the Man U players seemed to do when any decision wasn't going their way.

You tend to get lost in the emotion of it all, but having watched it later on as well, it was quite clear that we wanted it so much more, and the determination was plain to see. I have to say that City took a bit of a risk playing new signing Albert Riera, but he didn't do too bad. Their new signing Patrice Evra only lasted till half time before being substituted tactically - our tricky Trevor Sinclair had him in his pocket, and it was really that battle won, the midfield duo of Joey Barton and Steven Ireland working their socks off (especially the latter, who for my money ran Sinclair close for Man of the Match), and in defence, the four of them were rocks that wouldn't be passed easily. Jihai Sun suits right back much better and linked well with Sinclair, Stephen Jordan proved that youth can cut it if the pride is there, and he put some nice crunching but fair tackles in on the United players - nice one. And the defensive central duo of Sylvain Distin and Richard "Dunnie Monster" Dunne were back to their very best, as they should have been against Tottenham last home game.

Needless to say that although when the first ball went into the box for the first goal, it could have been given offside against Darius Vassell, but he wasn't "active", and so when Ireland threaded a perfect ball for Sinclair to turn and smash home into the bottom corner, giving their keeper Edwin van der Sar not a cat in hell's chance, it certainly opened the game up. United's main threat was from van Nistelrooy and Rooney, although the service to them was lacking which helped minimise the chances - they did try hard but without joy. After David James making an excellent save one on one with Rooney, a free kick went to Sinclair, headed on to Andy Cole who just touched it through to Vassell. Their defender Mikael Silvestre (who had a shocker - I'd be surprised if United fans don't want him out!) just let Vassell turn and calmly slot it home into the bottom corner. After Rooney arguing with the ref, and (apparently) Alex Ferguson wanting the ref's blood as he "had words" in the tunnel, it was clear they were riled.

Bit more edgy second half, with a few tackles flying in all over the place. Jordan tackled Cristiano Ronaldo, and although it was a bit crunching, he did get the ball. Ronaldo was upset at this and so tried to seek retribution the next time he lost the ball (one trick pony he tends to be doing too much fancy stuff and not concentrating on what he should be doing) and the intent was there to take Andy Cole's legs off with studs showing. Cole thankfully jumped out of the way and the referee had no choice but to give Ronaldo the red card. All Ferguson could say afterwards was that the ref needed to look at it and Ronaldo didn't touch him. Hmm. I seem to remember Patrick Vieira for Arsenal get sent off for a similar offence when he intended to clatter a Man U player and missed. Didn't say anything then did he?

United did pull one back as van Nistelrooy took down a pass, turned and shot really cleverly. It was a bit panicky for the last ten minutes as United piled forward, but we held firm and there was always a chance of scoring a third. Indeed when Vassell failed to spot Sinclair in acres of space, Stuart Pearce clearly showed his frustration in the managers' area by smashing a drinks bottle into the ground. But that was soon to turn to joy for every City fan as in injury time Ireland found Vassell, and although the first touch let him down he ran diagonally across the box, drawing Silvestre in. He laid it back for the oncoming Robbie Fowler and he smashed it into the corner to make it 3-1 and the game ours. The goal celebration looked like both he and Joey Barton (both from Liverpool of course) giving the "5" signal referring to the number of times United's next league opponents, Liverpool, have won the European Cup compared to United's two. The United fans were seething and kicked off a bit, but really they were well beaten by us and it was so pleasing. I can't wait to go into work on Monday and give every United fan I know plenty of stick. The bragging rights are with us, and in fact since we were re-promoted to the Premiership in 2002, we've argubaly got one of the best records against United: played 8, won 3 drawn 3 lost 2 scored 13 conceded 10, goal difference plus three. Now that is nice.

Three one in their cup final, three one in their cup final.. :)

Thursday 12th January - From Essex to Manchester In Two Point Five Years

A curious thing happened today. I received a parcel in the post. Okay, not that unusual in itself but what was unusual about it was that the postmark clearly said on the envelope 13 June 2003. What was something doing arriving two and a half years late, I wondered? So I checked my email archives, and it turned out that it could well have been a CD that I won on eBay - which I bid for on behalf of my mum, namely a Monkees CD single (not my taste whatsoever but it pleases her no end.) When I looked back the seller told me he'd mailed the thing in a 7" vinyl cardboard mailer, even told me the date he'd posted it and from which sorting office. And all that was still as clear as anything on the postmark.

I opened it, and it was exactly as I thought. In utter shock I rang my mum and told her, and she couldn't believe it either. In fact, I could have probably walked it from Essex to Manchester (some 250 miles or so) and back in around twenty days or so, meaning if I was going to collect the item myself I'd have still been fortyfive times quicker than either Royal Mail in general or the local sorting office where the item was posted from. Bah or what eh?

Wednesday 11th January - Management-speak Has Won The Day

Well it was a dark afternoon all round really. I'd spent all day in the Help Desk sorting out student problems, generally being friendly to them and giving them plenty of encouragement, and my manager had come back from a meeting with other people like him. It looks like the dreaded centralisation move has been approved by the top bods, and therefore it's only going to be a matter of time before it happens. Even though it might not be for some time, to be perfectly honest I feel quite deflated about it. It'll mean splitting up a good team of people who work very well together, it'll mean less support for staff that I'm proud to know virtually everyone on first name terms these days, and it'll also ultimately mean that the people that really matter at the end of it will get possibly the most raw deal of the lot - namely the paying customer.

You do wonder if management-speak has won the day over common sense, by speaking in this jargon-esque language you too can make it all the way to the top. Even our Prime Minister (hopefully he won't be there for too much longer) uses it to some degree to try and put so-called "positive spin" on everything. It just proved what I thought in that the consultation process was a complete waste of time and effort.

Sunday 8th January - The Magic Of The Cup (Part 2)

Just when I thought yesterday was good (and indeed seeing my lot safely through gave me immense pleasure) I sat down to watch the two live games and was enthralled by both of them. Must admit that every neutral in the country probably wanted Burton Albion to win to keep up the romance of the cup, and everything was in place: the rutted pitch, which although not full of sand, was playable enough and the same for both teams, and the small ground with a tightly packed crowd and atmosphere.

See, these big clubs can complain all they like about pitches. But it's only in the last 5-10 years that even their humble abodes have been decent. United's used to cut terribly and was full of mud and sand for years, particularly if they played the rugby league Grand Final on it, and City's before undersoil heating was a mud-ridden joke to be perfectly honest. Yet the players of the day were so skilled it didn't matter to them what surface that they played on: skill outshone everything, and every time. And that's what should matter. Nowadays it can be seen as a leveller to some but that's de-meriting the non-league pyramid of football. Some very good stuff is played down there and certainly standards have really improved all the time, so much so that lots of teams who've come up from the Conference have stayed in the football league for years to come afterwards, more proof that the English pyramid system is working very well.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, Burton were unlucky not to score in the first half but perhaps a bit fortunate not to concede in the second half. Nonetheless, their goalie did well at the end, and they kept Rooney out when he came on, so that's a well merited scalp for them. Can't see a surprise result at Old Trafford next week mind you, but nonetheless the replay will set up Burton up financially for years, and that's another good reason why the FA Cup does so much good for the game.

And after that? Well, because of very special reasons, it makes me smile when I see Tottenham lose, and particularly when they've been cruising. You can imagine a while back when City came back in the cup from 3-0 down with 10 men at half time to win 4-3 how mental I was going? Well, I'd have loved the BBC cameras to show Gary Lineker in the studio during the 90th minute when Leicester completed their own comeback from 2-0 down to win 3-2. I mean, he goes mental watching England games when the cameras have shown it then, and seeing as Leicester is his boyhood hometown team, you can only imagine how happy it made him. Even better was that Tottenham fans were singing their "spurs are on their way to Wembley, Tottenham's going to do it again" chant at 2-0 up. Teehee. Don't you just love football sometimes?

Unfortunately, the extended Christmas break is now over and it's back to work for me tomorrow. I'm so excited. Not.

Saturday 7th January - The Magic Of The Cup (Part 1)

Well, it's FA Cup third round weekend and I managed to get myself a ticket online for City's game against Scunthorpe. The prices were cheap enough for the game, £15 isn't that bad these days, and certainly as I approached the ground and with Scunthorpe bringing so many fans with them on their big day out, and full credit to them too, I was excited but nervous. After all, our form has been lousy of late, particularly during Wednesday night's capitulation against Tottenham, and of course Scunthorpe dared to take the lead against Chelsea as well.

And as if by magic, the magic of the cup appeared here and at a lot of other places this weekend. For the first half, we were a shambles, disorganised at the back, especially Distin (could someone please remove the captain's armband from him as soon as possible?) and the fact that Robbie Fowler was lazing around the place and seemingly doing nothing was frustrating a lot of us - especially one fan in the row below me who'd put a bet on for the man to score a hat trick. At one point I was that upset I yelled to Distin "give more goals away why don't you, we know you want to leave so the best way is not to try isn't it, you overpaid piece of s*****" (insert naughty word here), and as for Fowler, let's just say the words uttered from my mouth didn't exactly qualify for family viewing.

Would have loved to know what Psycho said to the lads at half time, as Lee Croft came on for the second half and soon as that happened everything went the right way in terms of the result. His cross across the box eventually reached Fowler, and even I could have scored that one. The second goal, passed into the corner, did ooze of quality and once Sun Jihai had been fouled for the penalty, Joey Barton stepped aside to allow Fowler to do the business from twelve yards out, and in the space of 19 minutes we'd taken a 3-1 lead and the hat trick ball was Robbie's, much to the delight of that fan below me. I don't know what the odds were but he had a very big smile on his face.

Almost as much as you would if you supported Liverpool. I got home from our game to just about see Steven Gerrard making it 1-0 to them. Little did I know the classic game that would come before me though, as Luton deservedly went 3-1 up and then Liverpool battled back to win 5-3, and the final goal was scored by Xabi Alonso from behind the half way line - the goalie had come up for the corner, so he was nowhere. When I watched the replay I loved the expression on Steven Gerrard's face, first of "pass it to me you lazy so and so" and then applauding as he realises that Alonso's weaved his magic and sealed victory at the death. And with Tamworth holding Stoke away, and Nuneaton holding Middlesbrough, suddenly our result didn't seem that bad. Now only if Burton Albion could defeat Man U tomorrow...

Wednesday 4th January - Down With The Decorations!

I had the common sense to take this week off work so I'll have had a two week break before returning on Monday 9th, and to be honest, that's probably a good thing. It's given me chance to sort the house out in terms of being tidy after the very hectic Christmas period, and also to be able to sort a few presents out for people's birthdays coming up (I have three coming up in this month alone). I also took the time to take down the Christmas decorations including the tree and put them all away for next December. I know it is a couple of days earlier than normal, but it also meant while I had the time I could get back to normal downstairs and just vacuum up all the loose tinsel and so on that always seems to fall off whenever you're taking anything like this down.

After I wrote Monday's diary entry, I watched a most excellent programme - BBC2's "Balderdash and Piffle", which seeks to uncover the source and meaning of some of the English words and phrases in an attempt by the public to beat the researchers at the Oxford English Dictionary. And indeed if a source of a word is found earlier than the OED, it goes in as a revision which can even be viewed online by the viewing public. Although Victoria Coren is most excellent as host (not to mention lovely, she's got good dress sense) as she is at playing poker, I thought Adam Hart-Davis' search to find an earlier meaning of going "pear-shaped" was really intriguing, he really does communicate well and has that earthiness about him that endears to the public. And not to also mention the love of pigs as shown by Clarissa Dickson-White (one half of formerly the Two Fat Ladies cooking show). Must admit when Victoria found an earlier source of the phrase "Ploughman's Lunch" than the OED she was like a little kid in a sweetshop and her untold joy came across brilliantly. If you get time, watch it next week as each week's a different letter - it's B on Monday. It's the sort of intelligent stuff that BBC2 excel at and I wish there were more programmes like this which make the licence fee worth paying - especially as the stuff on at Christmas was nothing short of rubbish. And as for the latter episodes of Series 3 of Little Britain, don't even get me started...

Monday 2nd January - Happy New Year

Well I had a nice enough New Year's night as I headed out to one of my favourite places to eat, Lal Haweli in Rusholme, Manchester. As usual the service was top notch, even more so despite the fact that it was virtually full to the brim with customers, and the food didn't suffer one jot as a result. Certainly the mushroom pakora I had for starters was well up to the usual standard, while the chicken korma was also very divine. I worked off the food nicely by taking a walk home from there (it's around two and a half miles or so) and then chilling out back at the Towers with a nice glass of red shiraz to see the New Year in and also to watch some of those great ads that ITV were repeating.

This also meant I caught most of Jools Holland's annual Hootenany music show, which as ever was most excellent. Kaiser Chiefs doing I Predict A Riot just before midnight was so well timed, and indeed it was so nice to have Jools and his band do Tainted Love with Marc Almond, but before that having Chris Difford come on and do Squeeze's seminal Cool For Cats. Chris played his guitar and sang it brilliantly, and I'm sure for many people of my age, that was a highlight (for those of you who don't know, Jools was in the band along with Chris, and Glen Tilbrook.) That set me off very nicely for the new year and at least it meant that I had a smile on my face, which was really good to see.

Didn't do too much New Year's Day, watched the Sussex National on At The Races, and if I'd have put money on any of the horses I'd have lost by now, but it was tough going round and round the little track at Plumpton, with the hill and the two fences on the back so close together. Also got to watch the 50 greatest comedy films on Channel 4 last night as well. That was okay to a point, although I wouldn't have called all of them comedy. Indeed, some of them like School of Rock were in the greatest family films as well (bet Jack Black was well chuffed) - no surprise really that Python films were up there, but pleasant to see Shaun of the Dead securing the number three spot. It is hilarious, and it is good, no doubt about that.