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Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Sunderland AFC close season advice

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Note to Messrs. Martin O’Neill and Ellis Short

I know I haven’t written much about the club recently, or it’s new fully American ownership and business plan, but the season lurched from disaster to comfort before slipping towards the nervy end of the scale again as mid season promise withered away. There will need to be some rebuilding of the squad at The Stadium of Light before the next season begins at Arsenal, Gyan will be gone along with Craig Gordon and three or four others, Sessignon may be difficult to hold on to, but it is imperative that we pull all of the stops out to keep him. The two of you don’t need me to remind you that we have not had a consistent goal scorer since Bent was tempted by huge wages. It will also be important to try and keep Bryan “Pop” Robson on board, his scouting abilities improve year by year, and if he finds us another James MacLean he’ll be almost a legend! Far be it for me to tell you who to buy, I’m sure that you both have your own ideas and a “shopping list” to work from, but if you will accept just a little football advice from a long suffering South Shields based fan then please please DO NOT sign any “talent” from the Australian Football League, a place where the two top stars are Harry Kewell and Michael Bridges.

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Written by curly

June 21, 2012 at 8:22 pm

Olympic Torch arrives in South Shields

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Olympic Torch Relay, South Shields
Our moment to shine

I don’t know what compelled me to set the alarm for 06:30 this morning after a decent night of celebrating England’s win over Sweden in Euro 2012, it seemed a rather silly thing to do considering that I’ll be working until 10:30 pm this evening, but I’d promised “Missy” that I’d take her to see the Olympic Torch Relay as it reached South Shields. I was even more surprised that she managed to be out of bed and ready on time, most weekends she doesn’t surface until about 08:30 am. So we  passing the Town Hall in Westoe Road at just after 07:15 really surprised to see so many people already waiting in the rain – yes the incessant rain. I’d decided that anywhere between Crossgate and the back end of the Town Hall might be a bit busy, as well as the top end of Ocean Road, so I’d go for the South Marine Park opposite the Wouldhave memorial. My guess is that the area around the Leas and the Bamburgh would also be choc-a-bloc full as Haile Gebrselassie and Brendan Foster put in their appearances.

So whilst waiting in the rain I bumped into one of your Labour councillors also getting a good soaking, but already working hard for local charity Cancer Connections today, puts some of us to shame I thought.

There was a lot of hooha and fanfair about the event as Met. Police motorbike outriders drove down Ocean Road with all of their flashing blue lights, shaking hands with children as though it were a carnival, they were followed by the sponsors buses, the sounds of music and a DJ announcer as hawkers tried to sell Union Flags along the pavement, it occurred to me that there were far more policemen from the Met than there were sponsors, organisers, and torch bearers, just made me wonder how much money is being spent sending these lads around the UK as the “security bubble”. As two of the bearers made their relay swap one torch was ignited from the other before the preceding one was extinguished, I was asking just how many torches were made as each bearer ends up keeping the torch as a personal memento (or disposing of it on eBay at a mighty profit.) I’m guessing that there are an awful lot of used butane cylinders to dispose of too, or do they use a different fuel? Fuel, yes fuel, how much petrol and diesel is used during this relay?

Anyway, the event passed through South Shields on its way to Whitburn rather quickly and everyone seemed to enjoy it, especially the little children who had been dragged out of bed rather early on a weekend.It must have been a great occasion for those local torch bearers who had been chosen to carry the flame along our small part of the route, they’ll be proud, pleased as punch, and have stories to relate to their grandchildren.

There all sorts of mini events taking place along the sea front and beaches today to mark our part in this journey, all planned in the hope of glorious sunny warm weather…….oh well that’s one thing you can never guarantee.

Now I just need to force myself into getting excited about Greco-Roman wrestling, equestrianism, fencing, and archery.

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Written by curly

June 16, 2012 at 10:56 am

It’s party time!

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What is beneath the gloss?

So now that the Diamond Jubilee parties are over and we bask a little longer in the glow, the next party is upon us from tomorrow in the shape of a footballing feast known as the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine. Another few weeks of supermarket prodding will have us overfilled with lager, beer, and frozen pizzas, our homes and cars will be draped with the flag of St. George, the “red tops” will exhort the England football team to glories well beyond their reach (they have only ONCE reached the semi final of this tournament), the new flatscreen TVs will be overheating, and when it all ends……….well there are the Olympics and Paralympics to look forward to in London, along with commercially sponsored torch bearers. One only hopes that South Tyneside Council is NOT tempted to mount the giant screen in the park again, I fear the demand will not be there to sit and watch in a South Shields park!

Of course our politicians will probably be a little more sanguine than myself, especially having invested so heavily in the London Olympics, and I confess most of the Olympian sports hold little interest for me even though there will be some football in Newcastle, but for others this will indeed be a veritable feast of summer sports with Wimbledon and Test Match cricket thrown into the mix. David Cameron and News International will be hoping to share the glory of English and British sportsmen and women as the medal count increases the “feel good” factor and the national index of good cheer. Parliament will be enjoying its long summer break with only the Leveson inquiry interrupting the good news, yet quietly gurgling away beneath the veneer of good cheer and “gloss” will be ……………………the economy.

Let’s not forget, that this is the main event!

After two years of a Conservative led coalition government the track record is not that impressive, the deficit continues to grow (albeit at a slower pace), the national debt is still woefully out of control, borrowing is still at record levels and getting higher, public expenditure is higher now than in the last years of Brown’s disastrous administration, so much for the cuts eh? The slight saving grace is that unemployment has not yet broken past levels which might lead to the sort of civil unrest witnessed in Greece. The Eurozone crisis refuses to go away, banks still appear to need recapitalisng (again) and none of the major European players seem willing to take the bull by the horns and dismantle the single currency. All the while the pan European policy appears to be one of further austerity, less public spending, and increasing taxation, as near every nation in the EU other than Germany slumbers along on virtually zero growth.

Growth? Did I mention growth?

Ah yes, who has the secret elixir which will put more money into the hands of consumers or savers? It is they alone who can provide the demand and stimulus that economies need, and any person in South Tyneside who tells you that they couldn’t use a few extra quid a month is madly deluded. Banks rely on savers to swell deposits, greater deposits create more capital, more capital creates greater liquidity which normally leads to easier lending and investment, yet the current economic cycle has brought us interest rates which creep closer to zero and discourage any saving at all. Similarly current personal and indirect taxation levels do nothing at all to inspire consumer confidence and help us to prioritise our spending on essentials such as mortgages and rents, fuel, and keeping our older cars on the road for even longer. It is almost a pan European deflationary cycle. Our own government is caught up in the very same frame of mind as Labour’s outgoing Chancellor Alistair Darling who was equally determined to reduce the deficit whilst raising taxes and sending out hopeful signals on government expenditure. Neither Labour nor the current coalition appears to have had a “plan B” that might have included some major initiatives to promote economic growth and rekindle consumer demand.

So, sadly, whilst we are in the summer party of love mood we have to remind the politicians that “it’s the economy stupid”, and with that in mind I’ve asked some of our prominent politicians in South Tyneside, along with some business people and other bloggers for their ideas on what we need to do to get our local and national economy on the move. Of course your own ideas are very welcome too.

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South Shields contributes to Darlington’s survival

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cast members of Alf Ramsey knew my grandfather

“Alf Ramsey” play to be used as fund raiser for ailing club.

Picture: Left to right (Back): Jackie Fielding, Adam Rundle (Darlington FC), Ed Waugh, (Front): Iain Cunningham and Wayne Miller.

It has pained me to see the plight of Darlington Football Club recently as they have fallen out of the Football League and have now been relegated from the Blue Square Conference Premier League, their 25000 seater ground, built at the behest of George Reynolds, is far too large for their needs and costs over £10000 per week to maintain, they are in one very big heap of financial trouble. Now they may be looking for a ground share arrangement with another local club, at least until they can find new ownership and a more stable financial base. So it is good to see local South Shields and South Tyneside folk doing something to help them out, and that is despite the fact the South Shields Mariners are also facing a little uncertainty over their own ground arrangements.

South Tyneside theatre people are rallying to the support of ailing Darlington Football Club.

The comedy drama Alf Ramsey Knew My Grandfather, written by Lawe Top resident Ed Waugh and his writing partner Trevor Wood, will be performed at Darlington’s 900-seat Civic Theatre in July to raise money for the club’s youth team.

Involved in the show about the team of miners from West Auckland who won the first world cup in 1909 in Turin, Italy, will be South Tyneside actors Wayne Millar from Jarrow and Iain Cunningham (South Shields) as well as stage manager Jackie Fielding from South Shields.

Adopted Sand-dancer Mark Wingett, for 21 years the star of ITV’s The Bill and the classic British film Quadrophenia, will direct the show.

Wayne, Iain and Jackie are well known to Customs House audiences and they are encouraging South Tynesiders to join Darlington footballer Adam Rundle from Hebburn at the show when he takes a step out of the footballing limelight to cheer on the actors.

Wayne, who was in the original cast for the play’s sell-out run at the Gala theatre, Durham, and at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal, where it received standing ovations, will be joined by Iain, who makes his debut in the show.

Alf Ramsey Knew My Grandfather has already been seen by more than 8,000 people in the region.

Wayne, a Newcastle fan, said: “This will be my hat-trick of appearances and it’s for an important cause. While the play’s backdrop is football it’s really a play about the men and women of a community overcoming adversity to win the top prize. I have no doubt the people of Darlington will fight to the end for the survival of their football club and this will be our proud contribution to that.”

A strong South Tyneside contingent has signed up for Alf Ramsey with 30 friends and family already having bought tickets for the show that runs from Tuesday, July 24, to Friday, July 27, at Darlington Civic Theatre.

Ian, a Sunderland fan, said: “This is a regional issue and we are urging all football supporter and theatre fans to come along and enjoy a great show.”

More details can be obtained via www.edwaughandtrevorwood.co.uk

Tickets cost from £10 to £20 and can be obtained from the box office: 01325 486555.

So, if you would like to support local non league football, and at the same time support local acting and theatre talent, you know how to go about it, and be entertained at the same time.

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A chat with a UK snooker champion.

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John Maughan, former UK Snooker Champion

John Maughan: an interesting but undersold South Shields success story

It all started for me way back in 1987 when  my mate, who was to become my best man, challenged me to a game of snooker over a couple of pints. I was wondering where he was thinking of taking me, back then I could only recall the old snooker hall in Union Alley which ran towards Queen Street and was accessed from South Shields Market Place, or through the rear doors of Woolworths, and as far as I could recall it certainly did not have a license to sell alcohol . Additionally the place had been closed and demolished years earlier.

As far as I knew there were no other snooker halls in South Shields, which I thought was a pity seeing as we were all used, by then, to staying up late watching Steve Davis grind out wins on the television. Little did I know that a relatively new private member’s snooker club had opened in Chichester Road in the former premises of Buck Ryan’s car and helicopter showroom (it had originally been the Chichester Picture House). So one Saturday evening I was taken there, and taken aback by the friendly atmosphere and remarkably modern facilities, I never knew that one could play a few frames of snooker and afterwards enjoy a few pints in a comfortable, but small, bar with such engaging staff and a raconteur who turned out to be mine host!

This chap behind the bar cut a bit of a dash with his slicked back hair, three piece suits, immaculately shined shoes, garish waistcoats, and always sporting a bow tie. He was typically enthusiastic about the game and spun long tales of competitions in Prestatyn, Carlisle, or Skegness, and spilled so called secrets about a young Jimmy White, John Virgo, and one or two tales about Terry Griffiths, a typically chummy sort of bloke chuntering on as he pulled pints of Bass Scotch. Well we didn’t mind listening, but there were times when perhaps his stories were so far fetched that we could be forgiven for thinking that he’d just fabricated them to improve the atmosphere of the place. What was worse was the constant interruptions if a major snooker tournament was being shown on the TV, we got the commentary in advance, the analysis of the shot came long before it was taken, it was a bit of a distraction to be honest. Trouble was……..he was always right, this guy behind the bar genuinely knew his snooker!

Back then, the bar was very small, and the snooker hall housed eighteen full sized tables, many of which were Georgian or Victorian in origin, there were a few Rileys but most of the others were hand carved works of art, especially the robust legs, so this bloke behind the bar was able to hold forth and everyone could hear him whether they wanted to or not. So where are these big star names these days was the question we wanted answering, why are they not up here playing exhibition matches if you know them all so well? I think some of us just “took the Mick”, knowing that any sort of spectator event in the Shields Snooker Centre was never going to happen, the place just wasn’t created or styled with that in mind. That was until Mr. Maughan, the manager, challenged us to go and find the evidence that he had indeed been a pretty major player in his day.

I must have been a hard to convince member as I found myself down at the Central Library borrowing a copy of Clive Everton’s “Guinness Book of Snooker “ which showed that John Maughan had indeed won a UK amateur tournament once, but John Maughan was adamant that he’d won two titles! The 1965 under 16 title was shown in the Everton book, but strangely the 1968 amateur youth title was not, in its place was a blank space suggesting that the tournament did not take place that year. Sadly Clive Everton’s book is no longer in print and the library service disposed of its copy a few years later because of its poor condition. Well at least we then knew back in 1988 that we had a UK champion showing off his tricks on the tables, but it would be nice to put the record straight and confirm his status. A more recent visit to the Central library in Denmark Square came about after myself and John’s daughter Lucille had spent hours scouring the internet for any references to UK amateur or junior championships for the years in question, sadly not a single site was found to be listing them, either in “official” snooker sites or fanzine type places, John’s name was not even mentioned! Luckily the library in South Shields now has a copy of the Hamlyn’s Encyclopedia of Snooker in the reference section and this provided the pages and the proof that we needed to show the world and those few doubters at the Shields Snooker Centre, you can view those pages below.

So this little chat with John grew from this frustration that the official records for the period are so well hidden, and certainly until today were NOT available to look up or reference online. So now whenever people are searching for UK amateur snooker champions at youth or junior level, at least they will find some sort of result from the search engines, albeit this article is slanted towards one man living and working in South Shields!

This is his story.

John Maughan began life in 1949 in Consett with his family where his dad was the caretaker of the local billiards hall, he tells me he was only 11 years old when he acquired his first cue. A typical hard working family in the north-east of England, his dad was his greatest influence in taking up the game. By the time that John was 13 he’d won his first tournament, the Consett and District Senior Billiards, the proud young lad had taken home his first trophy having beaten grown men! From then on he made use of every opportunity to practice hard whilst his dad brushed and cleaned the tables. He tells me times were hard and that everyone in his family would take whatever jobs were available to help support themselves. John, at that stage had no intentions of taking up the game on any sort of full time or regular basis, and after leaving school took a job at Consett steelworks, as one might expect. However, he was at a stage of development in snooker where he needed better competition against better opponents, he was determined that he would try to be as good as his favourite player. “Who was that?”, I enquired, –  well it was the “legendary Joe Davis” of course.

Hence John used most of his spare time and money pursuing success in local and regional competitions, often sleeping in the back of an old white transit van with his dad if the venue was too far away from home, or more likely because funding was not sufficient to afford a hotel room – he was prepared to make sacrifices. He was making a name for himself on the amateur snooker circuit, and had reached the stage of playing in national events. In his early teens the family would go with him as John and his father traveled the north of England and southern Scotland chasing down more snooker competitions and trophies, they were by now regular entrants at the Prestatyn Pro-Am competition held each summer in the Welsh resort, playing three or four matches each day. John tells me that in later years he’d enter the competition with the aim of winning it solely because part of the prize was a free week holiday the following year! It was by rubbing shoulders with the new television stars of snooker that helped John improve his game, and in 1965 he beat P. Demaine to become the UK Junior Champion, and in 1968 he won the UK Youth Championship by beating Dave Clinton in the final, his aim now would be to become a full time professional player.

UK under 16 snooker champions 1944 – 1985

UK under 16 amateur snooker champions

UK under 16 amateur snooker champions

UK under 19 snooker champions 1949 – 1985

UK under 19 snooker champions

UK under 19 amateur snooker champions

He met his future wife Angela at the Freemasons Arms in Consett,  whilst she was visiting from Carlisle to see members of her extended family, and she soon came to realise that chasing the snooker dream came with the territory. Every summer John, Angela, and their young family would make an annual pilgrimage to Prestatyn in north Wales where John would again take part in the invitational week long tournament that included many of the top professionals of the day. Snooker was probably more elitist back in those earlier days, the EPBSA (English Professional Billiards and Snooker Association) maintained a sort of “closed shop” only allowing 32 players to become full time professionals and take part in its money winning tournaments, John Maughan had tried hard, so it seems, to become one of them, and according to him back in 1987 he’d been in a number of ranking tournaments and had done the annual summer stint at Prestatyn winning competitions which won him his annual holiday back to the same place next year! Aspiring professionals needed to garner not just ranking points but also had to be “accepted” by a committee which included World Champion Terry Griffith’s, John Maughan had done that, got the points, got the wins but failed to impress the Welshman Griffiths, who he had squarely beaten on the table a week earlier, consequently in 1978 he was not able to join snooker’s ranks of the elite professionals.  At this point John was one of the highest ranked English players in the world (he was ranked 13th.)  outside of those 32 elite professionals and he tells me he was gutted by the committee’s decision not to allow him to join their “club” – he nearly gave it all up.

Despite the setback he continued to play snooker regularly and was installed as the resident “professional” at the Richmond Snooker Club in Carlisle before later moving to Newcastle, then in 1986 came the opportunity to move to South Shields when he was offered the job of managing the Shields Snooker Centre. After more than 25 years he still loves his job there and continues to buck the national trend for licensed premises with club going from strength to strength. South Shields is now firmly his home where he has developed many friendships and strong ties.

When conversing with him about the big name stars he’s played against we hear a stream of talent and only wish that one or two of them might visit South Shields and have an impromptu match against John, people like John Parrot, John Virgo, Steve Davis, Mike Hallet, Dennis Taylor, Cliff Thorburn, Willie Thorne, Joe Johnson, Jimmy White, Ray Reardon, fellow northerner George Wood, and late greats such as Alex Higgins and elder statesmen of the game like Rex Williams.. We’ve lost count of the stories that he tells of Thorne and White and their various exploits and horseplay at tournaments!

John is now content to indulge most of his sporting interests during the course of his day at work, he is a keen football fan, loves horse racing, tennis and darts. He has promoted a strong sporting ethos within the Snooker Centre over the past 25 years and helped form and manage a football team, and once arranged a day out karting for club members. His club now hosts 17 dart teams, a pool team, a couple of fives and threes teams, and is also the regular meeting place for the Westoe Fishing Club!

South Shields Snooker Centre now has 16 full sized snooker tables, a much enlarged bar area complete with pool table and four dart boards, and can offer a multitude of live sporting action from its satellite TV system, it also offers a good variety of hot bar snacks, hearty all day breakfasts, and beers and lagers from only £2 per pint. Membership is available at only £6 per year and table rates are very reasonable, the club on Chichester Road (next to The Cyprus) is open daily from 10:00 am (telephone: 0191 4567097 for table bookings or membership enquiries).

John said:

“I’ll be here for quite a few years yet, I’ve no intentions of retiring, my eyes may no longer be good enough to play top level snooker but you can guarantee that my staff and myself will ensure that South Shields has a first class facility here for any youngsters wishing to learn the game, and give other members comfortable surroundings to play and relax in. If any other sporting teams need a venue or a meeting place they just need to get in touch and have a chat. I might not have made it to the top in the world of snooker but I certainly feel as though I’ve a moulded a top job for myself here in South Shields. The family grew up here and we love the place, I guess I’m part of the fixtures and fittings now”

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Written by curly

February 21, 2012 at 9:34 am

2012 predictions

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Welcome back my friends.

First a bit of music to cheer you all up, and may I extend a big welcome to you all as we begin a New Year in South Tyneside’s first and oldest political blog, I wish you all a Happy New Year and hope that it brings some sort of cheer to you. I cannot promise that output from this desk will be any more frequent this year than it was last, a new lifestyle here leaves me a bit less time to write and my passion for photography at South Shields Daily Pictures also competes for my online time. However, with a long drum roll let’s get started with things for 2012.

National and international predictions

Financial and political pressure within the EU continue to build as a realistic solution to the Eurozone crisis fails to materialise, as referendums in Greece and Ireland  initially reject further austerity measures relating to the latest bail out plans. Calls to remove these countries from the Eurozone are thwarted as both nations are forced to hold a second vote which confirms their compliance with the Commission’s wishes. Massive unrest on the streets of Athens leads, for the first time, to a pan European peacekeeping force being deployed in Greece to keep its citizens under control.

David Cameron decides that Britain will not contribute any personnel to the new force, and further reduces Britain’s contribution to the IMF, stating that our financial problems require us to keep more of our finances at home. Nick Clegg threatens to pull the Lib-Dems out of the coalition in protest at the Conservatives outright hostility to the new EU plans designed to bring stability to the markets, however because of Labour’s weak position under Ed Miliband a combination of Tory and rebellious Labour MPs win the day in a Confidence debate in the House of Commons, thus tying the Lib-Dems into the coalition. Rebel Labour MPs claim this was the best way to ensure the total demise of Lib- Dem MPs at the next general election whilst buying more time for Labour to reorganise.

In America President Obama wins a second term, although very narrowly, after providing logistical and intelligence support to Israel when they successfully bombed a number of Iranian nuclear facilities the week before President Ahmedinijad was expected to announce the testing of his country’s first nuclear weapon.

In Russia Vladimir Putin is elected to lead the nation again, but there are strong doubts about the integrity of the elections, massive unrest in Russian cities is dealt with firmly and harshly, and following warmer than normal friendly talks with neighbouring states regarding trade agreements and energy supplies, observers begin fearing for the independence of the Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) as nationalist parties there see a massive rise in popularity after the EU’s enforced austerity measures spark riots.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announces a new treaty with Iran, promising to help them rebuild the facilities destroyed by the Israelis. Increased  defence spending in the secretive far eastern state has resulted in a larger American military presence in Australia’s Northern Territory and the permanent patrol of a full battle ready US fleet in international waters close to the Korean peninsular.

China continues to be the world’s leading economy but still shows little appetite for increasing it’s spending on imports, preferring instead to produce good quality copies of foreign article for home consumption, Obama’s pleas for relaxations in China’s trade policies fall on deaf ears.

Local predictions.

The case in San Mateo County Court in California involving three South Tyneside councillors and an officer rumbles on seemingly interminably with no prospect of either a firm result and conclusion, or a commencement of proceedings in a British court. The costs of the matter are used as a political weapon during the local government elections in May.

Fifteen South Shields boys and girls attend the X Factor auditions in Newcastle but not a single one makes any progress, meanwhile late in the year Little Mix release an album to mixed reviews which does well in the charts but does not reach No. 1, fans had a liking for the new material but complained that five covers in the album were probably too many. As the year closes Little Mix prepare for their second UK headlining tour. Meanwhile Joe McElderry had released an album firmly in the dance genre after expressing disappointment over the sales of his Christmas Classics collection of cover songs, he also decided to accept the offer of a part in a West End musical and will be appearing in panto at the end of the year at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal.

South Tyneside’s jobless figures continue to rise although not at the massive rate that some had feared, local employment prospects are boosted by the announcement from Nissan of their decision to build a further two new models at their massive plant in Washington.

In the local elections in May Labour takes an absolute stranglehold on local politics as virtually all opposition in South Tyneside is wiped off the map. Cllr Geraldine White loses her seat to Labour in Fellgate and Hedworth, Lawrence Nolan fails to hold Harton for the Progressives after the retirement of Jimmy Capstick, the Liberal Democrats disappear as Joe Abbot loses to Labour in Hebburn North, Labour regain Horsely Hill in a close contest as Independent Alliance councillor Gordon Finch loses his seat, in Monkton John Hodgson somehow manages to fend off Labour’s challenge with only a handful of votes to spare, Labour make it three in a row in West Park as Enid Hetherington ends the Progressive Association’s long tenure there, Labour pick up Westoe at the expense of Allen Branley, and further legal challenges ensue after Ahmed Khan narrowly loses the decision against Labour’s John Anglin in the Beacon and Bents ward of South Shields.

Labour’s only other failure on a remarkable night was in Cleadon Village and East Boldon, where Conservative Councillor Jeff Milburn retained his seat with a much  reduced majority.

Following further shop closures in King Street, South Shields, South Tyneside Council announced an updated plan for a shoppers car parking scheme which gave two hours of free town centre parking, charges would only be applied after two hours and could be refunded if shoppers were spending more than £5 with local “partner” businesses. In a further sign of Labour’s pragmatic approach to working with the coalition government council Leader Iain Malcolm announced his intention of shaving an additional £45m from South Tyneside’s spending as he intended to announce a first ever reduction in council taxes to help local people rebuild their economy by putting money back into their own pockets to spend.

On the sporting scene, South Shields Mariners are in disarray after the sale of Filtrona Park , a late season slide in form saw them narrowly avoid relegation and their future is now in serious doubt as new houses are about to be built on their former ground. Until they find a new home their existence in the Northern League cannot be guaranteed.

In the Premier League Mike Ashley showed no inclination to spend on Newcastle United during the January window, as once again he discussed the possibility of selling the club at the end of the season. The Magpies strong start to the campaign was cancelled out when striker Demba Ba suffered a serious injury, this coupled with the sales of Tiote and Krul meant that Pardew’s men had a late season loss of form which saw them end the campaign in 15th. place.

Rivals  Sunderland were boosted by the surprise arrival of a top name striker and a full back which pleased the red and white half of South Shields. Meanwhile Ryan Noble’s emergence as a Premier League threat helped Martin O’Neill cement his status as a “legend” as the team went on a strong run towards the end of the season finishing above the Magpies in 9th. place. Owner Ellis Short announced that further funds would be made available to the Irishman for the summer transfer window, once again Sunderland are considering the possibility of extending the capacity at The Stadium of Light.

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The only news of the week (so far)

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Hot potato not wired weird edition.

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Written by curly

September 30, 2011 at 1:06 am

South Shields and the Great North Run

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Red Arrows at the Great North RunGreat news (for photographers) – Red Arrows will fly

Readers will be very aware that I’m a keen photographer and never miss many chances to promote South Shields and the north east of England with my images, particularly through my main photoblog South Shields Daily Pictures. The Great North Run with its 50000 entrants jogging down the 13.1 miles from Newcastle each year is one of those events that really has helped to put South Shields on the map with great TV coverage from the BBC and massive news coverage in the media over the Sunday and Monday each year. So it was with some concern that I viewed the possibility that the RAF Red Arrows might not have been able to fly at the event this year following the investigation into the tragic death of Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging who was killed at an air show in Dorset last month. However those fears have been allayed with the announcement that the famous Hawk trainer display team will complete all of their remaining engagements this year and will fly over the Tyne Bridge in the eight plane “missing man” formation, I am still unclear whether or not they will fly a full formation over South Shields as it is reported that the Red Arrows ground commander, Red 10 – also known as Graeme Bagnell – will be running the race himself, adding an extra poignancy to the display. The Red Arrows are expected above the finishing line in South Shields at 13:15 Sunday 18th. September.

Having seen the huge Great North Run village being steadily erected on The Leas over the past ten days, and the wreckage wrought by the remnants of hurricane Katia , it is indeed good news that the event will have its usual shape and compliment of attractions. As normal, hundreds of competitors will camp in South Shields over the weekend utilising the two caravan parks and the Bents Park, and many will also be staying in our few hotels and many guest houses, such a shame that we didn’t have sufficient facilities for many more of them to enjoy a full weekend here. The visiting competitors from around the UK create themselves a good party atmosphere from Friday afternoon through to Sunday evening, and for amateur photographers South Shields offers exceptional opportunities to add to your portfolio with celebrities, internationally known athletes, TV personalities, and the RAF Red Arrows all waiting to be snapped.

My best hints and tips include staying away from the finish line unless you are really familiar with the local layout, you will only get a few seconds worth of chances to photograph the winners, and find a way in to the inner part of the course before the runners reach South Shields. Getting around on the inside of the course is relatively easy with a few good positions granting ease of access for photographers. Try these to capture both the leading runners and/or the massed fun runners:

  • Roundabout at the junction of John Reid Road (A1300) and Newcastle Road (A194)
  • Roundabout at junction of John Reid Road and   Winskell Road
  • Roundabout at junction of John Reid Road and Boldon Lane
  • Junction of John Reid Road and McAnany Avenue
  • Roundabout at junction of John Reid Road and King George Road (A1018)
  • Roundabout at junction of Prince Edward Road and Sunderland Road – Harton Nook
  • Roundabout at junction of Prince Edward Road and Marsden Lane (B1301) – Marsden Inn
  • Foot of Redwell Lane at junction with Coast Road (A183)
  • Blackberry Hills (accessed from Hertford Avenue at rear of Lincoln Road), please park considerately here it is residential.

From these locations, easily travelled by bicycle or car, you will get plenty of colour fill shots, good crowd shots, and excellent chances to get close to the athletes as they near the finish, you will also find other entertainment and side shows to fill your memory cards with, I’d suggest taking at least 2 X 2 Gb memory cards as you will fire a lot of frames.

Best positions for shooting the Red Arrows include Blackberry Hills (where I took the above shot from in 2009), or if you are on the “outside” of the course, Souter Lighthouse makes a great backdrop and gives a good chance to combine the Red Arrows with the piers at the mouth of the Tyne. Other good spots, particularly if you have a DSLR and a long lens, include the south pier looking towards Trow Rocks, top of the South Marine Park to catch the planes over the piers, and the top of the North Marine Park.

Some other hints and tips – look for the unusual, especially amongst the spectators and fans. Try and capture the whole feel of the environment, this is as much about feet and legs as it is about celebs, besides they pass so fast you might miss them! If you are using either a compact or a DSLR set your camera on aperture priority at around f16 and try and get some slower shutter speeds to introduce some motion blur to your shots, and if the weather happens to be bright and sunny remember to take a neutral density filter to cut down the light. Otherwise, set your camera to shutter priority mode at around 1/500th second or faster to freeze the action, or use a sports mode if you have one. Get your camera down to ground level now and then to capture a wider vista of massed runners on the road. If you are going to get down at the finish line don’t stop shooting just because the Red Arrows have finished their display, there are loads of opportunities to capture families reuniting with runners, tired and aching athletes and the elated looks of those with their T shirts and medals.

After the event be aware that there will be transport difficulties as thousands of competitors and visitors make their way out of the town, another good reason for hanging back and getting those extra valuable shots that tell the whole story. Be patient and don’t be in too much of a hurry to get back to your PC to process the pictures, and once you do make a start, don’t be afraid to try a few in black and white, it conveys the mood and the story possibly even better than colour.

If you are coming to South Shields for the Great North Run have a great entertaining time, be safe, and make the most of it, hope you all return again soon.

You can see my 2009 series of pictures starting from here, just keep clicking on the right hand arrow to move forward.

Happy shooting everyone!

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Written by curly

September 14, 2011 at 10:16 am

The Blues

with 3 comments

Which have nothing to do with music or Chelsea!

Apologies for the recent lack of posts in here, I’m going through another of those inexplicable periods that stifles creativity, optimism, the will to write, and a slight depression. Much of it has been brought about by seeing rioters locked away without any real efforts to have them clean up their communities (I knew things were heading in the wrong direction) too many doctors were producing a diagnosis and then prescribing entirely the wrong medicine, the illness will not be cured. Heard a really interesting interview on BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday evening with a former policeman in Glasgow who is now involved in a project to reduce violent crime and gangland culture which has had startling results over the past year, shame it isn’t available as a podcast for you to hear. The crux of his solutions was to offer a stark choice between punishment and reform coupled with multi-partnership early intervention schemes starting with parenting classes and advice centres which put great emphasis on the first three years of life helping (mainly) single parents to introduce empathy, consideration, a realisation of the consequences of poor behaviour, and its effects upon others around you. The scheme also involves parents and teachers working together to reintroduce discipline at school and in the home for children between four and fourteen with rewards for good behaviour and reductions in privileges for poor behaviour. Those who do make the choice to join gangs and enter into a life of criminality in their teens are warned of the “zero tolerance” attitude that their local police will take going right down to the point of possible eviction from social housing, chasing down their mothers if they don’t have a TV Licence, chasing down the family if their car is not taxed, chasing down those who are in arrears with council tax, in other words the police promise to be “in their faces” all day long. Local courts are encouraged to hand down more community sentences which see offenders making real reparations for the damage that they may have caused, they get to meet victims of crime and experience the horrors and fears that many carry with them for life.  On the other hand, if they choose not to display criminal behaviour they will be offered places in schemes which channel their energies in better ways such as football teams, youth groups, apprenticeships, art classes, special interest groups that teach music, video editing, video game programming, all the things that modern teenagers would probably love to do.

Unfortunately such schemes can be costly to run, but economically make good long term sense, particularly if re-offending rates begin to collapse, and they have in Glasgow, no wonder that the Strathclyde Chief Constable is one of the favourites to take over at the Met.

Then to cap off a bad week, the politicians in their wisdom decided that everything was more or less solved so they took off on holiday again!

If that wasn’t bad enough to give you the blues, I don’t what is.

As a typical South Shields football supporting lad I was looking forward to yesterday’s derby match between Sunderland and Newcastle, but now working every Saturday prevents me from going to the Stadium of Light to watch Sunderland, (my visits will have to be restricted to Sunday and mid week games now), but two sessions in front of the box watching Match of the Day have simply added to my depression, two games against Liverpool and The Mags should have netted six points if only our strikers could hit the bloody target! I fear a week of solid ribbing from the black and white half of this town. At least yesterday’s game appears to have been trouble free with only 21 arrests at the ground, which is pretty good from a capacity crowd!

So……….hoping that a bit of cricket this weekend will cheer us all up as England try their hardest to secure a test series whitewash of India, two days left to bowl them out twice for a humiliating innings defeat, at least we can say we’re champions at something! For those poor folk who cannot, or would not, dream of paying for a Sky subscription there’s  always Test Match Special on BBC Radio, probably the best tonic for the blues and depressions, even without the venerable “Johnners” there are enough characters to give you a laugh, I leave you (for now) with this little classic!

 

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Written by curly

August 21, 2011 at 11:32 am

Dear Steve Bruce

with 9 comments

steve brucePlease give Sunderland’s young lads a chance.

Dear Steve

I don’t know how much spare time you will have over the next few days, but in the hope that you do make use of this interwebz thing and happen to search Google for anything to do with Sunderland AFC and its supporters in South Shields, then you may well come across my words, it is after all a long while since I last wrote about the love affair with my lifetime favourite football club Sunderland.

The Lads have had a bit of a torrid time during the second half of this season, and for supporters we have seen a strong promising position at the turn of the year when we were genuinely threatening to break into the top four of the Premiership, melt away as fast as a dropped Minchella’s ice cream on Shields’ beach! Yes, we have had an injury crisis that is true, we have a relatively small squad, that also is true, but I have questions, quite a few of them to be sure, about the management regime and style that you brought to the Stadium of Light. Despite our great Premier League position at the turn of the year, which we might have hoped would be sustained, you must recognise that it was not attained by playing the most attractive football in the world, we didn’t get there by playing like the Barcelona of the Costa del Monkwearmouth. We had managed somehow to get there with an ever changing back four who at times must have struggled to remember each others names, I don’t recall that we ever played the same back four for three consecutive games, and of course on the back of the goals of one certain Darren Bent. Bent gives us a clue that something was amiss, he’d already made plain his intentions to seek a move to another club during the previous season but remarkably he was persuaded to stay on the promise of beefing up the team’s attack, so out went Kenwynne Jones and in came Asamoah Gyan and before you could shout hurrah Bent was off after the sniff of a huge pay packet turned his head. Don’t get me wrong, Sunderland were right not to have been panicked into signing a quick replacement during the January transfer window, that could well have been short sighted, but in the supporters eyes there did not appear to be any longer term plan or option available either.

I was involved in a “discussion” with a rival Newcastle fan yesterday evening here in South Shields and, to his credit, he had a clear view of some of the problems at Sunderland football club, he rightly suggested that we have far too many midfielders on the books, all solid workhorses but none of them with any real pace, no traditional wingmen, and nobody with creative flare or ability, I could not disagree. It was galling to recall that we had missed out on the opportunity to buy both Stewart Downing and Adam Johnson, both now making a good impact in the Premiership and with England caps behind them. He also pointed out that your South American buys collectively had all of the impact of a cold burrito, how could I disagree? Paulo da Silva just couldn’t cope with the pace and physical presence of Premiership attackers, Marcos Angeleri and Christian Riveros would struggle to make their mark in the Coca Cola Championship, err the idea might have been right to save money by shopping on the South American continent, but it appears as if Ricky Sbragia’s scouting operation was hopelessly out of its depth – and by the way Steve, is it true that you will be inviting Bryan “Pop” Robson back to Sunderland to head up the scouting team? We do need a bit of fizz!

My “Mag” mate also asked what is up with the training regime to cause so many injuries these days? I had to tell him that you had a different work ethic to Mick McCarthy, have the lads in for an extra hour each day, run less fitness drills and play more eleven aside football. That’s the problem I was told, over training and too much physical contact during the sessions, no wonder Keiran Richardson’s stress fracture was hushed up for a while, he suggested. And another thing Steve, and my Mag mate was effusive on this point, Sunderland AFC have far too many loan players at the Stadium of Light, how can you expect maximum commitment and the fulfilling of an ambition when so many players know they wouldn’t be there to either enjoy the fruits of success or face the music of failure?

The most damning failure, so far, of your management and footballing style has been to play unadventurous teams in solid, no I think I shall say stolid, formations, which while grinding out a few wins and quite a few draws did nothing to excite the fans on the terraces. So much so that chairman Niall Quinn was forced to come out and plead for us to return to the stadium, he blamed foreign television stations beaming matches into pubs, we blamed the football for ensuring that the Stadium of Light has been all but two thirds full for most of the campaign. A little more expansive play on the ground and to feet would help engender a sense of hope for the future, but it has never been realised.

Did I just mention the future Steve? Oh yes, that’s what it is all about now, I’m sure that you are aware that we have one or two young lads playing in the reserves who ought to represent Sunderland’s future, they ought to have been ready to play Premiership football by now, they ought to be in your thoughts for next season (on the assumption that you will still be with us). So, can you please explain to me and hundreds of other Mackem fans in South Shields that whilst we have gone through a thoroughly rotten injury crisis, which has now left us with NO fit first team strikers, why you bothered pushing Nedum Onuoha up front in a desperate tactical move against Fulham? You have Ryan Noble available, you put him on the bench, he has a goal scoring track record, yet this lad of the future has still not been used on the pitch in the Premiership. I thought you were a protege and product of the great Sir Alex Ferguson Steve, a man who has done so much in nurturing young talent in the game and brought names like Ryan Giggs, Phil and Gary Neville, Wes Brown, John O’Shea, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Johnny Evans, Darren Fletcher, and Darron Gibson to our attention. I hope you are seeing my point Steve, from being four games out from the season’s end, and now down to two, you have had the opportunity to bring a few of our young lads on to the pitch. Our Premiership survival was all but confirmed, we have an injury crisis, these lads such as Ryan Noble, Craig Lynch, Billy Knott, Robbie Weir, and Adam Reed deserve to be given a chance to prove themselves alongside Jordan Henderson and Jack Colback.   The future may well be in their hands as financial constraints may prevent the club from spending all of the transfer fee received from Aston Villa for Mr. Bent, it would not have done any harm for some of them to be recalled from their loan clubs and thrown into our first team, the worst thing that might have happened would be them picking up an injury.

So please Steve, in the two games left against Wolves and West Ham, can you give the fans some entertainment? Can we please go out with a young striker or two on the pitch? Can you send out a team capable of winning all six remaining points and ensure that we end this campaign in the top ten and ahead of our rivals up the road?

Do that, and I might be happy for you to stay another season, but I’ll be honest Steve, you wouldn’t be my first choice.

Now if club vice chairman and South Shields MP David Miliband were to find time for a little chat over the summer………

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Written by curly

May 9, 2011 at 1:22 pm