Monday, 26 November 2007

Fancy A Beer?

How about 150 and all different ?

On Sunday we were "out & about" and ended up in the village of Southwick. After a few minutes of wandering we came across the Southwick Brewhouse.

An old Victorian brewery situated behind the Golden Lion pub the brewery closed it's doors back in the 1950s. But it has now reopened, the upstairs as a small museum with everything as it was when it was operational, downstairs being a retail outlet that beer lovers can only dream of. Over 150 different bottled beers as well as local wines and other goodies. I ended up taking home a bottle of Liberation - that was the days free sample taster and I just had to buy a bottle, - and a bottle of Scarecrow because ..... well with that name I just had to didn't I.
If you're out that way it's well worth a visit, I'm sure I'll be going back - I still have at least another 148 to sample.

Southwick Brewhouse
(Click to enlarge, and more pictures)

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Up The Warriors

With the whole England set-up in total disarray and my own team, Southampton, acting in a pretty similar manner, it's time to give my "second favourite team" a mention.
Everyone has to have a "second favourite team" and they are often picked for the strangest of reasons, first team seen, like the kit, worked there for a while, great-grandad played for them etc etc.
Well mine is that other SFC Stenhousemuir. An obscure choice, a team forever in the lower reaches of the Scottish Leagues, but a team who's result I look for every week.

"Why them ?" I hear you ask.
It all stems from when I was a young boy in the late 60s/early 70s. Every lad my age interested in football will remember Shoot! magazine. Every year they produced a set of League Ladders similar to this one. Every team was printed on a "T" shaped tab that you pushed out of a card sheet and inserted them into the slots in their various leagues and re-arranged their positions depending on that Saturday's results. An exciting innovation for a schoolboy in the pre-computer and video game era. A printing error must have occurred because out of all of the clubs included Stenhousemuir was the only one whose tab hadn't been die-cut, I had to remove it from the card with scissors. I knew nothing about them but that was enough for their name to stick in my memory.

A couple of years later I discovered a "fascinating fact". When the main stand at Ochilview Park was built the architect forgot to put in any stairs for the supporters to gain access to the seats. This was the sort of quirkiness that I love and forever more Stenhousemuir has been the second result I look for every weekend (well just lately it's been the first, I don't need to look for Southampton's I know they will have lost).

They have done virtually nothing in all that time - promoted after finishing division 3 runners-up in the late 90s (soon to return from whence they came) and winning a couple of obscure cup competitions in the same decade . There have been plenty of seasons when promotion has looked a mere formality only for them to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with a (one wonders if it is deliberate it happens so often) late season slump.

One day I hope to visit Scotland and take in a game. With crowds usually well under 1000 you can hardly get more back to grass roots than that. In the meantime I'll continue keeping an eye on their results, today they are at home to the mighty Forfar Athletic.

Come On You Warriors !

Thursday, 22 November 2007

England. Also-Rans To World Cup Winners The Wurzel Way

Up until Saturday evenings results I was seriously hoping that England would not qualify for Euro 2008 simply for the reason that failure might actually give the whole game - from the top downwards - the kick up the backside it needs. Of course with Israel's late winner we were in with a chance again and my hopes turned to not just qualifying but winning the group.

But of course, this is England we are talking about. The team that has perfected the art of, just when you think they have got things right, failing to perform when it's really required.

So what's the answer to England's problem. I can't see my solution ever being accepted but it would be drastic - the FA to give notice that come the end of next season they will no longer recognise the Premier League and only recognise the Football League. Teams would have the choice to stick with the PL or rejoin the FL (those that rejoin forming the top division along with the top teams from the existing Championship)

Up to 15 years ago (when Division 1 meant Division 1) the national team was the pinnacle of any players career. Whilst the clubs of course had to look after their own interests first it was considered an honour for a club to have one of it's players picked for the national team.

Along came the PL and that all changed. The money poured in, and the clubs were interested in just one thing - themselves. England became an inconvenience - not only to the clubs but to players as well. Let's face it, with so many of the worlds top foreigners playing in the premier league, and the majority of the England team also playing regular Champions League quality opposition, being "forced" to play against the likes of Russia Israel and Croatia must seem like a comedown, not to mention the likes of Andorra and Macedonia. The PL and the CL is where the money is, and that's all the clubs - and it would seem the players are interested in.

The FA is the ruling body of the game in this country but they have been weak. Firstly they allowed the PL to happen, then they gave it so many concessions they allowed it to become more powerful than themselves. They have to be brave and stand up and be counted.

So what happens if they stop "recognising" the PL. Similar to cricket in the 70's when Kerry Packer came along (and also recently in India and Pakistan who also have seen the advent of a breakaway league) you refuse to pick from players who play in it. Short term it could be disastrous but long term it will sort out those players who really think that playing for their national side is their ultimate goal. Clubs will have the choice - rejoin the proper Football League or stay in the non recognised PL. If fans of clubs were given a vote I would hazard a guess that most would prefer going back to the "old way". It can be done. Slightly different but the Italian FA long ago issued an edict that they would not pick players that went abroad to play in foreign leagues - so their stars all get regular games in their own league. Remind me, who are the current World Cup holders?

Next the FA constitution be changed so that the whole ethos of English football is to improve the national side to the best of it's ability. The rules of the league competition be changed that - picking a figure at random - 8 of any squad picked for any individual game must qualify to play for the national side. I don't believe the argument of EU employment law would ever stand up if challenged, a club could employ as many foreigners as it liked, but under the rules of the competition it has entered it would be restricted to how many could appear at any given time. I'm sure EU employment rules also say women must be given equal employment rights but the existing competition rules ban them from playing in the same team as men.

Next make the rules of the competition include a salary cap. I favour an overall wage bill as a percentage of turnover. That rewards clubs who build up big followings over the years as pre-PLC ManUre did, plus it keeps the options open to go for a few superstars or a bigger squad of more average players. The cream of English football should then be playing as first choices for their clubs, competitively every week. And the likelihood is they will be spread amongst more clubs, creating a more level playing field for the League competition. If any have chosen to stay in the PL (if it still existed) or maybe a breakaway European League, purely for the money then sod them, England don't need people of that attitude playing for them anyway.

It would take time but eventually we would get back to an era when players took pride in the white shirt and clubs felt that they had a sense of worth and weren't simply there to make up the numbers.

Of course none of this will happen. The dinosaurs at the FA (now saddled with the debt of a (roofless) national stadium need the PL and will suck up it's every whim.

Oh and another step would be to appoint a national team manager who picks the best players to fit his favourite system, NOT a system to fit his favourite players. It worked in '66.

It all seems so easy sat here.

PS For the summer I shall consider myself Spanish

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Happy Birthday To Me

Just realised but Wurzel's World is one year old today
So I've treated myself to blogger's new fangled little gizmo that creates a little slide-show of some of my latest photos.
Find out more - or get yours - HERE

We're On Our Way To Wembley

We're on our way to Wembley
(click picture to enlarge)

I thought this picture was lost for ever, but I found it during a rummage through the attic today.

This was from the front page of the local (as it was called then) Southampton Evening Echo on 1st May 1976.(I am now reliably informed that the photo was in fact from our trip to the semi-final, see comments section) No Southampton fan will need reminding what that day was, it was the day the Saints went to Wembley as huge outsiders and won the FA Cup, beating the mighty Manchester United 1-0 (Bobby Stokes 83rd minute God rest his soul).

I went on a coach organised by the Running Horse (later to be renamed Wig & Pen ) pub, which was situated up an alleyway next to the Echo Office. (Both the pub and the Echo Office are long gone, demolished to make way for the soulless West Quay Shopping Centre). Clearly the photographer hadn't intended too travel to far to find a subject for his photo. Although by the time he took it we were probably the only fans left in town - apparently our coach had broken down en route to picking us up and a replacement was frantically being sought - not easy on a day when virtually every coach south of London had already been commandeered. But eventually one turned up and we were on our way.

I have very few memories of the game itself, apart from our goal and the last 7 minutes (which seemed like 7 lifetimes). I do remember Man Utd hitting the woodwork from only a few yards out on about the 60 minute mark and just knowing then that it was going to be our day. Worryingly (it was to a sober 14 year old anyway) the stadium terracing - I was upper tier behind the goal - was literally bouncing like a trampoline for the final few minutes of the game.

I have clearer memories of the journey there and back than the match.
Like about 40 desperate men exiting the coach in a traffic jam to relieve themselves against a garden fence, just after the last had finished an extremely snobbish looking woman in a fur coat, nose in the air and walking a poodle had to negotiate 40 rivers of piss streaming across the pavement.
Being able to jump off the coach before it had got out of the Wembley coach park and buy an Evening Standard with the match report in it - (whether that was a reflection on the speed of the printers or the slowness of the Wembley traffic I'm not sure).
Travelling up to London every bridge on the M3 (was it a motorway back then? it might even have been the A33) being covered with banners and waving fans, and the same bridges on the way back with the same banners but around ten times the number of happy cheering fans.
Getting back off the coach in the centre of Southampton to find the whole City Centre had turned into a party zone. I wasn't around for the war but any film clips I have seen of V.E. Day had nothing on that evening !.
Two men - they're in the photo - playing banjos all the way there to get the coach singing. Along with the lack of replica shirts (unheard of in those days) the photo is a great example of how following football has changed over the years - and not necessarily for the better.

And I suppose I had better own up, I'm the one far right front row, split in half on the edge of the photo. Did I really dress and have hair like that ?!?!?!

Tuesday, 13 November 2007


Spotted in Tesco this evening
Penguins - Packs of 18
2 for £2-.


Monday, 12 November 2007

We Shall Remember Them

On Sunday I went to a local Remembrance Day service at nearby Hedge End, where my stepson was taking part in the parade with his cub pack. Despite being a relatively small town of about 18000, it was pleasing to see around a thousand people or more in attendance. It was also good to see how many young boys and girls were attending representing local groups from the Scouts and Guides Associations. These groups, if uniform sales are anything to go by, are certainly seeing a resurgence of interest in recent years.

I thought the service itself was very respectfully done. Held around the village war memorial it did what it said on the tin, being an opportunity to reflect and remember with only the slightest of religious undertone.

It was an overcast day, thankfully the rain held off until minutes after the service ended. There was a very poignant moment when, as the 2 minute silence ended and the bugler played the last post, the sun broke through the clouds to shine brightly just for the few seconds it took for the the various assembled groups to raise their dipped flag standards, and then it was gone again. If a Hollywood movie had done it it would have been corny, yet in real-life it seemed so symbolic.

The one aspect of the service that really brings home the effect that the wars - particularly the first - had on the local communities is the reading of the roll call of the fallen. The list of names seemed endless - as it does when read at the service in my own village of Bursledon - yet the population of both villages at that time would have been but a tiny fraction of what they are today. It relly must have seen virtually every family affected in some way.

The whole Remembrance Day / Poppy Appeal is part of our English way of life. With so many aspects of our national identity being eroded (usually through a misguided fear of upsetting other nations) this is one tradition that should never be allowed to die. If I have a criticism, it would be that it's "reason to be" seems to concentrate too much on the two world wars. I only recently realised that despite us living in an era of "peace" there has only been one year - 1968 - since WWII ended that we haven't lost a British serviceman on active service. Whilst they continue to make the ultimate sacrifice we must continue to make this small but important effort to ensure that they are never forgotten.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Over To The Dark Side

I've been experimenting with some different blog templates and I like the look of this one. The dark background gives me an excuse to post the photo below. I've been "getting into" photography for about a year now, this one is definitely one of my favourites.

Let Battle Commence

A click on the photo takes you to my Flickr photostream where lots of others can be viewed.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Alfie the Seal - Update 3

Further to previous posts about "Alfie" the seal I've now received a new update from Sue.

Thought you'd like an update on this seal - he was hauled out on a wild seal haul out beach today fast asleep. He has had a busy October, for a few weeks he was beachmaster (dominant male) on a local breedng beach, but he soon got ousted by a bigger stronger male! So he has earned his rest. Good to know that he is looking fit and well, as the wound he has in the photo continued to bleed until 22/08/07, when he was photographed by Clive at the Carracks west of St Ives. I couldn't tell today whether it had healed, but I assume it has!

Nice to know he's doing Ok