Tuesday 26 March 2013

The Promised Land?

Gus Poyet, praying for promotion with Brighton or pastures new?
The Albion rumour mill swung into overdrive last week with news that Gus Poyet had apparently been given permission to speak to Reading about their vacant managerial position. Twitter and other social media networks were awash with gossip that Gus was on the verge of leaving promotion chasing Brighton to join the relegation threatened Premiership outfit.  Both clubs remained tight lipped but there seemed very little doubt that Reading had made an approach to Poyet who could potentially have been the second Albion manager to leave and go to Reading following Steve Coppell’s departure in 2003.

It seemed that Poyet may well have been interested enough to see what was on offer at Reading and rumour has it that his advisors were at an advanced stage in negotiating a possible move. After giving his position further consideration however, the Brighton manager then decided, for the time being at least, his immediate future lies with the Seagulls rather than the Royals. Brighton fans breathed a huge sigh of relief and Reading moved quickly to appoint former Saints manager Nigel Adkins on Tuesday.

It is inevitable that Gus will eventually leave Albion at some point but a move to Reading now would have been at best a sideways move. However, he must have been tempted by the potential £30 million umbrella payment that Reading would benefit from should they, as seems likely, get relegated from the Premiership. That financial windfall could allow any potential new manager to build a team and buy their way back to the Premiership with a huge transfer kitty that very few Championship clubs could match.

The most worrying thing about all of this speculation for Albion fans was the timing. At the business end of the season with a play off place beckoning and with the final crucial seven games approaching is not a good time for any football club to be changing its manager. The prospect of Poyet leaving before he had achieved his goal of promotion to the Premiership with Brighton may well have been a factor in him deciding to stay. The other major concern fans had was if Poyet did leave would he then come back in the close season in an attempt to sign several out of contract key Albion players. All rather alarming to fans and unsettling for players, especially the Spanish contingent. 

Why would Gus want to leave? Albion is a club going places in a fantastic stadium with a new training facility coming on stream next summer. He has fans who adore his style of football as well as players who want to play for him, a board who support him and an English chairman who won’t sack him if he has a bad run of results. Sadly, it could all be down to money. Gus is ambitious and wants a playing budget that will enable him and the club to gain the success they desire. The Holy Grail of the Premiership seems to be the Promised Land but it can break and bury a club as much as it can lead to riches, fans of League One Portsmouth FC will tell you that. 

Thursday 21 March 2013

Probation Officers Face Social Media Gag As Outsourcing Row Rumbles On

As reported in The Guardian on Thursday 21st March 2013: 
"Justice secretary tells staff they risk disciplinary action if they publicly 'undermine' plan to outsource their work with offenders".

To read the full article in The Guardian please click here.

Thank you and well done to The Guardian for highlighting this issue and bringing it to the public's attention. It's astonishing. Are we living in a police state or a democracy? Chris Grayling and Michael Gove should be ashamed of their bully boy tactics. Are people not allowed to voice an opinion or express a view on government policies now? Whatever happened to freedom of speech and what exactly are government ministers afraid of? Threatening to suspend or even sack staff for daring to question the path the government are going down is not the answer and it renders all talk of a 'consultation process' utterly meaningless. 

Putting a gag on Probation Officers opinions of government plans to effectively privatise 70% of the probation service is no way to have an open and honest debate on the subject. Is it? Probation Officers know what they're talking about, they know the service and are properly trained in dealing with offenders in an effective way. Government ministers would be well advised to listen carefully to what they have to say before rushing into making decisions about reforming the Probation Service. 

From my own personal viewpoint, and I stress that it is just my own viewpoint (if I'm allowed to have an opinion that is), it could look as if these reforms are being introduced primarily as a cost saving measure with management of offenders being left in the hands of well meaning but ultimately unskilled and untrained people rather than trained professionals as it is at present. I see no obvious benefits to either society or offenders. Payment by results is it? Well, just remember one thing: You get what you pay for and there will be no going back once you reduce the size of the Probation Service as drastically as is being proposed. If re-offending increases and the public are put at risk as a direct result of these proposed changes to the Probation Service then someone in government will be answerable, no one else. Sadly it may be too late as the government seem to have already made their minds up that this is the path they wish to run down, irrespective of what comes out of any consultation process.

Is privatisation the answer? I seem to remember that privatising security at the 2012 London Olympics wasn't too successful so maybe there's a lesson to be learned there. 

Rant over.

Sunday 17 March 2013

The Perfect Sunday

Albion 3, Crystal Palace 0
Amex Stadium
Sunday 17th March 2013

Spanish Dave
Oh my, what a fantastic match and the perfect result for Albion fans. The Amex experience started off well enough with a delicious breakfast pie and pint of Harvey's but little did I know that things were just about to get a whole lot better.

There was a record 28,499 attendance at the Amex for this eagerly awaited derby clash against arch rivals Palace. The atmosphere inside the stadium was electric and the noise when Leonardo Ulloa scored Albion's opener in the 43rd minute almost had the roof off. A second superb, stunning goal scored direct from a free kick by David Lopez (known as Spanish Dave to you and me) right on half time was enough to send 26,000 Albion fans into raptures and broke Palace hearts. The third goal scored again by centre forward Ulloa just after the break in the 49th minute was the icing on the cake and the game was won.

The Amex is made for days like this and the long 25 year wait for a home win against Crystal Palace was over. It's difficult to pick a man of the match as the entire team worked hard and showed a real desire to win this one for the fans. Ulloa won the man of the match award from the match sponsors but Kazenga Lua Lua and Wayne Bridge (who had Zaha in his pocket all afternoon) were particularly outstanding.

This was a very good day to be an Albion fan. The play off's are still a realistic possibility after this result and key games coming up against Forest and Leicester could prove crucial to Albion's promotion ambitions.