Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category
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.
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.
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.
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 19 snooker champions 1949 – 1985
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).
“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”
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.
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.