Archive for May, 2010

I’m having a break from the norm in this post and writing about football. I apologise now if reading that word has made you want to stop reading already, but hang on. The domestic season is now over and so to mark this momentus occasion, I thought I’d look back on some of my favourite moments from the last year before the new season next week.

Some of these moments may great goals. Some may be brilliant matches. Some may even just be plain funny. Yes funny things do happen in football from time to time, unless you watch Soccer Saturday where they happen every time Chris Kamara appears on the screen…

Best coverage

Often watching Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday is far more entertaining than watching the football itself, especially if it’s Bolton Wanderers. This is Kamra’s finest moment, probably of his entire career. I think you’ve all seen this by now but regardless of whether you have or not it is always worth another viewing. We often see Kamara make mistakes and get way too excited about the games he’s at (unbelievable, isn’t it) but I don’t think anyone for a single second would expect him to miss a red card. But he did.

Best goal

Although there have been some cracking strikes from players you expect to start great goals this season, my choice for the best goal this season goes to Wigan’s Maynor Figueroa. There are several reasons for this. One, it’s from his own half! Although other players have done that over the last few seasons, this one didn’t rely on a slip by the keeper, be towards an open goal or just trickle over the line. No, this flew into the top corner after a great piece of opportunitism. Second he’s a defender. How many left backs do you see failing dismally with shots from 20 yards let alone 50?! And third and he plays for Wigan. Most Wigan player’s can’t score when they’re in the opponent’s penalty area.

Best celebration

No look back on a Premier League season would be complete without Jimmy Bullard somewhere. One of the most likeable men in football, the midfielder has overcome some serious knee injuries over the past two years and is playing regular football again. This celebration after his late equaliser was one of the most ingenious ways of commemorating a goal I’ve ever seen. This was as about as good as it got for Hull this season though.

Most bizarre moment

If anyone has any an answer asto what the hell is going on (apart from the obvious!) and why, then please do get in touch.

Biggest gaffe

This isn’t the photo of when the gaffe took place but it does show the guilty party, Rafael Benitez. The actual gaffe os available here. When Rafa made the ‘guarantee’ that Liverpool would finish fourth in the Premier League they were seventh in the league and 13 points off the top of the table. Seventh is where they stayed, just scraping into the Europa League and finishing 23 points behind Chelsea, a long way off the Champions League guarantee by Benitez in December. After coming second the year before it was a pretty big fall. Well done Rafa.

Angriest fan

Photo courtesy of marianthipop

I’ve dropped down the divisions for this one. The photo above is of Blundell Park, the home of Grimsby Town who have been in the Football League for 99 years. Sorry, that should say had. Because at the end of the 2009/10 season they dropped down to the Blue Square Premier. Now there is a theory that the lower a team is in the league then the happier the fans. Not this fan though, evidence of which can be found here and here. I have to warn you there is a fair bit of swearing on those links. Still funny though.

Best tax form

Every football ground has fans who bring banners and placards. This one was made by a Stoke fan when Liverpool visited the Britannia Stadium in January. With pressure on Rafael Benitez mounting as the season went on, this P45 was made for the Liverpool manager who days before had seen his team beaten in an FA Cup 3rd round replay by Reading. This is far more original than any ‘Rafa out’ or ‘you’re getting sacked in the morning’ banners or chants, not that you’d ever see anything like that around Anfield anyway.

Photo of Rafael Benitez courtesy of Nigel Wilson.


Preston’s haunted tunnel

A few days ago I was invited to walk down a disused railway tunnel in Preston called Miley Tunnel. It’s only a quarter of a mile long, however it was apparently haunted by a grey lady who would walk the tunnel towards any oncoming visitors.

The Deepdale end of Miley Tunnel

Myself, Joe Stashko and Andy Halls decided to check this out for Blog Preston to see if there was any truth in this legend. So armed with torches and a camera we headed down to investigate. Now before I go any further let me just explain a bit about the tunnel and the railway that used to run through it.

The Preston and Longridge Railway company opened a line from the Lancashire city which ran 6.5 miles to Longridge in 1840. Originally the wagons on the line were horse drawn or powered by gravity (which sounds a bit risky!). In 1846 the line was taken over by the Fleetwood, Preston and West Riding Junction Railway who had an ambitious plan to use the route as part of line which would connect Fleetwood to Leeds and Bradford.  However this never materialised and no extensions were built.

By 1930 buses in Preston were proving to be the more popular way of moving about so the line closed to passengers. Freight traffic remained until 1980 when the line closed for good.

So what of the line today?

Well it’s very overgrown for a start. We decided to walk from the Deepdale end towards the West Coast Main Line, with the other end of Miley Tunnel being located in the heart of the University of Central Lancashire’s campus. Scrambling down the banks of the cutting proved to be a challenge with brambles aplenty. If you don’t fall over the twisted branches then the rusty track and rotten sleepers are hiding in the weeds waiting to trip you up.

The tunnel itself was dirty and full of litter with a bent fence at the end offering a feeble barrier between us and the dark. After 200 yards or so the tunnel curved round and very quickly the last remaining traces of sunlight disappeared leaving us in total darkness and liable to fall over the track and dips in the ballast.

If the ghost was to appear then this was the time.

Well after a few more paces a white light started to appear in the distance, rapidly getting bigger and bigger. And you know what it was? The light coming in from the other end. No grey lady or any other ghost.

A couple of minutes later we had reached the other end with no haunting experiences. The only thing which puzzled me in the trip is in the two photos below.

These two photos were taken at the Moor Lane end of the tunnel, where the line is in a deep cutting briefly between the Miley Tunnel the other shorter tunnel under the university campus. I apologise for the blurriness of these photos however they were on a 1.6s shutter release and I didn’t have a tripod so the quality of them is reduced.

But what is that blue line? It may just be a trick of the light or my flash but it doesn’t make much sense in my mind. If anyone has any ideas or just some wild speculation let me know on the comments below! Maybe I’m being an idiot. Maybe I’m looking for something that isn’t really there. It’s probably nothing but part of me wants it to be something.

For more photos of Miley Tunnel, please visit my Flickr.

Last week saw myself and three other journalists cover the General Election in Preston for Blog Preston. My main role of the evening was to get photographs for the website, both of the count and of the key people at Preston Guild Hall without breaking any laws!

So here this time are some of my photos of the evening, in chronological order, with some information about each one to give you an idea of how the night unfolded. It was a very long evening. We arrived at Guild Hall at about 8.30pm, and left just before 5am on the Friday morning. Apparently another count in Lancashire saw the journalists given bacon sandwiches, how I could have done with one. Sadly none were forthcoming which was a disappointment!

Taken early on in the night, this was the scene in Guild Hall at about 9.30pm before any ballot boxes had arrived. Nothing much was really going on with just a handful of city councillors and journalists wandering about and preparing for the night ahead.

Our home for the evening. The four laptops set up in the corner of Guild Hall. From left to right; Andy Halls, Daniel Bentley and Joe Stashko all ready and raring to go and report the evening’s events.

This turned into a familiar sight as the night went on. Labour candidate and current MP Mark Hendrick observing the count and sorting of ballot papers. For hours he went round just watching the papers being counted with a nervous expression on his face and refusing to do any press interiews. None of this helped to dampen various rumour that were flying around the room about which way the vote was going.

Another common sight, lines of councillors standing over. The Lib Dems were taking a much larger interest than others, as you can see by the line of yellow rosettes! Quite what this achieves I’m not really sure, especially when they are only sorting between the General Election and local election papers, which was the case here. Later on me and another journalist had a look round during the count to try and get the winner and we weren’t all that accurate!

A lot busier than earlier! By now everyone decided to get in on the act and have a good stare at somebody putting ballot papers into different piles. Completely pointless but with a fair bit at stake it’s understandable I suppose that people were going to just watch this all night long.

Joe Stashko and Daniel Bentley interviewing the Conservative candidate, Nerissa Warner-O’Neill for Blog Preston. I attempted a shot of shotting over Joe’s shoulder and into the screen on his video camera to give the view he had of the interview as well as my own. It worked to an extent though there was an issue with the focus of the image, however you can see the image on the screen in this shot too.

A conversation which was of great interest to us between Nerissa and Mark Hendrick. This went on for about 10 minutes and I’ve never before heard two people talk so quietly! What they were talking about, we can’t be sure, but I thought it would be interesting to get a photo of the two chatting. From where they were standing, this was the only place I could get a photo from in front without standing right in their faces and making them quite angry!

The facts. Unlike most parts of the country, where the turnout was higher than in the previous General Election, Preston saw a slight dip in voter turnout this year. You may notice that the number of people eligible to vote was also down. A reshuffle of various wards in the past few years has seen the Preston constituency shrink since 2005. For example, Bamber Bridge is now in the Ribble Valley constituency…no I don’t get that one either.

The candidates on stage awaiting the results to be announced. If some of them don’t look too cheerful that’s because they’d already been told the provisional results, and they didn’t all win! The candidates on stage were (from left to right): Mark Jewell (Lib Dem), Mark Hendrick (Labour), Nerissa Warner-O’Neill (Conservative) and Richard Muirhead (UKIP).

To everyone’s surprise (not really) Mark Hendrick won with a majority of nearly 50 per cent, ensuring Preston remained a Labour safe seat. Labour won the seat in 1945 and has remained red ever since. So shocked was Mark Hendrick at his victory that he even had pre-written his victory speech…

The victory photo. As the Lanchashire Evening Post’s photographer organised the Labour group to celebrate their victory, he positioned himself in front of a sofa. So I climbed onto the sofa behind and took this photo of a very happy set of people with red rosettes. The smiling faces could either be about the fact they won the seat or that finally they could go home, as it was gone 4am by this point! That was what pleased me the most as it was a very long night. Worth it, but long!