Saturday, 20 January 2018

West Ham fail to make first half dominance pay, as Bournemouth take a point

West Ham 1-1 Bournemouth

West Ham lived to regret their failure to turn first half dominance into goals, with Bournemouth finishing the stronger in this keenly contested game.

West Ham boss David Moyes was happy though to get away with a point from this closely fought encounter. He felt the 120 minutes that some of the players had put in earlier in the week during the FA Cup replay had taken its toll. “In the first half we passed it well and merited a goal said Moyes, who is pleased that “things are progressing and going in the right direction.”

“We’re looking good up front, getting goals, there are small steps but progress. We just didn’t quite get the magic,” said Moyes.

The home side moved the ball around confidently in the first half, retaining possession and keeping the visitors penned in their own half for much of the time.

The best chance fell to Marko Arnautovic from a Pablo Zabaleta cross but the Austrian striker’s shot from the edge of the six yard box was turned over by Asmir Begovic.

Arnautovic then screwed another chance wide having been put through by Manuel Lanzini.

The second half continued in a similar way, with Arnautovic again away on his own but he failed to finish.

Bournemouth came more and more into the game, until in the 70th minute they got their reward. Former Hammer Junior Stanislas sent Ryan Fraser away, the striker managing to get goal side of James Collins to finish across Adrian.

West Ham though hit back from the kick off, going straight up the other end to level. An Arnoutovic shot rebounded nicely for substitute Chicarito to ram home.

There were some tired old legs in the West Ham side, especially on the right hand side of defence, with Zabaleta struggling to get back and 34 year old Collins also challenged to keep up the pace.

Adrian pulled off one more save, palming away a shot from Adam Smith at full stretch.

Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe conceded his side were slow out of the traps and lucky not to concede from the early pressure. “It was always going to be a tough game for us, with West Ham in good form,” said Howe.

On transfer talk around Chicarito, Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho, Moyes declared that “there was speculation about every man and a dog here at the moment.”

He stressed that the squad was short at the moment and the need was to keep players.   

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Darkest Hour – fantasy film that contributes little to historic understanding of World War II

The film the Darkest Hour amounts to a flight of fantasy, with little basis in historical fact.

While Gary Oldman provides a magnificent acting performance as Churchill, it is a shame that he was not provided with a better script.

The Darkest Hour falls into the usual trap of lionising Churchill to the extent of once again making it appear as though he won the war almost single handed.

The political representation is risible. The biggest omission has to be the role played by the Labour Party. Aside of an opening sequence showing Labour leader Clement Attlee calling for Neville Chamberlain to step down, there is no further reference to the crucial role played by the party.

The fact that Churchill largely came to be Prime Minister, working together with the Labour Party, most notably Attlee, Ernest Bevin and Herbert Morrison, was totally omitted.

It was clear what was coming in the film with a derisory Churchill comment about Attlee being a sheep in sheep’s clothing.

The film gives an unduly prominent role to Lord Halifax, who is seen seeking to strike a peace deal with Hitler. Halifax was known to favour negotiation but he seems to be given far too big a role in this film.

Also the ring craft of Churchill, who in the circumstances would have to have worked cleverly within the confines of Parliament to sideline Halifax and win the day - which he did. This aspect of the story is non-existent.

Another invention of the film is the idea of Churchill descending onto the tube system to talk to ordinary working people. There is no record of Churchill ever setting foot on a tube train and he was generally despised by working class people, as evidenced by the 1945 election that saw him kicked out of office at the first opportunity.

The Darkest Hour is a disappointment because it adds nothing new to the cinematic drama of the World War II. It distorts and further reinforces many people’s fantasies about that conflict. We still wait for a film that shows how parties came together and operated a command economy to win the war. It was the ability of Churchill, Attlee and others to collectively bring together  a number of disparate personalities from the political, military and civilian worlds that led to the triumph of 1945, not Churchill nipping down the tube before getting off at Westminster to deliver his we will fight them on the beaches speech.

A film that promised much but delivers little.

*Books that offer insight on the World War include: Churchill by Roy Jenkins, The diaries of Field Marshal Alan Brook. Clem Attlee by Francis Beckett and Citizen Clem by John Bew

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

West Ham struggle but finally end Shrewsbury's FA Cup dream

West Ham 1-0 Shrewsbury

West Ham huffed and puffed before finally blowing Shrewsbury's FA cup dreams away.
Indicative of the difficulty that the Premiership side faced was that it took 200 minutes of open play over the two ties before they managed to score.
The first real chance fell to Shrewsbury in the second half when Stefan Payne broke free, only for Joe Hart to narrow the angle and save with his feet.
West Ham then picked up the pace, with a double substitution, that saw Marko Arnautovic and Mark Noble replace the disappointing Andre Ayew and Reece Oxford. 
West Ham then began to dominate, with Arnautovic seeing his fierce effort hit the side netting and then put another effort wide.
The League One side began to visibly tire as the game entered extra time, clearing two efforts off the line in the first 15 minutes.
The goal finally came in the 112th minute, with Toni Martinez scooping the ball back for the incoming Reece Burke to meet on the half volley and smash into the roof of the net.
West Ham manager David Moyes was relieved to have achieved the win.
He credited Shrewsbury for their brave performance, though felt West Ham were always stronger and more likely to score. 
He confirmed that many of the changes to the side, which included youngsters Burk, Oxford, Martinez and Josh Cullen, were due to other players not being available.
Moyes also declared that he knew nothing of any £20 million bid for Andy Carroll from Chelsea or anyone else. "I want to add to the squad, not lose players." said Moyes.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

"Fire and Fury" - a personality driven roller coaster ride through the first 12 months of the Trump presidency


by Michael Wolff

Published by Little Brown

This much publicised book offers a personality driven roller coaster ride through the first year of the Trump presidency.

Author Michael Wolff takes the reader on a white knuckle journey through a series of debacles that have come to characterise Trump’s first year as President.

Central though to the account are the different characters and factions, constantly at war with each other amid a dysfunctional administration

The overidding impression is of a chaotic Whitehouse struggling to serve an unfit for purpose President.

Early on Wolff draws a parallel between the Mel Brooks film the Producers and the Trump election campaign.

In the film, everything will work out, just so long as the play being produced flops, so with the Trump campaign, everything would be fine  just so long as he lost. Wolff referes to how Trump was using the campaign as a pre-runner to getting better TV exposure. All started to unravel once the candidate triumphed.

The title Fire and Fury refers to what the Trump campaign had planned to release, once they had lost the election to Hilary Clinton. The phrase has ofcourse since been used to describe what Trump would release on North Korea, if the leader of that country continued to taunt him.

The sterotyping process, so often deployed by Trump provides some amusing asides, such as when the administration, having railed about the liberalism of Obama, finds that many of the measures they are proposing on immigration had already been enacted by the previous administration.

Wolff spares no blushes, as he runs through the different characters in the Trump Whitehouse. There is a constant battle between the different factions represented by Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and the President’s daugher Ivanka and son in law Jared Kushner. The latter became known as Javanka.

Bannon is seen as the representative of the far right backers. Chief of staff, Priebus is the Republicans representative, working closely with House leader Paul Ryan. Jarvanka are more from the Democratic wing of things. All hate each other.

The book chronicles the institutional failures, as well as the ongoing litany of very public disasters, from the firing of FBI director James Comey, to North Korea name calling and the Charlottseville statue riots.

The ongoing disaster that is the Trump presidency can be measured by the fact that many of the debacles chronicled now seem long ago, overtaken by more recent attacks on African and Latin American countries and dissing of the US embassy in the UK.

A central prediction in the book seems to be that the links with Russia during the election campaign are likely - courtesy of the way the Comey firing was handled, resulting in the appointment of a special prosecutor - to be the final undoing of Trump, somewhere down the line.

Wolff certainly gives the impression of an unhinged President, seemingly unable to think rationally, unpredictable and unable to be contained by an increasingly exasperated staff.

The references to staff leaving or refusing to join the administration for fear of the damage that association will do to their careers is another amusing aside.

Wolff has produced a fascinating book, giving a real insight into the turmoil of the Trump Whitehouse. A bit breathless at times, and gossip column like in style, the author sometimes oversteps the mark, such as when quoting what the likes of Bannon are thinking. But on the whole this is a gripping read, though scary when one thinks through the implications of such a volatile character in the Whitehouse.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Passing of Ray Cavanagh - a battler for justice and peace


1931 - 2017

Ray Cavanagh was a  fighter for justice and peace throughout his life.

Founder and chair of the Brentwood diocesan ethical investment working group, Ray was also a member of the Northern Ireland working group and later human rights committee.

It was as chair of the Northern Ireland and Human Rights Committee I got to know Ray and  his wife Rose. The committee did good work, raising the issues of the north of Ireland when the majority of the British population preferred to look elsewhere. The group also worked on a number of miscarriage of justice cases.

The institutional church was not always appreciative of our efforts, making too many waves for some. But the members of the group thought that was what we were there to do. Ray in his quiet way was always there standing up for the work and putting his head, together with the rest of us, above the parapet. He could also always be relied on to back you up in difficult times.

Sadly, the structure of the Brentwood Justice and Peace Commission was swept away in the early noughties - another of those unaccountable hierarchial decisions for which the Catholic Church is so well known.

There had been some excellent people involved, including Ray and Rose, Jose Campbell, Kathy Piper and Theresa Helm.

The work of justice and peace though continues, particularly at parish level. Ray and Rose’s church the Most Holy Redeemer in Billericay has a J&P group that has been running since the 1980s. Ray was chair, playing an active part in street homeless collections and supporting refugees.

Ray came to England from Ireland in the 1950s, where he met and married Rose. The couple had one daughter Marie. Ray worked as an accountant for many years, before retiring in Billericay. He was active in retirement before being over taken by Parkinsons.

He was active in the church locally and at diocesan level, being part of the Catenians, as well as Justice and Peace.

It has been an honour to know Ray and be able to pay tribute to his great work over the years at his funeral today. He is one of those who helped keep the flame of justice burning, someone whose passing leaves big shoes to fill.

RIP Ray

Monday, 8 January 2018

Celebrate climate success

There is much gloom and doom spoken about the demise of the planet with the growing threats of climate change and pollution.

The challenges are great, make no mistake, but there comes a time to celebrate the successes.

Amongst the good news has been the growth of renewable energy sources across the world. Renewable sources provided more than 50% of energy in the UK at times last year.

This has often been due to individuals, schools and companies having solar panels on their roofs.

The power generated from wind energy has also grown hugely over the past decade, with turbines on land and in the seas.

The advance of renewable energy was given even greater impetus by the Paris Climate Agreement of 2016 but make no mistake it has been a people driven revolution.

Recent UK governments have done little to help in this area, with the present Conservative administration positively hostile to renewable energy – as evidenced in the last budget, which took subsidies away from the sector.

But the hostility of government makes the people power factor in pushing this climate friendly source of energy forward all the more credible.

The efforts at community level to cut pollution and emissions has been evidenced across the land, with schools often at the forefront.

One example in East London has been Beal High school, which won the school of the region award from Transport for London for its efforts over the past year to cut car journeys and promote more sustainable forms of travel.

The award was made as part of the Mayor of London’s Sustainable Travel: Active Responsible Safe (STARs) programme.

The programme encourages people to not drive to school, promoting instead walking cycling and other sustainable forms of travel instead.

Beal High School managed to cut car journeys to the school from 17% in 2016 to 13% in 2017. At the same time the number of pupils walking to school increased from 53% to 64%.

On a less optimistic note, one area that seems to be distinctly lagging behind, when it comes to cleaning up its act, is the aviation industry.

Aircraft often seem to be the forgotten part of the pollution/ climate change equation. Maybe because they are high in the skies but make no mistake aircraft are a major contributor to pollution in all its forms - including sound.

The aviation industry generates 600 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

The policy approach being taken to aviation in the UK mirrors that of the failed predict and provide approach taken on the roads in the 1990s.

The most obvious manifestation is the expansion of airport capacity.

It is strange to see politicians, who are quite happy to tackle car pollution, advocating airport expansion. It is as though the penny really hasn’t dropped yet.

If we are serious about tackling climate change and pollution, then building more airports is not the answer. Not only do aircraft create pollution but there is the additional car traffic brought into the airport as well to consider. Airports become polluting hubs.

Addressing aircraft pollution though is something that really does need prioritising. There is no tax on aviation fuel, which amounts to a subsidy for air travel over other forms of transport.

Aircraft operators need to be made to pay for the pollution and climate damage they are causing. They need to start showing some social responsibility to the communities which they seek to serve.

Finally, as individuals we all need to look at our use of air travel. In reality, everyone needs to fly a lot less, if pollution and climate damage are to be addressed.

So there is much that individuals are doing alone and working in community to combat the threats of climate change and pollution. There is still much to do, as the aviation example shows, but it is important to remember that it is not all bad news on the environment.  

*published - 12/1/2018 - Universe

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Lady luck smiles on West Ham as they secure crucial home win over West Brom with last minute winner


West Ham 2-1 West Brom

West Ham nicked a late winner to run out winners in this keenly fought relegation battle at the London stadium.

West Ham manager David Moyes acknowledged his sides good fortune in getting the result with a last gasp injury time goal from Andy Carroll.

“It didn’t look likely for long periods but we kept at it. We were poor in the first half, so changed it a bit in the second half, getting 15 metres further up the pitch,”said Moyes, who felt his team deserved the result, after losing out to the controversial late goal against Bournemouth and an offside one in the last home game versus Newcastle. “It was time something went for us,” he said.

The manager was pleased with the two goals from Carroll. “This game suited Andy better than others – he did a good job,” said Moyes, who thought the game was great for the crowd.

The home side had little to show in the first half of the game, looking disjointed in their approach play, with one effort seeing Carroll blast over, having met a Pablo Zabaleta cross from the right.

It was West Brom who opened the scoring on the half hour, as Jams Mclean picked up the ball on the left, cutting in to hit a shot that deflected off Angelo Ogbonna and looped over home keeper Adrian.

West Ham’s dominance in the second half was rewarded in the 58th minute when an Aaron Cresswell cross from the left was met by Carroll who rose to head into the far corner.

The home side continued to live dangerously with a West Brom break away, only foiled by an excellent last ditch tackle from Ogbonna.

The home fans were resigning themselves to more lost points, when in the 94th minute Marco Arnautovic got away on the left, firing his cross just beyond the reach of West Brom stopper Ben Foster to the incoming Carroll, who fired home from a narrow angle.

West Brom manager Alan Pardew admitted his side had been mentally and physically tired for the last 20 minutes. “It is difficult to criticise my team in any way today,” said Pardew.

Moyes expressed his sympathy for West Brom, having to play two games in three days. The midlands side had appealed to the Premier league to get the game postponed but to no avail. “If I was Alan Pardew I would be completely disappointed with the way the Premier League has set it up for them,” said Moyes.